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Market Problems

Enable persona based sales

So I’ve been thinking a little more on those topics I shared and since I keep reading interesting stuff over at Adele’s site, and am always looking for ways to improve sales enablement. I thought I might should eat a little of my own dog food and address one of the questions myself — How can positioning and targeting of buyer personas improve sales execution?

Having launched products into the market a couple of times, sales enablement and readiness is one of the biggest obstacle to success in the marketplace. Messaging and tools are often the critical success items when you sends sales out into the field to represent your product. Adele’s approach is fairly straight forward – know who you are selling to and what interests your targeted buyer. A recent post that really made me think about it was Messaging to No One In particular. The gobblygook syndrome is a problem in marketing, particularly technology marketing where we all are looking for a way to differentiate.

Broad messaging is just about the same as having no messaging. Messaging for the masses is typically not the best way to go out into the marketplace and often driven by lack of product definition and understanding why your product wins in the marketplace and who it is for. To help figure this out, I ask myself three questions which help me understand the typical buyer persona or at least to prioritize them:

  • Who buys my product at a company?
  • Who influences decision cycles for my product?
  • What do these people they really care about?

Seems a little too simple, but more complex and broad based questions can skew how you go to market – at least for me – I over analyze everything. Sure you can refine with follow on questions, but typically each of these questions return less than 3 or 4 things which is a great baseline to build from.

The core messaging opportunity for marketers and product managers is know the right people to focus on and identify a simple way to speak to them. When you build a product you often leverage use cases/user personas, so why not apply a succinct set of value drivers, key differentiators and messages for the product the buyer.

Crispy Messaging For Me Please

So if big fluffy messaging platforms are the way – what should you do? Crisp it up a little, look at your core messages today, talked to sales and a few customers and see if common themes develop that would allow you to reduce the options for sales to speak to and customers to embrace. The differentiation challenge will continue to be one of those key deliverables marketers and product managers deliver to the field and the marketplace. The challenge to provide sales with a crisp understanding of who benefits from a given product or service is sorta like a twistaplot story, but once you find the ending you like you can crisp it up and make it repeatable. With a focused messaging and buyer centric packaging of the product you can help sales know when is the right time to walk from a sales engagement?

To take a little bit from the Customer Centric Selling folks – The second best salesperson isn’t the one who’s product is runner up in a bake off, but the person who exits the sales cycle first when he/she understands that it isn’t the right target. The DNA of salespeople typically doesn’t allow them to just give up, but if you can provide them with a clear set of buyer personas and product definitions, as a Product Manager, you just might make it more likely sales will focus on the right folks.

Short Attention Span Theatre

Buyers are busy and sales folks are just trying to eek out an existance and neither of these afford the marketer the opportunity to spend a good deal of time explaining why thier product is the right product. From my perspective, albeit limited, effective product management isn’t delivering the coolest product, the most feature rich product or the most enterprise scaleable solution to the marketplace – it centers on delivering the right product, with the right features for the appropriately buyer.

The goal for me at this point is to right size a solution or product for the buyer. How about you?

Principles: Shading strategy, execution and interactions

prin·ci·ple [prin-suh-puhl] –noun

1. an accepted or professed rule of action or conduct: a person of good moral principles.
2. a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived: the principles of modern physics.
3. a fundamental doctrine or tenet; a distinctive ruling opinion: the principles of the Stoics.
4. principles, a personal or specific basis of conduct or management: to adhere to one’s principles; a kindergarten run on modern principles.
5. guiding sense of the requirements and obligations of right conduct: a person of principle.
6. an adopted rule or method for application in action: a working principle for general use.
7. a rule or law exemplified in natural phenomena, the construction or operation of a machine, the working of a system, or the like: the principle of capillary attraction.
8. the method of formation, operation, or procedure exhibited in a given case: a community organized on the patriarchal principle.
9. a determining characteristic of something; essential quality.
10. an originating or actuating agency or force: growth is the principle of life.
11. an actuating agency in the mind or character, as an instinct, faculty, or natural tendency: the principles of human behavior.
12. Chemistry. a constituent of a substance, esp. one giving to it some distinctive quality or effect.
13. Obsolete. beginning or commencement.

14. in principle, in essence or substance; fundamentally: to accept a plan in principle.
15. on principle,
a. according to personal rules for right conduct; as a matter of moral principle: He refused on principle to agree to the terms of the treaty.
b. according to a fixed rule, method, or practice: He drank hot milk every night on principle.

The funny thing about principles is that not only is the construct so nuanced that it supports 15 different dictionary use cases, but we often forget iT shades most daily actions. I was reminded of this throughout the week based on three different interactions within multiple settings – professional, social and familial. The trifecta of situational proof points that principles could be seen as an individual’ personal acceptable use policy.

Each situation for each participant is shaded by not only personal experience/biases, but constrained to the context of one’s principles. A friend has told me time and time again, your “world view” impacts your reactions and others reactions to YOU. For example, my view of productivity and follow up is not the same as others or vice versa. which while circular logic is the recursive spiral many interactions get into because of core DNA differences with folks. At times you just can’t connect your idea, emotions or actions toward what may or may not be common goals. Ultimately, how does an individual internalize a strategy, a brand or an action plan in the marketplace or in a cohort group is often the common thread of miscommunication between folks, as least that’s my lesson of the week around principles.

To effectively lead, manage or interact this is a baseline reality is often forgotten and overlooked, MYSELF included. I find myself not asking enough questions, but instead interpreting reactions and actions within how I would see/feel on a given topic which is more of an anchor than way to move forward and drive change. So my personal and career challenge to myself of week is to use my ears more than my mouth and to ask questions as to why something isn’t as effective as I thought it would be, rather than to make assumptions based on my own understanding/filter.

I think with this approach then perhaps I can avoid the pitfall of the best laid plans going awry. So now I think I have 101 things to be thankful for.

I really get excited when life hits you in the head with a blunt object and make you realize the best thing is that we are all different and bring different view, strategies and tactics.

For me it’s those situational reminders which provides clarity on things. I think I’ll read the 4 agreements again.

Stuck in the Middle: The Napoleon

So I haven’t felt that creative in a while, but the other day I committed that I had to get back to my pieces on Leadership persona’s. I’ve been working from a list of of 9 , so I’m back on the task since I encountered one of my predefined leaders on my list just the other day – The Napoleon. Initially the definition/caricature was a mid-level leader with overly aggressive goals who wouldn’t let folks stand in the way – but I found a better way to look at ti. Essentially Napoleon is now first time CEO of a small company, with grandiose goals and a belief that it just takes rigorous execution and trust for this “know it all” leader.

Returning to this conversation around management styles offers me the opportunity to develop a new page around stuff I’ve learned in business. I started this theme last August at site launch and I feel like I have to close it out at some point and move on, since my things I like list didn’t include seem to highlight this as a key area of interest.

The Napoleon persona overview takes a little different approach than the previous posts. The main reason I guess is as a person, I’m in a different place than when I wrote the first one – a new kid, a new gig and growing interest in other things. Perhaps I’ve gotten just a little more Zen, a point my fellow collegeues and friends would strongly push back on, but I believe it when it come to priorities. Hey – YOU too can be Zen-like by embracing an idea – any idea and mumbling it to yourself for say 100 times while washing your hands in scalding water, after that there is no way NOT to be Zen about a topic then.*see end note

While, my other Stuck in the Middle ones were about dealing with such a leader persona and driving change, such as with the Geologist, Collaborator, Visualist or MBIFM – the Napoleon review is more about how to be better a better if you exhibit these qualities and how to understand the strengths of this leadership persona to better pursue/understand the opportunity.

FWIW – an alternative title for this post could be “a thinly veiled letter to a friend”.

Qualifying the Napolean Leader

I’ve spent the better part of the last couple of days hearing short jokes which is what jogged my memory on this, but the Napolean leader isn’t short, doesn’t put his/her hand in their jacket or secretly desire to be exiled and die on a South Atlantic island – it’s a leader who just can seem to take it to the next level and while in their effort to do so, they position themselves as just a little better than they are.

A Napolean leader has been everywhere, knows everyone and are just killing it in a sub-$10M company. Typically these folks don’t have the right product or the perspective on the organization or the future of the business. The Napolean style can be natural or acquired by a less than wonderful outlook which doesn’t include global domination or leadership in a segment.

Without the right product or perspective these leaders quickly become just a little bit frustrated. This mini-CEO probably was a GM of some small business at GE and thought taking such a gig was a great idea. Less pressure, lower expectations and generally slower pace. Fast forward 18 months – this person has a whole different viewpoint. It may even grow out of some general observations:

  • I would have never thought this business would have plateaued so quickly
  • This slow pace is just a little boring
  • If we just did X we might be able to X which could be fun

Recursive thought experiments never end well when you have limited capacity, limited capital or a crowded market. At some point when you exit the loop and he a Napoleon perceives he/she has hit a ceiling, it’s time for digging into the details. Only with a firm understanding of every part of the business can they figure out the right next steps. That’s right – stunted growth requires meddling in the weeds. Negotiating contracts, helping with various functional gaps and generally getting in the way. But it creates “Action” for him or her, which is a good thing – activity equals results after all…

Small companies generally have good people and typically try to make everyone successful – employees, investors and customers – this may actually be part of the companies differentiation. Napoleons have a slightly different take on the small company. SMB’s are platforms to grow and potentially become something different overtime. Napoleon leaders have an insatiable need for more – more from people and more from products which manifests itself in the barking of orders, swat teams and detailed reporting requirements. All of this is delivered to the team with just a touch of arrogance which is often the topic of watercooler discussions and exit interviews.

Unreasonable Expectations

With a global viewpoint and firm understanding of how effectively manage a business as taught to them via the school of hard knocks. The Napoleon leader is battle tested and war scarred – that’s part of their charm. These folks are in EVERY meeting – no need to delegate, they have the answers, experience and “never say quit” attitude which will surely make their company successful. The cool thing for working for one of these leaders is you don’t need to think, be creative or grow – they got your back, take notes and tick off assigned tasks for success. It’s also not uncommon to hear at the weekly staff meeting – “Saturday is beer and pizza overtime day! Let’s celebrate and write some code!”. I mean these folks are super motivational and looking ahead.

“If we just march northeast, starting in September, we got those Rusians”

The RIght Sized Opportunity

Sometimes a stable $8M business with a profit sharing plan can significantly encourage innovation, dedication and deliver some interesting results if Napoleon could focus on their strengths and those of the business. The way I see it, the Napoleon leader sees what could be, rather than what is. They see what what that don’t have rather than what they do – essentially can’t seem to appreciate what they have – people, products and opportunity.

This leader should step away for a week or so and let the people get creative and lead for a while, could provide some interesting outcomes and make Napoleon just a little more peaceful.

*End Note – this was just literary mechanic to approximate satire and sarcasm, not a recommendation to pursue.

The Greening Has Begun and you haven’t even noticed

So I don’t often get any emails, but I have that feature turned on for my feedburner feed so I get do get some, but i’d rather have comments – turned it off – snap. My 10 Tips for dealing with the fact that you will never leave your job post has received 3 emails and NOT from 3 people I know, so I thought I would follow up on it. Each of them referenced the “Greening Your Own Grass” concept – weird I thought, because sometimes I’m just cheese, which was the intent. So like any good opportunist, I googled the term and it appears there’s no obvious content around this, so what the heck. It even has got a kitschy pop psychology ring to it.

I went out looking online for ideas, since I haven’t thought the concept much more than cheesy bullet I created. So I decided to extend the concept to support the hiring requirements of democracy, an online entity of some sort in the marketing sector, but I changed them a little, to fit the context of greening.

  1. “The ability to unlearn.” – After you are in a business for a while take the opportunity to engage new kids on the block and get their input. A refreshing view is always a good thing, plus you might find something simple which could add significant value.
  2. “The desire to add value.” – In principle this is the enjoy what you do concept with a little Locke thrown in. Don’t become a pass-thru entity. Routing work “packets” isn’t a job, it’s a network appliance . A router is cheap, replaceable and boring.
  3. “The imagination of a child.” Creativity is the first thing to go after being in a role for a while. Wake up and be excited about trying new ways of doing your job. Take 10 minutes a day researching on what you do and find out what others like you have done – repackaging is still creative, if not fully original.
  4. “A global perspective.” – This is one of those onion concepts – first layer is understand the big picture, identify your ability to impact the big picture and to deliver. The other is more literally – understand your connection to supporting the changing market place, which is going global.
  5. Soul. While the democracy list takes a jab at James Blunt, it’s about identifying how you can find your corporate flow. Perfect balance of challenge and capabilities.

So as I think about Greening YOUR Own grass, is about finding your corporate flow. Flow is basic chart, which most marketing and tech folks should be able to interpret. I first discovered the construct of Flow in a Leisure Lifestyle course during undergrad, these diagrams come from a person who synthesized some chap named Professor Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi presentation in Sydney on 17 March 1999…

So this Flow thing just might work to start the greening. So keep a hiring attitude and a desire to find your flow in the workplace. There’s $.02 on something I never thought I would post on, my Leisure class.