The following post is courtesy of Diane Harrison who is principal and owner of Panegyric Marketing, a strategic marketing communications firm founded in 2002 specializing in alternative assets.
At some point in their career, every sales and marketing professional hits a road block to getting ahead, whether it’s in performance, results, career path, or a combination of all of these. The Plateau Effect is the phrase that describes this impasse, when the forward progress that has been working well slows or stalls and seems likely not to do as well in the future. There are many reasons this occurs, some external, some internal, but acknowledging that the Effect is happening and working to identify the reasons behind it is the first step in getting over the proverbial hump.
The alternative asset world is not immune to this issue, but with such intense competition to get results for funds, the Plateau Effect can be deadly for sales if not resolved quickly. The list below contains some of the potential pitfalls that can waylay a sales or marketing effort, and suggestions on how to work around them.
If you are the type of person who revels in buckets of information and data, gathering facts and forecasts and assumptions believing that more information means better decisions, then you may fall prey to this inertia of progress known as analysis paralysis. While it can be positive to have a full understanding of the various paths to choose and their likely outcome, failure to be able to actually choose one and move forward will generally result in no advancement of the business cause at all.
With all the information and data that such individuals generally have, building a cost/benefit analysis for each path may help someone who falls into this struggle find a way to choose a course of action and execute it.
SAME OLD, SAME OLD
All of us have had the experience of getting too complaisant with the status quo of their routine. In sales and marketing, preserving deep and established relationships is a necessary and valuable component of doing a job well, but not when it gets in the way of building new connections and making positive outreach to potential sales leads. If you find yourself spending the majority of your time and effort in keeping these successful relationships strong but at the expense of sourcing and soliciting new leads, then eventually you might find yourself out of a sales job and better suited to investor relations.
Instead of this, try using your network to help identify new leads and be mindful about striking a healthy balance between time and effort spent on existing versus new relationships.
WHICH WAY DO I GO?
A related struggle to the above is figuring out ways to succeed with new outreach and identifying new sales opportunities. A great deal of success in accomplishing this lies outside of your ability in that prospects must agree to engage with you in order to progress. It is also the main reason that so much effort and time needs to be invested in outreach, because it is, in essence, a numbers game.
One way to combat this hump is to create multiple ways to try to engage prospects and a plan that allows you to move from Option A to Option B, or Step 1 to Step 2 to keep advancing the sales ball.
DON’T KNOW WHAT I DON’T KNOW
Are you one of those people who resist change or learning new things? Do you subscribe to the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ philosophy? Sometimes this resistance to absorbing new ideas or ways of doing things can be insidious, and creeps up on you until it presents an impediment to your own progress. In
the world of sales and marketing, clients and prospects are often demanding new ways of communicating with them to provide information. Think of how quaint the concept of cold-calling seems today. With the ability for smart phones to notify you of robo-callers or even just unidentified callers, it’s hard to get a call connected, let alone conduct an unsolicited conversation of any depth this way.
Professionals need to embrace new communication tactics in order to influence new contacts in ways they prefer. This might include webcasts, dial-in conference calls, more interactive website experiences, etc. Get up to date on all the tools available to you and find out how your prospects respond best to your outreach.
ENDS NOT JUSTIFYING THE MEANS
Getting paid for what results are delivered is a time-old driver for sales and marketing professionals. In one sense, the job expectations dovetail nicely with a meritorious environment, where individuals are paid based directly on their own results. While most sales jobs are structured this way, there are times when corporate policies or constraints work against this formula, often to the detriment of the most productive sales people. When this happens, typically the best sales people will opt to leave for greener pastures, literally, or will reduce their efforts until they feel the parity between their pay and their contribution is reached.
Neither option is good for the organization or the individual, and is untenable in the long run. It’s best for both parties to address this scenario and work towards a long-term equitable solution.
LOST MY WAY
Setting personal goals and constructing a plan to reach them is essential to a productive and happy career and lifestyle. Balancing the personal and professional is a skill that takes effort and patience, often shifting through the course of a career to accommodate the priorities of the present. Not having a plan or direction that informs your energy and personal growth can be a de-motivator for most people and a detractor for companies that don’t work to assist employees in formulating a plan for training and education that keeps both employee and firm moving forward.
If you find yourself just putting one foot in front of the other day after day, year after year, it’s time to evaluate where you are in your personal and professional growth.
WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?
A related challenge for all professionals is the identification and the development of a career path that a company endorses. There should be an ongoing dialogue for employees to explore with their higher-ups in an organization so that such growth is both encouraged and explored. This is not to say that the needs of an organization, particularly those in the fund space, don’t shift and change with the times, but the conversation between employee and employer is a necessary pipeline to long-term satisfaction and development.
A mutual exploration of the future possibilities can go a long way to preserving a strong commitment to the overall goals of a company.