By Jim Cathcart
Today, you plan to make sales – but to whom? Who are your targeted prospects? Where are your most likely buyers? Which among them will be your best customers? And, by the way, where will you start?
For almost every product or service there are buyers who hope to find them. Your buyers are out there – and many of them are hoping you, or someone like you, will show up with the solution to their needs or wants.
How to Define Your Market
A market is a group of people with enough in common that you can establish a reputation among them.
When seeking your ideal buyers, there are three ways to look: from the outside, from the inside, and from your own point of view.
The outside view is looking for markets that share enough common characteristics that you can easily communicate with them. There are
- Industry markets: automotive, financial services, real estate, construction, publishing, etc.
- Professions: medicine, dentistry, chiropractic, accounting, law, architecture, education, and so forth.
- Social markets and hobbies: country club members, golfers, bicyclists, motorcyclists, runners, bird watchers, do-it-yourselfers, yoga enthusiasts, and more.
- Language or cultural markets: Speakers of English (especially in non-English countries), Mandarin, Vietnamese, German, French, etc.
- Fans: sports, celebrities, and music genres. There are also Star Trek fans (Trekkies), comic book collectors, Notre Dame fans, Lakers fans, Tom Cruise fans, James Bond fans, Dead Heads, heavy metal fans, Beatles fans, fans of reggae, blues, folk music, and more.
- There are collectors of almost everything you can imagine: wooden dolls, Superman memorabilia, Coca-Cola signs, toy soldiers, marionettes, frog figurines, ivory carvings, books, watches, and…need I go on?
- Geographic markets: New Yorkers, Chicagoans, people from the South, Californians, Central Americans, Australians, and Europeans. This is also true of neighborhoods: townies, country folks, people within four miles of your dealerships, or who live in “the Heights” or “the Meadows,” homeowners in an HOA or gated community.
From the inside view (seeing through the buyer’s eyes) there are people who want luxury, economy, quantities, quality, durability, flexibility, and more. If you sell inexpensive watches, you can probably skip the luxury watch collectors as prospects; then again, an interest in watches might lead to some new sales with a creative approach. Look for what the buyers are seeking and group them by their interests and desires. Then find ways to reach out to them.
From your own point of view, you could look at what you are trying to achieve. Are you seeking to sell out of old inventory, build a reputation for a new product, permeate a market and reach all the buyers in one category, generate revenue for a new venture, improve your margins with new sales methods, build your book of clients for the future, or what?
The steps in getting new business involve
- Finding a market you want to serve
- Surrounding the market with messages from you
- Penetrating that market so you get at least one customer within it
- Permeating the market with as many sales as you can so you “own” it for the next phase of your marketing
Let’s say you’ve chosen automotive rebuilders and collectors as your market. Those are people who love finding old and rare vehicles, restoring or customizing them, and driving them. They go to car shows and tune into TV and radio shows and channels that cater to car enthusiasts. They go to races, parades, museums, and parts and accessories stores. They attend rallies and join Facebook groups that cater to their craft. To “surround” this market, you would probably do some of the following (note: this applies to other markets as well):
- Attend their events
- Exhibit at their expos
- Advertise in their magazines and podcasts
- Sponsor people in their field
- Learn their insider language
- Show how you are “one of them”
- Offer them something that relates to their field and leads them back to you
- Participate in their events (volunteer, host, or serve as the emcee; interview their leaders; appear as a guest on their podcasts; or become one of them in whatever ways make sense)
By doing these things you will surely find your first customers there and will have a foothold in that market. Treat the first customers as honored clients and serve them the best you can. Then get referrals and use them as examples of what you can do for others. Before long you’ll “own” that market due to the large number of customers there and your growing good reputation among them.
Now apply this same thinking to whatever market you have chosen. Happy selling!
Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAE, is one of the most award-winning professional speakers in the world and the original author and champion of Relationship Selling. He helps organizations and individuals find their best customers and grow their business in ways that are a natural fit for their talents and value offers. Contact Jim at email@example.com
New fifth-generation “5G” network technology will equip the United States with a superior wireless platform, unlocking transformative economic potential. However, 5G’s success is contingent on modernizing outdated policy frameworks that dictate infrastructure overhauls and establishing the proper balance of public-private partnerships to encourage investment and deployment.
Most people have heard by now of the coming 5G revolution. Compared to 4G, this next-generation technology will deliver near-instantaneous connection speed, significantly lower latency — meaning near-zero buffer times — and increased connectivity capacity to allow billions of devices and applications to come online and communicate simultaneously and seamlessly.
While 5G is often discussed in future tense, the reality is it’s already here. Its capabilities were displayed earlier this year at the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where Samsung and Intel showcased a 5G enabled virtual reality (VR) broadcasting experience to event-goers. In addition, multiple U.S. carriers, including Verizon, AT&T and Sprint, have announced commercial deployments in select markets by the end of 2018, while chipmaker Qualcomm unveiled last month its new 5G millimeter-wave module that outfits smartphones with 5G compatibility.
BARCELONA, SPAIN – 2018/02/26: View of the phone company QUALCOMM technology 5G in the Mobile World Congress. (Photo by Ramon Costa/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
While this commitment from 5G commercial developers is promising, long-term success of 5G is ultimately dependent on addressing two key issues.
The first step is ensuring the right policies are established at the federal, state and municipal levels in the U.S. that will allow the buildout of needed infrastructure, namely “small cells.” This equipment is designed to fit on streetlights, lampposts and buildings. You may not even notice them as you walk by, but they are critical to adding capacity to the network and transmitting wireless activity quickly and reliably.
In many communities across the U.S., 20th century infrastructure policies are slowing the emergence of bringing next-generation networks and technologies online. Issues, including costs per small cell attachment, permitting around public rights-of-way and deadlines on application reviews, are all less-than-exciting topics of conversation but act as real threats to achieving timely implementation of 5G according to recent research from Accenture and the 5G Americas organization.
Policymakers can mitigate these setbacks by taking inventory of their own policy frameworks and, where needed, streamlining and modernizing processes. For instance, current small cell permit applications can take upwards of 18 to 24 months to advance through the approval process as a result of needed buy-in from many local commissions, city councils, etc. That’s an incredible amount of time for a community to wait around and ultimately fall behind on next-generation access. As a result, policymakers are beginning to act.
Thirteen states, including Florida, Ohio and Texas, have already passed bills alleviating some of the local infrastructure hurdles accompanying increased broadband network deployment, including delays and pricing. Additionally, this year, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has moved on multiple orders that look to remedy current 5G roadblocks, including opening up commercial access to more amounts of needed high-, mid- and low-band spectrum.
The second step is identifying areas in which public and private entities can partner to drive needed capital and resources toward 5G initiatives. These types of collaborations were first made popular in Europe, where we continue to see significant advancement of infrastructure initiatives through combined public-private planning, including the European Commission and European ICT industry’s 5G Infrastructure Public Private Partnership (5G PPP).
The U.S. is increasing its own public-private levels of planning. In 2015, the Obama administration’s Department of Transportation launched its successful “Smart City Challenge” encouraging planning and funding in U.S. cities around advanced connectivity. More recently, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded New York City a $22.5 million grant through its Platforms for Advanced Wireless Research (PAWR) initiative to create and deploy the first of a series of wireless research hubs focused on 5G-related breakthroughs, including high-bandwidth and low-latency data transmission, millimeter wave spectrum, next-generation mobile network architecture and edge cloud computing integration.
While these efforts should be applauded, it’s important to remember they are merely initial steps. A recent study conducted by CTIA, a leading trade association for the wireless industry, found that the United States remains behind both China and South Korea in 5G development. If other countries beat the U.S. to the punch, which some anticipate is already happening, companies and sectors that require ubiquitous, fast and seamless connection — like autonomous transportation, for example — could migrate, develop and evolve abroad, casting lasting negative impact on U.S. innovation.
The potential economic gains are also significant. A 2017 Accenture report predicts an additional $275 billion in infrastructure investments from the private sector, resulting in up to 3 million new jobs and a gross domestic product (GDP) increase of $500 billion. That’s just on the infrastructure side alone. On the global scale, we could see as much as $12 trillion in additional economic activity according to discussion at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in January.
Former President John F. Kennedy once said, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” When it comes to America’s technology evolution, this quote holds especially true. Our nation has led the digital revolution for decades. Now with 5G, we have the opportunity to unlock an entirely new level of innovation that will make our communities safer, more inclusive and more prosperous for all.
LinkedIn, the Microsoft-owned social networking platform for the working world with over 500 million users, is making a significant change as it continues to look for ways to make its platform more useful (and used).
The company is relaunching Groups by rolling it into its main app by the end of the month after quietly pulling the standalone app earlier this year, and it will be streamlining the service by cutting out several features, including an ability for Group administrators to pre-moderate comments; and a way to email send Group posts as emails to the whole group, while also adding in new features like threaded replies and the ability to post video and other media.
An announcement detailing the changes was sent out to a select Groups power users earlier today, and we have confirmed the details with LinkedIn directly. Mitali Pattnaik, the product manager for Groups, said that some of the discontinuations — such as the ability to approve posts before they are live — are temporary and will make their way back to the app in some form over time.
The moves come nearly three years after LinkedIn tried another approach to put some more wind into Groups’ sails. In 2015, the company hived off an updated version of Groups into its own standalone app.
Included in the changes, Groups were made private with the aim of reducing some of the spam that people were posting. The bigger idea was that, with some 2 million Groups already on LinkedIn, users would be able to dedicate more time to posting, reading and managing (if they were admins) those groups, and creating new groups, once they were in their own app. And on the part of LinkedIn, it would help the company focus on developing features specifically tailored to the Groups experience.
But the move did not go down well. In the wake of the changes, reports started to surface about how the moves stifled usage of groups, turning the platform into what some were calling a ghost town. And LinkedIn itself, it seems, was finding it a challenge to continue updating the app, even as LinkedIn itself was getting enhanced with new features.
“Being a standalone app, Groups was not able to take advantage of the overall LinkedIn ecosystem,” Pattnaik said. “Everything from the news feed to notifications to search, these things move at a fast pace, and the minute the apps got separated the main app innovated at a much faster pace and became more advanced than the standalone Groups app.”
LinkedIn then quietly pulled the Groups app in February this year, as it announced plans to integrate the feature.
It’s not clear what kind of impact the last three years have had on the product. These days company does not comment on how many groups there are, nor how much they are used, except to say that there are “over 2 million” and that more than half of all LinkedIn members are at least in one group. (The person who oversaw Groups’ move to becoming a standalone app is also no longer at the company.) LinkedIn’s main app, on the other hand, has seen session time rise by 41 percent year-on-year, “growing consecutively for several quarters.”
The removal of the standalone app is in line with how another social network has evolved its own Group effort. Almost exactly a year ago, Facebook announced that it too was killing off its Groups app so that it could integrate the feature closer with the core app experience. In both the case of LinkedIn and Facebook, the idea is somewhat the same: while we have our wider networks of friends and Pages that we follow on both platforms, sometimes there is value in communities that are focused around more specific interests, and ultimately, that might turn out to be the lever that brings more people in and out of using the main service.
On a product iteration level, it seems that LinkedIn is not the only one that found it hard to keep up with changes across two platforms that essentially rested of many of the same mechanics.
As part of being rebuilt on LinkedIn’s platform, Groups will be getting a number of new features — essentially tapping into new features that LinkedIn has rolled out over the last several quarters on its own app but hadn’t built for the (previously standalone) Groups platform.
For starters, conversations taking place in Groups will now appear in-stream on the LinkedIn feed, rather than in a separate tab. When group members are replying to posts, there will now be threaded replies, which will let people respond directly to comments within the thread.
Groups are also going to have a rich media infusion: users will be able to edit posts and share videos and other non-text formats. This is a very long overdue feature, considering how central video and rich media like GIFs have been on other platforms in getting people engaged in a service, and also considering that LinkedIn’s been showing video in its feed for a while now. “Since video launched on LinkedIn, Groups have been asking for this,” she said.
It also looks like LinkedIn will also be pushing a lot more Group activity into your notifications tab, while alongside this, it’s sunsetting the e-mail blast. That might not be such a bad thing: while it did help admins get information out (especially when Groups updates were essentially hidden from the average LinkedIn user), Pattnaik admitted that the email feature “can be abused” by those simply looking to promote themselves.
Admins are also getting a few new controls. They will be able to pin important items to the top of a Groups’ individual feed, and Pattnaik said that LinkedIn is working on a way to collapse those pinned notifications after they’ve been viewed by the member so that they don’t continue to take up space. They will also be able to approve and remove members by way of the app, as well as send out messages when necessary.[gallery ids="1691948,1691949,1691950"]
LinkedIn, it seems, hopes that people will be able to use the LinkedIn app to discover more Groups that they can join — when Groups choose to have themselves “listed” and discoverable — but one thing that won’t be changing with the new version is that those users will still have to get permission from admins before they can join.
While Groups have a lot in common with how groups of employees might communicate using a messaging app like Slack (or stablemate Yammer, or Facebook’s Workplace) LinkedIn says that it has no plans at the moment to develop Groups into something that could be used in this way.
The reason for this, Pattnaik says, is that for the moment LinkedIn isn’t focused on developing a way to verify whether a person is actually an employee at a particular company. “We are always evaluating ways to verify identity across the site, such as verification processes to help detect fake profiles,” a spokesperson said. It has made some small steps in building products for company-only teams, however, for example Elevate to share content among coworkers.
In the meantime, the company is also continuing to develop other products beyond the main app. Just today, Sales Navigator got a quarterly refresh with more tools to update on deals, stronger integration with CRM apps and more.
Every company wants its customers to be successful. Every company wants its customers to have good experiences, accomplish what they’re looking to accomplish, find value in the product or service they’ve purchased, and become long-term, loyal advocates.
Companies typically employ a variety of tools and techniques to keep their customers happy and successful. But many don’t consider how they can use personalization technology to do this. We recently published a new eBook that provides marketers and customer success leaders – across industries – with 15 examples of how to use personalization to create more successful customers.
Avoid Overwhelming New Users
The onboarding period is a critical time in any new customer relationship. It’s so important to make sure that each new customer feels comfortable getting started with your product or service and that she understands how to incorporate it into her day-to-day life. If the initial experience is overwhelming or disorienting, she may become too frustrated to continue.
For SaaS companies and other businesses with web applications, a good way to help keep customers focused and comfortable is to hide some advanced features until they are ready to use them. Think about your product and how your users get value from it. Are there any features that can’t be used successfully or will cause confusion if another action hasn’t been taken first? Consider hiding features that are unhelpful to first-time users to focus their attention only on what needs to be done first. Then, when they’re ready, expose those advanced features and offer tips for using them.
For example, in this image below, the company hides the Advanced Analytics tab until the user has first explored the basic Reports feature.
Proactively Address Support Questions
Whether your customer experience is a SaaS product, a banking account, a subscription news service, or a retail site, it’s inevitable that some of your customers will experience a problem or have a question they can’t address themselves. Taking care of these issues quickly and painlessly is a must for any good customer experience. One of the best ways to do this is to use personalization to deliver appropriately timed messages that anticipate common issues to address them in the moment the customer is experiencing them.
For example, HostGator displays callout messages that appear based on behaviors — in this case detecting keywords or phrases associated with commonly encountered problems. Once a potential problem arises, it dynamically presents messages to direct the user to the most appropriate resources. With this approach, the company has substantially cut down the number of support calls and online chats it receives.
Capitalize on Upsell Opportunities
For many companies, upselling or cross-selling existing customers is a huge opportunity for growth. But it has to be done right. You don’t want to spam your customers with generic sales pitches, because you don’t want to risk losing the business you already have. So you need to make sure that you find the customers who are a good fit for an upsell and reach out to them at the right time and in an acceptable way.
With behavioral tracking or targeted survey questions delivered through your personalization platform, you can easily identify which customers are interested in or a good fit for complementary products or services. Then you can follow up in the moment with a relevant message or you can alert the right salesperson.
For example, iPage delivers a survey to first-time users who have never spoken with a salesperson. If the answers to those questions indicate that the user would be a strong candidate for an upsell, an opportunity is automatically created in Salesforce and the appropriate salesperson is alerted to the opportunity. This campaign has driven a 34% increase in upsell lead volume from marketing-driven sources.
Done well, personalization is what happens when you take everything you know about your customers — including the digital behavioral data you accumulate when they interact with your app or website plus any relevant data you have residing in various systems — and use it to provide helpful, tailored experiences. Hopefully, these three use cases have given you a few ideas about how to leverage personalization to deliver better experiences for your customers.
Take Some Risk exists to do two things: help clients make or save more money from marketing. The year-old performance marketing agency is located in Vancouver, Canada, and helps eCommerce, SaaS, and technology brands create, manage, and scale profitable PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns globally.
The company’s founder, Duane Brown, never wants the agency to be large -- his ideal size stops at 12 people and currently sits at a team of four.
When asked what makes his agency different from others flooding the market, he says, “We know what to do when something goes wrong. We won’t hire someone with one year of experience. These people generally know how to do everything right but have no idea what to do when challenges arise.”
The Last Straw in the Corporate World
Brown started Take Some Risk for reasons that will sound familiar to many -- he was unhappy at work. “I realized the companies I was working for weren’t going to fire people who weren’t good at their jobs and would promote people who were average. I decided to take the risk -- and one client -- and start my own business.”
There were many unknowns in Brown’s new venture. One thing he knew for sure, however, was that he wanted to do it on his own. “We’ve all had to do group work in college,” he recalls, “People end up not pulling their weight and leaders disagree on pivotal decisions.
By running a business without a co-founder or board, the decisions are mine and I choose how to move the business forward.”
First Steps to Building a Business
Once he defined how his business would be structured, Brown set about building it. “You have to have the stamina and confidence to push through the painful parts. For you, that might be accounting, business development, or hiring -- but you’ve got to push through the uncomfortable parts and know when to ask for help.” Here are a few other steps Brown took in his early days.
1. Keep a cash reserve
He recommends having at least four-to-six months budget in the bank. “When you’re starting off and don’t have a large client base, it might take prospects a few months to close. It’s a complicated process, and you need to have enough money in the bank to keep the lights on.”
2. Separate business from self
Brown also knew he was going to incorporate his business -- for tax reasons and to separate his business from his personal life. He filed papers with the Canadian government, opened a bank account, and turned his attention to buying a domain, setting up hosting, and brainstorming a name for the business.
3. Earn your first clients
When it came to “convincing” his first few clients to take a chance on his young company, Brown didn’t have a hard time. “I’d been working with my first client as a side gig before I left my day job. They were built in.” From there, he worked his network and contact list asking for referrals. “If I see someone in my network who might need my help, I reach out.”
4. Nail down pricing
When it comes to price, Brown is honest, “I don’t compete on price and I don’t sugarcoat things. I find this attracts the right kind of clients for our business: clients who are interested in the benefits and the quality we can offer.” This model has helped Take Some Risk grow their client base exponentially over its first year.
Brown is also a staple on the conference circuit where he expertly networks within the industry and fosters relationships with current and future clients.
For Better and for Worse
Being the sole owner of an incorporated business has its ups and downs. For Brown, it’s all worth it, but he’s just as honest about the challenges as he is about the benefits.
Challenge: Educating clients
When asked about the early challenges of owning his own business, Brown answered honestly, “Even after you’ve closed a client, keeping that client can be difficult. You’re always one paycheck away from another agency swooping in and stealing your business.” To combat this, Brown and his team work to educate their clients on the exact benefits and real value they receive with Take Some Risk.
Benefit: Immediate decision making
“I can make a decision today and implement it today. I don’t have to wait for someone else’s approval,” says Brown. He also cites the ability to hire who he wants as a perk. “I know the right questions to ask during the interview. Execution is everything in our business, and I want to hire people who can do the job.”
Challenge: Cash flow
As far as what he’d warn other entrepreneurs against? “Manage your cash flow and make sure clients pay bills when they’re due.” Brown explains, “Many people take cash flow for granted. Because of that, we bill every 30 days (while some companies bill net 45, 60, or 90 days) to make sure we always have the cash on hand we need.
Benefit: Keeping it simple
Brown has an accountant do his company’s taxes, but everything else is managed in house. “If we get big enough, I’ll probably outsource HR part time, but right now that’s manageable for us. We want to keep things as simple as possible. The more people are involved, the more complicated your business gets.”
Challenge: Maintaining a full pipeline
Brown also recommends always having opportunities in the pipeline. “Sometimes we work ourselves out of a job because we do what clients hire us to do. I always do more business development than I think we need, because it always takes longer than anticipated to close a deal.”
Finally, Brown recommends only spending money on things that will move the business forward. “That foosball table might sound fun -- but is it really going to impact your bottom line?”
One area Brown has seen returns on is using Bing Ads to help his clients reach new customers and grow their business. “There’s something going on with the Bing Network audience that I've not seen anywhere else,” Brown says.
Having Strong Values
Brown also advocates for defining company values early -- and sticking to them. “If we don’t think an action will help a client make money, we’ll push back. We won’t just say ‘yes.’ And we’ll fire clients if they can’t take that feedback. If we’re not driving revenue that will earn a client substantial gains, we’ve got to push back. We stand by our values, even if it means being fired.”
Take Some Risk’s Company Values
Brown doesn’t views his company’s values as stopping with him. “I live these values, so any time there’s a teachable moment I can lead by example. After all, If I don’t live them, how can I expect my team to?” Here are Take Some Risk’s four pillar values:
- Passion - “It’s important to have a passion outside the business. If all you want to do is work all day, I don’t believe you’ll be the best at your job.”
- Curiosity - “You need to know why things are happening in your accounts -- not just that they’re happening.”
- Courage - “It’s hard to tell a client you made a mistake. You’ve got to have courage to do the hard part of the job.”
- Honesty - “Be honest. Sometimes, doing what’s right isn’t easy, but you must do it. Otherwise, it’s hard to work in this industry -- or any industry.”
Owning your own business is a leap of faith, a lot of planning, and even more perseverance -- with some pretty fulfilling days sprinkled in. Know your values, be honest about the good and the bad you encounter, and you’ll build a strong foundation for a business you and your clients believe in and value.
Want to expand your marketing efforts? Click here for more tips on running successful Bing Ads.
Editor’s Note: This guest post was contributed by Jeff Davis, Founder of jd2 Consulting Group.
Artificial Intelligence is coming. Research from Adobe shows us that even though 15% of enterprises use AI today, 31% of enterprises are expected to be adding AI over the next 12 months. As AI becomes more prevalent, I believe it’s the perfect window of opportunity for both Sales and Marketing teams to explore together how AI can take their customer interactions to the next level.
In particular, I encourage sales leaders to also think about those areas where AI can be impactful for both Sales and Marketing simultaneously in achieving our ultimate goal of driving revenue growth. One of the major issues with misaligned organizations is the development or use of tech solutions for cross-business processes in a siloed environment. And what could be more cross-business than the sales process? When you look at the buyer's journey, prospects interact with many different departments (i.e. sales, marketing, service, etc.) that many times, because these different departments operate in silos, they have each created their own tech solutions to deliver their assigned tasks to the overall process — getting new customers.
What if leaders were able to take the time to be thoughtful about how to leverage an emerging technology together versus trying to "make it work" once conflicts where identified post-selection? This is why I would like to share with sales leaders how they can bridge the gap with their marketing colleagues to think about adopting AI together.
Lots of Data for Sales to Use, Not Leveraging It Properly
One place where sales leaders should definitely start is a recent presentation given by Victor Antonio at InsidesSales.com’s digital event called the AI Growth Summit. Antonio’s presentation, "Sales Ex Machina: How AI is Changing the World of Selling," helps set the stage for developing an understanding of the current state of selling today, digital transformation's impact on sales strategy, and how AI is poised to change the way salespeople sell in the modern business world.
Antonio also talks about the AI Wedge, lead prioritization, finding blue puddles instead of blue oceans and much more. It's an extremely informative session that helps sales leaders increase their knowledge about the state of sales and begin to develop a vision for how AI will play a role in the future. I also think the session brings up some good points around how we can use AI to better leverage the cross-company data we have from several different sources (service, marketing, finance, etc.) to provide insights to salespeople and help them increase their productivity with more personalized interactions.
Salespeople are Extremely Inefficient, Help Them!
Another great session from the InsideSales.com event was titled "An Introduction to Sales AI Automation" and given by the Founder/CEO of SalesHero, Stefan Groschupf. One of the key themes he shared is that sales reps are extremely inefficient. This inefficiency has a direct impact on them being able to hit quota. TOPO shows us that 83.4% of sales professionals fail to consistently hit quota in large part due to time management challenges. Some of the data Stefan shares about salespeople that I think is compelling for sales leaders to know are:
- 58% of deals stalled due to lack of value communicated to prospect
- 90% of marketing content goes unused
- 8.8 hours/week spent looking for information
- 20 hours/week writing emails
Groschupf makes the point that although many salespeople are being hired for having skills such as an outgoing personality and an ability to make a meaningful connection with potential customers, we are continually asking them to do things outside of the scope of why we hired them — to sell. Things like writing compelling emails (that no one really reads anymore), administrative tasks (that take them away from selling) and continually updating the CRM (which they don't really receive value from). He also tells us that IDC predicts that AI-powered CRM activities will boost business revenue by $1.1 trillion from 2017 to 2021. This is a major win for the conflict many sales and marketing teams have over the proper use and demonstrated value of the CRM. I also believe that sales leaders can use these statistics to help them have a deeper conversation with their marketing colleagues to advocate for the specific support they need from the marketing team.
Make ABM (Account-Based Marketing) More Social
Jamie Shanks, CEO at Sales for Life, delivers a session at InsideSales.com’s event called "Redefining the Account Selection Process Using Digital "Social Proximity" Intelligence". His focus is on how to change your target account selection process by using digital "social proximity" intelligence. Shanks argues that sales professionals today cannot only rely on just focusing on large "whale" accounts because so is everyone else. Focusing only on these types of accounts lengthens the sales cycle and reduces the probability of success.
What he suggests is that we take current customers or past company successes and reverse engineer them to find other potential accounts to target based on our ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) and their social proximity to those accounts we have already achieved success with. This way of thinking has an impact on how a marketing team might work with Sales to execute an ABM (Account-Based Marketing) strategy. Thus, no longer are we just focusing our ABM efforts on the biggest opportunities. Sales and Marketing can now come together and be even more strategic and look at the best places to focus our efforts based on our connectivity to prospects in the social fabric of business. This way we deliver targeted marketing and selling experiences to those that have the highest probability of becoming a customer, based on relationships, not just company profile information.
Create Room for Strategic Thinking and Partnership with Marketing
I also gave a session at the InsideSales.com event. My session was titled "How AI Will Empower Sales and Marketing Alignment." I focused on the importance of us understanding how much of an impact misalignment has on the business. With misalignment between sales and marketing processes and technologies costing companies 10% or more of revenue per year, according to IDC, leaders can no longer ignore the alignment issue. AI, if approached together with an understanding of what types of solutions the business needs, can be a significant game-changer for many B2B businesses. One of the key things I think that AI will help us improve is overall CX (Customer Experience). This matters because estimates show that by the year 2020 CX will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. Beyond an improved CX and other really cool things like predictive lead scoring, AI has the power to remove mundane, repetitive tasks that add marginal or no value to the work we do. This frees up time for Sales and Marketing to actually come together and have a conversation about how best to work together. Alignment is about understanding the DATA in the revenue pipeline, establishing a strong PROCESS to meet the expected CX from customers, and embedding a formal approach to COMMUNICATION between the two teams.
In the end, AI will empower Sales and Marketing to do those things and more when both recognize how to leverage its power — together.
For more insight into how salespeople can get the most out of marketing, subscribe to the LinkedIn Sales Blog today.
I’ve long believed that top sellers are storytellers. They are able to call upon a rich fund of relevant anecdotes that they use to communicate and persuade far more convincingly than a conventional sales pitch could ever do. And in sharing their stories they encourage their customers to tell their own stories.
As humans, we are wired for story, and have been since long before the days of Homer. Some of us are naturally gifted storytellers, and others have to work on developing this critical skill. But we can all learn to do it well if we have the right framework and are prepared to put in the effort.
But unlike product knowledge or presentation and questioning skills, storytelling skills have rarely been part of the sales training agenda. It’s a subject that has been woefully neglected. The sales profession has been crying out for a guide, and I believe we have finally found one in an outstanding new book from Mike Adams…
It’s never been more important for salespeople to be able to rise above the clutter of cookie-cutter communications and really engage with their customers at both an emotional and a rational level. And it’s never been more important that we cut out all the buzz-word and jargon-ridden nonsense and adopt a more empathetic approach to customer conversations.
All we’ve been waiting for is a guide. And Mike’s new book “Seven Stories Every Sales Person Must Tell” is the most comprehensive handbook I’ve ever come across to enable salespeople to both tell more effective stories and to stimulate our customers to share their own stories in return.
According to Mike’s analysis, successful stories incorporate a sequence of events that fit a known framework, are interesting and unpredictable, turn on one main character and make or illustrate a relevant business point. If any of these are missing, the story is unlikely to engage, persuade or convince.
Perhaps most important, the listener needs to be able to relate to the protagonist and see some important aspects of their own situation in the journey undertaken by the hero of the story. And if the story is to be realistic, it must include some believable complications along the way.
If there is no struggle, there is no story. I believe this is why so many overly-sanitized case studies that follow a simple problem-solution pattern without acknowledging any difficulties along the way simply lack credibility – and why you’ve got to question whether there was any value in publishing them.
As Mike points out, myths, movies, and novels can have complex narrative structures of the sort described by Joseph Campbell in “The Hero with a Thousand Faces”, but at minimum, the narrative arc of any good sales story must include four key elements:
- Setting: First off, our story needs a setting to establish context – typically including time and place markers that allow our audience to start painting a mental picture
- Complications: If we are to establish our credibility and engage our audience’s attention, our story needs to incorporate complications and some element of unpredictability
- Turning point: Although complications are necessary to establish interest and credibility when telling sales stories, we (mostly) want to end on a positive note, so the turning point provides the crucial pivot for the story
- Resolution: The journey ends with the complications being resolved, tension and suspense being lifted, and a valuable lesson conveyed to the listener
We can embellish or extend these elements. But if any of these four key elements is missing, our story is unlikely to engage or persuade or be in any way memorable to the listener.
By the way, I also recommend that where possible you add a fifth and final element to Mike’s formula: the unexpected benefit. Once you have revealed the resolution, the story can become even more emotionally engaging if you add something like “but in addition to resolving their initial problem, they found that an unexpected benefit was [insert surprising additional benefit]”.
Who are the most effective storytellers in your own organization? I’d expect many of your best-performing salespeople and business consultants to be members of this group, but it would be unusual if the company founders weren’t also highly effective storytellers.
How can we learn from their experiences and establish a company-wide storytelling competence – one that not only makes existing staff more effective but also inducts every new employee into a culture of storytelling and shared experience?
Well, it requires that we establish an ever-growing pool of shareable stories and encourage and equip our customer-facing people to practice and continually develop their storytelling skills.
Mike’s book provides an essential foundation for this endeavor, and I commend it to you.
Well, you’re probably asking, what are the 7 Stories every salesperson must tell? Well, for the full details I suggest you read the book, but here’s a taster:
- Your personal story
- Key staff stories
- Company creation story
- Insight stories
- Success stories
- Values stories
- Teaching stories
These story types differ in their choice of central character and their purpose. But Mike makes a compelling case for mastering every one of these story types – and provides detailed guidance on how to best develop and articulate each of them.
So – what’s your story? And how has storytelling helped you succeed? Be sure to comment below and tell me about your experiences – and I’d be happy to share my stories in return…
Do you feel it? Is the competition getting more fierce? Especially the competition of utilizing inside resources or worse, to make no decision.
How do you stand out from the crowd and get them to choose your solution?
If you are like me you could use a few new ideas. Luckily, my good friend Lee Salz wrote an entire book on differentiation, where he shares 19 strategies to help you not only win more deals but at the price you want.
Sales Differentiation: 19 Powerful Strategies to Win More Deals at the Prices You Want by Lee Salz will be a best seller. It’s full of ideas you can use immediately to move deals forward.
One of the things I like is the design of the book. It’s easy to read and I like the concepts at the end of each chapter. Here’s the concept from chapter one.
Sales Differentiation Concept #1
Position meaningful differentiation so buyers perceive your solution is “best” - without you saying a word. @SalesArchitects
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All the concepts are powerful but, WOW, imagine if you could position your solution so the buyer saw it as the best – game over!
You and I both know we need to help our sales teams differentiate but what can marketing do to help?
Who’s in Charge of Differentiation Around Here?
Is it sales or marketing? Good question. Salz believes both sales and marketing play a role. I like the way he puts it, “Marketing differentiation intrigues buyers to take a look at what you have to offer, but it does not pop the checkbook open.”
In my sales process, marketing’s work should build brand awareness and develop interest. The message marketing puts out should attract the right audience and let them know your company exists and that your solution may be just what is needed. It gets their interest.
Sales Will Take it from There
Salz explains, “Sales differentiation involves two-directional communication with an individual, prospective buyer, while marketing differentiation offers one-directional communication. In two-directional communication, a buyer answers questions; the information she shares helps to provide the salesperson with the necessary tools for a sales differentiation strategy.”
And that is what the book is about. Setting a sales differentiation strategy for each buyer.
Not for each company, for each buyer. What matters to one, may not matter to another. The seller has to be skilled at determining what matters to each buyer.
Salz cautions against using the same pitch for all the buyers. Differentiation is individual. The way your solution will affect each of the buyers is different and they are each looking for what matters to them.
When you fail to differentiate, deals stall, you have weak pipelines and salespeople resort to lowering the price to close the deal. This is not new news. Let’s prevent all that.
The Differentiation Universe
Salz wants you to build a Differentiation Universe but he cautions that this is just a list to choose from. He makes two great points, “First, not all differentiators will matter to everyone. Second, differentiators will need to be positioned with buyers, not just tossed out as trite expressions.”
Buyers only care about what they care about and it’s your job to figure that out and use the differentiators that matter.
Build your Differentiation Universe
There are six components to use when building your universe:
- The Company
- The People
- The Products
This is a great exercise and Salz gives examples in the book. Read the examples and then build your own. I mean it! Do it!
It is not enough to know your differentiators, you have to know how to use them and that is why I want you to read Sales Differentiation: 19 Powerful Strategies to Win More Deals at the Prices You Want by Lee Salz.
I want your sales team to win more deals and not have to lower the price to do it.
I love the way Salz ends the book.
Sales Differentiation Concept #19
The irrefutable differentiator is YOU . . . make it invaluable. @SalesArchitects
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More than what you sell, the way you sell it, will always make a difference. You can be viewed as a salesperson or you can be viewed as a valuable resource.
In the last chapter Salz asks, “Is the meaningful value you personally bring to the table compelling enough, such that a Decision Influencer would prefer to buy from you instead of your competitors?”
My advice, finish reading this and go buy Sales Differentiation right now.
The post I’m Different! Pick Me! Use Differentiation to Close More Deals appeared first on Alice Heiman, LLC.
Jim Burns of Avitage drew the distinction between finding versus creating sales opportunities in an article on LinkedIn a couple of years back (I’ve included a link to his article below) and I’d like to offer some additional perspectives on an issue that sometimes isn’t given the attention it deserves.
How we deal with a sales opportunity depends the nature of the sales opportunity, how we uncovered the opportunity and how we choose to react to the opportunity.
We have three basic options: to respond to what the customer already believes they need, to attempt to reframe the customer’s thinking about a current need, or to create a fresh opportunity where none existed before.
As you can appreciate, our sales strategies need to vary very considerably between these three situations...
Responding to an existing opportunity
If - without any prior engagement with us - our prospective customer is already actively in the market for a solution to a defined problem, it is likely that they are already well along the way in their decision journey.
They have already recognised an issue or problem, they have already concluded that they probably need to do something about it, and they have probably already researched their options.
We may have uncovered the opportunity through our marketing or business development activities, or they may have found us as a result of their research into potential solution suppliers.
They may have already developed a very clear sense of what they need - perhaps reflected in a formal tender document or RFP - and if they have already reached this stage, their buying process may be in some form of “lockdown” that precludes the normal discovery interaction.
Our initial engagement with the prospect will probably make it clear whether we have any chance of influencing or reframing their thinking. If not - if they expect or require us to respond to their already-defined requirements - we need to think very carefully whether the opportunity is worth pursuing.
We need to take into account that if we haven’t influenced their specification, then somebody else almost invariably will have done. We need to be very aware that - according to research by Forrester - the vendor that got in early and did the most to influence the prospect’s thinking tends to win three deals out of four.
If our choices are either to respond to their already defined needs or walk away, we need to take the following factors into account:
- Do we have any existing relationship with the prospect, and if so, how strong is it and how can we leverage it?
- Do we have any evidence that the prospect’s thinking has been influenced by our marketing efforts?
- Can we detect any evidence of a competitor’s fingerprints in their requirements document?
- Can we realistically offer any compelling differentiation if we are unable to reshape their requirements?
- Are we likely to be able to win on price (and are we willing to discount down to the levels required)?
- Are there any rational reasons why they are likely to choose to buy from us?
Having to respond to a specification we had no involvement in shaping is a tough sales task. Win rates against unexpected RFPs are - at best - in the low single digits. If we cannot stand out or if we are not prepared to discount to whatever levels are required to win the business, we are likely to lose, and to waste a lot of energy in the process.
Reshaping an existing opportunity
The situation is somewhat different if the prospect expresses a willingness to listen to alternative perspectives about both the scope and nature of the initial problem and the potential solution options.
Even if the opportunity is active, we can still seek to reshape the prospect’s current perspective on the project. We can leverage our experience to introduce previously unconsidered needs or implications.
Rather than simply responding to what the prospect initially believes they need, we can seek to reshape their perspective and introduce a credible alternative point of view. Our goal must be to help the prospect recognise that they are actually facing a more significant problem or opportunity than they might have originally recognised.
If we can persuade our prospective customer of the importance of these previously unconsidered or undervalued needs, we can then progressively refocus the conversation around the key capabilities they are going to need to address the newly redefined issues.
We can use intelligent questioning techniques, relevant insights and compelling stories to make the point. We need - assuming we have the discipline - to avoid rushing to pitch our solution until we have reengineered the foundations of the problem.
Our goal, of course, is to lead towards, rather than with, our solution. And it’s a strategy that if successfully implemented can dramatically improve our chances of winning an already-underway opportunity.
If we do this well, our expected win rates for reframed opportunities will inevitably be far higher than those where we simply responded to what the customer thought they wanted.
Creating a new opportunity
But our greatest chances of success come where we are able to initiate a brand new opportunity - by bringing a fresh perspective about key industry trends to key people in organisations (existing customers or targets) that we recognise as satisfying our ideal customer criteria.
This, of course, requires that we have a clear profile of what an ideal customer looks like, and that we have identified the roles that are typically capable of acting as change agents within their organisations.
It also requires that we have a clear understanding of the key trends that are affecting our prospective customer’s industry, and that we have a distinctive point of view and an effective solution to offer.
But if we can be proactive in this way, and if we act as the catalyst for our prospect’s buying decision journey, our ability to influence their conclusions is far higher than if we restrict our focus to already active opportunities.
We can justify our role as a trusted adviser. We can help shape both their perception of the problem and their vision of a solution. And because we can influence their sense of urgency, getting involved earlier does not necessarily mean a longer sales cycle - in fact, these opportunities often move more quickly as a result.
Shaping their vision of a solution
Let’s remember that Forrester found that the vendor that did the most to shape the prospect’s vision of a solution - either because they got in early, or because they were able to reframe the prospect’s initial perspective - won three out of four deals.
Whether we reframe our prospect’s existing requirements, or stimulate them to initiate a new project, becoming the driving force in shaping our customer’s vision of a solution is perhaps the most important thing we can do in any sales situation.
It takes confidence. It takes industry knowledge. It takes relevant insight and stories. It requires that we ask intelligent questions and offer intelligent responses. It requires that we avoid the itch to pitch.
But if that makes the difference between being the front runner or an also-ran, isn’t it worth it?
By the way, here’s the link to Jim’s article...
ABOUT THE AUTHORBob Apollo is a Fellow of the Association of Professional Sales , a regular contributor to the International Journal of Sales Transformation and the founder of UK-based Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners. Following a successful career spanning start-ups, scale-ups and corporates, Bob now works with growth-orientated B2B-focused scale-up businesses, equipping them to Sell in the Breakthrough Zone® by systematically creating, capturing and confirming their distinctive value in every customer interaction.
You’ve been using a professional channel incentive program platform, and perhaps it’s been adequate. But even if you’re seeing improved sales results and program participation, is your program really running as efficiently as it could be? Is it the most cost-effective solution for what you’re trying to accomplish? Though there are quite a number of channel incentive solution providers out there, certain elements of their products, services, or contracts can make the difference on the overall success and ROI of your program.
Here are some of the signs that you should re-evaluate the solution provider you’re using to get your channel incentive program out to your target audience.
You can’t segment your audiences by many (or any) demographic characteristics.
The most effective channel incentive programs vary the promotions for different audiences, depending on certain characteristics. Administrators of your program should be able to segment your user base by any number of criteria, including name, store, region, geography, and more. This ensures that only those people who should qualify for the promotion in question are able to see it within the platform.
The platform is limited when it comes to types of promotions that can be run.
In our experience, there are two major types of promotions: loyalty-focused and SPIFFs. Many channel incentive solution providers out there can offer you one or the other, or try to separate the two. A robust channel incentive program platform should allow you to seamlessly focus on both at the same time—reward now, and promote long-term loyalty.
Reporting and analytics don’t provide a full picture of your promotions.
Any channel incentive solution provider worth its salt provides reports out of the box. The key differentiator here is how many of these reports are available and accessible to you in real time. The default reports should also allow you to filter based on location, distributor/dealer, product SKU, job title, and more without having to go through the process of contacting your account manager to have developers build and deliver these reports for you. This process can be extremely time-consuming—and potentially costly.
Which leads us to…
They nickel-and-dime you.
Need a new promotion? Want to run a custom report? Looking to change out some marketing materials on the site? All of those can cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars in addition to your standard subscription fees, reducing the potential for positive ROI. If you’re shelling out one, two, or three times more money per month than was initially in the contract (after all, they had to get you to sign it in the first place, right?) your solution provider might be taking you for a ride.
Administering the program requires a lot of back and forth.
Some channel incentive solution providers have many of the tools that your administrators need to make the program succeed—but you have to go through the provider in order to make things happen. From assigning budgets for different managers, to posting sales enablement tools or training content, to simple user management, having to go through your provider ensures a delay in whatever basic settings you wish to change. Your channel incentive solution provider should allow you at least some basic self-serve administrative features.
You don’t get the guidance or support you need.
A channel incentive solution provider should provide account management that is thorough, precise, and tailored to your particular business needs. The relationship between provider and client should be more of a partnership, with both parties working together to develop the strategic plan that will deliver the best possible results for your program. Your account manager should, as well, deliver to you thought leadership and best practices that will keep you informed about ways to deliver a more cost-effective program. If you’re hearing from your account manager once a quarter or less, it may mean that the solution provider is not truly focusing on making your program a success, which could be detrimental in the long run.
Let’s say your sales results are off by 50 percent. You are literally producing half of your number. There are a few things you can do to improve your results and close the gap.
First, you can double your activity. You can do twice as much work, which for many people may be exactly what is necessary.
Second, you can double your effectiveness. You can double the size of the opportunities and double your win rates. This recipe will also produce an improvement, and it may also be a good choice.
The first choice begins with an assumption that sales is strictly a numbers game. In this view, there is nothing but activity. More activity leads to more opportunities leads to more wins, and there is no reason to do anything except double up your prospecting efforts, which, again, may not be a bad idea for those who do too little to create the results they need.
Choosing only to increase activity leaves out too many other factors to make it the only thing that one might do—or should do—to improve their sales results.
The second choice begins with a different assumption than the idea that activity is the only thing necessary to producing results. Instead, this view is biased toward improving the effectiveness of the sales force or salespeople who are struggling. The training, development, and coaching that increase one’s ability to target their dream clients and create bigger opportunities isn’t easy to provide and it doesn’t produce results as fast as one might hope. But the upside of working on effectiveness is that it also improves win rates, and a higher percentage of wins against bigger opportunities improves results exponentially, almost invariably more than activity alone.
The truth of the matter is that some people need more activity to produce the better results they need. Others need to improve their effectiveness to close the gap between their results now and the results they need, especially if they already have good activity.
Some, however, need to improve their activity while they work on their effectiveness. The increased activity solves the problem that is low activity, and the additional reps provide them with the opportunity to practice the new mindsets and skills that will—eventually—lead to greater effectiveness.
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Every new year brings with it trendy buzzwords related to sales – (like freemium), but one word has show up time and time again: data. With phrases like data analytics, sales data, big data and data sets, the collection of information is driving everything from sales coaching and productivity to predictivity technologies and marketing campaigns. No matter how big your business, if you’re not using data analytics to drive your sales, you’re going to fall behind your competition.
Old-school data collection was one dimensional. Knowing how long it took to close a deal after initial contact with the lead was helpful, but not necessarily full of deep insights into the sales process. Today’s big data is so rich with information that it touches every corner of sales – even before a prospect enters the picture!
If you’re eager to dig into data-driven sales but feel overwhelmed by the many ways to implement data-backed tools, start by focusing on these five areas.
1. Lead generation
You can invest in the best sales reps, sales training and sales coaching available, but if your marketing team isn’t generating strong leads, you’re expecting too much from your sales team.
If you consider that, according to HubSpot’s “State of Inbound 2018” report, only 5% of salespeople said that the leads they receive from marketing are “very qualified,” your first step should be to get marketing and sales in agreement about what constitutes a sales qualified lead (SQL). If their definitions don’t match, congratulations! You’ve just figured out one of your biggest problems. SalesFusion offers a helpful template to help you identify and distinguish between a marketing qualified lead (MQL) and a SQL.
If you need some help setting data-backed parameters on what’s a qualified lead, turn to your Customer Relationship Management (CRM). Demand Metric Research Corporation found that 84% of companies say their CRM system is beneficial in determining the quality of leads.
By giving your sales team better qualified leads, you’ll increase their efficiency and conversions, which will boost your profits.
2. Website navigation and landing pages
One of the easiest ways to make your investment in data analytics pay off is through the insights you apply to your website.
Making your main site more appealing though improved navigation, stronger branding and mobile optimization will yield a high ROI. Likewise, investing in your landing pages to make them more effective through high-conversion optimization (think SEO and data collection forms) can pay for itself in no time.
3. Customer analytics and insights
Knowing what your customer wants, when they want it, what device they use to research and shop, and how they want to be marketed to can help level the playing field for smaller businesses.
Thanks to customer analytics that can provide insights to create sales opportunities, marketing is no longer about how much a brand spends, but how well they invest it.
Big data helps ensure that whatever your budget, you’re using the best tools to target prospects on their terms when they’re most likely to buy. It’s personalization at its best.
Increased sales volume, higher per-customer spends, greater customer satisfaction and increased trust in your brand can all come from customer data analytics.
4. Sales coaching
Using data to create change doesn’t just apply to your prospects and customers. Sales coaching has just as much to gain from data analytics.
The right data can help you quantify sales reps’ behaviors to determine where and why they have success, as well as where and why they fall short. It can also help you track growth across competencies, such as accountability, time management, organization, emotional intelligence, adaptability and achievement motivation.
Like most everything else in your company, your decisions about sales coaching should be based on what you’ve learned from data, not hunches or mere observations.
5. Procedure and process improvement
Another buzzword that’s not going anywhere soon is automation, and just as manufacturing and accounting can benefit from the help of computer-generated tasks, so too can sales and marketing.
Modern software can automate virtually every task in your sales and marketing processes and procedures: sales forecast analysis, order processing and tracking, contact management, inventory monitoring and control, information sharing and more.
By streamlining your marketing and sales processes, there is less room for mistakes, more cohesion between departments, fewer bottlenecks in the sales funnel, more efficient use of time and resources, a renewed focus on selling rather than procedures, and improved customer satisfaction.
Don’t let data analytics intimidate you. There are a vast number of affordable sales enablement tools that can do the number-crunching legwork to turn information into insights. With that knowledge, you’ll have the wisdom to keep up with data-driven sales as well as – or better than – your competition.
Email matters more today than ever before. By the end of 2018, an estimated $500 billion in digital commerce revenue will be attributable to email marketing, reports Gartner. And if you are managing email marketing campaigns your CMO wants to know:
- What impact did they make in terms of revenue?
- Can you prove they achieved a return on investment?
- How did they influence sales and opportunities?
These are the metrics that matter to the CMO and rest of the marketing team, and you’ll be expected to report on these metrics with each campaign you launch.
Fortunately, we created five best practices on email metrics to help you get the most out of your email marketing initiatives.
1. What You Should Measure and Track
It’s no secret that your CMO doesn’t really care about the open rate or click-through rate of your email campaigns. So, here’s a list of a few email metrics that will help to make you and your campaigns stand out:
- Engagement score: A standard way to measure the engagement of your emails over time and not just as an isolated standalone event
- First-touch (FT) attribution: This answers a simple business question, ‘which campaigns generated the most profitable new names (leads) into the database?’
- Multi-touch attribution: This answers a complicated business question, ‘which campaigns are most influential in moving people forward through the sales cycle over time?’
These metrics take the guesswork out of evaluating your marketing efforts and will help you to get the budget and resources you need to make email a core part of your strategic marketing plan.
2. Get Stakeholders to Buy-in Early
When planning strategically, make sure that all relevant stakeholders are involved and have buy-in from the beginning. This helps assure that everyone will be well aware of the benefits and limitations of the email marketing initiatives.
Best practices include:
- Set expectations with all stakeholders
- Determine the strategy, goals, and attribution model
- Agree on what metrics will be looked at and when
Taking the time to get early buy-in from all stakeholders assures that everyone is on the same page and helps mitigate any surprises from lack of communication.
3. Test and Control
You’re ready to quickly launch your email marketing initiatives. That’s great, but take a breath before jumping in headfirst! Here’s why. Testing of the effectiveness of these initiatives is important. For example, you can create two to three separate messages and test them in a well-formed control group; and in doing so, you can understand the nuances of your message as well as your intended audience.
Tactical testing tips:
- Examining contact frequency
- What copy, tone, and length work
- Testing on different subject lines
- Including images, different call to actions, etc.
With a smaller, controlled test group, you’ll be able to scrutinize specific metrics to see what doesn’t work and what resonates with your audience.
4. Fine-Tune and Adjust
It’s imperative to use email metrics insights for the tactical as well as the strategic. If some metrics are indicating low effectiveness, you don’t always have to scrap the entire campaign. If possible, as covered in “Test and Control,” you can make a few tweaks here and there with your email marketing campaigns to better target your audience.
You’ll be surprised that a few fine-tuned measurements, done in small increments, may give the boost you’re looking for.
5. Plan for Future Success
Email metrics are about improving your ROI and not just proving your ROI. As covered, you want to get insights not only on what works but what works better. Be sure to design your email marketing programs to be measurable and then also apply the insights from previous measurements in the current cycle of planning.
Only 1/3 of CMOs say ROI of total marketing spend is a key performance indicator, reports Gartner. That means it’s a learning process but you can still reach that competitive advantage over 2/3 of your competition so, keep at it!
The best practices covered should not be seen as just standalone pieces but part of an overall holistic email marketing and metrics approach. You’ll notice that some of these suggested best practices overlap and support each other. Approaching your email marketing initiatives and metrics in a unified matter can help you develop an analytics culture not only in your marketing department but your whole organizations. And with these insights, you can take both strategic and tactical measures to improve your marketing initiatives today and on future horizons.
Have you found any additional email metrics best practices that worked for you? Share with us your experiences in the comments.
Millennials are obsessed with raising plants, and one New York-based startup is poised to capitalize
- Millennials are buying more plants than ever. Many are waiting longer to buy homes and are living in smaller, urban spaces for longer, which drives an interest in raising plants.
- The Sill, a direct-to-consumer plant seller, has made shopping for plants tech-friendly, advising customers on which types would be most suitable for their living circumstances and delivering plants directly to their door.
- The company just closed a $5 million round of funding led by Raine Ventures, bringing its total raised to $7.5 million.
Eliza Blank is in the business of selling plants to novices.
The Sill, the direct-to-consumer plant-selling business she founded in 2012 and leads as CEO, simplifies the process of selecting and buying indoor plants by advising customers on which types would be most suitable for their living circumstances — whether their home has bright light, low light, or is pet-friendly, for example — and then delivering them directly to their door.
The plants cost between $6 for a philodendron and go up to $60 for a pilea peperomioides.
"It's gardening for my generation," Blank told Business Insider in a recent interview.
"We are trying to reinvent what it means to be a plant person in 2018 under the age of 40."
The message seems to be resonating. The Sill just closed a $5 million round of funding led by Raine Ventures, bringing its total raised to $7.5 million. It has sold nearly 100,000 products so far this year and is on track to pull in nearly $5 million in annual revenue this year, the company said. It hit $1.7 million in revenue in 2017.
The company has matured during a boom in indoor plant sales that analysts say is driven by millennials' living circumstances. Many millennials are waiting longer to buy homes and are living in smaller, urban spaces for longer. For many, that creates a need for some green to bring the outside in.
The biggest driver of the trend seems to be space — or, perhaps, the lack thereof. Blank, 33, came up with the business idea after experiencing her own frustrations while moving into her first apartment.
"Like most apartments in New York, it was dismal at best. I was living in a 200-square-feet space in a six-floor walk-up, and my window quite literally faced a brick wall," she said.
Blank used plants as an escape.
"It occurred to me how deeply my emotional health and well-being was tired to nature," she said.
Bringing the outside in
The Sill, which operates online and from two stores in New York City, is perfectly poised to serve the urban, millennial customer who lives on the top floor of a 10-story building and has no access to a garden.
There is also a sense of escapism in plant-keeping.
"It's really an opportunity to disconnect with all the craziness in day-to-day, which is why it has resonated most deeply with millennials," Blank said.
Some have said that the act of looking after plants may also be filling a void for millennials who are not only buying houses later, but also delaying getting married and having children.
"Plants make us feel like grown-ups. When the traditional signs of adulthood — marriage, homeownership, children — are delayed or otherwise out of reach, it's comforting to come home to something that depends on you," Jazmine Hughes wrote in The New York Times in June 2017.
The Sill plays on this in its reference to its customers as "Plant Parents." On its website, it invites customers to join the so-called "Plant Parent Club" for $35 a month and have access to workshops and online webinars that instruct owners on how to care for their new crop.
Inspirational and aspirational platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are also creating an "intent to purchase," Blank said. The Sill has more than 282,000 followers on Instagram.
"I don't know if I would have ever been so involved or thoughtful about interior design if it wasn't for companies on Instagram posting so much content all the time," she said.
The Sill is now looking to expand its reach into outdoor plants and target new customers.
"We got our foothold with millennials, but I see us as starting to break into not only the 35-plus crowd, but also the next generation," she said.
And she has high hopes for this.
"This is not a flash-in-the-pan-type trend — it is not something that is going to go away."
NOW WATCH: How Columbia House sold 12 CDS for $1
With so much noise, getting customers to hear you can feel like yelling at a band during a sold out concert. Instead of shouting through a megaphone, why not stand out as a familiar face in the crowd? Building strong, meaningful relationships requires getting to know customers on a personal level. An effective way to establish that connection is through personalization.
Personalization isn’t just including the customer’s name in the subject line. It’s a multi-tiered approach that becomes increasingly more personal as the customer progresses through the sales funnel. With so much competition fighting for your customers’ attention, being perceived as a trusted advisor is now more important than ever. How do you position yourself as the person a customer turns to when they need answers?
People want to buy from people they like, and liking someone begins with getting to know them. Taking the time to personalize each piece of communication builds familiarity and trust. To do this, you’ll need to demonstrate an understanding of the industry, the company, and the person.
This isn’t a lesson on how to make friends (but it could be). We’ve detailed three steps to help develop deeper, more meaningful connections with customers through personalization. The end goal is to leave the customer with a familiar face in the noisy sales landscape. Earn their business by positioning yourself as a strategic partner and trusted advisor.
Step 1: Personalization That Starts the Conversation
Getting a prospect to engage with your emails can be tough. Their inbox is likely overflowing, just like yours. Who has time to read every email and decipher value? The first email needs to be brief; let the prospect know who you are and demonstrate that you’ve done your research.
Pitching your solution in the first email isn’t the answer. If anything, pitching too early will deter a prospect from engaging in further conversation, and who could blame them? They need to know who you are before they consider buying your solution.
The initial email should be direct and straightforward. Get to the point early and detail what you want to discuss with three bullet points. Make it clear why your solution is relevant to the prospect. There’s no need to add fluff; you want to respect their time and spark interest.
This email example is short, sweet, and to the point. Providing three bullet points lets the prospect know precisely what you want to discuss, and the opening sentence serves as a simple introduction. Doing research shows that you want to speak to the prospect for all the right reasons. The prospect should read the email and think, “Hey, this person gets it. Let’s see what they have to say.”
Step 2: Personalization That Relates to the Company
After an initial conversation, you should have a deeper understanding of the company and their challenges. To keep the conversation moving forward, you’ll need to use information from the initial call to further personalize communications.
Sharing content that is relevant to a prospect’s challenges encourages the conversation to progress further. Relevant is the keyword. Don’t contribute to the noise; make sure the content you send adds value. Check out this example:
The email above is specific to the prospect and relates back to the previous conversation. Not only does it show you were listening and thinking about the discussion, but it also adds value that creates another opportunity to connect. Demonstrating an honest desire to help a prospect succeed will help develop the relationship even further. We all want to feel like we have someone looking out for us.
Step 3: Personalization for the Person
By now, you and the prospect should be on a personal level with one another. Maybe not invite-you-over-for-Thanksgiving personal, but close enough that they see you as a resource and business partner. Incorporating a personal touch after an in-person meeting helps drive home the deal and nurtures the relationship. A handwritten note is a unique way to further personalize communication (and maybe get an invite for Thanksgiving).
Taking note of information related to hobbies, interests, and family helps to add a deeper layer of personalization. If you know your prospect’s son loves the Braves and has a birthday coming up, send a handwritten note with a couple of tickets to the next game.
Handwritten letters are a direct, physical connection that goes deeper than an email. When was the last time you printed out an email to save in your desk drawer? You’re doing more than just selling a solution; you’re developing a bond that will create a customer for life.
Personalization Leads to Becoming the Trusted Advisor
The goal of personalization is to rise above the noise and build a stronger relationship with the customer. The benefits of being a trusted advisor go beyond a closed deal. Payoffs manifest in other tangible (and profitable) ways.
People want to buy from people they like. Once you’ve developed a personal connection with the prospect, you become a partner. That relationship makes upselling and renewals easier, resulting in a recurring revenue stream. It can also help you earn referrals.
We all “know a guy.” Customers are more likely to refer others to people they like and trust. In fact, 92% of buyers trust referrals from people they know. We have a short video on that here. When colleagues have concerns or questions, the customer will know who to go to for an answer. In other words, you can be their guy!
Sales is an art, not a science. There isn’t a formula for the combination of phone calls, emails, and social touches that result in a closed deal. We have research that can help find effective strategies to increase engagement, but building strong relationships is a step in developing an effective strategy for winning deals.
Get the full picture on the best practices of top performing sales reps by checking out our latest research here.
How are you rising above the noisy sales landscape? Don’t miss these 3 personalization steps to connect with prospects on a more personal level.
The post Personalization in Sales: 3 Steps to Rise Above the Noise appeared first on SalesLoft.
Clker-Free-Vector-Images / Pixabay
As B2B marketing and sales organizations prioritize account-based revenue strategies, traditional inbound tactics alone can’t provide the quantity or quality of decision-makers to convert target accounts. You simply can’t wait for prospects to find your website through inbound marketing tactics – it won’t scale quickly enough to hit goals. That’s where 3rd-party demand generation and content syndication come in.
As Dawn Colossi, CMO at FocusVision, once said, successful revenue marketing requires “Paying attention to other sites and treating them like our own – thoughtful of the content we put on them, what they were doing and how they are performing – is key to our strategy’s success.”
Unfortunately, 3rd-party programs can be incredibly time-consuming and frustrating to manage without the right tools, making it very tempting to take shortcuts or “guess” instead of dedicating the time required to properly plan, launch, measure, and evolve content syndication programs. Does the phrase “We have to move quickly” sound familiar?
Here’s a list of the 10 most-common content syndication mistakes we see our customers make, as well as some guidance on how to get it right.
1. Neglecting the importance of lead source/partner/publisher selection
Not all publishers are created equal, and it takes some work to find partners that will work for you. It’s important to ask a lot of questions, such as:
- What verticals, job titles, geos and asset types are their strength?
- What channels and methods do they use to promote content? (E.g., Do they just blast an email database or do they use “intent” and other intelligence data to identify the right people to distribute to?)
- What are their policies on POCs (proof of concepts)? Delivery windows? Returns?
- Do they meet your data-privacy and transfer requirements?
2. Putting all your eggs in one basket
Managing multiple publishers can be a daunting and time-consuming task. It can seem like there’s never any economies of scale. Every publisher you add means more time and confusion, which drives many marketers to drastically limit the number of partners they work with. They find a couple that work and then stick with them for years.
There are a couple problems with this:
- First, even if the partner has the best reputation and continues to provide quality contact data, eventually the well is going to run dry, even for the biggest publishers.
- Second, your buyer personas and ideal customer profile is likely to evolve and expand over the years. Not updating your partners to reach these new audiences would be a huge (and costly) mistake.
3. Distributing product-focused content
Do I really have to say this? Save the stuff that talks about your product for your own website, or later in the nurture game. The goal of content syndication is to identify new prospects who haven’t heard of you but are researching a problem you might be able to solve for. So, serve them up some helpful information and tools first before you start selling them your stuff.
4. Using analyst reports too early
Everyone loves a good analyst report. Or benchmark report. Or rankings list. But that’s the problem: everyone loves them, regardless of whether they’re in a buying cycle for your product. Invest in these reports, but don’t give them away via content syndication programs. Instead, start with an awareness piece that will attract potential buyers for your product. Once you’ve nurtured them to be familiar with your product, that’s the time to deliver the analyst report to show accreditation for your solution.
5. Not having enough content (or not making good use of the content you already have)
Have a beautiful, thick new piece of awareness content that your content team is eager to get “in market”? Awesome news. Now chop it up.
I don’t mean get rid of it, but rather determine ways you can revise it into other, smaller pieces of content. Turn a white paper into an infographic, a checklist, a stats sheet and a blog post. Bonus points for video or engaging social content! …and you can still use the original white paper version too!
Then, work with your publishers to determine which of these smaller pieces will resonate best with their audience. Some will say the full white paper, but many will suggest a combo of the stats sheet, infographic and video. Listen to them, but also measure and optimize based on your own data.
Different buyers prefer different information formats and have preset expectations for the formats they’ll encounter in each place they go for information. Cater to that, while also getting more juice from all your big content investments.
6. Sending leads right to sales or BDRs
3rd-party demand gen provides an introduction to potential buyers, but it’s not an indicator that someone is ready to speak with a sales person. Have a plan to nurture the contacts you receive from your 3rd-party programs before letting the BDR team jump all over them.
7. Not leveraging BDRs in nurture efforts
I know I just cautioned about sending leads right to sales, and now I’m telling you to send them to sales? Hang with me here. Traditional BDR tactics like calling and email blasting to “book a meeting ASAP” are not the right approach. Instead, marketing should provide BDRs with scripts and cadence coaching for 3rd-party demand follow up. A mix of email, social and phone can be used here, and the tone should be helpful and personalized – making deposits before taking withdrawals (asking for meetings).
8. Not monitoring your programs closely
3rd-party demand gen is not a set-it-and-forget-it effort. Like any of your marketing efforts, testing, measurement and regular optimization should be the rule. Watch for underperforming assets or sources that should be replaced with higher-performing ones, and make the swap quickly after identifying a problem. A word of caution – if you notice an asset drastically underperforming, first confirm that the publisher is actually distributing that particular asset. It’s possible they forgot to set one of your assets live or they may be unable to support the number of assets you gave them. Don’t write off a good asset when the publisher is really the problem!
If you’re able to take a longer-term look (thanks to having closed loop reporting), evaluate sources not just on “lead quality” but on how many opportunities were ultimately driven as a result of that source. Deal velocity by source is another great metric, if you can get it.
9. Running short-term campaigns instead of developing an always-on strategy
Do you only eat when you’re absolutely starving? Hopefully, you’re regularly fueling your body to keep it primed and operating at a high level. Same goes for your demand engine – you should be continually filling the top of the funnel to keep the rest of the pipeline operating at maximum capacity.
Plus, you never know when your potential buyers are in a buying cycle. Sure, you can guess based on fiscal calendars, but what if a new leader comes in to shake things up out of cycle, or an acquisition happens? Point is, if your 3rd-party demand engine is always running, it will catch those buyers whenever it is they’re looking for a solution.
10. Not leveraging modern data and tech to be smarter and more efficient
Many incredibly helpful data types and tech systems are available to support your content syndication programs and 3rd-party demand gen strategies. Some of them even help you sidestep the above mistakes – so it’s wise to look into how they may help your specific goals and programs. Here’s a list of the 4 of the big ones:
- Intent data gives you the ability to more precisely target accounts that are in buying cycles or showing interest.
- Traditional and retargeting display tools help you surround all the potential buyers at accounts, not just the one person you reached via your syndicated content.
- Demand orchestration software centralizes myriad 3rd-party contact data sources while automating all the manual processes associated with managing those sources and programs, and ensuring the quality of all the data they generate.
- ABM tools help you more precisely reach entire buying committees.
Content syndication isn’t easy, but with the right knowledge, strategy and technology, it’s an effective strategy to quickly scale pipeline and meet your revenue goals.
Your sales team likes nothing better than getting leads with a high probability of closing soon. So much so that many reps often ignore every lead they don’t consider hot.
Long-term leads often prove to be more valuable than those slated for a short-term decision. It may seem counter intuitive, but there are three key reasons why B2B companies need to pay more—not less—attention to opportunities not yet ready to close:
1. In many cases hot opportunities are already baked.
Often hot leads are really buying companies that have already been sold by another vendor. They’ve indicated they have a short buying cycle and they’re eager to talk, but what these buyers may be doing is validating a decision already made. They’re looking to you for what is frequently called column fodder, or price comparison after-the-fact, to justify the purchase of a competitive offering.
A longer-term lead may lack urgency, but it makes up for it by giving your team a very real chance to form relationships with decision makers, and in fact define and manage the buying process (including designing the RFP). This is an advantageous position to be in—and one that leads to more deals closing and a reputation as the go-to resource in your category.
2. Longer-term opportunities increase marketing ROI.
The numbers consistently show that organizations that pay proper sales attention to all leads are better stewards of their marketing budgets. They’re insuring money spent to generate leads isn’t wasted simply because the qualified prospect isn’t in a hurry.
Here’s an example: Marketing spends $60,000 to generate 80 leads. Forty are short term, and 40 are long term. If the 40 long-term leads are not followed up on simply because they’re a buying cycle or two out, $30,000 (half of the total spent) is wasted. If on the other hand, all 80 are worked appropriately, and sales closes 20% of the total at an average selling price of $250,000, revenue is doubled. It costs only an incrementally small amount to nurture long-term leads to fruition.
3. Leads at every stage of the buying cycle are essential for a healthy pipeline.
For predictability and consistency in meeting your numbers, you can’t count on just one type of lead in the pipeline. Companies need a mix of short-term and longer-term opportunities to keep the quarterly scramble at bay, and they need for all involved to understand the significant value of the less-than-hot lead.
Weigh the cost, weigh the benefit. No company can begrudge the incremental dollars (in the example below, it’s less than $5,000) it takes to nurture long-term leads already generated and qualified, across additional cycles, into the opportunities that drive revenue growth over the long haul.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to effectively nurture your long-term opportunities to increase your marketing ROI, and close more deals, read this excerpted chapter from the book The Truth About Leads by Dan McDade.
This final part of the 5-part sales coaching series focuses on coaching for sales success.
Part 5 Overview:
- Commitments vs. Conversations
- Coaching vs. Conversations
- Salespeople Stay Where They Are Celebrated, Not Tolerated
- Use Follow-Up Meetings to Calibrate Your Rep’s Strengths
- The Coachability Quadrants
- The 8 Types of Salespeople in EVERY B2B Team
- If Process Drives Outcomes, What Drives Process?
- How to Allocate Time Based on the Coaching Quadrants
- Coaching for Sales Success: Developing Your Own Model
- 5 Things You Can Expect with Top-Notch Sales Coaching
1) Commitments vs. Conversations
A coaching study released in August 2018 identified that 48.2% of sales reps say they don’t receive coaching.
Surprisingly, 82.1% of the sales leaders of these reps claim they are providing coaching for each member of their team. This gap points out the importance of the 1:1 between leader and rep creating what the rep perceives as a “coaching moment.”
Coaching happens when leaders and reps move past conversations and make commitments to change. Too often what leaders think is great coaching, a rep perceives as nothing more than a suggestion.
Why coaching 1:1s need to include commitments
No commitment, no change.
I was speaking with a high-performing rep of a team that recently started a structured coaching program. This was his answer when I asked him what the biggest change was:
“Before we’d have 1 on 1s and I’d have a good conversation with my leader. She would make suggestions and I’d leave and go about my business. Sometimes I’d apply the suggestions better than others. The conversations were good and they built a relationship I appreciated. But I didn’t feel like I was “on the hook” to do anything different.”
“With the coaching plan, once I saw the email come confirming my commitment to modify my approach, I felt a responsibility to make sure I made it happen. This led to me applying the coaching points immediately. I blew past the coaching goal and had one of my most successful months!”
“Having that commitment made all the difference. This also changed my expectation of what to expect in these sales meetings with my manager. Now I come with ideas on what I think I need help with rather than showing up wondering what she will talk about in this meeting.”
2) Coaching vs. Conversations
The study referenced earlier teaches us some big lessons:
- Salespeople WANT coaching. This is particularly the case with the incoming sales generation.
- Most of the time, salespeople don’t interpret the conversations with their leaders as “coaching” sessions.
- When they think they are getting coaching, 80% of the time, they follow the coaching advice and keep their coaching commitments.
Reps need to know when coaching begins and high-level conversations end
Every rep needs to know they are making commitments to change.
Because if they do, 80% of the time they will keep the commitment.
So what’s in a commitment?
Commitments include the following attributes:
- WHAT the rep is going to change.
- HOW it will be measured.
- WHEN it will be completed and reviewed.
Every 1:1 needs to create those “Fork in the Road” moments described in Part 4 of this series.
Perhaps the most important part of this is an agreement to when the commitment will be reviewed and measured.
Sales goals vs. coaching goals
A distinguishing factor of a coaching goal is the only person that has to say “yes” is the salesperson. This is different than sales goals.
Sales goals require a customer to say yes. They have to agree to buy.
Coaching goals only require the salesperson to agree to change. She or he agrees to do more specific activities, develop a unique skill, or use a company resource. The rep is 100% in charge of the success or failure of these goals.
As a result, the first part of every 1:1 should be to review the existing coaching goals.
This leads to a rhythm of change: Commit, Execute, Follow Up, Repeat.
3) Salespeople Stay Where They Are Celebrated, Not Tolerated
Great leaders use the 1:1 as an opportunity to celebrate.
You should know if a rep has achieved their coaching goal before you meet with them. If they’ve achieved the goal, take time to hear their story. Understand the challenge associated with making the change and listen to the stories associated with the effort.
One of the strongest passion factors for a salesperson is unexpected rewards. Find ways to reward the reps that are achieving their coaching goals.
Shout-outs, commendations, discretionary awards, and primo leads are simple ways you can provide unexpected rewards for the reps trying to change.
But don’t just check the box and say thanks. Make sure you relish the moment with the reps working to make a change.
4) Use Follow-Up Meetings to Calibrate Your Rep’s Strengths
Your follow-up meeting provides a critical opportunity to calibrate the rep’s strengths in your sales process and their commitment to change. There are two calibration points your follow-up conversation needs to include.
It’s important to calibrate the effect of the change on the sales process. If you are setting effective coaching goals, the change the rep makes should result in something measurable in the sales process.
There are four leverage points for any B2B sales process.
Coaching should improve one of these four drivers of growth:
- Number of new opportunities
- Revenue per customer
- Win rate
- Sales cycle time
Good coaching + good execution = predictable process improvements. If the rep is achieving their coaching goal, be sure to evaluate if the change is driving change in the process.
If change as a result of coaching doesn’t show up in one of these metrics, find out why.
If you are setting coaching goals, you can measure coachability. Either a rep chooses to achieve their coaching goals, or they don’t. Every coaching goal should be a specific activity to change or a specific skill to develop.
With this understanding, every coaching goal can help you measure whether the rep did or did not respond to coaching. After making their commitment, if they keep it, they get a positive score. If they don’t keep the commitment, they get a negative.
5) The Coachability Quadrants
In Part 3 of this series, we suggest a framework for measuring strength in process. By evaluating coaching goal histories, you can also implement a framework for measuring willingness to change.
By calculating the coachability score using the +/- system you can quickly gain insight into how responsive a rep is to coaching.
As in the earlier quadrant, the up/down axis is a rep’s year-to-date progress to their goal. On the crosshair = hitting goal. Above the line = beating goal and below the line = missing goal.
The left/right axis measures the rep’s coachability. On the axis means they are neutral in achieving coaching goals. To the right = positive coachability. To the left = negative coachability.
This creates four additional quadrants:
Outcomes weak, coachability weak: Toxic
Reps in this quadrant are not hitting their goal and they are unwilling to change.
They make a commitment in a 1:1 but don’t change their approach. Goals in the 1:1s need to be activity-oriented and create an expectation of what the expected effort is to stay part of the team.
These reps often are a source of bigger problems than missing their number — they often become a source of toxicity to the team.
Outcomes weak, coachability strong: Future star
Reps in this quadrant are not hitting their goal but they are responding well to coaching conversations. 1:1s with these reps should be centered around the key parts of the process that will help them create strong, predictable sales pipelines.
Generally, this means either creating more pipeline or having more success moving opportunities with higher win rates or shorter cycle times.
Stay close with these reps as they are demonstrating a willingness to improve and they appreciate and value coaching.
Outcomes strong, coachability weak: Independent
Reps in this quadrant are achieving their goals but resist changing their approach.
This most often is seen with reps that have longer tenure with the company or in sales. In these cases, it is important to refer to their process quadrant and see if they are in the lucky or earned category.
Reps in this category often respond well to discussions around “How good can you get?”
It’s very important to dollarize the impact of even the smallest changes and tap into their aspirational goals.
Outcomes strong, coachability strong: Star
Reps in this category are achieving their goals and they respond well to change.
To be a leader in an organization you must be able to adapt and respond to change. That’s why the reps in this category are your future sales leaders/managers.
They welcome the “what if” conversation and often come to the 1:1 with their own ideas of what they want to improve. Provide context and insight and help them chart their course.
This chart is easy to use and helps a rep understand their response to coaching:
6) The 8 Types of Salespeople in EVERY B2B Team
By tracking coachability this way, a leader has a powerful tool. By placing the process and coachability quadrants side by side, a leader has a three-dimensional view of each rep on their team:
This creates eight types of salespeople in each sales organization:
- Deserved + Toxic: Poor outcomes, weak process, and unwilling to change.
- Deserved + Future: Poor outcomes, poor process, but responding to change.
- Patient + Toxic: Poor outcomes, strong process, but resistant to change.
- Patient + Future: Poor outcomes, strong process, and responding to change.
- Lucky + Independent: Strong outcomes, weak process, and not responding to change.
- Lucky + Star: Strong outcomes, weak process, but responding to change.
- Earned + Independent: Strong outcomes, strong process, but not responding to change.
- Earned + Star: Strong outcomes, strong process, and responding to change.
The 1:1s for each of these reps will be different. You will have different conversations, set different goals, and spend different amounts of time with each one.
Your expectations can be tailored and a rep can understand why each coaching goal is relevant and necessary.
Some reps need specific, activity-oriented goals. Others will respond to the bigger picture — more strategic initiatives.
7) If Process Drives Outcomes, What Drives Process?
Measuring coachability is often the missing link for a sales leader. The concept of process driving outcomes is well-established and understood.
If process needs to change then a rep needs to be coachable. Markets change, customers change, companies change, and products change. Being resistant to change only leads to unnecessary challenges. The kinetic chain every sales leader can count on is simple:
Outcomes are driven by Process, Process is driven by Coachability.
Every sales leader measures outcomes. Most measure process. Few measure coachability.
Measure it and you’ll have one of the most valuable tools most sales leaders never are able to use.
8) How to Allocate Time Based on the Coaching Quadrants
One of the most common mistakes sales leaders make is allocating equal time to each rep. Measuring coachability helps you avoid the “Time Trap.”
Your time is your most precious resource. So which reps should you spend your time with?
The obvious answer: FUTURE.
These are reps that are missing goal but respond to coaching. But who gets the next most amount of time? The answer may surprise you. STARS.
Many mistakenly prioritize the toxic category simply because they are under-performing. By measuring coachability you can see the reps that value your time as a coach. You should maximize every minute you can with the reps that value and respond to coaching.
Toxics get a 1:1 and not much more.
Once a Toxic teammate starts hitting their coaching goals they will quickly swing to the Future category. Then you have time for them in spades.
This is why you want to use an emotional label like Toxic. Don’t make it politically correct to under-perform AND be unwilling to change. Remember, Toxic only applies when a rep says they are going to do something and then choose not to.
9) Coaching for Sales Success: Developing Your Own Model
This series has identified the 5 drivers of coaching success:
- Developing the right coaching mindset
- Using data like a pro
- Being a sales performance coach
- Setting the right goals for sales reps
- Following up for sales success (Part 5)
These are the hallmarks of the world’s most successful sales coaches. Implementing these drivers in a consistent way will create intentional improvement with each rep willing to commit to coaching.
Applying a Successful Sale Coaching Model
A market leading financial institution recently applied this coaching model to their sales organization. The organization was already a high-performer experiencing some of their best performance in company history.
At the end of a reporting period, a strategic team with nearly 50 salespeople had beat their goal by 20%. In most cases, this would be cause for celebration.
This team beat their goal by 20% with only 22% of their salespeople hitting goal.
At the end of the reporting period the team looked like this:
59% of the team was in the poor category and only 8 reps were hitting goal.
The team implemented the coaching system described in this series and in 90 days experienced a complete transformation:
24 in the poor category became 10.
5 in the star category became 17.
20% ahead of goal became 191%
All because 22% hitting goal became 58%, and the entire team shifted up.
In 90 days.
No new salespeople or training. Just segment-based, commitment-driven coaching.
But the real success is the lives that were changed because they had coaches that fully committed to their success. The business case for coaching is strong enough that every sales team can build the case to invest in coaching. It might be the most ROI-positive decision a leader can make.
10) 5 Things You Can Expect with Top-Notch Sales Coaching
We’ve found that AT LEAST five predictable outcomes happen with great coaching:
- Production (Sales) increases by 30%.
- Productivity (% of reps hitting goal) increases by over 20%.
- Salesforce (CRM) utilization increases by 95%.
- Retention and engagement of salespeople increases by over 20%.
- Win rates increase by over 25%.
Coaching is the lever that helps a sales organization grow faster and more efficiently than any other lever they can turn to.
Got questions about coaching? Want to kick ideas around or discuss best practices? Use these principles. Your team will thank you. Or you can hit me up.
Other Guides in This Sales Coaches Series
This guide is part one of a 5-part series on Sales Coaching. Don’t miss the other guides in the series:
- The Right Mindset
- Data-Driven Sales Coaching
- Prioritizing with Sales Performance Coaching
- Setting the Right Goals for Sales Reps
- Coaching for Sales Success
Simply click the links above or visit www.xvoyant.com/coaching-guides/
The post If Your Sales Coaching Doesn’t Involve Follow-Ups, You’re Doing It All Wrong appeared first on Sales Hacker.
Are you one of the vast majority of salespeople who don’t have a prospecting plan that works? I get asked for help with prospecting skills more than anything else.
Below are 7 secrets I bet you’ve overlooked when it comes to prospecting. Watch the video first and then read further regarding the 7 secrets. The video is an excerpt of my keynote from OutBound 2017.
1. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Your prospects are not going to agree to buy due to a single message from you. There’s a reason why the biggest brands in the consumer world advertise, because they know they have to keep their name in front of you. No different for you. It’s the repetition of messaging that will make a difference. Just remember one key thing — each message, regardless of the delivery method, must create new value. Repeating the same message only proves one thing — you’re lazy.
2. Don’t start what you can’t finish.
Never put more names into your prospecting pipeline than you know you can manage long-term. Results take time and it requires a coordinated effort.
3. Prospects must see your confidence.
They will see this confidence when you’re confident enough to ask questions that probe deep and are not seen as purely superficial and mundane.
4. Your goal is to get the prospect to say, “Great question!”
When a prospect responds with “great question” to something you’ve asked, that means they’re having to think. When you reach this level, the prospect will no longer see you as a vendor. They will now see you as somebody who can help them.
5. Your goal in that first call is to uncover one critical piece of information.
When you can uncover a critical piece of information on the first call, then you know you’ve established a level of interaction that will significantly increase your ability to close the customer.
6. The best question you can ask is one to which neither you nor the prospect know the answer.
Think about this for a moment. Would you ask a prospect a question like this if you weren’t confident? No, and this is the mark of you knowing if you are confident. Confidence cuts two ways. Your goal by asking this type of question is for the prospect to have confidence in you and you to have confidence in them.
7. Your goal is to spend more time with fewer prospects.
This runs contrary to what most people believe, but I firmly believe by asking tougher questions of the prospect, you will be able to weed out faster those prospects who are really just suspects. The end result is you know who to spend time with and who not to spend time with.
One last thing! If you have not been to OutBound, you need to make plans NOW to be there! In 2019, we’ll have well over 1,000 attendees from around the world. This is an event I and my three good friends Jeb Blount, Mike Weinberg and Anthony Iannarino created to better the skills of sales leaders like you!
Mark your calendar now for April 24 and 25 in Atlanta. You can get your ticket now (I think a few early bird tickets remain, but you’d have to jump on them soon!)
Here is the link for all the details: OutBound 2019 in Atlanta
And don’t forget that 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
Building a team that embraces diversity and inclusion can be challenging for any company, and some might say particularly challenging for tech companies. It is difficult to eliminate the hidden biases that exist in the traditional hiring process, but I recently had the chance to talk with someone who is a pioneer working to solve this exact problem.
Kate Glazebrook is the co-founder and CEO of Applied, a technology platform that uses behavioral and data science to remove bias from hiring decisions. In layman’s terms, it’s a hiring platform that helps you find the best person for the job, regardless of their background.
Kate started her career as an economist in the Australian government. While the connection between that job and her new role reshaping the way corporations hire talent may not be immediately apparent, there are some common threads. For instance, Kate’s work on pension and welfare policy focused on finding ways to ensure the promotion of social mobility in a way that didn’t systematically overlook huge swathes of the population just because they didn’t “look the part.”
In my conversation with Kate, we talked about why diversity matters (especially for tech companies), why these companies find addressing it challenging, and what Applied is doing to change hiring processes for the better. She also shared a few tips on what any company can do right now to initiate positive change in how they hire.
How Diversity Makes Your Team Stronger
When someone asks Kate to explain why diverse teams are so important, she has the perfect answer. She asks,
“Can you give me a good reason why you wouldn’t want diversity in your team?”
Good question. There are, of course, a number of moral and ethical reasons why it’s important to build diversity into any team; but Kate points out that it’s not just about socio-demographic diversity, but also about socio-cognitive diversity.
There is a lot of research that supports the value of socio-cognitive diversity.
“The general consensus is that diverse teams tend to outperform homogenous teams, particularly when they’re working on projects that require creativity, innovation, or solving complex problems – situations in which not all the information about the problem is known.”
Sounds like every project I’ve worked on.
Part of the reason diverse teams have an edge is that people tend to work a little harder when they knowing that team members will be coming at the problem from different perspectives. They understand that they’ll need to bring their “A game” and present their perspective as persuasively as possible.
Diverse teams are less likely to degenerate into an innovation-killing echo chamber. “If you’re going into a conversation where you know what people think about the given topic, you can easily dodge things you don’t want to talk about and concentrate on areas of mutual interest,” Kate explains. Conversely, in a more diverse team, people go in prepared to develop and defend their ideas with more passion because they know their ideas will be judged against a wide range of solutions. As Kate points out,
“One of the easiest ways to accurately test your assumptions is to have somebody in the room who vehemently represents a slightly different perspective.”
Diversity is especially important for technology teams. Most technology companies want their products to have the widest appeal and application possible. Technology built by a diverse group is more likely to serve a diverse group and, ultimately, be more sustainable.
Common Roadblocks to Building a Diverse Team
So, if the benefits of diverse teams are so great, why aren’t more companies getting on board with building them? The short answer is that change is hard. People are used to doing things, like hiring, the way they’ve always been done. Also, hiring is a fairly complex process, so trying to unpack it and rework it feels like a huge undertaking.
When you start to break it down, however, Kate points out that there are really two main challenges: sourcing/attraction and selection. In other words, the problems most companies cite are:
- I can’t get a diverse group of people to apply for my job openings; and
- Even when I do have a diverse applicants, they aren’t getting hired.
With the Applied platform, Kate and her team are focused on helping teams overcome both of these problems, particularly around the selection stage of the process.
“We help make sure that when you have a diverse group of people, you’re not systematically overlooking certain applicants because the process you’re using inadvertently creates bias against them,” Kate says. “A lot of the challenge stems from the fact that most of us inherently feel most comfortable hiring people who look and feel a bit like us.”
In trying to maintain our comfort level, we are often overly reliant on tapping into our own networks to fill positions. In fact, many companies heavily incentivize employees to bring in candidates from their networks.
While this refer-a-friend approach may seem efficient on the surface (referred applicants are usually more likely to be accepted and integrate more easily into the team), the process is recursive. Any personal network is, by definition, a subset of the wider network. Focusing a candidate search within personal networks typically results in overlooking people based simply on how an individual’s relationships skew the pool.
Stereotypes are another problem. While hiring women into technology roles is one obvious area where this issue comes into play, it certainly isn’t the only one. Men, for instance, face similar prejudice when it comes to roles that deal with caring for young people. In any such case, the solution is the same. As Kate explains,
“You need to remove anything that distracts from the way you understand talent (like people’s names, where they went to school, and so forth) so you can really concentrate on the skills the candidate can bring to the role. That’s where you start to discover that diversity wins out.”
A New Hiring Methodology: Removing Bias
Knowing that they were just as likely to fall into the same hiring traps as other organizations, the team behind Applied ran a massive experiment in which they tested their new model of hiring against the traditional resume- or CV-based sifting process. They put real candidates through both processes simultaneously, allowing one team to review candidates based on their CVs and another team to review them based on their responses to skill-based questions that were part of the new de-biased methodology.
The new methodology involved a number of strategies and tactics, all geared toward removing bias by eliminating any information that would distract from the work of assessing a candidate’s actual skills. Four of the primary changes to the process were:
- Anonymizing the Applications: This involved removing names, education history, and other details that might create bias in the reviewer.
- “Chunking” Applications by Area: By comparing candidates first on one aspect of the job and then the next aspect, the team was able to eliminate the “halo effect,” which biases judgement by transferring assessment of a person’s abilities in one area to bleed over into how we assess them in another area.
- Averaging Application Scores: The new methodology allowed multiple people to score applicants at the same time without seeing each other’s scores, and then all the separate scores were averaged together, allowing the team to leverage the wisdom of the crowd, so to speak.
- Randomizing Candidate Order: Finally, because there is some interesting research that time of day can have an impact on decisions, the team randomized when candidates appeared to reviewers.
After hacking a system that allowed them to focus on the things about a candidate that really mattered, the team discovered some interesting (if not totally unexpected) things:
- CV scores weren’t predictive in terms of how a candidate performed in later stages of recruitment. In fact, there was no correlation between CV performance and later stage performance. The skill-based scores, however, were very predictive of later performance.
- More than half the people hired would not have gotten the job under the traditional process. In fact, many of the people who ultimately made the cut would never have even made it to the interview stage under the CV-based process.
- Overall, the group of candidates selected for interviews were more diverse, meaning that the new methodology was not only more efficient at finding people who were more skilled, but also at diversifying the people the organization was hiring.
Things You Can Do Today
Even if you’re not ready to take advantage of a technology platform like Applied, there are still some steps Kate recommends to remove bias from your hiring process.
First, know that bias and diversity training don’t usually stick. While they can do a decent job of raising awareness, there’s not much correlation between the implementation of these kinds of courses and the candidate selection decisions made three weeks later based on reviewing CVs. Instead, you have to focus on how you structure the actual process.
Iris Bohnet, one of Applied’s advisors, wrote a book called, What Works: Gender Equality by Design. One of the main points she makes is how important it is to structure the hiring process properly. For instance, one of the traps companies often fall into is deciding what they care about after they’ve interviewed people. This approach of defining a role after seeing several candidates almost always leads to deciding what you care about based on the person you liked best.
A better approach is to define the skills you’re looking for before you start the process. Ideally, Kate recommends weighting each skill to give yourself a really clear benchmark against which to assess candidates. “This limits the usual ‘I like them’ or ‘I didn’t like them’ kind of responses,” Kate explains. “Instead you can hone in on how good each candidate was in each of the skill areas you identified as important for the job.”
Applied uses this approach on a more sophisticated scale to help organizations implement a truly skills-focused hiring approach that naturally helps build team diversity. Their platform is a rare example of how technology can sometimes make us better humans, removing bias to ensure that the best people get the job.
The post Unbiased Hiring: Tactical Tips to Help Your Build Stronger, More Diverse Teams appeared first on OpenView Labs.
For the last few years, you’ve relied on Sales Navigator to help you prospect. But as Sales Navigator has grown, so has our vision for a solution that’s been embraced by more than 80% of the Forbes Cloud 100 to meet their revenue goals.
Today, we are embarking on a journey to win the hearts and minds of the entire sales org. Sales Navigator will always be there to help you prospect, but we are starting to add new functionality to help sales teams expand existing customer relationships, acquire new business and maximize sales productivity.
Deals — pipeline reviews will never be the same
Let’s face it — the weekly one-on-one between sales managers and their reps can be frustrating for both parties. Because information in CRM or spreadsheets is often missing or out of date, these meetings can turn into a game of 20 questions with managers probing to find areas of deal risk and ways for them to help.
Deals is a new feature in Sales Navigator that gives managers and reps a more effective way to understand and manage pipeline. It makes adding deal and contact information to your CRM much easier, and helps surface opportunities that might be at risk.
Deals pulls pipeline data from your CRM and displays it in a simple-to-use web interface. Instead of jumping in and out of each opportunity screen in CRM, you can edit information for your entire pipeline on a single page, including deal size, stage, close date, next steps and more, with all changes automatically written back to CRM. Reps can now update their entire pipeline in minutes, not hours.
But things get even more exciting with a feature within Deals called Buyer’s Circle.
According to the CEB, there are approximately 6.8 people involved in the B2B buying process. Buyer’s Circle pulls and displays the opportunity role information from your CRM, like decision maker, influencer, evaluator, etc. so you know if any key players are missing from the deal.
But the real power comes when you want to add missing role contacts. Buyer’s Circle makes it easy to select anyone on LinkedIn and drag them to a role, which, again, automatically updates your CRM. And if that contact is not already in your CRM, Deals lets you create a new CRM contact associated with that opportunity in just a few clicks.
We think Deals can improve the way reps and their managers conduct pipeline reviews, and we’re just getting started.
Office 365 Integration — Sales Navigator in your Inbox
We all live in email. Now you can take Sales Navigator actions and see key insights without ever leaving your Outlook for Web Inbox.
Once you authenticate your Office 365 and Sales Navigator accounts, you can mouse over any email address and access features like viewing profile information, saving a lead, sending a LinkedIn connection request, or viewing TeamLink connections. You can also see “icebreakers” — the things you have in common — to help you personalize your message.
New Search Experience — because time is money
Search has been, and always will be, core to Sales Navigator. In this release, we’ve completely redesigned our search experience and search results pages to make your experience faster and easier. We’ve made Account Search and Lead Search more prominent, streamlined search filters, and made it easier to save searches, so you can get alerts any time a person or company on LinkedIn matches your search criteria. We’ve also added company hover cards, which gives you a quick overview of any company mentioned on a search results page by mousing over the company name, and even lets you save those company details without leaving the page.
Mobile Lead Pages — creating a full Sales Navigator experience on the go
The original Sales Navigator mobile app was designed to complement the desktop (web) app and didn’t include all the features of the Sales Navigator desktop experience. But as more of our customers have turned to the Sales Navigator mobile app as their daily go-to, we’ve decided to make it a full-featured Sales Navigator experience.
In our last Quarterly Product Release, we updated our mobile account pages, and with this release we’re improving the mobile lead page experience. We will continue to narrow the gap between our mobile and desktop experiences in upcoming releases, and take advantage of the unique characteristics of mobile as well.
Sales Navigator Application Platform — the movement is growing
With this release, we are delighted to add a significant new partner to the SNAP program —Adobe Sign.
Additionally, three existing partners — Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics and SalesLoft — are rolling out much tighter SNAP integrations. The Salesforce and Dynamics integrations embed Sales Navigator information more deeply throughout lead, contact, account and opportunity pages, and allow CRM users to send InMails directly from CRM pages. The SalesLoft integration allows for LinkedIn actions such as research, connect and InMail/message to take center stage in SalesLoft cadences, alongside email and dial actions.
Sales Navigator Ideas — a direct line to the Sales Navigator product team
Last, but not least, we’re opening up a direct channel of communication between Sales Navigator program admins and the Sales Navigator development team. Sales Navigator Ideas lets program admins submit, vote on, comment on and track status of ideas for how to improve Sales Navigator. Powered by Aha!, Sales Navigator Ideas can be found in the Sales Navigator Community Portal.
To learn more about the updates in today’s announcement, visit our page here. We invite you to join our Quarterly Product Release webinars, where LinkedIn Experts will give a detailed walkthrough of the latest Sales Navigator Q3 Release.
Does investing in employees’ marketing skills pay off? Or is it just a waste?
Businesses spent nearly $94 billion on corporate training in 2017—a 33% increase over 2016. Per employee, expenditures ranged from $399 at large companies to $1,886 at smaller organizations, according to the same report from Training magazine.
Within marketing departments, an estimated 4.2% of the total marketing budget now goes to training programs, up from 2.7% in 2014. The Association of National Advertisers’ CMO Talent Challenge Playbook highlights success stories from marketing training investments:
- After Unilever rolled out a training program to 5,000 marketers in 2016, it reported a “35% uplift in knowledge” and “96% uplift in confidence.”
- Graduates of IBM’s E.School now produce marketing content that “performs better on average than content previously produced.”
- Fifteen months after implementing their “New Modern Marketing Curriculum,” Johnson & Johnson’s team showed a “statistically significant increase” in prioritized skill areas.
What about your team? Are you spending too much? Too little? Are you training the right skill sets? Is training a good investment? A wasteful expense? Do you even know?
The State of Marketing Training
Some 23% of marketers surveyed by HubSpot identified “training our team” as a top challenge. “Hiring top talent” was immediately below, at 22%.
Companies trying to hire their way out of a skills gap face a competitive marketplace. LinkedIn’s May 2018 Workforce Report revealed a 230,000-person shortage in the United States for marketing skills, with demand highest in major cities.
That tight talent market has pushed training to the forefront, especially training to develop new marketing capabilities. The biannual CMO Survey anticipated a 6.5% increase in investment for “how to do marketing.” No other increase in marketing knowledge development—such as the transfer of internal knowledge or honing of market research skills—topped 3.9%.
As a segment of the training market, however, marketing lags behind the stalwarts of the industry—sales and leadership training:
Search volume for “marketing training” has consistently trailed other disciplines. Source: Google Trends.
Still, marketing’s share of the corporate training budget is significant: $17 million annually for large companies (10,000+ employees), per Training magazine. Mid-size companies (1,000–9,999) spend an average of $1.5 million per year; small companies (100–999) invest around $375,000.
Those figures are supported by similar findings from a 2016 Brandon Hall Group Benchmarking Study, which surveyed training spending for equivalent tiers: $13 million (10,000+ employees), $3.7 million (1,000–9,999), and $290,000 (100–999).
In recent years, most of that money has tried to close a single marketing skills gap: digital.
A Skills Gap Marketers Don’t Know They Have
The Digital Marketing Institute’s 2016 report “Missing the Mark: The Digital Marketing Skills Gap in the USA, UK & Ireland” lays bare marketers’ shortcomings. Only 8% of those tested achieved entry-level digital marketing skills, and the perception of skill exceeded performance: 51% of U.S. marketers perceived a skill level that only 38% demonstrated via testing.
A 2018 analysis of client data by General Assembly—which has benchmarked more than 25,000 marketers with its “Digital Marketing Level 1” skills assessment—found no correlation between seniority and expertise (among those below the vice-presidential level), and cited “data and measurement” as the biggest skills gap.
“It’s not uncommon for us to hear, ‘We don’t know what we don’t know,’” noted Alison Kashin, an Education Product Manager at General Assembly who focuses on digital marketing training. Kashin elaborated:
Most corporate marketers have outsourced digital execution to agencies, and clients now realize they’re too far removed to be effective. It’s hard to give direction, ask the right questions, or make confident decisions if you don’t know how something works.
Marketers’ Self-Inflicted Wound
The yawning skills gap is, in part, self-inflicted. As the Digital Marketing Institute’s report notes, “The general consensus among employees is that the pace of technological and digital change within their organizations is too slow, and that factors such as a fear of loss of control, especially among employees aged 35–49 years, is hindering its adoption.”
The push to close the skills gap also has the potential to create tension with agency partners, who at times transfer knowledge that reduces the need for their services. As Rhea Drysdale, CEO of Outspoken Media, explained:
Companies want to train their team so they can handle more internally, and that makes sense. They see our work as a means to an end. More often than not, that end is team growth.
“This exact scenario happened last year with an enterprise-level professional services company,” Drysdale continued. “Our advocate went from managing one person to a dedicated team that included a data person, an SEO, an editor, and developers. We’re still working with them but as a consultant on project scopes.”
Digital marketing isn’t the only skills gap disrupting the industry—in-house and agency—either.
Further Fronts in Marketing Training
Niches like account-based marketing (ABM) have seen rapid growth in recent years as well.
“The top question we get around education and training development is account-based marketing,” stated Rob Leavitt, Senior Vice President of the Information Technology Services Marketing Association (ITSMA). “There is a hunger and demand for ABM, and it’s far beyond us.”
Search volume for “account based marketing” began a dramatic rise in 2016. Source: Google Trends.
Leavitt believes ABM training has been a reaction to the digital wave, which can confuse interested individuals with interested accounts:
If I download four whitepapers to understand something relevant to my client, I look really interested—but I’m not a relevant account for you. So how do we take what we’ve learned in digital and overlay an account-based strategy and approach?
At times, the skills gap comes full circle. Just as experienced marketers may hesitate to invest themselves in digital, newer marketers, Leavitt cautioned, risk undervaluing traditional skill sets: “More experienced people feel more comfortable with soft skills—collaboration, leadership, teamwork, etc.”
For every marketer, there’s need. For every facet of marketing, there’s training. But can training close the skills gap?
Does Marketing Training Work?
Few executives know.
In Learning Analytics: Measurement Innovations to Support Employee Development, authors John Maddox, Jean Martin, and Mark Van Buren reveal that, when it comes to training, some 96% of CEOs want to measure one aspect more than any other: impact.
How often is it being measured? Just 8% of the time. Another 74% of CEOs want to connect money spent on training to money earned—the return on investment (ROI). It’s measured just 4% of the time.
Measuring the business impact of training is possible. But individual knowledge gains don’t guarantee company-wide improvements.
Recognizing the Limits of Training
On August, 8, 1963, a band of 15 robbers stole £2.6 million in cash from a mail train traveling between Glasgow and London. Media outlets dubbed the heist “The Great Train Robbery.”
In 2016, Harvard Business School (HBS) Professor Michael Beer and TruePoint researchers Magnus Finnstrom and Derek Schrader reappropriated the moniker to allege a similarly monumental fraud: “The Great Training Robbery.”
Despite the ominous title, the authors are less critical of training programs per se than the “fallacy of programmatic change,” which mistakenly focuses on individual behavior change as a way to shape institutions. Their findings suggest the inverse is true:
The organizational and management system—the pattern of roles, responsibilities and relationships shaped by the organization’s design and leadership that motivates and sustains attitude and behavior—is far more powerful in shaping individual behavior.
Evaluating the Corporate Climate
Professor Amy Edmondson uses the metaphor of “fertile soil” to describe a corporate environment in which individual training can thrive.
Additional work by another HBS professor, Amy Edmondson, distills the prerequisites for effective training programs down to a single metaphor: the need for a corporate climate to provide “fertile soil”—a psychologically safe environment in which subordinates can voice opinions freely. Only fertile soil, in turn, can allow the “seeds” of individual training to germinate.
Beer et al.’s work found that just 10% of training programs surveyed had the fertile soil necessary to derive value from training. Too often, they lament, the rush to invest in individual training protects obdurate executives—or the HR representatives who would need to confront them—rather than addressing core organizational or leadership issues.
Those findings align with Kashin’s experience working with clients at General Assembly:
There are layers of team structures, technology, planning processes, etc., that need to be re-examined to be successful in digital. Most corporate programs have an element of change management. The most success occurs when we support a larger change-management effort that has been set in motion with strong internal leadership.
Measuring the Success of Marketing Training
Even with strong organizational support, how do you know if a marketing training program works?
“It usually looks like ‘program success,’” according to ITSMA’s Leavitt. “Clients look at basic satisfaction with the education training: Did it seem like a good use of time? Have we been able to develop the program and succeed? Are we hitting our targets?”
For Kashin, numbers are only part of the picture: “At the core of every one of our success stories are individuals who were motivated to learn and change, and highlighting their stories is one of our most powerful and rewarding ways of showing value.”
“The reality of a lot of these programs,” Leavitt summarized, is that “education training is hard to measure. A lot of it is qualitative, informal. We know it when we see it. We’ve not cracked code.”
Jack Phillips believes he has. Phillips, an expert on determining the value of training programs with a doctorate in Human Resource Management, is chairman of the ROI Institute:
We don’t like ‘estimates,’ but our choices are to do nothing or claim it all. Neither one is any good. Quantitative data is more believable. Executives understand it quite clearly. Our challenge is to make and defend credible estimates if quantitative data isn’t available.
That combined measurement—exhausting quantitative data sources while communicating qualitative ones persuasively—begins with the identification of KPIs.
Identifying KPIs for Marketing Training
“Sales and marketing tend to have the same metrics,” explained Phillips. “Increase existing customers, acquire new customers, increase client quality, etc.”
(A scan of marketing-specific KPIs highlighted by training firms also reveals a list of familiar metrics: number of qualified leads generated, cost per qualified lead, marketing staff turnover rate, and marketing staff productivity.)
When attempting to identify KPIs, a common mistake is not translating a problem into its underlying metric. For example, “poor copywriting” may be a marketing problem, but improvement can’t be measured unless marketing executives identify an underlying business metric—like conversion rate—that can show the effects of successful training.
According to Phillips, identifying KPIs is far easier than parsing the influence of factors that may affect them: What if an improvement to an ad campaign drives more qualified visitors to a landing page? Or a recent website redesign increases site speed?
Isolating the impact of marketing training, Phillips asserted, is the key to unlocking assessment methods that can demonstrate ROI. Still, the math can quickly become complex. So can the cost of measurement. On average, companies spend just 4% of the total training budget on measurement; most spend less than 1%.
Many models, Phillips’ included, outline progressive levels of measurement to help companies scale accountability based on resources.
The Phillips Measurement Model
The methodology behind the Phillips Measurement Model. Source: Phillips, Jack. Measuring the Success of Sales Training.
Phillips uses a five-level model (an optional sixth level assesses intangible values—job satisfaction, organizational commitment, teamwork, etc.):
- Reaction: Did participants like it?
- Learning: Did they learn from it?
- Application: Did they apply their new knowledge on the job?
- Impact: Did the training have a business impact?
- ROI: What was the value of that impact, and was it a good investment?
While authoritative, Phillips’ model is not the only one. Models by Donald Kirkpatrick and Josh Bersin are also widely used. (General Assembly uses a version of the Kirkpatrick model.) The Kirkpatrick model allows for immediate post-training measurement, while the Bersin model folds values such as efficiency and utility into Phillips’ approach.
Levels 1–3: Generating a Baseline Measurement
The initial levels of measurement include assessments such as post-training surveys to measure trainee satisfaction as well as tests or instructor evaluations to measure knowledge transfer.
Phillips believes the first two levels are sufficient for a baseline measurement of knowledge transfer. Additional levels of measurement connect training outcomes more closely with business metrics and monetary returns, but those insights come at a cost.
Kashin concurred: “Measuring behavior change and business impact is something we always encourage, but it requires a fair bit of investment on the client side.”
Measuring behavior change (“Application” in the Phillips model) also requires a time-lapse—Phillips suggests three months—but can be a simple retest of training knowledge or follow-up survey about trainees’ perception of its enduring value.
Levels 4–5: Bridging the Gap between Training Costs and ROI
To complete a five-level measurement with “Impact” and “ROI,” companies must identify a business outcome (e.g. web leads), assign it an accurate monetary value (e.g. dollar value of a web lead), and isolate the impact of training from other factors.
Phillips offers quantitative and qualitative options to isolate the impact of training:
- A/B Testing. Find two similar groups of marketers within your organization (e.g. teams in roughly equivalent markets located in different cities or countries). Offer training to one and not the other. Measure the difference in performance between the two based on a key metric (e.g. increase of sales-qualified leads the three months before and after training).
- Trend analysis. Use past performance to project expected progress of a given metric. Measure the actual outcome after training. The impact of training is the difference in performance between the two lines.
- Modeling/forecasting. If training aligns with changes to other variables (e.g. advertising campaigns), subtract the known impact of that variable from the total change; the remaining change is the impact of marketing training.
To identify outside variables that affect progress toward business metrics, Phillips leans on experts within the organization, asking questions like:
- Would this trend have continued if we had done nothing?
- Is it market growth?
- Did anything else happen in the environment around the marketing share?
- Were there other marketing promotions?
- Did prices changes?
- Were there added incentives for related groups, like sales staff?
- Did competitors shift strategies or enter/exit the marketplace?
- Estimates. Conduct surveys of clients or marketing staff. Ask clients to identify the channels or efforts that made them aware of a product or influenced their purchase. Survey marketing staff about the degree to which various marketing efforts (training included) influenced results.
If, say, a digital marketing training program, an online advertising campaign, and a website redesign all launched in the past three months, ask marketing staff to weight the effect of each, multiplying by their confidence:
As Phillips argued:
When you combine these estimates from a group of people, they become powerful. Our effort is always to go to the most credible process first. If we can’t use a mathematical approach, we’ll use estimates—and we’ll defend them.
Time and again, Phillips has seen the “confidence” adjustment account for human error effectively. (Phillips cited Jack Treynor’s jelly bean experiment as corroborating evidence.)
- Expert opinions. When collective estimates by customers or staff aren’t available, use internal experts or key managers to make individual estimates.
“The key is to ask the right person and collect it the right way,” Phillips explained. Finding the “right” person or conducting a survey the “right” way is open to interpretation. But, Phillips is adamant, no less necessary:
You have to do it. You can’t just say, ‘We’ll take full credit for it,’ and life is good. Executives will require you to sort it.
Translating the business impact into ROI requires two additional steps:
- Converting the business impact to a monetary value (e.g. the dollar value of a whitepaper download)
- Determining how many dollars are returned above and beyond the initial investment in marketing training
Importantly, an ROI calculation differs from a benefit-cost ratio in format (percentage versus ratio) and formula (subtracting program costs from benefits):
How ROI differs from a benefit-cost ratio. Source: Phillips, Jack. Measuring the Success of Sales Training.
Even without a complete ROI calculation, assessing the “business impact” of training—when supplemented with a list of intangible benefits—can be a powerful defense at multiple levels within an organization, c-suite included.
Need alone—digital marketing skills today, account-based marketing skills tomorrow—may continue to fill training budgets and grow training programs. Measurement challenges will not fix or excuse skills gaps in marketing departments.
“To some extent,” Leavitt concluded, ruminating again on the question of ROI, “When your clients come back for more, they’re happy with what they got the first time.” It’s a purely qualitative measurement.
Still, robust, quantitative ROI models, though more persuasive in the c-suite, lean on qualitative components, too. All measurements can be defended; all surpass a failure to measure anything at all.
Nor can any assessment answer other, broader questions: Is training currently the best use of marketing resources? Does the commitment to change extend to the highest levels of the organization?
In short, is it the right season? Is the soil fertile? If yes, then plant the seed. And grow.
Psychology of Choice
Choice is our ability to make decisions when presented with two or more options. The psychology of choice explores why we subconsciously make the decisions we do, what motivates those decisions, and what needs these decisions are meant to satisfy.
I don't know about you, but I get stressed when someone asks me what I want for lunch. Food delivery apps give us hundreds of restaurants willing to bring our meals right to our door. Entertainment apps give us thousands of movie titles to choose from on a Friday night.
We live in an unprecedented age of options. And that can make choice difficult.
Choice is the purest expression of free will -- the freedom to choose allows us to shape our lives exactly how we wish (provided we have the resources to do so).
But choice is difficult because it also represents sacrifice. Choosing something inherently means giving up something else -- something we might want tomorrow, or next week -- and that won’t be available to us if we don’t grab it today.
So, here's an easy-to-understand guide to choice. It will help you understand the roles of bias, priming, and other psychological quirks in decision-making.
Not only will you be able to make better decisions yourself, but you'll also gain valuable selling and positioning tips that will make your audience more likely to choose the offering you're selling.
What is Choice?
Let’s start with the basics. What is choice, exactly? In its simplest form, choice is the ability to make a decision when you have two or more possibilities. But the theories and mental models about choice go further than that. Here are two of the most common theories on choice:
What is choice theory?
Choice theory is the study of how decisions get made. The term was coined in a book of the same name by William Glasser, who argued that all choices are made to satisfy five basic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun.
The idea humans primarily make choices that further our own interests is not a new one, and it's seconded by the rational choice theory.
What is rational choice theory?
Rational choice theory is a framework used to model social and economic behavior. According to rational choice theory, individual actors choose whichever option will maximize their interests and provide them with the greatest utility, or benefit.
But Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia Business School who studies choice, posited that choice extends beyond the merits of one particular option or another in her TED talk “On the Art of Choosing.”
“Choice is just as much about who [Americans] are as it is about what the product is,” Iyengar said. “You have a group of people for whom every little difference matters and so every choice matters.”
Underlying these three basic ways of thinking about choice is the assumption we truly understand our preferences and how to weigh them against each other. But what happens when freedom conflicts with power? How do you choose when two options will provide you with equal amounts of fun?
It’s all about preference. And the underbelly of preference is bias.
What is Bias?
Another definition. Bias, according to Merriam-Webster, is either “an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially: a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment.”
In her TED talk Iyengar, who is blind, recounted a trip to the nail salon where she had to choose between two light shades of pink -- “Ballet Slippers” and “Adorable.” The colors were described to her as an “elegant shade of pink” and a “glamorous shade of pink,” respectively -- semantic choices that hardly illustrate difference.
Iyengar decided to conduct a study with the two colors, asking women to choose which shade they preferred. Half of the study participants couldn’t tell the shades apart. But of the other half, more chose “Adorable” when presented with label-less bottles. On the other hand, when the women knew the names of the polish, the majority chose “Ballet Slippers.”
You’d expect that a nail polish should be judged only by its color. But something about the name “Ballet Slippers” caused women to change their preference.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is bias.
Why does bias matter?
Some biases are conscious. For example, I prefer dogs over cats -- I think dogs are friendlier, more lovable, and less likely to scratch me. But I don’t know why I prefer the color blue over the color red -- I have an unconscious, also known as implicit, bias.
Implicit bias is everywhere, and it affects the way we act and treat other people -- sometimes to alarming results.
Priming and behavior
In psychology, “priming” is the effect that exposure to one stimulus has on our response to another stimulus. For example, if two groups of people read the word “yellow” followed by either “banana” or “sky,” the group that read “banana” will process the word more quickly than the group that read “sky,” because of the semantic association between the fruit and its color. This unconscious form of association is a large part of how the human brain trains our memories.
Priming can also occur in other circumstances beyond language recognition.
Studies suggest that stereotypes (a form of implicit bias) regarding innate ability linked to gender and/or race impact standardized test performance. A study by Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson found that African-American students performed more poorly on the GRE Verbal exam when they were told the test was a measurement of their intellectual abilities, a phenomenon the researchers termed “stereotype threat.”
Further studies suggest that even the mention of identity was enough to trigger the association.
For instance, Aronson and Steele also found that African-American students who filled out demographic information prior to a test performed more poorly than African-American students who did not. A 2008 study by Kelly Danaher and Christian Crandall found that men’s performance worsened and women’s performance improved on AP Calculus tests if demographic information was filled out after the test was over.
Stereotypes are so pervasive that they don’t even need to be explicitly mentioned to rear their ugly heads. Merely priming students with their group identities was enough to surface societal stereotypes that unconsciously affected performance.
Priming and choice
If priming is powerful enough to cause people's performance to suffer, it’s no surprise that when a conscious choice is involved, people will prefer the option they have a positive implicit bias for.
In 2001, Frederic Brochet conducted a study with 54 participating oenology undergraduates. He asked the students to rate two bottles of red wine, telling them only that one was expensive and one was cheap. In reality, Brochet had filled both bottles with the same cheap wine. The students described what they believed to be the expensive wine as “complex and rounded,” but the cheap wine as “weak and flat.”
Similarly, in a Dutch study, subjects watched what they were told was a high-definition program in a room with posters touting high-definition images. After the program, they reported their experience was superior to standard-definition programming. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that they were, in fact, watching standard definition.
We’re taught to prefer higher-quality products, and associate quality with indicators like price and modernity. The trouble with these associations is they can overrule the quality of the products we’re choosing between. It’s the classic signal vs. noise problem -- how do we separate bias from choice?
Bias and choice
Bias doesn’t just refer to a belief or judgment about a specific thing (i.e. that I like dogs better than cats). In psychology, “bias” also refers to behavioral tendencies that affect how we reach conclusions and ultimately make choices. Here are four cognitive biases that unconsciously affect how we make decisions.
1. Anchoring Bias
We tend to “anchor” our decisions based around the first piece of information we receive. For example, if you’re used to paying $10 for shampoo and see it on sale for $8, this reduced price will feel like a deal. However, your friend’s local store sells the same shampoo for $12, so she will view the $10 bottle as the deal.
2. Framing Effect Bias
The manner in which choices are presented to us also affects how we view them. A study had participants watch a traffic accident and asked: “About how fast were the cars going when they contacted each other?”
The researchers then replaced the verb “contacted” with “hit,” “bumped,” “collided,” and “smashed” for different groups of participants. As the intensity of the action verb increased, so did the participants’ speed estimates. They guessed that the cars were going 31, 34, 38, 39, and 41 miles per hour, respectively.
3. Ingroup Bias
Also known as the bandwagon effect, ingroup bias occurs when a person in a group acts in a similar way to other members of that group.
Interestingly, the bias exists across arbitrarily created groups (such as through a coin toss) in addition to groups based around religion or sports, among other affiliations.
4. Loss Aversion Bias
People don’t like to lose or miss out on things. Loss aversion causes us to feel more strongly about avoiding a loss than receiving a gain, and explains the endowment effect, our tendency to prefer things we already own over things we don’t.
In a study conducted by Daniel Kahneman, participants were given mugs, chocolate, or nothing, and given the option to either trade their wares, or choose one of the two items if they had started with nothing. About half the participants who started with no items chose mugs, but 86% of those given mugs to begin with stuck with that item.
5. Ambiguity Bias
This bias draws on humanity's innate aversion to risk. Let's say you have two music choices. You could listen to an album you've heard before and enjoyed or one you've never listened to.
While the section option could turn out to be your new favorite album, it could also be an assault on your ears. The ambiguity effect is what would make many of us choice the first, more familiar option.
Why Choice Is So Hard
Three months ago, I packed up all my things and moved out of the city I've lived in for 23 years to work at HubSpot, a company whose existence I'd only recently discovered.
Yesterday, I bought two kinds of cheese I'd never tried before from the grocery store.
Choosing the wrong kind of a cheese is a smaller (and less costly) mistake than choosing the wrong job. It’s also a mistake that’s much easier to reverse. And yet the decision to move and change jobs felt far, far easier than my cheese selection.
A supermarket has an average of 42,686 different SKUs. I’m not a psychologist, but I can safely say that having 42,686 choices is overwhelming.
In her TED talk “How to Make Choosing Easier,” Iyengar describes a problem she calls “choice overload.” She conducted a study at a grocery store in Palo Alto, which carried 348 varieties of jam.
Iyengar set up a tasting booth outside the store. When the booth had six varieties of jam, patrons were 33% less likely to stop and sample the products than if 24 varieties were displayed. But the patrons who stopped at the six-variety booth were six times more likely to buy jam than the patrons who stopped at the 24-variety booth.
What’s the takeaway? More choices might capture consumers’ attention, but sheer variety is actually harmful in converting them to customers.
“We might enjoy gazing at those giant walls of mayonnaises, mustards, vinegars, and jams, but we can’t do the math of comparing and contrasting and actually picking from that stunning display,” Iyengar said.
Choice and willpower
I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing, because I have too many other decisions to make. - Barack Obama, on why he only wears grey or blue suits
Obama isn’t the only leader who follows this logic. Facebook cofounder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and late Apple cofounder and CEO Steve Jobs wore the same outfits every day as well.
It’s not because the three men have poor fashion sense -- it’s because they understood that making decisions causes mental fatigue.
An interesting example comes from a 2010 study by Jonathan Levav and Shai Danziger. According to the research, Israeli parole boards granted parole to around 70% of prisoners who appeared before them early in the morning, but less than 10% of prisoners who appeared late in the day.
“The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts,” John Tierney of the New York Times wrote of the study.
As you make more decisions throughout the day, your reserve of willpower eventually becomes depleted. As you become more fatigued, you’ll start to either make decisions impulsively instead of carefully thinking through consequences, or wind up doing nothing due to a lack of energy to weigh options. In the case of the parole board, it was easier to stick with the status quo and keep prisoners incarcerated, instead of chancing release and recidivism.
In short: The more decisions -- simple or complex -- you are subjected to, the less mental energy and willpower you have left at the end of the day.
And this finding has widespread implications. Take, for instance, the connection between decision fatigue and impulse eating.
Tierney writes of people trapped in poverty:
[Economist Dean] Spears urges sympathy for someone who makes decisions all day on a tight budget. In one study, he found that when the poor and the rich go shopping, the poor are much more likely to eat during the shopping trip. This might seem like confirmation of their weak character -- after all, they could presumably save money and improve their nutrition by eating meals at home instead of buying ready-to-eat snacks. But if a trip to the supermarket induces more decision fatigue in the poor than in the rich -- because each purchase requires more mental trade-offs -- by the time they reach the cash register, they’ll have less willpower left to resist the Mars bars and Skittles. Not for nothing are these items called impulse purchases.
So, next time you need to make a big decision (like whether you’re going to move to a different city and accept a new job), it might not be a good idea to go looking for a new kind of cheese at the grocery store.
How to make hard decisions easier
At this point, you get it. Choice is hard. There are some decisions that will never be easy. Think of Neo, the protagonist from The Matrix, faced with the option to swallow a red pill and discover a harsh reality, or take the blue pill and stick with a comfortable fantasy.
For marketers and salespeople, however, there are concrete, actionable ways to make the buying process easier for their prospects. Taken from "How to Make Choosing Easier," here are Iyengar’s four lessons for how to take the pain out of decision-making.
Less really is more. Faced with choice overload, people are less likely to buy. The trick is to find the balance between having enough options to attract buyers in the first place, but not so many that consumers become overwhelmed and walk away.
It's difficult, but if a company can find that sweet spot, they'll reap the rewards. When Proctor & Gamble cut their Head & Shoulders line from 26 products to 15, the organization saw a 10% increase in sales.
2. Make Things Concrete
“In order for people to understand the differences between choices, they have to be able to understand the consequences associated with each choice,” Iyengar said. “The consequences need to be felt in a vivid sort of way.”
So, if consumers are able to connect with a product on a visceral level, they will be more likely to buy it. Consider that consumers spend 15% to 30% more money when using a credit or debit card rather than cash because of this lack of concreteness -- swiping a piece of plastic is a different experience than handing the cashier a $20 bill.
Think back to that grocery store with its 42,686 products. Imagine if the 2% milk was next to shampoo, but whole milk and heavy cream were stored next to meat.
It would be chaos.
Separating products into discrete categories prevents choice overload by slimming down the number of products consumers have to compare to each other. It's also worthwhile to note the total number of products we have to choose from matters less than the number of product categories with which we’re presented.
“If I show you 600 magazines and divided them up into 10 categories, versus 400 magazines in 20 categories, you believe that I have given you more choice and a better choosing experience if I gave you the 400 than if I gave you the 600,” Iyengar said. “The categories tell me how to tell them apart.”
4. Condition for Complexity
If I told you to design your own car, where would you start?
A German car company that allows consumers to completely customize their own cars found that presenting choices with fewer options first and slowly building up to more complex decisions -- such as picking from 56 different exterior car colors -- kept consumers more engaged.
Choice may be hard, but our brains are capable of astoundingly complex calculations -- researchers needed 82,944 processors to simulate a single second of human brain activity. Building up from the simple choices to more complex ones, however, is necessary to prevent dropoff during the buying process.
5. Set a Deadline
Parkinson's Law theorizes that work expands to fill the time available for completion. So, if you have a 5:00 PM deadline, you'll work until 5:00 PM. If you have a 2:00 PM deadline, you'll get the same amount of work done by 2:00 PM.
Use this framework to streamline your decision making process. If you need to choose a vendor and just can't make up your mind -- set yourself a deadline for making the decision, and stick to it.
The reasons we make decisions are not always rational and can’t be isolated from who we are, where we are, or maybe even how long it took us to decide what outfit to wear that morning. But by being aware of the psychological factors that affect our choices -- and recognizing how a decision we make at 8 a.m. affects one at 3 p.m. -- we’ll be able to not only make better decisions for ourselves, but help others do the same.
Are you successful at coaching your employees? In our years studying and working with companies on this topic, we’ve observed that when many executives say “yes,” they’re ill-equipped to answer the question. Why? For one thing, managers tend to think they’re coaching when they’re actually just telling their employees what to do.
According to Sir John Whitmore, a leading figure in executive coaching, the definition of coaching is “unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” When done right, coaching can also help with employee engagement; it is often more motivating to bring your expertise to a situation than to be told what to do.
Recently, my colleagues and I conducted a study that shows that most managers don’t understand what coaching really is — and that also sheds light on how to fix the problem. The good news is that managers can improve their coaching skills in a short amount of time (15 hours), but they do have to invest in learning how to coach in the first place. This research project is still in progress, but we wanted to offer a glimpse into our methodology and initial findings.
First, we asked a group of participants to coach another person on the topic of time management, without further explanation. In total, 98 people who were enrolled in a course on leadership training participated, with a variety of backgrounds and jobs. One-third of the participants were female and two-thirds were male; on average, they were 32 years old and had eight years of work and 3.8 years of leadership experience. The coaching conversations lasted five minutes and were videotaped. Later, these tapes were evaluated by other participants in the coaching course through an online peer review system. We also asked 18 coaching experts to evaluate the conversations. All of these experts had a master’s degree or graduate certificate in coaching, with an average of 23.2 years of work experience and 7.4 years of coaching experience.
Participants then received face-to-face training in two groups of 50, with breakouts in smaller groups for practice, feedback, and reflection around different coaching skills. At the end, we videotaped another round of short coaching conversations, which were again evaluated by both peers and coaching experts. In total, we collected and analyzed more than 900 recorded evaluations of coaching conversations (pre-training and post-training), which were accompanied by surveys asking participants about their attitudes and experiences with leadership coaching before and after the training.
The biggest takeaway was the fact that, when initially asked to coach, many managers instead demonstrated a form of consulting. Essentially, they simply provided the other person with advice or a solution. We regularly heard comments like, “First you do this” or “Why don’t you do this?”
This kind of micromanaging-as-coaching was initially reinforced as good coaching practice by other research participants as well. In the first coaching exercise in our study, the evaluations peers gave one another were significantly higher than the evaluations from experts.
Our research looked specifically at how you can train people to be better coaches. We focused on analyzing the following nine leadership coaching skills, based on the existing literature and our own practical experiences of leadership coaching:
- giving feedback
- assisting with goal setting
- showing empathy
- letting the coachee arrive at their own solution
- recognizing and pointing out strengths
- providing structure
- encouraging a solution-focused approach
Using the combined coaching experts’ assessments as the baseline for the managers’ abilities, we identified the best, worst, and most improved components of coaching. The skill the participants were the best at before training was listening, which was rated “average” by our experts. After the training, the experts’ rating increased 32.9%, resulting in listening being labeled “average-to-good.”
The skills the participants struggled with the most before the training were “recognizing and pointing out strengths” and “letting the coachee arrive at their own solution.” On the former, participants were rated “poor” pre-training, and their rating improved to “average” after the training was completed. Clearly, this is an area managers need more time to practice, and it’s something they likely need to be trained on differently as well. Interestingly, the most improved aspect of coaching was “letting coachees arrive at their own solution.” This concept saw an average increase in proficiency of 54.1%, which moved it from a “poor” rating to “slightly above average.”
More generally, multiple assessments of participants by experts before and after the training course resulted in a 40.2% increase in overall coaching ability ratings across all nine categories, on average. Given that this was a very short training course this is a remarkable improvement.
What can organizations learn from our research? First, any approach to coaching should begin by clearly defining what it is and how it differs from other types of manager behavior. This shift in mindset lays a foundation for training and gives managers a clear set of expectations.
The next step is to let managers practice coaching in a safe environment before letting them work with their teams. The good news, as evidenced by our research, is that you don’t necessarily need to invest in months of training to see a difference. You do, however, need to invest in some form of training. Even a short course targeted at the right skills can markedly improve managers’ coaching skills.
Regardless of the program you choose, make sure it includes time for participants to reflect on their coaching abilities. In our study, managers rated their coaching ability three times: once after we asked them to coach someone cold, once after they were given additional training, and once looking back at their original coaching session. After the training, managers decreased their initial assessment of themselves by 28.8%, from “slightly good” to “slightly poor.” This change was corroborated by managers’ peers, who reduced their assessment by 18.4%, from “slightly good” to “neither good nor bad,” when looking back at their original observations of others. In other words, if managers have more knowledge and training, they are able to provide a better self-assessment of their skills. Organizations should allocate time for managers to reflect on their skills and review what they have done. What’s working, and what they could do better?
Our research also supports the idea of receiving feedback from coaching experts in order to improve. The risk of letting only nonexperts help might reinforce and normalize ineffective behaviors throughout an organization. Specifically, coaching experts could give feedback on how well the coaching skills were applied and if any coaching opportunities have been missed. This monitoring could take the form of regular peer coaching, where managers in an organization come together to practice coaching with each other, or to discuss common problems and solutions they have encountered when coaching others, all in the presence of a coaching expert. Here managers have two advantages: First, they can practice their coaching in a safe environment. Second, coaches can discuss challenges they have experienced and how to overcome them.
If you take away only one thing here, it’s that coaching is a skill that needs to be learned and honed over time. Fortunately, even a small amount of training can help. Not only does a lack of training leave managers unprepared, it may effectively result in a policy of managers’ reinforcing poor coaching practices among themselves. This can result in wasted time, money, and energy.
Editor’s Note: Due to an editing error, the original published version of this article did not include the author’s final edits. The piece has been updated.
As the recent World Cup penalty shootouts showed, the most successful goalkeepers don’t aim for where the ball is, they jump for where it is going.
It’s no surprise, then, that Forrester research finds 80% of B2B CMOs are now investing in buyer intent data to place their marketing and sales teams in the path of where future customers are going.
rawpixel / Pixabay
Assessing fit and skill is one of the biggest challenges for a hiring team. From application to interviews, employers have a few tactics to help them decide whether a hire will stay or turnover quickly. Unfortunately, more than 50% of voluntary turnover happens within a year of the new hire’s start date and experts estimate 80% of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions. Even with the best efforts, companies are failing to accurately assess talent. Enter technology. Thanks to advancements in HR tech, human resources and recruiting teams have brought better efficiency and automation to their programs. And now, technology is offering even more insight into the performance and fit of a candidate thanks to prescriptive analytics.
What are prescriptive analytics? Sometimes called predictive analytics, prescriptive analytics are a technique that uses data mining, statistics, modeling, machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze current data to make predictions about future. For a talent acquisition team, this means using their existing employment data as a way to make better hiring decisions. Struggling to find diverse talent that fits your team or can’t seem to nail employee retention? This is where predictive analytics shines.
What is Intelligent Automation?
To understand prescriptive analytics, it is essential to first understand intelligent automation. Intelligent automation is data driven decision algorithms that help talent acquisition teams speed up processes. Though these algorithms are more efficient than humans when it comes to data, the real competitive edge of automation comes from the lack of human bias.
Recruiters and hiring managers are great at forming relationships, but not so great at forming unbiased decisions. Since 1989, researchers have studied hiring discrimination with less than stellar results. Over the years, white candidates get an average of 36% more callbacks than black candidates and 24% more than latino candidates. More importantly, there has been no real level of change observed in the last 25 years.
This information goes to show that even the most experienced professional with the best of intentions can suffer from unconscious bias. Machines, however, examine exponentially more data in a fraction of the time all while forgoing those biases. Additionally, when machines do the repetitive work, those HR professionals are free to spend more time on the high-touch, human side of talent acquisition like nurturing great relationships.
What are Prescriptive Recommendations?
Prescriptive recommendations, similar to predictive analytics, use data, statistical algorithms and machine learning techniques to figure out the likelihood of future events based on historical data. The goal is to go beyond knowing what has happened in the past to provide an accurate assessment of what will happen in the future.
Predictive analytics models use known results to develop a prediction value, or model, for new data. Modeling provides results in the form of predictions that represent a probability of the target variable (for example, a loyal candidate) based on estimated significance from a set of input variables.
How Can this Help You?
While predictions are nice, this is where prescriptive recommendations come into play. Simply predicting that a person is a good fit for your company is only one small step of the equation. What if they won’t accept the offer? What if they are highly likely to leave within the first 90 days? Recruiters focused on high quality candidate outcomes also need to know who is most likely to accept an offer and stay with the team long enough to make a substantial impact.
Prescriptive recommendations use data points essential to helping recruiters make better informed decisions in a fraction of the time. This technology maps qualified candidates against the talent DNA of top performers and offers precise recommendations that help recruiters fast track the right talent and accelerate the time to hire. Using prescriptive recommendations gives you the ability to find the right talent of your company while measuring the likelihood of a candidate’s future success within the company.
StockSnap / Pixabay
Over the past few years, numerous articles have been written on the differences that millennials bring to the workforce. Diana Labrien’s post on Lifehack is one of the ones that garnered the most attention. Many pundits have argued that millennial employees are lazy and entitled. The growing prevalence of millennial managers turns this discussion on its head.
As baby boomers continue to retire, millennials will play a greater role in management. However, many of the people they manage will be older than them. This can create friction and even resentment that previous generations did not contend with in the same way. Millennial managers need to understand their own biases and the perception of their generation as they develop their own management styles.
Here are some unique tips that millennials should follow as they rise through the ranks of their organizations.
Emphasize the economic benefits of promoting work-life balance
Kelly Holland Pointed out that millennials feel particularly stressed about their lack of work-life balance. One is CNBC poll found that 35% of millennials said that this has become more difficult. Most of them cited increased responsibilities at work as the prime reason.
This is an opportunity for younger managers to change the expectations of the workplace. Millennial managers that are seeking more time in their personal lives have earned some flexibility to do this. They can also set the tone for their employees to do the same.
Is this possible without sacrificing productivity and organizational profits? Absolutely. A number of countries that expect workers to put in fewer hours each week actually have better productivity. This is because workers are less fatigued and can get more done during the workday when they feel more energetic.
This will not only relieve some of the burdens on the manager but also improve their standing with their millennial subordinates. Even older workers are likely to get behind the idea once they recognize the benefits and are assured that productivity will not be stifled.
There are a number of ways to do this. One is by understanding the importance of automation. There are many great project management tools, such as Basecamp and Trello that help manage workflows and minimize wasted time. You can also invest in a program to learn to be a better project manager, such as taking the steps to get a PMP certificate.
Prove that you understand the importance of the bottom line
There is a stereotype that millennials are too idealistic. Some people believe that they don’t respect the importance of fiscal prudence or the concerns of shareholders. This generalization is, of course, unfair, but millennial miniatures will still have to work hard to overcome it.
If you have been appointed to a managerial role, you must demonstrate that you understand that the bottom line is important. This means you will need to make some hard decisions at times. You may be required to terminate employees that can’t meet their projections after all other avenues have been pursued. You may be required to encourage partnerships with companies that don’t reflect your own personal ideological views.
Making these hard choices is difficult for anybody, but millennial managers will need to show they have the tenacity to do so.
Show appreciation to your older colleagues
Another partially earned stereotype of millennial managers is that they think they have everything already figured out. They dismiss the wisdom of more experienced colleagues. You need to refrain from any insinuation is that you don’t appreciate the insights of your older peers, no matter how subtle those suggestions may be.
It is a good idea to network with people of all generations in your organization. Make sure they realize that you value their experience and take their advice to heart. At the same time, it is important to be sincere with your overtures.
Accept accountability when needed
There is one final stereotype of millennials. Older workers believe they are narcissistic. One of the tendencies of narcissists is that they always blame somebody else for their mistakes.
You need to debunk this stereotype by taking responsibility for your mistakes. This is difficult for anybody but can be even harder for millennials.
Millennial managers must learn to be team players
Older workers often think that millennial managers see themselves as lone wolves – too idealistic, entitled and arrogant to conform to the company’s expectations. The good news is that hard working millennial managers are more than capable of dispelling these perceptions. However, they need to invest the time and energy in meeting organizational goals and showing that they acknowledge their own shortcomings.
Apparently, someone once offered a definition for the split second as “the time between a customer giving the merest hint that they might have a need and the sales person rushing to pitch their solution”.
It’s a common problem, and I must credit Mike Bosworth (author of Solution Selling) for being the first person to have the wit and creativity to so memorably describe the condition as “premature elaboration”.
It’s a starkly suggestive phrase, an unfortunately common ailment, and a terribly ineffective way of selling - particularly in complex B2B sales environments where doing a rushed job of discovery can have all manner of negative consequences for the subsequent sales cycle...
You might have heard the condition referred to as “the itch to pitch”. At one level, you can understand why sales people might be tempted. They might have endured a series of unproductive sales calls or meetings during which their previous prospects didn’t acknowledge any needs or express any interest in solving them.
Now, at last, when the sales person finally feels that they might actually have found a live prospect we can understand how talking about their “solution” (a subject we might hope that they have some familiarity with) or demonstrating their product can act as a release for all that pent-up frustration.
But succumbing to premature elaboration is about the worst thing a sales person could do in response to the prospect’s just-acknowledged need. The potential customer might have identified a need that the sales person believes they have a potential solution to, but they know very little else.
They don’t know the relative importance of the issue. They don’t know whether their prospect regards the issue as urgent, important or something that - although frustrating - they can live with.
They don’t understand the consequences or impact of the problem. They don’t know who else is affected, or how. They don’t know how their prospect might have tried to deal with the problem before, or with what sort of results.
They don’t know what other options their prospect might be considering. They don’t know where their prospect is in their decision journey, what their decision process, criteria or timeframe might look like, or what role their current prime contact might play in it.
They don’t know how this issue relates to their prospect's current corporate initiatives or their executive level priorities. They don’t know who the other stakeholders might be. They don’t know if and how the project might be funded.
They probably come across to the customer rather like a quack doctor who prescribes two aspirins for a headache without making any attempt to understand what the underlying problem is - leaving a potentially life-threatening condition undiagnosed.
Worst of all, the moment they start down the path of proposing a solution, they make it that much more difficult to reverse the process and fill in all of the many remaining missing blanks in their discovery process.
Curiosity might have killed the cat, but curiosity (and its close friend discovery) is the essential life-force behind every complex sales situation. Sales people need to restrain the temptation to tell their prospective customer what they can do for them until they fully understand (and have preferably influenced) what their prospect believes they need to do.
Let’s not blow our chances by switching into sales mode too early. Let’s invest in discovery. And let’s refuse to give in to the temptation for premature elaboration...