Archive for August 2010
Well, once again my muse has come up with a great blog article topic. I’ve been tweeting about not deadheading my cone flowers. Turns out they are an excellent thistle seed source for Gold Finch. Last week there had to be 50 or more of the lovely birds in my garden feasting on the dead blossoms. In this case, there was a benefit to not dead heading or “throwing away” what appears to be something of no use.
My muse, who is @kimjosephs on Twitter said “Oh, does the deadheading make you think of a potential blog article? When is a lead is no longer a lead? Do we give up too soon?” Once again, she has inspired me to write a blog article on just that. When is a lead well and truly dead.
Today’s blog article is mostly going to be about leads, but it probably will also apply to existing customers as well. I still remember years ago working with a client who had over 25K contacts in an ACT 6 database. Adding someone to a group took 45 minutes – that’s minutes – not seconds. I knew we needed to clean up his database in order to improve performance. Besides all the contacts, he had over 10 years of histories as well. One of the first things I suggested was removing companies and customers that were, for sure, no longer in business. He absolutely refused. When I even showed him several contacts who were really dead, like buried in the ground dead, he didn’t want them removed either. When I questioned him about his rationale for keeping the contacts, he said it was the history he was most interested in – in other words, why were they a customer – what kept them coming back – what could he have done better if they went away or were lost. I really couldn’t argue with his concept.
Just last week I was working with a client who wanted to keep three databases – something I really hate doing for a variety of reasons. He wanted a prospect/lead database of contacts that were not qualified, a Leads database of contacts that were qualified and then a final, “they are now a customer” database. Well, yikes, no. How do you follow the transition from unqualified to customer? How do you follow up with a calendar entry to call them on a regular basis if you have to read more than one calendar. Yikes again.
Once I got him to actually settle on one database with groups, then we started talking about leads and lead management. We were on a conference call with several of his salespeople and it got pretty heated during the discussion. It was no surprise that everyone had a different opinion about what constitutes a dead lead. I chipped in and told them the story of one of my supposedly dead leads. I had done my due diligence and called back the client. They told me they were absolutely not interested and NEVER would be. Ok, I wrote up the notes, stating that the client wasn’t interested in receiving any more of our emails, left them in the database and moved onwards. Two years later, about 6 months ago actually, out of the blue I get a call from the client who now wants to move forward and get ACT. Oh, and it needed to happen right away. I was curious and asked him why he had told me before that he NEVER would be interested. He chuckled, and said “hm, did I really say that – well never say never.” He said what he meant was he wasn’t interested at that moment.
That then begs the question – when is a NO really a NO? After you follow up with a lead and then they tell you to go away, do you remove them from your database? For one thing, you don’t keep calling them. I have a vendor that I have said NO to more times than I can remember and religiously, every 6 months, this guy calls me back and I tell him once again, I’m not interested. You have to admire his tenacity.
Personally, I do not call back a client if they say don’t. To me that’s common courtesy. I’ve had salespeople argue with me that this is the wrong mentality. But nowhere in any of my writing are you ever going to see me say I am a salesperson. There are products and things I am passionate about and will “talk up” but I will not call, on a weekly basis, to convince you to buy my services. Guess maybe that’s why I’m not a gazillionaire. But I sleep better at night. Now, for the clients that have told me don’t call back, I do include them in email marketing campaigns. If they don’t want to hear from me anymore they can opt out. Then I pretty much know for sure they are not interested. I don’t remove them from my database, though, cause based on the gentleman calling me back 6 months ago, you just never know.
I guess the point of this blog is you may not really know when a lead is truly dead and no longer interested. It might clutter up your database, but you really do need to keep the history of what was said and heard. Is the client really dead and gone? Who knows, but like my client said, never say never.
I sent out a tweet the other day while I sat watching a squirrel aim/jump/miss/drop/repeat trying to get to my bird feeder. It was comical to see this creature’s tenacity. It just kept on trying but making the same mistake, over and over again. A friend tweeted back and said ” I think that squirrel might inspire a blog article. Something about making the same biz mistakes over and over again. hm.” She was right. And here’s my blog article in response.
First off, my inner soul likes to think there are no mistakes. Rather, I like to think of them as taking a wrong road, and then finding a better one. That’s what they said in Jonathan Living Seagull. Richard Bach wrote “There are no mistakes. The events we bring upon ourselves, no matter how unpleasant, are necessary in order to learn what we need to learn; whatever steps we take, they’re necessary to reach the places we’ve chosen to go.” Sound squishy, feely good? Yep.
Ok, now for a reality check. We do indeed make mistakes. Lots of them. It’s how we respond to them and move forward and grow that makes us better business owners.
Thinking about some of the mistakes I’ve made, I came up with five that I keep making all the time. Some of them I’m getting better at and fixing them so they don’t happen again. Your list might be different. Here’s mine.
1. Forgetting what you do best. Gosh, if I had a nickle for how many times I’ve made this mistake, I’d be quite rich. Times get tough, you figure you need to try something new to bring in new dollars. Poof, next thing you know you’re out in left field where you have no business being. You’ve forgotten what you do best. Regroup. Pick up the pieces and go back where you belong – doing what you know best. Ah, but can you recover fast enough?
2. Going after new and leaving current customers in the dust – this ties to what I said in point one. The economy was pretty tough last year. Many of us were scrounging around trying to get new customers and in the process, letting our existing customers languish forgotten by the wayside. Did we even call them to see how they were doing? Did we find out if there was something we could do to help them survive the crisis? Nope. Well, I fixed that and I’m doing exactly that. I work with ACT and ACT keeps track of customers. Right? So, why would I as a company want to go after new business, which costs more money, when, in fact, I should be going after my existing customer base. The right thing is to go back and look at who I haven’t talked to in several months and drop them a line, or make a call, or send a quick “how are you – hope all is well” note. This is what I’m helping my customers figure out – how to go mine the data in their ACT databases and find the people who have been forgotten and get back in touch.
3. Not learning from our mistakes and taking corrective actions – you would think this would be obvious, right? Wrong. We all come up with rationales as to why things didn’t work. Wrong time to roll out a product. Wrong time to hire new people. Economy was in the toilet. We didn’t put enough thought into the idea. You get the drift. If you find out you are going down the wrong path can you be nimble enough to stop the flow and move in the right direction? Can you even determine you are making a mistake before it’s too late? Boy, that’s a tough one. When you figure it out will you let me know?
4. Knowing when to say no – this again ties into number 1 and 2 in this list. Times are tough. Phones are not ringing. Call comes in about a project that you know in your heart of hearts you shouldn’t take on – but you say yes. You need the money. You need the work. You don’t want to say no. Sometimes, to make sure you stay alive and kicking as a business, you do indeed have to say no. No to the new process re-engineering effort. No to hiring a new person. No to changing the business model. No to the new client with unrealistic expectations. No to new work until you can manage what you already have on your plate. This one to me is probably the hardest mistake to handle, especially as a business owner.
5. Hiring the wrong people – been there done that. Fixed it when I hired my super star girl Friday who quickly became our top Level One support person and who rightfully should be promoted to Sr. Consultant. She keeps me on the straight and narrow. But, before her, I made one of the cardinal mistakes in business – I hired family. Not only once, but I did it twice. Bad mistake. The other mistake is hiring people who are looking for a step on their ladder to success – which will be somewhere else. Loyalty is something hard to find in people anymore. However, if you don’t make them feel that they are needed and trusted, why would they want to stay and be a loyal employee. So, in this case, you may have hired the right person, but didn’t give them the feedback they needed and it turned them into the wrong person. This whole number 5 could be a blog article all by itself. But I think you get the picture.
In summary, we will all make mistakes. Often, and many times the same one more than once. Our only hope is that we fall down, pick ourselves up, dust off our pants/skirts, and move on knowing that for sure, we won’t make that mistake again. Or if we do, we’ll be able to recover quickly. We hope.