18 December 2009

7 Ways to Predict a Company's Financial Health

Sometimes when you are looking at a prospect - or heck, even your own company - you think to check the stock price for its health score. Good start.

However, there are other ways to figure out if the company is doing OK or if it is the Titanic.

Here are other ways to find out information on the health of a company - here are the top 7:

1. Revolving Accountants
Look for the anomalies - if cash flow is in the basement, but earnings are holding up....there is probably an issue. Taking dollars from the bottom line often equates to a serious issue. Also, have they changed accounting firms recently? Sure, sometimes justified - but often not (due to bad numbers).

2. Cuts Keep Coming
Growth and trim backs are natural in business - but what does the latest cut mean? Have they reduced benefits to the employees? Have the cuts in personnel been deeper than normal? Are they selling off parts of the company or other assets? Keep an eye on these - even moving offices (specifically to a cheaper area can be a signal).

3. Customers Clam Up
Are your customers (or prospects) not flooding the phone/email lines anymore? Are support renewals down? For license based business - are you hearing more about your customers moving to a SAAS based model?

4. IOU But Can't Pay You
Have you determined your prospect's debt rating? This evaluation from S&P shows how risky an investment in cash in the company is.....

How cash rich is the company?

5. Executives Dump Stock
Watch what folks do, not what they say. If the company is publicly traded, and they are an officer of the company - and they are dumping stock....not a good sign!

6. News You Don't Need
Watch for acquisition targets, SEC violations, etc. There are many company-related blogs that discuss what is happening behind the scenes (hey, leaks happen) and it doesn't hurt to pay attention to them. Based on the 80/20 rule, there is often a kernel of truth to whatever rumors are out there in cyberspace about a company.

7. Name Adorns a Stadium
Self-promotion is great, advertising is needed - but do you really need the prime Super Bowl spot or the company name on a stadium? With the economy the way it is, look closely if the company in question has its name to ego-based endeavors like a sports stadium. If they are spending it there, they may not be spending it on your technology a few months from now.

The KISS question is, "what do you know of your customer or prospect's financial holdings?"

This blog is derived from a WSJ report (bullet points provided from WSJ) from eons ago.

14 December 2009

6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon and Follow the Money

Moving onto the area of "Authority" of NABT (see my earlier posts if unfamiliar with the acronym), how do you find out if someone has the authority to be considered a quality lead?

The usual suspects of titles are still important - they are a classic example that are still very true in many quality leads.

However, some companies are using unusual titles or more commonly a Manager at one company could be the equivalent to a VP at a different company. Unless you know the company's ways of using titles, you could miss a quality lead.

Two ways to understand a bit about someone's authority is understanding their personal 6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon and to follow the money.

6 Degrees of Kevin Bacon is simple - who is the person connected to within the organization and how many degrees are they away from the CEO, CIO, CFO, or General Counsel. Which leads me to the next step, follow the money.

In today's organizations, especially if you are looking to have them purchase enterprise-wide solutions, the budgets will be controlled by a CEO, CIO, CFO, or General Counsel. If your lead does not have the political capital or authority to influence one of these titles, your sales cycle will be longer, deal size shorter, and overall, the lead is less likely to close.

The KISS Question for this post is, "how far away is your lead from a C-title"?

11 December 2009

Defining Need: Distinguising between "Need", "Want", and "Like to Have" - Part II

How do you elevate subtle need (aka "Want" or "Like to Have") to true need?

Some would say the answer is to "gate" your valuable pieces of content/marketing (i.e. behind a web form) - but that is close to the age of the dinosaurs.

Instead, you can gather data about your prospects in a much more innocuous way - let's start with the premise that you already know who you are talking to (as in they have a login profile - which I highly recommend for custom communications that are totally customer-centric).

How do you get that very specific data from your prospects - without them really feeling that they are giving up all the details?

You need to structure your campaigns to include communications that require dialogue - and dialogue that has no other purpose than asking for that dialogue. Simply said, stop selling.

Well, not entirely.

For every time that you ask their opinions, their perspectives, their questions, you have an opportunity to move subtle need to more definitive need.

  • In the middle of a webinar, have you ever run a poll?
  • Have you ever sent a pre-course email to prospects asking for the questions that they want to ask the speaker?
  • Post-webinar, have you ever asked for them to comment on the webinar (NOT about product)?
  • Have you surveyed the clients pre and post event?
  • At a live event, have you stopped pushing the product and listened to the prospects comments?
  • Have you actually called each and every prospect to see what they thought of the program?
  • Have you instructed your teams to call before and after support renewal dates just to provide another level of customer support - again, no sales call allowed?

Without doing a variety of these tasks, your teams lose an opportunity to move the subtle need to true need.

Another KISS question for today's posts: "When was the last time that you spoke to your client, non-sales related, before a new deal/support renewal came up?"

Defining Need: Distinguising between "Need", "Want", and "Like to Have"

First things first: what was your answer to the KISS question from the last post - "What makes a great lead - for your team?"

One of the easiest ways to determine if a lead is great is to focus on the baseline NEED of the customer. Whether you are selling enterprise software, diamond rings, floral arrangements, or insurance options, there is a need.

Need, however, comes in variety of flavors. Need can be "true" need - as in, "something will blow up if I don't acquire this asset", but it can also be more subtle as "want" or "like to have".

Converting the more subtle "want" or "like to have" types of need into true need can be accomplished - this is when effective demand generation can step up to make this happen - all before the lead is sent to the sales teams. And more often than not, clients' needs (at least in the client's opinion initially) fall into these subtle types of need.

Think of why people reacted to your campaigns - what was your original message, how did they find you, what issues are their industries facing, and what issues are they personally facing? Data is critical to making this work. Are you seeing trends of commonality amongst what type of people are responding to your message? If Client A, B, and C all respond to the same marketing message, you could infer that they are all facing the same business challenge.

Let's take this a step further - let's say Client A, B, and C all respond to your campaign - a webinar in this case. Do you know what they thought of the webinar? What they wanted to get out of it? What their reaction was to a statement made during the webinar? Did they share what they learned with their colleagues?

Did you ask?

There are numerous opportunities for vendors to listen to their clients and what they are saying about their needs - but often, these opportunities are overlooked or missed (usually by the vendor talking about how terrific the vendor is and how the solution works). The only way to move subtle need into more definitive need in a client's mind is to leverage these opportunities to listen to them, absorb the data they are telling you, capture and leverage the data across your teams, and then reinforce how painful their need is back to them.

The KISS question for today's post is "how many times during a campaign did you ask for your client's feedback?"

10 December 2009

What makes a great lead?

So it would be so simple if the phones just rang off the hook, filled with customers and net new prospects with a PO in hand, ready to buy, and your demand generation teams just had to pick up the phone and keep track of those PO numbers.

If you are that lucky, I would highly suggest that you play the Lotto.

For most everyone else, high volume/high quality lead generation is just not that easy.

However, before you set your plans up to generate all this volume of terrific leads, have you asked yourself, or more importantly, your sales teams, what makes a great lead?

A classic way is to identify BANT - budget, authority, need, timeframe. Sure, folks may call these items different things - but ultimately it comes down to these four items. The order of "BANT", in my opinion, is a bit misleading....but the acronym is not as easy on the tongue. I prefer the order of NABT.

Since this blog is "The KISS Principle of Lead Generation", your first KISS question is "What makes a great lead - for your team?"