Whilst checking out the competition the other day, one particular TM agency gave me a serious case of ‘imposter syndrome’ as their website had a rather good section on the pitfalls of using an agency (and no, I shall not be naming them as they do seem rather proficient!).

It was not so much ‘pitfalls’ but a more of a sanity check that outsourcing to an agency doesn’t necessarily solve all of one’s issues.  The point they made was that ‘simply’ generating more leads may not be the ‘magic bullet’ the company hopes for.

Tempest Cosgrave ask for a 50% prepayment on all projects – we’ve done this for 16 years – and I can honestly say that no-one has not paid the second 50% – ever.

Now, that’s not say we haven’t had pilots that never got to ‘phase 2’.  No, we’ve had a few (very few) that initially seemed great concepts only to crash on the inconvenient rocks of reality.  Reflecting on this I wondered if there is any value in sharing some of the issues that have scuppered pilots.  So here it is, what I have learned from our clients when it didn’t go as well as desired.

Sales Culture

A few pilots have been well conceived from a lead generation process perspective, and invariably created decent opportunities, only for the internal tensions within the clients sales culture to create mayhem!  The pilot makes the client ‘look in the mirror’ and fully realise that, quite simply, they have ‘order takers’ rather than ‘sales people’.  This tends to arise when senior Sales & Marketing decision makers champion a lead generation exercise, ironically usually because sales are saying they have no decent leads!  If you haven’t seen ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ then I do recommend you catch it, if only for the ‘Steak Knives’ speech by Blake, played by Alec Baldwin (trigger warning – it hasn’t aged very well!).

Bandwidth

Similar to the issue with sales culture, I can think of a couple of pilots where the business plan demanded more revenue but the leads generated withered on the vine.  However, rather than a lack of sales skill it was more to do with sales people simply at capacity dealing with existing clients and workloads that impeded their ability to effectively deal with new opportunities.  Again, this holds up that mirror, though more to the operational side of the business rather than purely ‘culture’.

Expectations

I hold my hands up on this one as it was pertinent to some very early pilots we ran where client expectations were not handled very well (we quickly introduced an ‘Expectations’ section within all pilot discussions).  If you are operating in a noisy and very competitive market place you have to be cognizant that not every decision maker will be opening their cheque book (ask your parents) on the back of a single call.

Reputation

We had one memorable campaign where the reputation of the clients’ Managing Director resulted in some very colourful feedback!  The client was very well established (and successful) that had a great new product for market.  Trouble was, anyone who knew the MD, even existing customers, were very reluctant to explore the product based on their previous dealings with this character.

Success is a lousy teacher.

For some clients, stress testing the sales function, either in competency or capacity, serves a valuable purpose.  Indeed, once issues are resolved we have seen clients return for a belated ‘phase 2’.  Our blind spot on expectations was an incredibly useful lesson for us when we started out.  The reputation issue has led us to be very mindful about which clients we work with.

Our process for onboarding a pilot addresses these key issues as well as others (don’t get me started on data!) and if you want to explore working with Tempest Cosgrave please feel free to contact us.

In short, the key takeaways are:

  • Recruit, measure and retain effective sales resources
  • Be prepared to scale the operation for additional business
  • Set realistic goals
  • Don’t let the MD near the sherry