Friday, February 22, 2008

What's on the madKast Bookshelf?

In a recent meeting with one of our investors and mentors -- David Brown of Zoll Data Sytems -- he mentioned a book that he had found particularly useful for him regarding sales. The book, called Spin Selling by Neil Rackham, is a fantastic resource for anyone wanting to learn more about the intracacies of selling a product -- whether large or small, simple or complex -- to someone else. It is an extremely well-researched guide to successfully selling based on the research of 35,000 sales calls tracked by Rackham and his associates.

The word "SPIN" in the title refers to the method that the authors have found is the most successful: (S)ituation; (P)roblem; (I)mplication; (N)eed-Payoff. The author's premise is that the "traditional" steps in a sales call -- (1) opening the call; (2) investigating needs; (3) giving benefits; (4) objection handling and (5) closing techniques do not very well for larger, more complex sales such as one that may require many phone conversations.

Instead, the authors guide the reader through the four steps their research has found pivotal to successful sales calls. First, situation questions that help the seller gather data regarding the buyer. Second, problem questions probing difficulties or dissatisfactions in areas where the seller's product can help. Next, and most important, implication questions which take a customers problem and explore its effects or consequences. Finally, need-payoff questions, which are powerful ways to get the customer to tell you what the benefits of your solution are.

The authors also do an excellent job of describing how to assess the outcomes of particular interactions with buyers. From worst to best: "no sale," where the customer actively refuses a commitment; "continuation," where the sale will continue but where no specific action has been agreed upon by the customer to move it forward; "advance," where an event takes place in the call that moves the sale forward to a decision; and "order," where the customer makes a firm commitment to buy.

Rackham also spends a lot of time explaining how larger, more complex sales differ from that of smaller, simpler sales and that techniques that work well in one arena may not transfer well to the other. For instance, in larger sales, needs take longer to develop, their more likely to involve more than just one single individual (decision-maker) and needs are more likely to be expressed on a rational basis.

There's a host of other fascinating ideas and strategies that the author takes about in the book, and I couldn't recommend it more highly. It will certainly benefit madKast significantly as we frame our new product launch and pitch it to content

Also on the madKast bookshelf are Punk Marketing by Richard Laermer and Mark Simmons and Marketing to the Social Web, by Larry Weber. Both of which are also recommended! Have you read any of these books? Leave a comment if so!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Evangicamp v 2.0 Wrapup!

While I was only able to participate in about 2/3 of Evangicamp last week -- due to the cold/flu plague invading Colorado -- it was a worthwhile and fruitful endeavor, much like the first Evangicamp. While the first Evangicamp was smaller, more focused, and more philosophical, we had almost double the participants this time around, so the tambre of the discussions were much less focused and more social. Neither experience was "right" or "wrong" -- just different. I'd like to mention a few (of the many) topics that were discussed.

One of the first topics we discussed was using Facebook or LinkedIn to reach potential users or bloggers. Often bloggers do not put their e-mail addresses on their sites, but do put their LinkedIn or Facebook contact information; this is an additional potential way to evangelize, even in the absence of direct e-mail addresses. We did, however, debate the overall effectiveness of these methods and I guess the jury is still out.

We also discussed the importance of going after certain verticals (i.e., food bloggers, or Mormons) as opposed to a more horizontal approach. And Micah Baldwin of Lijit discussed his company's recent focus on networks or associations of bloggers involved in the same activities or existing in the same or similar communities. They seem to have had decent success with this approach.

Though we talked about a whole range of topics, there's one last one I'd like to address. That is finding the right balance between contacting your potential or current users too much versus too little. If you contact them too often, a certain fatigue regarding your company or your company's product can set it among users, while if you don't keep in enough contact with them, they may become disinterested in your product. There is no hard and fast rule about the frequency with which you contact potential users/current users, but there certainly are subjective thresholds which one should be aware of.

I'm looking forward to Evangicamp v. 3.0 at some point in the future!