I had a laugh regarding a web inquiry one of my customers received recently.  The inquiry was the first one the company had received “in 8 months.”  When the salesperson emailed the contact to set up a call, the contact said he was a victim of identity theft and had not submitted the inquiry.

You know, some days just go that way.

A sentence I just read in a laptop battery warranty statement:

We are happy to send a replacement when you receive a defective item from us.


If you are not familiar with poker parlance, a tell is a subtle but detectable change in a player’s appearance, movement or expression.  In essence, it is a clue as to the strength of the cards they are holding.  Poker players are masters of reading body language and movement for these signs.  I find this information fascinating in the context of hiring.  When is a candidate lying?  What signs can you read to know when they are stretching the truth?

I’ve seen a new tell that I think has legs – marketing approaches of decision makers.  Here is where this thought developed; the top executive at one of our customers is dabbling in the marketing plan for his company and has reworked the marketing message.

This executive is…well, cheap.  His revenue is down and he wants to role out new services.  This company is woefully inept on the marketing side so they have no market data or feedback.  In essence, they are marketing in a vacuum.  So this executive designs his new offering based solely on price.  No understanding of the price point in the market, no understanding of their differentiating value, no understanding of the market demand – a total shot in the dark.

Unfortunately, this is the second time he has made a move like this in the past 6 months.  The first one was an absolute failure – it literally generated no revenue.  Now he is back with a lower offering.  I’m afraid the results will be the same.

The tell here is that he is cheap so his automatic assumption is that the market is price-driven (i.e. cheap).  I’m no expert in that market, but price has not garnered any success recently, if ever.  However, you cannot contribute to this executive.  He is convinced it is a pricing issue.

My thought is that a person’s first move in an unverified/undefined/unknown market is to assuage their own style hence the “tell.”  Watch their decision making and see where they move first.  This approach will reveal their hidden weaknesses.

I picked up a business card this week from a business associate that had this tagline on it:

Were Quality Is #1

Absolutely not kidding.

There is an elegance to simplicity that often gets belittled, mocked or dismissed.  That condescension can blind one’s eyes to an cost-effective marketing campaign.  I give you Google Video from Germany (via SalesHQ.com):


I love the simplicity of the entire clever campaign.

It is a travel day for me – back to the cold of Minnesota – so may I suggest a thought-provoking article from the Killian BrandAid email newsletter?  Finability:  Catch The Fourth Wave is a must read.  First a taste:

Buyers, not sellers, control all transactions.

That’s a sweeping generalization, but let’s sweep together: Your prospects feel entitled to do their own research, given that they believe they have the information resources to find you (and, of course, find your competitors). Since a brand’s first duty is visibility, it’s essential that every organization with competitors (let’s spell that out: You) must engage in findability engineering. Your future depends on it.

Provocative, don’t you think?  The gist of the article involves branding as you might expect, but it is an excellent read on the fundamental change that has occurred recently in the business world.  Salespeople need to have a general understanding of this sea-change.

Here is an interesting post from one of Inc.com’s blogs.  This one discusses the importance of a company’s name for branding purposes.  The short post contains something simple, but profound:

In fact, only one of the 12 — Jeff Taylor, founder of Monster.com — felt the name he selected was indispensable and key to branding his company. Surprisingly, not even Starbuck’s co-founder Jerry Baldwin felt the name was essential.

Some of the other business leaders I consulted with — such as Ben & Jerry’s Homemade founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, cosmetics expert Bobbi Brown, Wally “Famous” Amos, Kate Spade, and David Oreck — named their companies in part or entirely after themselves. While this group felt it helped bring brand accountability and provide some level of differentiation, they did not believe the company name was essential in creating the brand. They unanimously agreed the best way to build a powerful brand identity is to offer unmatched quality, exceptional service, and consumer-centric products or services that focus on their customers’ needs and wants.

Isn’t this the mantra of sales?  I have worked for many companies where we tried to push this point through to marketing with little success.  The meetings continued and the brainstorming reached a fever pitch as they attempted to select the “right” name for a new product.

Sometimes it is as simple as listening to the customer and delivering what you promise.

I have been noticing a common value proposition from distribution companies – “your one-stop shop for all things _________.”  Some of the sales reps for these companies use this value proposition as their main lever.  I tell them this is a mistake.

Here’s why – the web changes everything about sourcing.  I don’t need to limit myself to one vendor for all my _______ needs.  In fact, I have a subtle doubt about that approach – am I getting the best deal, product or solution if I go with one company exclusively?  The “catalogue mentality” is fading from our society and being replaced with a research mentality.

The proverbial old days were serviced by the Sears Roebuck catalogue where they had everything in there from clothes to tools to kitchenware.  I remember looking through that catalogue when I was young to check out the toys.  My kids think that idea is crazy.  They hop on the web and visit multiple sites to track down a specific toy or game.

Today, distribution sales requires salespeople to take more of a value-added reseller approach.  Customers are less impressed by companies that offer many different lines.  If needed, the customer can probably source the lines themselves from alternative channels.  Sales reps have to find the value their company brings to the marketplace and then leverage it in their approach.

One example is a friend of mine who sells office furniture.  He does not have exclusivity in this territory and there are bigger competitors.  His value is to provide certified interior design services.  I wouldn’t say that is a revolutionary approach, but his designers are quite skilled and the salespeople know how to leverage their designers’ abilities.  The fact that they are smaller than their competition allows them to provide highly attentive service to their customers.  Simple and effective.

Successful selling requires an detailed understanding of your value proposition.  If it is no more developed than “one-stop shop,” I would suggest you revisit your company’s offering to the market…unless your company is called Amazon.com.