Success should not be measured by Olympic gold

If I hear of one more tearful apology from an Olympic athlete for failing to medal I think I will scream!! They apologize to everyone – coaches, team, families and even their country – instead of themselves. It seems when you compete in amateur athletics you do so for yourself while also bearing the weight of the world and your country’s expectations as well.

Every four years, the World remains glued to tvs, live web broadcasts, radios and social media updates to watch the best amateur athletes compete. Unknown athletes in sports such as the decathlon, rowing, diving, synchronized swimming and judo hope to convert years of dedication and sweat into winning just one of 3 medals available in each competition. Often, these sports come out of obscurity and gain our attention only during the Olympics and yet the athletes feel the sting of our disappointment when they do not come in first. Very few of us know, or perhaps cruelly don’t care about the sacrifices it for took for these athletes to get to the Games yet alone understand the pressures of competing. And it is for that reason, I do not understand why after failing to achieve their own potential many of the athletes still feel the need to apologize to us. Shouldn’t we be the ones trying to extend a hug or pat on the back to make them feel better for having lost?

Now, there have been many well deserved apologies made leading up to and during the 2012 London Games. These apologies cover a range of poor judgment and displays of bad behavior including racist tweets; badminton players deliberately throwing matches; an athlete eating Brownies laced with marijuana before competing and another athlete for punching an opposing player in the stomach on the Basketball court during a game.

Few athletes participating in the Olympics get rich. Shockingly, only 2% of the athletes at the 2012 London games receive corporate sponsorships to help them train. The road to the games every four years is not paved with gold and takes years of physical and mental sacrifice to get there. These athletes take unpaid leaves; balance work and/or school; rely on their families for emotional and financial support; and often move long distances away from home so they can train over 200 days a year to compete on the international stage.   For every heavily sponsored athlete like Michael Phelps, there is a Gabrielle Douglas whose family was close to declaring financial bankruptcy trying to support her Olympic dream. Her just inked sponsorship deals estimated at $10 million will no doubt come in handy.

Oddly enough, despite the long days and tired aching muscles these athletes do it because they love it. It’s not a sacrifice, but a calling. These athletes come to do their best. As we know have heard in the Olympic Athlete Oath, the youth of the World gather every four years to take part in the Olympic Games “in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and honor of our teams”.

Over 220 nations marched in the London Games Opening Ceremony in a spirit of peace and global unity. Make no mistake, the goal of each athlete in that procession was to place first. And when they start keeping score of the medal count by country, it inevitably brings out the dark side of competition as some countries use sport to flex their geopolitical aspirations. I leave that to narrow-minded politicians to sort that out.

However, shouldn’t the viewing audience become more active and support the athletes regardless of their performance. Even if they do not make the podium, isn’t it our role to celebrate the accomplishments of these amazing athletes who compete for themselves, their families and country. I prefer to focus on the positive impact these athletes can have long after the Olympic flame is extinguished. These athletes who have sacrificed so much are tremendous role models for physical activity, hard work, and fair play. They are all gold medalists in my eyes.



Marketing and Sales Alignment: The Hatfields vs.The McCoys

The topic of how to best align Marketing and Sales should be of interest to every company whether big or small. When these departments are in harmony, the sales funnel becomes a more manageable process from lead generation to being able to seal the deal. However, it’s not uncommon for these two groups to be in conflict with one another as they compete for limited resources and recognition within an organization. The typical bickering looks like this: Sales complains Marketing is not generating enough quality leads and Marketing fires back Sales is not working the leads provided hard enough. If things become acrimonious or divergent, that relationship can be likened to a modern day feuding of rival parties like the Hatfield and McCoy families. “You are either with, or agin us”.  Over time, that sentiment becomes ingrained and can be detrimental to business.

I have personally enjoyed working with various sales teams during my marketing career both in B2B and B2C industries. A common and extremely incorrect view is that selling and advertising are marketing and those efforts focus primarily on mass communications tactics to create awareness and generate leads or consumer preference for a company’s product or service. I believe one of the Marketing department’s key roles is to make the salesforce as successful as possible by shortening the sales cycle as much as possible.  Aside from generating leads, marketing needs to nurture the ones that are yet to be cultivated and provide the salespeople the tools they need to do their job-sell.  So what is the secret for the sweet smell of sales success?

I am often surprised by the number of marketers who have yet to sit in on sales calls and help close deals so they can truly understand the value of each generated lead and which marketing tools work the most efficiently when making those calls.  I learned some valuable and surprising lessons when I worked in my first B2B sales support role at Speedy Auto Service promoting a Commercial Repair Services.  I learned the “killer PowerPoint deck” I had laboured over was overkill when the sales team called on smaller clients.  I learned that I needed to get a better understanding of the subtle features and benefits key to growing Commercial Sales from our customers. It also gave me a chance to see first-hand how salespeople actually positioned the company and communicated the features and benefits of our services.  And most importantly, I had the opportunity to gain a real understanding of the customer’s pain points, the sales objections that needed to be addressed and what the competition was offering. The salespeople are your feet on the street and a tremendous resource for every marketer to learn from so you can manage the business more effectively.

So, how do you end the tussle on the battlefield?

The first step is to get Sales and Marketing to sit around the table to collaborate and foster an open dialogue. Get the sales team to provide feedback on the quality of the leads generated monthly, what’s working and what needs to be changed. This dialogue will enable marketers to better understand which types of leads are most likely to close so they can generate more of them.  Optimally performng companies understand that marketing does not just hand off leads to sales.  Marketing needs to be part of the process not seen as a speed bump to progress.

And the Sales team has a valuable ear to the street when meeting with customers.  Any key learning from those meetings should be shared with the Marketing team.

Speak the same language
Marketing and sales alignment begins with speaking the same lingo:. You need to create some common definitions so everyone understands the process: What is a contact? A qualified lead? An opportunity? What are the sales stages?  And when should a lead be shared with Sales.

Marketing Tools
Develop marketing tools sales people will actually use and keep these document in a common “H” drive so the team can quickly access these resources. There is no need to invent the wheel when making sales presentations. Make sure these documents have some type of automation where a sales rep can customize the documents for their meetings and build their own proposals. It saves the sales team a ton of time and also ensures a consistency in the branding and messaging you are putting out there.

Marketing and Product Updates
Marketing needs to ensure Sales is up-to-speed on any upcoming marketing programs before they are in market.  The same goes for maintaining a flow of information about changes to product features, pricing and what the competition is doing. Knowledge is power and it will only make the team better at selling.

If you have seen the movie “Legally Blonde 2”, you’ve seen the Snap Cup. In the movie, Reese Witherspoon’s character, Elle Woods, breaks the ice with a group of people by getting them to write nice things about individual members to build team spirit. Those positive comments are placed in her Snap Cup and read out loud.  Now, you do not need to go that far, but it is still a very good idea to celebrate the positives like winning new accounts,  securing additional revenue from an existing client or creating a winning advertising campaign.

I have learned the importance of aligning Sales and Marketing is no different than the importance of balancing your tires to optimize your driving experience and extend the life of your tires. Aligning your tires creates a smoother drive, requires less energy to go farther, equally distributes the weight of the vehicle, and reduces the wear and tear on your wheels. Ultimately, it improves driving performance and helps you travel safely to your destination.

Please share how your organization was able to align the Marketing and Sales functions.

Should Olympic athletes be free to tweet?

American Olympic Hurdler Dawn Harper protest tweet against Rule 40

An Olympic-sized debate is taking place on the sidelines of the 2012 London Games and it has nothing to do with the actual sporting events. The  brouhaha concerns protecting the sponsorship investment of the biggest marketing companies in the world and how far the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will go to control what athletes say on social media sites.

Rule 40-an article in the Olympic charter- forbids athletes from appearing in commercials, endorsing or wearing product for companies other than the 11 official Games worldwide sponsors during the Olympics.  The Games sponsors — which include Visa, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s — spend almost US$100 million a piece for sponsorship rights and category exclusivity around the Olympics. It is how the Host and National Olympic committees receive funds towards running the Games.  As well, some athletes benefit year-round from programs paid for in part by official sponsorship money.  IOC President Jacques Rogge has defended Rule 40 saying “We have to protect the sponsors because otherwise there is no sponsorship and without sponsorship there is no Games.”

For many athletes with competing sponsorship agreements, it’s their main source of income and support to train for the Games and they are protesting. It seems Rule 40 even goes so far as to ban athletes from mentioning their sponsors on Facebook, Twitter or other social media during the Games.  American 2-time Olympian and medal contender in the men’s 800 Nick Symmonds tweeted: “#Rule40 can kiss my temporarily tattooed butt. I wouldn’t be in London today without my sponsors!” Other Olympians have been quick to join the protest using the hashtags #Rule40 and #wedemandchange on Twitter. Failure to comply with Rule 40 can result in  being unable to compete. Essentially, Tweet or blog at your peril.

The costs and complexity of organizing and running the Olympics is staggering.  The London Games comes with a hefty price tag of  $14.5 Billion dollars. So, sponsorship dollars are essential to underwriting even a portion of those costs.  There is no question the official sponsors have paid top dollar to promote their brands through the Olympic experience with the promise of exclusivity, and those rights should be protected. So, I think it very reasonable the IOC wants to protect those interests and keep competitive advertising out of the Games.  But, I think the IOC is going too far by trying to control free speech and muzzle what athletes say outside of the arena on their personal Twitter feeds, Facebook and other social media sites. When you restrict speech it sends the wrong message.  Especially when part of the IOC’s mission statement is to “encourage and support the development of sport for all”.  I have posted a poll.  Let me know what you think.