Saturday, 30 July 2011

The 10 Rules of Triathlon Preparation apply to Successful Online Sales

My college roommate just completed his first-ever triathlon last week yesterday in Vancouver at the UBC Sprint Tri event, which is considered to be the kickoff to the triathlon season for British Columbia. Upon completion of the event, Jason felt that he was definitely undertrained and overconfident, because he had absolutely no idea what he was in for! While thrilled to have finished, he shared some tips and advice with me that I might use if I decided to tackle my first triathlon.  Being the automotive industry professional I am, I listened to his tips and began drawing correlations to the car industry and online sales.
Allow me to share some of the similarities and truths between Preparing for a Triathlon and best practices of Successful Online sales.
1.                    (Swiw, Bike, Run) Never register at the last minute for a triathlon you haven't specifically trained for because you think it will be fun.
Translation to Online sales =  (Generate, Manage, Distribute) Embark on your online sales strategy armed with the proper tools, training and knowledge base in your approach rather than with “Just got to be there with everyone else.”

2.                    (Swiw, Bike, Run) Don't let the event be your first open-water swimming experience.  Instead of practicing at the local in a pool, perhaps a better preparation would be to find a shallow lake, full of cold murky water on a windy day.  Jump and have a friend in a canoe ready to save you from hypothermia. See how ya do.
 Translation to Online sales =  (Generate, Manage, Distribute) Dedicating resources i.e. people, funding, iPhone app etc. to your online sales strategy comes with a firm understanding of the forum. 90% of all vehicle purchases begin on a search engine like Google, Bing or Yahoo.  Do some homework and drill down exercises before you spend the money, hiring people and losing patience without a true foundation. Understand the first step before you overdo it.

3.                    (Swiw, Bike, Run) Once you're finished the swim leg of the race, remember the media and sponsors are there snapping photos and videoing the event. Check to make sure you don't have any leftovers hanging off you like leaches or seaweed on your back as he captures your picture.
Translation to Online sales =  (Generate, Manage, Distribute) Great job, you are off and running and your online sales team is moving the needle in the results department. You made it past the WALK of Sit-Crawl-Stand-Walk-Run! well stop and do an audit of your efforts. Check the quality, consistency and the “Brand-image” of your information you are communicating to the online customer.

4.                    (Swiw, Bike, Run) Don't make changes to your bike at the last minute. Unless it's in need of repair, trust in your gear.
Translation to Online sales =  (Generate, Manage, Distribute) Making changes is an evolution, not windsock – make changes to the initiatives and channels that are NOT working first.  Take the time to step back and evaluate the tools you use, the 3rd Party sites with “Guaranteed Sales Results for $999/ month” and be sure to evaluate the ROI on every vendor. On the other side, look to improve on EVERY initiative, retain quality tools and reward the people/tools that ROI beyond your expectation.  Pillars to your online strategy need to be nourished, cherished and past down within your organization. Gary May of IM@CS

5.                    (Swiw, Bike, Run) The course is like a rear-view car mirror: the reality is larger and harder than it may appear in the course description. Prepare accordingly.
Translation to Online sales =  (Generate, Manage, Distribute) The online transactional space has changed from simply “Be online and they will buy from you” to “Be involved in the Distributive Web and customers will follow you!” Customers have changed, technology has changed and a new way to communicate is in hot demand. Look for guidance from industry experts that offer consulting programs, best practice workshops, conference directly related to your industry and other educational forums.  Check out , or to see great examples of such. Educate yourself first, and then educate your team for best results.

6.                    (Swiw, Bike, Run) If you're in one of the last start waves, train to be in the lead half of your age group. It's a lonely endeavor when almost everyone has finished ahead of you and the volunteers are packing up to go home. 
Translation to Online sales =  (Generate, Manage, Distribute) Employ this mentality in your online sales strategy “We don’t have to be #1, but gosh darn it! We better not be happy with losing the race!” Monitor your online brand; try buying a car online from your dealership (might surprise you) and through a disciplined approach start rising in the ranks of the online space.  Focus on your best competitor and start training for the head to head match you want.  

7.                    (Swiw, Bike, Run) Speaking of volunteers, thank them profusely. They make the race not only possible, but also fun. The guy who prodded me from a walk to a slow run, then ran with me while giving me tips before heading back to encourage the next racer, was a total lifesaver. Ditto for the volunteers with spray hoses.
Translation to Online sales =  (Generate, Manage, Distribute) Engage yourself and your business in blogs, forums and online communities that share ideas and best practices.  Be respectful and thank the people that helped you understand the nuances of Social Media, SEO, SEM, microsites and other important strategies you pick up along the way.  The PCG Team lead by Brian Pasch are great examples of leaders that bring together the industry experts to educate, engage and collaborate with you and your team in Bootcamp/workshops.

8.                   (Swiw, Bike, Run) Set attainable goals. Mine were to finish, to not finish last, and to pass some younger people on the course. Check, check, and check. Yay! Next time I'll raise the bar a bit, but these were good goals for my first tri.
Translation to Online sales =  (Generate, Manage, Distribute) Establish a starting point after you evaluate your current online sale effort.  Having clearly defined steps to your progress is important. At cDemo, we believe the true start point is getting your data, photos, video captured accurately and consistent every time. Our mobile app for the iPhone, iPad, iPod (Android coming soon) allows you to get step Number #1 right. Check out, download the free app- Mobile Inspector from your iPhone, this might be the starting point you are looking for. Steps 2,3,4,5,6,7 and so on will become very clear.
9.                        (Swiw, Bike, Run) don’t beat yourself up because you aren't doing as well as expected (a typical problem amongst us perfectionists). As you plug along, remind yourself of the millions of people who are sitting comfortably on the couch with their potato chips thinking that people like you are totally crazy. Oh wait... on second thought, don't do that. You'll wish you were sitting there with them.
Translation to Online sales =  (Generate, Manage, Distribute) Now you are way past the WALK phase and you in the RUN phase of your online sale effort.  Remember your competition is engaged in the “old methods” of selling. Remind yourself that you are ahead of the competition just by making to this point. Stick with it, embrace it and if you can let the short-term pain (trial and errors) turn into ‘Successful Failures”.  Be sure to document progress and understand the initiatives you have invested in.  Find and align with the leaders in other areas of the country the ideas and strategies will keep you on track.  A great example of a conference that does a great job of aligning the industry greats and dealerships staff.  Put it on your calendar.

10.            (Swiw, Bike, Run) In all seriousness do remind yourself that you're accomplishing something that a very small percentage of the population has done, or ever will be able willing to do. It's a really good feeling.
Translation to Online sales =  (Generate, Manage, Distribute) the Internet has changed from email to instant chat to social media in a very short period of time.  The majority of businesses often are too busy or just unaware of the changes that occur in this environment. Therefore it is important to remember that your choice to embrace change and employ strategies that give you a competitive advantage in the online sales environment is great decision.  Enjoy the speed bumps, the failures, the successes and the unexpected homeruns you earned.  If Internet sales were easy, everyone would be successful…so enjoy your efforts.