Atlanta is notorious for stress-inducing traffic, and it’s going to be even worse since one of the busiest roads collapsed on March 30th due to a fire.
Collapses (read: “failures”) have their way of teaching us. So, I want to take a moment to share a few reactions from this debacle.

Enabling New Day-to-Day Experiences

Atlanta’s traffic is well known, but to be honest, traffic is on par with other major cities. The difference is perhaps volume due to our limited public transportation options. (And poor take-rate for the options that do exist.)
This new challenge will motivate many daily commuters to try travel alternatives. The key here is how this will affect the day-to-day. By integrating public transportation into the daily lives of so many for an extended period, commuters can more accurately reflect on how public transportation can affect their lives.
Too often, in the past, public transportation services like MARTA have discounted transportation for special events. Commuters for special events, then, rarely consider MARTA for anything but special events. They certainly would not associate the ease of daily commuting when their limited experience includes jam-packed trains.
Forcing the day-to-day can be a real eye-opener for many.

This is the New Normal

Mark McDonough, commissioner of the Georgia State Patrol’s Department of Public Safety came out asking commuters to be patient citing repairs could take months.
One of the best parts about his address was cutting to the chase – “… get up earlier. Find a new route. This is new normal.” There is no value in whining and crying about what happened. It’s happened. Adapt.

Where and What We Can Learn from Collapse

There was a joke going around that this was actually the second major Atlanta collapse this year – the Atlanta Falcons’ major Super Bowl crash being the first.
Atlanta entrepreneur Jon Birdsong shared this post – “Why Atlanta’s Collapse(s) Are Good For Us”. In this post, he reflected on how the Falcons’ collapse made him reframe resiliency by studying the orchestrator of the greatest Super Bowl comeback ever – Tom Brady.
Birdsong read books and articles about Tom Brady, and adapted much of his own lifestyle to be more like Tom’s. Everything from daily habits like diet and exercise have changed Jon for the greater. Birdsong credits the Falcons’ loss as the motivator.
Had the Falcons won, Birdsong would have been ecstatic and hugely supportive. However, the loss has given him a new way to look at life beyond the game.

Life happens. Sh!t happens. Adapt, and keep going. This is the new normal.
TAG Panel on “How Dynamic Sales Orgs Drive Results”. Pictured from left to right: Jon Birdsong, Mary Ford, Ryan Radding, Eric Mercado, and Kyle Tothill
I attended a Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) event for sales leadership a couple weeks ago about “How Dynamic Sales Orgs. Drive Results”. The panel included:

The majority of the discussion revolved around engaging sales teams either in mentoring and coaching or via direct incentives. Here are a few take-aways:

  • There’s a spectrum of engagement and performance that ranges from (low to high): Resistant, Reluctant, Existent, Compliant, Committed, and Compelled. Mitigate (or remove) reps in the first three groups while promoting and sharing practices of the high performance reps who exhibit innovation and leadership.
  • Drive engagement in these areas: Connection (connect individuals together to form the team), Support (mentoring and coaching), Reward (incentives), Progress (clear career progression model), and Structure (ensure alignment and understanding of roles and responsibilities).
  • Measuring success and engagement should go beyond metrics and activities. Include personal goals – set, met, exceeded? Understand that the “outside” lives of reps has a very real impact on work performance.
  • Beyond retention and promotion stats, evaluate the effectiveness and engagement of the team with referrals by reps and how quickly reps ramp up.
  • Gamification plays to the competitive nature of sales reps with a layer of transparency and accountability.
  • Pull ideas from reps on selling, don’t just push “best practices”. Sales reps can be innovative in how they sell and pushing “best practices” may not be conducive to the reps’ individual styles.
  • Coaching tends to have a “master-subordinate” structure set with boundaries while mentoring allows freer structure and less formality. Mentors tend to go beyond sales topics or even at the current job. Have/ establish both.

Good points raised by the team, and continues to illustrate that to drive sales, it’s all about driving engagement from the team. Companies are organizations of people. Engaging the people within, at the group and individual level, can produce a culture that drives sustainable practices for business growth and team motivation.

The worlds of sales and marketing are changing so much and so fast. With the explosion of technology over the last several years and the lower barriers to entry into starting businesses and the like, customers “have the power” – borrowing from the famous “Porter’s 5 Forces” (thank you, MBA!).
When I think about what I do, I don’t niche myself to sales or marketing or the other “business” aspects. I say I’m in Business Development. Breaking it down that’s “business” and “development”; as in, I develop business…  directly contributing to the growth of the business. So for me, sales and marketing, in particular, are just facets of what I do. Especially in my area of interest of technology and SaaS, lines blur but my general tactical and strategic tasks fall in business development.
Jon Birdsong, CEO of local Atlanta-based Rivalry, recently made the comment over dinner, “salespeople are mini-marketers”. He and I are in alignment that these days, salespeople are really becoming their own marketing machines especially as marketplaces are becoming inundated with products.
(My view is that the world will continue down this path till Buyers have so much power that they start dictating more niche products, thereby eating away at the potential profits. Cue: market exit and consolidation. You’re hearing it from me.)
Anyways, I recently spoke to a buddy of mine who runs several car dealerships, and I was sharing with him the marketing startup I’m currently more-or-less consulting with as a business development guy.  He spoke how they largely market on 3 tiers, at least for his major brand:
  • Tier 1 – The Brand’s National (or international) campaigns. What’s happening nationally? This is all brand-based, and it’s necessarily to drive people into dealerships. Think: Superbowl commercials.
  • Tier 2 – The Brand’s Regional campaigns. This can be regional like the Southeast, or more local-driven like campaigns for Atlanta-area dealerships. These campaigns do try to bring in consumers down the funnel.
  • Tier 3 – The Dealership-Level campaigns. These can be specific commercials or even print media (print? Yes, print) to drive consumers to a specific dealership.

In startups and in particular for business development, I don’t necessarily think I’ve operated in more than two tiers so far. Again, I’m waiting for one of the startups to go big… we’ll get there! However, these are some major efforts where we’ve played in the tiers.
  • Building the brand (Tier 1). With Body Boss, we eventually wanted to go into B2C after more traction in the B2B space, but we consistently published material like blogs, social media posts, and the like to establish ourselves as thought leaders and connectors in strength and conditioning.
  • PR in startups (Tier 1). It’s highly doubtful our target audience of strength coaches were going to be visitors to design and creative websites like awwwards.comor were going to visit techno-blogs like nibletz.com. However, we wanted to continue to build our brand even in those spaces – you never know who knows who. All that, of course, should be secondary to driving PR in the relevant industry of your target audience. Reaching out to the experts and connectors (like major publications, LinkedIn groups, professional organizations) will be the primary tool for PR in driving your brand’s existence to then drive sales.
  • SEO and SEM for drive inbound marketing (Tier 1/2). – This is kind of a mix, but the general thought here is that especially with technology, the world is “local” or at least “regional”. The most important element is driving potential consumers into and further down the sales funnel. This is where good content like through blogging and guest writing experts can lead many in.
  • Tradeshows and conferences (Tier 2). If you can obtain a list of the conference attendees, you can send out a nice little message that can be more of your larger campaign (maybe Tier 1). Otherwise, on the conference floor, your goal is to introduce your brand to everyone there who could be interested in your offering. I love these for many reasons, but in general, if done right, you can get a lot of people started and down your funnel quick. Your drive shouldn’t be to make the sale then and there, but to set up an appointment later.
  • Business Developers/ Salespersons (Tier 2/3). I was tempted to just write salespeople because that’s in many ways the goal here, right? To make sales? Make money? Anyways, as a sales person, I’m constantly making cold calls and emails (and tweets, etc.). My method is very different than that of my CEO’s, so for me, I can definitely see the “dealership-level” type of strategy where I’m creating my smaller marketing initiatives aligning with the larger brand’s, and then trying to get prospects in the door. And hopefully, a handshake to move forward, of course.
  • Random pitches (Tier 1/2/3). Okay, so maybe not the formal definition of “pitches”, but everytime you walk out your door and speak about your company, you’re doing some marketing activity. Sometimes, it’s a complete stranger who sees your shirt and is intrigued – could he/ she be a potential buyer? Maybe someone with a good connection? Or maybe even an investor? You never know who you’re going to meet.

Salespeople are quickly becoming marketing gurus in themselves, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. In fact, I see more salespeople becoming more and more critical to not only drive new business, but to maintain these relationships beyond the first sale in this increasingly fragmented, saturated market of technology and SaaS companies. And with the cut-throat, perhaps negative light most people see or hear “salespeople”, I definitely prefer the moniker of “Business Development”.
As a business grower and developer, I’m constantly refining my marketing message to drive more interesting conversations with potentials, and then using sales techniques to convert latent needs into more active needs. In startups, as a business developer, you’ll need to work and think on all 3 tiers when it comes to development.
What are your thoughts on sales and marketing for startups? How do you operate in 3 or more (or less) tiers?