Make Believers Out Of Your Entire Staff

Some stress constant training reinforced by messaging campaigns. Others rely on creating and fostering the right corporate culture. Ultimately, they agree that demand-generation efforts need the consistent backing of every executive, from the CEO on down.

“You have to make the commitment,” said Tim Hebert, CTO of Atrion Networking, a network integrator in Warwick, R.I., that started addressing demand generation seriously about five years ago. “What we&'ve found is that it has to start at the top of the organization. They need to embrace it and drive it.”

And that doesn&'t mean a casual mention once in a while. Hebert and other executive team members conduct demand-generation training sessions throughout the year. These run in tandem with internal e-mail campaigns, in which all employees are encouraged to help develop marketing messages for new offerings. Involving all 100 employees in the process of developing marketing materials, Hebert said, ensures that everyone will know what solutions Atrion has to offer and why a customer might need them.

The results are reward for the extra work involved, Hebert said. Project managers forward one to two opportunities a week to Atrion&'s sales force, and an equal number comes from field engineers. This is three times greater than before Atrion started its demand-generation training, said Hebert.

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“It really makes a lot of sense to get your entire staff engaged,” he said.

You don&'t have to convince Calvin Cooke, CEO of Denver-based network integrator Brainstorm Networks, a Cisco Focus partner, about the value of educating nonsales employees about demand generation. Last year, Brainstorm actually landed a $150,000 deal resulting from a casual conversation one of Cooke&'s administrative assistants struck up with someone sitting next to her on an airplane.

Cooke stresses creating the right corporate culture, stoking passion for the company mission and setting clear goals. “You get [employees] thinking about demand generation because they believe. I let them all know they&'re important.”

Cooke said it&'s crucial to get technical employees onboard. “An engineer is one of the most powerful sales tools we have,” he said, “because they&'re the trusted advisers.”

But you also have to put in the time, said Cooke. “I always talk to my guys. If you don&'t coach them on it, it won&'t happen.”

Cooke shares the entire demand-generation and sales process with all 15 employees, and then follows that up with coaching. “Engineers are expected to farm outside sales, to hunt,” he said. “We use our engineers to snuggle up to customers, and then sales pops the question.”

But it&'s not often easy, solution providers say.

Getting everyone on staff to think about demand generation is “a very, very tough cultural shift to make,” said Neil Cohen, director of business development in the CoBRA division of Defense Group Inc. (DGI), a Alexandria, Va.-based provider of technology solutions for emergency preparation and response. This is especially true when dealing with technical staff, he said.

“These are people who are not generally business-growth-minded,” he said. A simple telephone call can present a problem for a technician or software code writer not used to exercising the soft skills of customer relations. And, frankly, Cohen says, some just don&'t have the ability to interact well with customers. “Some will never, ever possess the soft skills, no matter what you do.”

Nonetheless, Cohen conducts team meetings with nonsales staff during which he starts with the basics. “First, we discuss the importance of the customer.” Then he jokingly he tells them, “Clear your mind, young Jedi, and focus on the customer.”

DGI&'s solutions involve technology for nontechnical people, so Cohen certainly doesn&'t want his engineers speaking in arcane acronyms that are likely to confuse or annoy customers.

And money can never be discounted as a motivator for nonsales people. For example, any one of the nonsales employees at Net Solutions, Tustin, Calif., can end up with cash in their pocket at the end of the month if they&'ve drummed up some work.

Net Solutions gives out gift certificates for leads at existing clients that result in at least $500 sales in products or services. The company also extends $100 to the engineer who&'s developed the most leads in a month that were consummated and another $100 to the one who generates the leads with the most dollar value. Any nonsales employee who provides a lead that results in a managed services account will get a hefty chunk of the first month&'s revenue from that account.

“It&'s a significant kicker,” said Bob Whiton, Net Solutions president. “It&'s a third of the first month&'s revenue.” The average payout for these leads is around $700, he said.

Whiton said there&'s a final, simple reason to make sure all employees are rewarded for demand generation: “It works.”