In recent months, I’ve had the great pleasure of editing this blog. I’m moving on to a new challenge; before I go, I want to share two of the many sales lessons I’ve learned during my time here.
The first lesson is that sales doesn’t happen in a vacuum; everything that goes on in a company has an impact on sales, even if sales had nothing to do with what happened. Almost every element of sales comes with a context, for both salesperson and customer. I’ve been following the travails of AOL’s underfunded, vaguely conceived, and intermittently good local-news play, Patch, which is in the midst of shrinking. In a memo shared by media blogger Jim Romenesko, Patch’s head of sales recently wrote to his staff that sales had dropped dramatically in the days since the company announced that Patch would serve fewer communities, employ fewer people, and generally lower its ambitions. The sales director wrote:
We had a $36K day yesterday, when we need to be having $100K+ days. I understand why yesterday happened, but we cannot settle for days like this going forward.
That lesson again: Everything you do counts. Of course having your CEO handle the announcement of the downsizing poorly makes potential advertisers less secure that they should work with Patch. Business is tough; sometimes bad news is unavoidable. Communicating it poorly can send even a strong salesforce into a tailspin. Don’t lie, don’t spin, but as in all sales interactions you have to tell a credible story that shows why your product or service is right for the customer, no matter what is happening outside your interaction.
The second lesson is that smart salespeople have only begun to figure out how to work the web. Vik Singh at Infer is one of many who is using connecting data analysis software to sales-tracking systems. In an energetic Businessweek brief, Sing and an analyst deliver a good general overview of what Infer and its ilk do (so much so that the article can serve as a primer for colleagues who don’t get the data imperative yet). I was struck by two things when I read the article: (1) this is a really smart idea, and (2) this is just the beginning. What Infer and similar companies are doing is so far beyond what was possible only a few years ago. Only a pessimist or a technophobe could argue that the opportunities a few years from now won’t be more granular and productive. There will be profound competitive and privacy issues as this develops and I look forward to reading here to see what salespeople can do about them.
Thank you for having me here. You owe it to yourself to keep reading this blog — and sales professionals who aren’t following Yesware on Twitter are missing useful and entertaining tips and links several times a day. Onward …