Sales vs. Marketing: Battle of the Plan

We watched Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview last night. In this 1995 interview, he described the product group that came up with the MacIntosh as a group of superstar innovators who came together and created magic. His metaphor was a tumbling machine, a gadget that tumbles rough rocks together in order to smooth each other out. He also compared Apple to companies such as Xerox that began to focus less on product and more on sales and marketing and how that prioritization leads to decay of the product, loss of the technical staff, and so on. This morning, Fred Wilson of writes in a similar vein,

One of the things I have observed over the years is that a hard charging sales oriented founder/CEO can often hide the defects in a product. Because the founder is so capable of convincing the market to adopt/purchase the product, the company can get revenue traction with a product that is not really right. And that can hide all sorts of problems.

In my corner, I experience a more localized battle: the one between sales and marketing. What does this battle look like? Marketing owns the marketing plan and budget, tracking the sales force’s activities and expenses. Sales may want the freedom to gallop along, buckling under the transparency of a log of activity and expenses. Sales may want to forego the plan entirely, preferring to roll along and pursue opportunity spontaneously, with little regard for the cost of pursuit. (Most sales efforts are judged more by top line revenue than profitability.) Marketing can be flexible, but has to be accountable for the budget. When a sales and marketing budget has been tallied as a single budget in the past and due to the company’s growth, becomes split into two budgets, what may ensue is the Battle of the Marketing Plan.


Recipe for a Great Interview

First, an
Opening statement
Followed by
Questions to determine your needs.
(Stop! Look! Listen!)
Some call this “Buy before you sell.”

Then it’s time to show off
Relevant accomplishments
Buffed by a
Testimonial from an objective third party.

Pause to ask about any reservations you may have.
(Stop! Look! Listen!)

And finish with a statement on motivation to work with you.

Doubling Down on Insults

Humor is well-known to be a great asset in work and life. But what if you have to deal with a person who dishes out a lot of criticism and it just doesn’t seem funny? Try taking the criticism and doubling down. The term comes from blackjack and means risking two cards to get a big win.

A woman I knew was arguing a lot with her brother after their family went through a difficult time. The two fought bitterly, taking turns rearing up with vicious jabs or backhanded insults. With intentional practice and mental grit, she learned how to defuse these fights consistently. Now when he launches an insult or a remark she finds offensive, she pretends her job is to double the insult. So if he barks, “I am really worried about your ability to be focused!” she says, “I have got to be the most unfocused person I have ever met. One minute I am glued to a video game, the next I’m sorting silverware. I am so incredibly unfocused!” A round or two of this behavior, exaggerated a bit more each time, defuses the situation and soon brother and sister are laughing together. The big win is the dose of healing laughter that propels the relationship to the next level.

Managers, too, can hone this technique when dealing with difficult people. A perceived slight is often harmless and can even be used to advantage.


Marketing Communications Toolkit

A friend and I are giving a talk soon on the basics of marketing communications. First, we will put the idea of marketing communications in their proper context of building business in professional services. Then, we will attempt to prioritize the list of communications in rough order of importance while giving examples of each type. The sequence is approximate, yet relevant whether working at a new firm, small firm, large firm, or established firm.

Level One: Essentials, or the Core Press Kit
1. Website, which is today’s (fixed) brochure
2. A print-on-demand (customizable) firm brochure
3. Stationery, including business cards, email signature, letterhead & notecards

Level Two: News and Press Releases
4. Project news via e-blast or newsletter
5. New hires at the senior level
6. Firm milestones
Must Have: Mailing List of Clients and Media Contacts

Level Three: Client Development 
7. Holiday cards

Level Four: A Going Concern
8. Focus brochure: market sector or methodology

Level Five: Modern Social Media
9. Blogging
10. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest
Must Have: Keyword Strategy

We will probably wrap up with a few statements about lessons learned. We may finish on a note about tying the above items into an annual marketing budget and plan.

10 Takes on Personal Presence

1. Style. See Bill Cunningham New York, the documentary about the world’s best street style photographer. It is the tale also of a decades-long unerring point of view.

2. Grooming. SMPS Boston shared “Dress for Success” tips last week on their blog. We had to clip the grooming section, which said essentially, “Get a facial a couple of times a year to avoid over-reliance on cosmetics.”

3. Persuasion. My dramatic speech teacher from high school found a lucrative encore career helping executives become more lucid and persuasive.

4. Holding a room. Sometimes this means getting to know the room ahead of time. How much will your voice have to project?

5. Posture. You cannot hold a room unless you stand up straight.

6. Preparation. Send people the agenda ahead of time when it is your meeting to lead. You will make them feel respected.

7. What Dad said. “Firm handshake and look ’em in the eye.”

8. Poise. See L’Amour Fou for a peek into the man behind 70s fashions, Yves St. Laurent and Valentino: The Last Emperor for a fashion business marriage of two men.

9. Manners. It is truly illuminating to read etiquette books from different decades. Miss Manners and Emily Post are still the reigning champions.

10. Generosity. Smile to yourself and to others and see it returned in unexpected ways.

In Praise of Inconsistency

I went to a conference hosted by the Massachusetts Hospital Association the other day. My intent was to commune with C-suite leaders of health care organizations in order to build relationships with them and thereby help my design clientele build business. One of the workshops was on managing up and down, a subject I find endlessly fascinating. The speaker, an up-and-coming vice president at Lowell General Hospital, identified several areas of leadership. Of course I rated myself on all of them because someday I would like to be a CEO. I give myself good marks for attitude, presentation, commitment, communication, vision, ownership, appreciation, accountability, and timeliness. The only area that I could not give myself high marks was consistency. I was never the girl who could get to work at the same time every day. Not the one who can treat every situation the same, every person fairly at all times. My executive coach leapt at this revelation. “That’s great,” he said. “You have identified a key weakness!” Not so fast, Mr. Coach. I waved in his face this passage from a piece in the New York Times entitled “The Perils of Perfection,” about machine learning and all that Google glasses promise us, like enhanced self-insight and auto-correcting our daily behavior:

In his brilliant essay “In Praise of Inconsistency,” published in Dissent in 1964, the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski argued that, given that we are regularly confronted with equally valid choices where painful ethical reflection is in order, being inconsistent is the only way to avoid becoming a doctrinaire ideologue who sticks to an algorithm. For Kolakowski, absolute consistency is identical to fanaticism.

“The breed of the hesitant and the weak …of those …who believe in telling the truth but rather than tell a distinguished painter that his paintings are daubs will praise him politely,” he wrote, “this breed of the inconsistent is still one of the main hopes for the continued survival of the human race.”

So you see, Mr. Coach, Ms. Hospital VP, inconsistency, chameleon-like adaptation to the particulars of the day and the person, the mood and the weather, are the creative and beautiful strokes on this painting we call life. I may be the very hope for your continued survival. {Chuckle.}