Management consultants of all stripes should be in the executive’s arsenal of problem-solving weapons. However, before reaching for the phone next time you need objective advice, crisp analysis, extra horsepower, and a fresh dose of best practices I encourage you to consider an alternative to consultants — the interim executive.
Interim executives, temporary executives, fractional executives — whatever term you use — usually offer several advantages to consulting firms if you’re only needing one or two people rather than an entire team.
- Experience. Typically, interim executives have already had stellar careers in industry and have chosen the freelance life style. They have book smarts and street smarts earned over careers spanning 20 or more years.
- Leadership. Temporary executives have led teams, departments, business units and companies. Many have started companies and have taken them through an IPO or M&A process. They literally work shoulder to shoulder with the management team.
- Allegiance. When an interim executive is on board with you they report to you and no one else. They don’t have a senior partner in a tower downtown urging them to increase billable hours.
- Get ‘er done yesterday. Temporary executives are accustomed to stepping into companies, quickly assessing the situation, rolling up their sleeves and making happen whatever needs to happen. By nature they are men and women of action who are self-driven to get results. They specialist in delivering results not reports.
- Cost. As a general rule you’ll get more bang for the buck from an interim executive than you will from a consulting firm. A senior-level consultant working for a firm will easily bill at $2,000 – $4,000 per day. Built into that day rate, of course, is the firm’s overhead and profit. Therefore, you’re not really getting a $2,ooo person, you’re more likely getting an $800 person, who bills at $2,000. When you hire an interim at, say, $2500 per day, you’re bringing on board someone who is really worth $2500 a day to you.
An interim CEO, CMO or CSO charged with transforming a company’s revenue performance is going to assess how well aligned the marketing and sales functions are to each other and to the market. Misalignment between Sales and Marketing is a common cause of under-performance and inefficiency, after all.
Identifying that misalignment exists within the organization is relatively easy and even can be measured via an Alignment Index . However, solving the problem long term has proven very difficult. An interim executive with revenue responsibility is likely on point to “fix it” and fix it quick.
The results of a poll on this topic are enlightening even though the poll is not statistically representative. Responses in the poll suggest that the lack of B2B marketing skills within the Marketing department are the leading obstacle to achieving long-lasting alignment with Sales.
The poll asked the question, “What is the biggest obstacle to successfully aligning Marketing and Sales long term?” The choices given are:
- Culture–lack of commitment and trust
- Technology–lack of CRM, etc.
- Process–lack of a shared action plan
- Funnel–lack of funnel definitions, roles
- Skills–lack of the right skills in Marketing
Lack of the right skills within the Marketing organization has received 50% of the responses thus far. Lack of commitment and trust within Marketing and Sales is second most popular choice having been selected by 35% of the respondents. Lack of agreement to funnel stage definitions and roles is third most common obstacle to alignment with 14% of respondents.
My experience as consultant and interim executive in scores of B2B companies over past nine years validates this finding. The talented, eager, creative people in Marketing lack critical know-how to be strong strategic and tactical partners with Sales. The type of B2B marketing skills necessary for success in today’s companies are not taught in most Universities.
The required skills and best practices don’t always come to Marketers from years on the job if careers are spent in unsophisticated companies without strong marketing leadership.
The poll results suggest that companies wishing to align Marketing and Sales are smart to first invest in black-belt level of B2B marketing training for their Marketing teams.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
“Leadership On Demand . . .” is a book I co-authored with Paul Travis in 2008 and today it still stands as the preeminent guide for how to effectively use interim executives. The book’s content can be viewed here: http://www.slideshare.net/cbesondy/leadership-on-demand
With all the uncertainty that persists in the U.S. business environment companies remain loath to add full-time employees (FTE), especially in marketing and sales. Unfortunately, staff levels in these two departments are still at all-time lows following the cut-backs of 2008 and 2009.
For CEO’s one answer to generating revenue, capturing market share, keeping overhead in check, and remaining highly nimble is the smart use of interim managers in marketing and sales.
On the other side of the coin, for seasoned marketing or sales veterans with solid credentials who find themselves “in transition”, starting a new career as an interim executive just might be the right move.
Our book, “Leadership On Demand” is a good reference. I invite you to check it out.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Persistent networking online and off. Good tips for interim executives http://ow.ly/1AeCy .
I like how this article in Washington Post encourages one to have a specific networking plan and goals that involve in-person networking and social media. Good advice for interims looking for their next gig, or for folks looking for a full-time job.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I know many of my readers are interim managers or folks considering interim as the next career move. Therefore I’m bringing to your attention a webinar on April 13 sponsored by the Interim Association.
How to Market Yourself as an Interim Executive
- The concept and role of personal branding
- How to develop your own personal brand
- The role of social media in the management of personal brands
- Marketing tools to distinguish a Brand Called You
You can get info on the webinar and the association at www.interimassociation.org
I can’t attest to the quality of the program or the value of the Interim Association. I can tell you they put a drive for membership ahead of common sense. Case in point: I offered to them the rights to resell (and make money on) my book, “Leadership On Demand: How Smart CEO’s Tap Interim Management to Drive Revenue” . They wouldn’t consider carrying the book unless I joined the association.
I’m surprised the association directors aren’t choosing to provide the best resources to their members and seek to generate revenue from as many sources as possible.
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
As a consultant and interim marketing executive I am exposed to a variety of business and organizational situations every year. Without fail when attempting to transform the performance of the marketing and sales team with best practices I run into a stiff headwind blowing through the hallways and between the cubicles.
Unfortunately I know of more than one case where investments were made in research, training and technology only to have the initiative stall out before the benefits could be realized.
The number one reason best practices fail in sales and marketing is because the environment is un-trusting, uncooperative, passive-aggressive, caustic, and in some cases even poisonous.
Recognize the place?
The work environment within sales and marketing in so many companies has taken on these negative characteristics slowly over time. Unfortunately it is cumulative. People in the organization have memories. Stories are passed from old hires to new hires. The negativity self-fulfills.
In short, our sales and marketing organization—the one we depend on for life-giving revenue today and in the future—is effectively working in the past. Instead of working together in every way with a shared vision of performance, the people in these departments stumble about with eyes locked onto the rear view mirror.
Best practices can’t be expected to generate breakthrough performance in sales and marketing if the people are carrying around negative baggage—both personal and organizational– from the past.
I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts and actual examples (please keep company names out of your posts)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
There’s a lot of talk about aligning sales and marketing. I’ve given speeches on the topic and have written numerous posts. Company executives know it’s an issue, but what are the costs associated with misalignment?
If our car is out of alignment we know that the tires are going to wear out faster; we are more in danger of the car wandering out of our lane into on-coming traffic; the ride isn’t as smooth; and the car is harder to steer. We know the cost of replacing tires and in our mind we can calculate the risk of an accident. That’s pretty easy.
But, what is the cost if a company’s revenue engine is out of alignment? Believe me, it’s costing you more than a set of new tires.
I want to open this discussion up and let the ideas flow. I have a thesis. I think most companies have been driving in a misaligned state for so long they are settling for sub-par results and resigned to trying to solve the problem. Misalignment is the default situation in most B2B companies.
Here is an excellent reason why an outside executive serving in an interim manager capacity at your firm, or as a consultant is best able to get you out of the rut. They bring objectivity and the knowledge that there is indeed gold at the end of the rainbow.
What is the cost of misalignment? If, as business managers, we can’t put a number to the cost we’ll hesitate to invest in a solution, and that is the way it should be.
Here are a few areas in which misalignment is costing your company.
- Low conversion rates – your proposal to close ratio is static or falling. Research has shown that misaligned companies have a lower conversion rate. What would be the impact if you reduced your cost of customer acquisition by 10% , 20% or more?
- Missed revenue forecasts – unpleasant budget surprises at quarter end when actual sales are significantly below budget.
- Lost customers – research has shown that misaligned companies are not as good at keeping and growing profitable customers. What is the lifetime value of a customer? If you lost 10% or 20% fewer customers each year what would than mean to the top line and bottom line?
- Slow reaction to market dynamics – when marketing and sales have difficulty agreeing on direction and tactics there are delays in action; opportunities are missed. What is the value to you in beating the competition to a market opportunity?
- Internal strife – It’s not fun or productive to work in a company in which marketing and sales are at odds (or at war). Soon egos and politics rule the decision making rather than a focus on progressing buyers through the sales funnel. The cost here, besides low productivity, is employee turnover. What are your recruitment and training costs in sales and marketing?
- Do-overs – programs are often created and never implemented because there is disagreement about what should be done and how. What is the cost of programs that never see the light of day, or what is the cost of do-overs?
- Loss of momentum – the most effective revenue generation plans are those that have coordinated strategies and tactics where sales and marketing are pulling forward together. A dog-sled team is a good metaphor. When the dogs are running out of step or in different directions the sled is not going to progress at optimum speed.
Those areas will give you a start. I’m sure I’ve overlooked a few. Once you’ve identified the cost areas you’re ready to get out your calculator and compute what the chaos is costing you.
Give it a shot. Bring out the calculator, look at your current financial statements and budget. Don’t be shocked if the total cost is 5% or more of your total sales and marketing budget.
Think small if you like. What would a 5% improvement in any area look like? Think big. What would a 20% improvement in any area look like? What would a 5% improvement in all areas look like?
I look forward to reading your comments and sharing more on this topic soon.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
As an interim marketing executive I consider myself a part of the revenue-generation team of my clients. In this role, together with the sales executive, I frequently have conversations with the company CFO about the sales forecast and resource requirements within the marketing and sales departments.
I’ve found that in companies where a sophisticated revenue funnel is in use for planning and performance management, and the CFO is very familiar with the model and its metrics, these conversations about forecast and resources are shorter, smarter, and frankly, less contentious.
On the other hand, in companies where a sophisticated funnel model is not in use and the CFO is not privy to the metrics and assumptions that drive the model . . . well, let’s just say the meetings aren’t much fun.
The revenue funnel isn’t the sole domain of sales or marketing. CFO’s should be as familiar with their company’s funnel structure and metrics as any sales executive or marketing executive. Here’s why.
- Funnel modeling tools provide the best way for marketing, finance, and sales to talk the same language during planning and reporting.
- The variables of the funnel make up the actual metrics of the revenue engine. These variables are the levers and dials over which management has control.
- The funnel, over time, enables the sales forecast to be made with higher and higher degrees of accuracy.
- Requests for more resources from Marketing and Sales can in part be justified or refused based on funnel economics
CFO’s should be trained in the use of sophisticated funnel modeling tools right along side their marketing and sales colleagues.
An excellent source of this training is the FunnelAcademy(tm), which includes comprehensive training on sizing a funnel and measuring progress. It also includes the most robust funnel modeling tool I’ve ever had the pleasure to use.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
I heard it again yesterday. A person mentioned that companies who are in a “crisis” or in a “turnaround” situation should consider interim management in operations, finance, sales, or marketing. That is a true statement, but the majority of interim engagements are not in troubled companies.
Just because a company brings in an interim manager it isn’t a sign the company is in trouble.
Most interim marketing and sales executives, for instance, are engaged by a company to address one or more of these situations:
- Revenue growth has flat-lined, or is in decline. What worked in the past isn’t working now and the management team needs objective insight, new energy and different skill sets for a season to help them point the growth curve in the right direction again.
- There’s a temporary gap in leadership, gap in skill set, or gap in bandwidth that has an unacceptably high opportunity cost associated with the gap.
There should be no scarlet letter associated with the hiring of an on-demand leader. It simply means the company is very smart about how it allocates its resources.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Do you suspect that the marketing function at your company is not doing enough to help grow revenue and move the company forward? If these thoughts are in your mind don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. There exists in many B2B companies a “marketing malaise” that is a drag on company performance.
Much can be done in 3-4 months to transform the marketing function into a finely tuned and inspired machine.
I give an overview of my approach in a Flash presentation called, “Transforming the Marketing Function in B2B Companies: The Road to World-Class Performance”. View the presentation. No registration required.
Please share your comments and thoughts on the topics after you’ve seen the presentation.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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