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The 6 Secrets of Agile Marketers

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If you're not agile, you are obsolete.

That's the message from sales guru, bestselling author, and seasoned sales executive Jill Konrath, author of the just-released "Agile Selling." In many cases, your tried and true ways of doing things are no longer effective -- and your marketing career could be stagnating.

 

Jill Konrath leading a workshop at the Institute for Excellence in Sales and Business Development. Photo courtesy of Lisa Nirell.

While world events swirl around us, the pressure to perform doesn't stop. As marketing leaders, we are expected to continue to deliver meaningful, measurable results to the C-suite.

During a recent keynote in Northern Virginia, Konrath emphasized that "We need to re-learn and sometimes un-learn what we once knew. Buyers' expectations have changed. They want it fast, and they want you to add value. Today, I am forced to put the ‘punchline’ slide at the beginning of any presentation to grab their immediate attention.”

Konrath recognized this trend after securing a workshop at a client kickoff meeting. The VP of Sales asked her to share what her first two years in sales were like, and it forced her to reflect deeply on her earlier years in sales. Jill says "what popped into my mind is that I lived in fear in my first year of sales. I was not sure if I was going to make it. When I first hit my quarterly quota, I wasn't sure if I could do it again. I was a basket case, but you would never know it." 

Konrath recognized two attributes made her successful: she knew how to learn fast, and how to subsume her fear. 

Here are the rules for agile learning that any marketing leader must consider:

1. Learning agility is an essential quality of top performers. At Google, the number one attribute they seek in new applicants is general cognitive ability, not IQ.

Today’s sales organizations need to make room for more learning agility: CSO Insights reports that the average win rate of forecast deals is 45.9 percent. That’s on forecasted, “take it to the bank” deals. Since many of my CMO clients now carry a quota, this is a sobering statistic for them to consider.

This low percentage is partially attributed to how marketing and sales leaders operate in a new work setting. Within their first 30 days, they quickly establish their own way of doing things. Konrath asserts that “the brain goes on cruise control. If you are an agile marketer or seller, you need to recognize when that is occurring, and catch yourself.”

2. Agile professionals seek root cause. If you stop and reflect on why your marketing automation system is not generating high quality leads, or why your forecasted sales are not closing, you are exhibiting agile behaviors. If you immediately respond by seeking out new prospects, or working longer hours, you are missing the learning opportunity.

3. Agile learners reframe failures as valuable learning experiences. Innovative marketing cultures reward innovative behaviors. One company offered employees an annual award for the best idea that did not succeed.

4. Agile learners borrow brains.  I keep a list of 5-8 people whom I consider self-improvement gurus and domain experts. I frequently ask "what would this person do?"  I ask them for quick feedback whenever I can.

5.  Practice and preparation are lifesavers. Entrepreneurs and salespeople are the biggest resistors to practicing and preparing for prospect meetings, and pride themselves in their ability to think on their feet. This backfires. In my own business, I regularly reach out to colleagues who will role play. This helps us prepare for executive level meetings and client presentations.

6. Agile learners can chill. Much like a battery, our brains need to recharge. Multitasking is simply a brain draining habit. Studies show that jumping between email and working reduces an MBA graduate's learning ability to that of a 5 year old. A woman's I.Q. declines by 5 points by constantly texting; and IQs drop 15 points for men.

Another strategy to try is the 24 hour "digital detox.” Every weekend, I turn off my mobile devices and TV for a full day. I focus on face to face interactions, outdoor activities, and reflective time. It’s a soul refreshing exercise, as I highlight in a recent post.

Jill Konrath personifies the agile learner. She reminds us that agility is the only way to stay on top of our game. Quick--what can you do today to raise your agile learning capacity?

copyright 2014, Lisa Nirell. All rights reserved.