Had lunch with Jerry yesterday. One of my favorite venture guys in Boston. Bright, energetic, a great sports guy, but there we both sat on State Street eating salmon and not wolfing down Fenway Franks and attending Opening Day. My excuse was that I opted for the root canal that I had just had yesterday morning rather than watch the Sox. Jerry’s was that he felt guilty after we had both broken numerous prior meeting plans, but that really can’t be true about feeling guilty, since, as I mentioned, Jerry’s a venture guy. By the way if you want to watch a point-counterpoint discussion/argument between Jerry Bird from MTDC and me on “Venture Capital or Angel Funding-Which Money Should I Take?”, go to the 128 Innovation Capital Group site to register. It’s on the morning of May 10th and should be a lot of fun as I take these smart venture guys down a peg or two…or maybe not.
This lunch thing is interesting as a sales tactic. Back in the day, it was the thing to do. It’s certainly how I grew up taking long lunches with my customers or prospects. My bosses thought nothing of having an accompanying martini, maybe two. I remember that one of my first $1 million plus deals at the company was signed somewhere along the line of what became a six hour lunch or more truthfully, six hours of continual drinking which then morphed into dinner…and more drinking. Good news is that those days are gone forever.
Today, for me, taking customers to a long lunch is as out of touch with the work environment around me as is anyone still holding on to a Blackberry. It’s slow, not very flexible, takes up too much time, it’s inefficient and just costs too much. I happened to bump into one of my heads of sales and marketing on Tuesday in the cafeteria. Here was Dave huddled at the lunch table with all of his sales managers with copies of an org chart of a major customer in their hands collectively planning to launch a revised sales ground assault with new marketing air cover. Lunch was a strewn collection of sandwiches and chips and when I asked what they were up to, Dave’s response that they were working over lunch as they do most days since... “If we slow down for lunch, we’re going to be someone else’s lunch”. Not coincidentally, Dave and his guys have had superior performance quarter after quarter.
What all of this comes down to, especially in this quarter, is sharpening your sales tools, constantly updating your tactics and squeezing in as much efficient meeting time as you possibly can with your customers and prospects. Rather than lunches which typically take up more than twice the amount of time in getting to and leaving the lunch as the actual face time, use 45 minute breakfasts conveniently set on convenient commute paths. Think that this is too basic? At one of our very large customers with 20 plus highly experienced, quota grabbing sales managers, we just spent a training session on "The 10 Best Meeting Tactics for 2012". In a time-crunched world, nothing is too basic anymore.
One of our better tactics has been to use virtual lunches where we’ve arranged to have a catered lunch delivered to our prospects or existing customers as we kick off a Go-To-Meeting presentation or webinar. We do this virtual "Lunch & Learn" process all the time and have found that there's an entire industry of caterers who even specialize in market segments such as delivering to group practice docs, bankers and classic corporate types. For our entrepreneurs, we recommend that they reverse the tactic and have lunch delivered to those venture guys if they can't get a face-to-face meeting. Works pretty well.
In most businesses, what you do, both in marketing and sales, in this quarter sets the pace, the urgency among your sales team and the velocity of the curve for the rest of the year. Given that, think about Dave’s comment of “Lunch or Be Lunch?”