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Saturday, October 25, 2008

I came across an excellent article in Information Age this weekend, which looks at 10 Outstanding applications of Web 2.0 in business.

With all the hype around Web 2.0 and it's focus on high-profile consumer applications such as Facebook, it's great to see examples of where collaborative technologies such as blogs, wikis and social networking are being used in businesses including Coca-Cola, Ernst & Young, GE and Proctor & Gamble.

I'm always interested in this space because, not only are many of our clients involved in Web 2.0, through providing technology solutions, consultancy or design services, but you could say that our business is built on collaborate Web 2.0 technologies.

Applications such as Skype, LinkedIn, Google Docs, SugarCRM & Salesforce.com are tools we use daily, both for collaborating with clients and internally within Maine Associates.

Finally, we're finding more clients have internal wikis which enable us to quickly develop our understanding of their proposition and encourage more collaboration with client teams.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I often discuss the issue of blow-back with clients who are concerned about potential brand damage when considering using telemarketing to generate leads for new business.

As the saying goes, "you can't make an omelette...."

Of course, anything you do which involves making an unsolicited approach for new business, whether that's by phone or email, carries a degree of risk. I've seen sales people sit all day doing anything rather than pick up the phone and cold call because they're afraid of rejection; in the trade they call it call avoidance.

But, for a company considering working with a telemarketing agency, it's a legitimate concern to have. After all, anyone making a call on behalf of your company is representing your brand in front of potential clients.

In my experience there are two things that you should be aware of:

Firstly, scripts should be avoided at all costs.

Whoever's calling on your behalf needs to clearly understand your proposition. That's not to say they need to be experts, they just need to know your key messages, how you're positioned and why the prospect should consider meeting you (if the output is a meeting, for example). This is why we invest time in client briefings at the start of every new business campaign.

If your prospect receives a call from someone who is obviously reading a script it tells them immediately that it's a cold call from someone who probably doesn't even know who they are and what they do.

An intelligent, well-researched approach says something entirely different...

Secondly, pushy sales people will kill any chance you have.

In this business, a little guile, wit and persistence is always needed to deliver results (after all, if it was that easy....). But thinking you can strong-arm someone into a meeting never works.

At best they'll agree to the meeting and then cancel it. At worst they'll remember your company name. And if you upset them they will always remember it.

So, always make sure you work with people who have an interest in delivering quality sales appointments, not just another name in the diary or meeting notched up on the board.

That may mean fewer meetings. But, in our book, fewer, quality meetings often lead to more profitable new business.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

It's always good when you pick up an interesting new phrase. My latest came from a prospect when we were planning their new business campaign: "Conquest Business"

As soon as I heard it I thought, "ooooh, I like that!"

Anyone who's been involved in new business sales will instantly get it too. New business is just that - a conquest.

Unlike selling existing products and services to existing customers, new business is the hardest business to win.

I liked it so much I've updated my new business matrix:

This matrix shows the different types of new business. Selling in the right-hand quadrants is always tougher (and more expensive) than selling to existing customers. Most of our work is focused on the lower right-hand quadrant, which is classic new business (shown above as "conquest").

Occasionally we get involved in real "Pioneering" new business, particularly with start-ups. This is where you're selling new (and usually unproven) services to new customers or clients. This is pretty much as hard as it gets.

It never ceases to surprise me when I'm talking to an entrepreneur who has a service that no-one has ever paid money for and they think it's going to be a walk in the park to win new business. Which is the right attitude for the entrepreneur, I guess, but they're always taken aback when we're less enthusiastic; we know that it's never that easy.

"First mover advantage" always sounds good when you're pitching for investment. But when you're selling to an un-educated market that has no idea about your service (and often about the problem it solves) and you've got no real examples or references to point to... it's a different matter.

How can you spot a pioneer?

They're the ones with the arrows in their back.

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

I've been watching today's Formula 1 Grand Prix at the Fuji Speedway (at a civilised time thanks to Sky+) and it was great to see Alonso make it two in a row.

Somehow, I always enjoy it when the underdog wins.

Maybe it's because we're a small agency, or maybe it's because we typically work with clients who are up against larger, more well known, and better resourced competitors, but I get a lot of satisfaction when the smaller guy wins.

Now, whilst Renault would dispute they're a small player, you have to admit they've been running well behind the usual suspects for most of the season.

As I wrote in my last post about new business development in uncertain times, smaller companies can often out-manoeuvre larger ones when the game changes unexpectedly.

And it's that ability to act quickly, re-act to external trigger events and pitch prospects with an unscripted approach that means we can uncover new business opportunities for our clients that, otherwise, they would not have.

For us, getting our clients in pole position is what we're all about.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

As Frazer in Dad's Army would say... "We're all doomed!".

Or so it would seem if you've listened to the news today, after record falls on the stock market, job layoffs, banks dropping like flies, etc

It's true we are living through unprecedented times, but I've been through enough burst bubbles, downturns and recessions to know that it's never all doom and gloom.

Sure, budgets get squeezed, but in many cases that represents an opportunity for new business. When you've got to do more with less you start to shop around, right?

Whether it's down-shifting your breakfast cereal or changing suppliers, times like these are a great new business opportunity for smaller, more agile players in the market.

Outsourcing vendors should see the current climate of impending job layoffs as another opportunity. Moving some processes to external outsourcing vendors is an excellent tactic where fixed costs need to be slashed without impacting business performance. In fact, the benefits of outsourcing should be recognised now more than ever.

From a technology stand-point, the main sell has always been saving time and money (always dressed up with an ROI case). Technologies that fail to address board-level agendas and require significant capital costs to implement will struggle.

However, with software-as-service offerings this should be less of an issue.

And what about management consultancies? Again, consultancies typically fill a void where experience is needed to deliver results. Internal changes, such as redundancies and organisational restructures bring about opportunities for all disciplines.

Likewise, shrinking sales revenues in response to changing markets require a difference approach, often one that needs external input.

I'm not saying it's going to be rosy; you'll probably need to trim here & there and jump through a few more hoops to get sign-off, but, c'mon, think of all those new business opportunities...

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Monday, October 06, 2008

It's always good to put a name to something.

After my earlier post which asked the question "Is stand alone telemarketing dead?" I was reading an article in CCF (yes, even I read the call-centre press) and came across the term "Unified Communications" in an article about future technology trends for call centres.

The article refers to Unified Communications (UC) as the "next big step" which offers real integration between telephony, the web, email, instant messaging and social networking sites.

The example they give is where agents "have a view of which experts are available to help them if they encounter a problem when on a call. The expert could be asked to join a chat session and shared documents could be used"

Obviously, much of this is referring to large inbound contact centres but how about UC for outbound?

From my perspective, as a small telemarketing agency already combining phone, web, email and IM (such as Skype) on a regular basis between client teams and our new business people, this is already available. OK, it requires a certain amount of intelligence on the part of the "agent" but that's not a problem for us.

Another area where unified communications is an interesting concept, particularly with respect to telemarketing & lead generation, is the integration of web forms, email marketing and pay-per-click lead generation with an outsourced telemarketing or telesales resource.

To me, this is when we start to see increased returns by joining up disparate marketing technologies into a closed-loop process. The actual communication channel used shouldn't really be of any concern; neither should we be be forcing prospects into any particular channel for ongoing communication.

As I say, unified communications are available now, but just not on one platform that you can scale and manage across 1000's of agents

So, I guess it'll still be a few years before the big boys catch up.

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