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25 Apr 16:06

3 Bad Sales Habits That Hurt Your Performance

by John Holland

Salespeople are under constant pressure to be at or above quota. What sellers do can be calculated to decimal points (percent of quota). In stark contrast, sellers have extraordinary latitude in deciding how they do it: who they call on, how they position offerings, qualifying opportunities, etc.

“A” Players are exceptional performers that regularly kill their numbers and need little if any management.

A Players are intuitive and seem to have an innate talent to relate to buyers. They typically call at high levels and focus on usage and outcomes rather than making product calls.

A Players are selective about vendors they work for and favor start-ups that offer large territories, lucrative commission structures, and potential equity. The problem is that A Players are in short supply.

A recent Miller Heiman survey found that only 7% of sellers are considered “world class.” For other sellers (B and C Players) achieving quota is a mountain to climb every year. Here are some common behaviors and habits of B and C Players that ultimately hurt their sales performance.

3 Bad Sales Habits That Hurt Your Performance

1. B and C Players often start buying cycles with lower levels within prospect organizations.

They are less intimidating than executives and their primary interest is learning about new offerings. Especially for large transactions, this “bottom-up” sales approach is fraught with pitfalls.

If there’s no budget, lower levels can’t fund initiatives. I’d also like to point out if budget is in place there’s a good chance another vendor has already set the requirements with a bias toward their offering.

If sellers are successful in “climbing” the org chart ladder each new contact they call on can say no. It isn’t until sellers gain access to decision makers that they’re finally talking to someone who can say yes (buy).

In many cases B and C Players never gain access to decision maker levels. As you would expect sales cycles will be longer executing bottom-up sales.

Another potential danger is that sellers will keep working with a single lower level “buyer” whose primary interest is in the offering. Some sellers may go so far as to issue proposals because they feel it is a step in moving opportunities forward.

When issued without getting the perspective of higher stakeholders many opportunities will languish. Even if an executive tries to read the proposal would it be compelling enough to elicit a positive reaction?

In many cases, proposals will remain in pipeline limbo migrating toward no-decision. Proposals and radiation have half-lives. Every month that goes by lessens the likelihood of an order.

No decision outcomes (losses) mean sellers have spent time, effort and resources with nothing to show for it.

2. B and C Players struggle to make calls on executives.

Part of the problem is the extensive product training companies pound into their sellers’ brains. It causes sellers to view their offerings as nouns as they attempt to educate buyers with esoteric facts about offerings.

They subscribe to the theory “if she knew what I know about this offering she would buy.” The reality is that very few executives have the bandwidth or desire to learn about offerings.

I met a seller who shared with me that he was a chemical engineer that worked for a company that sold industrial adhesives (expensive glue). When asked to describe the glue he droned on for about 45 seconds using words like viscosity, molecular bonding, ions, etc.

When he came up for air I shared with him that he was describing his offering as though it were a noun. I asked if he could describe it by making glue a verb.

He had to gather himself for a few seconds and then told me that aerospace was a major vertical for his company and prospects had to affix aluminum skins to airplane’s framework rivets with a rivet.

There were four reasons rivets were bad in that they: put holes in the frame, added weight, were more expensive and created drag that reduced fuel economy.

His glue allowed aircraft to be stronger, lighter, less expensive and deliver better fuel economy. I remembered 3 or 4 words from his noun-based pitch but recall nearly word for word his verb-based positioning.

A Players don’t execute product sales. They are able to discuss desired business outcomes and articulate product usage to executive buyers.

3. B and C Players believe every opportunity is winnable.

In extreme cases, they willingly respond to RFP’s wired by one of their competitors. Part of the problem is that they aren’t able to initiate opportunities but they should recognize that if they haven’t been given to influence the requirements they have a very small chance of winning with their response.

One of my clients had a 2% win rate on unsolicited RFP’s but dutifully responded to every request. The vast majority of the time the requirements had been wired by a “Column A” vendor.

I suggested that when they received RFP’s where they had no influence on the requirement that the seller call the person administering the RFP and ask for access (phone or meeting) to three Key Player titles.

If asked why it was to better understand those buyers needs and potentially uncover new requirements.

If access was granted the seller had the chance to uncover new business issues or capabilities that were needed. If access wasn’t granted the seller would send an email or letter indicating without fully understanding the company’s needs they could not make a recommendation.

If the company did not find what they were looking for and would grant access they would be happy to respond.

Managers had the final say on whether to bid or no bid. They generally would respond only if granted access and their win rate on unsolicited RFP’s increased from 2 to 24%.

B and C Players are motivated, intelligent and hard working. In my experience, few sellers are A Players in every situation.

Often sellers are A Players within specific verticals where they have domain expertise, for certain offerings or when calling on specific titles. Managers should help them qualify opportunities in helping to understand the difference between activity and progress.

25 Apr 16:06

Why You Must Use Customer Reviews in Your B2B Marketing Strategy

by Chanell Turner

It’s a fact, clients want to know someone else’s experience with a product before they jump in for a purchase. For B2B companies, customer or client reviews are essential to a successful marketing strategy.

According to Marketing Land, 90% of consumers say positive reviews influenced their purchasing decision. This “recommendation and review” culture for B2C buyers is the same for B2B buyers. A Corporate Executive Board survey found that B2B buyers complete 60 percent of the purchasing process before they speak with a company representative. It is likely that during this process, customers are taking the time to research reviews.

There is a lot of competition out there for many B2B businesses, so client reviews are a great way to set distinguish yourself from competitors.

Let’s take a look at five reasons why your B2B marketing strategy should include customer reviews.

Customer Reviews Aren’t Intrusive

According to research by Forrester, 59 percent of B2B buyers prefer to do research online instead of interacting with a sales representative. Research shows this is because they feel the representative is focused on a sales agenda rather than helping solve a problem. It is easy for B2B buyers to tell if a company is genuinely there to serve their needs, or is just trying to close a deal. B2B customer reviews are a great way to showcase what the company has to offer and what it’s like to be a client.

They Are Cost-Effective

The right B2B marketing strategy often requires a budget for hiring graphic designers, creating a time-intensive social media strategy, and purchasing the right software to implement automation technologies. Collecting customer reviews are a cost-effective way to show the value of the products or services offered by a company and how they benefit the end user. According to Regalix, the most substantial obstacle that B2B online advertisers face is a lack of budget. Asking for clients to learn a review about their the experience with the company and the services or products offered utilizes less monetary resources.

Reviews Build Trust

B2B companies should take a page out of the B2C playbook, especially when it comes to building client trust. BrightLocal revealed that 85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. We have seen the rise of the “Yelp Review” culture, and while this is still B2C heavy, this is something that B2B marketers can’t ignore. Individuals feel more confident purchasing from someone they know and trust.

Demonstrates B2B Marketers Understand Current Trends

Only 12 percent of the population does not regularly read customer reviews. This means it has become a significant part of the buyer journey. It is now expected that a company will share customer or client reviews to demonstrate what it’s like to do business with them. Unless a company is a start-up or newcomer to the industry, potential customers may question why there aren’t any reviews about the company. Building a strong reputation that supports a company’s brand values is essential, and reliable customer reviews strengthen a company’s reputation and communicate the brand’s value to B2B buyers.

Increase SEO Keyword Usage

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the method of increasing the visibility of a website on search engines. Companies participate in SEO by strategically placing keywords on various sites to rank for specific words. In addition to landing page verbiage and blog posts, customer reviews are an additional way of ensuring product keywords are frequently used on the website for better SEO rankings.

Posting and sharing customer reviews are a great way to build credibility and value to a prospect. Their addition to any marketing strategy shows that marketers understand a prospect’s need to know what it’s like to be a client of their company. This simple addition could spell marketing success and increased sales for savvy B2B companies.

25 Apr 16:05

Your Sneak Peak Into One of the Top Sales Books (Infographic Inside!)

by calvert.renee@gmail.com (PFPS)

What do today's buyers really want? That's the question sellers have been asking themselves since the game changed due to a proliferation of information and options + how easy it is for buyers to find them.. Stop Selling & Start Leading -- the new book from Jim Kouzes, Barry Posner and Deb Calvert -- is loaded with buyer-based research and seller stories to answer to that big question. That's why it's become one of the top sales books since its release in March 2018.

25 Apr 16:03

On the Limits of Personalization

by James Mathewson

The Holy Grail of digital marketing is personalization: being able to serve the most relevant content to particular users at a particular time to help them progress on their buyer journeys. Most of the guidance on this topic is related to how you do it. To be sure, it is complicated. You have to track their behavior and discover what they are most likely to need before delivering that thing to them dynamically. This involves powerful analytics, tagging, content strategy, data science, and artificial intelligence (AI).

Much of my and my colleagues’ writing on this blog site is about these technical challenges. In large enterprises, where thousands of users come to your site daily, the strain of this marketing automation is staggering. To build an end-to-end content management and delivery system that enables this goal at every stage in the production process requires hundreds of big data and AI applications working as one, with a matrix of APIs connecting them, and an army of data scientists, marketing managers, and content specialists somehow communicating in real time to make it work.

Add to this the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which strictly regulates how you use, store, secure, and ultimately retire all this data you are gathering, and you might begin to wonder if it’s all worth it. That’s what this article is all about. A lot of executives we talk to put personalization at the top of their priorities without considering all the implications of the decision. Perhaps they understand the benefits of personalization but not the risks, and especially not the costs. I want to explore these these three areas in what follows. When I’m done with that, I want to perform a thought experiment on what a world without personalization looks like.

Benefits of personalization

The benefits of personalization are somewhat obvious. If you can manage to guide prospects through their particular buyer journeys to an ultimate sale, Marketing becomes a less intrusive sales organization that does not require actual sales people until deals need to be closed. Think Amazon. Marketing executives have long sought this as a way of demonstrating once and for all that their efforts contributed to the bottom line.

John Wanamaker is famous for saying, “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” The promise of digital marketing has always been to chip away at the marketing waste, which implies using big data to learn where the waste is and systematically eliminating it. The end game of all that is personalization. If you can track your prospects and clients through their particular buyer journeys, you can see where they are dropping off, and you can adjust your tactics accordingly to capture higher yields.

For as long as I’ve been in my current job at IBM, we have restlessly pursued this goal. The offline advertising side of the house can continue to have 50 percent waste without really knowing which half of the budget was waste and which half was not. Brand value is difficult to put a price on. It is measured in less data-driven ways by necessity. And that’s okay. Advertising obviously does a good job, so let’s not mess with that too much.

The digital side of the house is held to a higher standard. Our budgets are contingent on not only knowing where the waste is, but in systematically reducing it. To get there in any meaningful way, you need personalization tech. Whether you actually deliver on the promise of personalization at the end of the day, you at least know to some degree what is working and what is not, and you can adjust accordingly. That’s the theory, anyway.

Risks of personalization

To the extent that the theory does not meet practice, we have work to do. This is how I would structure a risk management practice around personalization. You can wire up all the tech you want and get it all working without actually delivering on the promise of personalization. Diagnosing why is a powerful way to understand the risks. There are hundreds of risks, some small, some large. Here I will only outline the three largest.

1. Creepiness

Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said, “Ads that follow you online are creepy.” He was referring to a manifestation of personalization. For example, I am a guitar enthusiast. I often search for particular models of guitars, especially by my favorite manufacturer, Martin. When I do, this data gets passed around all over the web and every site I go to displays ads for Martin guitars. I actually like this because ads are like wallpaper to me. You only notice them when they’re ugly. And there are a lot of ugly display ads out there about mortgage and tax scams that I’d rather not see in my peripheral vision as I’m reading online. I’d rather paper my digital walls with pictures of Martin guitars.

But most users don’t know this particular hack of personalization tech. And they want their shopping habits to be private. It is kind of creepy for Google and others to share our search histories with affiliate sites that cue into our cookie profiles to display ads about our search histories. I have not seen data on the negative impact of personalization on buying habits, probably because no one wants to commission a study that cuts into their bottom line. But I’m pretty sure creepiness has a negative impact.

2. Personalization doesn’t always work

Creepiness is a negative impact of personalization tech that is working. But personalization doesn’t work very well yet. The tech is about at the stage of the self-driving car industry. Everybody knows it will work eventually. For the moment, it is not sophisticated enough to work all the time. With cars, you simply can’t take those risks. But with ads and content, marketers tend to think, “no harm no foul.” The question is, to what extent is that true?

The last time I bought a guitar, I continued to get ads for the very model I just bought, and several other comparable models, for weeks after purchase. Even at Amazon, I continue to get pushed offers for things I no longer need because I already bought them. Again, I don’t know of a study showing how pushing unneeded products on customers negatively affects the confidence users have in merchants who subscribe to these ad services. But I’m pretty sure the effect is negative.

Ironically, the root cause of both these negative effects of personalization is the mentality of treating prospects like chattel. The irony is, personalization is sold to marketing execs as better serving the individual. But the very notion of thinking that you want to increase the yield of marketing efforts has the ring of industrial farming to it. Prospects are humans. They should be treated humanely. To the extent that personalization encourages marketers to treat them less humanely, it defeats the purpose.

3. GDPR

Despite the dearth of research into the negative effects of personalization, the EU has enacted a law that protects people from malicious data gathering and dissemination. Whether you intend malice or not, if your practices violate GDPR, your efforts will be seen as malicious. And the penalties for being caught handling user data inappropriately are up to 4 percent of a company’s revenue. So a GDPR strategy and execution plan is mandatory.

I suspect GDPR is only the beginning. The US Congress has a bill called the Honest Ads Act that has similar protections to GDPR for US customers. It also includes provisions to protect citizens from the kinds of malicious manipulation they faced in the 2016 election at the hands of Cambridge Analytica and Facebook. When you stop to consider the damage poor data security practice has on not only Facebook’s market cap but geopolitics, the risks of personalization cannot be overstated.

Costs of personalization

Personalization is expensive. When you consider the hundreds of applications needed to gather, manage, store, and secure personal data on every potential customer who’s ever interacted with content or ads on your site, your social channels, and your ad networks, it’s staggering.

And it’s not just the data. It’s the content. You can have all the data analytics you need to understand what content to deliver to each user. But you still need to build, publish, and maintain the content. That takes a small army of content strategists, editors, and writers, to say nothing of video producers, page developers, UX specialists, information architects, and visual designers.

It’s relatively easy to do this for product marketing, where you are merely building all the content about your products users might need, and serving it in relevant places in their customer journeys. But content marketing is about serving that content to them about product categories, and the challenges or opportunities those categories of products purport to solve or to capitalize on.

At IBM, we say 80 percent of the buyer journey happens prior to a product name being included in the content. How do you personalize the top of the funnel with content that satisfies the needs of individuals? How do you govern this content across an enterprise of marketers all vying for the limited time and attention of the same individuals?

It is a challenge I have devoted the last 10 years of my career trying to solve. I can tell you the costs are astronomical. Just the data infrastructure and AI needed to do this often leads to executive sticker shock. I am running a small pilot with an AI company that does this at scale. For 44 content marketers (4 percent of our users), it costs about what our entire taxonomic infrastructure costs. I wouldn’t run this pilot if I didn’t think there is ROI at the end of the rainbow. But that ROI depends on content people delivering on the value of the up-front intelligence. My passion will be spent in making sure they create compelling content that delivers on the promise of intelligent content.

An alternative to personalization

The alternative to personalization is what most of us have been doing for a long time. It goes by many names, but perhaps the closest phrase that describes the practice is Search Engine Marketing (SEM). In SEM, we mine the search queries of our target audiences and build content strategies that purport to serve the needs of those audiences. Rather than trying to sort out what individual users need on their personal journey stages, we build experiences that serve multiple purposes for multiple audiences and help our users search and navigate through the experiences to find what they need.

This is the approach Mike and I recommend in our book. It still uses search queries as the basis of content intelligence. Its goal is still to provide the most relevant content to the user. But it does it in a way that anonymizes the user by the mere topics she is interested in. And it is a very economical way of serving perhaps 80 percent of user needs without a giant marketing automation infrastructure to support it.

To be clear, it still takes a lot of intelligence to understand what needs to be created and by whom. And it does place a certain burden on users to find the most relevant content for their journeys. But by eliminating the part about serving just the right content for each individual user at just the right time saves a lot of money and drastically reduces risk.

Conclusion

I don’t think the distinction between SEM and personalization is exclusive. They share many of the same systems and practices in common. But perhaps the best strategy is to do SEM for your whole organization and pilot personalization for parts of it, measuring costs and benefits, and assessing risks as you go. At any rate, personalization should not be priority in and of itself at the top of some strategy chart, at the expense of other less expensive and less risky alternatives.

25 Apr 16:03

Re-examining Marketing Practices in the Post-Cambridge Analytica World

by Tyler Douglas

Cambridge Analytica - data-driven marketing

The recent outrage over Cambridge Analytica’s use of Facebook data has put data-driven marketing teams in the hot seat. Many people are questioning whether the way marketers and researchers harness and analyze consumer data is ethical and beneficial for consumers. The call for more transparency in how customer data is collected, used and sold has never been louder.

Marketing leaders should pay attention. While it’s too early to know the exact repercussions of this scandal for the marketing industry, leaders should take this time now to re-examine their practices and clean up their act. More than ever, consumers expect action—not just from governments, Cambridge Analytica and Facebook, but also from the marketing industry.

Our actions as an industry today will determine the quality of data and insight we get from our customers and our ability to make insight-driven business decisions in the future.

A wake-up call for data-driven marketers

While many people were shocked when reports about Cambridge Analytica’s “breach” first came out, most marketers were not. Reaction from the industry has been a collective shrug.

The deafening silence isn’t surprising: as a MarketingWeek article points out, most marketers have no option but to keep quiet—because the practices that Cambridge Analytica has gotten in trouble for are common practices in the industry.

To be fair, marketers began employing increasingly sophisticated ways of collecting customer data because business reality demanded it. As technology rapidly changed, so did customer expectations. To deliver what customers wanted, companies committed to becoming insight-driven—a strategy that required the use of customer data.


“Marketing has gotten used to a self-centered approach to data collection, often failing to consider what’s best for customers in the process.”


But in their pursuit of more data, marketers have pushed the boundaries of what’s acceptable. As an industry, marketing has gotten used to a self-centered approach to data collection, often failing to consider what’s best for customers in the process. The Cambridge Analytica scandal is a reminder that this widely-adopted approach is ripe for disruption.

Consumers want—and deserve—more

Even before the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke out, there were already clear signs that customers wanted a more mutually-beneficial approach to the way businesses gather data. A 2017 study from SAP SE showed a majority of consumers expected brands to be more transparent in how data was used. A separate study released in 2016 showed that young consumers in particular wanted more control over how brands used customer data.

Our own research shows that not only do customers want transparency when it comes to data sharing, they expect value out of the exchange. Our study, which we shared this week, shows that 66% of consumers would feel more comfortable sharing their personal information if brands proactively told them how it would be used.

Along with more transparency, consumers expect that sharing their personal information will add value to their overall experience as a customer: 41% of consumers we engaged with said they’re willing to share personal information to get more personalized service, offers and for faster issue resolution.

How you get customer data also matters. Only 17% of respondents are comfortable with brands using information acquired indirectly through third parties—the approach that Cambridge Analytica used that is now under intense public scrutiny. In contrast, we found that 80% of consumers are comfortable with brands using information they’ve shared directly to better personalize messages.

Few People Are Comfortable Sharing Data Through Third Parties

Source: eMarketer.com

A relationship-based approach to data-gathering

There has never been a better time to adopt a mindset shift—to move from a “data extraction” mentality to one that considers what customers want.

Alexandra Samuel, a technology researcher, a former colleague of ours here at Vision Critical and a special guest in our upcoming webinar, recently wrote a piece for The Globe and Mail about Cambridge Analytica, and she makes many great points. According to her, smart businesses recognize that “real insight comes from getting to know your customers, which means building a continuing relationship with people who will share their feedback over time.”

Alex goes on to argue that treating customer data with respect makes business sense because as you retain your access to that data, you also preserve the ability to make better decisions. “You’re turning data into insights that will help you offer customers the specific products, services, information and deals they want.”


“Smart businesses recognize a deeper truth: Customer insight is worth more than customer data. And real insight comes from getting to know your customers, which means building a continuing relationship with people who will share their feedback over time.”

– Alexandra Samuel, technology writer, researcher and speaker, in The Globe and Mail


I echo Alex’s perspective. In fact, at Vision Critical, one of the biggest lessons we’ve learned working with more that 700 global brands for almost 20 years is that prioritizing customers is an effective strategy that benefits both businesses and consumers. We call it a relationship-based approach—and it is at the core of our customer intelligence platform.

The traditional way of gathering data is often an impersonal process that keeps customers in the dark about how their data and feedback is used. In contrast, adopting the relationship-based approach means engaging only with customers who explicitly agreed to be part of the process. It’s about turning that feedback into customer intelligence, using that intelligence to deliver more value to customers and being transparent with customers about how their participation helped shape business decisions.

The relationship-based approach to customer intelligence isn’t theoretical. As I discussed in a recent webinar, it’s an approach that delivers quantifiable ROI to many insight-driven businesses.

Change must happen now

The wave of public outcry triggered by Cambridge Analytica is only the beginning. Consumers are increasingly becoming more aware of the value of their own data, and they are becoming more savvy when it comes to controlling what and how they share data with businesses.

Customers, rightly so, are asking important questions. Why should they participate in your surveys? Why should they allow you to track their activities and access their user data? Can I trust your company to keep my data safe? These are fair questions that marketers must contend with. Customers need to see what’s in it for them: they need to see the value of their participation.


“The wave of public outcry triggered by Cambridge Analytica is only the beginning…Ultimately, the marketers who figure out a more customer-centric way of gathering data will create a competitive advantage for their company.”


With regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into effect in the European Union in May, brands will need to prove to their customers that not only are they limiting the data they collect, use, and store to what they really need, but also that they are committed to delivering personalized, valuable experiences to customers in exchange for that data and their opinions.

The business world will not—and should not—stop using data to make better decisions. But we have to move to a more authentic and transparent way of doing it with customers. It’s time we slow down, think hard about our actions, and build better, more authentic transparent practices with our customers top of mind.

Ultimately, the marketers who figure out a more customer-centric way of gathering data will create a competitive advantage for their company because they’ll continue to get quality insight and customer feedback. That’s why the time to invest in nurturing customer relationships is now—your ability to make insight-driven decisions depends on it.

25 Apr 16:02

Do You Give Greater Value Than What’s Asked of You?

by Robert Terson
Like most teenagers, all three of my children worked part-time jobs during their teen years; Michael, my eldest (he’s 47 now, father to my grandson Jack) held quite a number of them. I’m proud to say all three listened to their father’s advice and always gave more value to a job than their employers required […]
25 Apr 16:02

The Advanced Selling Skill That Skyrockets Your Success

by Brent Adamson

Advanced Selling Skills

Core performers seek to gather information in preparation for a sales call, but star performers focus on testing information in preparation for a sales call. Question every piece of information you receive from a prospect, and benefit from unexpected insights that set you apart and make you a top salesperson.

We often talk about “sales fundamentals” or “sales 101” -- the basic skills and knowledge a professional seller must master to execute an effective sales call.

But what about more advanced skills? What separates the best sellers from everyone else? CEB, now Gartner, research shows one significant difference lies in the way star performers prepare.

Advanced Selling Strategies

Customer prep 101

Thorough preparation prior to a sales call is a must for any sales professional. Every seller should work through a standard checklist of questions as they lay out their strategy to engage a particular customer:

  • What business are they in?
  • How do they operate/make money?
  • How does/could my solution impact their performance?
  • What has this company bought from us in the past?
  • Who are the key stakeholders in this account?
  • How does the company’s current performance/future trajectory potentially impact that opportunity?

And this, of course, is just the beginning. We could easily build a list of great prep questions at least three times as long. But, either way, these are the basics. “Sales 101” questions are crucial for formulating a coherent plan for customer engagement. Anyone hoping to execute an effective sales call is going to have to start with this kind of information.

Next, we consult the standard sources for potential insight: Our company’s CRM system, the customer’s website, LinkedIn, various web-based information aggregators, Google, our colleagues and contacts -- you name it. All to better anticipate customers’ needs, build credibility, and hopefully create a connection.

Customer prep 401

So, what do star performers do so differently than average reps? In terms of tactical activity, probably not much.

They’ll consult the same types of resources and ask the same kinds of questions. Granted, they might have a few extra connections to consult, a bigger network to tap, and possibly more experience to fall back on. But that might be equally true of many highly experienced, well-connected core performers unable to translate that knowledge into actual sales performance.

So, what makes the best sellers different? A partial answer is that some just work harder. But for all top performers, a bigger part of the answer is about posture.

The contrarian mindset

Whether it’s conscious or not, our research shows star performers tend to adopt a contrarian mindset as they process information. Nothing’s taken at face value. Instead, it’s subjected to skeptical scrutiny as star performers look for faulty logic, overlooked opportunities, sub-optimal execution, and inefficient operation.

Simply put, star performers are looking for places where the customer might have got it “wrong” -- through omission or commission.

Did they overlook an opportunity for savings? Did they rely on faulty assumptions in pursuing their current path? Star performers are looking for an “in” or a reason to have a conversation with the customer about their business on their terms.

They do this in a way that provides the rep an opportunity to offer that customer an alternate perspective, rather than a confirmation of one they maintain already. That’s how best sellers add value in the eyes of the customer -- not by sharing common perspectives but offering alternate ones.

So, where do these “alternate perspectives” come from? Often, they come from the same information, resources, contacts, and preparation pursued by any other seller in the same situation. According to CEB, now Gartner, research, the difference isn’t what they look at, but how they look at it. It’s a perspective purposefully geared to question everything:

  • What business are they in: Is that a good business to be in? Is it a stable business? What kinds of challenges or threats are most likely to challenge this company’s performance?
  • How do they operate/make money: Are there potentially other/better ways for them to make money or monetize that capability? Are there unseen or emerging alternatives that could threaten that ability to make money?
  • Who are the key stakeholders in this account: Who should be the key stakeholders in this account? Who are we overlooking? Who is the customer overlooking?

Every question should be questioned. Nothing should be taken for granted. And nothing should be assumed to be (completely) accurate.

That’s not to say each question will generate interesting, contrarian insights. The source of any good “ah-ha” will certainly emerge within the specific context of that particular company. That’s why the overall “posture” is more important than the specific questions on a list.

You never really know which information, perspective, or action might best present an opportunity for disruption. But you won’t find it if you’re not looking for it.

HubSpot CRM

25 Apr 16:01

Why Rich Media Could Be the Difference-Maker for Your LinkedIn Profile Needs

by Sean Callahan
Rich Media and Your LinkedIn Profile

The LinkedIn community is over 546 million strong. That’s a lot of professionals networking and sharing content. How can sales reps stand out from the crowd?

Intuitively, the simplest way to attract eyeballs on LinkedIn is by getting more visual. Content assets including presentations, videos, and infographics will get your profile noticed.

Rich Media Catches the Attention of Buyers

Imagine you’re a buyer searching LinkedIn for sellers in your specialized niche. If your search results in two profiles, which one might compel you to look more closely — the profile with data sheets, demonstration videos, and other eye-catching assets, or the profile without?

The presence of rich media in your LinkedIn profile can help others more easily understand your company’s value proposition at a glance, while also demonstrating your expertise as a digitally adept sales professional.

Showcase Your Company with Rich Media in Your LinkedIn Summary

You can add almost any media element to your profile summary. Before you do, take a few minutes to think strategically about what you’d like to accomplish with the additions, and how your summary text and rich media might complement one another.

A couple of tips to get started:

  1. Review your current summary. Does the text clearly and succinctly describe your work and your company at a high level? Is the information current, with the latest data or an otherwise accurate reflection of the business? Is the summary free of errors and misspellings? Once your copy is in order, you can start spicing things up with rich media.

  2. Once you’re happy with your summary text, think about brand awareness assets your marketing and public relations team have available. Are there video interviews with members of the company C-suite discussing pertinent topics? Maybe a set of slides introducing people to your brand or solution? How about an infographic highlighting industry trends? Since our brains process visuals 600,000 times faster than text, these types of content can give you a better chance to make a quick impression than words alone.

How to Add Files and Links

LinkedIn supports many file types, including PDFs, JPGs, and PowerPoint. You can add media by clicking the pencil icon below your profile background image to open the editor. Then scroll down to the bottom of the pop-up window where you’ll have the option to upload files or a link. Include a title and description so the person viewing the asset will have the necessary context to fully appreciate what they find.

We recommend incorporating at least two pieces of rich media content in your summary, with a maximum of five. If your company has a wealth of suitable content assets, you could switch them out from time to time on a rotating schedule to keep your profile fresh for anyone who might revisit.

Show Your Work: Adding Rich Media to Your Job Experience Section

Rich media can be useful in the job experience area of your profile as well. By adding it, you can call attention to your past accomplishments and relevant skills.

If your work history is up-to-date and you feel it highlights your strengths in a way that addresses what buyers want to know about you, then you’re in great shape. Adding rich media will allow you to showcase specific ways you helped customers solve similar problems.

If you currently have none, we recommend adding one to two media assets to this section. Examples of content buyers often find interesting include case studies of customer projects you’ve worked on, and presentations you’ve helped develop. The key is for these items to demonstrate how you helped alleviate pain points in meaningful ways.

Files and links are added to your experience field through the same process described above. From your profile page, just look for the pencil icon to the right of your job experience. Click to edit it.

When you use rich media on LinkedIn for sales purposes, buyers will be able to see what differentiates you from the pack.

Discover more tips for building a magnetic personal brand using LinkedIn with our new guide, Read Me If You Want to Create an Effective Sales Profile on LinkedIn.  

25 Apr 16:01

Expansion-Stage Growth Hack: Building an Advisor Network

by Jeff Diana

Leading a company to the point of expansion is an exciting and rewarding accomplishment, but for early and expansion stage CEOs, it also creates a very specific challenge around how – exactly – to get to the next level. How do you move forward successfully when you don’t yet have (and maybe can’t afford) seasoned leaders who have already seen and driven growth at scale?

It’s a big question. One answer: build an advisor network.

An advisor network is a group of individuals, each of whom shares particular skills or experience with your team in order to help your organization succeed. Typically, advisors are hand picked by the CEO to fill specific knowledge or competency gaps and are compensated with small amounts of company stock. Unlike the more formal board of directors, your advisor network fills a more in-the-trenches role, working directly with functional leads on specific projects toward defined objectives. More than actually executing on tasks, advisors provide advice and serve as thought partners to the functional leaders they work with while also serving as coaches and mentors. Lastly, advisors give CEOs calibration points to evaluate how current functional heads might scale with the business.

When I talk to early-stage CEOs, I always recommend they take advantage of three things:

  1. The full potential of the right investment partner
  2. The door-opening power of their CEO title
  3. The business-building power of a strong advisor network

Today, I’m going to share a little bit about how to put your advisor network together and how to use advisors in the right way.

The CEO’s Dilemma

Companies that are in a growth curve are typically very product oriented in that they may still be working through some details, but they have a pretty strong sense of their product and their product market fit. What they aren’t sure of is where to go next.

There are a lot of unanswered questions at this stage (crossing a lot of functional territory including go-to-market strategy, sales and marketing, customer support, HR, and other internal/infrastructure considerations), but usually the team is gearing up to add more complexity. Sometimes, this means adding features to the product itself; other times it might mean exploring how to move into new customer segments or how to think differently about features versus platforms.

Whatever the specific case may be, it’s time to level up, which puts a whole new set of demands on your team. You have to figure out if the smart move is to build out all the functions and disciplines you need, or if you should find another way (the advisor network) to tap into the existing knowledge and expertise of people who have already travelled a similar road.

Your Advisor Network: Finding and Reaching the Right People

The beauty of an advisor network is that it allows you to get specialized support from experienced executives who have already lived through the phase of growth you’re just entering without compromising your ability to be agile and cost effective (or hiring too big too early). But, how do you find the advisors who are right for your company and your situation?

First, you need to know who you are looking for. When it comes to advisors, you want to identify people who have specific expertise within particular functional areas and/or experience dealing with certain kinds of situations and scenarios. It is important to think through the areas you plan to invest in next and have the advisor work with you on what the focus areas and key questions are. Once you have those pinpointed, you can have the advisor work directly with functional heads.

Once you know the questions you have, you can look for the people who can answer them. Tapping into your existing network is the best place to start. Firms like OpenView can provide access to extremely valuable introductions, as can other individuals in your investor and general networks. You can also use platforms like LinkedIn to seek matches to the advisor profile you’ve defined. And sometimes, you just have to take the leap of faith and reach out. A lot of early-stage CEOs feel like they can’t bother someone at a high profile company, but the truth is that you can ping practically anyone, and nine times out of ten they will take your call because you’re the CEO.

It’s helpful (especially when cold calling) to have a clear topic or question in mind when you reach out. Let them know that you’ve done your research about their expertise and craft your inquiry around how you’d like to tap their specific knowledge.

You probably won’t have to address compensation in that first conversation, but it’s helpful to know that advisors typically trade a few hours of their time each month for a small piece of your company’s stock (usually anywhere from a tenth to a quarter point or more). Again though, compensation will depend on the profile of and demand for the advisor and your company’s stage. The theory is that by giving out 1% of your stock to a few highly valuable people who will help you accelerate your company’s growth, the remaining 99% of your stock will be worth more.

The Right Way to Put Your Advisors to Work

There are three keys to getting the most out of your advisor network:

1. Avoid operating them like a traditional board.

I’ve seen plenty of smart CEOs fall into the trap of getting their four or five advisors together every quarter (just like the normal board), giving the state of the business presentation (maybe with some pretty PowerPoint decks), and inviting commentary from the advisors on whatever high-level topics are on that quarter’s agenda. This doesn’t work.

You sought the help of each advisor because he or she had some really specific expertise or experience that you need. Even though, as super smart people, your advisors might be able to add some value by engaging in dialogue about generic issues facing your company, that kind of interaction doesn’t give them an opportunity to move the ball forward in a tangible way.

2. Tie each advisor to the appropriate functional leader within your organization.

Instead of applying them to generic challenges, use advisors in an operational capacity by committing their hours to specific areas inside your business. By pairing each expert advisor with his or her functional counterpart within your company, you make it possible for them to have a direct impact. You’re not asking your advisors to actually implement anything, but you are giving them the chance to partner closely with a specific department head or director and tackle that individual’s specific challenges.

Give your advisors and functional leaders the time and space to listen, learn, and share their stories. You are, in essence, putting the requisite knowledge directly into the operator’s hands. Let them uncover the best ways to put that knowledge to good use.

3. Assign your advisors very specific projects.

Have your advisor/functional leader pairs focus on very specific initiatives. By narrowing the target, you will help them hit the bullseye and make measurable and meaningful contributions to company growth. For instance, an advisor may work with your director of marketing to assess and optimize your lead gen process by answering very definitive and precise questions about the channels you’re using, the message you’re putting out in the market, and the frequency of your reengagement.

In addition to these three best practices, keep in mind that every department in your company can benefit from the insight and guidance of a functionally focused advisor. From HR to product development, sales to customer success, everyone on your team can learn something. Most product-led companies will first seek advisor support in non-product areas since their leadership teams are typically already very product focused.

Whichever functional areas you tackle first, make sure to present the advisor in the right light. This helps to reduce any potential conflict and establish a good rapport right from the start. Your internal leaders should understand that the advisor isn’t coming on board to judge them or make decisions for them. The advisor is there to listen and serve as a resource – a collaborative partner who will provide advice and insight, essentially for free (since they aren’t part of the department headcount). Bottom line: your team should be really excited about the opportunity to work with the advisors (and vice versa).

The Lifespan of the Advisor Relationship

While you will hopefully develop great relationships with your advisors, if all goes well you will ultimately outgrow them. The length of each partnership depends on the profile of the individual advisor and the stage and pace of your company’s growth, but the typical lifespan of an advisor/company relationship is about two to four years.

It takes that long for both you and your advisor to get what you want out of the collaboration. For your part, you want to see a return on the investment of your time to get each advisor up to speed on your company, your team, your market, your particular product, and what you’re trying to drive. Advisors are, likewise, interested in seeing the impact of the time that they invest. Not only do they want to be able to create tangible growth and help you overcome challenges, they also want to see their stock value grow.

The right advisor could just be an email or LinkedIn message away so take the time to reach out. You’ll be pleasantly surprised from the ROI just one touchpoint can bring.

The post Expansion-Stage Growth Hack: Building an Advisor Network appeared first on OpenView Labs.

25 Apr 15:57

8 Takeaways and Predictions from the Latest Email Marketing Research

by Anthony Helmstetter

8 Takeaways and Predictions from the Latest Email Marketing Research

We have two recently released, well-authored research reports on email marketing that provide some very different—not contradictory, but different—assessments of email marketing as it stands today and where we’re headed. In this article, we’ll give you a concise look at each and the most relevant takeaways from each report, as they pertain to you and your business. Presumptuous of us? Nah. We know how marketers—and their extended teams—tend to think about such things.

You can access the full reports from the Litmus 2018 State of Email and the Campaign Monitor 2018 Email Predictions.

What makes this mash-up so interesting is that one is based on a great deal of quantifiable backward-looking data, and the other is based on predictions from a number of experts in the field. Does the analytical data support the forward-looking recommendations? Read on.

We’re big fans of Litmus and the services they provide, yet we’re not a shill for their services or offerings. They just provide really good and essential services to email marketers. So, it will not come as a surprise their report is chock full of solid insights, technological changes across the entire email client spectrum, marketing trends, and (understandably) a regular cadence of CTAs to learn more and engage with their brand. We’ve got four major takeaways for you on this report.

1. The 3 Audiences in Your Organization Who Need to See This Report

Those audiences are:

  • Developers: The people who are hand-coding or tweaking in-platform templates with stuff like this: @media screen and (max-device-width: 320px) and (max-device-height: 568px) { /* Insert styles here */ } Scary! That is apparently important when viewing an email on an iPhone 8 in zoom mode.
  • Marketing Managers, Strategists, CMOs: Anyone responsible for email results.
  • Your In-House Council, Attorney, and CEO: Anyone who doesn’t want a massive fine or legal entanglement over your use of private data.

We did not include analysts in there because they’re usually too busy looking at their own collected data. The point is, this research report is broad enough that it spans multiple types of stakeholders who touch email marketing.

Action Item: Highlight the essential parts of this report and share them with your colleagues on a need-to-know basis, especially the developers. Your analyst could completely misinterpret your subject-line test results based on the unknown number of recipients who couldn’t view the email correctly on a particular email client on a particular mobile device. Yes, it is that granular.

And if it hasn’t hit the inbox of C-level execs yet, the GDPR rules and consequences are real. At the time of this writing, in fact, it’s all over the news. Be sure your organization has it all together on the new data and privacy rules (see Takeaway #4 below).

2. It’s About Subscriber Engagement, Not List Size

If anyone within eyesight of this is still being graded on list size, stop it. Stop it now. A massive surge in list growth is not a key metric if those subscribers are not engaging, interacting, replying, sharing, or purchasing. It’s a false metric—one that will absolutely skew your email marketing metrics.

Purge non-engagers, put them on a re-engagement campaign, implement ongoing automated list hygiene methods, and be aggressive in cutting the dead wood. If the boss doesn’t get it, forward this article, along with our contact info.


List size is a false metric—one that will absolutely skew your email marketing metrics.
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Top Reasons Consumers Unsubscribe

The following graphic shows the percentage of consumers (out of 1,212 respondents) who have unsubscribed from a brand’s promotional emails for the designated reasons.

Reasons for unsubscribe

Those first two reasons should come as no surprise. The third most common reason, “Brand’s emails or website don’t display or work well on subscriber’s smartphone,” is scary because that aspect of accessibility is largely under our control! (See Takeaway #3 below.)

Most interesting to us, however, is that fourth reason. 38 to 51 percent of subscribers unsubscribe due to a bad customer experience. If this is the case in your organization, it’s time to address and achieve best-in-class customer service, because that is also under our control.

Action Item: If you’re stuck in an environment in which list growth is a key metric, and your paycheck depends on it, you have three options:

  1. Leave.
  2. Teach the C-suite that list growth is significantly less important than engagement.
  3. Hope for regime change, and hope you aren’t part of that change. (If yes, see #1.)

38 to 51 percent of subscribers unsubscribe due to bad customer experience

 

3. Email Marketing Is Way More Technical Now

How up-to-speed is your email/web developer? What’s the latest device’s screen size? How about its retina pixel count? How do you optimize for that? Should one optimize for that?

Here’s a quick test. Can your email/web developer tell you about at least four Samsung (not Android) mobile device rendering quirks that absolutely affect readability? (Pause for effect.)

(Still pausing.)

Knowledge like this plays a crucial role in generating engagement. Responsibility for that knowledge comes down to the person(s) dropping bits and pieces of code into your emails prior to sending. To be clear, we’re not shills for Litmus. But we do encourage you to adopt a tool like theirs to ensure your brilliantly crafted, written, and designed emails can actually be experienced as intended, on a plethora of ever-changing operating systems and devices.

Action Item: Continual training. Continual validation testing. It has to be part of the SOP for every email prior to scheduling. Invest time and money in your email developers, and provide them ongoing training.

4. The Rules of Compliance Have Changed

Data security, privacy, and transparency have become flashpoints for consumers, businesses, and governments thanks to both high-profile breaches and strict new laws that affect marketers worldwide. This goes beyond GDPR to include changes related to Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL), the FTC review of the 14-year-old CAN-SPAM laws, Net Neutrality, and salient examples of data breaches.

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Highlights

  • GDPR will affect every company that uses personal data from EU citizens. If you collect email addresses from and send email to subscribers in the EU, you must comply with GDPR no matter where you’re based.
  • GDPR has stricter regulations around consent and the use of personal data. It also carries higher-than-ever penalties for businesses that don’t play by the rules. Non-compliance can lead to fines of up to €20 million or four percent of a brand’s total global revenue—whichever is higher.
  • Marketers who want to send email to EU citizens must review their email processes. Two options are creating separate sign-up processes for EU and non-EU subscribers and changing all opt-in practices to comply with GDPR.

Action Item: If you haven’t done so already, it’s time for your own internal data, privacy policies, and practices audit. Make any policy updates, and take any corrective action right away. (There’s sure to be some.)

There is a lot more covered in the report. It’s pretty granular and becomes more role-specific, so this is a good one to share with your extended team, especially the developers and implementers of your email assets. The assertions and recommendations in the report are based on data collected across their entire community of customers and practitioners.

Looking Forward

Both the Litmus and CampaignMonitor reports contain forward-looking predictions based on a combination of survey data and expert opinions. We’ve reviewed them using our own highly polished, critical prism and summarized the four most important ones below.

Which of These Will Be Big Email Design Trends In 2018?

Email design trends in 2018

Top Email Design Trends to Embrace. Source: Litmus poll of 524 visitors to its blog between Nov. 15 and Dec. 4,2017

Our take on it: As you can see from the survey responses above, we can no longer just talk at our subscribers. Interactivity has become the number one area of focus because it fosters engagement. These kinds of features allow subscribers to interact with an email directly in their inbox—opening a dropdown menu, revealing hidden images or text, or adding an item promoted in the email to a cart and then clicking directly to the checkout page.

Google is already folding interactivity into its platforms. Gmail has announced they will add support for dynamic content and interactive email through Google’s AMP technology. Although the move will have its own limitations and challenges, it’s a very strong sign that interactive email is going mainstream.

Further, we have to talk with our subscribers, using personalized, relevant, concise, and humanized stories and conversations. If your existing email content inventory or content plans aren’t addressing this, it’s time to make some changes.

Expert Prediction 1: A New Type of Combined Email Marketing Automation Is Rising

Expect the lines between marketing automation, email marketing, and CRM to blur as email and automation companies continue to expand their features. A new midfield of marketing technology players will emerge. This is great for marketers. It lowers the barrier to get more advanced functionality and start implementing smarter marketing.

Our take on it: Agreed. However, adoption and implementation of these new capabilities will not come without some effort, pain, and expense. You’ll likely need to make a continual investment (or perhaps a complete change) in your technology stack, content assets, CRM data profiles, training, and analytics. Be realistic and intentional as to how your teams will navigate this changing landscape, and get senior management on board too.

Expert Prediction 2: Marketers Will Covet Predictive Marketing Metrics

Right now, marketers are campaign-oriented. We focus on measuring the success of campaigns above measuring the customer lifetime value (CLV). But not for long. Soon, we’ll vastly improve upon predictive marketing metrics, such as CLV calculation. Machine learning and AI will predict individual and group customer lifetime value (called “predictive CLV”). Goodbye, historical CLV! Hello, predictive CLV.

Our take on it: Yes, it’s time to take the long view. This will be particularly hard for short-sighted and even sales-oriented businesses that tend to live month-to-month, without regard to the long game. Commissioned salespeople are not likely to embrace the notion of a customer’s lifetime value when their monthly sales quota is the only KPI they are concerned with. Yet most CEOs understand the idea of increasing shareholder value, and adopting a CLV approach dovetails nicely with that and, possibly, their stock options. Historical, CLV hasn’t been easy for a majority of companies. Predictive CLV might not be either. But it’s worth investigating, and once the case can be made, capitalize on it. Machine learning and AI are the keys here.

Goodbye historical CLV

Expert Prediction 3:  The Race to One-to-One Personalization Is On

The ability to craft individualized experiences at scale has given email marketing huge leads when it comes to personalization. But so far, email personalization has been typically based on past events like user-created profiles and preferences, purchases, and life stage events. Consumer expectations are rapidly changing. They expect everything to work like Spotify’s Discover Weekly playlist or Netflix’s Recommendation pages.

Our take on it: Spot on. All those other forward-thinking, bleeding-edge companies have reset customer expectations in every industry. And there is no going back. Yesterday’s good-enough, relevant email is no longer good enough. Personalization models and strategies now have to take into account real-time content consumption, infer customer intent, and deliver the next, most relevant content, CTA, assistance, or advice before the prospect (or existing customer) even knows what they need next. Customer journey mapping to stage-specific content inventory, overlaid with behavioral profiling, has to come together to meet the ever-increasing expectations of the prospect/customer. Those who get this right (and faster than their competition) will benefit because they will set the bar.

Expert Prediction 4: Investment Will Shift from Low-Value Emails to High-Value Emails

Investing the vast majority of our time in the production of mass emails that account for roughly 95 percent of our email volume but generate less than half of our email revenue doesn’t make sense. Instead, we’ll begin investing more time in the automated emails that account for five percent of our volume but most of our revenue.

Our take on it: That’s a fact. We’re spending a disproportionate amount of time and effort on emails that yield low per-unit results. But we’ve done it for two decades because it was really easy and cheap. It’s the 80/20 rule, or some variant of it. By shifting resources (time, effort, creativity) to the most valued subscribers, at scale, we expect to see better per-unit results. Each organization’s email models will need to adapt this concept differently, of course. However, we all still want some greater level of engagement (and maybe revenue). Shifting our focus and resources to those who are predisposed to engage, or purchase, makes perfect sense.

So, What Next?

Email marketing is not static and certainly not dead. In fact, it’s a more vibrant channel than ever. New research says we’re all about to boost our marketing budgets. We recommend you boost your resource allocations—budgets, personnel, training, technology, analytics—in this channel, which is far less likely to be disrupted (e.g., by a Facebook algorithm change) and continually evolves to provide a better, more tailored customer experience for all.

At Convince & Convert Consulting, we combine the latest research data with our marketing expertise to help our clients take advantage of the emerging opportunities in digital marketing. If you have questions, thoughts, or counterpoints, let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

The post 8 Takeaways and Predictions from the Latest Email Marketing Research appeared first on Convince and Convert: Social Media Consulting and Content Marketing Consulting.

25 Apr 15:56

10 Best Sales Tips on What it Takes to Be a Great Salesperson

by Mark Hunter

I’m asked frequently, “What does it take to become a great salesperson?”  Contrary to what most people believe, becoming a great salesperson is not as much about what you sell as it is about who you are.

To help you become a great salesperson, I’ve listed below my 10 best sales tips I feel everyone in sales needs to embrace if they want to move to the top of the food chain.

You may think you’re successful already, but is it because of your skills or what you sell? Just because you have a hot product everyone wants and you’re closing deals like crazy, don’t go thinking you’re a great salesperson.

Arrogance is a disease and the result of arrogance is a failure to see the real world.

Sales is a great profession. Each year I’m in sales, I become more passionate about it.  The reason my passion increases is I see it as being all about helping others. Sure, the financial rewards can be great, but that’s only a numeric scorecard.

The real reward is when you help others achieve something they didn’t think was possible.  Regardless of what you sell, it’s about helping others achieve something.  For me that is the sole reason I get jazzed about doing what I do.

You ask, “What does it take to become a great salesperson?”

Here’s my list of the 10 best tips you need to focus on if you want to become a great salesperson.  As you read the list, you’ll notice the word “passion” is not on the list. The reason is simple — passion is an outcome of what I believe will happen when you commit yourself to the 10 things listed.

1. Personal Discipline

This means having a plan and sticking to it. Sales is a game of consistency. You have to be able to remain focused on your objectives in both good times and bad times.

2. Repeat

One of the biggest things salespeople fail to do is follow-up and follow-through on what they say they’re going to do. This is not only key in nurturing customers, but also in staying committed during the prospecting phase.  The customer isn’t going to wait for you. It’s up to you reach them.

3. It’s about the Customer. It’s NOT about You.

Customers don’t care about you. They have their own problems and that’s what they want help handling. When we remove from our mindset our pride and shift to thinking about the customer, it’s amazing the insights we’ll develop.

4. Leverage Your Personality

Sales is a people business, and when we allow our personality to come through, it’s amazing how much better we connect with others.

5. Ask Great Questions

We’ll become far more respected based on the questions we ask rather than on the information we share.  We’re not going to find out the customer’s needs if we’re doing all the talking. It’s a simple concept, yet overlooked far too often.

6. Value Your Time

The most valuable asset we have is our time, and how we choose to use it determines our results. We will never become the best we can be if we’re spending our time focused on non-productive activities.

7. Never Stop Learning

The smart people are smart because they know they have to continually be learning. An objective I’ve had for years is to learn something new each day.

8. Have Mentors and Peers

We become a product of our environment. Successful people associate with successful people.   This might mean there are people from whom you need to disconnect, but doing so will change your environment and your thinking for the better.

9. Personal Ownership

It’s not someone else’s fault.  That’s what low performers think, and it’s even an excuse average performers use.  Customers don’t want to do business with people who blame others. They want to do business with people who take ownership and make it happen.

10. Integrity and Trust

I list this last for a reason. To me this is the most important one of the 10 and the one that must be the foundation from which the other nine are built on.  When we live a life of integrity and trust, we have no regrets. We have a sense of peace others will see.  Integrity and trust are two things everyone will say they have, yet I believe these qualities are only valid if we see them in how they live.

There you have it! My list of the 10 best sales tips to becoming a great salesperson.

I want you to study the list. Think through how you will apply the list and then go out and live the list.  When you do, I know you will achieve results far greater than you’re achieving now.

A coach can help you excel in your sales career! Invest in yourself by checking out my coaching program today!

Copyright 2018, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog. Mark Hunter is the author of High-Profit Prospecting: Powerful Strategies to Find the Best Leads and Drive Breakthrough Sales Results

25 Apr 15:56

How to Master the Sales to Customer Success Handoff

by Emily Hackeling

How to master the Sales to Customer Success handoff

Whether you’re managing a customer success team, account management team, or client services team, you know that transitioning customers from your sales team with care is crucial for starting them on the right foot with your business. But the sales-to-account management or customer success handoff is a notoriously delicate process. It typically leads to two problems:

  • Customers feel unappreciated because their information falls through the cracks and they have to repeat themselves.
  • Teams point fingers at each other when something goes wrong because no one knows who’s accountable for what.

In either case, you’re stuck with unhappy customers and teams that grow increasingly distant, and neither of those are healthy for your business.

Whether your account team is tasked with retention, growth, adoption, or all the above, having a thoughtful handoff strategy can unify your teams and help you give customers a better experience — it’s a win-win situation. 😃 Read on for four tips for building a smooth handoff process, straight from customer relationship gurus who have perfected the sales-to-customer success knowledge transfer.

1. “Set relationship management expectations during the sales process.”

– Jeremy Donovan, Head of Sales Strategy & Enablement, CB Insights

Your efforts towards a successful handoff begin in the sales process — right when the relationship with your customer begins. Make sure your sales team lets your customers know what your post-sales relationship will look like before they sign the deal. That way there are no surprises later on down the line when they’re passed into different hands.

  • Will they receive a designated account manager or customer success manager?
  • Will they have a full customer success team to contact for questions?
  • Will they contact your general support line if they need help?

Covering these types of questions early on will help your customers get a feel for the type of relationship they can expect to have with your team.

2. “Learn how your customer defines success.”

– Burke Alder, Customer Success Strategist, ClientSuccess

Every customer has a different end goal, so your team should define success differently for every customer. Find out each customer’s ideal outcome by asking them directly in the sales process, and dig into the details to include when you’re handing them off. It’s easier to instill a sense of confidence in your customers if you know the benchmarks they’re seeking along the road to their end goal:

  • What’s success in the short term?
  • How does that fit into the long-term vision?
  • How do you plan to measure success along the way?
  • What would a failure look like?

3. “The initial conversation between sales and customer success teams might look like a game of 20 questions.”

– Brooke Goodbary, Customer Success Consultant, www.brooke.land

The bits of information your customers share during the sales process are like nuggets of gold. No matter how big your teams are, relying on an ad-hoc transfer of information — i.e. a brief chat or a few forwarded emails — won’t cut it. Build out a list of questions you know you want to capture from every customer during the sales process. That way your customers aren’t stuck repeating themselves to your account managers or customer success managers.

And don’t stop there. Also document context about the sales process itself, so your customer-facing team can use that information to mold their first contact with the customer. Here are a few key questions you should be documenting:

  • What’s the goal of the customer’s business overall, and how do they generate revenue?
  • What are they trying to achieve by using your product or service?
  • Who was the final decision maker? Who wasn’t on board?
  • What parts of your product or service are they most interested in? Least interested in?
  • What were the main hesitations they overcame during the sales process?

4. “Sales and customer success need to have an open dialogue.”

– Chad Horenfeldt, VP of Customer Success, Updater

If you’re going to master the handoff from Sales to Account Management or Customer Success, your teams should get accustomed to sharing their mistakes. If there was a hiccup during the sales demo, or an onboarding presentation that didn’t go so well, teams should swap those stories — not hide them. Having this emphasis on transparency will build trust, bring you closer together, and open up the floor for teammates to help each other handle every situation better. By dedicating a routine time to discuss the relationship between sales and customer success, team leaders can instill a focus on empathy between teams from the top down.

Mastering the Sales to Account Management or Customer Success handoff takes careful planning, troubleshooting to find what works, and most importantly, a team that’s willing to work together. When you find the strategy that works for your team, make it part of everyone’s mission to stick to it! Processes only work when everyone plays along.

25 Apr 15:56

5 Practical Ways to Strengthen Your Sales and Marketing Partnership

by kniemisto

Imagine a world where sales and marketing can actually work together and, in fact, help one another instead of stepping on each others’ toes. A world where roles are clearly defined and prospects enjoy a smooth traversal through the funnel. Never a gap, never a hang-up.

A boy can dream.

Creating a strong partnership between sales and marketing teams has plagued companies since…well, forever. There are a plethora of sticking points that make alignment of any kind a challenge in itself. To muddy the waters even more, organizations are frequently updating their systems and processes, which leads to miscommunication or even worse, no communication at all.

Often times, sales and marketing professionals actually think their jobs are harder because of their counterpart’s “incompetencies.” How many times have you heard sales reps complain about a lack of quality leads? How many marketers have you heard criticizing sales’ aptitude for squandering opportunities they worked so hard to provide? This pessimistic outlook not only makes for awkward company Christmas parties, but it also impacts the buyer journey and, ultimately, the bottom line.

It doesn’t have to be this way. A recent study found that a strong partnership between sales and marketing “results in 208% more value from marketing with 108% less friction.” There are real, practical steps that, when applied, not only keep sales and marketing off each others’ backs but help them work together to achieve their goals and engage with customers in a unified manner.

In this post, I will share five tactics that you can use today to ease the tension between your sales and marketing teams and deliver a joint effort towards driving revenue and winning opportunities.

1. Reward the Team That Wasn’t (Directly) Involved

It’s easy to praise marketing when there’s a success at the top of the funnel. The same goes for sales at the bottom of the funnel. But if each respective team can show their appreciation for their counterpart’s contribution, it reinforces the idea of a communal effort throughout the entire funnel. A little recognition can go a long way, so the next time a deal is closed, make sure the demand generation team gets a shoutout for properly scoring the lead in the first place. And marketers, before you get high and mighty for delivering quality SQL’s, don’t forget that sales works tirelessly to convert those and keep the organization’s engine running.

It sounds almost too simple to be true, but it’s important to remember that we’re human beings working with other human beings. We enjoy feeling valued and recognized for our hard work. Make a point of sharing the fruits of your labor with everyone who played a part, and you’ll be amazed at their willingness to help you be successful again down the road. You can’t move forward as a unified team if you don’t celebrate like one.

2. Keep the Customer at the Core of Your Efforts

As much as we’re talking about helping sales and marketing partner more effectively, that is NOT the end goal. The customer’s satisfaction must be the heartbeat behind whatever actions your teams decide to make. Focusing on what makes your prospect happy can alleviate some of the “us vs. them” tension that arises between sales and marketing. Use the customer’s satisfaction (or lack thereof) as your benchmark, and the partnership between your two teams will improve without having to think too hard about it. Though tempting to focus on quotas and campaign stats, your customers are best served by a joint effort between sales and marketing. When your focus shifts away from personal performance and towards that high-level goal, you’ll be amazed how well your organization will operate.

A joint goal of providing the best content, service, and personalization to pipeline efforts will lead to more collaboration and more open transparency between sales and marketing. Marketing will want to provide sales all the collateral they need because their focus isn’t on simply relaying leads to them, but making sure the lead is taken care of at every stage of their journey. Organizations who can keep customer satisfaction at the forefront of their efforts don’t even have to consider strengthening their sales and marketing partnership; it just happens. 

3. Understand When to Butt in—and When to Buzz Off 

The poor marketer, well-intentioned as she can be, frequently doesn’t know how to act once the lead has been handed off to the sales team. Can she continue to nurture, or will that mess up the flow the sales rep is building? Sales and marketing must reach an understanding—set boundaries on how much will each team engage the prospect, and make sure that each piece of content marketing sends fits into the context that sales has worked hard to create.

This gray area used to be known as “the handoff,” but these days it may be best defined as “mid-funnel” (or MOFU), as there is no longer a definitive moment where marketing walks away from the account and sales picks it up. Because of this, a well-orchestrated cadence of communication must be agreed upon in advance, so marketing knows when outreach will help the sales team, rather than detract from their efforts.

This involves a level of visibility that many companies currently lack. As it stands now, sales teams commonly live in their CRM platform, while marketing operates on their own platforms. Though these systems “talk” to one another, it doesn’t allow either team to easily see what actions the other has taken. As a salesperson, how can you be confident you’re providing your customer valuable and previously unseen information if you don’t know what content the marketing team has already sent them? Without having the ability to see the entirety of information that your prospect has been given, you run the risk of sounding redundant, or worse, impersonal.

4. Clearly Define the Roles of Marketing and Sales and How They Work Together

This goes far beyond simply saying “marketing does X, sales does Y.” Just as a doctor isn’t only a doctor, marketers aren’t just marketers, and salespeople aren’t just that either. To increase productivity (and show your colleagues respect), make sure your sales team is familiar with the different roles and responsibilities of the marketing team. Clearly define for them what demand generation, content marketing, product marketing, customer marketing, and marketing operations are responsible for, and what success looks like for them. Do the same for your marketing team. Make sure they’re up to speed on the ins and outs of the sales team and what responsibilities sales development representatives have, how you define commercial vs. enterprise, and the responsibilities of your account executives and customer success managers. Not only will their team appreciate your attempt to understand their roles and responsibilities, but you’ll save time by knowing exactly who to go to with an issue.

Make sure your cross-departmental processes and protocols include specifics —there should be a documented answer to questions like “who should I go to if I need to track down an ebook we published four years ago?” “When did sales last have a call with this prospect, and what should I send them next?” Set your teams up for success and avoid generalizations whenever possible. This will save time and make your teams more efficient.

5. Operate Under Shared Metrics of Success

If marketing only values lead scores and MQL’s and sales only cares about closed-won opportunities, each team will undoubtedly define success by different standards, accentuating the separation between TOFU and BOFU. To cultivate a healthy partnership that encompasses the full sales funnel, it is critical that both teams align on one to two metrics that definitively stand as measures of success.

Let’s use parenthood as an analogy: each parent has a unique relationship with their child: differing day-to-day responsibilities, styles of communication, etc. These individual roles are important no doubt, but they’re judged as a unit, and only considered “good” parents by a handful of measures: the amount of time they devote to their child, and his/her health and happiness, for example. The exact same logic can be applied to how sales and marketing go about their roles: if the customer’s happiness isn’t the key metric of success for both teams, neither will be as successful as possible, and the overall health of the business will deteriorate. Unifying under a shared vision of what “success” really means assures that each team achieves it.

Conclusion

It may be grandiose to think that sales and marketing will ever have a completely flawless partnership. These two groups will always have different daily responsibilities and character traits that won’t always align in perfect harmony. But by adopting these practices into your organization’s strategy, the improvements in each team’s performance may be drastic. When you stop to think about it, sales and marketing are two sides of the same coin, and with the right attitudes and systems in place, they begin to look and act like a unified revenue machine.

 

The post 5 Practical Ways to Strengthen Your Sales and Marketing Partnership appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

25 Apr 15:56

6 Social Selling Tools to Power Up Your Sales Pipeline

by Jody Glidden

Woman Looking at Social Selling ResultsIn today’s digital economy, many progressive sales and marketing leaders know that social selling provides a serious advantage to those who use it. Without it, your business development team will generate fewer leads, close fewer deals, and struggle to make new contacts.

Why is that? Social media is what your clients are using for research when making purchasing decisions.

According to a study of B2B buyers by Harvard Business Review, 53% of buyers turn to social media for assessing tools and technologies and when making a final selection. If that’s not enough data, consider that B2B buyers often have already made a decision by the time they reach out to you or your company to make a purchase. And according to IDC, 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level/vice president (VP) executives surveyed use social media to make those purchasing decisions.

This presents a major opportunity for your business development team to influence those buyers. By mastering social selling strategies, your team can get in front of more buyers, generating more sales opportunities and influencing their decisions. In fact, LinkedIn has found that social sellers are more successful than their peers, finding that:

  • Social sellers generate 45% more sales opportunities
  • Social sellers are 51% more likely to reach their quota
  • 78% of social sellers outsell their colleagues

Because social selling is imperative for influencing buyers during the research and decision making stage, you’ll need a few tools to help you maximize your social media selling efforts. Below, you can find our favorite social selling tools as well as how each one can help you power up your sales pipeline.

1. LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Imagine you’re going to start a social selling initiative at your organization. You communicate to the team that this is an important tactic for moving buyers through the buyer journey, but then you get asked the dreaded question, “which buyers am I reaching out to?”

It’s a great question, and one that often gets asked when launching social selling programs. The theory behind the tactic is great, but you are often left to wonder “how can I target prospects outside of my network over social media” and “how can I identify potential buyers?”

With more than 546 million professionals in more than 200 countries and a wealth of first-party data, LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a powerful tool that allows you to identify and target your priority prospects and share custom content with them to generate powerful leads. Using the data from its 546 million users, you can search for leads and prospective companies based on size, location, job title, interests, skills, and more. After performing a few lead searches, the tool will recommend leads based on what you’re looking for (see below), making it easy to identify leads that live beyond your personal network.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator Recommended Leads

And before you start to wonder if LinkedIn and your CRM will house different leads, LinkedIn Sales Navigator integrates with CRMs so your new leads and their activity will save to your existing CRM system.

2. Followerwonk

Chances are that your organization is already on social media. And chances are that you have a personal social media profile as well. But while you already have and manage those two networks, how much do you know about the people who follow you? Do you know who they are? What they engage with? How many followers they have themselves? And then there are the networks of your competitors. What types of followers do they have?

Followerwonk can answer those burning questions and more. For example, it can help you:

  • Discover deeper insight into your Twitter analytics (e.g. best time to tweet)
  • See which tweets engage your followers the most
  • Search Twitter bios to find prospects in any industry
  • Compare your account to competitors or industry experts
  • Unfollow users that aren’t following you

Followerwonk Twitter Bio Search

By utilizing Followerwonk’s features, you can better understand your audience on social media and how to engage them, as well as discover new prospects based on the content they’re sharing, who they follow, and more. With this information, your business development team can customize their approach for sharing content over social media, nurturing more leads in the process.

3. 360Social

Let’s say that you didn’t know that a key prospect in your pipeline was on social media. Or, you suspect that they are, but aren’t sure where they’re most active. To find out which social network is your best bet, you would need to do a lot of digging through their social platforms and profiles to try and nail down the right one.

360Social is a free chrome plugin for researching prospects that allows you to see an individual’s social activity across 140 social media platforms. Once the plugin is installed, you can see which channels your prospects or contacts are most active on with the click of a mouse (shown below in red). Instead of wondering where your key prospect lives online, with 360Social you can find, follow, and engage with them in an instant.

360Social Screenshot

But what if 360Social tells you that your prospect isn’t on social? Or, they are, but you don’t have an account on that platform?

If your customers or prospects aren’t active on social media, you’ll know that you might need to resort to more traditional channels of communication like email or a phone call. By knowing the channels of communication that your prospect is most likely to respond to, you have a better chance of reaching them, and thus adding them to your pipeline.

4. Hootsuite

Without regular, insightful posts, your followers may look to others (maybe even your competitors) for helpful content. Posting regularly to your social channels will also help boost your brand awareness as not everyone is on social media at the same time — more posts will be seen by more people.

To help you stay on track, Hootsuite is a great tool for powering up your presence on multiple social media channels. As a social media management tool, Hootsuite makes publishing on any social channel easy by allowing you to schedule posts at optimum times with their handy auto scheduler and allows managers to queue up posts for different channels all from one easy-to-use interface. This helps you post consistently to your networks so prospects and client can see that you’re active on social and post thoughtful content regularly.

Hootsuite Schedule Post Screenshot

You can also set up automated keyword or brand search alerts that aggregate content in a queue for you to review. This can come in handy for keeping an eye on what your competitors are posting. In addition, you can get a good feel for popular hashtags to use within your industry, helping draw people to your posts.

5. Introhive

Today, 84% of buyers start the buying process with a referral. It’s earning those referrals that can prove challenging for any organization. But if you think about it, six degrees of separation are all that’s standing between you and your prospective clients. You’re more connected with prospects than you realize, but you don’t always have the tools to help you mine meaningful relationship intelligence. With so many layers separating the two of you, though, how can you find those common connections?

This is where social selling and relationship intelligence tools like Introhive really shine. Introhive automatically identifies the relationships between your employees, your clients, and prospect accounts. Once all of your relationships have been identified and scored, Introhive then analyzes the network for common connections that your business development team can leverage using traditional communications or social media. Imagine the power of being able to see who in your organization has a strong relationship with a prospect you’re pursuing? Wouldn’t that warm introduction go a long way?

Introhive makes this process easy and allows your team to gain warm introductions to unfamiliar, but key prospects that help accelerate the sales cycle. Plus, this all happens inside of your CRM system, saving you and your team from having to log into yet another tool to enter more data.

Introhive Social Selling Screenshot

6. rFactr

Already on this list, we included a lot of tools designed at helping you find, understand, and engage with the right targets. But what are you supposed to engage them with? Knowing which content to share and how to share it is another critical component to social selling. If your business development team fails to share helpful or relevant content, your audience isn’t going to be listening.

If you need to help your team find relevant content to publish on their social channels, rFactr is the perfect place to go. And it integrates with your CRM. Essentially, rFactr will help your team share the right content, at the right time, with the right person. Thanks to the tools analytics features, your team can see which pieces of content drive the most engagement and which pieces of content have led to closed deals (and those that don’t). Armed with this information, your team can customize their approach, sharing optimized content at certain stages of the buyer journey.

rFactr Posts Dashboard Screenshot

Social Selling is the New Must-Have Skillset

Social selling is a must-have skill for today’s best business development teams as studies show that the most successful business development teams are using it regularly. Not only does it help you make new connections but it can help you deepen the ones you have by enabling you to have genuine conversations online without any pressure to buy for your prospect.

25 Apr 15:56

LinkedIn CRM Sync Gives You Sales Enablement Superpowers: Here's How

by Kylee Lessard
do you know how to use CRM sync to target the right buyers?

Spider-Man and his web-slinging.

The Hulk’s incredible strength.

Iron Man’s brilliant inventions.

Each member of The Avengers has their own power. When combined, they become unstoppable. This dynamic is at the heart of Infinity War, one of the most ambitious blockbuster crossover events in Hollywood history, hitting theaters in late April.

But what does this have to do with sales? While you (probably) don’t have superpowers, much like The Avengers combining forces, selling requires bringing together multiple skills and tools. You want to use every resource available, and if you can combine everything in one place, even better.

The LinkedIn CRM sync feature in Sales Navigator allows you to pair your CRM with Sales Navigator to create a super system. You can automatically link your communication on LinkedIn — InMail, notes, messages — into your CRM, and pull your CRM records into Sales Navigator.

With a little help from The Avengers, we’ll show you how these valuable features allow you to maximize your sales power.

Break Through the Introduction Barriers Like the Hulk

Introducing yourself is one of the most difficult parts of a sale. In fact, 42 percent of salespeople say prospecting is the hardest part of the job, which is why honing your prospecting skills is so important.

How LinkedIn CRM Sync Can Help with Sales Prospecting

Once you’ve synced your CRM with Sales Navigator, you can access the CRM widget. This gives you a wealth of information to help make introductions more easily. The widget also has an intuitive interface that makes it efficient to navigate.

The icebreaker tab offers summaries about prospects, such as articles they’ve shared, mentions in the news, and job changes — information that can be used when engaging a sales prospect for the first time.

You can also use the widget to find new prospects. Under the get introduced tab you’ll find people in your current network who can introduce you to a prospect, offering a straightforward way to map connections to top targets.

Channel Tony Stark to Build Iron-clad Relationships

Now that you’ve conquered the first aspect of best-in-class sales enablement, you need to cultivate the relationship to move your prospect into the buying phase. And although we’re in the relationship selling era, relationship building doesn’t stop with the sale. Once you have a buyer as a client, it is important to continue nurturing that relationship to drive renewals and upsells, in addition to leveraging those relationships to find new prospects.

How LinkedIn CRM Sync Can Help with Relationship Building

By syncing your CRM with Sales Navigator, you’ll have everything in one place. Not only can you stay in touch with your current clients through messages and InMail, you can quickly look for new prospects and leads.

You’ll also have easy access to data and insights about the clients and companies that are most important to you and your sales team. The CRM widget shows company profile information that gives you a quick overview of recommended leads, company news, and a list of your current connections.

Use Your Spidey Senses to Foresee Challenges

One of your most valuable assets is having an intuition for client challenges — and you don’t even need to be a mind reader or have special powers to make this happen.

By gathering as much data as possible, you can gain a sense of a prospect or client’s pain points. This requires connecting with your client regularly and staying on top of industry trends. By simply being aware, you put yourself in a position to strengthen your current relationships and build new ones.

How LinkedIn CRM Sync Can Help with Sales Intelligence

The tools in Sales Navigator allow you to see what is happening in industries as a whole, and with your individual clients.

The CRM widget shows what people are sharing, and helps you track important industry news. Even if a company doesn’t update its LinkedIn Company Page regularly, you can use the CRM widget to look for key stakeholders within the organization and see what they are sharing to get a full sense of their issues and concerns.

Lead the Charge Like Captain America

Moving a prospect through the purchasing cycle requires taking charge. To do so, you need to have your own data in order. If you are currently using multiple systems for sales enablement, you may be wasting time by toggling between programs and managing data manually.

How LinkedIn CRM Sync Can Help with Organization

Is there ever a point in your day where you aren’t balancing multiple projects? Between finding prospects, working leads, maintaining relationships, and closing deals, you’re rarely in one place at one time, mentally or physically. Given this, it’s invaluable to have quick access to the information about everyone you’re working with.

CRM sync enables complete control of data and communication. You have access to the contacts from your CRM along with information from LinkedIn. Instead of bouncing between programs and interfaces, you’ll have the key details in one place to take charge of your sale.

Now that you’re armed with these sales enablement tools, you’re ready to become an Avenger of sales. Use your powers wisely.

Looking for more ways to stay organized and drive results? Download our guide, How to Maximize LinkedIn’s Value with Sales Navigator.

25 Apr 15:56

11 Common Misconceptions about Using Data in Marketing

by Nancy Spektor

geralt / Pixabay

Information is everything in marketing. If you have enough information, you can develop a more effective strategy, reach more customers, and receive higher profits.

You can only ascertain “information” after processing the data itself. Analytics is the key to improving the quality of said information.

In other words, data delivers engagement, efficiency, and accuracy. Strategic data management has already become a cornerstone of a successful marketing strategy for both B2B and B2C.

However, the following outdated misconceptions often undermine the quality of data management.

Common Misconceptions about Marketing With Data

Below, you’ll find the list of the most common misconceptions about using data in marketing. Each one of these can limit your ability to deliver on data-driven goals.

An agency can provide a full view of your customer

While it’s reasonable to bring in an agency to enhance your marketing effort, you will find that no agency is capable of managing your end-to-end customer data.

Agencies use only a fraction of the overall customer data. They are better suited for meeting specific marketing needs, such as social media marketing, content generation, and managing your online ads.

The customer data you have is fine the way it is

Data-driven marketing is built on customer data. Unfortunately, you can’t always rely on customer contact information in your database.

Why? Because people change their contact info very often.

This is why it’s imperative for you to verify and validate customer contact information on a constant basis.

Many businesses turn to data enrichment and predictive analytics tools to make this happen.

Your marketing data warehouse is sufficient to support data analytics needs

A data warehouse is the central hub where a business stores all of its data. Many marketers have the misconception it can effectively manage content from a diverse range of data sources, including social media and digital notes.

Realistically, it cannot. Limit the use of your marketing data warehouse to storage, and use the data in it for reporting and intelligence.

Data-driven decisions are sufficient for quality marketing

Your organization will make the right decision by adopting data-supported decision making for your marketing efforts.

However, many companies stop there. This is a big mistake.

You can only deliver on quality data-driven marketing by making a long-term commitment. In addition, you will need to invest in exploring new sources of getting data and methods of its use.

The answer to everything is more data

Given that data delivers engagement and accuracy, many marketers think that the more data they have, the better their marketing strategy will be.

However, this is not necessarily true. The heart of a quality data-driven strategy is using better data, not more data.

In other words, choose quality over quantity.

Marketing data is all a marketer needs

“According to this misconception, many marketers overly rely on data provided by marketing applications,” says Matt Brown, a marketer from A-writer.

Doing so is a mistake. This very specific data is merely one part of the overall data that is relevant to one’s marketing.

For example, by focusing on data from marketing applications, you might disregard social media data, customer service data, and sales data.

Clearly, you’ll be better off by focusing on a more comprehensive analysis. Marketing data alone is no longer enough.

Your product data is fine the way it is

Data marketers often make the mistake of assuming that their product data is of high quality and sufficient for understanding customers.

Just like customer data, product data should be updated on a regular basis. For example, it can be missing information, contain inaccuracies, and even be outdated.

First-party data is all a marketer needs

To a certain degree, this assumption may be true only for data about people visiting your site and engaging with your content. Aim to combine first-party data should with conversion data, in order to provide the most relevant and helpful information output.

Data-driven marketing can slow you down, because it is complicated

A survey by a popular marketing news resource Relevance found that 69 percent of marketers viewed data-driven marketing as an effective tool for making their work more efficient.

Complicated or not, when applied correctly, data-driven marketing wins for efficiency of execution and post-campaign analysis.

Customer service should hold all customer data

A strong data-driven marketing strategy cannot exist with all customer data owned by another group. Why? Because this approach naturally leads to data silos, where one group controls quality and access.

To eliminate this problem, one needs to integrate different databases of customer information across the organization.

Data marketing is all about technology

While technology is important for eliciting insights from the data to support your marketing strategy, the right people and culture are equally important factors.

You need employees who know what to do with the data, how to analyze it, and how to keep it clean. You also need processes in place to encourage the right use of the data and resources.


Feature Image Credit: CC 0; Public Domain. View original feature image on Pixabay.com.

24 Apr 16:10

How Brands Can Minimize Discounts

by Guest Author

How Brands Can Minimize Discounts

Thousands of businesses ‘accidentally’ give customers more discount than the profit they make on certain individual products or services.

To counter this is painful fact, it is important to recognize that discounting is a valid tool in the salesperson’s armory and one that must be well managed.

In a perfect world a business would be able to charge a unique price to each individual customer based on all of the factors affecting them; ie their assessment of the value of the item, their ability to pay and perhaps the urgency to them. There may be 100 unique factors affecting each customer’s perception of their side of the Value Scales.

If I can charge customer A a maximum of $100 for a product, but customer B is happy to pay $150 for the same item, then I want to charge them each their respective maximum.

What stops us from doing that is a variety of factors including the complexity of having different prices for different customers, and perhaps our own moral judgement of fairness. We also fear being found out by customer B and having no apparent justification for the differential.

In many businesses we get around these issues by charging the same headline price to all customers but giving varying discount levels to achieve the same thing. There is nothing wrong with this at all. This is as close as most businesses can get to the profit-maximizing approach of charging each customer a unique price.

The problem with this situation is all the points covered above. That is, there is no structure to the process, no control over individuals giving the discounts and no scoring of the amounts to understand what this costs the business each year, on each product line or for each customer.

So don’t feel you have to abandon discounting as a tool to flex price properly for your different customers. It is a valid tool but it needs very careful management, and must be designed into your overall pricing strategy.

Every Brand Needs A System For Discounting

Businesses need to get much greater control over the issue. That means better systems and procedures, tighter rules and regulations, and discipline for the frontline people who actually give this money away. It is just too easy in most businesses to give discounts, and the pain associated with the press of a computer button or the stroke of a pen on the invoice simply doesn’t equate to the actual amount of pain that should be felt from the drop in profit that follows the drop in price. If we can get the people on the frontline of a business to agree with the simple logic of the need to control discounts when they are real cash amounts it is very hard for them to ignore this logic when it is only a number on a page or computer screen.

Minimizing discounts is a critical area of pricing strategy.

You must quantify the discounts that you give away, and have good rules or systems to control them.

Changing the way you use discounts as a tool to flex price for different customers is a valid pricing strategy, providing it is properly controlled and understood by all salespeople and any others involved in the process.

Here’s seven ways brands can manage discounts:

1. Quantify the amount of discounts that you are currently giving. Get the finance team to determine the full list price value of all that you sell and compare this with the turnover that you actually achieve. Set up a system that scores this in as much detail as possible; ie certainly in total, but perhaps by salesperson, by branch, by product line, by customer, etc, if this is possible with your accounting software.

2. Set time-bound targets on how much you want this reduced by (globally or by the same subcategories as in 1) and equate this to the impact on profits of successfully achieving it; ie a drop in discounts of 5 per cent might be an increase in profits of 50 per cent.

3. Develop discount rules for your business. For example:

  • Discount levels for various team members, such as counter staff are only authorized to give discounts up to 10 per cent without manager approval, managers can go to 20 percent without director’s approval, etc.
  • Discounts not available where a customer account is outside of terms. That is, pay on time or pay more.
  • Discounts must never be more than the profit margin being made.
  • Discounts only with a minimum spend of say $100 or $1,000.

4. Once these rules have been approved by the CEO or finance team, have the pricing team design a roll-out plan so that the rules are communicated to the sales force, and in turn they communicate it to the customers.

5. Undertake discount-strategy training with all frontline people. Every one of those people must be able to explain the discount versus volume chart, and the other discounting issues covered. To demonstrate the magnitude of the discounting topic to your business, consider getting an average month’s discount in real hard cash and putting it on the table during training.

6. Make someone responsible for this cost, a Discount Controller. Get them to identify who gives the most away, what are the most common reasons for giving that discount, are some customers getting too much? Make it their job to manage the cost down. In most businesses someone newly recruited at a cost of $30k a year could easily pay for themselves by tackling the issue properly.

7. Involve your HR people and link salespeople’s performance-incentive pay to the gross margin achieved (after discounts) so they are driven to hold their nerve and limit the discounts they give.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Peter Hill, excerpted from his book Pricing For Profit in partnership with Kogan Page publishing.

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24 Apr 16:09

Customer Experience, Where It is Now, and Where It Will Go Next

by Brian Solis

Leo Bertelli was gracious enough to invite me for an interview on the state and future of CX.  The conversation was so engrossing that I wanted to share it with you here. I hope it helps you!

What do you think have been the most significant advances in CX in previous years?

You can’t talk about customer experience if you don’t appreciate what the word experience means – and as the author of a book on experience design, I struggled a lot to find some satisfying definitions and build on them.

You look at all these experts wielding their CX wands, trying to inspire companies to change; most of them have never taken a step back and asked themselves: what does experience mean, what do customers actually experience and what do we want them to experience? These are the most important questions to start your conversation.

A person’s experience can be summarized in a series of moments – if you want to understand the entire experience you have to address every feeling that is expressed in a certain moment instead of looking at it as a whole. If these moments are left to chance the picture is distorted – that’s what I think we’re missing at the moment.

As an analyst, anthropologist and a human being, I think the best experiences in our lives are recorded as memories – and that’s what we like talking about.

The main challenges around CX can seem obvious at the moment — what do you think is the most under-acknowledged challenge that brands are facing?

What’s happening today is many brands are trying to either improve their moments or modernize them. That could be through mobile, chatbots, AI, even VR and AR.

We tend to associate these new features with good experiences – so we do our best to make them frictionless and delightful. But I think we need to understand the meaning of ‘experience’ before we start executing – I want people to feel the moments first, and then design the experience around them.

Last year I wrote a series of follow-on articles after publishing X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, which introduces the idea of an experience style guide. We already have brand style guides in place which tell you what a brand should look like, but as consumers become more demanding and discerning, we will have to consider brands as a sum of experiences.

For example, if you go to Disneyland, you’ll see the park is a manifestation of experience architecture. I‘ve never seen a purer form of CX before, from the trashcans and the concrete to the building facades, all the way to the uniforms in the park, everything is designed to evoke a profound emotional response.

But if you visit Disney.com, you lose that depth and design of imagineering. If you go into a Disney hotel it feels like you’re completely disconnected from that magical experience. It’s easy to realize that the people who designed the e-commerce experience aren’t the same as the ones who created their “small world”.

I think we have a lot of work to do when it comes to designing and connecting experience design – very few brands think about how it works, how people interact with each other to create these moments.

How do you design the ideal experience? Is it possible to over-engineer this?

Any experience should be natural, desirable and sought after – I don’t think you could over-engineer something that matters to people if you understand what’s important to them.

What we’re seeing at the moment is people who are trying to create something that woos you, engages you or entertains you – we are witnessing the age of manufactured engagement.

Every experience has to begin with ‘what does the individual prefer and value?’ in order to work – just think about how many emails you have to delete every day; people are trying to reach you without understanding you and that’s a problem.

How about joining the dots between online and offline experiences?

This is an area where too many brands are still paying lip service without executing their actions properly. We can’t have the conversation about online, offline and the transcendent experience between the two because we haven’t looked at what our customers value, love, desire and how they behave. Once we do, we can find opportunities to design new, better, unified experiences online and in the real world.

This is what I usually call the experience divide. We should start by asking what’s our brand promise and then mapping the customer experience against that promise. If you do this you’ll quickly unravel the experience divides your company has. You’ll find out exactly where you’re failing and why.

This divide represents the reason why consumers are bypassing traditional means to get the experience they want.

I’ve done a lot of work with Google in the past couple of years for example, discussing the way in which empowered customers makes decisions and how their core values motivate them to take the next step – from their standpoint, brands are in dire risk of losing to the next generation of consumers.

What are the best examples of innovation in customer experience that you have seen?

To be honest I always defer this question because it’s important to understand the mission in CX, which is designing your customer’s experience.

I think a better question to ask or answer is: What is valuable to the people we’re trying to reach, and how do we create experiences that matter to them?

When we look at brands and how they are delivering the experiences, we tend to get very tactical and technological very fast. We don’t explore enough about the trends happening behind the scenes.

This is very important as it shapes our digital transformation now. We are adding to existing experiences without fixing what’s broken and inventing or creating what’s new upon blank slates.

If we don’t fix that core problem which lies underneath the experience – such as lack of communication or collaboration internally, dated and disconnected touch points, aimless journeys, etc., we risk operating in a culture detached from what’s actually happening and is instead only focused on conversions, reach, and shareholder value. There’s much to fix and even more opportunities for innovation on every front.

These are the questions I’m exploring at the moment – how can we fix that? How can we build something new? What can we borrow from our archetypes of experience in order to create something new, and better?

Where do you see CX growing and evolving in the next 5x years?

As experience architects, we have to start looking into the smallest places where CX is already benchmarked and build them into entire customer journeys.

Uber is often cited as an example of innovation and disruption. But what they’ve actually done, which is “breakthrough” innovative, but rarely mentioned, is changing the benchmark for a great customer experience when using an app as an integrated service.

So in many ways, whether you’re a dentist or a bank, you’re competing with Uber in terms of experiential standards. It’s fast, transparent, personal, frictionless, and evolving.

In the next few years, we have to look at where people are having great experience individually in order to integrate that in our services…especially outside of our industry. We will see our customers from entirely new viewpoints – and that will already be a massive step forward in itself.

Tell us a bit more about your latest book X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, and what you’re working on next?

It feels like the book just came out yesterday as I haven’t been able to move on from that moment. In a way, the book was transformative for myself as an author because it forced me to change – you can’t talk about designing experiences for a digital economy if you’re not willing to disrupt yourself.

I found it ironic that I was going to ask readers to challenge their own conventions and beliefs and re-imagine experiences for a new world yet I was going to do so in basic book form.

X to me was a culmination of innovation – it took me about 3 and a half years to turn the concept into something tangible, and the process changed every aspect about how I operate, think and write. I learned from mobile behaviors and app UX and UI and translated those insights onto paper.

To follow that book up is almost too great a task – in fact, I’ve been trying to figure out what to do next that surpasses the effort. In the meantime, X has never been more timely and I’m giving it my full support.

Brian Solis

Brian Solis is principal analyst and futurist at Altimeter, the digital analyst group at Prophet, Brian is world renowned keynote speaker and 7x best-selling author. His latest book, X: Where Business Meets Design, explores the future of brand and customer engagement through experience design. Invite him to speak at your event or bring him in to inspire and change executive mindsets.

Connect with Brian!

Twitter: @briansolis
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The post Customer Experience, Where It is Now, and Where It Will Go Next appeared first on Brian Solis.

24 Apr 16:09

Facebook Marketing for B2B Businesses: Everything You Need to Know

by Ana Gotter

Some businesses have it easy when it comes to getting likes on Facebook; others will have a little more of a challenge. Accounting firms, after all, aren’t as inherently glamorous as the hottest restaurants or boutiques that house the latest fashions.

B2B Facebook marketing is a little more of a challenge than B2C Facebook marketing for this very reason, with B2B businesses having their work a bit more cut out for them. This isn’t LinkedIn, after all, and when most people use Facebook, the last thing they’ll be automatically thinking about is work. It may take a little more effort to get them there.

It is, however, more than possible to rock Facebook marketing as a B2B business when you understand how to do it and implement the correct strategies. In this post, we’re going to show you exactly how to get results and build an engaged community with B2B Facebook marketing in a way that feels organic and authentic.

Tell Stories

It’s easy to create emotional attachments to some types of B2C businesses. The jewelry store where you bought your fiancé her engagement ring will always have a special place in your heart, and it’s easy to want to stay up to date with the art studio that hosts painting classes you love with your friend.

This emotional connection can be harder to establish for B2B customers, because business isn’t as inherently emotional as the experiences we have in our personal life. Think about it this way: are you more loyal to your hair dresser, or the business card supplier you use?

Stories can help you build that emotional connection and the type of customer relationship you need to create a Facebook community and long-lasting client relationships. You can tell both your brand’s story and, by extension, the stories of your customers. Sometimes you can do both at the same time.

An example of B2B brand storytelling that will do well on Facebook includes Freshbooks, which uses case studies of successful businesses who use their accounting software to showcase to tell their customers’ stories and show how valuable their platform is.

B2B marketing

Use More Video

Almost every social media post that you read right now will at least mention video. Video gets more engagement than other types of posts without it, and it can help you portray more information in a shorter amount of time. This is true for both video ads and organic video that appear in users’ feeds.

Even more importantly, storytelling and video go hand-in-hand. Fifteen seconds of video gives you a lot more room to tell a lot more story than a text-based post, which can be overwhelming to read and is more likely to lose user interest.

The video below from Salesforce is a strong example of how to use compelling stories in video format if you’re a B2B business. They tell several different stories of conference attendees, explaining first who they were so you developed an attachment to them, and then to how the program affected them.

Go Live

We’ve already mentioned that people sometimes have trouble connecting with B2B businesses the same way they do with B2C businesses. Because it requires a certain amount of professionalism, it can be difficult to show your authentic personality. The way around this is to feature the actual, real people behind the brand.

An excellent strategy you can use for this purpose is Facebook Live.

Facebook Live is broadcasted in real time, and it’s a fantastic way to show users your actual personality. It’s not edited, and even if it’s scripted, you’ll able to still be reacting in the moment to user questions and anything else that comes up.

And, after your live is over, you can even save it and share it to your feed later so other users can check it out even if they missed it the first time.

It’s also worth noting that lives get higher than average engagement and views, giving your content even more of an edge.

Consider Creating Groups

If your business has enough momentum, consider creating private Facebook groups for customers only. You can offer the group to certain high-tiered customers, or to all customers. Within this group, you can invite users to ask questions that will be answered by experts on your staff.

Imagine having a private, customer-only group for an accounting firm that can answer basic customer questions during tax time, like “When is the deadline?” and “How do I claim a home office deduction?”

This is an excellent way to offer additional value to your customers through Facebook, and since group postings show up more often than other types of posts in users’ feeds, it can give you a distinct edge. After all, your value to B2B customers may come more in the form of educating them than entertaining them.

AdEspresso is one business that does this exceptionally well. Members of the AdEspresso University get full access to a private group, where all your Facebook Ad questions can be answered by a panel of AdEspresso Ad Experts.

This can work on a much smaller scale, too. The Facebook group “Finance School for the Self Employed” is run by a freelance CPA named Katelyn Magnuson, who uses the group to subtly promote her services and courses for self-employed people. She answers accounting questions, and builds strong relationships that encourages users to book her. Since she does remote work, this is an excellent way to attract clients. Overtime, people engage and post on their own, which is a tell-tale sign of an excellent community.

B2B Facebook marketing

Adjust Your Ad Strategies

Unsurprisingly, B2B Facebook Ads will look a lot different than the average B2C ad. There’s several things that you should keep in mind.

This includes targeting the right people. You aren’t just going after certain demographics, after all– your product and brand serves a distinct purpose. Freshbooks helps small businesses with invoicing software, while Agorapulse helps with social media management. Each of these businesses may be targeting different types of audience members.

Freshbooks, for example, might run ad campaigns targeting self-employed individuals, or those who list themselves as freelancers.

B2B marketing for Facebook

Agorapulse might target social media practitioners or business owners. Essentially, you’ll try to target users who are likely to not only work for the organizations you want to gain as clients, but will be the decision makers who would actually select you.

You should also keep in mind that ad campaigns may focus on different pain points than B2C campaigns, though pain points will depend on industry and size of the business. A small business, for example, will be more concerned with affordability and low cost than a large corporation.

Some examples of pain points or appeals may include:

  • Scaling and growing in size
  • Outsourcing tasks
  • Time management, or products that can streamline tasks
  • Finding high quality services, regardless of cost (especially for larger businesses)

Final Thoughts

B2B Facebook marketing doesn’t have to be boring– and it shouldn’t be. Instead, you should show the human side of your business with storytelling and brand building, while putting effort into building relationships with your audience. Being accessible to your audience to solve their problems and show them what makes your business tick (you!), you’ll be able to set yourself apart from the competition and build both a following and an engaged community.

24 Apr 16:07

Value-Based Pricing’s Senior Statesman Tom Nagle on the Skills Needed for Pricing Expertise

by Steven Forth
blog_interviews_tom.png

Check out Ibbaka's Self Assessment Tool for Pricing Excellence

Tom Nagle is the source of many of the ideas and frameworks used in pricing strategy. His book (with many co-authors over the years) The Strategy and Tactics of Pricing is now in its Sixth Edition and remains the foundational text for pricing experts. I keep a copy on my kitchen table and another beside me in my office. We even have a reading group for people who want to work through the new edition together. So as we plunged deeper into our research into the skills required for pricing expertise we wanted to speak with Tom.

This interview is part of the joint Ibbaka and TeamFit research project on skills for pricing excellence. The results of this research will be presented at the Professional Pricing Society Spring Workshops and Conference in Chicago May 1 through 4. We have also interviewed Chris Herbert of SV Pricing (the top recruiting firm for pricing experts) and Tim Smith of Wiglaf Pricing. To widen our perspective, we also spoke with top sales coach Reg Nordman of Rocket Builders.

Ibbaka: What skills do pricing experts need today?

Tom: I would like to start by answering your other question about the barriers to companies adopting effective pricing strategies. One needs to understand this before talking about skills. I am going to talk mostly about B2B as that is where a lot of my experience is, but we need to learn from all of the different industries and business models.

Most companies have a short-term view of pricing. They evaluate deals as “one-offs” against profit hurdles and manage discounts based upon authority levels to make “price exceptions”. This is a short-sighted approach. One needs to take a holistic approach when pricing and realize that each deal impacts all the others. There may be a few exceptions to this, like highly customized services where every customer is buying something unique, but in most businesses each deal will impact others in the future. This is truer today than ever before, as information gets more and more transparent and you can assume that your customers will know the prices you gave to other companies. Each deal is part of your go-to-market strategy for a market segment. You can try to position the deal as an ‘exception’ or as a ‘one-off deal’ but your customers will see through this. The pricing risk to other deals should be part of how each deal is assessed. Instead of policies that focus on who can make exceptions, they need to develop policies for discounting that is transparent and based upon trade-offs between price and the variation in the product or service the customer will receive (e.g., terms) or what they will do for the seller (e.g., purchase volume commitment).

Another thing that companies need to do is to track win/loss performance. It is surprizing how few companies do this. They often have data on their wins, but there is a lot to be learned from losses. Companies sometimes justify discounts by saying that ‘we discounted and won this deal’ when in fact they lost other deals with the same discount. You judge the success of your policies and their profitability, as well as anticipate turns in a market, by watching your win/loss ratio.

Another problem is that most companies do not manage profit. Understanding costs is important to pricing. Most companies do this very poorly and do not really understand their costs at a granular level and how these interact. Sales and marketing are seen as being responsible only for revenues. Some combination of human resources and the supply chain is responsible for managing variable cost per unit. Operations is responsible for capital costs and utilization. By assigning responsibility for these three elements of profit to different functions, top management assumes they are managing profit because they are managing revenue, variable costs, and fixed costs. After all, revenue less the variable costs and fixed costs equals profit, right?

The problem with this is the interactions between the three. Sales and marketing are making decisions that impact costs but are measured only on managing revenue. At the same time, operations is often making decisions that impact the attractiveness of the offer, its positive differentiation value, without understanding how this will effect price. It takes a lot of data and work to connect all of these together and these connections are not part of typical accounting systems. They are key, however, to building price structures and policies that maximize a firm’s profit realization.

One has to be able to answer the question ‘What impact will changes and variations have on the costs?’ In most cases, sales and marketing cannot answer this question and so do not have the information or incentives they need to optimize profit when making pricing decisions.

Finally, I am often asked, ‘Should we set our prices higher or lower?’ Before you answer this question, you have to know who you are selling to?’ ‘How are they getting value?’ ‘How do they perceive value?’ In other words, you have to segment your customer based on value before you can set value-based prices. This is a new concept for many people. Pricing experts have to have a deep understanding of the different value drivers and how they work across different markets. Understanding value and value drivers are central to pricing.

Ibbaka: Once you get people thinking more strategically about pricing, what skills do they need to execute?

Tom: One of the missing skills sets is management accounting, which is usually different from the arbitrary “cost accounting” that companies use to value inventories for tax purposes. People in pricing should be able to do at least rough calculations of costs and how they interact. This is an essential skill to know what trade offs you are making and how they will effect profitability. When costs all get dumped into overhead one cannot see the real consequences of price changes.

Another key skill set is identifying the appropriate market research technique for what you need to understand about the impact of your product or serve on value for the customer. Before investing in marketing research, the pricing expert needs to do qualitative research into how the customer gets value and what the customer values.

Some common techniques, like Van Westendorp, are basically useless. Others, like conjoint, can help you understand the relative value of specific features for a segment, but are useless to understanding overall market price elasticity. That usually requires some sort of real market test.

Ibbaka: Are there skills that are becoming more important?

Tom: In industries where there are a lot of transactions, we have new ways to analyze data. A company that can see market changes before competitors do can gain a huge competitive advantage. In the beer industry, Anheuser Busch was the master of this. Wal-Mart was the leader in retail.  Now Amazon appears to have the lead.  The best companies use data to understand the sales cycle and so are better able to manage inventories so they can avoid either too little or too much inventory to meet demand—either of which cost profit.

Ibbaka: Are the lessons from retail being applied to B2B?

Tom: This is happening, but slower than one would have expected. One place it is happening is elevators. For example, Otis has put really good diagnostics into its elevators. It is able to service them before they breakdown. This means Otis has a much higher likelihood of retaining the contract to service its elevators.  Because it is confident it will win the service contract it can price more competitively on the up-front sale. Data is enabling new pricing strategies.

Ibbaka: When you are looking to hire new pricing consultants what do you look for?

Tom: Pricing is something that needs experience. People need to work on many different pricing projects over the years to get the knowledge they need to advise on pricing strategy.

Of course, people need some quantitative skills. They have to be able to analyze data. But just as important is the ability to find and organize data and to do so in creative ways. The real skills here are to understand the problem, ask clarifying questions, and then structure hypotheses. Once one has gotten the structure of the problem clear one can generally find or collect data to make an informed decision. Having at least some data, even if only qualitative, is always better then making decisions in ignorance. Many years ago when I was a student I took an econometrics course. I was not looking forward to it, but the instructor introduced me to Bayesian approaches. The Bayesian approach can really help one to structure problems.

Ibbaka: Yes, now that you say this I can see Bayesian thinking in how Economic Value Estimation is structured. The Next Best Competitive Alternative is a sort Bayesian prior. EVE is a way to structure questions about the value a product provides a customer.

Tom: I think of this as hypothesis-based accounting. The goal is to structure the problem to make clear what hypotheses you need to test. You can’t know everything and you don’t want to. You don’t want to boil the ocean to cook a fish.

Ibbaka: What are other skills that pricing professionals need within an organization?

Tom: Pricing professionals need social skills because pricing has such broad, cross-functional impact within a company. Sometimes rather than hiring a whiz-bang analyst with all the newest quantitative skills one is better off promoting a person who knows people and understands their relationships and who can get stuff implemented in the organization. Then you send that person for training or hire pricing consultants to work with that person to teach him or her what structures, policies, and processes need to be implemented to improve pricing within a particular organization.

Ibbaka: How will strategic pricing change over the next decade? What new skills will be needed?

Tom: There will inevitably be more and more data and we will get better at processing it and finding the relevant patterns. But what will really matter is making decisions with this data. That will generally be a team exercise.

The best companies I work with tend to have very international teams. People who come different backgrounds and have different skill sets. One of the most important skills will be the ability to work with cross-functional and cross-cultural teams to make effective decisions. No one person can have all the answers or even know all the questions to ask. What is really important is to be able to build the team that can ask the questions, then goes out and finds the answers so they can execute.

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24 Apr 16:07

After You Ask This One Question, You Can Ask Your Prospect Anything

by pcaputa@hubspot.com (Pete Caputa)

Questions are the key to sales. From the first insightful question that makes a prospect think, "This person might have something to offer me," to the ones that get a prospect to realize, "We need what this company has," to when you finally hit pay dirt and prospects say, "Yes! We are ready to solve this problem once and for all," questions are what drive a sales process forward.

Unfortunately, most people hesitate to ask the tough questions that challenge a prospect to think critically and differently about their situation and help a prospect visualize a better outcome or a surer path to their end goal. Why? Because these same questions challenge the status quo, piss off change-resistant influencers, and potentially offend decision makers.

In addition to being unsure how to ask the question, many salespeople suffer from what Dave Kurlan has dubbed a "need for approval." But it's not their prospects' feelings they care about. Salespeople don't ask difficult questions because they're afraid to lose the deal. They choose ignorance not because of their kindness and concern, but because of their fear and selfishness.

Okay. Hopefully I've made you feel guilty now. (See? You're already reaping the benefits of me suppressing my need for approval.) Are you ready to do the right thing for your prospect -- which just so happens to also be the right thing for you?

How I Learned to Ask Tough Questions

I first learned about the "need for approval" as one of many sales weakness when I hired Rick Roberge as a sales coach.

My objective management group sales assessment showed that I had a slight need for approval. I was afraid of rocking the boat with prospects, and believed they needed to like me to hire me. I'm not suggesting that people will do business with salespeople who they don't like. But we don't actually need our prospects to like us -- as much as we need them to respect us. And when establishing respect is in opposition to maintaining your likeability, you must risk sacrificing likeability.

When business relationships begin, they are often full of pleasantries. Prospects usually start conversations about things that are safe for them to share. They'll use positive words and are more comfortable talking about strengths and goals.

But to really get to the heart of why a prospect needs (or doesn't need) your solution, you need to get past the niceties and identify their priority issues. Salespeople must ask the questions that get prospects to open up about areas of concern, frustrating challenges, and personal consequences of inaction.

Over a year or so of coaching, Rick helped me overcome my need for approval. He taught me multiple things I could do when it felt risky to ask the tough questions. One of the most effective things he taught me is a simple question that allowed me to get permission from a prospect to ask the question. This lesson has served me well over the years -- you can learn to use it below.

I might have gotten over my need for approval a bit too well, actually. Years later, I remember a conversation with HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan where he said, "The problem with you is that you don't really care what other people think of you."

The truth is, I do care -- deeply. But when people hide the truth or stand in the way of achieving an important goal, I am willing to risk being liked. Too many people are afraid to risk their jobs or relationships to ask the tough questions, call out their peers, or challenge their boss's point of view, and that's understandable.

But a salesperson has less to lose: A deal instead of a job. Salespeople who ask tough questions of prospects, especially when those prospects are decision makers, usually earn respect and ultimately more business.

How Asking Tough Questions Uncovers a Prospect’s Compelling Reasons to Buy

Another one of Roberge's students, Carole Mahoney, became an independent sales and marketing consultant herself a few years ago. At her firm Unbound Growth, she is passing along Roberge's approach to her students.

One of her students, Michael Douglas, recently published an article explaining how he finally got over his need for approval and how that benefited him and his client.

In a meeting Douglas recently had, with his boss along as an observer, he learned the value of risking likeability to earn respect. Here's a transcript of the meeting:

MD: Alright, so we have this list of agenda items that you provided before the meeting. Where would you like to start?
Prospect: Let’s start here. [Points to the first item.]
MD: Okay, why do we want to start here?
Prospect: [Chuckling] Well, I guess because it’s first on the list.
MD: Is it the most important?
Prospect: Well, it’s all important.
MD: Okay, so help me out here. If you were to rank this in terms of value -- low, medium or high -- where would it fall?
Prospect: I don’t know. Probably low to medium.
MD: [After a pretty long pause.] You don’t know me very well. But if you decide you want to know me better after today, you will learn I am a very transparent guy. I have a question, but I am afraid to cross the line. If I ask it, and you think I crossed the line, will you tell me?
Prospect: [Looking at Michael with a puzzled look] Well, I am a transparent guy too so yeah, I’ll tell you. What’s your question?
MD: You don’t seem like the type of guy that flies by the seat of his pants. You have two hours scheduled with us today. You have brought in your team. Why would you commit that kind of time and resources to something that is a low to medium priority?
Prospect: [Looks down thoughtfully at the list]. Well, the first agenda is a medium to low for me, but a medium to high for my team. But the third one on this list is my highest priority right now. Our CEO is on me to fix that.

Don't think you could pull that off? Did you feel your stomach wrenching as Douglas persisted even after the prospect resisted answering his question the third time he asked it? How about the fourth time? Nerves and all, I bet you can do it too.

And I bet you'll have the same result. If you need further encouragement, keep in mind that there were two senior executives in the room, and the company has $22B in annual revenue. The executive Douglas was challenging has a direct line to the CEO. If he can persist in this situation, so can you.

How to Get Permission to Ask Tough Questions

As demonstrated by the transcript of Douglas' meeting, the key to asking a tough question or challenging a prospect on something is to get permission first. There's multiple ways to ask for permission, but the best way to preface it is warn them of your intent and ask them if it's okay to proceed. Here's another way that you can more generally set up the tough question:

You: There's something I feel I should ask you. I think it's in your best interest for me to ask it. But I'm worried that it will upset you. [Pause here.] 
Prospect: What is it?
You: I think this question is important. I won’t be able to help you effectively if I don't ask it. But I'm worried that you'll be upset. If I ask it, will you promise not to be upset?
Prospect: I don't know if I can promise that, but I'm pretty tough.
You: Will you at least tell me if I upset you?
Prospect: Yes. I can promise that.
You: [Ask your question.]

You can even do a head fake and suggest that you’re not going to ask them:

You: Oh. You know what. Nevermind. Let’s keep going.
Prospect: No. What’s your question?
You: Can you promise you won’t get mad?
Prospect: Yes. Fine, I promise.
You: Okay. [Ask your question.]

Bonus: How to Ask Forgiveness When You Do Upset a Prospect

Some of you are thinking, "I still can't do that." If you still think you’ll crash and burn, prepare yourself to ask for forgiveness too. Here's an example of what that sounds like:

You: A few minutes ago, I feel like I really upset you and it changed the course of our call. Did I screw up?
Prospect: No. It’s fine.
You: Are you sure? Did I offend you with the question I asked or was it something else?
Prospect: Yes, the question felt a bit invasive.
You: Can we rewind a bit, then? I certainly didn't mean to upset you. Can I explain why I asked you that?
Prospect: Yes.
You: Well, in order to really make a recommendation that is suitable for you, I am trying to understand X. Without X, it's hard to know whether or how I can help you best.
Prospect: I see. I can understand that. That makes sense.
You: Okay. Good. So, does it make sense for us to continue talking about how I can help?

Asking Tough Questions Is The Key to Influencing Change

Asking tough questions is the key to consultative selling. Doing anything less is just order-taking. Sales success is not about repping the newest product, making the best pitch, or hunting morning, noon, and night until you find the perfect ready-to-close buyer. Sure, those activities get many salespeople to quota. But the real life-changing stuff -- the stuff that makes dreams come true for salespeople and prospects alike -- is when a salesperson manages to change a prospect's point of view through questions.

Use these permission-seeking and forgiveness-asking approaches to ask the tough sales questions. I bet you'll be surprised by your prospect's reactions. I bet you'll earn your prospect's respect, as well as their business.

Are you going to ask the tough question the next time you're on a sales call or will you chicken out? (See what I did there?) Continue learning about other sales qualification strategies here.

HubSpot CRM

24 Apr 16:06

4 Growth Opportunities Hidden in Your Google Analytics

by Eric Siu

You probably already know how awesome Google Analytics is. This freemium web analytics tool gives you tons of insight into how people find and engage with your website – where they came from, what they click on, and where they go.

But if you’ve spent much time on this platform, I’m pretty sure you’ve realized just how overwhelming it can be. There’s just so much data. So how do you filter through it all and find actionable insights that will grow your business?

I’m going to show you four opportunities to grow your business that are hidden in Google Analytics.

Google Analytics Tracks Everything

Google Analytics tracks every visitor across hundreds of metrics.

4 Growth Opportunities Hidden in Your Google Analytics1

Each of these metrics can be sorted, filtered and analyzed based on hundreds of dimensions. This results in millions of different reports you can look at. They do a decent job of offering you some starting reports that can tell you a bit about how your site is performing and where you should focus your energy. But if you want to get real value out of Google Analytics, you’ll have to dig deeper.

My digital marketing agency uses Google Analytics every day to monitor our work and provide insights for our clients. Over the years, we’ve learned a few tricks that I’d like to share with you.

Here are four ways to dig into Google Analytics deeper that will allow you to grow your business:

Growth Opportunity #1: Goal Tracking

Goal Tracking is critical to optimizing your website. You have to know which priorities you’re optimizing for, otherwise you’re just throwing data at the wall and hoping something sticks.

If you actually sell products on your website – this is absolutely critical. It’s so important, in fact, that you should probably go set that up before continuing on to the next 3 opportunities.

Once this is set up, e-commerce conversions are easy to evaluate. If the customer buys, it’s a conversion, and their total cart value is the conversion value.

But what about other business goals like lead capture or trials started? Many businesses use their website to drive conversions that don’t have an implicit dollar amount.

The good news is, Google can still track those conversions for you and tell you which pages are performing the best. But it can only tell you how much that is actually worth if you give those actions a value.

4 Growth Opportunities Hidden in Your Google Analytics2

Is a verified account really worth fifty cents to your business? Or is it worth $5.00? Or nothing?

This might seem trivial at first, but if your site drives multiple actions, it can become important. For example, let’s say you let customers sign up for a free trial of your product, but you have 3 different tiers – basic, premium, and business.

Do you really want to treat all conversion the same? Or do you want to optimize to convert more high-end customers that pay four times as much?

What if you also have a goal for e-mail subscribers? That lead is certainly worth something, but probably less than a trial user. If you look at your e-mail subscriber to paying customer ratio, you’ll get an idea of the value that a conversion is worth to you.

If your marketing team can get 200 new e-mail subscribers, is that effort more valuable than getting 10 new trial users?

Now you can see why assigning values is so important. It will help your marketing team focus on the highest-value growth opportunities.

There are a few different ways to set them up depending on your business needs. Google has put together some advice to help you implement the feature.

The key is to think of all the desirable actions that a user can take on your site, figure out how much they’re worth, and start tracking them. The metric will be available in nearly every report so you can see how different factors contribute to achieving your goals.

Growth Opportunity #2: Goal Flow

Once you have meaningful goals set up, you’re halfway there. It’s great to which pages and products are performing best, but it’s even better to know where you can improve them. That’s where behavioral flow comes in.

Goal Flow is a special behavioral flow report that shows you how customers are moving from each step of your conversion funnel. This is especially important if you want to see how different versions of your funnel are performing or where customers are dropping off.

You can find the report under Conversions > Goals > Goal Flow

4 Growth Opportunities Hidden in Your Google Analytics3

It’s most helpful if your site has a multi-step funnel because it will narrow down to just those pages and whatever other data you’re using to filter it. The filter allows you to compare different segments of visitors to see how their behavior differs.

For example, you can compare the flow of visitors from different Internet browsers to look for issues with the checkout process on a specific browser. Or you can compare device type to see if mobile users are behaving differently than desktop viewers.

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Growth Opportunity #3: Better Attribution Models

Now that you know which pages are converting on your goals and you’ve optimized the conversion flow, you just need to drive a lot of traffic to those pages from your top performing channels. Right?

Well, not exactly. The problem with most conversion tracking is that it relies on Last-Click Attribution, which gives all the credit to the most recent click that generated the conversion.

For example, when 1stdibs sends this e-mail to their customer:

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Some people will click-through, shop around and buy something. In Google Analytics, this sale will get credited to the e-mail marketing campaign. But that oversimplifies things quite a bit.

Sure that e-mail closed the deal, but if it wasn’t for the great content that got the customer to sign up for e-mail alerts, the conversion never would have started. And what about the Facebook ad they clicked on last week that got them thinking about your brand so that they were primed to buy when this e-mail came through?

We know that customers often have to interact with your brand multiple times before they make a purchase. And this isn’t just for consumer products; B2B sales usually require multiple interactions before landing a client.

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And it’s not just about closing the deal. Studies have shown that customers will spend almost double if they’ve interacted with your brand 7+ times online.

That’s why it’s important not to just focus on the final conversion, but everything leading up to it:

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To do this, you need to use a multi-channel attribution model which will share the credit among all the key interactions online.

Of course, every customer’s journey is unique and you can’t know exactly which interactions had the most influence on an individual customer in any way that’s efficient. But you can examine your customer behavior and use a model that closely follows the average case.

Kaushik has an in-depth guide explaining the different attribution models and when to use them. But if you want the quick overview check out this graphic:

4 Growth Opportunities Hidden in Your Google Analytics8

While Google Analytics defaults to Last-Interaction modeling, it lets you analyze and compare different models. Head over to Conversions > Attribution > Model Comparison Tool:

4 Growth Opportunities Hidden in Your Google Analytics9

Here you’ll see the ability to change the attribution model you’re using or compare two side-by-side:

4 Growth Opportunities Hidden in Your Google Analytics10

We can already see something pretty important – organic search is being undervalued by almost 24%!

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This knowledge can completely change your business.

For example, without this knowledge, you might undervalue the importance of SEO in your success and put more budget toward PPC that should go into creating content that will rank your site for more keywords to help customers discover you.

Maybe once a customer lands on your site, they start to receive retargeting ads that ultimately drive the sale. But unless they landed on your site initially, those ads never would have found them.

There’s a lot more you can do with multi-channel attribution, too. I highly recommend that you spend time looking through the different reports found there to see what business assumptions you might need to update:

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Growth Opportunity #4: Analyzing Internal Site Search

Does your site offer an internal search feature? Have you ever stopped for a minute to see how your customers are using it?

If not, how do you know it’s actually helping them find what they need? How do you know it’s driving them to pages that will convert instead of distracting or confusing them? What if customers aren’t using the search feature at all because they simply don’t notice it?

Avinash Kaushik, the Analytics Evangelist for Google, says that every business should ask themselves five questions

  1. How frequently do users use my search box and what are they looking for?
  2. Where do people begin searches and what do they find?
  3. Are users satisfied with what they find?
  4. How do different groups of users search my site?
  5. What business outcomes result from users searching my site?

To find the answers, you can turn to Behavior > Site Search inside Google Analytics:

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Before you can use this data, you’ll need to make sure everything is properly set up. The process for this depends on how the search tool actually works on your site, so you can check out this guide which will help you figure it out.

As with multi-attribution models, there are tons of insights buried in here, so I really encourage you to look around. I’ll highlight a few of the most helpful…

1) Frequency data: If you head to the usage tab it will break down the number of visitors who used site search during their visit versus those who did not. You can then filter that by any secondary dimensions, like the source of the traffic.

2) What customers are looking for: The Search Terms report will obviously show you which keywords people are looking up most often. But it does so much more.

Anna Lewis points out just some of the Ma href=”https://searchenginewatch.com/sew/how-to/2346116/how-to-use-google-analytics-site-search-reports”>many awesome insights found here:

  • How many pages it took for people to find what they wanted
  • How many visitors gave up and left the website
  • Which keywords did not have good enough results so users had to refine their terms
  • How persistent visitors were with their query, by how many pages of results they looked through
  • Most common queries
  • Trends and identifying new searches which can help you identify products to stock or content to write about
  • Identifying common misspellings or other ways to phrase something
  • Which areas of the site people choose to search for over navigating through a menu for
  • Which queries lead to users being engaged with the website
  • Queries that have good conversion rates

It essentially lets you examine customer behavior based on what term they searched for. This can be really useful if there are some common, shared queries because you can treat those customers as a specific segment and optimize their experience to increase conversions.

3) Where customers begin their search: This can tell you at which point customers feel like search is their best option to find what they want. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it could be a sign that these pages are hard to navigate and people can’t find what they’re looking for naturally through the navigation.

Find this information under Site Search > Pages.

4) Search results satisfaction: This one can be a bit hard to judge by simply looking at numbers, but the biggest signal for search result satisfaction is “% Search Exits,” which shows the number of customers who leave your site immediately after performing a search.

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“% Search Refinements” is also helpful because this shows you how many customers are performing more than one follow-up search when the initial results didn’t provide what they were looking for.

You can also look at engagement metrics like “Time after Search” and “Average Search Depth,” which show you how customers are behaving on the site after completing a search.<

5) Outcomes and conversions: The keyword report will actually report the end conversion rate for different search terms and that’s probably the best indicator of the success rate that your search function is providing customers. The exit rate, on the other hand, shows you how many customers are leaving, probably because they aren’t finding what they need.

With all these reports, there really are no good or bad metrics. Sometimes a high number is good: lots of customers are using site search because it’s an effective way to get what they need. Sometimes a high number is bad: lots of customers are using site search because they’re having a hard time navigating your site.

But you should monitor these metrics and ask yourself “What does this mean?” or “Why is this changing?”

Conclusion

Google Analytics is a powerful tool that can drive a lot of great business insights, but only if you know where to look. If you haven’t spent much time digging into these reports, you’re probably missing out on some huge growth opportunities for your business.

But it’s not too late! Google has been collecting this data for you since you first added the tracking code to your site, so all you have to do is follow these steps, pull up the report, and learn from the data.

The post 4 Growth Opportunities Hidden in Your Google Analytics appeared first on OpenView Labs.

24 Apr 16:06

How SaaS Companies Can Make Diversity and Inclusion a Priority

by Jennifer Bell

The dialogues that consciousness-raising movements like #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, and #Time’sUp have sparked in recent years have exposed the inequalities hiding behind familiar veneers widely accepted as social or business norms. In the business world, fostering a diverse hiring practice is not just the right thing to do given the current cultural climate; diversity and inclusion make moral and business sense. A widely-cited 2015 study by Global Management Consulting firm McKinsey & Company found, “When companies commit themselves to more diverse leadership, they are more successful.” Data based on research in the US, UK, Central America, and Canada show how ethnic, racial, and gender diversities correlate with better business results, including higher than industry-average earnings. Clearly, companies hoping to grow should begin by examining how they incorporate diversity and inclusion into their day-to-day operations.

There’s no question that diversity and inclusion are important across all industries. So why does the tech sector still lag behind? And when it comes to ethnic and racial diversity, sustainability consultant group Dalberg advisors determined that “Black people, Latinos and Native Americans are underrepresented in tech by 16-to-18 percentage points compared with their presence in the U.S. labor force overall.”

To many, the “right fit” also needs to have the right age, right look, and degree from the right school. As a result, SaaS hiring managers frequently default to that of familiarity, searching for candidates who embody the narrow characteristics expected by the industry. But familiarity cuts both ways. A growing populace clamors for and deserves representation that also feels familiar. So, how do we incorporate and accommodate this growing movement for inclusivity and diversity into our workplaces?

We have clients that have achieved tremendous gains in their diversity models; others have dramatically under-achieved. Looking across their programs, there are three areas the most successful programs share:

  1. An authentic and lasting commitment from the CEO and rest of C-suite to prioritize D&I and to hold the organization accountable.
  1. Objective Metrics. A brutally honest assessment of the current state at an organizational level and a personal level, often accomplished through outside consultants, provides a means to objectively measure improvements. Many companies use third-party D&I assessments to create a baseline against which they can understand progress as well as identify opportunity areas.
  1. Move quickly into execution mode. Specific actions include:
  • Assigning top-thinkers to D&I leadership roles to seek their thoughts and perspectives as well as to participate in the talent acquisition process.
  • Leveraging local organizations connected to populations to engage directly in hiring. Some include:
    • Diversity.com: Companies may post an opening on this jobs board which seeks to match a diverse workforce with career opportunities.
    • The Lighthouse for the Blind: An organization that not only employs blind people, but helps blind people and prospective employers create a mutually beneficial match.
    • Deaf Job Wizard: Post a job specifically targeting the deaf community.
    • Society for Human Resource Management: This provides resources for employers looking to onboard someone with a cognitive disability.
    • Source America: This organization’s goal is to help people with significant disabilities find jobs.

According to Katherine W. Phillips, in her article How Diversity Makes Us Smarter, “Decades of research by organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers show that socially diverse groups (that is, those with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation) are more innovative than homogeneous groups.” That is as compelling a factor as any to make a plan for diversity in hiring practices. Yes, it may seem like hard work to shift gears into a new way of thinking and operating, but the depth of reward points to the value in hanging with the growing pains.

Guide to Hiring

The post How SaaS Companies Can Make Diversity and Inclusion a Priority appeared first on OpenView Labs.

24 Apr 16:05

How to Manage Cloud Expenses With a Solution You Probably Already Have

by Larry Foster

A new trend has continued to materialize: IT-as-a-Service (ITaaS), which is driven by an enterprise-wide desire to manage the IT lifecycle across software, platform and infrastructure categories. As IT is increasingly becoming both usage and service-based, a variety of complex cloud-service pricing models have emerged based on bandwidth, transactions, scope of resources, access events, number of users, services and accounts.

This leaves organizations that are intent on managing the lifecycle of these services with the challenge of solving how to gain visibility, properly chargeback and ultimately optimize these variable costs on an enterprise scale. Fortunately, there is a solution that most large organizations already have in place, which has perfected the art of managing data at this level of complexity.

Telecom expense management (TEM) is a solution category that has roots in communication services. Over the years, this software/service category has helped organizations optimize and gain visibility into usage trends, expenses and financial allocation. It’s very likely that you already have a TEM solution in place for your organization.

TEM solutions increasingly include new IT spend and asset categories because of the crossover in device and unified communication solutions. Consider the similarities in challenges between traditional TEM and cloud expense management:

  • Usage-based billing for various network services
  • Identification of billing errors and contract discrepancies
  • Proactively manage increasing cost and identify overspend
  • Provide transparency to ownership of “Always on” assets resulting in charges that are not commensurate with actual usage
  • Qualify and quantify unused assets generating unneeded costs
  • Holistic lifecycle management and BI-enabled business insight to help organizations maximize purchasing power and collaborative use of assets

It’s no surprise that some traditional TEM vendors have evolved their offerings to include what they call IT Expense Management (ITEM), which addresses a broader superset of IT services including cloud, license, data, mobility, telecom, IoT, and more.

Let’s look at a real-world example from a world-renowned place of higher education. This university has implemented a public cloud strategy with Amazon Web Services (AWS). Their centralized IT team wanted to help its internal clients optimize their use of AWS. Like most users of cloud services, they were challenged with a multitude of accounts spread across many departments, as well as the myriad of billing formats based on the pay-as-you-go agreements where the bill includes recurring, non-recurring and usage-based charges.

The university took the first logical step. They consolidated all accounts by implementing a single shared-service account that encompasses all the activities for all the departments using AWS services and data. As a result, the university receives the detail-based charges as one aggregate bill. However, they were still unable to centrally coordinate service activation, feed the charges directly into the general ledger based on department or actual usage, or meaningfully optimize the services they were paying for. Plus, their departments lost visibility into their own usage from their individual accounts. This is where the university was able to take advantage of their existing TEM solution.

The university worked with their TEM vendor to import data feeds from AWS into their solution, which in turn used its expense management and financial allocation engine to help Columbia reduce costs, optimize usage, properly allocate costs back to the right department based on usage, and gain insight into how to best manage and evaluate all of the various payment models.

When leveraging ITEM to manage cloud services, organizations are able to really get granular with the data, but then roll it up in a meaningful and actionable way. To that end, here are some considerations and best practices to take into account when optimizing cloud services:

  • Get granular for department-level insights: AWS and other cloud tools have their own sets of dashboards and analytics. That said, when you desire to get detail into specific departments or granular usage-based charges, you’ll benefit from importing the data into an ITEM solution that has purpose-built visual analytics that is more focused on the details.
  • Payment model optimization: You will gain the ability to understand the benefits and disadvantages of on-demand, reserved and spot payment models. The goal will be to optimize your usage on an enterprise scale based on what’s best for your business.
  • Stakeholder chargeback support: Your internal stakeholders will want visibility at some level. You can support the organization through usage-based shared services chargeback capabilities. Reports or bills can be created at both the summary view and at the detailed line-item view. This will help you drive transparency and accountability by sharing the costs of cloud-based services, promoting increased engagement and self-governance.

This IT lifecycle, value-based, management alignment to business objectives approach is relatively new to the rest of the IT world, which is still focused on technological administration challenges and one-time asset purchases. As this trend continues, there will be an evolution from just supporting the automation of invoice processing for cloud services to progressively include additional IT management through reconciliation of charges, cost identification and predictive modeling of cost. And, while the rest of the industry is catching up, take a look at your current TEM vendor to begin optimizing your IT expenses.

24 Apr 16:01

Best B2B Marketplaces to Expand your Business

by Beatrice McGraw

There’s a purpose of business behind every website out there on the internet. Whatever the intention may be, a website is designed and created for a specific purpose. Presumably, the best instances to define the business objectives around the digital domains are the websites for B2B businesses.

So what’s a B2B website? It’s a sphere where the majority of the clients are the businesses and not the individuals. Also, the conventional marketing principles, tools, and methods are not entirely applied in this process.

To gain maximum attention for the service or product, reputation needs to be earned first and foremost. This could be done by providing fantastic services to the clients, earning loyalty through an exclusive supply of the goods and maintaining a healthy relationship through effective price and delivery. In this digitally equipped environment, all of these things are possible through a website.

Majority of the small and medium-sized B2B organizations are experiencing slow rate of growth in their business, and how no experience or knowledge to make it global. What’s the reason? And why these firms are facing so many hurdles?

Expanding your business globally is not a problem in today’s jargon, regardless of where you’re located. There are quite a lot of B2B organizations efficiently working from their respective countries and attaining profits through their B2B ventures. These websites gather suppliers and buyers from the world and provide them services making it efficient for both the parties to purchase the products.

I have compiled a few of these B2B websites, who are making a significant name in the buying and selling the world. These websites are the largest and the most successful ones, and they do it with grace and style. Here are my top picks of the biggest and the most successful B2B marketplaces around the world:

1. Alibaba

Alibaba Group is a Chinese private consortium based in Hangzhou dedicated to e-commerce on the Internet, including business-to-business, retail, and consumer sales portals. It also offers online payment services, a price comparison search engine, and cloud data storage services. In 2012, two Alibaba portals together handled 1.1 trillion yuan (170 000 million dollars) sales, which is more than its competitors both eBay and Amazon.com combined.

The company operates mainly in the People’s Republic of China, and in March 2013 the Economist magazine estimated that the consortium could be valued at between $ 55 billion and $ 120 billion. During 2013, it achieved revenues of approximately US $ 7.5 billion and had approximately 22,000 employees in March 2014.

Alibaba is currently listed in Hong Kong Stock Exchange, it is easily one of the oldest and biggest online B2B platform in the world serving more than 35 million users. It has ten associated companies, according to the corporate summary available on its website which are Alibaba International, Alibaba China, Taobao, Tmall, Juhuasuan, AliExpress, Alimama, Aliyun, Alipay, China Smart Logistics.

Alibaba has shares in all types of things, but the company operates mainly through three sites: Taobao, China’s largest shopping site; Tmall: Resembles Taobao, but the products on offer are of the highest quality; and Alibaba.com, which connects Chinese exporters with companies in other parts of the world.

2. DHgate

DHgate is a B2B platform that allows importers from the world to buy small volumes of Chinese goods at wholesale price. Here you can find electronic gadgets, clothing, decorative items, sports accessories, etc. DHGate markets more than 30 Million products in 227 countries worldwide. It has more than 5 million customers worldwide and is currently among the 2100 most visited pages on the internet.

DHgate has been accused to be a scam site in the past, but later all the accusations were dissipated by the growing fame of the portal. Just like Ebay and Amazon, It is also a global vendor market. The portal is used by at least one million small Chinese vendors. DHgate.com keeps a close watch on providers and does not take scams lightly. However, it is impossible to guarantee that each provider is legal.

Some suppliers at DHgate offer products with CE, RoHS and FCC certificates. The easiest way to avoid uncertified products is to enter the product name along with the certification standard in the search field. Individual products in the United States and the European Union require compliance with certain standards such as FCC, CE, and EN71. Very few products on DHgate.com meet European and American product standards. While there are many quality products to buy at DHgate.com, we recommend American and European buyers avoid certain products such as toys, electronics, baby products, vehicles, cosmetics, and chemicals.

3. TradeKey

An extensive B2B marketplace for connecting suppliers with buyers. It has a strong focus on Asian countries, especially India, China, Pakistan, Taiwan, Malaysia and Bangladesh.

This site offers three strong services to its visitors. The first is the offer to buy; there are those who are looking for a particular product, can reference this and launch a request to the thousands of suppliers that are on this platform, who is interested will contact and offer its services.

The second is products; there you can find a varied selection of products, distributed by categories of wholesalers, manufacturers, and factories that seek to export their products. The third is companies, where you can find a complete directory of suppliers, manufacturers, and distributors.

It also offers you the option to become a reseller of its manufacturers, exporters, wholesalers and other small and medium companies and thus earn commissions without limitation. From your app to Global Trading is the world’s leading and fastest growing (B2B) online business-to-business portal that connects small and medium importers, exporters and businesses across the globe for international trade. With app no matter where you are you can now search for new suppliers, connect with new buyers on the go.

TradeKey.com has proven to be a reliable online business platform for global commerce, strength which is either wholesale trade or bulk import or exports. TradeKey has bridged the gap between suppliers and buyers, manufacturers and importers from 240 countries globally for years with its unique and powerful commercial matching engine and efficient promotion tools.

4. Made-in-China

Another popular & one of the best B2B websites you must’ve heard of. It was developed and is operated by Focus Technology Co., Ltd. From the country of China; it is a leader in the industry of electronic business. All their products are either made in China or Taiwan.

However, Made-in-China has had a few issues when in 2007 the US, Canada, Australia and the European Union issued recalls on a broad range of Chinese-made consumer goods.

Yet, it remains one of the most successful websites in the world for business to business sales.

5. ExportHub

An international B2B marketplace known for its buyers connecting the sellers from all over the globe, ExportHub circulates with an aim to make the operations in the business effective as ever. The skills, the tools, and the knowledge are available for this website which is working tirelessly to facilitate the buyers and suppliers.

Unlike other B2B platforms, ExportHub also provides exclusive services to the clients and allow them to choose the plan as per their wishes with each service having different kinds of traits.

The customers can select different kind’s packages from the standard, gold, digital package and VIP and all these packages connect the suppliers to the buyers on a different level, scale, and market.

The thing which makes ExportHub.com different from the traditional B2B websites is the fact that absolute value and importance is given to the suppliers when they invest their hard-earned money for profit.

ExportHub also facilitates the buyers through account managers who strive to provide efficient services to its customers.

6. EC Plaza

Since started as a B2B business site in 1996, EC Plaza has grown to No.1 Trade Leader providing online and off line service to over 1,000,000 members. Based on export marketing, we are operating not only B2B website, EDI service and trade consulting but also offline trade-related services for SMEs.

With worldwide network and high brand recognition, They are extending our business field to the global market by providing great value such as more business opportunities, cost saving and convenience.

Over 4 million offers are posted in their website, which is the largest scale in the world. Their B2B trade website is listed on the top level of several famous ranking sites such as Alexa, Rankey, 100 HOT etc.

Overseas Marketing Specialist, EC Plaza
EC Plaza provides total solution for your overseas trade marketing needs.

  • ECPlaza.net : Global B2B e-Marketplace
  • Overseas Market Research
  • Trade Infrastructure Establishment
  • On and Off-line Overseas Marketing
  • Trade Consulting Service

7. Global Sources

Global sources is one of the first B2B platform that was listed in NASDAQ under the name GSOL. The B2B platform is famous for its quality suppliers from different industries. Many Chinese manufacturers choose to pay a significant amount of money to become a verified supplier on this portal.

Established in Singapore in 2000, Global Sources facilitates international trade, focusing mainly on bringing the traders around the world closer to each other.

Like Alibaba, Globalsources.com is a directory of manufacturers and suppliers, mostly Chinese, to facilitate B2B e-commerce. This platform is associated to the International Trade Fairs that are developed in Hong Kong and where the most renowned manufacturers, suppliers and distributors from mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong participate. According to Wikipedia, 95 out of the 100 most recognized retail chains in the world use this platform to connect with suppliers and manufacturers.

There is a greater selectivity of suppliers and manufacturers given in the origin, development, and actuality of the platform. Being associated with the Hong Kong Trade Fairs most of its members are registered companies on the island with extensive experience in trading with the West. This allows the concepts of durability, functionality, design, customer service, as well as the rules and principles of international trade to be a premise of these companies. In other words, the offers have a greater guarantee in many ways.

8. ThomasNet.com

Previously called ‘The Thomas Register of American Manufacturers’ ThomasNet.com is a leading online platform for B2B seller discovery and product sourcing, and is visited by more than 1.8 million buyers every month. For over a century, Thomas have connected manufacturing and industrial buyers and sellers.

Today buyers worldwide including engineers, purchasing agents, facilities managers and more, come online and use ThomasNet for product sourcing and supplier discovery, mainly in the USA.

This free online platform combines semantic product search technology with information rich company profiles enabling educated supplier selection. It is a large and increasingly global marketplace that promotes 650,000 distributors, manufacturers and service companies within 67,000 industrial categories.

Thomas.net is more than a directory, allowing you to individually ask companies for quotes. Unlike Alibaba.com it doesn’t allow you to publish a general “Request for Quote” from everyone, but it is still very useful. The domain authority of this site speaks for itself.

9. EC21

Established in 1997 in Korea, EC21 is one of the world’s top 10 largest online B2B marketplaces. Like Alibaba it is truly global and has one million buyers and over 600,000 enquiries are exchanged every month. It started as an online trade board of the Korea International Trade Association (KITA) and in 2000, EC21 Inc. was spun off.

EC21 currently operates 3 different B2B marketplaces, EC21 Chinese, EC21 Korean, and EC21 Global which has 8 different linguistic user interfaces.

EC21 is headquartered in Seoul and has 8 regional sales offices throughout mainland China along with offices in Vietnam, Turkey, India, Italy, Russia and Pakistan

Like Alibaba, EC21 provides Basic and Premium membership services in which sellers can easily create their own homepage, showcase products, reply to request for quotes and locate and contact buyers.

10. GlobalSpec

GlobalSpec.com is a popular platform for industrial parts, machines, and services related to that. It is a B2B website from the United States and works directly for the North American and Asian market. With the increasing demand for industrial parts all over the world, the company has been earning millions by connecting the buyers and sellers.

Also, with an increasing percentage of electronic industries in the North American market, GlobalSpec’s payment directory system is well maintained where the customer can make a list of all the potential customers since the system detects the visits and debug accordingly.

Sources :

  • https://www.waystocap.com/blog/comparison-of-b2b-marketplaces/
  • https://www.digitaldoughnut.com/articles/2017/july/b2b-platforms-to-help-your-business-grow-globally
  • http://www.toplistsonline.com/top-10-b2b-trade-websites
  • https://medium.com/sellergyan/top-10-b2b-marketplaces-around-the-world-884a499ee4f6
  • https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/top-10-b2b-websites-generate-massive-business-leads-worldwide-mcgraw/
24 Apr 16:00

How to Build Netflix-Like Content Experiences

by Tonya Vinas

Karla_Campos / Pixabay

What does it mean to have an on-demand content model? More people are asking this question as the line between how we consume personal content and professional content gets blurrier.

Anyone with a smartphone can understand why. We catch up on our favorite T.V. shows and movies while we wait in line. We have access to millions of free videos, podcasts and other posts when we want to learn something new. We set up alerts for our products, appointments, investments, accounts, faves, family and friends.

In this context, growing buyer expectations for personalized and user-pulled content experiences don’t seem out of whack, but for some marketing teams, delivering those experiences could be out of scope.

Mobility is changing how buyers use content

Mobility has rapidly influenced content consumption in a relatively short period of time. According to a late-2017 BCG report, 70% of B2B byers increased mobile usage significantly over the past two to three years, and 60% said they will continue to increase mobile usage. This trend has driven up demand for mobile-inherent and mobile-responsive content formats as well as for any device-anytime-anyplace access to me-focused content. If these elements are not among your content library and distribution channels, you could have a big gap in connecting to buyers.

“The Netflix effect is about impatience,” said Mark Bornstein, Vice President of Content Strategy of ON24 during a panel discussion at B2BMX, The Netflix Effect on B2B Buyer Engagement. “Buyers are sick of having to hunt for the content they want. Helping is selling, and we’re not helping enough. We need to give buyers content experiences based on what they need and not what we want to tell them. When you think about the marketing infrastructure we’ve built, we aren’t really built for that.”

This doesn’t mean that traditional content—white papers, eBooks, brochures, webinars—don’t work anymore, or that anyone should nix their nurture campaigns. What it does mean is that we need to do more. We need to be more purposeful about planning mobile-first content and user-driven content paths that also align with marketing goals.

Start planning for more on-demand experiences now

You don’t have to redo everything. You can start small and build up a variety of formats, channels and applications. Take a look at these suggestions and choose one or more that fits best with your needs and resources right now, and then plan for a continued effort to build up your on-demand strategy.

  • Use more videos. Video is an inherently cross-device format, so you can make one video and use it in multiple places and in multiple ways. Video also works for any audience and most topics. We recently worked with an industrial equipment manufacturer to make a multi-video portfolio covering a specific product line, opportunities for distributor education, safety engineering, sourcing practices and even the role their products play in bringing goods to families every day.
  • Create a podcast series. Podcasts are hot, and 64% of B2B buyers prefer to experience them at the top of the funnel, according to Demand Gen Report’s 2018 Content Preferences Survey Report. With a podcast series like this one, which we helped our client create, buyers can consume the podcasts according to their own preferences and time schedule. They don’t have to wait for another to be produced and emailed before continuing to consume; or, conversely, they can pick up the series anytime and anyplace as long as they have a smart phone without even opening an inbox.
  • Use more interactive content formats: Listicles (interactive lists like this) and customized experiences can be a means of presenting a lot of related content in a “batched” format in one, easy-to-navigate place. Users can zero in on priority information, bookmark the experience, and then return later to continue their review or reference. One benefit of these types of formats is that they can include multiple CTAs if desired, which can be used to suggest further content for review.They also can be used to track user behavior by documenting digital footprints. Many of our clients like to use Uberflip because of its user-tracking capabilities. This tracking will be a key factor for making user-driven content experiences more effective as you create more of them because the data informs what to offer for continued consumption that satisfies me-focused buyers but also pushes them closer to qualification or a transaction. If, for example, you have an assessment within a nurture program that has low usage, putting it on a hub could provide insight into how to increase usage. Perhaps it is timed wrong in the nurture and should be in a prior or later buyer stage, something you could ascertain by observing what users viewed or did before and after participating in the assessment on a hub.
  • Use solutions and tools designed for on-demand consumption. Another advantage of Uberflip is that it enables the easy creation of content hubs, which are perfect for on-demand experiences for both internal and external audiences. But, Uberflip also allows for creation of private streams of content based on the hub, called Sales Streams. On24 and LookBookHQ also are leaders here, as they are designed specifically for organization, presentation and tracking of on-demand content. We can help marketing teams use these solutions, too.

Conclusion: Do more to get more

Building a Netflix-like experience doesn’t require ditching all of the work your team has already done. But adding some new formats to your portfolio and architecting good on-demand experiences takes planning and execution. The reward is that your content will get more views, and more viewers will progress further down the sales journey.

24 Apr 16:00

How to Get Up and Running With an ABM Pilot Program

by Brandon Redlinger

One of the biggest hurdles holding organizations from starting ABM is uncertainty. Despite all of the empirical evidence, they’re uncertain about the resources it will take; they’re uncertain about their ability to execute; quite frankly, they’re uncertain that the ROI of ABM is worth it.

You have a right to ask those same questions. So, what’s the best way to erase that doubt? Prove ABM out with a pilot program.

Though your organization doesn’t need to jump through hoops to get started with an ABM program, it will realize the best results by taking the time to put the proper account foundation in place. To be sure, you need to address the basics, like account selection and tiering, developing account insights, generating account-specific content and orchestrating account-focused plays. But the most sophisticated marketers go even further to ensure their ABM pilot is primed for success. Here are the other essential elements included in you plans for a pilot program.

Pinpoint Your Destination

Of course the goal of your ABM pilot program is to improve your organization’s ability to engage and convert accounts. But you need to more granularly define what you intend to accomplish with your pilot program. The first step is deciding the scope of your program. Will you focus on a dozen of your largest accounts, a single vertical, a geographic region, or any other set of accounts?

Once you’ve figured that out, it’s time to map your plan to the most appropriate goals. If you are targeting just one or two accounts, you can measure the metrics outlined in the “Analyze Your Pilot” section below. If you are taking a broad-brush approach, your goals might center on the efficiency and effectiveness of your processes versus your account-specific results.

Gain Full Support from Sales

Your Sales counterpart will likely be fully supportive of your plans to launch an ABM program once they understand that you will be helping them close larger deals. After all, this signals your intent to align with the way Sales is already selling. But getting the Sales manager or VP to say, “Great – can’t wait!” is far different from getting that person to commit all necessary resources to ensure program success.

It takes headcount and budget to fuel an ABM program, and the Sales team needs to be clear on what’s involved and their contribution to the pilot and beyond. Outline all critical pilot elements, socialize the plan with those in Sales who can make budget and resource decisions, and gain commitment from the get-go that Sales is completely bought in.

Spell Out Who Does What

If you’ve ever worked at a company where the lead handoff process is ill defined, you know how quickly chaos can ensue. The same is true when it comes to ABM, even in companies with strong Marketing and Sales alignment. After all, ABM is different than the traditional approach to generating demand and engaging opportunities.

Once Marketing and Sales agree on target account criteria and selection, it’s time to document the rest of the ABM process. While your sales team is likely familiar with how to engage accounts and move them through the pipeline, it won’t necessarily know what that looks like when marketing is an integral part of the process. Marketing and Sales need to hammer out how to execute account-focused plays, including what and when messages, content, and outreach get personalized, and who is responsible. They also need to figure out how they’ll handle and act on account data, the process for communicating about target accounts, and how to escalate ABM program-related issues.

Give Everyone a Deadline

The pilot is your chance to evaluate how well your teams can execute on an ABM plan, and test the processes and procedures you’ve put in place to support it (such as how Sales and Marketing will share and act on account data). With that in mind, give yourself a reasonable, yet clear, amount of time to run the program. In most organizations, this is roughly six months. By putting well-defined boundaries on the timeline, you can more easily manage and assess the effectiveness of the pilot. Plus, it’s always easier to get buy-in for a pilot when everyone knows there’s a hard start and stop date.

Analyze Pilot Performance

Here’s exactly what you should review to determine how well your pilot went:

  • Cross-functional alignment and cooperation. Because ABM success hinges on how well your Marketing and Sales teams work together, it’s critical to analyze the performance of each team individually and as a whole. Rate how each person involved in the pilot performed their tasks, then evaluate cross-team interactions and communications. Was everyone clear on their roles and expectations? Did they achieve the goals laid out for them? Did the sales team embrace the ABM pilot and incorporate it into their daily routine? Did Marketing and Sales work in tandem as expected? Identify all challenges and best practices, and capture all feedback and suggestions. Don’t forget to also look for gaps, such as the need for additional roles, processes, or technologies to support the program.
  • Target account results. Ultimately, your ABM success is determined by your outcomes within target accounts. Unlike traditional marketing where you’re focused on driving large numbers of leads into the top of the funnel, with ABM your goal is to engage and develop long-term relationships with key contacts within named accounts. Just as you need to call upon methodologies such as multi-touch attribution to understand the revenue impact of traditional marketing tactics, you’ll need to come up with relevant ways to measure ABM impact. To that end, these are some of the most meaningful metrics:
    • Number of new contacts within target accounts
    • Number of interactions with key stakeholders in accounts
    • Type of engagement with key stakeholders (this is akin to scoring leads, whereby a face-to-face meeting would count more than a content download)
    • Change in perceived reputation (do accounts proactively consult your sales team, are they inviting your sales team to participate in more RFPs?)
    • Accelerated pipeline and shorter sales cycle (are accounts purchasing faster than before?)
    • Higher cross-sell and up-sell
    • Increase in average deal size and lifetime customer value

Remember, some of these metrics may not apply depending on the length of your pilot. For instance, if your average sales cycle is 18 months, you probably won’t know whether or not ABM will shorten that or the impact on lifetime customer value after running a 6-month pilot.

In addition to tracking the discrete metrics above, you’ll want to compare the impact of your ABM pilot to non-ABM efforts. In other words, did you achieve better results within accounts where you applied ABM compared to accounts being handled otherwise?

Socialize Wins and Scale for Further Success

The best way to win support for your ABM program is by demonstrating its impact. Leave yourself enough time to do the pilot analysis justice. A lot will be riding on the results, so you don’t want to rush through your evaluation. That said, while hard-hitting metrics speak volumes, an anecdote from a key stakeholder at a vaunted account can hold just as much sway. Share the most compelling evidence of success with your company’s senior leadership, along with your plan to establish a full-blown ABM program. Once you’ve gained their support and buy-in, further evangelize the results to build momentum for the rollout of your formal program.

Running a pilot program is a safe, effective way to introduce your organization to the value of ABM, while ironing out your processes and strategy. By applying the guidance outlined here, you’ll be in a strong position to succeed.

If you are looking for more suggestions on how to get your program off the ground, download our ABM Starter Kit.

24 Apr 15:59

Active Listening in Sales: The Ultimate Guide

by pcaputa@hubspot.com (Pete Caputa)

Salespeople don’t hold all of the cards anymore. With a quick Google search and some browsing, prospects can gather as much information about a product as a salesperson has.

As a result, it’s harder for salespeople to demonstrate their expertise. And if they can’t demonstrate expertise, it becomes all the more difficult to establish credibility and eventually build trust. Without credibility and trust, a salesperson will likely lose the interest of their prospect ... or worse, never really gain their interest.

So what should salespeople do? Simple: Invest in listening. As John Doerr writes, reps who don’t listen miss the opportunity to build rapport, uncover buyer needs, and let the prospect know you understand their world.

Trouble is, listening can be very difficult. Too often, salespeople are waiting for their turn to talk or thinking about what to say next, instead of truly listening to the prospect. To eliminate this habit, I’ve taught the reps who have reported to me over the years a very specific skill: Active listening.

This is one of the first skills we teach new salespeople who join the HubSpot team. It is immediately helpful for them on their first call with prospects all the way through to closing calls.

What is Active Listening?

Active Listening is a four-step process:

  1. Truly listen to the prospect.
  2. Feed back the content and feeling of the prospect’s words.
  3. Confirm you heard the prospect correctly.
  4. Ask a relevant follow up question to further clarify your understanding of their situation.

Active Listening isn’t only applicable to sales, nor is it a new thing. Dr. Carl Rogers, one of the founding fathers of psychotherapy research, originated the concept of “reflective listening” in the 1940s. In the following years, Richard Farson, a student of his, renamed it “Active Listening.”

Another student of Rogers, Dr. Thomas Gordon, a three-time Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, is largely responsible for popularizing the strategy. Gordon’s company, Gordon Training International, has taught thousands of people to build more effective relationships through Active Listening, among other skills.

While I haven’t received instruction directly from Gordon Training, I’ve stuck pretty close to their definition of the concept. To make it simple, I teach Active Listening as a four-step process:

  1. Truly listen to the prospect.
  2. Feed back the content and feeling of the prospect’s words.
  3. Confirm you heard the prospect correctly.
  4. Ask a relevant follow up question to further clarify your understanding of their situation.

1. Truly listen to the prospect

Sales reps are often too busy talking to listen. Even if they are tuned in, they’re often just listening for a specific word or challenge that tips them off as to whether the prospect needs their product.

Salespeople who do this are not much different than a dog waiting for a command. (Yes, I might have just called you a dog.) When salespeople do this, prospects can sense it, and they come to the conclusion that the rep simply wants to sell them something regardless of whether they need it or not. It’s a downward spiral that usually leads to nowhere.

But the best salespeople listen differently. They forget about the script (and maybe even their own agenda), and really listen to the words and feelings that a prospect is conveying in their language, tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language.

By observing auditory, visual, and physical clues as well as the prospect’s words, a salesperson can truly begin to understand the plight of their prospect and put themselves in the buyer’s shoes.

And this type of listening can make a huge difference by encouraging prospects to open up more, and fostering trust and commitment.

So when you’re on the phone or in a meeting with a prospect, ignore the distractions around you, throw out the script, stop worrying about what you’re going to say next, and really pay attention.

2. Feed back what you just heard back to the prospect

After a prospect makes a statement that reveals something important about their challenges or what they’re looking for, feed it back to them so they can hear it from you. Your goal with this step is to feed back your understanding; that is to say, your best guess at what’s going on with the other person.

Sometimes, this can be done non-verbally. But without the benefit of face-to-face presence, inside sales reps must do this verbally.

I usually show salespeople how to use one of the three approaches described below:

  • Repeat what you heard verbatim. This is the easiest route, because the prospect will hear exactly what they just said and can either confirm their meaning or clarify their statement. But be careful not to overuse this approach with a prospect as they might start to doubt your understanding. (Parrots don’t actually understand, right?)
  • Paraphrase what you heard. This is a better approach than simple repetition of what they said. By paraphrasing, you can condense what they said into something more concise. When you do this, your prospect knows you listened because you internalized their speech enough to summarize what they said. However, avoid oversimplifying and leaving out important details -- this might shake the buyer’s confidence in you.
  • Put what you just heard into your own words. This is the best tactic of all. By putting what you just heard into your words, you’re showing your prospect that you have a framework for understanding situations like theirs and can empathize with their struggle. Just be careful not to drift too far from their language. Use unfamiliar vocabulary or terms sparingly, and make sure to explain them when you do.

By feeding back what you just heard, you’ll make an immediate impression on your prospect. Since most people are not great listeners by nature, your prospect will be appreciative of your ability to listen effectively and summarize.

Convincing your prospect that they’ve been heard and understood is the most important outcome of this step in the process. But, don’t leave that to chance ...

3. Confirm that you’ve heard them correctly

This critical step is often overlooked. After you’ve paraphrased what your prospect has said, simply ask “Did I communicate that effectively?” or “Do you believe I understand what you have shared with me?” If the prospect says “no” you now have an opportunity to clarify your understanding by asking “Could you clarify for me what I might have missed or got wrong?”

Notice how those questions create an opening for them to give you honest feedback. In contrast, I don’t recommend saying “Does that make sense?” or “Could you explain that better?” or any other question that puts the blame on the prospect for not communicating effectively.

Michelle Adams, VP of Gordon Training says, “When you nail it, you know it and the other person tells you that you did by saying things like: ‘Yes! That's it!’ or ‘Exactly, you've nailed it.’ Or they will begin nodding their head emphatically. If you miss on your Active Listening, they will tell you that too with: ‘Well, no, it's not that. It's more like this … ’ or they will look at you like you're nuts.”

The following video from Gordon Training shows this step in action.

Once you get good at this part of the process, you’ll be able to create a confirmation bias in your prospect’s mind. Studies have found that we like to surround ourselves with people who think like we do. By repeating what this person has said and then confirming that you’re on the same page, the confirmation bias starts to form, and trust begins to develop.

4. Ask a relevant follow up question

After you feedback what you’ve heard and confirm that you understand the prospect, your next step is to ask a relevant follow up question.

Resist the temptation to ask closed-ended questions that might make the prospect think that you’re only interested in making the sale. Instead, I recommend asking an open-ended question that encourages your prospect to share more about their goals, challenges, and current plans.

As Saul McLeod points out, open-ended questions allow the person to express what they think in their own words. If you ask the right question, prospects might come to the right conclusions themselves, solving their own problem, or at least starting to believe that a solution exists to help solve their problems. They might even conclude that your solution is the right one. In addition, by getting your prospect to continue thinking critically about their situation (out loud), you stand a better chance of to uncovering the compelling reasons your prospect will (or won’t) buy from you.

Given that HubSpot sells a complex product and methodology that most companies might not know they need (especially in the early days), I added this fourth step to my Active Listening process.

As we tried to convince marketers that they needed to adopt a new way of marketing, I found it valuable to dig deeper into a prospect’s needs with relevant follow up questions, using our qualification framework as a guide.

Examples of Active Listening

While not sales-related, a great example of Active Listening comes from one of my favorite shows: Everybody Loves Raymond. Curious to see and hear what active listening looks like in action? Check out these two clips:

 

5 Uses For Active Listening

Here are a few scenarios in which active listening is particularly useful, and how to apply it in these circumstances.

1. Addressing Resistance in the Beginning of a Sales Call

I advise salespeople to use Active Listening early in the sales process to communicate to prospects that they’re there to really listen and help them -- not just sell them something.

Here’s what a very early conversation might sound like.

Prospect: I don’t really need help with X.

Salesperson: So, you’re feeling okay with X and aren’t looking for any help with it. Can you say more about that?

Prospect: Well ... I don’t have a lot of time.

Salesperson: Seems like I caught you in the middle of something and your time is short.

Prospect: Yeah, but I guess I have a few minutes.

Salesperson: Okay. I often hear one of a few things in situations like yours: A, B, and sometimes C. If any of those are relevant, I have some ideas I could share with you that you might find valuable. Maybe we could talk for a few minutes now and schedule another meeting when you have more time?

Too often, salespeople rush to spit out another question or pitch their value. By repeating back what a prospect expressed (both words and feelings) and asking for clarification, you show that you’re actively listening to them. This clears the way to begin asking questions or positioning value.

2. Identifying Compelling Reasons for Change

Perhaps the best time to use Active Listening is when a prospect shares emotion about a challenge they’re having.

Here’s an example:

Prospect: I’m very frustrated that we didn’t achieve our goal of A this year. I thought about it all last month. This really set us back. Worse, I’m just stuck on what to do next year.

[Step 1: Listening]

Salesperson: Hmmm. I see. I can see how that would be frustrating. [Step 2: feedback]

Prospect. Yeah.

Salesperson: So, it sounds like it’s really important to you that you achieve goal A this year. It really set you back when you didn’t achieve it this year and you’re at a loss on what to do differently next year. [Step 2: feedback] Did I get that right? [Step 3: Confirm understanding]

Prospect: Yes. Exactly right.

Salesperson: Well, what are you considering doing next year? [Step 4: Ask relevant follow up question]

Prospect: Well, we’ve consider implementing plan B. But, I’m just not sure it’ll work given we don’t know how to execute plan B yet. We just don’t have the right skills within our team.

Salesperson: Have you considered getting some advice from someone who has implemented plan B at other companies like yours?

Prospect: That seems like it’d be a good idea.

3. Recapping an Exploratory Call

While it’s never too early to restate the goals and challenges that a prospect has shared with you, empathize, confirm your understanding, and probe further, I find that the end of an exploratory conversation is a great time to showcase that you’ve heard them throughout the call.

Using HubSpot’s qualification framework, I often summarize what I’ve learned from the conversation like so:

Salesperson: We’re coming up on time. We can schedule more time if it makes sense. But, at this point, I suggest we review what we’ve discussed today.

Prospect: That’d be great.

Salesperson: As I understand it, your current goal is A. In order to achieve your goal, you implemented plan B -- a plan that didn’t work this year despite your best efforts. You anticipate that challenge C may, once again, get in the way of implementing plan B and achieving goal A within timeline D and budget E.

Prospect: That’s exactly right. Impressive recap, actually.

Salesperson: We also discussed how plan F -- a component of our solution -- might be able to help you overcome challenge C.

Prospect: Well ... I’m not sure I completely understand plan F.

Salesperson: Okay. We went through some of the aspects of plan F, but I agree that we haven’t fully covered it. In our next call, would you like to go into more depth on plan F, really sketch it out, and make sure that we’re in full agreement that it’ll help you achieve goal A?

Prospect: That sounds great. Thank you for your help so far.

Salesperson: You’re welcome. When would you like to schedule our next call?

4. Addressing Objections

The best way to avoid an objection is to anticipate and address it proactively. Effective application of Active Listening can help you do just that.

Nonetheless, it’s rare that you can anticipate and address every objection before closing time. Not to worry -- Active Listening shines here too. Here’s an example.

Prospect: I’m really concerned about plan F. I worry it won’t work well for our team.

Salesperson: Got it. We certainly don’t want to get you started if you’re not clear on how you’re going to be successful with the plan. [Step 2: feedback] Are there specific things about plan F that you don’t think will work? [Step 4: Relevant follow up question]

Prospect: Yes. Mostly, I’m just not sure we have the right people to implement G.

Salesperson: Okay. We talked about Mary potentially doing G, but you’re concerned that won’t work? [Step 2: feedback]

Prospect: Right.

Salesperson: Is there anyone else on your current team that you think can do G? Or do you think that we could carve out time for Mary so that she can learn how to do G? [Step 4: Ask relevant follow up question]

Prospect: I think it’s possible to teach Mary, but is there a way that you could just do G for us in the meantime?

Salesperson: That’s outside of the scope we defined for our work, but let’s revisit. We’ve certainly done that for other clients and can jump in until you’ve identified an internal person to handle it for you.

5. Closing Business

Dave Kurlan invented my favorite closing technique: “The Inoffensive Close.” If you’ve done everything correctly during your sales process, closing should be something that just happens. if you need a little nudge, the Inoffensive Close is the simplest way to ask for the business.

As Dave describes in his book Baseline Selling, there are three questions involved in the Inoffensive Close:

  1. Do you believe I understand your issues, your problems, and your concerns?
  2. Do you believe I/we have the expertise to solve your problem effectively?
  3. Would you like my/our help?

As you can see, listening during the sales process as well as confirming understanding are necessary steps if you want to use this closing approach.

But even when you’ve run a great sales process, prospects don’t always answer with an emphatic “yes” after each of these questions. That’s when Active Listening can be very handy, once again.

Prospect: I’m not quite positive that you have the right expertise. I’m concerned that you’re not the best provider for a company like ours.

Salesperson: Okay. Let me make sure I understand. You’re concerned we wouldn’t be the best provider. [Step 2: feedback] Is there a competitor of ours that you think might have more experience in your industry? [Step 4: Relevant follow up question]

Prospect: Well, not so much in the industry, but they’ve had more experience with cultures like ours. At least, that’s my opinion.

Salesperson: So it’s more about the culture of your organization as opposed to your industry? [Step 3: Confirm understanding]

Prospect: Yes. Exactly.

Salesperson: But it sounds like the rest of the team might disagree with you a bit? [Step 4: Relevant follow up question]

Prospect: A bit would be an understatement. Some of my colleagues speak very highly of the work you’ve already done for us.

Salesperson: I see. So, it sounds like my company has some mega fans amongst your team. And we certainly have done a lot to help them over the years. But you think that our competitor is better suited to help you, given the culture of your organization. Would it help if I could demonstrate to you what we’ve done for other companies with similar cultures to yours?

Prospect: Yes. I think that would make the decision a lot easier.

Salesperson: If I can do that effectively, would you hire us to help you instead of the other firm?

Prospect: Yes.

As you can see from these examples, Active Listening is a skill that can be used in almost any stage of the sales process, from the first interaction all the way to closing the deal.

Practicing Active Listening

While Active Listening is a relatively simple skill to understand, it is difficult to master. The good news is that as with any skill, excellence comes with practice.

The nice thing about Active Listening is that you’ll know it when you’ve learned to do it effectively. Your prospects will tell you if you’re on the right track.

But I find that new salespeople need a safe environment where they can practice Active Listening. With this in mind, I asked a few HubSpot sales managers to share some tips for coaching Active Listening.

Here are a few from Greg Brown, a top sales performer turned sales manager:

If you feel yourself tuning out in the middle of a conversation or thinking about your next question or statement, do something to get out of your own head. Tap the desk or snap a rubber band on your wrist. Turn off all distractions including cell phones, extra tabs in your browser, your email and chat clients.

If you find yourself wanting to ask a question or make a statement, write it down so you can ask it later. This will free you up so you can listen to what the prospect is saying.

Jen Cooley, a HubSpot sales manager, plays a fun game with her new salespeople in order to teach them how to use this four-step Active Listening process. It’s had an impressive impact on her team:

Of the four steps to Active Listening, I find that #2 and #3 are fairly easy but #1 and #4 are more difficult to teach.

One of my favorite exercises to run is a “hot potato” game. I describe a real sales scenario and we do a role play. I start the role play by making a statement and then tossing the potato (or any object that I have handy) to someone in the room.

When you get the potato, you have to keep the conversation going by feeding back and asking a relevant follow up question. After completing these steps, the rep then tosses the potato to another salesperson. We repeat this until we have the prospect’s complete story.

Usually, different people in the room hear different details because they’re listening more effectively. As the story unfolds and those details become critical to understand, the rest see the importance of step #1. They also learn different ways to ask relevant follow up questions, helping them improve at step #4.

As a result of these group exercises, I’ve seen some significant changes in individual performance. It dramatically improves reps’ ability to qualify effectively and tailor our services to the individual prospect’s needs.

Sales call film review provides another great opportunity to teach Active Listening. Dan Macadam, another HubSpot sales manager, does this frequently with his team. Here’s how he describes its impact:

When we review calls, I often hear my reps completely misunderstanding a prospect’s questions or statements. They end up taking the conversation in a direction that loses the prospect’s interest.

When I hear this, I rewind back to the part where they misheard something important. Then, I’ll ask the rep to repeat back to me what the prospect said. We’ll talk about why this phrase was important and how the conversation might have went differently had they practiced Active Listening.

As a result of this process, we've uncovered missed opportunities a number of times, enabling the rep to to get the opportunity back on track on the next call. I’ve even had salespeople call prospects right away, apologize, explain that they think they missed something important, and then have the dialog they should have had.

We’ve won quite a few deals this way. And just as importantly, I’m teaching my salespeople how to use Active Listening in their future sales calls.

In a world where buyers don’t rely on salespeople for information, salespeople need to establish expertise and build trust quickly and with every interaction. The mutual understanding that Active Listening enables is one of the best ways to earn and keep that trust throughout the sales process.

If you begin employing Active Listening in your interactions and your sales increase as a result, share your story in the comments. In the meanwhile, if you need more encouragement before you start employing Active Listening in your sales calls, maybe Abbott and Costello can provide it to you.

They gifted us with not only one of the most memorable comedy skits of all time, but probably the worst attempt at Active Listening ever:

With Active Listening, reps can start more conversations, uncover challenges and goals, handle objections, and close more effectively. When in doubt, close your mouth and open your ears.

Thank you to Michelle Adams, Mike Renahan and Emma Brudner for their contributions to this post.

Get HubSpot CRM today!

24 Apr 15:59

How to Nail B2B CTAs: Email, Social, Blog, & Web

by Justina Logozzo

The call-to-action (CTA) is a core component of any marketing effort today, especially within the B2B space. Without one, how do you expect your target audience to do what you need them to do?

Research shows that call-to-actions perform better than AdWords, with the average click through rate being 3.29 percent across all industries, likely due to the increasing number of users running ad blockers.

CTAs are not a one-size fits all deal either. There are channel-specific, audience-specific, and objective-specific best practices. A powerful email call-to-action could make for a VERY lousy social media CTA.

Because your marketing channels all have different purposes for communicating with your prospects, specifying by channel in terms of CTA is critical. Social media is typically top-of-the-funnel messaging, whereas email is middle to bottom-of-the-funnel, so moving prospects to the next logical step down the funnel requires specialization–you don’t want to push prospects hanging out in the beginning of your sales funnel to demo your product before they are ready.

Let’s check out some CTA strategies that can be utilized on four different channels – email, website, blog, and social media – and then outline some ideas to integrate into your own content promotion campaigns.

Email Call-to-Action Strategy

Email marketing is quite possibly the most utilized channel in today’s environment, as 87% of B2B marketers use email marketing to generate and nurture leads.

That also means that your target audience is being inundated with emails from all kinds of other companies, including B2C marketers. Without an catchy CTA within your email, you’re bound to blend in with the crowd and be exiled to the Gmail promotions tab for life.

Your email CTAs can be used to drive readers anywhere–seriously, anywhere. But how are you supposed to stand out and be successful?

Well, it mainly has to do with the location, text, and overall appearance. They need to pop out at readers when they take a quick skim of your email, and have a clear idea of where the CTA will take them.

Fortunately for marketers, there are more options available to us than flashing arrrows saying click me. Let’s explore how to get your audience to take the next step on two types of emails: plain text and graphic/ HTML emails.

Plain Text Email CTAs

Plain text emails are a pretty straightforward concept. They look just like the emails you send to colleagues and friends. No, not like the spam chain mails your grandmother sends you.

This type of email takes advantage of the familiar style we’re used to seeing in emails, offering a message that feels more personal. And while it’s not as attractive and flashy as its counterpart, the personal feel allows for dynamic CTAs that drive real results when done well.

CTAs in plain text emails should fit within the broader style, in that they should be personal, short, and void of marketing jargon.

One marketer who excels with plain text emails and CTAs is Neil Patel, a marketing influencer. This email from his subscription list shows how simple CTAs, when positioned correctly, can be used within a plain text email.

Here you can see the CTA is short and written in plain English so it fits in with the overall tone of the email. Neil signs off on his plain text message and almost adds the CTA as an effortless afterthought, giving his audience the illusion it could have come from a friend.

Overall, your Plaintext CTAs should fit naturally into the voice and flow of your plain text message, and be delineated from marketing copy with spacing and light formatting. Take a page out of Neil Patel’s book by trying a P.S. style CTA in your next plain text message!

Graphic/ HTML email

HTML emails, on the other hand, are a much more graphically designed and boast the ability to guide a reader’s attention through a message with images, gifs, videos, icons, emojis, and more!

CTAs in HTML emails are often on brightly colored buttons positioned in the center of emails. Here are your pro-tips:

  • Apple recommends CTAs should be at least 44 pixels to accommodate bigger thumbs in mobile experiences
  • Whether you’re using a text CTA, an image, or a button, be sure to use vibrant colors for your CTA that will be eye-catching
  • While B2C retailers often pack emails with tons of CTAs, but in the B2B world best practice is 1-3 dynamic CTAs that point to valuable content or further campaign touchpoints

For example, Demand Gen Report uses HTML emails with strong CTAs frequently. In this example, they use an animated header image aligned with the webcast name and use text to support to purpose of the email. Their “Blast Off” CTA at the bottom stands out within the first glance, telling me that if I planned to jump aboard the rocket to qualified leads, I needed to click there to do so.

Similarly, SEMRush promotes their upcoming webinar with a little more copy and a static graphic, but follows a similar layout as the one above. Their CTA is more specific, telling readers to ‘click right here to register for this webinar’.

Because people spend on average only 11 seconds looking at emails, in both graphic and plain text emails, marketers need to pack a punch with CTAs to see ROI. Focus on CTA language that is simple and short, and introduces the subject, and is positioned with even spacing that guides readers’ eyes.

Landing Page Call-to-Action Strategy

Landing page CTAs are another, largely underutilized, form of call-to-actions that marketers use to generate leads and get prospects to convert. According to Marketing Experiments, only 48% of marketers build a new landing page with CTAs for each campaign.

Like email CTAs, landing page CTAs can drive users anywhere, but the key with these is to have only one CTA. Your landing pages should have one goal and everything on the page —every graphic, line of copy, and image— has to be aligned around that goal. Cramming two or more CTA in on your page will prevent visitors from focusing on the true goal of the page, which is sure to send your page bounce rates skyrocketing.

Why wouldn’t you want to add multiple and conflicting CTAs? Simply, getting people to your landing page isn’t always easy, so once they are on it, you don’t want to them confused as to which action to take next.

The calls-to-action need to be clear and prominent on your pages. If you hide them or stuff them inside texts and images, visitors aren’t going to know what to do. A good rule to follow is to place your CTA above the fold (visible without requiring visitors to scroll) and make sure its colors contrasts with its surroundings.

You want the reader’s eyes to be drawn to it immediately.

They are need to convey the benefit users will get when clicking as well as use positive determinants. By using positive determiners like “you”, “my”, and other words that express possession makes readers feel as if you are directly addressing them.

Also, much like your spouse during a texting fight, one word CTAs should be avoided.

Bad landing page CTA

Good landing page CTA

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Another good practice to keep in mind is to imagine what you page would look like without the images and text, leaving only your CTA on it. Will visitors still know what your goal is? The answer is yes, they should.

An example of this tip is SproutSocial’s homepage page. Immediately when I arrive on their site, I am drawn to their green ‘start your free trial’, which tells me what I’m going to get when I click on it.

Blog Call-to-Action Strategy

There’s a good chance blog readers have arrived via a quick Google search, social media promotion, or email blast. As they read it, you want them to start thinking about their next steps and how they are going to use the information they’re absorbing.

So why not provide that information to them?

They are likely hungry for raw and impactful content – not a sales pitch. You have whetted their appetite, so now present them with the main course and even some dessert.

Blog CTAs can be presented in two ways: woven into the text as a hyperlink or as a clickable image.

A text CTA looks just like this one; it’s linked to another page that will provide readers with added benefits or additional information.

(Yes, I linked that to our blog because you should totally keep reading them.)

A clickable image CTA, on the other hand, can be a small banner within the text, a rectangular graphic on the side, or a large image at the bottom of the blog.

Check out the strong, graphic CTAs used by Evariant, a healthcare CRM software provider.

In most of their blogs, they insert a small banner CTA as well as a lager image at the end. Their CTAs look alike and point to the item as well as follow the one per page CTA rule. Additionally, Evariant aligns their call-to-actions with the blog content.

Great blog CTAs need to offer readers something relatable to the content they are reader as they are obviously interested in that topic. Showing unrelated content will only cause confusion and lead away from the blog’s goal.

Social Media Call-to-Action Strategy

Social media marketing is the most widely used tactic in the B2B space. Roughly 83% of B2B marketers use social media to reach their audience and 54% of those marketers actually generating qualified leads.

With that, it’s safe to say that if you plan to blow away your prospects and stand out in this channel, you need to have a good CTA.

You need to have strong, straight-forward, and highly shareable CTAs, especially if you’re relying on text. Essentially, any request can be considered a call-to-action. If you want them to call you, fill out a form, sign-up for a newsletter, or buy something, you have to tell them.

They can’t read your mind after all.

A call to action should be crystal clear and tell users what you want them to do, like using active words such as ‘like’, ‘follow’, ‘share’, ‘donate’, or ‘subscribe’. You can also create a sense of urgency and need to act quickly by adding an end date or saying it ends soon.

Social media CTAs should also vary based on the network, as their user base varies as well as the ability to add a CTA. Sponsored ads on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram provide spots for calls to action below sponsored posts, whereas Twitter is a little bit more flexible.

MarketingLand’s Search Marketing Expo social account is one that always grabs my attention and clicks. Not only is the content they share relevant to my interests, but it’s actionable and tell me what I need to do. They also tend to include catchy images and videos to stand out in feeds.

Using social media for B2B lead generation is a great idea, but you need to make sure your CTAs designed to do that. Check out GetResponse’s blog for some more tactics.

Final Thoughts

So, before you sit down to write and design a CTA, consider best practices for your channels and create a different approach to generate the kind of leads you need. Don’t be afraid to have some fun with them and remember that it will take some tests to find the CTAs that work best for your audience.

24 Apr 15:59

5 Ways Onboarding Sets Account Executives Up for Success

by Kyle Taylor

Setting up an account executive for success begins with the onboarding process. An optimal onboarding experience will not only help a new hire learn your business but also provide them with the confidence they need to succeed.

Focusing on nurturing confidence in the early stages with a company is key to developing a strong seller from the onset.

Below are 5 easy steps that any business can take to set account executive up for success, starting day one.

1. Provide a Vision and Direction

Why does it feel like you won when your favorite team wins the Super Bowl? It’s because people enjoy feeling like they are part of something bigger than themselves.


One of the most important things a sales organization can do for their account executives is to help them feel part of the team.


That means providing an excellent onboarding experience where they meet the team, learn the core values of the organization, and understand the part they play in the vision for the future.

Transparency is equally as important. When you know the direction that the ship is sailing and why decisions are made, it helps you feel even more involved and in touch with the organization.successful onboardingA successful onboarding process can lead to retaining 69% of employees over a three year period. Less turnover leads to more knowledgeable account executives and a healthier culture overall.

2. Invest in Reps’ Personal and Professional Goals

What is your personal goal?  Is it to retire early, purchase the dream car you have always wanted, or to take that dream vacation you’ve talked about for years? We all have different end goals and reasons for striving for success. Sales leaders should invest in learning what their account executives are hoping to achieve, both in and out of the office.

Working together to achieve personal goals is a great way to align career and personal growth. By investing in them, they will, in turn, invest more of themselves into the company.

3. Provide the Tools for Success

There’s an old saying about having the right tools for the job. This also applies to salespeople. Providing the tools to be successful in any role is key to ensuring success and promoting growth.

Whether it’s investing in the right software, supplying quality leads, or providing ongoing development training, the right tools are crucial in creating success and growth for an account executive. Studies show that continuous training increases net sales by at least 50%, so the investment in training pays off in the long run.

Proper coaching tools are crucial for providing guidance and direction for any new account executive. Live Call coaching is a great way to listen in on sales calls and provide guidance in real time to help accelerate development.

4. Provide Reasonable and Challenging Goals

Most runners will tell you that it’s important to set reasonable goals to stay motivated. There’s a reason the popular training method is “Couch to 5K” rather than “Couch to Marathon.”  Working towards a reasonable phase one goal gives you a higher chance of success.

The same applies to sales.

Realistic goals work in a few ways. First, you provide an attainable target that is both challenging and rewarding. An unrealistic goal has the potential to be demoralizing and frustrating, leading to a disengaged seller.

Secondly, as the account executive continues to learn and improve, raising the bar with stretch goals will serve as motivation that they are on the right track.

Achieving goals is made easier with a seamless onboarding process. Research indicates that 77% of new hires with a formal onboarding experience hit their first performance milestone.onboarding performance successIf sales is a marathon, then setting goals in measurable challenges is a surefire way to help reps feel confident with their progress and motivated to grow and succeed.

5. Autonomy to Succeed

Micromanagement is the killer of motivation. When a salesperson finds a (successful) flow for their sales process, they don’t want anyone stepping in and telling them how they should be selling. After all, if it’s not broke, why fix it?

By allowing account executives to develop their own routine and rhythm for their sales process, you are setting them up for success and building confidence. We all like to feel like we are somewhat autonomous.  If a manager steps in and dictates how we spend every minute of our day, it can have adverse effects. There should be a sense of trust.


The onboarding stage is crucial for setting up account executives for future success. Providing the tools for success, allowing for autonomy, and the feeling of inclusion are all great ways to ensure your account executive is confident and ready to take on the role!

Want to learn more about the challenges and solutions that power account executive success? Download the free eBook below:account executive success

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