NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. In part three of her Engaging Your Total Enterprise Series, Board member Marta Wilson of Transformation Systems Inc. shares ways to gain the best human capital management skills.


Managing human capital as a resource is like assembling a kind of jigsaw puzzle using talent for pieces and a strategic plan for the box top. If you want results, you need the best human capital management skills possible. You either have these skills or you hire expert skills. The experts either provide a short-term infusion or become embedded in your organization to uphold the human capital endeavor. No matter how well you manage human capital or how you choose to incorporate the process into your business, human capital strategy is doomed to be just one more plan— indeed, just one more empty ritual—unless it plays out in a vibrant cultural dialogue that motivates, inspires, and magnifies greatness in all your people.

As you devise a human capital strategy, you are aiming for the multipliers. You want to plan for the ineffable quality that gets you to a sum of five when you start with two and two. What is that? The best human capital management professional may have theories, but ultimately no one individual can provide that surprise extra, the multiplier. That’s because people magnify each other. As the Hawthorne Studies found in the early twentieth century, bonding among people has a magnifying effect on productivity and even a quotient of happiness. These days, the team may entirely co-locate in the same office or be connected across time zones and continents. It doesn’t matter whether people share projects or knowledge. What matters is that they share the dialogue and exchange the ideas. They thrive in the dynamic. People in a successful dynamic do more in ways that are leaner, faster, better, and smarter. That’s exactly what you need in today’s economic climate.

We all see shifting environmental drivers, tumultuous innovations, and advancing technologies that can undermine a stable and able workforce. Human capital, that underpinning of all the production in an Ideas Economy, is itself churning and unpredictable. Human capital risks can manifest themselves in different ways. One is the sheer lack of knowledge and leadership depth across the organization. Or, there can be a protracted and unclear development path for entry and journey level staff. There can be poor alignment of talent to priorities and strategic objectives. One of the greatest risks is when nobody is talking to each other about possibility, knowing, and change.

So, your first question when it comes to your talent mix must be, “Do I have enough of the right people in the right places performing the right work at the right time?” The immediate follow-up question must be, “Will I have that in five years?” My answer to either question is another question. “Who’s talking about what?” There’s one proven way to make sure the dialogue in your business isn’t idle chatter or bitter grievance motivated by boredom.  It’s collaboration. Of course, collaboration, while an art in itself, still relies on the baseline art of dialogue where business is concerned. In the end, whatever drives the conversations that magnify the potential greatness of your team is exactly what you want people to be discussing.

Steve Case, most widely known as co-founder of America Online and retired chairman of AOL Time Warner, spoke at an NVTC Titans Breakfast that I attended.  That morning, I was inspired when I heard him say that his focus is to “invest in people and ideas that can change the world.”  So the question for you remains: Are you prepared to be a dynamic partner? Are you ready to partner with your employees, your vendors, your investors, and your community? If so, that’s excellent! You’re setting yourself up to thrive in the future economic realities, which are upon us already.

Are you tentative about launching a human capital strategy initiative with so many priorities competing for your time and attention? If so, here are some questions for quiet contemplation:

  1. Is an effective performance management system in place and understood by all employees?
  2. Do employees have knowledge of the results their actions produce?
  3. Do we have a full complement of strategies to initiate, direct, and sustain desired individual and team behavior?
  4. Do we have enough of the right people in the right places performing the right work at the right time? Will we in five years?
  5. How many key people are likely to retire or leave in the next five years?
  6. What strategies will entice my best people to stay?
  7. Are we motivating staff with career paths?

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NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. In part two of her Engaging Your Total Enterprise Series, Board member Marta Wilson of Transformation Systems Inc. provides eight leadership qualities that have great impact on bottom-line success below.


Leaders who are able to transform enterprises into rapidly responsive and adaptable groups tend to share similar qualities. Now everybody in the organization needs to foster the same attributes. These qualities, summarized below, have great impact on bottom-line success. How? Through the bonds they create among everyone involved in your business. By fostering these collaborative bonds, leaders have access to all the best each person has to offer.

We notice in the workplace what academic research points out: These qualities are desirable in all employees and others who are in a position to help your business. These key attributes should no longer be reserved to official leaders.

Leadership Qualities for Everybody

Long-term View

Big Picture

Vision

Delegation

Motivation

Inclusivity

Self-awareness

Resourcefulness

Leaders take a long-term view. Certainly, from time to time they may set aside a grander view to complete a project on time and on budget. Largely, however, leaders balance schedule and quality with people’s needs. They understand how retention and engagement serve the organization as well as its employees.

Leaders see the big picture. They grasp how actions by one can affect many others. They also inspire others to think beyond their current domain of responsibility and gain a working knowledge of the greater system in which they work. This way, leaders inspire the leadership mindset in others.

Leaders provide vision to unify people’s energy and to inspire their actions. By being consistent, they also help align all work decisions. A clear vision permits people to act innovatively, because they have aligned their view and goals with the larger system.

Leaders delegate, but they don’t stop there. They also provide support and necessary resources while avoiding micromanaging and abandonment. Among colleagues, the person with leadership qualities is supportive and encourages bold, reasoned choices and actions.

Leaders motivate; they rally emotional energy in teams. They motivate through personal connection and through sharing the image of a total system. They understand that emotional energy can be fueled by vision and clarity.

Leaders are inclusive. They engage diverse interests and activities by establishing goals and fostering a shared awareness. Here, their work is like the conductor of an orchestra, including an appreciation for the social aspect of a group endeavor.

Leaders are self-aware. They have a keen sense of their greatest strengths and growth opportunities, and they continuously work for personal and professional improvement. Also, to increase their self-awareness, they consistently seek feedback from those around them.

Leaders are resourceful; they know their system. They are skilled at maneuvering around yet complying with policies and procedures. They don’t give up until the right thing is done right.

These qualities in people who have some stake in your organization can lead to a surge in innovations and solutions: a lineup of expert support worth encouraging. As a first step, I suggest getting a grip on your total system and beginning to understand the unique human factor that is changing even the classical solutions for organizational growth and change.

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NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. In part one of her Engaging Your Total Enterprise Series, Board member Marta Wilson of Transformation Systems Inc. shares her insights on adopting a total systems perspective below.


When Neil Armstrong’s foot dropped off the last step of the lunar module and onto the surface of the moon, he coined the famous phrase that his one small step was a giant leap for mankind. A single footstep had advanced human achievement. In the same way, any one person involved in your entire enterprise can move it forward
GPN-2000-001209exponentially. This post is about identifying those individuals and choosing the right steps.

A whole team of unseen people stood behind Armstrong. Besides his family and friends, Armstrong relied on a close partnership with colleagues at NASA. That NASA A-team, in turn, was building on the expertise and achievements of many others who preceded them. Armstrong stood on the shoulders of giants long before he took his one small step. The key is getting to the small steps in your organization—those instances that are, indeed, watershed moments of success—in the only way possible: by creating teams of giants.

Around the world and close to home in Northern Virginia, our organizations have become more networked. Our macro and micro challenges are ever more complicated, and our technologies are constantly advancing. The expertise of each individual is even more critical for shared knowledge and the innovative exchange of ideas.

We are choosing to experience each other in radically new ways. Our collective work in particular conjures up our ability to imagine context. As work grows more networked (or, in some industries, more “virtual”), our creative bonds are adapting to technology. Or rather, technology is leaving its imprint on our teams and on us as individuals. This shift offers an important opportunity, a new juncture where businesses can choose to build success from the individual up.

For example, it was always true that any individual might need to lead a group effort occasionally. In a bricks-and-mortar setting, every individual still finds him- or herself called upon to lead from time to time. This is not the same as the more visible, formally assigned role of leader. It is common for leadership to be informal and fleeting; people rise to meet the unexpected challenge and then resume business as usual. What defines the success of formal leaders is how well they empower everybody else to rise to the occasion. Are people around you ready and poised to apply their knowledge and abilities to forge a solution and achieve great things at a moment’s notice?

One person, one action has organization-wide value. This was true when the classic total systems thinkers were leading business into a new era of global competition, and it is truer now. The first step to unleashing the potential of individuals to improve your total organization is to get some concept of your enterprise as a working system, a total system.

When you see how one person can have organizational impact and how one task can have enterprise-wide impact, you can start to turn the formula around. Whenever you face a large-scale problem, you can begin by looking for changes that will solve many problems (or seize many opportunities) across the whole organization. That’s why it’s important to remember the special value of the human element in total systems. The human level is where continuous improvement occurs in organizations. Your role as a leader is to draw on each person’s fluency in one or two areas of a total system in order to improve the whole.

Consider suppliers. Their performance has profound impact on enterprise success. Their first-hand experience of your organization’s work effectiveness can provide feedback that moves from the point of contact all the way to affecting choices in product design or directions in service expertise. Suppliers are particularly central as strategic partners—and sources of market information. These key partners can actually bring their expertise to bear and create solutions to support success, if you take the time to explain to them your business needs and goals. This is total systems thinking in action. Have you talked with and listened to your key suppliers lately?

Customers are another great source for ideas to improve your products or services. Do you have a sufficient dialogue in place to discover ideas from customers’ unique vantage point? The same goes for your employees and contractors. Add to these the other stakeholders and people who interact with your organization in any way, from investors and media to the community-service groups with whom your staff may volunteer.

Each of these individuals has something to say worth hearing. They offer a comprehensive image of your total system at work. Here is where your quality of leadership is tested, even reworked. To begin, are you able to listen with an open mind to good and bad reviews? With a more updated approach, you also need to evaluate whether everybody in your business is listening, because everybody is asked to lead innovatively.

In the next three posts about engaging your total enterprise, we’ll move through some of the proven solutions leveraged today by successful executives. Along the way, I’ll describe how sea changes in our world are affecting the strategies you need in your business for the years ahead—and what you can do to get on the right course and navigate the whitewater of change.

 

 

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imageIn today’s workplace, a company must change to move ahead.  This requires a corporate culture that supports innovation.  (Whereas “invention” is the creation of a new idea, “innovation” is that new idea actually put to the test.)  And because experimenting with new ideas can sometimes lead to a dead end, a success-oriented company must encourage a tolerance for failure.

It’s really not hard to help your employees reach their creative potential.  You simply remove the barriers that impede their innovative ideas.  Here’s how:

  1. Build trust by telling the truth.
    Make sure employees know what is expected of them – then be consistent in your speech and behavior.
  2. Promote risk-taking.
    Use interviews or anonymous surveys to determine if employees hold back ideas – then explain why your company values creative thinking.
  3. Suspend judgment when employees offer recommendations.
    Say “yes, and…” instead of “yes, but…”
  4. Remove fear of blame for ideas that don’t work out.
    Explain that the company holds employees responsible for ideas – which is different from criticizing them when those ideas meet with failure.
  5. Help employees understand failures to prevent repeat occurrences.
    Involve those accountable in after-action reviews, and then make sure all employees understand why an idea did not succeed.

You cannot deny the need for certainty.  It’s only natural for the mind to predict and control the future.  But since the only certainty is change, the only companies who keep ahead of the curve are those which encourage innovation – even at the cost of failure.

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NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. Matt Rajput of CohnReznick shares his insights on identifying the right sources for early-stage funding below.


With the economy continuing to recover, a soaring IPO market, strong forecasts for merger and acquisition activity, and abundant funding options and capital availability, middle-market technology companies are positioned to extend 2013’s surge in revenue and profits. Funding sources are plentiful as entities with capital that sat on the sidelines―venture capitalists, private equity firms, and strategic acquirers seeking cutting-edge technology and talented engineers―are vigorously searching for solid investment opportunities.

In its 2014 Middle-Market Technology Industry Outlook, CohnReznick advised: “The U.S. technology merger and acquisition (M&A) market heated up in 2013 and we believe conditions are ripe for the temperature to rise again in 2014. Overall, U.S. M&A activity increased 14% in 2013, making it the strongest year for U.S. deal-making since 2007”.

The highlights for the sector include:

• Telecommunications M&A transactions increased 119% on a global basis to $263.7 billion, led by Verizon’s $130 billion acquisition of the remaining stake in Verizon Wireless

• High technology M&As were up 8% year-over-year

• Information technology comprised almost 50% of all venture-backed M&A deals in 2013 (332 of 673 deals).

Even in the face of a very active M&A marketplace, capital doesn’t fall from the skies for early-stage technology companies.  Great companies typically start with great business ideas.  However, turning those ideas into reality requires capital—sometimes, a sizable amount of capital. Many entrepreneurs dream of landing a huge round of venture capital to meet their funding needs, but in the beginning, that is unlikely to happen for early-stage companies. In fact, according to the National Venture Capital Association, only about 1,000 of the 627,000 new businesses started each year receive venture funding in the U.S.

Fortunately, there are many different financing sources for early-stage technology companies.  But identifying the ideal source(s) of capital can be tricky. Although early-stage companies may view a windfall of venture capital as the grand prize, early-stage companies should explore other sources of capital until venture capital funding is more likely. As companies contemplate various funding options, it is also important to consult with professionals so that peripheral challenges and issues related to funding, such as due diligence and various tax implications, can be appropriately addressed.

In his whitepaper, Early-Stage Company Financing Options – With Alternative Sources Offering Hidden Treasure, Alex Castelli, CohnReznick Partner and Technology Practice Director, shared the following insights that apply to most early-stage technology companies–

  • Unless you are a serial entrepreneur who has had successful exits and provided large returns to your past investors, consider bootstrapping your new venture until you have at least developed a beta version of your product or service.  Being able to show your investors a working product that is in the hands of potential users will help persuade them that you have a business they could invest in.  Put your own money in first before you ask others to invest.  Sweat equity is expected and generally does not take the place of your invested cash.
  • When you fund your business from angel investors or venture capitalists, there is an expectation that you will create a liquidity event for your investors within the next 5 to 7 years, if not sooner.  If you see your business as a “lifestyle” business, outside investment is not advisable unless your investors understand the kind of return and the time period over which they can expect.  With outside investment come heavier expectations about how you will manage and accelerate the growth of your company.
  • Outside investment to grow your company and quickly reach your intended market could be exactly what your company needs.  When talking to investors, consider who will be a good strategic investor – someone with the ability to help you grow your business through their contacts and experience.  Since many investors ask for seats on your Board, you will want to make sure that you have the right mix of insight and experience from those investors.
  • Lastly, always be ready to respond to requests from potential investors.  It is encouraged that those seeking capital be prepared with a sound business plan.  Keep your business plan and projections current and your records organized.  Demonstrating that you are operating a real business with a plan for growth will make your company a more attractive potential investment.

To close, the outlook for the technology industry is positive.  Additionally, solid, middle-market technology companies are likely to be well-received by investors while early-stage companies will find hidden treasure in all of the alternative sources of capital in today’s market.


Matt Rajput, CPA, is an Audit Manager in CohnReznick’s Tysons Corner office. He has more than six years of experience servicing publicly-traded and closely-held companies in a number of industries, including technology, hospitality, and professional services, and he has significant experience providing services to private equity and venture capital backed companies. Contact Matt at matt.rajput@cohnreznick.com.

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Building Relationships: Developing the Relationship

April 22nd, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Guest Blogs - (Comments Off)

NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. In the four of a five part series on “Building Relationships,” Matthew Falls of BusinessUSA shares his insights on maintaining relationships with customers.


You’ve done whatever follow-up resulted from your conversation and it’s time to make the follow up call, or set the meeting. Again, prepare: research beyond the web site, set the agenda and focus beforehand with your contact. This is very important – it moves the conversation forward, lays the stage for the expected action items and demonstrates respect for the other person in that you are prepared for the call and do not intend to waste their time.

Dig deeper – look behind what’s in front of you – talk to multiple people – find out the real story, not just what’s on the web site. Look for ways to bring more value to meetings. Think beyond the meeting to your ultimate goals for this relationship. Focus on the person that you’re speaking with, the action item and how you can help this person.

If you are focusing on the other person and their needs, you can be patient and let the conversation progress naturally. trustSharpen your customer conversation skills. Ask about their interests, what’s important to them. It’s very important to cultivate the human side of relationships to get beyond the standard speech.

You can find out what they are willing to do and capable of doing, by listening to throwaway comments or venting, especially those made in frustration, they exhibit true feelings not stated. Cultivating the human side of relationships develops the trust that makes your contact feel comfortable enough to reveal such information, indicating pain points that your solution can solve.

Your goal is to come away from this first call with points of pain. It’s important to be aware of where you are in the process versus where you want to be and figure out how to advance to next stage – bring in an idea that adds value to them. Each conversation should build on the previous conversation; if you are having the same conversation, they are not ready.

There may not be any apparent points of pain. That’s ok. Keep the conversation going with contacts by looking at them and their business as a whole and send them information, interesting items, bits of news. Become a resource to them. Over time they may introduce you to opportunities, or pain points may be revealed. Your relationships should also give you intelligence about upcoming opportunities.

If you are a federal contractor or sub-contractor, bringing business to the prime obviously will make them see you as a resource and an ideal teaming partner. With contracting trends indicating that 1 of 4 contracts are multiple award vehicles, teaming decisions are often made before the Statement of Work is issued, so developing and expanding teaming relationships become critical to the success of the company.

Many contracts result from being on a team. Not just any team though, the right team. You also want to make your company desirable to the right team. A strategic advisor focused on generating revenue can assess your company, help you determine your core competencies, develop strategies to get on the right team and negotiate a teaming agreement that brings value to all team members.

All of this great research and preparation won’t deliver results if you can’t deliver the message to the customer. Take the time to practice so that you will be more confident in the moment. Anticipate how the call will play out and do some role playing.

Use the seasons analogy to guide the building of your relationships – plant the seed – introduce yourself – nurture the relationship – become a resource to them, send information, make introductions, etc. – harvest the seeds – if you have nurtured the relationship, the harvest time becomes apparent – enjoy the fruits – take the time to enjoy your success – start to think about new opportunities.


Matthew Falls works for the federal initiative BusinessUSA, focusing on outreach to the state and local partners and the business community.  He collaborates with state and local economic development organizations to feature their program content on BusinessUSA and to introduce BusinessUSA as a resource to small businesses. 

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Celebrate the Region’s Best CFOs on June 2, 2014!

April 16th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

The NVTC CFO Awards is in its 18th year! For those of you who haven’t attended, the event is a great place to recognize and network with great people in the finance industry. The awards take place at The Ritz Carlton-Tysons Corner – see the nominees here. If you’re curious about the look and feel of the event, check out the video below! If you’re interested in celebrating  the continued strength of the region’s technology industry, register here.

 

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NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. In the third of a five part series on “Building Relationships,” Matthew Falls of BusinessUSA shares his insights on utilizing your research to connect with potential customers.


You’ve identified the companies, agencies and program offices that are most likely to use your product or service. You have read their most recent press releases and blog entries. You also know the names of the leadership team, program managers and contracting officers for those programs. You’ve connected with them on social media networks. You also know those companies most likely to fit with your core competencies.

If you don’t know this information, you probably have not done enough research and it is best to find out this information. It will provide the basis for starting your matthewseries3relationship with a company, program office, or a prime contractor.

There’s an event next week. Perhaps it’s an Industry Day, a program office is giving a seminar, there’s a networking event sponsored by a trade association or economic development agency, or perhaps you’ve identified a key contact and you want to set up a meeting. Maybe you are attending a trade show or industry event.

Do some research. Who is sponsoring? What programs or panel discussions are being offered? Can you contribute? Call the organization and ask how you can help with the event. Your research on the organization can tell you what programs they like to offer, what its membership does. Think about putting on a program for them in the future. This will better connect you to the organization and they will see you as a resource. Becoming a resource to them gives the organization the confidence to introduce you to an opportunity.

Focus on your goals for this event. Do you want leads, an introduction to someone, or just to build your brand? You’re not going to close a sale, so relax. You can take the time to nurture a relationship. Set performance metrics, i.e., I expect to have x substantial conversations that lead to an opportunity, I expect to collect x business cards, etc. Setting metrics allows you to objectively evaluate your performance and the usefulness of the event. Evaluating each event provides the information needed to make the most of your time, to focus on those events and organizations that provide the most value for you.

The SWOT analysis you did earlier has given you the information and strategic focus needed to craft a statement about your organization, what it does best and why the listener should care. People will want to know what you or your organization does and you need to have a clear vision that ties into your goals for this event.

When you meet that first person, pay attention to them. Look them in the eye, shake hands firmly and show an interest in their business card and what their position is in the organization. Figure out what concerns the person you’re speaking with; have a genuine interest in what they are doing. Ask about recent press releases, new initiatives they may be engaged in, talk about what they hope to get out of this event.

Make the focus on them. Don’t forget the human element of relationships. It is very important to understand what is possible and what the person that you are speaking with is capable of doing; if not, you’re wasting your time. The more you focus on the other person, the faster you will have the information to make a determination about this person.

The other person will ask about your business. Because you spent the time focusing on the other person in this conversation, you now have the information needed to craft your response around how your company’s product or service can be a benefit to the company. Talk about next steps. Leave the conversation with an action item. Write it on the back of their business card when you get a chance. Tell them that you will respond to them the next day.

If you get so lucky as to uncover a potential need and opportunity, try to learn who will influence the solution and the decision-making process. People connect to their colleagues on LinkedIn and some of them will be influential in the requirements development and selection process. Visit each of those buying influence’s LinkedIn profiles and pay close attention to whether they are linked to any of your competitors. If so, then that’s a red flag.

Sometimes there really is no connection to the person; you cannot provide what they need. Ask for a referral, do they know anyone who has a need for your product or service? If so, ask for a specific email introduction to their contact referencing the point of interest as an action item for this conversation. Write the contact’s name and point of interest on the back of the business card.

The event is over and you have a handful of business cards. Hopefully you wrote the action items on the back of the cards. Review the event. How did you perform against your goals? Be objective about the event. Perhaps you didn’t get many cards because you didn’t do the research versus the event not being a good fit for you. Maybe you didn’t get enough cards because you took too much time with a person. That’s good if it leads to a concrete opportunity, or a substantial conversation that moves the relationship forward. Keeping performance metrics allows to objectively evaluate the event, your preparation and your pitch.

Add the cards, points of interest and action items into your contact database and assign tasks for follow up. Always follow up when you say you will. It goes to your credibility, reliability and reputation for being able to deliver. These are some of the most important aspects in a good relationship and to gain the confidence of people who might be able to help you in the future.

At this point you have a few people who are connected to the opportunities that you’ve highlighted in your SWOT analysis. It’s time to cultivate these relationships, bring value to your contacts, assuring that they see you and your company as a valuable resource in their network.

Perhaps you don’t have a business development staff to make these contacts or your company is not located in Washington, DC if you sell to the federal government. Maybe you want to penetrate a different industry sector, line of business or another agency to win larger chunks of business.

Consider forming an advisory board comprised of very high-profile individuals who will open doors and act as advocates for your company. A properly constructed advisory board, whose sole purpose is to drive revenue, can turbo-charge your business development and harvest the value in your company.


Matthew Falls works for the federal initiative BusinessUSA, focusing on outreach to the state and local partners and the business community.  He collaborates with state and local economic development organizations to feature their program content on BusinessUSA and to introduce BusinessUSA as a resource to small businesses. 

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On April 10, the NVTC Business Development, Marketing and Sales Committee held an event entitled “Lead Generation Technology Forum: How to Maximize Your Pipeline.” The event featured a distinguished panel of industry experts and end users, and offered ways to utilize automated marketing and lead generation solutions. John Beveridge, a vice chair of the committee, shares insights from the event below.


The business buying process has changed: a recent study by the Corporate Executive Board found that the average business buyer completes 57 percent of her sales process before ever contacting a salesperson. The NVTC Business Development, Marketing and Sales Committee recently held an event to help business deal with this new business reality.

Marketing executives from Deltek and Sonatype, along with industry representatives from Marketo and Vocus shared their thoughts and experiences on using marketing automation technologies to fill their pipelines and nurture their leads through the customer acquisition process.

The panel shared several insights with the audience:

  • Digital marketing is a process, not a product. Companies starting out with lead generation technology will need to transform their approach. You may need to reconfigure your team’s skills and learn new technologies to successfully implement a digital marketing process.
  • Prior to starting a digital marketing program, it’s important to know who you want to reach and to make sure you have the technology tools to accomplish your mission.
  • Digital, or inbound, marketing is based on the premise of attraction. It matches the modern buying process by providing potential buyers with educational content as they perform pre-purchase research.
  • One of the primary advantages of digital marketing is that it provides intelligence on your lead’s behaviors, which empowers sales people with information to make their outreaches more meaningful to buyers.
  • Digital marketing simplifies the marketing process by automating tasks like email marketing, lead nurturing and lead scoring.
  • Educational content like blogs, whitepapers, eBooks, webinars and videos are the fuel that runs lead generation technology. Companies considering digital marketing need to create high-quality content that educates their audiences and helps move them to a buying decision.
  • Digital marketing software lets companies measure every element of their lead generation process and optimize their process based on marketplace feedback.

Interesting in learning more about lead generation technology and other business development issues? Become a member of the NVTC Business Development, Marketing and Sales Committee.

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Building Relationships: Doing the Research

April 8th, 2014 | Posted by Sarah Jones in Uncategorized - (Comments Off)

NVTC is inviting members and industry leaders to serve as guest bloggers, sharing insights and information on trends or business issues relevant to other members. In the second of a five part series on “Building Relationships,” Matthew Falls of BusinessUSA shares his insights on using the web to research those companies that offer the best opportunities for you.


Your SWOT analysis has given you valuable information about your company, its products and services and where its opportunities may lie. Now, use the web to research blog2those companies that offer the best opportunities for you. This should give you a list of companies and organizations that offer the most promise – those that are most likely to use your product or service.

Seek to answer the following questions about your target companies and prospects. You may need to rework and modify your behavior as you gain answers to these questions and you uncover more information through the preparation process.

  • Where is the prospect in their decision-making process?
  • Where are you in your selling process?
  • What are your objectives for your call?
  • What information, support, or decisions do you need to achieve your objectives?

Research the companies carefully. Better early research = higher conversion rate. Go beyond the web site and look for information from other sources. Google the company’s name and click on a few links to see what’s going on. Have there been any noteworthy, positive or negative, events? Google the phrases “<company name> problems” and “<company name> strategy”.

If you want to be successful selling to sophisticated prospects, develop expertise in the buyer’s industry. Staying current on industry trends should be a continuous process. Google the following topics:

  • “Recent challenges in the <insert potential customer’s industry> industry”
  • “Top challenges facing <enter contact’s role>”
  • “New trends facing <enter contact’s role> in the < insert potential customer’s industry> industry”
  • “<insert target industry> industry associations”
  • “<insert target industry> industry study”
  • “<McKinsey, Booz-Allen…> target industry report”

Use this information to show potential customers that you are interested in solving challenges, are informed about them and you know what’s going on in the customer’s industry.

Find out what’s going on in your target companies. Whenever you can tie your capabilities to a company’s strategic initiatives, you stand a better chance of getting a response. Focus your preparation on creating relevance.

Read their press releases and blogs and what other bloggers are saying about the company. Ask associates about the organization. Look at the products, programs and services that the company offers and where the money is being spent.

Financial and budget information about privately-held companies is difficult to find. Search news articles and social media sites. There could be valuable information there. Publically held companies do not publish budgets, but review their quarterly 10k filings to get an idea of where they spend their money. You can find links to this information in the investor relations section of their web site. Watch recordings of recent CEO’s analyst presentations. If the company is private equity owned, visit the private equity firm’s website to learn about their investment strategy and philosophy. Identify the principal at the private equity firm responsible for your target company.

Budgets for public organizations are published on their web sites. Their budgets and the new spending programs will tell you their priorities and their most important initiatives as of late.

In the About Us web page, companies will list the officers of the company or the senior leadership team. Public agencies and non-profits will often publish an organization chart listing program offices and sometimes the personnel in charge of these offices. Research the leadership and search the web for new stories about them.

Don’t forget the human side of relationships. It is always better to relate to your customer or prospect on a personal level. We live in a world of information overload, spam email, and automated messaging. Mass messaging falls on deaf ears, so craft your message to appeal to your prospect’s needs. You can find information on your customer’s needs by:

  • Link to your customer or prospect on LinkedIn and follow them if they are active on Twitter
  • Google “<contact’s name, title and company>”, and pay attention not only to what is happening in their business life but also their personal life
  • See if the buyer has spoken on YouTube or shared presentations on the Web
  • See if the buyer is active in associations or has presented at conferences
  • See if you have any mutual connections on LinkedIn, and reach out to any connections you believe would be willing to share insight to help you understand the buyer better

Search the web for news stories, articles, white papers and press releases. This will again give you an idea of the most relevant issues facing your prospect and their organization. This information also provides discussion topics for your initial phone call. Together, they may indicate pain points that the organization is facing.

Large businesses will often have a schedule of events where a senior person for the company might be speaking, serving on a panel, exhibiting at a trade show or conducting a seminar. Attend these events, or find out who the sponsor is and volunteer to help organize the event. Find opportunities like this that give you a more relaxed setting to make contact and start the relationship.

A way to smaller business might be through a chamber of commerce, business associations or state associations of like businesses, such as manufacturers or contractors. Look for those associations that match your company’s capabilities. Members of these organizations are more likely to be established businesses that have the ability to purchase your products.

Get involved with your local Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), SBA Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Minority or Native American Business Center (MBC or NABC) and regional economic development organizations. These organizations are advocates for small business. They offer low or no cost seminars and services and will know of local small business incentives. They sometimes hold matchmaking and procurement events. Their counselors are also a great source of introductions to small business offices of large businesses and federal program managers.

For federal government contractors, the Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization are small business advocates. All federal agencies have an office like this and their mission is to connect small businesses with federal contracts. Here is a link to all the small business contracting offices-http://osdbu.gov/members.html . Click on the office you want and contact information loads.

The Offices of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization are a great resource to learn of procurement events, upcoming bid opportunities, to find out the names of program managers that may have a need for your services, or potential teaming partners for an opportunity.

Develop relationships with the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization for each Federal agency that you have targeted. Be active with them, stay in touch, talk about your credentials and capabilities to them; you want them to know your company and your name.

Your web research will also tell you the names of the top 10, 25, or 50 prime contractors with the agency. All of these companies have offices of Small Business Contracting. Their job is to match small businesses to teaming opportunities with the company. Get to know them, attend their events; find out the trade organizations to which they belong. Talk to them about upcoming opportunities. Develop relationships with them, become a resource, talk about your credentials and capabilities with them; you want them to know your company and your name.

Look here for acquisition forecasts from those agencies you have targeted. Look at past awards and upcoming re-competes. These will all indicate the direction and priorities of the agency and any specific opportunities that may be released. Agencies will often hold Industry Days that focus on a particular opportunity. These events offer an opportunity to get to know others in this space – prime contractors, program managers and the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization.

There are also private sector paid sources of business intelligence regarding your targeted companies, agencies and program offices. Evaluate these carefully. Are you getting information only, someone else’s analysis, introductions for your business, or someone who will not only introduce you, but become an advocate for your company?

Make certain you have exhausted and used all of the free resources out there before paying a subscription. You can do this yourself. Contact me, I’ll show you how. Oftentimes, such services are a collection of publically available information from the sources I’ve listed above. It is my belief that you can obtain this kind of information from targeted research. At that point, you will be in position to determine how best to use the information going forward.


Matthew Falls works for the federal initiative BusinessUSA, focusing on outreach to the state and local partners and the business community.  He collaborates with state and local economic development organizations to feature their program content on BusinessUSA and to introduce BusinessUSA as a resource to small businesses. 

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