No research strategy – should account managers care?

walkley researchAnneli Knight is a freelance journalist and she has written a great piece in the Walkley Magazine.  I have become attracted to the journalist’s lot (in particular their research discipline) and as I delve further into their tools, methods, musings and techniques, I see great lessons for account managers.

Walkley Article

Anneli’s article is titled, “This multi-tasking life” and it carries a great infographic drawn from the 2012 Salary Survey and Job Market Report.

The article highlights tips for maintaining your sanity in the variably structured work environment of a freelance journalist.  After Anneli poses the question of determining the “why” she then moves to the key areas of:

  • Manage your time.
  • Some tips for keeping on top of your time.
  • Making freelance work financially.

Social Tools

Where the article covers writing quickly and managing distractions, there are some powerful parallels for account managers that route back to social media and its effectiveness as a research tool.

Prior to the mainstream availability of social media it may have been argued that it wasn’t efficient to source from a multitude of research points. With the mainstream adoption of social media it has swung to the other end of the pendulum where it could be argued that the array of options has provided an almost overwhelming breadth of strategies and tools.

research @mypublicbrandFrom the maze of social listening and research sources, the following are a few of my favorite research tools:

Research Techniques

Two methods that I consistently use are:

  1. Firstly, you need to go to an earnings calls for a listed company — then go to the Q&A section which comes after the executives have announced the quarterly or annual results — analysts then start asking the executives insightful questions. Absolutely high yield tutorial on business questions that matter in language that matters to an investor.
  2. Google Trends provides me with a current view of language being used to source information. The consumer’s voice doesn’t get much clearer.

There are others that I use, but these are favorites.

The final point I would mirror from the article is on building a niche. This activity may be a permanent beta exercise as Reid Hoffman would say, but searching for our niche will provide a 3rd dimension that will keep our curiosity alive every day.

Posted in Business writing, Messaging Strategy, Social Media | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Is this the right room for an argument?

Room for an Argument

“I’ve told you once!”

A classic Monty Python sketch “Room for an Argument” is a great backdrop to this topic. Also, I recommend watching the sketch to enjoy the key exchange near the start of the video where John Cleese is half of the show — “Is this the right room for an argument?” “I told you once!” “No you didn’t” “Is this a 5 minute argument or the full half hour?”

This memory came back to me after returning to an article by Dr Michael Fullilove, “Men and women of Australia, these orations transformed the nation”. In this article Fullilove talks about great speeches and positions that “a speech is not a string of $10 words, but an argument.”

This made me reflect on the balanced approaches that I have been introduced to through numerous courses focused on participating in customer meetings and presentations. Fullilove’s article and specifically the grab that “a speech is not a string of $10 words, but an argument”, made me think about the passion that is embedded in an argument compared to the logic and construct of many typical customer meetings and presentations.

In the context of developing and delivering customer presentations over the last 25+ years I have had the good fortune to be exposed to a range of training and experiences both consumed and created, that were in the pursuit of compelling customer presentations.

The training has had different emphasis at different times but has invariably relied on a blend of:

  • Customer knowledge and insight.
  • Business drivers.
  • Business pains.
  • Industry trends.
  • Business value.
  • Negotiation.
  • Call to action.

From my learnings and experiences I believed that a minimum requirement for any customer interaction includes:

  • Granular pain within a business.
  • A connection to their business objectives.
  • The value of this pain being solved, or not.
  • How I could solve the problem.

All good form and function but after reading Fullilove’s article I am left thinking that there is something more base and raw that needs to live in business meetings.

Emotion

If this is true, the goal must then be to elicit emotion, not just intellectual engagement. All things being equal, this may be the most sustainable differentiation that a presenter can establish. An assessment of a presentation could be all shades of grey…an argument is real, whether won or lost.

To qualify a sales opportunity will typically follow more fundamental steps that bring together a mix of art and science. This mix will be weighted differently on different days.

So, as with canasta (a 3-pack card game), a customer engagement has multiple decks needing to be delivered, seemingly as a cohesive distribution.

Next time you have a customer meeting or presentation, give a thought to hosting an argument. Drawing on Fullilove’s article and a Python classic might make a difference.

Posted in business meetings, Customer Research | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Podcast Producers this is Unchallengeable Value

Hindenburg Systems – special one day offer

PodcastI firstly want to call out that I have no affiliate relationship with Hindenburg Systems but they have a one day (13 February 2017) deal that is outstanding value for podcast producers. It is an even greater story at a human level.

Better explained by following this link.

Digital storytelling

Hindenburg software enables storytelling through podcasting

HINDENBURG SOFTWARE SCREAMS “STORYTELLING”

The second point I would like to make is that Hindenburg produces outstanding software that enables amateurs and professionals alike to simply and elegantly produce digital stories such as podcasts.

I absolutely consider myself to be in the amateur ranks when it comes to podcasting but I have enjoyed the simplicity in going from zero knowledge to producing and publishing podcasts using Hindenburg software.

In addition to publishing podcasts I have used the Hindenburg software to record Skype conversations for inclusion in my podcasts.

Digital storytelling is not just podcasting

I have also used Hindenburg to capture my own voice summaries of points that I choose to share with prospects and customers.  I have been able to do this using private publishing on the Soundcloud platform which has increased my means of reaching my target audience in my workplace.

This has generated extremely positive feedback as it enables prospects and customers to consume my content “anytime, anywhere” especially when they are travelling between work locations.

The podcast shopping list

To produce and publish audio whether it is a podcast or not requires a means of capturing your voice, obviously.  There are a number of options and I have used a variety of microphones – fixed, portable and lavalier.  Feel free to bounce any questions off me.

The step to video production

PodcastJust a brief note here, which I’ll expand on in a future post.

Just as there is a large range of microphones there is also a large range of video production software choices. A camera is obviously mandatory and the screen capture software is equally mandatory.  Whilst there is a free version, for approximately $15 a year Screencast-O-Matic is a tremendous piece of software that you can build proficiency in very quickly.

Once again, I have no affiliate links with this organisation either.  My commentary is built on my own experience.

Posted in Messaging Strategy, Podcast, storytelling | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Who cares if you have storytelling skills?

Hindenburg software enables storytelling through podcasting

HINDENBURG SOFTWARE SCREAMS “STORYTELLING”

I have been looking into sales training and methods of creating a richer foreground and background voice in my storytelling. To provide a structure and repeatable method of delivering an account manager’s storytelling voice I have been drawn to the following examples of:

  • Video storytelling.
  • Podcast storytelling.

Storytelling through video

I recently came across a presentation on “The Mechanics of Documentary Storytelling” from Andy Carvin. Really interesting summary of the process of storytelling from within a documentary framework and it made me think about the strategic selling process.

As I read through Andy’s slides it became apparent to me that his process is one that can serve account managers well when they are forming value propositions and channeling them into a storytelling framework. The main structure made a lot of sense tome:

  1. The Tease — creates focus and introduces principle characters to surface the conflict or problem. Quite a parallel to what we set out to do in strategic selling when we uncover underlying relationships and conflicts such as growth versus cost reduction.
  2. The Body — 80% of the story and fleshes out the characters and conflicts.
  3. The Conclusion — needs to deliver whatever was promised in the Tease.

Andy goes on to highlight some scenarios and associated video and script techniques. Out of this I was very interested to see him discuss the matter of “voice”. In particular he suggests that most documentaries use the voice elements of “narrator voice” and “character voice”. I definitely agree with this position on voice and in an earlier blog post I raised the topic of foreground and background voices of account managers.

Seems like there may be some interesting learning opportunities from a deeper understanding of the documentarians craft.

Storytelling through podcasts

Hindenburg storytelling software for podcasters

HINDENBURG SCREEN — SHOWING THE STORYBOARD LAYERS

This has become a keen interest of mine and I have been broadening from being an avid podcast consumer to a podcast creator. This has been a journey as they say in the classics, but it is a great learning experience and borders on fun.

I have started to produce podcasts and had  a really interesting conversation with Dr Adam Rapp around what social media means to strategic selling.

In getting to this point I have received education and inspiration form a number of points, including:

  • An online course through Creative Live delivered by Alex Blumberg, “Power Your Podcast with Storytelling”.
  • Hindenburg software which is “made for radio and on-demand audio, designed for radio journalists and used by storytellers”. This is fantastic piece of software that supports storytelling without needing to be deep in the technology.

As you see in the diagram above, the Hindenburg software allows the layering of the story and the sequencing or roles and artifacts…not that different to the day in the life of a strategic seller? Well worth having a look into — may even trigger a new form of engagement with clients and prospects.

Posted in Background Voice, Messaging Strategy, Podcast, Social Media, storytelling | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

“Content = Client” is a great knowledge share by Jon Westenberg from his “Medium” post

Jon Westernberg on Medium with a great point of view on “Content = Client“. 

Posted in Business Value | Leave a comment

Who cares if you don’t have a social media voice.

Recently I was listening to a friend talking about the richness of the mix of foreground and background noises in the forest. Quite an engaging topic and it got me thinking about the foreground and background voices of an account manager.

In enterprise sales we are repeatedly taken through training that has us focusing on solution selling, strategic selling etc. The training also hones the account manager’s use of their foreground voice. By the foreground voice I mean the direct actions and engagement that deliver progress in a sales process.

On reflection, I struggled to see where this same training helped me develop a background voice. This is where an integrated social media plan for an account manager can bring sustainable value to a sales career.

Imagine being able to influence your sales career through targeted and specific social media communication. This would not only assist in progressing opportunities but create an auditable and verifiable public brand for the account manager. An auditable and verifiable career tapestry.

Part of the challenge is to work out how to plan and co-ordinate the social media campaign and some considerations include:

  1. How well you know your targeted audience.
  2. Their importance ranking.
  3. What is your public brand.
  4. Which social media channels.

Where to Start with Background Voice?

It can seem complex at the outset but my experiences have taken me through a learning curve that includes:

  • Designing a blog and self-hosting WordPress Wordpress for an online voiceat GoDaddy GoDaddy for hosting an online voice.
  • Integrating social media profiles eg my Twitter and Facebook profiles using Hootsuite.Hootsuite for social voice
  • Working out what effective messaging might look like.
  • How to measure and react to the measurements.
  • Learn about podcasting.
  • Interview and publish podcasts (relaunch coming soon) using SoundcloudSoundcloud voice

There are more in my “experiences” list, but you might get the idea that it is worth “having a go”.

Artificial Barrier

In closing, I would highlight an artificial barrier that is an easy out – that is to say it is new technology and it is for “young people”…whatever that exactly means.

It is all to state of mind and so much of the personal experiments in developing your background voice need no more than basic technology and intent.

Let me know if you want to learn some finer grain on my experiences..it would be fun to share and hopefully save you some time.

Posted in Background Voice, Curated Identity, Social Media | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Is your unique business value understood by you?

business value

“Is your unique business value understood by you?” might seem a crazy title for a post, but let me explain by deconstructing the post title and discuss separately:

  1. Unique.
  2. Business Value.
  3. Understood.

Unique

Whenever I hear “unique” I used to immediately think that it must be the only one in the world.  I have shifted – unique is contextual and not absolute.  It is also, in the case of a sales call, relevant to your prospect’s situation.

So unique is expanded when I think about it now, to start with a question, “What is my unique business relevance (UBR)”.

I can only have a UBR, if I have a clear understanding of my company’s capabilities and the prospect’s capabilities.  So step one is to establish the capability gap.  The next step is to map the major projects, contracts and planned initiatives on their landscape.  This additional step highlights my immediate competitors.

Now I am in a position to truly determine my uniqueness for the prospect and against my competitors.  This is the basis for me to qualify early and to compete effectively.

Business Value

There are so many ways to come into this topic, but I will settle on the math that matters most to your prospect.  By that I mean, it can only be business value if the success or failure is reflected in the prospect’s financial reporting, be they publicly listed or not.

When anyone looks at an annual report or a financial analysis text, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the wash of data and figures.  This volume is often the impediment to structuring a business value discussion between a seller and an executive in your prospect’s organisation.

A way to overcome the potential for confusion, or in fact inertia, is to create your own business value categories.  As an example, start by framing your target industry by major financial ratios that can be compared and contrasted between your prospect’s financial results and their competitors and/or peers.

The next step is to stay on the ratio path but shift to operational ratios.  Operational ratios will highlight productivity and employee effectiveness measures eg revenue per square metre will give a sense of the floor space need to house employees and a direct ratio to the revenue generation.

The art and the science combine when you are able to start the dialogue with a clear identification of a problem in the math of the prospect and then move to your UBR as discussed above.

Understood

As ridiculous as this heading might seem, it is at the heart of the topic.  If you understand your UBR and your business value you will be able to explain them both to yourself and then with clarity to your prospect.  The only way to do that consistently is to create a one page model or dashboard that enables a summary that communicates what you know, what you can do and the impact of it being done.

The temptation is to rely on a trusted multi-page PowerPoint template that contains a level of content that buries the “why, why you and why now”.

Offer

I have built a model that does drive this dialogue and if you are interested in having a discussion around my learnings and use cases, drop me a note through the comments page of this site.

Posted in Business Value, Messaging Strategy, Strategic Selling | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment