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09 Mar 16:19

Are You a Funnel King?

by Grant Cardone

If you don't have working funnels, your business is broke.

Introduction

If you had the chance of watching Russell Brunson's presentation at the 10X Growth Conference 2 in Vegas, you know that he is a marketing master. He sold over 3 million dollars in sales in just an hour. That’s impressive. Talk about speed and taking the time out of the equation!

Why did people act on his offer so quickly?

Because he knows how to present value and motivate a customer to buy. He shows how his service solves the problem of selling products and services online, delivers his message passionately, and has a great offer. He also demonstrates that it can work in any industry. If you’re in health, sales, cooking, relationships, finance—there’s a funnel for all of it.

Russell says that sales funnels are the key to online business and that whoever can spend the most, will win. Your goal as a business owner or entrepreneur is to instantly outspend your competition. Russell and I differ on how we view competition—I believe in dominating a market, but he still has some good points you should consider.

Outspend the competition?

How can you afford to outspend your competition? Big companies have massive budgets that most people could never compete with. If you’re just starting out, you probably don’t have a million dollar monthly budget. His answer is direct response marketing using online sales funnels. The goal is to set up your funnel so that for every $1 you put, you get out $2. If you could do that, then the amount you can spend is unlimited. But what is a funnel?

Did you say funnel? 

A sales funnel uses a series of ordered web pages that guides a new customer into a buying decision. You target a group of people to a specific product that would benefit them. Some funnels are only two pages and some can be much longer. I use funnels but still rely on a team of sales professionals to close deals over the phone. That’s where Russell and I are different.

You can also build a funnel for any product or service, not just information products. Russell sells all kinds of things online from training programs, pills, and even instructions on how to build a potato gun. Funnels are a viable way to generate a new flow of income.

There are tons of people launching new businesses with nothing else but a funnel.

For me, I use funnels for supplementary income, not main income like Russell does. However you decide to use them, they are still a tool you should use to grow your business. Here’s how to do it...

 Model what works.

You shouldn't try to be a pioneer blazing new trails. That’s how you get arrows in your back. Instead, it’s smart to find a funnel in your industry that is already working and model it. Emulate what other successful people are doing because they have arrows in their back and have learned from them. There’s no need to blaze a new trail when a path is already clear.

It just takes research to find successful funnels to model. According to Russell, a funnel is the greatest salesman because it never takes a lunch break and works around the clock. It’s a nice sounding idea that works well for Russell, but the ability to pick up the phone and close a customer is not something that I’m going to completely replace with a funnel.

Funnels vs. Salespeople

Making money in business is about serving people in the marketplace. I have a highly skilled sales team who are masters on the phone. Sales skills from real people is what drives my business. Sales funnels are a nice flow of income, but nothing beats out the power of a highly skilled salesperson and the follow-up.

Sales funnels are good for low hanging fruit but not for the monster deals that my guys go after. That requires a human touch, not an automated marketing engine.

Even so, I do agree with Russell that you should use a funnel in your business to get another flow of income going. The quickest way to earn money is with a business that pays. Funnels are a great way to add a supplementary flow so don’t overlook it.

Summary

When you model a funnel, you don’t have to get it 100% right. You just need to grab some of the market. You probably know that I believe in domination, not competition, so a piece of the market isn’t what I want—I want to dominate the whole thing. But if you’re starting, it’s an approach that works for some people.

Like I’ve said before, never walk away from a flow of income, no matter how small. A sales funnel might be just what you need to bring in some extra income.

If you're ready to get involved with funnels, I personally use Click Funnels and would recommend them. Use my affiliate link HERE to receive the best deal you'll find anywhere and get started making BIG money using funnels. 

Be great,

GC

09 Mar 16:18

Nobody’s Opening Your Marketing Emails. Here’s Why.

by Amanda Clark

Pixabay

Email marketing is growing in its popularity and in its prevalence—but that doesn’t necessarily mean that marketers know what they’re doing. It’s as possible as ever to sink a lot of money into an email marketing campaign and get nothing out of it whatsoever.

This can happen for a few different reasons—poor tracking and lead capturing, unclear goals, or email content that doesn’t deliver any benefit to the reader. An even more fundamental and common problem is that marketing emails never get opened in the first place, either winding up in spam folders or in the trashcan.

Of course, a marketing email that’s never opened is a total waste of your ad dollars—so if you find that your open rate is criminally low, it’s good to ask yourself why that might be.

Here are some of the most common reasons.

Mysterious Subject Lines

Have you ever received an email from an unknown sender with a vague or cryptic subject line, and opened it out of pure curiosity? Probably not. Most of us only take the time to open emails when we know there’s something inside that we need to see. Your email’s subject lines should promise clear value; they should spell out what the email is about and why readers should care. A mysterious subject line is almost never a good one.

Wasting Space and Wasting Time

Do you reveal your business name in the sender line, the subject line, and then the opening sentence of each email you send? That’s redundant; it’s a waste of space; and, most critically, it’s a waste of your reader’s time. People don’t have a lot of time to read emails that don’t offer immediate value, so use your space wisely. Avoid vain repetition.

All About You

We’re constantly seeing emails with an opening sentence like this: “I wanted you to be the first to know about the new business I’m launching.” Or: “We have a new e-book on the way, and I wanted you to be the first to hear about it.” Look: Nobody really cares what you want. Your email readers want to know what’s in it for them. Marketing emails should focus on benefits, benefits, and benefits—period. Get to those benefits right away.

Names in Subject Lines

Have you ever received an email with your name in the subject line? If not, it’s because such emails have all ended up in your spam folder. Because only spammers use this tactic. Again, don’t waste space in your subject line with things your reader already knows. Get straight to the point, and to the value.

09 Mar 16:18

The issue with generic "unique value propositions"

by bob@inflexion-point.com (Bob Apollo)

Nested DollsIf you were foolish enough to listen to some B2B marketers and agencies, you might conclude that the simple act of developing a generic “unique value proposition” for your organisation would somehow automatically make you more relevant to your prospective customers.

Well, the idea might possibly work in some B2C or very simple B2B environments, but the very thought is a complete nonsense in any complex B2B sales situation. Every customer situation is different. Every stakeholder has different motivations. Every opportunity has specific nuances. Generic platitudes are not enough.

What may seem unique and relevant to one customer is likely to be completely irrelevant to another (apparently quite similar) prospective customer. If you spend a moment thinking through the implications, it becomes obvious that anything intended to appeal to the crowds is unlikely to sound anything other than high-level and vague to any specific customer.

So what are we to do? Abandon the quest to establish our unique value? That would clearly be an over-reaction. The most sensible thing we can do is to start thinking of our value propositions not as generic statements, but as a series of nested elements.

I understand why companies believe that having an umbrella “unique value proposition” can be helpful in ensuring high level messaging consistency in areas such as their website and their generic marketing communications. But that’s all it can ever be: an umbrella.

In complex B2B sales environments with complicated buying journeys, we would be far better served by thinking about our value proposition as being a layered position (not proposition) that becomes progressively more specific, unique and relevant with each iteration.

The market layer

At the highest level or layer, we can think in terms of a market-wide value position. This - designed to appeal to the organisations and stakeholders that represent our core target markets - should serve to differentiate our high-level approach from all the other options that a prospective buyer might consider looking at.

The danger, of course, is in trying to appeal to such a big swathe of the market that we say nothing distinctive at all and end up sounding just like all the other players in our space. I believe that even these high-level value positions should seek to establish clear contrast.

I’m a great fan of adopting a “Marmite” approach: if we seek to appeal to all, we will end up being loved by no-one. Far better to have a clear position that has both raving fans and organisations that would never come near us with a bargepole (on the grounds that they would probably never be good customers anyway).

The positioning formula that Geoffrey Moore first proposed in “Crossing the Chasm” (you can see a variation here) can provide a very useful internal foundation for our market-layer positioning efforts (it tends not to be so effective if used verbatim externally).

But developing a credible and distinctive high-level position is just the foundation…

The account or organisation layer

We then need to take this generalised high-level market position and adapt it to resonate with what we know about a specific target account or organisation. This next-level positioning must be tailored by each sales person to the company they are targeting.

We will inevitably up-weight some aspects of our market layer proposition, down-weight some other elements and introduce new value messages that are specific to the position we want to establish with the organisation - but we can only do this by developing an intimate knowledge of what is important to them.

The functional or departmental layer

For any complex sale into any organisation of any size, the individual functions or departments - whilst (hopefully) sharing some overall value priorities with the organisation as a whole - will also have some unique value priorities that we are going to have to address if we hope to get their support.

We need to be able to anticipate and answer their question “what’s the specific value of your offering to my department or function?” Even if we don’t get asked this directly, you can safely bet that this is part of any potential customer’s consideration.

The role or stakeholder layer

But even below these layers (and often as just or more important than them) is our specific value to the key roles and stakeholders who are going to have to make any buying decision and - just as important - to live with the consequences.

We need to be able to clearly position what our specific value is to each of these critical stakeholders. But this does not mean inventing a set of completely disjointed messages for each of these individuals.

Research published by the CEB (now part of Gartner) in The Challenger Customer showed that this was a unproductive - and desperately hard to implement - strategy, and that we need to work through what they describe as a "mobilizer" inside the customer.

Nested dolls

We need to think of our value position as a set of nested custom-crafted dolls - each layer being consistent with the overall position but tailored to address the priorities of the specific audience. The higher layers need to provide an integrating platform for the lower layer details, and the lower layers need to consistently support the high-level overview.

The only way we can achieve this is by having the right conversations with the right stakeholders in our significant sales opportunities, and consciously creating and testing that our messages resonate at every layer.

Built through insights, research and conversations

If we are to develop these layered positions, we can only do so through a combination of insights, research and conversations. We can harness our collective experience to assess what is likely to resonate at each level, test it and adapt it as necessary.

The more we understand about how we have helped similar organisations, departments, functions and roles, the easier it will be to start with credible hypotheses regarding these tailored layered value positions - as long as we are careful not to blindly assume that what worked under one set of circumstances will inevitably work without adaption in another apparently similar situation.

Mastering the layer cake

But if we can master these layers of value - even if we can just become slightly less overtly generic than our competition - we can stand out from the crowd in a way that is both distinctive and highly relevant to our customers. That feels like an investment worth making to me. What about you?


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DOWNLOAD: Our Guide to the Value Selling System


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Apollo_3_white_background_250_square.jpgBob Apollo is a Fellow of the Association of Professional Sales and the founder of UK-based Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners, home of the Value Selling System®. Following a successful career spanning start-ups, scale-ups and corporates, Bob now works with a growing client base of tech-based B2B-focused high-growth businesses, enabling them to progressively create, capture and confirm their unique value in every customer interaction.
09 Mar 16:17

In pricing analysis the shape of the distribution matters

by Steven Forth
Distributions_blog.png

Pricing work generally involves the gathering and analysis of a lot of data. There will be a lot of numbers to gather, analyze and understand, but numeric data alone will not give the insights needed to drive pricing design. Some of that data will be in the form of words and images. 

This is something we are already seeing in the Skills for Pricing Experts survey that we are currently running in cooperation with the skill management platform TeamFit. (Please click on the above link and take the survey if you have not already done so.)

The shape of the distribution matters

Having reviewed many cases of data analysis over the years, one thing I have noticed is that many analysts, myself included, often pay too much attention to the details of the numbers rather than focusing on the overall shape of the data set and the trends buried in it. Back at Monitor Group, we referred to this as being precisely wrong, rather than being directionally correct. In pricing, especially in pricing strategy and design, it is the overall shapes of the curves and the directional trends that give the most insight.

Let's look at a simple example. Imagine we have identified two market segments and the willingness to pay (WTP) in each segment averages 8 dollars in both segments. In one segment the median WTP is 7 dollars and in the other it is 9 dollars. Is the same pricing strategy appropriate for both segments? Probably not. The segment where the median is higher than the average skews right and the segment where the median is lower than the average skews left.

Right Skewed Distribution Left Skewed Distribution

This simple comparison of median and average is something we should do automatically whenever anyone presents us with an average. Never assume there is a normal distribution (a Bell curve).

Normal (Bell) Distribution

In a segment where the distribution skews right, there are more people with a higher than average WTP. The goal of pricing and marketing strategy should be to serve these people, and (very simplistically) the price should be the median WTP and not the average (I am sure we have all seen pricing strategies that default to the average WTP). Where the distribution skews left, the average WTP is often a good place to start with price setting. Of course this is too simple, and depending on the exact shape of the curve will not even optimize revenue. In most cases, pricing should optimize for profit rather than revenue. This makes careful analysis of the distribution even more important, as small price changes generally impact profit more than revenue.

Try making a simple scatter plot of any piece of numeric data you are you using. This data could be a price distribution, various data from your sales funnel like conversion rates or time in any part of the pipeline, or survey data you have been collecting. What is the shape of the distribution? What does that shape tell?

The search for differentiation

In pricing work we are often searching for differentiation. The Economic Value Estimation process is designed to uncover the differentiated economic value of an offer relative to the next best competitive alternative. Market segmentation is meant to find the combinations of segmentation axes (the dimensions along which customers are defined so that they can be grouped into segments) that brings different segments into sharp focus and shows how they are differentiated. One of the easiest ways to do this is to look at the shape of the distributions.

Bimodal (Two Humped Camel) Distribution

Whenever you see a bimodal distribution (fondly known as a two-humped camel) you have good evidence of differentiation. When this shows up clearly in pricing research you are generally capturing data from two different market segments. In many cases, you may want different offers and prices for each segment. One reason to use sorting questions in surveys is to help search for bimodal and other distributions. It is easy to see the distribution in the results to such questions.

 (The question is from our current survey into Pricing Skills.)

(The question is from our current survey into Pricing Skills.)

One can then use this to separate your population into clusters and look for other properties associate with each cluster.

Of course any set of data will have a distribution and it is always important to examine this distribution carefully and look for clues to differentiation. Skew, standard deviation and shape of distribution are all possible tells, and you need to check the all.

People who want to work in the design of pricing for early-stage innovation must develop good techniques for finding insights from weak signals as conventional approaches to pricing optimization fail in such environments. This generally requires creative approaches to data analysis, a sensitivity to the details in the data and a willingness to probe, follow up and confirm what you find from more than one perspective. At Ibbaka, we often combine data from surveys, interviews, usage, CRM (customer relationship management system), CPQ (configure price quote system), marketing automation system and scrapes of public websites.  We are also building tools based on our approach to pricing, that work for early-stage innovation.

 

 

09 Mar 16:16

Why protecting your competitive price position is critical to profitable growth

by Min-Jee Hwang

Do you know where your pricing stands relative to your top competitors?

Keeping an eye on how you compare across your most important categories or brands is critical to getting a bird's eye view of the market and capitalizing on where you have pricing power.

Read more...

09 Mar 16:16

The Sorry State of Sales Due Diligence

by Bob Apollo
Due Diligence Trimmed

Stock photo

Successful start-ups tend to follow a predictable pattern: they identify a problem that needs solving, develop an innovative solution, find their first few customers and then seek to expand beyond their early adopters and exploit the full potential of a mainstream market they have so far merely scratched the surface of.

Geoffrey Moore described the particular challenges of expanding beyond the first wave of early adopters in his masterly “Crossing the Chasm”, and it’s a path many apparently promising companies have attempted to follow – with, it has to be acknowledged, widely varying degrees of success.

The initial investments in these organisations have tended to focus on building a viable product, but the next focus of investment (typically “B” round and beyond) is on scaling the business, and on the investment hypothesis that revenues will grow at least proportionally to the increase in sales and marketing resources.

And that – unfortunately – is where things can often break down. Investors are very used to doing their financial due diligence. They can build complex and sophisticated business models. They can normally get a pretty good sense of the character of the management team. But it seems to me that they often struggle to apply the due diligence required to accurately assess whether they are about to invest in a truly scalable sales process.

You can understand the difficulty. Whilst financial models and projections inevitably make assumptions, they at least follow a common framework and structure and are based on convention and regulation. And the essential building blocks of financial due diligence are (or should be) a highly familiar subject to any experienced investor.

Unfortunately, things are not as simple when it comes to modelling the effects of increasing sales and marketing resources, particularly in complex B2B sales environments that are inevitably subject to a large number of somewhat unpredictable factors (not to mention the implications of chaos theory).

The challenge is compounded by the fact that the initial wave of sales has often been conducted by a handful of individuals (often the founders). They have usually been selling to people and organisations who – as early adopters – bring their own energy and vision to recognising the practical potential of the new solution.

But this model – although it can bring early (and sometimes deceptive) success – simply does not scale, for two critical reasons:

  • Firstly, the founders are in a special and privileged position: they have a vision and are often very credible at articulating it. They manage to win the first wave of sales, but are – frustratingly – often unconsciously competent when it comes to explaining their success formula to others
  • Second, the early adopter buyers that they have sold to are typically already driving a change agenda in the pursuit of competitive advantage, and are more open to using what might seem to more conservative buyers to be unproven (if promising) solutions

It’s rare for organisations to have a fully developed and defined “sales process” in the early, often experimental days. But if they are to recruit a new wave of salespeople to exploit the potential of the rest of the market, it’s critical that they induct their new sales hires into a disciplined and proven sales process that equips them to target, engage, qualify and advance more of the right sort of prospects.

It’s equally important that vendors identify their most promising initial opportunities in the mainstream market (a combination of a critical business issue, a certain type of organisation, contacts who are change agents, and a suitable catalyst or trigger event) and focus their energies on establishing a defensible bridgehead, rather than dissipating their energies.

I’ve seen many situations where a new investment round has provoked a rash of recruitment of apparently promising salespeople, who then get thrown in the “deep end” only to find that few if any of them successfully learn how to swim in their new environment.

The personality of the sales leader can have a dramatic effect as well: it’s not uncommon to appoint someone with a charismatic-heroic sales leadership style who can channel their energy to perpetuate the momentum temporarily, but who lacks the systems mindset needed to establish a scalable, repeatable and provable sales process.

It’s sometimes hard to find (or afford) a sales leader with all the necessary qualities. But if you find yourself with a fundamentally charismatic-heroic sales leader, you probably need to buddy them up with someone who can help them apply some more structured thinking to the process.

I’d suggest that the building blocks of this scalable, repeatable and provable process need to be laid before too much of the new investment is spent (and even better before the investment is sought). I believe this must be a joint responsibility between investor and investee.

Investees need to demonstrate that they have established a scalable and provable sales process before they seek scale-up funding – at minimum, this ought to include well-defined targeted business issues, customer and key contact profiles, catalysts for change, qualification criteria, key sales stages and milestones and a crystal-clear view of how they create, capture and confirm uniquely relevant value for these target customers.

Investors need to expand their due diligence horizons to include all the above elements of the investee’s sales process – and to drill deeply into the metrics associated with the sales process and the systems that have been established (in particular the CRM implementation) to support the sales organisation.

Without these insights, any investment is inevitably going to be something of a punt. But if we can start looking at scaling investments through a sales due diligence lens, we can surely be more confident that the injection of new resources is going to result in the outcomes projected in our investment case.

And it’s not as if there aren’t powerful tools at our disposal: for example, I can’t imagine anyone thinking of investing in an organisation that uses the salesforce.com CRM system not wanting to use a powerful sales analytics tool like InsightSquared.com to reveal (and question) the underlying patterns of performance.

By the way, I’ve chosen to focus particularly on the value of having a provable sales process when organisations are looking to secure or to spend growth-phase investment funds. But the basic discipline of implementing a provable sales process applies at any stage of an organisation’s evolution.

What’s your experience (as an investor, an investee or an observer)? Could we be doing a better job of sales due diligence? Or are we going to fall back on the long-discredited “sales is (only) an art” argument?

DOWNLOAD: Our Guide to the Value Selling System

09 Mar 16:16

The Supply Chain Economy and the Future of Good Jobs in America

by Karen Mills
mar18_9_131986017
Richard Leeney/Hayon Thapaliya/Getty Images

The U.S. supply chain is generally recognized as an integral part of the American economy. From Intel’s semiconductors to Microsoft’s enterprise software, the supply chain builds the goods and services that businesses need. But for all of its importance, no one has identified what industries comprise the U.S. supply chain economy, quantified the number and quality of jobs it contains, or assessed how much it matters for innovation. We attempted to answer these questions by creating a novel categorization of the U.S. economy that reveals new ways to drive American growth and innovation.

The U.S. supply chain economy is large and distinct. It represents the industries that sell to businesses and the government, as opposed to business-to-consumer (B2C) industries that sell for personal consumption. The U.S. supply chain contains 37% of all jobs, employing 44 million people. These jobs have significantly higher than average wages, and account for much of the innovative activity in the economy. The intensity of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) jobs, a proxy for innovation potential, is almost five times higher in the supply chain economy than in the B2C economy. Patenting is also highly concentrated in supply chain industries.

W180222_DELGADO_HOWBIG

 

Why are supply chain industries the source of so many high-paying jobs and so much innovation? One reason is that supply chain industries have downstream linkages to multiple industries, which allows the innovations they create to cascade and diffuse across the economy, potentially increasing the value of those innovations.

Think, for example, about the semiconductor, a general purpose technology, which went from an invention developed in the supply chain by Intel to being in almost every consumer technology imaginable. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a government and industry partnership called SEMATECH identified technical barriers and developed a roadmap for diffusing semiconductor technology, in what is considered one of the most successful industrial policy interventions in recent years. In fact, our analysis shows that semiconductors are sold to over 60% of U.S. industries.

Modern equivalents of semiconductors reside not just in goods but increasingly in services like cloud computing and enterprise software that have been transforming many industries. Cloud computing services, for example, are sold to more than 90% of U.S. industries. These services are critical to the economy, as they allow businesses to store, process, and access important data.

The Importance of Supply Chain Services

Given the contribution of the supply chain economy to innovation and well-paying jobs, it is important to understand exactly what industries comprise this segment. Traditional examples of suppliers are metal stampers or plastic injection molders – businesses that manufacture parts to be used in a final good. As we are all aware, manufacturing employment has declined significantly, both overall and in the supply chain, to the distress of many in America. This has led to a pessimistic view of the economy. The policy response has focused on “bringing manufacturing back.”

However, this traditional categorization which emphasizes manufacturing over services falls short. Only 10% of employment in the economy is in manufacturing, and 90% is in services. It is commonly thought that most of those service jobs are low-wage occupations at restaurants or retail stores, while the manufacturing jobs have higher wages. But not all services are the same. With our new categorization, we can separate supply chain service jobs – which are higher-paying – from the Main Street service jobs that tend to be lower paying. These supply chain service jobs include many different labor occupations, from operation managers, to computer programmers, to truck drivers. They comprise about 80% of supply chain employment, with an average annual wage of $63,000, and are growing rapidly.

Taking the work one step further, within the supply chain services category, we have identified the subcategory of supply chain traded services – i.e., those that are sold across regions like engineering, design, software publishing, cloud computing, and logistics services, among many others. This subcategory has the highest wages and STEM intensity in the economy ($80,800 and 19%), with average wages 3 times higher and STEM intensity 18 times higher than Main Street services, and these jobs are growing fast. This growth may reflect the evolution of many large companies from manufacturing to services over the past decades, including IBM, Intel, Dell, and GE, among others.

Our supply chain economy framework leads to a more optimistic view of the economy. If we were to focus on supporting supply chain services, particularly those in traded industries, the result might be more innovation and more well-paying jobs in the United States.

W180222_DELGADO_EMPLOYMENTIS

Policy Implications

What does this new categorization mean for economic policy? Here are three ideas focused on improving suppliers’ access to skilled labor, buyers, and capital.

First, we need to invest in skilled labor. The supply chain has the majority of STEM workers, of which America has a shortage. And while many companies are having difficulty finding skilled workers, service suppliers are most at-risk since their innovations are highly dependent on access to and retention of talent. Immigration policies that give greater access to this labor pool are helpful.

Second, we should support regional industry clusters. Suppliers produce inputs for businesses, and therefore, they particularly benefit from being co-located with their buyers in industry clusters. Catalyzing and strengthening organizations that support regional clusters is one way to promote buyer-supplier collaboration.

And finally, we must ensure that suppliers have access to capital. STEM-intensive service suppliers often produce innovations that cannot be patented, making it difficult to raise outside funding. Having pro-active government policy – through loan guarantees or credit support for suppliers – can help ensure stable and efficient access to capital for these suppliers to start and grow.

Our new categorization of U.S. industries has revealed a large and dynamic supply chain economy. In particular, service suppliers have a crucial role in driving innovation and creating well-paying jobs. Rather than an approach that relies solely on “bringing manufacturing back,” we must shift our policy solutions to focus on cultivating the supply chain service jobs that will drive America’s economy forward.

09 Mar 16:15

Do Rewards Programs Actually Work?

by Megan Mosley

Reward programs are a great way to both retain loyal customers and drive new customers to your business. The classic customer rewards programs divide into two major types. Loyalty programs and referral programs.

With both of these types of programs, the goal is to drive more customers. Whether that means drive existing customers to return or expand your customer base altogether. Rewards programs also tend to produce pretty quality customers, who end up spending more in the long run.

If both of these programs allude to the same type of results (more sales), are they really that different?

1. Key differences between loyalty and referral programs

great rewards programs can be both referral and loyalty

Stock

Even though elements from each seem to be intertwined, these rewards programs are quite different. For example, a customer who has made multiple referrals can be considered a loyal customer, it does not mean they are in a loyalty program.

Loyalty programs drive repeat sales from your existing customers

  • Rewards person for their repeat actions
  • Typically utilizes punch cards, point systems, rewards card
  • Rewards are only received after some many qualifying behaviors are complete

Think of a coffee shop that offers customers a stamp card. A customer is driven to buy coffee at that particular coffee shop time and time again because after a few visits they will be rewarded with a free coffee.

Referral programs drive sales from new customers

  • Utilize existing customers to refer their friends (word of mouth)
  • Rewards can be issued to both referring customer and new customer
  • Rewards are typically earned when a sale is made. (pay per performance of a sale not just for leads)
  • Rewards can be staged specific qualifying event or series of events based on your sales process. (i.e. when a qualifying demo occurs, a certain purchase amount is made… etc.)

This results in an expanding customer base using your existing happy customers to drive new business and only paying for it when a new sale is made. An added bonus happens by rewarding your customers for the friends they refer, as it increases their loyalty to your business.

2. Loyalty programs and why they work

It’s no secret that VIP customers feel, well… very important. They feel like they belong to an exclusive group, that surpasses and is clearly separate from the other customers.

loyalty rewards programs

Pexels

So you ask… Do loyalty rewards programs actually work? Well, they lead to customer retention, so I’d say yes. To be more specific, customer retention indicates the length of which a customer will remain with your business. Most loyalty rewards programs help this rate increase over time because of the length of a customer’s loyalty increases. Even if you just increase your retention rate a tiny bit, your profits will see a big increase. Bain & Company found that by “increasing customer retention by 5% can lead to an increase in profits of 25% – 95%”. Plus, it can be easier to convert existing customers into repeat customers than it is to convert new leads.

Why a loyalty rewards program works

Essentially loyalty programs work because they promote the VIP feel. For example, think of Amazon Prime. You pay a monthly fee to get into the club. But, once you’re in, you have the opportunity to bypass certain obstacles. You get extra perks, along with other exclusive rewards. Because of these perks, the customer has a reason to come back and shop again. This VIP loyalty program also helps build trust within the brand. Most people who are Prime Members would rather just order their goods from the Amazon website. Some have even switched to start using other Amazon products like Amazon Pantry for grocery shopping and Amazon TV for watching movies and shows because it’s so convenient and comes as one of their perks. Amazon did well before they introduced Prime, but are now making an even bigger killing in the eCommerce world.

A real-world example

Starbucks – The coffee of the world. How’d they get there? Some of it has to do with them getting into business at the right time. A bit has to do with them being located on every corner. Finally, a tiny bit of it is because of their loyalty program.

Their loyalty program did not lead to their success, but it has played a steady role in keeping customers loyal. Customers simply load money onto their Starbucks card, and then they can build up their rewards. Because there is money already on their card, they are more inclined use it, meaning that customer is far more likely to choose Starbucks for their morning coffee run than another brand. With each purchase, they earn a few stars. Eventually, they trade those stars in for a free drink or food item. The cycle continues, on and on.

3. Referral programs and why they work

So far we’ve talked a lot about loyalty programs. Though loyalty programs seem like they are the best strategy out there, many marketers and businesses want more from their loyalty programs. This is where referral marketing comes into play.

referral rewards programs

As it turns out referral rewards programs tend to produce even better customers. According to research, referred customers are better for many reasons. One of the top reasons is that they have a higher lifetime value than non-referred customers. This can then point to the fact that referred customers churn less often. Referred customers tend to spend more over their lifetime as a customer as well. Finally, to put the cherry on top, referred customers are prone to referring more customers. Meaning more loyal sales and more new sales!

Obviously, that’s a lot of hype for a rewards program. But the data truly does back it up. As you can see, referral rewards programs produce quality customers, who also happen to be very loyal.

Why a referral reward program works

Referral programs work because marketing is done by the customer instead of marketing to the customer. Customers essentially share your business with their friends and do all the convincing for. It relies heavily on word of mouth marketing and the desire to share.

This takes half the battle out of your hands. As you don’t have work as hard to find people in your target market. And, you don’t have to spend loads of money trying to advertise to them. This actually works considerably well, since people trust the recommendations from the people they know. More so than any other form of advertising.

A real-world example

Dropbox – Is one of the biggest file sharing and storage services on the internet. But, how’d they get there? Well, not only is it a service that people want and need. It also implemented a referral program, which helped boost users exponentially. Now, we can’t assume the referral program takes all the cheese, but mixing it with a highly in-demand service definitely helped.

Dropbox started a program because they needed to. They simply didn’t want to spend a ton of money on ads or do a lot of research on search-terms. So, they launched a rewards program with a 2-sided incentive. The incentive wasn’t a traditional monetary reward either, they offered extra storage space which drove to an increase in signups by 60%! Over 2.8 million referral invites happened during their first 18 months of running the rewards program. To this day, referrals still count as a large portion of their overall signups.

4. Which rewards programs work for my business?

Businesses operate differently, so certain rewards programs may make more sense than others to implement. By now you should realize, the foundation of each rewards program is different. Let’s see which type of program makes sense for each type of business.

Business Types Dependencies Best Fitting Rewards Program
Frequency of Purchase Price of Purchase
One Time Services/Products Low High Referral
Recurring Services Low/High Low/High Referral & Loyalty
Restaurants High Low Loyalty
eCommerce Low/High Low Referral & Loyalty
SaaS Low/High Low/High Referral
Subscription High Low/High Referral

Compare business types

  • One-Time Services – Think of installations, one-off purchases, annual services. A roofing company would fit into this category, for example. The customer spends a lot of money for one item or project in this case.
  • Recurring Services – Classes, regular maintenance, consulting. A few good examples of a recurring service would be pest control, an art class, a personal trainer, a salon, or even a dentist. These types of services may happen annually, every month, or week. Obviously, there is a difference in price, depending on the service. But, generally speaking, these types of services are typically more affordable than a one-time service.
  • Restaurants – Fast-food, cafes, coffee shops, a food truck, etc. Any facility who serves food in exchange for compensation. Customers may frequent the same facility, and typically do not have to spend too much to make a purchase.
  • eCommerce – The buying and selling of goods online. A well-known example would be Amazon. Other online stores are popping up frequently, all thanks to platforms like Shopify and Etsy. Though some could argue shopping online can be expensive, generally speaking, most eCommerce purchases are actually quite affordable and convenient. Meaning someone may make frequent small purchases from the same online shop.
  • SaaS – SaaS applications and web-based software are becoming increasingly popular. This is because they are cost-effective and provide for seamless integration for all business types. CRMS, cloud-based customer support, real-time online messaging, cloud storage, etc. are all examples of a SaaS type business. Most users pay a monthly, annual, or bi-annual fee. So the frequency and price are based on the service. So it could be a low-frequency, high purchase, or a high-frequency, low purchase, or really anything in between.
  • Subscription – Subscription boxes are booming. It seems every nook and cranny in the market has them. A few include pet boxes, sock subscription boxes, children boxes, and even monthly makeup boxes. These typically have a frequent monthly purchase, and they tend to be affordable.

Dependencies

  • The frequency of purchase – When considering what type of rewards program to implement, you should consider the frequency of which a customer will make purchases. Referral programs can work with both low and high-frequency purchase. Whereas loyalty programs seem to benefit more just high-frequency purchases (though can work with low frequency, depending on the type of business).
  • Size of purchase – The price of the purchase also plays a role in determining what type of rewards program you should implement. A loyalty program does not seem to work with high priced purchases since these types of purchases are not made frequently enough. Whereas a referral program works well with high priced purchases. Referral programs can also work well with low price purchases too – depending on the type of business.

How can a business run both?

Some business types can use both a referral rewards program and/or loyalty program. It really depends on what the end goal is. It also depends on the specific business model.

For example, a recurring business, like Pest Control, can work for both because, typically, there is a monthly fee for participating. Meaning, a loyalty program has enough opportunities to build up and eventually can produce a reward for the customer (i.e. pay for 6 months, get a month/item free). A referral program also makes sense in this case because even though the frequency is often and the price is generally low, a customer will see the benefit in referring. This is especially true when a reward is present (i.e send a referral, get a free month or a percentage off your next month). In some cases, a business will choose to run both types of programs, at the same time, in an effort to both increase sales and expand their customer base.

A real-world example

Gilt – an eCommerce store that sells a little bit of everything runs a membership rewards program. A customer can earn points for every dollar spent, just as they can earn points for every referral made. They then trade these points in for discounts, gift cards, and even free merchandise.

Then why can’t some businesses run both?

Other types of businesses may not fair well doing specific rewards programs. A one-time service type business, for example, won’t be a very great loyalty rewards program host. This is because, in order to earn rewards with a loyalty program, the customer must make pretty frequent purchases. So big purchases, like cars, furniture, roofs, remodeling, etc. simply won’t work as customers will not need to purchase these items often or again at all.

A referral program, in this instance, makes much more sense. As these types of customers will refer their friends who need the same service/product, especially if they had a good experience. Throw on an incentive and it’s even more enticing to refer someone. A car salesman, for example, may offer the new customer a discount off their new car, and they will probably send some sort of gift card to the referrer.

Conclusion… Yes, a great rewards program work

If done right, a great rewards program has the ability to create added value for the customers. Which can then lead to long-term relationships, and growing your business.

08 Mar 17:01

12 Secret Ways to Use Twitter Advanced Search for Marketing, Sales and Support

by Pankaj Narang

twitter-advanced-search

Twitter is amazing, and there are so many things that can be accomplished when using Twitter.

Searching with Twitter is not hard and you can find just about anything you are looking for by using your industry hashtags. But, what if you want to dig deeper? Is there a way twitter search can be done to dig even deeper?

The answer is yes, and you will discover just how powerful Twitter advanced search is. Twitter is a great way to dig up information for sales, marketing and even more.

Understand Twitter Advanced Search Basics

You must be logged into Twitter to begin the Twitter Advanced Search. Once you are logged in type a topic into the search bar. At the top of the results page click on “Advanced Search”. Once the advanced search page comes up then fill in the fields to refine both your search and the results that you will get.

Twitter has already published a guideline right here that might come in handy to you while searching for something.

When you will access to twitter’s search results page, there are many options for filtering results by media type, news, location, accounts and more.

You can also use combination of Twitter search operators available below and do few advanced search tricks from any twitter search box.

Now let’s have a look at a few of the things that Twitter can do to help in sales,marketing, support or more using Twitter Advanced Search.

Marketing

1. Explore Conversations around business keywords and industry hashtags

Twitter is a great place if you want to be able to join in conversations about a certain product or business.

By using the advanced search, you are able to pick up or monitor all the conversations that are revolving around a certain topic. This is a great way to introduce your product/services who may need them. You can also connect with influencers who are considered experts in your field.

Be sure to reply tweets where you can help with your product, service or expertise.

For example I searched for keywords “hashtag analytics” with #SMM, #socialmediamarketing as per above screenshot.

First result was a direct lead for socialert. I can certainly help him be offering a free trial. You just need to identify right keywords and filters and get desired results.

2. Explore Opportunities for blogging and content marketing

Looking for the opportunity to get your business name out there? The hashtag #JournoRequest will let you know what journalists are looking for information.

Be sure to read through all of the posts and reply to those who match what you are looking to do.

Another great hashtag to use in the media request arena is the #PRrequest.

Both of these hashtag entered into the advanced search will bring up a pleather of information and will help you get your foot into the media sector.

Be sure to apply relevant filters so you get information specific to your niche and business.

You can also look for keywords like content marketing with filters to explore opportunities.You just need to research little and fine tune advanced search to explore opportunities for guest blogging, find writers and much more.

3. Find the most popular content about a topic.

Have you ever been searching on Twitter for blogs which are quite popular in your niche ?

Twitter is certainly a great place to discover viral content, photos and videos from different sources.

For example, to find Tweets about “#SMM” with over 50 Retweets, I search using “#SMM min_retweets:50.” along with filters in advanced search.

I was surprised to find viral blog content and infographics that I can use for marketing on social media.

You can even fine tune filters using advanced search to get tweets which are popular.

4. Connect and converse with influencers around your keywords and hashtags

Your influence is measured by the network you keep. Get to know like-minded people and expand your circle on Twitter by following and having conversation with them.

Use Twitter’s Advanced Search filters to find key contacts and people to follow in your industry.

In Twitter’s advanced search box, search for industry keyword or hashtag with other filters. Then select people in search results.

I recommend searching your keywords and hashtags to find like minded people. Add them to a twitter list so you can track their activities and connect with them.

Brand Monitoring

5. Monitor your brand mentions

Do you think your customers will send you a direct tweet or mention you in tweet everytime they face the problem ?

You are wrong, many of customers just use the brand or product name in their tweet, you wouldn’t get notified.

When monitoring your brand you will generally use twitter handle with @.It is important to track brand without @, business name, website address along with possible misspellings.

You should also track hashtags and key management people around your brand. It is recommended to save these searches within twitter search.

Also reply to tweets who have mentioned your brand for any reason.

You may be interested in news stories around your brand and competitor brands right ? When you run Advanced Search and check results page, select ‘News’ from the More option to show all results that contain a link to a news site.

6. Keep Track of Competitors

Being a business person means you have to stay ahead of the competition.

Using Twitter Advanced Search will help you to see what your competitors are doing. By following conversations and posts, you will have the latest news on what your competitor is up to.

Use competitor twitter handle along with their brand name with possible misspelling combinations.

Exclusive Tip: Apart from using twitter advanced search you can use twitter tracking tools for all kind of your twitter monitoring needs.

Customer Support

7. Answer Consumer Questions

Check tweets and direct messages sent to you everyday on twitter. It may have customer queries.

Respond them quickly. Remember when customers don’t get an answer from a business on Twitter, most of them don’t recommend that business to their friends.

Think of interacting with a Tweet directed at your business in the same way you’d greet someone who walked into your shop or messaged your website.

Check this tweet where customer contacted us on twitter.

8. What Are Customers Saying – Amplify positive reviews & work on negative reviews

Sometimes customer may not send direct message or tweet they will just mention your product name.

Twitter Advanced Search is a great way to find out just how your customers feel. Whether your customers are happy or unhappy there is a way to find out using Twitter.

By ticking the boxes in advanced search you are able to perform a sentiment search.

If your customers are happy and are leaving great reviews about your product it is time to thank them. These responses can be used to promote your business. By Retweeting such tweets, your followers will know how good your product is. You can also add a quote to Retweet, thanking the customer or reminding them to “Tweet us if you need anything else!”. You can also pin quoted Retweets to the top of your timeline so everyone who visits will see your accolade.

You can also embed such tweets in customer review section on your website. It can help you in conversions

If your customers are unhappy this is the time to fix the problem. Less-than-great feedback is actually a valuable tool to learn how to better your product or service.

9. Customer Needs and Wants – Research with Advanced Twitter Search

A great marketer is someone who wants to know the consumers wants and needs and is able to supply them.

So, how do you know what consumers want? By using Twitter Advanced Search.

By narrowing down your search criteria you are able to pinpoint exactly what consumers are looking in a certain product.

You can enter your business keyword variation and narrow down search filters to know what they look for. It can help you find new customers and even find what extra value you can add to your product

I searched twitter for “calculate tweet count” and got this tweet where I can help customer with my service.

Twitter has just announced new customer support features for businesses. Here are two quick blogs to know more about using twitter for customer support

1. How to Speed up customer service with quick replies & welcome messages in Direct Messages

2. Check new Twitter Features for businesses to provide customer support using Twitter.

Location Based Search

10. Location Based Research

Twitter Advanced Search allows the user to search by geographical area. If you have a business in New York, and you only want to do business in the Northeast, this is a great tool to use.

Whether you have one business or more than one Twitter Advanced Search can help you market in the areas where you choose to.

The same applies to watching your competition. With the Twitter Advanced Search, the user gets results as they happen.

One great example while using location search

To search socialert brand mentions within 15 miles of new york @socialertdotnet socialert.net near:”New York” within:15m

Ultimate Sales Hacks

11. Find potential customers

Your product is awesome, but you want to make sure the world knows about it, how do you go about that?

Obviously, the best way to get your product or service out to the masses is finding those consumers who need what you have to offer.

Luckily, Twitter allows you to do this. With Twitter you are able to search for those people that have an issue that your product or service can help with.

Once you discover these potential consumers send them a quick message mentioning your service or brand.

12. “Can anyone recommend a service?” Give Answers to Questions

Twitter is social by nature and there are a ton of consumers asking for recommendations. You can begin by asking your own followers what apps or tools they recommend.

After asking your questions you can also watch for others “can you recommend” questions. Once you see the questions be sure to reply only when it is appropriate.

The last thing you want to be doing is spamming potential customers.

Summary

As you can see Twitter Advanced Search allows freedom in the search world. By choosing exactly what topic interests you there is both time and energy saved.

For those in marketing and sales, Twitter Advanced Search can be an invaluable tool.

With over 6,000 Tweets being sent per second, Twitter is a tool that should be utilized by everyone who is looking to follow any given topic.

08 Mar 17:01

How You Know Your Excuses Aren’t True

by Anthony Iannarino

If you believe there is some external reason you can’t produce the results you want, you must be willing to look at the evidence stacked up against you. The evidence strongly suggests that there are people who are producing that same result under the same circumstances.

Here is how I know this is true:

One person believes their company is too expensive, that they can’t beat their irrational competitor, and that there is no way to command the price they need. Other salespeople in the sales company with the same pricing model and the same irrational competitor are going to President’s club. If it is possible for the people who are succeeding to sell and win, it is possible for you.

You might use the excuse that you don’t have time to do whatever it is that you should be doing, like exercising, reading, meditating, working more or some other activity that would improve your life. There are other people—some of them busier than you—who use the same 24 hours that you have to do some or all of these things. Of course, these people are armed with the superpowers of self-discipline, focus, and priorities, superpowers that are available to you whenever you want them.

Excuses absolve you of the responsibility to change, to do something different. When you choose to use something external as an excuse, you do so because there is nothing you can do about something outside of your control. If there is nothing you can do about whatever you are using as an excuse, you are free from the responsibility to do something different—even if you are not free of the consequences.

Your government, your manager, your territory, your pricing model, and your irrational competitor are not valid excuses. You share all these things with other people who are succeeding. Neither is being constrained by the same 24 hours that you share with all the other inhabitants of planet Earth.

Your excuses aren’t true. They’re just a way to absolve yourself of the responsibility to change.

The post How You Know Your Excuses Aren’t True appeared first on The Sales Blog.

08 Mar 17:01

5 Keys to Building Business Relationships

by Elizabeth Harr

Few would argue with the notion that building business relationships is critical in professional services. And while marketing efforts put toward pricing and service strategy, or articulation of a firm’s competitive position, their real advantage lies in the strength of their relationships.

An important body of Hinge’s research, How Buyers Buy, found that most buyers who are trying to select a firm rely heavily on a firm’s reputation and the buyer’s existing relationships. These factors are represented by the top two green bars in the chart below. This makes intuitive sense — if buyers know you and trust you, they are more likely to buy from you.

Just like any personal relationship, business relationships require continual maintenance. A mutual benefit and ongoing communication are important ingredients to success. In the long run, having close and trusting contacts will give you an edge, especially when other marketing tactics aren’t working. Here are 5 keys to building and maintaining business relationships:

  1. Routinely Reach Out to Important Contacts

It is impossible to have weekly or monthly conversations with all of the contacts in your CRM system. But you can focus on the valuable ones. Pinpoint your best clients, partners, and vendors and continually check up on them. Express your interest in their business and let them know that you are here to help. If you want to keep the relationship alive make this outreach routine. If you let too much time go by, your eventual contact will seem less genuine. And don’t ignore the power of your LinkedIn connections. When executed properly, a social media strategy is the digital sister to in-person networking – and it can be fast and efficient way to ensure you are routinely reaching out.

  1. Offer Help Before You Ask for Help

Building business relationships doesn’t mean tapping into your resources whenever you need something. If the only time you ever contact a former client is when you have a new service offering, your gesture won’t seem authentic. Similarly, if you call your vendor only when you are looking for a good deal, don’t expect to get one.

Spend time figuring out how you can help your important business contacts. What value can you offer to spark the conversation?

  1. Ask for Feedback

Instead of assuming your clients and vendors are happy, ask! Open communication is a basic component of any relationship. When you ask your contacts how they feel, you promote a two-way conversation that can uncover areas for improvement. Some firms conduct satisfaction surveys to gather feedback. But usually it’s best to pick up the phone and talk to your closest contact at a firm. If this is your top client, you want to make sure they are content.

  1. Find Ways to Connect with Less Valuable Contacts

As new contacts enter your world, try to build trust over time with email marketing. Because you can’t interact with everyone in your email address book on a weekly basis, leverage technology to do some of the work for you.

Customer relationship management (CRM) systems allow you to set up email sequences that will routinely send email to your contacts. This is no substitute for a real relationship, but it will at least keep your firm on the top of people’s minds.

Note that this does not mean blasting your list with untargeted emails. Instead, focus on educational content that your audience will find relevant and practical. There are two types of emails to consider:

  1. Educational emails provide content that is meant to be informative. These emails give something of value to the reader without asking for anything in return. Because educational emails are highly valued by your audience, they should make up about 80% of the emails that you send out.
  2. Offer emails are for when you want the recipient to do something, such as download a presentation or paper, and you are hoping to move them to a deeper level of engagement. Whether this engagement is a meeting or trying out one of your services, you want them to take a specific next step. Although offer emails should account for the other 20% of emails, you wouldn’t want to send these until you’ve created value for your audience. And offer emails should only go to folks who have already downloaded several pieces of your content. Unless specifically requested, you absolutely would not want an offer email to be sent to someone you just met at a networking event.

Here are a few tips we’ve discovered for highly effective email marketing:

  • Ensure the look and feel of your email reflects your brand at every touchpoint.
  • Ensure they are mobile friendly.
  • Segment your distribution list so you can be strategic about which emails go to which list.
  • Remember the 80/20 rule. No matter how many or how few emails you send out, the balance of them (80%) should be educational, while the remainder (20%) are offers.
  • Make sure you have a way for people to unsubscribe.
  • Consider the subject line carefully. To encourage high open rates, go with 40 characters or less, and be very clear. Subject lines aren’t the time to be too clever or leave too much up to the reader’s imagination. Just say what the email is about. Trust us, the payoff will be there.
  • Lastly, be aware that there are certain trigger words that can send your email straight into the spam or junk folder. Words like “cheap” or “sale,” and sometimes even “free,” when placed in the subject line can signal the email is spam and it won’t get through the filter.
  1. Educate, don’t sell.

If building relationships requires trust and credibility, then educating – as opposed to selling – is a big enabler of professional services relationships.

And the most effective way to educate is through a consistent flow of thought leadership. By definition, thought leadership marketing makes your expertise highly visible to the public. Regardless of whether your experts are publishing on your blog, in other publications, on social media, or elsewhere, their association with your firm makes you more visible to potential leads. The depth of content required to build your profile as a high visibility expert means that potential buyers have the opportunity to learn a lot about your firm before making initial contact.

This level of visibility and expertise increases the trust and credibility of your firm. Think of it this way: there’s a reason that popular brands at a grocery store sell better than store brands, despite typically coming with a higher price tag. People trust what they know.

In your experience, what are some other ways of building business relationships in the professional services?

08 Mar 16:59

Discovery – the Foundation of B2B Sales Success

by Bob Apollo

Discovery Trimmed

What’s the single most important stage in any complex B2B sales process? Is it the “close”? The commercial negotiation? The delivery of the proposal? The product evaluation? The solution demonstration? The credentials presentation?

Depending on what we are selling and who we are trying to sell it to, these can all represent significant events in our sales campaign. But there’s one activity that – at least as far as I am concerned – is critical to any complex B2B sale.

It’s the discovery process. What we do, what we say and what we accomplish during this initial period of our customer engagement establishes the foundation for everything that follows. If we do it well, we create a platform for success. If we screw it up, we may never be able to recover.

I regularly have conversations with CEOs and sales leaders who believe that their sales organisation currently has a “closing problem”. But you might (or might not, depending on your experience) be surprised to learn that most of these issues turn out to be not closing problems but “opening problems”.

The initial discovery process is absolutely pivotal to success in complex B2B sales. If we rush it, there is a real risk that we will fail to uncover some piece of information that later turns out to be critical. If we choose to prematurely propose our solution, there may be no going back.

Here are my recommendations for running an effective discovery process:

RECOGNISE THAT IT’S A TWO-WAY PROCESS

Too many sales people behave as if the discovery process is primarily a one-way exercise with the objective of qualifying the prospect. We need to recognise that discovery is a two-way process in which our potential customer is as interested in learning about us as we are in learning about them, and seek to strike a healthy balance between giving and getting information.

DO OUR RESEARCH UPFRONT

There is no excuse nowadays for asking our prospect questions that could be answered relatively easily via a few minutes of targeted on-line research. In fact, it’s completely disrespectful (and a waste of the time of all parties concerned) to ask questions we should already know the answer to. At the absolute minimum, we need to visit the company’s website, review their corporate profile and news announcements and take a look at our contact’s LinkedIn profile.

AGREE AN AGENDA

Before diving into the detailed conversation, we need to mutually agree an agenda with our prospect that covers all the most important elements that we are each interested in covering, establishes expectations as to how our time together can best be be spent and sets out our respective objectives for the discussion.

UPFRONT COMMIT

If possible, we should seek to establish a simple upfront commit that pre-defines what we both agree would represent a reasonable next step if our mutual objectives have been achieved. This can serve to set both party’s expectations for what might be reasonably accomplished during the conversation, and where – if successful – our interaction might go next.

FOCUS ON THEM

Other than trying to qualify whether we might have a potential opportunity with them, our next most important goal must be to persuade an apparently promising prospect that it is worth their time to invest in continuing our conversation. This depends on them looking back on our initial interaction and regarding it as a valuable use of their time – i.e., they must believe that they have learned something useful.

START WITH A HYPOTHESIS

I can hardly imagine a less respectful (or less effective) question than asking the prospective customer “what keeps them up at night” (or any other tired variation on that all-too-familiar theme). If we expect to establish our credentials as a trusted advisor, it is far more effective to approach the conversation with a hypothesis – based on our experience of similar situations – about what they are likely to be or ought to be interested in.

THINK ABOUT WHAT WE INTEND TO TEACH

We also need to go into the conversation with a clear sense of what our prospective customer is likely to be interested in, and what we would like to share with them. This might include relevant insights, customer stories and anecdotes, case studies, key market data and any other information that leaves them thinking that the interaction has been a good use of their time and taught them something valuable.

BE CLEAR ABOUT WHAT WE WANT TO LEARN

This is probably the most obvious element of any discovery conversation – but it’s still worth planning in advance. What do we want to learn from them? What are the most useful questions we could ask them? How will we use the information we learn? Maintaining a conscious and appropriate balance between situation, problem, implication and need-payoff [value] questions can help.

PROBE FOR THE PAIN

Assuming that our initial contact is willing to acknowledge a problem or opportunity that we can help them address, rather than rushing to offer our solution, we need to continue to explore the underlying circumstances and the consequences and implications of their current situation. In particular, we need to try and identify the other influential stakeholders that are likely to be impacted by the problem – and try and judge the relative importance of the issue.

BE PREPARED TO ADAPT

No matter how well and thoughtfully we prepare, we cannot always anticipate what direction the conversation may go in, and we always need to be ready to adapt to whatever useful information or insights we manage to glean from our contact, whilst still keeping our original aim in mind.

TEASE OUT A FUTURE VISION

It’s usually premature to propose a detailed solution during an initial discovery conversation – but what we can start to do is to help them visualise what they could potentially achieve with our help and contrast that positive future vision with the negative consequences and implications of sticking with the status quo.

CONFIRM A NEXT STEP

Assuming that both parties agree that the discussion has been positive, we need to agree a specific next step before we close and put the event in our respective diaries. Of course, this task is made significantly easier if we’ve already negotiated an upfront commit, but we can’t afford to be vague about this. It’s often helpful to have thought through what our “best case” and “minimum viable” next steps are.

PREPARE FOR SUCCESS

It should be obvious that the essential foundation of effective discovery conversations is go into the exercise having thought carefully about what we want to achieve and coming up with a plan that we are then able to adapt as the discussion unfolds.

Investing a few minutes ahead of the discovery exercise to ensure we have a clear end in mind and an adaptable plan to achieve it can help us to avoid the pitfalls that are often associated with either a make-it-up-as-we-go-along or a follow-a-rigid-script approach to discovery.

But perhaps the most important thing we can do is to recognise that discovery is a two-way process that all the involved parties need to be able to look back on and agree that – whatever the outcome – it represented a good use of their time.

08 Mar 16:59

Why Defining Your Core Brand Value and Values Is More Important Than You Think It Is

by Chitraparna Sinha

Confused with all the conjecture and ambivalence surrounding ‘brand’ and ‘business?’

Regardless of how you look at it, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re part of an ever-growing majority that tends to blur the lines rather erroneously.

Your brand value signifies the compass that guides your business to the north of its success.

Put simply; they’re VERY important for your business.

Now, the next logical question is – what does it take to define them and what do you do with that definition once you get them in place?

Let’s start from where it all starts making sense – the very beginning!

Brand and Values: The Indelible Connection

Values are at the front and center of your brand and the business it represents. They are the centrifugal force upon which everything else (including the look, design, voice, and engagement) permeates.

Brand Value

Source: Herding Cats Digital

Unless you’ve been living without an Internet connection, you already know that the success of your business heavily depends on the strength of your brand.

You do, right?

But, if you’re clueless about refurbishing your business as an enlivened brand, or getting your brand to catapult your business, read further.

The Two Pillars of Branding

Let’s face it.

Building a brand is a long, tedious and complicated process.

Contrary to the popular notion (and what small business owners believe), it entails myriad elements and is way more profound than a fancy logo proudly displayed on your website. Generally speaking, the success of your brand rests on two extraneous yet indisputably important pillars:

  • Voice identity: this includes your communication style, tonality, tagline and messaging
  • Visual identity: as the name suggests, this includes the visual contours of your business like colors, logo, typography, and others.

But guess what? For a brand to be truly ‘out there’ and make its presence felt, there’s a third imperative ‘internal’ pillar.

It is a pillar that every business owner must address – before even conceptualizing a logo or drafting a compelling tagline – on every channel/platform you intend to promote your business.

Any guesses?

This missing pillar that is most important for your business is nothing else but your Brand Values. It is brand values that will help you position your organization’s personality and purpose.

In the absence of these values, your business runs the greatest risk of all – lacking differentiation that makes it recognizable and relatable. When that happens, you can be sure that your business is only headed towards one direction – southwards.

Value Vs. Values: More than a missing letter?

That’s a very relevant question because the difference is not so apparent on the surface. Does your brand value have any connection, explicit or otherwise, with its values?

If you’re tempted to retort with a dismissive ‘no,’ think again! By the same token, don’t rush to the conclusion and say ‘yes.’ As always, the truth lies somewhere between the two – the perennial gray area.

When using the term brand value, one tends to conjure images of a quantifiable sum of money. It’s common to hear people discussing their ‘brand worth.’

For instance, an unbranded T-shirt could be valued at $15 whereas an Adidas-branded T-shirt that looks the same may be worth $150. Evidently, the difference in value stems from the strength (or weakness) of a brand.

Seth Godin makes a wonderful observation in this regard:

A brand’s value is merely the sum total of how much extra people will pay, or how often they choose the expectations, memories, stories and relationships of one brand over the alternatives.

As is clear from the above example, a brand’s value is not restricted to how much people would end up paying for it, but also the regularity with which they select it – as well as the underlying reasons.

For instance, a pair of jeans (branded) may cost $200, but its brand wouldn’t command much value if people only wore them once for the sake of salvaging their prestige and never bought them again, the brand would lose its sheen.

We all know that no brand can survive, let alone thrive on one-time buys & customers.

In contrast, if another brand costs just $80, but it is able to get people to make repeat purchases, it enjoys a far greater value.

In other words:

Repeat customers hold the key to any business’s success and are strongly tied to its brand value.

As Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz poignantly observes:

If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.

What this simply means is that you really don’t prefer one brand over another (for example, Nike over Adidas) because it’s necessarily better. In most cases, it isn’t. Many research studies have proven that the difference lies between our ears- our brain!

To make your brand valuable, you don’t necessarily need to show off the greatest array of designs or arrange the most costly products within your niche. This is very true for the hospitality industry too.

Yes, factors like ambience, surroundings and aesthetic appeal do play a massive role in the success of a restaurant or a coffee shop. But your brand value truly gets amplified every time that one customer decides to come back only to you and not try out someone else.

The brand makes your business succeed when that (or any other customer) prefers you over your rival to do business with, or better still, recommend your services to a friend.

It is this conscious choice they make which is strongly linked to the core of your brand values and branding strategy.

A brand that stands up

If you’re looking to develop meaningful and long-lasting relationships with your customers in a manner that brings repeat businesses and raises your brand value, you may want to define its (your brand’s, that is) values so that you give your audience something to remain loyal to.

This is a critical point and must never be undermined.

As owners of businesses, we tend to embroil ourselves in lengthy explanations of what it stands for and believes in. But, the fact remains that few of us can repeat or even remember those lofty points about our business.

If you asked your customers to define your brand in one sentence, what would they say?

What would you want them to?

When promoting your business (via customer service, website, advertising), make sure you highlight the core values you want your potential or existing customers to understand.

Let’s take the example of the company, Apple. What words come on your mind when someone says ‘Apple?’

I can think of a few right away, and it’s no accident that I think of exactly these things:

  • Cool gadgets
  • Sleek designs
  • Passion
  • Innovation
  • Better ‘everything’

These are the values that Apple believes in and promotes them at every touch point and every point of engagement with its audience, inspiring them to live their dreams through its own.

In a presentation Steve Jobs delivered in 1997, he suggested,

What we’re about isn’t making boxes for people to get their job done… Apple is about something more than that. Apple at the core… It’s core values… is that we believe that people with passion can change the world for the better.

And, that’s the focal point for any brand: Encouraging others to reach out to their dreams.

So, what does your brand value(s) stand for?

08 Mar 16:59

5 Ways to Grow as an Influencer (That Wont Tick Brands Off)

by Blair Nicole Nastasi

If your goal is to make a living as an influencer, then you’re probably familiar with the Bloggergate scandal that’s taken the internet by storm over the past few weeks.

If you’ve been living under a rock, here’s a quick rundown – Elle Darby, a social media influencer, messaged the Charleville Lodge asking for a free hotel stay in exchange for promoting the hotel on her social media channels. She received a brutal response from Paul Stenson, who runs the social media accounts for the hotel and the White Moose Café.

Stenson made Darby’s original message and his response public, but he blocked her personal information. However, Darby later posted YouTube videos talking about the incident and confirming that she sent the original message.

While the internet remains divided on the right and wrong of this scandal, there are a few things influencers, bloggers and authority figures stand to learn from the debacle.

(For the record, the hotel’s response left a bad taste in my mouth, and I’m a firm believer that a simple ‘no’ would have sufficed. Publicly shaming someone always crosses a line for me, and I’m highly suspicious that the hotel was just looking for some free PR by taking the whole thing public.)

But, personal opinions aside, here are five things you can learn from this situation, about growing as an influencer, without pissing people off.

  1. Do Your Research

Had Darby done her homework on this hotel, she would have realized that it had already posted content disparaging influencers and wasn’t a good choice for a pitch.

Before you get in touch with a brand, at minimum, check its social media pages and search online to see what you can find out about it.

An even better approach, is to personalize the offer, or give a personal touch, such as making a phone call. Ryan Stewman, a well known influencer and head honcho at HardcoreCloser.com, suggests, “The bloggergate lady should have called and spoke to someone higher up, not sent an email. I [get deals by] using my Instagram status but I need to have my numbers right and work my charm.”

This goes back to the old marketing adage, “know your audience”. A little research can go a long way to avoiding awkward conversations (or in this case, public shaming).

  1. Only Make Claims You Can Back Up

Darby mentioned towards the end of her message to the hotel that she worked with Universal Orlando in Florida and that it has “been amazing for them!” This raised the eyebrows of many commenters who made jokes about the alleged impact her influencer campaign actually had on Universal Studio’s popularity.

The lesson here is to avoid general statements with no evidence behind them. These make it hard to trust you because you’re claiming something without providing any proof. If you make a bold claim, you better be able to back it up. The internet is full of people just waiting to call you out if you can’t.

  1. Present a Reasonable Offer

Bloggergate is the prime example of someone asking for too much without offering much in return.

In this case, Darby asked the hotel for a free stay from February 8 through February 12, which would be a four or five-night stay. A free stay for that long would be very expensive for the hotel, and she just didn’t have a big enough audience to back it up.

“It’s perfectly acceptable for a blogger, or anyone, to ask for something for free by providing something of equal value in return. And, conversely, it’s perfectly acceptable for someone to decline a trade. Therefore I do think that the hotel owner’s reaction is more of a self-marketing tactic, which yielded very positive results…The actual problem is two-fold: her approach was rude and doesn’t seem to give value to what she is asking for, therefore antagonizing a potential partner, and secondly what she offered was not particularly valuable in itself,” explained Felix LaHaye of Open Influence.

If you ask for too much upfront, you run the risk of frustrating brands and appearing entitled. Carefully consider what would be fair based on your current following and the results you can offer. It’s also okay to simply reach out to a brand and see what they are willing to offer you.

When it comes to influencer marketing it’s all about creating a MUTUALLY beneficial campaign.

  1. Don’t Bite the Hand that Feeds You

In her response video after the initial controversy, Darby claimed that she had been victimized and that people in their thirties just didn’t understand social media. That’s not going to endear her to the many brands run by people 30 or older.

You aren’t doing yourself any favors if you disparage people, as your reputation is everything as an influencer. Stay professional at all times and don’t get drawn into any drama.

Getting along with brands is a huge component to your success as an influencer. While it’s okay to alienate some people who aren’t in your target audience, you should always tread lightly, because things can spread like wildfire on the internet.

  1. Personalize Your Messages

Besides not doing any basic research on the hotel, Darby didn’t address her message to anyone or even include the hotel’s name, making it look like something she blasted out to every hotel in the area. Stenson called her out on this in his response.

Remember that pitching your services is about quality, not quantity. A small number of personalized messages are much better than dozens of copy and pasted emails. (This concept is something I also preach in my PR and media relations blog posts). People can spot a mass email a mile away, and no one likes to be treated like a number or a dollar sign.

  1. Don’t Be Shady

Last, but certainly not least, is the fact that Darby, the influencer involved in this scandal, outright offered a positive review in exchange for a free stay.

Not only does this violate some truth-in-marketing laws, but it also severely undermines her credibility.

If you’re an influencer or blogger who gets paid to write reviews, that should not only be disclosed to your audience, but you should also strive to write honest, authentic reviews and not just peddle crap to your audience in exchange for compensation.

At the root of every successful influencer marketing campaign is a mutually beneficial outcome and a clear value to the brand being pitched.

Jacob Tempchin of Tidal Labs stresses the importance of communicating value every time you reach out to a potential brand partner, “Influencer marketing is notoriously hard to measure, but so are TV ads and people still shell out big bucks for those. The hotelier assumed ahead of time that there was no possibility of return on investment.”

Use the lessons of the Bloggergate scandal to help you be more authentic with your audience, and to grow and build strong relationships with the brands you promote.

08 Mar 16:59

The Other Generation: You’re Not Crazy, and Neither Are They!

by Ellen Huxtable

Intergenerational communication - the other generation

In business, communicating with “the other generation” can seem like a step into insanity. It’s hard to maintain civility when your statements or questions are met with confusion, frustration or, on occasion, downright hostility. Be reassured; you are not crazy, and, surprise, neither are they.

Almost no one on either side of the proverbial generation gap fits the stereotype 100% of the time. Indeed, the bulk of communication probably goes by relatively smoothly. But even the occasional hiccup can trigger the “You’re all like that!” reflex. So let’s take a look at where we stand, explore differences, and see the world from a slightly different perspective.

The Other Generation Generalizations:

The Established Generation: “These kids think they’re entitled to everything. They haven’t paid their dues. They’re constantly asking, “Why?” and driving me crazy. They don’t have a work ethic, at 5pm they’re out the door. They have no loyalty to the organization, you blink and they’re gone.”

intergenerational communication - the other generation

The Incoming Generation: “Senior managers are outdated. They don’t have the technical skills or knowledge to compete today. They have no idea what is really going on. They set arbitrary requirements that don’t make sense, but demand that we abide by them.”

Do these sound familiar?

Take a step back, and consider two views of the business world – the stable and the unstable universes.

Two Universes

Business today exists in two very different universes. And each of these contributes to the disconnect between individuals in the workforce.

The Stable Business Universe

In the stable universe, organizations are solid, ongoing and predictable. Senior business leaders are charged with making the right decisions, based on their experience. Leaders give orders, newcomers follow them. As newcomers gain experience and “pay their dues,” they receive greater responsibility and move into decision-making positions within the organization.

Organizations and employees are loyal to each other. Employees do their jobs, and barring a catastrophic error, no one is fired. Organizations provide a living wage, cost of living increases, and promotion possibilities. “Good employees” are expected to fit their home lives around the needs of the organization. They are in the office ahead of schedule, stay past quitting time, and do as instructed.

The Unstable Business Universe

In the unstable business universe, change is constant and accelerating. Technology charges ahead at a breakneck pace, blurring the line between work and leisure time. A staff member may bolt out the door at 5pm sharp, but spend hours answering work text messages from home.

“Here today, gone tomorrow” is the dominant expectation. Jobs, supervisors and entire companies can be gone in an instant. The skills and people needed to compete are in constant flux. Corporate history and seniority are less valued than immediate production. Job security depends on having exactly the skills needed for the next specific task. A team is assembled, produces, and is dissolved.

Promotion and termination are equally likely. Unemployment is an ongoing threat. Under these conditions, job security and employee loyalty can indeed be foreign concepts.

Two Universes, Two Views

Senior managers understand the stable universe. Many industries and businesses have thrived and continue to thrive under this model. These businesses have stability and predictability. They expect minimal change. Business risk is relatively low, and income streams are fairly predictable. There are promotion possibilities within the businesses and industries, and historic experience can contribute heavily to future growth strategies. New arrivals are expected to do as they are told, arrive on time, commit to extra hours onsite and “pay their dues.” In return they can expect greater job security and promotion possibilities than in more volatile organizations.

For the upcoming generation, the unstable business universe is the world as they know it. They benchmark fields such as information management and technology, where speed and innovation are critical and historic precedents less relevant. Value in the workplace is dependent on asking the right questions, getting the right answers and producing results. Following rote instructions, spending the required hours in a certain place and amassing seniority are often viewed as irrelevant and useless exercises.

Successful Living with the Other Generation

Most businesses are a blend of the stable and unstable. There are elements in flux, and those which are relatively constant. The challenge is to create a structure, staff and expectations which match the task at hand.

A leader of a stable business needs to identify and hire individuals who value stability, structure and long-term opportunity. And yes, even in the “other generation” entering the workforce, there are individuals with these qualities. Top level managers need to direct and mentor junior staff members, sharing insights and effective strategies.

A leader in a volatile industry needs to seek individuals with targeted skills, who aren’t afraid to ask “why?” get answers, and produce results. The role for a senior leader is to create the team, answer the “whys?” keep them from charging over a cliff, and otherwise get out of their way. The stereotypical “other generation” is well suited for this.

Potential employees of all ages need to assess the expectations and structure of potential employers and evaluate these against their personal expectations. A highly structured business with a strict protocol might not be the best fit for a “no boundaries” personality. And a revolving door employer might not be the best match for someone with long-term progressive career aspirations.

The Bottom Line

You’re not crazy, and neither are they. Everyone is eminently reasonable and correct in their assessment of the workplace. We simply are blessed right now with two different models. Identify your world view and take a look at the world from the perspective of the other generation. There’s room for all, an opportunity for all, and great potential when we work together as one.

08 Mar 16:58

How to find and keep talent like the Best Managed Companies do

by David Brown
Astronaut holding a bunch of little astronauts

(Illustration by Sam Island)

It shouldn’t be surprising that the best-managed companies have something to teach Canadian businesses about HR. After all, recruiting great people is how any company becomes the best.

Consider Westech Industrial—its major barrier to momentum isn’t a lack of client demand or challenges making its industrial fire arresters. It’s finding top talent, says Jason Lapp, CEO of the Calgary-based firm.

“We have so much opportunity in front of us, our biggest challenge is to get more employees like we have,” he notes. Without adding the right people, it’s unlikely Westech can keep pace with recent growth, up 536% in the past decade.

The ability to become an employee magnet with company-wide engagement is as essential to success as having a great product, disruptive thinking and brilliant execution. Many of Canada’s managers understand this instinctively and the top performers—like many of those on Canada’s Best Managed Companies list for 2018—have built their businesses around that reality. “When I was starting the business, I never looked at HR as a revenue-generating department,” says Jay Klein, founder of the aspartame-free gum maker the Pur Company. Today he sees a tight connection between finding great employees and bottom-line growth, and calls HR one of the “larger” sources of cash within the company.

A strong talent pipeline is an especially urgent challenge for fast-growing companies. Geotab’s staff grew by 30% last year, and Neil Cawse, CEO of the internet-of-things for vehicles firm, has elevated HR to the top of his priority list. Cawse felt he needed to shift his focus away from product and into hiring people—and making sure they didn’t want to leave once they got there.

“If you’re hiring poorly, you’re not hiring the right person, you’re not putting them in the right job or you’re hiring somebody and you don’t look after them … that is a reflection on us as leaders of the company,” says Cawse.

We heard variations of the same priorities from many of our latest crop of Canada’s Best Managed Companies. They represent what Deloitte’s Peter Brown calls a “Canadian way” of treating employees that aligns perfectly with macro-level social and cultural trends. “People want to be treated with respect and they want to be treated like their opinions count,” says Brown, a co-leader on Deloitte’s program to pick the best managed. “They want to be engaged. They want to live a life with purpose.”

The Best Managed Companies program celebrates the top private businesses in Canada with revenue over $15 million. A new panel of judges evaluates the applicants in four areas: strategy (a vision and how that vision is communicated and managed); capability (does the company have the ability—the people, processes and systems—to execute); commitment (the engagement and alignment, the culture to execute); and financials, the numbers that prove the first three are driving results.

The program turns 25 in 2018 and has grown stronger with each passing year. “It is giving us a very unique insight into what makes for an absolute dynamo of a private company in this country,” Brown says.

Deloitte has been aggressively expanding the program. “Increasingly now, we are able to say we are studying the best private companies on the planet as we globalize this,” he adds. “We’ll have more than 20 countries running this by 2020.”

Lorrie King, Brown’s co-lead partner on Best Managed Companies, was one of the founders of the program at Arthur Andersen (which merged with Deloitte in 2002).

“We wanted to celebrate great companies in the private space. So we built a framework and a series of questions around what makes companies great,” she says. Those questions focused on how companies treated their employees and their customers, how they set strategy and how they used technology. “And then we started to build that body of knowledge.”

What was exceptional 25 years ago becomes standard, performances improve and best practices get better and better. “In the last five years, I’ve really noticed just how good these companies are getting on a lot of different fronts,” Brown says.

These are companies that spend disproportionate amounts of time and money on people. They’re investing in systems, processes, technology, robotics and R&D to enhance capabilities. They are driven by collaboration and leadership development rather than domineering CEOs, and often they bring in experts and boards of advisers to guide them. “That is consistent with the theme of being less insular, reaching out, finding the best in class to make their company best in class,” King says.

Best Managed Companies value diversity and inclusion, and care about the community and sustainability, and those ideals are embedded in the business model. “I think they are performing because people are engaged, and one of the reasons why people are engaged is that they figured out the higher purpose,” Brown says. “If you get that right, it is amazing what can follow.”

And because they do so much of this well, in almost every instance these are stories of innovation.

Some are disrupters in the truest sense. But innovation does not have to be earth-shaking. “I call it incremental innovation,” King explains. “It’s not ‘we’re going to turn around tomorrow and do something completely different.’ But they are constantly innovating to become more competitive.”

This is innovation through hard work, a commitment to continual improvement and responding to change more effectively—and more quickly—than the competition.

These are just some of the best practices, adapted appropriately for each company, that build a culture of high performance, breed innovation and, most importantly, produce a significant impact on bottom-line performance.

“There is absolutely no doubt in my mind,” Brown says, pointing out that the average company on the Best Managed Companies list grew sales by 14% and the bottom line by 21%. “That is the not the average story in Canada… That is pretty amazing performance.” That is what it means to be one of the best.


How to find and keep talent like the Best Managed Companies do

The companies that make it to this ranking are large and small, from wildly different industries, but they always share one trait: tireless focus on people


The post How to find and keep talent like the Best Managed Companies do appeared first on Canadian Business - Your Source For Business News.

08 Mar 16:58

The Single Most Important Thing To Drive Sales

by Dave Brock

obpia30 / Pixabay

I read dozens of articles outlining the single thing salespeople or managers need to do to drive sales success. It’s:

  • Constantly prospect
  • Constantly be developing referrals
  • Focus on target customers/ICP
  • Viciously qualify
  • Understand your customers’ businesses and problems
  • Develop strong relationships
  • Engage with insight
  • Facilitate their buying process
  • Create value in every interaction
  • Leverage a disciplined sales process
  • Develop business justified proposals
  • Closing is all that matters
  • Generate net new logos/customers
  • Retain and build share with customers and key accounts
  • Leverage social channels
  • Plan and execute high impact calls
  • Implement a Land and Expand strategy
  • Coordinate/integrate with marketing
  • …….

It turns out there really is no single thing that drives sales, we have to do the whole job.

Some people are better at some parts of this than others. Some do everything they can to avoid some parts of the job.

Whatever the reason, if salespeople aren’t balancing their time, appropriately, across everything necessary for success, performance will plummet.

If you like doing deals, but can’t stand to prospect, pretty soon your pipeline will be empty and you will have no deals to move forward. Conversely, if you are great at prospecting, but do a lousy job at qualifying and moving deals through the buying/selling cycle, all your prospecting success will be wasted.

It’s human nature to look for that “one” thing that drives success. Pundits, consultants, trainers, technology providers will tend to promote the “one thing,” which is what they are selling.

But, as I’ve written so many times, we don’t get to choose to do certain parts of the job and not others–at least if we want to be a top performer. We’ve have to execute across all aspects of the job. We have to balance our time and performance across all aspects of the job. We have to continue to develop our skills across all aspects of the job.

08 Mar 16:58

4 Key Elements for Creating Pricing Pages

by Ken Norquist

rawpixel / Pixabay

When consumers are considering whether your offerings are going to be the problem-solver they are seeking, your pricing page is of significant importance. Not only is it your opportunity to color and influence the pricing dialogue with potential customers, but it is also your chance to underscore your value in a manner which sets the right tone for your personas and builds trust in the future customer relationship—from first click through to conversion.

After reviewing hundreds of B2B pricing pages (and myriad expert notions on best practices), I’ve found the following four themes to be at the root of best practices:

The most effective pricing pages …

1. Make your hero the Hero

When visitors come to your pricing page, your hero image is the first chance to adjust the lens through which the users will judge the rest of the content on the page. The language and images you choose should consider the personas you are trying to reach and set a tone that speaks to their motivations and gives them a sense of who they’ll be dealing with. Just as with other elements of your site, the overall layout and design is nearly as important to engaging and converting visitors as the content you provide within. Take your time in crafting this conversation starter by providing an interesting, engaging opener that speaks to their stage of the Buyer’s Journey and keeps them scrolling down.

2. Keep it clear and simple

Regardless of how complex your offerings are, customers reviewing your pricing page are already dealing with the psychological effects that come with parting with their hard-earned dollars, so the last thing you want to do is to create a confusing or muddled presentation of the options they have. This sets the tone that working with your company could be muddled and confusing. Be sure your pricing options are clearly stated and easy to understand. If you are offering comparison pricing on multiple products or plans, be sure that the comparator points are clear so your visitors can quickly, easily find the plan that meets their needs. Much of your site content is probably pointing to important-yet-intangible elements like value or quality, so be sure that the pricing page clearly reflects the very tangible facts of your pricing points.

Finally, don’t give them too many options. Having a side-by-side grid of every feature your products offer with lots of check marks to show which feature applies to which plan may make you feel like you’re demonstrating the full breadth and width of your value—but to a consumer trying to make a choice, too many options can be overwhelming, leading to “analysis paralysis.” Highlight the key elements to help them make an informed decision, but refrain from turning this page into a checklist of everything you offer. If there are important facets that should be understood but aren’t surface-level comparators, that’s where dynamic or interactive elements come into play.

3. Promote Interactivity

In our evolving digital economy, consumers are increasingly expecting dynamic and interactive web elements. Features such as sliders, customized drop menus, and checkbox filter/feature selectors not only give them the sense that you’ve really thought through how your product could be used by a wide range of customers (including themselves), but also promote the idea that your organization is interactive and responsive as well. These elements are a great way to provide visitors a non-overwhelming experience while still enabling customers to access and understand the finer points of your offerings. In addition, calculating out or at least estimating cost based on the user’s feature selections is not only engaging, but ensures that your visitors won’t have to pull out a calculator just to get an idea of how much to budget. Yes, you want to keep your audience from looking like the hero graphic for this blog. Overall, allow visitors to enjoy a parsing experience that fits the level of focus that they want to apply by customizing your site in such a manner—it will go a long way toward building a trust relationship.

4. Build Trust

The inherent sense of anxiety that comes with any significant purchase is a threat to the overall engagement and success of your pricing page. Visitors have been educating themselves on what you do and evaluating others in your sphere that have similar offerings, so it is critical that you give them every reason to trust (and choose) you. Part of this trust-building comes from stewardship of the other elements discussed here—to demonstrate that you have deeply considered their needs and feelings when designing your entire site—but a pricing page is where you can take additional steps to ensure you are building their trust. This page is a perfect spot to let previous customers tell their tale and share how their experience with your company was one of trust and success. Whether it is through testimonials, case studies, or even simple quotes from previous customers, showing that others have been exactly where your visitor is now and have found success by taking the next step carries a lot more weight than any reassurances or value statements from you.

As developer agility and increasingly dynamic mobile experiences continue to color best practices in the area of pricing pages, these four themes will continue to be at the root of what drives successful conversions. Take a step back to evaluate what kind of experience your pricing page provides now. Your customers and your sales team will thank you!

08 Mar 16:55

4 Ways B2B Merchants Can Stay Competitive and Grow Their Businesses

by Peter Sheldon

geralt / Pixabay

1. FULL-SPECTRUM SELLING

B2B buyer preferences are changing. They want both self-service and full-service purchasing options. According to Forrester/Internet Retailer B2B Buyer research, 53 percent of these buyers will make half or more of their work purchases online by 2018, and 74 percent say buying from a website is more convenient. This means they’re looking for self-service buying tools that enable them to purchase 24×7, track new orders, view their order history, and manage their credit without having to talk to a sales rep (60 percent said they’d prefer not to speak with a sales rep). However, when they do want to speak with sales, reps will need assisted selling capabilities so they can deliver high-touch service. These capabilities include creating orders for customers, recommending products, quickly responding to quote requests, and troubleshooting issues with orders started online.

2. PERSONALIZED DIGITAL COMMERCE EXPERIENCES

Personalization is key to driving sales and enhancing the shopping experience, even for B2B. B2B companies need to run targeted promotions and make personalized product recommendations for different customer groups. And to ensure a seamless experience across channels, they must provide custom catalogs and pricing to individual customers or groups of customers so they see their negotiated products and pricing online. B2B companies should also prepare for these campaigns with tools to easily stage, preview and schedule product, pricing, content, and promotional updates

3. DATA-DRIVEN MERCHANT TOOLS

To meet rising expectations, B2B companies need tools to access and analyze data for better decision making, greater personalization, and automation. According to a report from Teradata, 87 percent of marketers consider data their most underutilized asset, and 60 percent of them cite the ability to make faster decisions as the key benefit B2B companies should have access to dashboards and easy-to-use business intelligence tools that non-technical team members can easily use, customize, and understand. This will give them the ability to integrate data from multiple sources (ERP system, Google Analytics, CRM etc ) and from multiple channels to get a complete picture of their business. With this comprehensive view, they can easily share insights with colleagues for more data-driven decision making and deeper understanding of their customers and business.

4. AGILITY AND FASTER TIME-TO-MARKET

Years-long implementations are no longer acceptable. Commerce solutions must be cloud-based and flexible to meet rapidly changing needs and to accommodate new innovations. Built-in flexibility enables merchants to not only support multiple B2B selling models with native functionality but also allows them to sell to both businesses and consumers from the same platform. Flexibility will also help B2B merchants easily expand to new markets with the ability to support multiple sites, languages, currencies, and tax policies out-of-the-box, and easily integrate technologies to enhance their core eCommerce platform as new solutions emerge.

08 Mar 16:55

What Does Your LinkedIn Profile Say About You? The Big Mistake Sales Pros Can Easily Avoid

by Alex Hisaka

You use LinkedIn to source information about your ideal buyers so that you can build stronger relationships. In the same way, buyers use LinkedIn to source information regarding companies and sellers to see if they qualify as a potential partner.

While buyers research and compile their short lists in the background, sales pros are missing prime opportunities to attract qualified, genuinely interested prospects. Fifty percent of B2B buyers flat-out avoid sales professionals with incomplete LinkedIn profiles.

If an incomplete LinkedIn profile is preventing you from making buyer short lists, read on. In this post, we provide tips on not just completing your profile, but doing so in a way that motivates more buyers to engage with you.

Capitalize on Opportunities to Showcase Your Best Work

What better way to showcase your best work than rich media? If you haven’t already, look for opportunities to add rich media assets to your LinkedIn profile. You can add presentations and documents to your overarching profile summary, and to each section of your work experience if you desire.

By including these rich media presentations in your profile, you provide prospective buyers with access to visually appealing examples that articulate your approach or demonstrate your accomplishments. What are you most proud of in your career? Put it in a presentation, and frame it up in a way that allows your sales prospects to glean value or insight from it. Not sure where to start? Most companies have existing sales collateral that can be easily transformed into a personal sales presentation that resides on your LinkedIn profile.

Establish Immediate Credibility in the Minds of Your Ideal Buyers

Authoritative sales leaders have a point of view. Equally important, though, is making sure that sales prospects can easily access your thoughts, as 92% of buyers will engage with sellers known as industry thought leaders.

Your LinkedIn profile allows you to publish articles visible to your whole network. Once published, these articles will appear on your LinkedIn profile for all future sales prospects to see.  When your connections comment on or share your articles, that activity is seen by members of their networks, too.

If publishing long-form content isn’t in the cards, you can also establish credibility by being an active participant in your industry. Getting involved with relevant LinkedIn Groups allows you to serve as a helpful resource, making it more likely that buyers will see you at your helpful, insightful best, while also increasing the chances that fellow group members will recommend your services. You can assist members of the group when you have insightful information to add, or by referencing research and real-life examples that add depth to the discussion.

Your LinkedIn participation will appear as part of your recent activity when someone views your profile. When potential buyers look at your recent activity, will they come away thinking of you as a knowledgeable, active participant in your industry?

Your Recommendations Can Do the Heavy Persuading for You

Buyers overwhelmingly prefer to work with vendors that have been recommended by someone they know. A blank or shallow recommendations section may give buyers pause, whereas a profile that displays ringing praise can offer sales prospects several compelling reasons to do business with you.

To secure those valuable recommendations, politely request testimony from customers with whom you have a positive relationship. Once you’ve identified a candidate, follow these best practices for soliciting recommendations on LinkedIn. Recommendations don’t just round out your profile, they can give you a distinct competitive edge.

If you can’t seem to find time for that “complete my LinkedIn profile” task, try breaking it up. Schedule (in your calendar) 30 minutes per week to analyze and improve your LinkedIn profile. Every time you incorporate a bit more information and actively demonstrate your value, you improve your chances of making a buyer’s short list.

Learn more ways to take your personal brand from incomplete to impressive with our new eBook, Read Me If You Want to Create an Effective Sales Profile on LinkedIn.

      
08 Mar 16:55

How to Write the Perfect Welcome Email in Under One Minute

by Jill Fanslau

welcome email

Your welcome email is the very first message you send to your subscribers — so it’s important to make a fantastic first impression. The reason: If you dazzle your readers with your welcome email, they’ll be more likely to open the next email you send. (Your welcome email is just one of the 7 messages successful entrepreneurs and businesses use in their marketing. Learn the 7-email formula — plus discover how to create your very own engaging, profitable automated email series with 24/7 Email Marketing Master Class. Hurry! Registration closes March 13th.) But that doesn’t mean you need to spend hours crafting the perfect welcome email. You can do it in less than a minute. Seriously. We timed it. You can use AWeber’s Email Libs tool. It comes with 50 templates, and all you need to do is fill in the blanks. Check out how easy it is to use below.

What to include in your welcome email

This welcome email template in Email Libs includes some key components every welcome email should have.

  1. It welcomes your subscribers to your list.
  2. It sets expectations (reveals the type of content your subscribers can expect from you, as well how often they will receive it).
  3. It delivers your lead magnet a.k.a. your incentive (if you have one) for joining your list.
  4. It includes your contact information.
  5. It asks your subscribers to “whitelist” you so that your messages reach their inbox instead of their spam folders.

If you want to really knock your welcome email out of the park, though, we recommend using it as a starting place.

Add your own twist

Once you fill in the blanks in the template, copy and paste the words into a Word doc or a Google doc. Then add your own “spice” to the text to personalize it. Here are some easy ways to do that. 1. Be human. Your welcome email is automated, but it shouldn’t sound like it came from a robot. Your subscribers want to hear from you. Set the tone, and let your personality shine through. If you like using emojis, add one. 😎 If you have opinions, confidently express them. If you’re always an optimist, end with your favorite motivational quote. If you pride yourself on being irreverent, then tell it how it is! Heck, if you’re the king of “dad jokes,” include one. (How do you make a Kleenex dance? Put a little boogie in it!) Remember, this is your first impression. Make a splash right from the get-go. If you do this right, your readers will eventually be able to recognize your voice in every stage even if your logo and brand colors go missing from your emails. And they’ll be even more excited to open your next email. 2. Avoid R.O.T. (redundant, outdated, and/or trivial information). Your content has to be valuable. A subscriber joined your list because they think you can help them solve their problem. Sure, you may have a free lead magnet to entice them, but that content still needs to be high-quality, fresh, creative, and useful. If it’s just something your subscribers can find on Google or your emails are full of content that your competitors also provide, they’ll bounce out of your list and never make it to the next email in your series. 3. Tell stories. Humans love stories. We communicate through them. We learn from them. Our personal stories and memories give our lives meaning and order.

Your welcome email can include your story. It’s your chance to tell your subscribers why you’re the best person to give them information.

But don’t write a novel. Try to keep your story to 10 sentences or less.

Here’s a great example of a super short, but compelling Story Email from Jill Angie of Not Your Average Runner. It’s her first email in her automated series for new subscribers, and it’s included as a section within her welcome note.

Story Email

Jill’s story is 10 sentences. That’s it. But in her story she oozes likability and she hits her readers’ biggest pain point: weight loss. She knows that’s why her subscribers joined her mailing list, so she wastes no time addressing their challenge in her very first message.

If you’re not a writer, no problem. Shoot a quick 30-second video of yourself and link out to it from your welcome email. Or include a photo of yourself.

What comes after your welcome email?

Once you have your welcome email set, it’s time to start thinking about the rest of your automated sequence.

The best email marketers are not spinning their wheels every day trying to come up with email ideas. They’re not trading time for money. They’ve automated their emails so their subscribers go through their entire marketing funnel. They turn their subscribers into buyers, and then buyers into brand advocates — without ever manually sending an email!

It all runs on autopilot, bringing in new customers and driving profit day after day after day.

In 24/7 Email Marketing Master Class, we reveal the perfect automated 7-email sequence that successful entrepreneurs and businesses are using right now. By the time you finish the class, you’ll be able to build your very own automated series that gets results around the clock. Sign up now — registration closes March 13th!

08 Mar 16:43

28 KPIs Every Sales Manager Should Measure in 2021

by richard.april@repsly.com (Richard April)

Sales managers — and particularly field sales managers — can often feel like they're trapped in a fog. Without a physical presence in the field, it’s difficult to keep tabs on their team's performance.

Instead, they rely heavily on their field representatives to be their eyes and ears. The best way for field managers to gain visibility into their team’s activity is to collect and measure their performance through KPIs.

Download the Sales Metrics & KPI Calculator

In this post, we'll cover what KPIs are in sales and all the KPIs and metrics you should measure. At the end of this article, we'll share a free sales KPI template and calculator that you can use to get started measuring your team's performance.

What does KPI stand for in sales?

KPI stands for key performance indicator. In sales, KPIs can come in many different forms in order to measure specific activities. Sales managers, reps, and even marketers have sales KPIs that they should track.

To save you some time, we’ve narrowed down a list of commonly used KPIs — identifying the ones we believe are most important to managing field sales teams.


1. Sales Volume by Location

By comparing sales volumes across locations, including physical stores and online transactions, you'll see where demand for your product is highest and lowest. From there, you can figure out why.

If sales volume is large in region A, perhaps there is a higher demand there, in which case you can focus on customizing certain products and services for that region. Or, if you are comparing numbers across physical stores, you can take advantage of A/B testing.

For example, if two locations see relatively similar sales volume in January, try implementing a promotional sale in one location and not the other in February to see if it drives sales.

In addition to promotional sales, you can try other tactics such as shelf displays, discounts, coupons, demos, or samples.

2. Competitor Pricing

While managers and business owners shouldn’t track competitors’ every move, being aware of their pricing can help create a competitive strategy. If your prices don’t differ much, you can consider a price-matching strategy to guarantee your customers the lowest prices — and you the most sales.

Additionally, by keeping track of the average retail price of your products, you can measure the impact of cutting your prices or implementing a promotion.

And make sure you're training your reps to handle pricing objections appropriately. Try role-play exercises so they're prepared to discuss price without defaulting to discounts.

3. Existing Client Engagement

Maintaining a good rapport with customers after the sale is important to ensure long-term business. By regularly touching base with their customers to understand how things are going and how they can help, salespeople can build trust and keep customers happy.

When reps are consistently available to help, customers know they’ll always have somebody there to support their business needs.

Beyond benefiting your company’s business outlook, keeping in touch with clients supports your business's strategic goals as well — it's a sales metric that matters.

Ask your salespeople to keep a tally of interactions they have with each of their customers, then compare the number of touches to the average length of a client relationship.

If, for example, you notice that your top 10 long-term clients touch base with their sales rep approximately once per quarter, take a deeper look. What do those touch bases look like? How often do reps encounter an issue they're able to help their client solve?

4. Employee Satisfaction

Ready for some sobering news? A 2020 survey by Emplify found that 75% of employees are moderately engaged in their work. Moreover, just 18% of employees can be responsible for thousands of dollars in lost productivity.

Working in sales requires persistence, and sometimes representatives can run out of steam. So one of your biggest challenges is making sure your sales reps are motivated and enjoy their work.

With a remote workforce, how do you keep your sales force in sync? Do they feel like they’re part of a team? Do they agree with the sales methods that you’ve implemented?

Employee feedback is crucial to a successful sales culture. KPIs are used not only to measure your team members but also your performance as a manager. Because employee satisfaction can be difficult to quantify, consider using an eNPS survey, along with a few qualifying questions to understand what’s making them happy or unhappy, then compare the results against your goal. It's also a good idea to learn how to spot burnout in your salespeople and determine a plan to combat it quickly.

5. Upsell and Cross-Sell Rates

Who are the most qualified leads in your CRM? Your existing customers. Have your reps track their upsell and cross-sell numbers, and use that data to identify whether certain verticals respond well to certain product or service pitches.

For example, if reps have good luck selling Feature X to clients with Product Package Y six months into their tenure with you — this might be a worthwhile milestone to add to your sales process.

Look at when, how, what, and to whom your reps are upselling and cross-selling, and adjust your efforts accordingly.

6. Sales Cycle Length

Similarly, it's important to look at the average length of your team's sales cycle. Are some reps closing in three weeks while others are closing in six? What are the respective churn rates six months from onboarding?

Analyze what sales cycle length produces the highest number of closed-won business. And don't forget to also look at how successful those deals are down the line.

If you have a rep who's closing business in record time, but you find that their customers are dissatisfied with your solution and often churn after nine months, a longer sales cycle might yield a healthier business.

Once you have data on your KPIs, analyze the information to understand why you got those results. Then, determine how you can improve performance and follow through with action. And remember, as important as establishing KPIs are, they must be always tied to an overarching goal.

7. Close Ratio

Close ratio measures how efficiently a salesperson or team is closing deals based on the leads they’ve worked. This metric works in conjunction with system touches to help quantify the effectiveness of your sales team’s outreach strategy. Close ratio can be calculated by dividing the number of actual closed deals by the number of lead opportunities the salesperson had during a given time period.


Your business development representatives are actively prospecting, often using cold outreach methods. The following KPIs can help sales managers track BDR performance:

1. Activities

The number of BDR sales activities per rep in a set amount of time can give you an indication of their productivity level. You might consider measuring:

  • Number of calls
  • Number of emails
  • Meetings scheduled

Keep in mind that this won't tell the whole story. Some reps may focus on quality over quantity. However, it does give you a baseline for measuring productivity.

2. Opportunities Created

This is a metric that managers consistently monitor.

As alluded to in the previous section, sales activity means nothing unless it results in tangible pipeline growth. For this reason, productivity metrics such as sales activity are best compared to the number of opportunities created by the BDR.

You'll get insight into which activities are working best and which reps are generating the most results from their efforts.

How are your salespeople contributing to the expansion of your business in their given territory? Who’s reaching their quota? What percentage of your team is hitting their number? Is quota too high? Too low?

Share this data with your team so they can see how they stack up against other reps. There’s nothing like a little competition to get your team motivated.

3. Proposals Sent

Whether the BDR nurtures the relationship themselves or hands a prospect to the account manager, the number of proposals sent can give you an indication if BDRs are prospecting to the right people and generating SQLs and opportunities that have a genuine interest.

4. Deals Won

While a BDR isn't responsible for closing business, you want to keep a pulse on how much new business results from your outbound efforts. Monitoring the number of deals won per rep and across the rest of the team can help you make sound decisions when budgeting and reinvesting in sales plays.

5. Client Acquisition Rates

Another commonly used measurement is the rate of client acquisition. Of the new prospects your reps reach out to, how many convert to customers? It’s natural for some salespeople to perform better than others — but if there are large discrepancies between conversion rates, dig deeper.

Are lower-performing reps approaching bad-fit prospects? Is there something that over-performers do in sales meetings that others don’t?

Compare conversion rates to the number of prospects a rep reaches out to. If you find that conversions decrease after a certain number of touches, use that number as a benchmark to prevent your reps from getting burned out or stretched too thin.

Finally, use conversion rates to compare different outreach methods, such as emailing or cold calling versus pursuing face-to-face interactions.


While some of the KPIs in the previous section may also apply to your sales development representatives, keep in mind that SDRs primarily respond to inbound leads. For this reason, you should be tracking their performance with these KPIs as well:

1. Average Response Time

If a lead is flagged as qualified by your marketing team, or if that lead indicates interest by filling out a form, there's no time to waste and no need to keep the lead waiting. Always benchmark response time and encourage reps to improve it. That way, they're catching leads while the pain or problem is top of mind.

2. Percentage of Leads Followed Up With

You want your SDRs to be making contact with all qualified leads, and that won't happen if your team is cherry-picking. This metric can also give you insight into productivity and bandwidth.

3. Positive vs. Negative Reply Rates

When tracking this KPI, consider all prospect replies through any channel as being binary — the prospect either is or isn't interested. It's based on sentiment, not customer acquisition. That's what differentiates this metric from others.

It's also notable in that it's measured at a prospect level, meaning all that matters is the total number of prospects contacted. However many emails, calls, or other touches it took to contact them aren't reflected in the figure. The metric is expressed as a percentage — if 50 prospects were contacted and three responded positively, the positive reply rate is 6%.

SDRs should track this figure, tagging positive replies to identify trends. This metric can reveal flaws and highlight benefits in aspects of your sales process like outreach cadence, prospecting approach, and channel preferences.

4. System Touches

Ideally, you'd like your sales process to be fairly "low touch," meaning your salespeople are closing new business efficiently for your company and your consumer.

If you review a salesperson's quarterly numbers and see that they missed their quota and had a very high number of touchpoints per closed-lost deals (say, five video meetings, 11 emails, and seven phone calls), it might be time to revisit how effective that rep's strategy is.

Analyze your most successful reps' average touchpoints. Do their closed-won deals average three video meetings, eight emails, and four phone calls? Ask these reps to share their strategies, techniques, and advice to streamline your team's average, collective sales cycle.

5. Meeting Acceptance Rates

Consistently landing appointment acceptances is a mark of an exceptional sales rep. It means they can create a sense of urgency with prospects. Oftentimes, prospects try to push meetings off, don't take them seriously, or just flat out stop responding. If an SDR lands meetings on a regular basis, it means they're making their prospects prioritize your product or service in their schedules.

This rate is calculated by dividing the number of meetings a rep schedules by the total number of replies they receive from prospects. It's a valuable metric for understanding both your reps' sales acumen and the efficacy of your sales training, specifically when it comes to objection handling.

6. SQL-to-Customer Conversion Rate

Your SDRs may not have much control over how many leads are generated, but they certainly have a hand in turning those leads into customers.

Low conversion rates across the board can indicate an issue with your lead generation and qualification process. Low conversion rates with specific reps can help you make decisions about ongoing training and development.

7. Deal Win-Loss Ratio

While SDRs may not be involved in closing the deal, the win/loss ratio can indicate the quality of the experience the prospect had along the way.


For organizations with sales and marketing departments, it can be difficult to measure sales performance. After all, how do you know the handoff is successful?

Here are KPIs that can give you a clue:

1. Percentage of Leads in Each Lifecycle Stage

If you break down leads by lifecycle stage (e.g. Lead, MQL, SQL), you may be able to see the pinch points and bottlenecks across the two departments.

Marketing is responsible for increasing the percentage of leads that make it to MQL, the handoff happens between MQL and SQL, and Sales is responsible for turning SQLs into opportunities. However, if Sales isn't getting the right leads, sales numbers will be affected. You'd start to diagnose pipeline issues with these metrics.

2. MQL-to-Customer Conversion Rate

With that in mind, both Marketing and Sales have an interest in the MQL-to-customer conversion rate.

Marketing because they supply the MQLs, and Sales because they turn those MQLs into customers. Therefore, raising this number should be a shared objective.

3. Average Length of Customer Lifecycle

The customer lifecycle refers to the different stages a customer goes through on their path to purchase (and beyond). It's in an organization's best interest to decrease the time between first impression and first purchase — in theory, that will reduce acquisition cost and generate customers more efficiently.

Marketing and Sales both have a stake in this lifecycle and can continue to iterate improvements to shorten it.

4. Volume of New Opportunities

In order to achieve alignment between sales and marketing teams, tracking the volume of new opportunities is going to be important. Before measuring this KPI, both teams will need to agree on what a new opportunity is. While there is no universal definition, a sales opportunity is usually a qualified prospect who has a high probability of becoming a customer. The sales pipeline begins with opportunities, which turn into deals and customers. Marketing and sales must work together to qualify leads and create more opportunities.

5. Cost Per Lead

This metric helps quantify the success of a marketing campaign by measuring how well leads are making their way from marketing to sales. The lower the cost per lead, the more effective the campaign is at bringing in leads for the sales team.

You can calculate the cost per lead by dividing the campaign budget by the number of leads acquired from the campaign.

6. Cost Per Acquisition

From the market research to deal closed, cost per acquisition measures every effort a business takes to acquire a new customer. An acquisition may be defined in different ways such as form fills, asset downloads, or actual deals closed. If you’re measuring this for both marketing and sales, deals closed may be more informative for both teams.

Cost per acquisition tells you just how much your business spent to welcome that customer onboard. By comparing this metric over time, your marketing and sales teams can learn what works and focus on those activities. In turn, the cost per acquisition should decrease, making both teams more efficient at closing new business.

7. Customer Retention Rate

Just because a customer signed a contract with your company doesn’t mean you’re done earning their business. Tracking how well your team is meeting the customer’s needs is key to customer retention. Customer retention measures how well a business retains its customers and their revenue over time. While there are several ways you can measure customer retention, it’s easier to have a single metric to review on a regular basis. You can calculate a single number by measuring customer retention rate with this formula.

8. Average Revenue Per Account

Do you know how much, on average, your accounts spend with your business? If not, you should start to track this KPI. Understanding the average revenue for an account can help your marketing team identify audiences with more relevant campaigns and help your sales team take an account-based selling approach to new prospects with similar business models to accounts with high average revenue.

9. Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Your NPS is a measurement of how likely customers are to recommend your product/service to someone else.

The survey asks participants to rank the likelihood of a recommendation on a scale of 0-10. Their numerical ranking is divided into three categories:

  • Promoters (9-10): They like you — they really like you. Not only will these customers likely renew, but they also won't hesitate to recommend you to friends or colleagues.
  • Passives (7-8): They're satisfied, but that's about it. Passives feel your product/service is status quo.
  • Detractors (0-6): They don't like you — they really don't like you. Detractors will likely churn, might tell others to avoid doing business with you, and will do the most damage to your brand.

Send your NPS regularly — and remember not to send it too early to new customers. There will always be kinks that need to be worked out of the system before an NPS is sent.

The cadence of survey sends depends on your business and goals. As a rule of thumb, start by sending an NPS every three-to-six months.

To calculate your score, subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. You can also use this handy NPS formula.

10. Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

"Customer lifetime value is the metric that indicates the total revenue a business can reasonably expect from a single customer account. It considers a customer's revenue value, and compares that number to the company's predicted customer lifespan."

It's a crucial metric to determine which customer segments or buyer personas will drive the most revenue for a company.

Its applications aren't limited to accounting for broad portions of your customer base. The figure can also be used to gauge the value of individual accounts and, in turn, your account managers' ability to engage existing clients. Their ability to consistently provide value to their clients can be measured, in large part, by the value they offer back.

An account manager can demonstrate that they're actively involved with their clients with a high average customer lifetime value. It shows they know how to establish rapport and keep clients loyal to your business as time goes on. It's a valuable KPI to bear in mind when getting a feel for account managers' overall performance.

Sales KPI Template & Calculator

Free Resource: Sales Metrics Calculator

We know these can be a lot of KPIs to keep track of, and by no means do you need to start measuring each of these next quarter. Below are the best sales metrics to track when you're first starting. All of these metrics can be calculated in this free template.

  • Average Deal Size: Measure this metric when you first get started to set a benchmark for future goals.
  • Win Rate: Gauge how many closed-won deals your team is closing.
  • Demo-Close Ratio: Accurately forecast your pipeline by understanding how many demos your sales reps are scheduling.
  • Quota Setting Calculator: Know rather than guess what your team's quota should be next quarter.
  • Commission Calculator: Set up a fair and attainable compensation structure for your team.
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): See how much it costs your business to bring a customer on board.
  • Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): Determine the value that your customers will bring over the entire time that they do business with you.
  • CAC-to-CLV: A ratio to determine how much it costs to bring a customer on vs the value they bring over time.
  • Revenue by Product: Understand which products bring in the most sales so your team can sell strategically to meet the customers' and the business's needs.
  • Customer Retention Rate: Measure how many customers continue doing business with your company over time.
  • Revenue Churn: Measure how many customers stop doing business with your company over time.
  • Employee Turnover Rate: Track how many employees leave the company in a given time period.

Track KPIs That Matter

Once you have data on your KPIs, analyze the information to understand why you got those results. Then, determine how you can improve performance and follow through with action. And remember — as important as establishing KPIs are, they must be always tied to an overarching goal.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in June 2019, and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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08 Mar 16:40

Sales Is A Giving Profession

by Keenan

Sales is about giving.

It’s not about your quota.

It’s not about getting to the close.

It’s not about Presidents Club.

It’s not about the upsell.

It’s not about being on the leaderboard.

It’s not about bringing a deal in by the end of the quarter.

It’s not about conversion rates or leads.

Sales is about giving your buyers, prospects, and customers a way to get to a better place tomorrow than they are today.

If you’re viewing sales from what you get and not what you give, you’re not selling.

 

The post Sales Is A Giving Profession appeared first on A Sales Guy.

08 Mar 16:39

Attract More Customers With Inbound Marketing

by Susan Gilbert

The Art of Attracting Customers With Inbound Marketing Tactics

The Art of Attracting Customers With Inbound Marketing TacticsYour goal should be to convert your website visitors into sales and brand ambassadors. Inbound Marketing can help you accomplish just that through a well executed inbound program that gets you found by your target market.

There are many different ways to promote your business online and attract valuable leads and subscribers, which can make the process intimidating to many just starting out on a marketing plan. Added to the mix is the fact that both social media and the state of search are in a state of flux due to the latest technologies and consumer behavior.

To make it simple think of this as relationship marketing and Seth Godin’s idea of permission marketing — defined on Wikipedia as “a non-traditional marketing technique that sells goods and services when advance consent is given.”

Inbound marketing in a nutshell encompasses publishing to blogs, social networking, video, ect. in order to create more online visibility. It has also often been referred to as “Pull Marketing” because you are pulling people into your sphere of influence by being findable and available for communication.

Traditional marketing or outbound marketing is where brands focus on finding customers. Think of this method as intrusion marketing and Godin’s term, interruption marketing. This is also referred to as “Push Marketing” where the advertising or promotion is done through search and on social media.

As marketing trends continue to change there are three in particular that Neil Patel points out will be a dominant factor this year. These include:

  • Guest blogging to attract organic inbound traffic to your own website.
  • Publishing quality articles that are at least 2,500 words, and more focus on live chat instead of static signup forms.
  • Readers are now looking for actionable details that explain to them how to exactly accomplish something. This is enhanced with graphics that provide the right steps for them as well as helpful videos that walk them through the process.

Five successful uses of using inbound marketing include:

1 – Consistent content

This includes your blog, guest articles, videos, etc. Plan to publish at least once a week as you are getting your business established. Google will not only pick up on your articles faster but as you share your articles to social media you will begin to see a steady growth in reader interest and sharing.

2 – Promote through email marketing

After spreading the word through your social networks you will want to continue this process with your subscribers by offering them information and updates that go beyond what is being published on your website. This can include new and advanced topics that you can expand on and provide exclusive information. It’s important to send to a target segment of your readers in order to generate more interest — sending out the focused message to just one list of subscribers can diminish your efforts.

3 – Search Engine Optimization

SEO is still a vital component in your marketing strategy despite the recent updates to Google’s algorithm. In fact, a well optimized post makes it easier for potential customers to find your content — especially if they are conducting a voice search command. The buying process begins when the right information is provided instead of previous lead generation methods that had relied on search engine ranking and producing more inbound links.

4 – Automate your workflows

Social media is to be mainly used to develop authentic relationships that draw qualified customers to your site. Automation helps spread the word on your content through a regular feed to all of your marketing channels, including email. A successful strategy does not rely on this alone, but rather keeps a balance between real-time, authentic interactions and regular emails and scheduled tweets and posts.

5 – User-centered approach to website design

Your website may have worked a few years ago — but have you taken a look at its overall design and appeal to mobile users? A static landing page just doesn’t garner much attention any more. Instead visitors are drawn to an interactive experience where they can get to know your brand and find the answers they are looking for right away. Integrated technology such as live chat bots and real-time updates are now being more widely used.

The world of online marketing has changed and if we are going to be effective in this new technology and people driven world, we need to have the awareness to do so as well as become prepared for what is to come. But one thing remains the same — it’s all about the human connection, which ultimately builds more visibility. The better your brand gets at reaching people where they are at the more successful you will become.

07 Mar 18:41

Half of B.C.'s reserved agricultural land lying unused, report shows

by Randy Shore

The B.C. government’s consultation on the future of the Agricultural Land Reserve will have more than opinions to weigh this spring, as Kwantlen University’s Institute for Sustainable Food Systems has released a white paper detailing the forces that continue to chip away at the province’s farmland.

About 50 per cent of ALR land is lying unused, in part due to B.C.’s failure to ensure the economic viability of the food sector, according to the authors of Protection is not Enough

But that doesn’t mean it should be used for something else, according to Richard Bullock, former chairman of the Agricultural Land Commission, which oversees the ALR.

Rather, “serious consideration should be given to eliminating the ability to exclude land from the ALR and to ensure that agricultural vitality of land within the ALR is maintained,” he writes.

The ALR was created in 1973 to protect 4.7 million hectares of farmland, because only five per cent of B.C.’s land area is considered suitable for agriculture. At that time more than 6,000 hectares of farmland was being lost to development each year. That pace has slowed to about 600 hectares a year.

The authors, including ISFS director Kent Mullinix, argue that development pressure fuelled by land exclusions for housing and other uses have driven farmland prices so high that farmers can’t buy it and expect to farm profitably.

Even though the chances of successfully excluding land from the ALR are small, the payoff is so huge that speculators and developers are buying and holding land that could be used for farming, the authors say.

An investigation of 122 land sales in the Metro Vancouver area revealed that 73 of those transactions were completed by investors rather than farmers, the study notes.

“When lands shift from agricultural to urban use the land values increase substantially. The lift in value can be huge, from a $40,000-per-acre value as agricultural land to over $1 million per acre as urban land,” concluded a separate study co-authored by Mullinix.

B.C. should consider restrictions on ownership of farmland to people who have a demonstrated intention or ability to farm, the report suggests, a strategy already employed in other parts of Canada and in Europe.

The authors also suggest tax reforms that would put pressure on people using farmland for residential purposes to return it to agricultural uses and create a disincentive to conversion and exclusion.

The B.C. government earlier this year appointed a committee to conduct a provincewide consultation and review of the rules governing the ARL to protect arable land and encourage farming.

Jennifer Dyson is leading the advisory panel convened by provincial Agriculture Minister Lana Popham in January.

rshore@postmedia.com

CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com.</p

07 Mar 16:51

5 Tips to Help Improve Your Sales Skills

by Renzo Costarella

No matter what industry you are in, or what job title you hold, the art of the sale is an essential skill every professional needs in their toolkit. Even if you are not working in “sales,” you are selling things every day; whether it’s a pitch in a meeting, or convincing your boss you should be able to take a vacation next week, every professional interaction is about giving and taking. If you are skilled in influencing these interactions to your own benefit, you’ll get ahead in life.

Here are five tips to help improve your sales skills.

Find Ideal Customers

There’s a lot of truth in the age old saying that goes, “you can’t sell ice to eskimos.” No matter how convincing you are, there will be some people that just won’t buy what you are selling. Don’t waste your time on them. You should be “prospecting” new business about 80 percent of the time. This goes for all professional interactions as well. Determine who is most sympathetic to your cause and appeal to them. Once you “sell” them, you can gain a critical mass and be that much closer to your goal.

Build Rapport

Starting with your first conversation or contract, you need to build trust and credibility with your clients. You should be seeking to understand your clients’ wants and needs before you make any attempt at trying to sell them.

Jeff Bezos said, “ we see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job to make the customer experience a little bit better.” You want customers to come back to you not just because they love the product, but because they love you. If you can do that early on, you’ll have a lifelong customer.

Build Persuasive Presentations

Once you have found a receptive customer and built a good foundational dialogue around identifying their needs. You need to have a logically organized presentation that allows you to show them how your product fills a gap that they have in their life. A one size fits all presentation just won’t work. You need to know your client, and cater to their emotions. You must convince them that until today, they are seriously lacking in a key area in their life, and that you hold the answer to their salvation.

Answer Questions and Objections Thoughtfully

Finally, you must be prepared when a potential client has an objection or challenge to something you have just told them. You need to think through every logical objection that a client might have and develop a complete and intelligent rebuttal to any claim that they make against you. This not only waylays their concern, but also shows that YOU are the expert, and that they would do well to trust you.

Ask For a Decision

No matter how good your pitch was, there will always be a moment of indecision. A tense few minutes where the client decides if they are going to buy what you are selling. You must move quickly and confidently ask them for their order. The idea is that your unshakable confidence will calm then and encourage them that they are making the right decision.

At the end of the day improving any skill takes time. In sales, it requires tons of practice and tons of rejection. If you’re resilient and follow the five tips above, you’ll be well on your way to closing that next deal!

07 Mar 16:45

6 Ways to Add Value to Your Prospects' Lives & Win Their Business

by Bsignorelli@hubspot.com (Brian Signorelli)

“Adding value.”

I see, hear, or read this phrase nearly every day. It’s in most motivational speeches, it’s all over LinkedIn via “sales gurus,” and it’s used in almost every book about sales, sales leadership, or sales management.

Check out my book on how to run a more human-centric sales process to win more customers.

But even though “adding value” is not a new concept, I recently came across a LinkedIn post that made me reexamine what I did as a sales rep to add value to prospects, partners, and our customers.

What Does It Mean to Add Value?

As Jack points out, it’s easier to talk about “adding value” than explain it -- and perhaps even do it. “Value” is abstract. It’s subjective. There’s no universal definition of “adding value” in the sales world.

I believe “value” should mean: “The information, insights, and actions you bring to your buyer that they cannot find on their own.”

Why do I like this definition? Not only is it simple, but if you’re not practicing this, your prospects will have no reason to talk to you.

6 Ways to Add Value to Your Customers

Here are the ways I try to add value on a regular (i.e. weekly) basis.

1. Read about the industry and trends impacting buyers

As a rep, I often asked myself if I could easily answer this question (without going to Google or my company’s homepage):

“What are the top three things my prospective customers are concerned about today, and what are the best companies doing to fix it?”

Being able to answer this question was often be the sole factor distinguishing me from other salespeople. If I couldn’t answer it, I knew I wasn’t reading enough.

I subscribed to industry blogs and my customers’ blogs, set up Google alerts and RSS feeds, dedicated 20-30 minutes each day to browsing LinkedIn, and listened to a variety of podcasts.

This information always surprised my prospects, probably because few reps took the time to read, listen, and educate themselves on what their customers actually cared about.

2. Try to directly experience customers’ pain

There are two general approaches in the sales world -- pain-based selling and opportunity-based selling. You’re either finding the nerve and pressing your thumb down on it, or you’re painting a picture filled with unicorns, rainbows, and treasure chests for your prospects. In my own opinion, pain-based selling is far more effective than the alternative. But to know pain, you must experience pain.

I learned this quickly myself when I started at HubSpot. I had to build and launch my own website in the first 30 days on the job as if I were a marketer -- the persona we were selling to. If I hadn’t had this experience, I would’ve been far less effective selling to our prospective customers.

And the “pain” didn’t end there. To this day I still write blog posts, co-host a podcast, and maintain a website of my own. I do this partially because it’s beneficial to me, but I also do it to constantly remind myself of how hard it is to be a marketer (which is one portion of the audience that my company sells to).

3. Ask open-ended questions

I was sitting in Mark Roberge’s Harvard Business School class (no, I’m not an HBS grad) not long ago when he recapped the current state of the sales environment. He pointed out few sales reps understand the value of asking their prospects questions, and that sadly there are still many reps out there practicing “Alligator Selling” (big mouth, small ears). This is only reinforced by HubSpot Research showing buyers still think most sellers are pushy.

Roberge first teaches his students that questions are a valuable way of selling. Then, he explains asking closed-ended questions (yes/no questions) is better than asking none.

But to understand what truly matters to your prospect, they must explain it to you in their own words -- which brings him to open-ended questions. These start with phrases like, “What’s your opinion on …”, “To what extent …”, “How do you think …”, “What led up to …”, etc.

Using open-ended lines of questioning to get prospects to open up to you -- which was the backbone of my entire sales strategy -- matters for the simple reason that most people are resistant to what they hear, but believe what they say. When you get them to say they need to change, there is no selling involved. They’ve sold themselves for you.

4. Be an expert on your company’s products and services

Nothing replaces superior product knowledge. At the end of the day, knowing my company’s products or services better than anyone else was a key factor in winning deals.

If your customer sees you repeatedly have to ask someone else questions or bring them in for product demos, they’ll wonder why they’re dealing with you versus these other more knowledgeable people.

If, on the other hand, you demonstrate deep knowledge of your products and services, you’ll position yourself as a valuable resource now and after they’ve become a customer.

To build this muscle, I spent a lot of time tinkering with our software. I also participated in all of our beta releases and specifically asked my engineering team to push those updates to my own employee portal so that I could see how they worked before they were released to customers. I subscribed to our company’s customer product blog so I would be alerted of any product changes as they came live. Finally, I spent a lot of time with sales engineers who knew the technical aspects of our product from top to bottom.

5. Prep for, research, and personalize every sales call

When I became a sales manager, the first time I showed my team members how I prepared for calls they looked at me like I had six heads. I explained I took at least 30 minutes to prepare for every discovery call (call #1), 30-60 minutes preparing for a goal setting call (call #3), another 60-90 minutes preparing for a demo (call #4), and another 30-60 minutes preparing for a closing call or pricing call.

Why did I spend between 2.5 and 4 hours prepping in total for each opportunity?

Because information is power, and personalization is everything. Carefully reviewing my notes from every call and looking for updates on my prospect’s company allowed me to make every single prospect feel like I’d built a solution just for them. And frankly, I did. To this day I still attribute my success as a sales rep and a sales manager to this research and preparation.

6. Tell prospects they should NOT buy from your company (again and again and again)

One of the most bizarre things that happened to me when I started at HubSpot was getting congratulatory emails from our VP of Sales at the time, Pete Caputa, for having the most “closed lost opportunities” in a month. What!? Isn’t sales supposed to be about bringing in as much revenue as possible for a business?

At the time, this practice made no sense to me. But the way he looked at it was two-fold. First, by doing this I wasn’t spending my time with people who weren’t committed to changing their business. This made me more efficient and ultimately led to higher wins rates, more accurate forecasts, and so on. Second, and I would argue more importantly, this meant I would not sell to anyone with a pulse and a credit card.

While sales teams may be (strongly) encouraged to bring in as much revenue possible, the quality of that revenue mattered to me and to my company. If I signed a customer up who shouldn’t have ever become a customer in the first place, it would wreak havoc on so many parts of my book as a sales rep, but also on the broader business. Bad revenue creates unpredictable, unsustainable growth.

Even if your company doesn’t have mechanisms in place to prevent, or penalize you for selling bad revenue (they should; mine does), I would encourage you to hold yourself to a higher standard. You’ll ultimately win more deals, increase your personal customer retention rate, and win referrals from great fits.

While it should go without saying, I’ll say it anyway: simply existing doesn’t make you worthy of your role in sales. I hope these examples help you rethink the way you sell. If you have ways that you try to add concrete value to buyers, I’d love for you to share those in the comments. And if you really like what I wrote and want to learn more, I have a book coming out in April 2018 that’s available to pre-order here: Inbound Selling: How to Change the Way You Sell to Match How People Buy.

07 Mar 16:44

What SEO Is And More Importantly Is NOT!

by Ryan Shelley

For a long time, all most businesses needed was a simple website that proved their company existed to potential prospects. While these “brochure sites” did serve a purpose, they weren’t created to drive new business. Today’s consumer begins their ‘buyers journey’ much earlier in the process. That means many of your potential prospects are searching and investigating solutions well before they come in contact with you and your site.

While the term SEO (Search Engine Optimization) has once again become a popular buzzword across the business community, its meaning has become wide and varied. In this post, my goal is to shed some light into what SEO is and is not, as well as make the argument that search engine optimization is essential to any business looking to grow using the internet.

What SEO is Not.

When someone asks me what I do, and I share that I work in search, it amazes me what the most common responses are:

  • That’s like Facebook and Social Media Right?
  • I need some of that, but the ads are so expensive.
  • So you try to trick Google, huh?

If you weren’t aware, none of the above are SEO. For those of you who may still be confused, let me help you out.

Social is NOT SEO

Social media marketing (SMM) is a very focused discipline that falls under the umbrella of digital marketing. The goal of SMM is to build and nurture a following on social media platforms. While SMM can help grow your brand, and having links on major social media sites is a plus, the impact social has on SEO is minimal in most cases.

This is not to say that social should not play a role. In his article for Convince and Convert, SEO Expert Eric Enge shares how social can play a role. Building a digital marketing campaign that has synergy is where the real power lies. Using social media alongside your SEO efforts can increase your visibility and generate more traffic.

Paid Search is NOT SEO

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the process of gaining website traffic by purchasing ads on search engines. SEO is focused on driving organic or “free” traffic to a website. While many people believe that Google favors sites that also pay for ads, that is not true. That’s not to say that PPC can’t help. Rand Fiskin did a great whiteboard Friday that detailed how PPC can help. Here is a brief overview of his video.

  • Searchers who see an ad may be more likely to click an organic listing.
  • Searchers who’ve been previously exposed to a site/brand via ads may be more likely to click > engage > convert.
  • Paid results do strongly impact organic click-through rate, especially in certain queries.
  • Paid ad clicks may lead to increased links, mentions, coverage, sharing, etc. that can boost organic rankings.
  • Bidding on search queries can affect the broader market around those searches by shifting searcher demand, incentivizing (or de-incentivizing) content creation, etc.

You can watch the whole video here.

SEO is NOT Tricking Google

Google’s goal is to deliver the best possible results in the fewest amount of searches. This means they want to help people get the right answers. Their brand’s identity and reputation are directly attached to the results they deliver. So, they are very careful and do their best to NOT be tricked.

Google has a team solely devoted to ensuring they don’t get tricked. Its Web Spam team is devoted to making sure that junk doesn’t rank. This doesn’t mean that bad results don’t get through from time to time, but in the end, when they do find out you’ve been naughty, your toast. Good SEO plays by the rules and is interested in providing value to those who are searching for the answer for which we want to rank.

So What is SEO?

SEO stands for “search engine optimization.” It is the process of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines. In other words, all the links on the search engines that don’t have the word “ad” next to the link. While the term SEO seems very technical, not every aspect is so. In fact, much of today’s SEO work is very creative and must be approached from many angles.

Since the term itself seems so technical in nature, many companies have delegated the task of search engine optimization to their IT or Web Development teams. While these team members may be able to handle technical SEO, there are other aspects that often get overlooked. Let’s dive a little deeper into what SEO is.

SEO is Technical

To say there are no benefits to technical SEO would be absurd. In fact, in a recent article I argued the need for better techincal SEO. While most IT or Dev teams have a basic understanding of tags and meta information, they often don’t have a grasp on the importance of schema and structured data.

A good SEO will not just understand technical SEO, but will utilize all of the tool at her fingertips to implement sound best practices. This means adding structured data where needed and ensuring that all pages are optimized properly.

SEO is an Art

Before an artist can paint a masterpiece, they first must strengthen the canvas and apply a layer of gesso. Once dried, the canvas is firm and ready for paint. In the same manner, Technical SEO lays the foundation for everything else you do. Once you have a canvas to work with, it’s time to get creative.

SEO is a combination of content, website experience, backlinks and more. Each of the tactics must have a focus and synergy if they are going to deliver results. Knowing what both a search engine and a user want and need in a page is not an easy task. Finding that balance takes research, trial and error and a whole lot of patience.

Just like creating a painting, their will be times where you want to throw the whole thing away. But if you continue to work at it, you’ll eventually find the work of art underneath the layers and layers of dried paint.

SEO is On-going

If you work out for a week at the beginning of the year and then stop, will that week of working out sustain you the rest of the year? My guess is not. In order to maintain the results you have to continue to put in the work. The same goes for SEO.

There are many people who believe that just because they have installed a plugin and optimized a few pages that there site will be good to go. Then they sit and wait for people to rush to their site. Sadly, it never comes and then they think SEO is fake. The issue wasn’t SEO, it was their approach.

In order to get results, you have to put in the work. As users’ behaviors change and Google tweaks their algorithm, it’s the job of the SEO to ensure that a site is headed in the right direction. By tracking, testing and tweaking, we help ensure that a site is able to grow it’s visibility through most circumstances.

Conclusion

While there are many opinions about SEO, there is only one truth. At its core, SEO is the art of getting traffic from the “free,” “organic,” “editorial” or “natural” search results on search engines. No matter what industry you are in or how big your site is now, if you want to be found in the search results, executing a well-rounded SEO strategy is key.

This means combining technical and creative search on an ongoing basis. Recently I created a course full of great content to help anyone learn SEO.

If you’re ready to learn more about SEO, check out Simplifed Search here.

07 Mar 16:41

6 Effective Ways CMOs Can Break Down the Silos Between Marketing and Sales

by Bob Van Rossum

We’re in a customer-centric world where businesses must evolve and adapt to meet the demanding expectations of today’s consumer in order to survive. This means CMOs need to adjust their org chart and revamp their marketing strategy to meet evolving customer expectations and the ability to reach them via new touch points.

Most marketing departments have made notable improvements compared to years ago; however, we still see organizations are changing more slowly than the marketplace around them.

The roles of marketing and sales are shifting in parallel with the rise of technology and increasing consumer demands. From the first marketing touch point to the final point where a sale is made, marketing and sales teams must work together to manage the customer journey during the various stages of the lead/sales funnel. They must also work together to nurture the customer beyond the sales funnel and pipeline.

Gone are the days where sales and marketing could each work in their own silo. In today’s competitive environment communication is key to success. And if either side isn’t committed to shared success, your business will suffer.

How Marketing and Sales Can Work Together to Grow Sales

Video by Michal Sadowski

Tips from Marketing Recruitment Agencies: How CMOs Can Crush the Barriers Between Marketing and Sales

Effective leadership in the C-suite is key in building the right teams and joining these two departments together. CMOs should guide their teams toward collaboratively working with the sales department and breaking down the barriers to maximize results.

As the top marketing recruitment firm, we have found 6 ways CMOs can effectively propel business growth by building an alliance with sales:

Keep an Open Line of Communication

marketing recruitment agencies executive marketing recruiters

While this seems obvious, too often we still hear of poor communication between marketing and sales. So this has the be the first step in aligning marketing and sales. Establishing transparent communication between the two teams is critical.

Marketing is responsible for developing the message and strategy behind a brand’s products or services.

CMOs must ensure their team clearly understands the new consumer and their high expectations to successfully enable the sales team. As marketing executive recruiters, we know a shared brand vision is important to establish in an organization, especially between the marketing and sales departments. The more valuable information and knowledge that is exchanged between the two teams, the better.

Revenue and Pipeline Come First

For marketing and sales to be impactful, both teams must be fully aligned on what they need from each other. Both the marketing and sales teams should be held accountable for a shared set of performance metrics. This ensures their objectives are aligned and allows them to work toward a common goal. Importantly while they share metrics, they cannot share a leader. Marketing and sales are very different functions and one leader cannot effectively do both.

Marketing and sales should always make the buyer the center of attention. For sales to provide the greatest value, marketing must provide insights on key points in their journey. Thus, your marketing team should be in charge of delivering measurable results and data that help sales build their pipelines. Improved pipelines in turn allow marketing to get better insights into what converts prospects into customers, and when.

A shared goal drives optimal results. By providing visibility into future potential revenue and working together to convert qualified leads through pipelines, both the marketing and sales teams heighten their chances of increasing revenue.

Don’t Underestimate Data Integrity

marketing recruitment agencies executive marketing recruiters

Does your marketing team have the right people in place to measure and monitor results from your efforts and make sense of analytics and data?

The marketing department must share data they have on customer decision making, buyer behavior, and any other relevant information that can help the sales team strategically target qualified leads.

That’s why it’s imperative to have the right marketers who are analytically-driven and able to accurately translate data into valuable information on your team. We are in a data-driven world, and businesses can’t afford any errors with the measurements of their data.

Everyone on the marketing and sales teams should be responsible for the integrity of data that is entered and used. However, the CMO is ultimately accountable for the accuracy and consistency of the analytics provided by their marketing team, which makes data integrity from the sales team critical.

Integrate Marketing and Sales Software Platforms

The ongoing development of tools and technology in the business world allows organizations to manage processes and operations more efficiently.

Just as technology has transformed marketing, digital is redefining the customer and sales relationship. Both marketing and sales have access to a vast number of tools to leverage in optimizing their efforts. In order to successfully align the marketing and sales teams, their software platforms must be accessible to each other.

Your martech should support in determining qualified leads, collecting insightful data points in the process and being able to deliver key points to sales at the right time. By sharing valuable data, both teams have the ability to see into a prospect’s full customer journey and buying cycle.

As marketing executive recruiters we see too often companies are hiring someone new, because the last person did not effectively integrate their automation systems for sales (i.e. CRM) and marketing (i.e. marketing automation). Without this integration, it is impossible to truly maximize results.

Engage Sales in the Content Creation Process

Your marketing team is likely responsible for creating the content that the sales department uses to close deals.

By implementing proper tools and getting a better understanding of the journey, marketers can optimize content to be mapped at specific points along the journey. This allows the sales team to serve the right type of content at the right stage in the sales cycle.

However, your marketing team must be able to identify what type of content is helping the sales team in closing deals and making an impact. Not only is it important to find marketing talent who knows how to create compelling content, but also can identify what type of content is performing well. This is why marketing recruitment agencies place such a big emphasis on finding content marketers who are able to accurately gauge and measure the performance of content, in addition to being great writers.

Simply put, marketing must provide unique and valuable content that serves the future customers’ needs, and there’s no one better to share insights than the sales team that directly communicates with prospects and existing customers.

Take Everyone’s Perspectives into Consideration

The CSO (Chief Sales Officer) and CMO should regularly hold meetings to discuss what’s working, what’s not, and how their efforts are impacting revenue.

However, the C-level leaders should encourage more junior-level employees to take a part in the dialogue. Those who are on the front lines of your marketing and sales teams should actively take part in discussing the strategy and how each team is contributing to the revenue growth.

Involving junior-level employees is a key way to get a comprehensive understanding of what’s assisting each sale, what isn’t, and how your entire team measures their efforts. With key players taking an active role in breaking down the barriers between marketing and sales, you will get insightful perspectives from those who work directly with your customers.

Conclusion

Uniting your marketing and sales teams is necessary to propel long-term business growth. In today’s demanding digital world, organizations simply cannot afford to work in silos any longer.

CMOs must demonstrate that their marketing team isn’t just delivering value to sales, but must also show that they’re consistently contributing to the ROI.

When marketing and sales departments don’t work in collaboration, it hinders the performance of your marketing efforts and the bottom-line of your organization. With the support of a strong team of top marketers in place and an improved relationship with sales, you can expect your efforts to be taken to a whole new level.

07 Mar 16:41

How To Use Purchase Intent Drivers To Convert A Social Media Audience

by Sahail Ashraf

We know social media is fun and exciting, and it’s a big part of what you do. But if you’re not seeing a rise in conversions of audiences to customers you’re doing something wrong.

Don’t worry though. If you try out the following points, you should find that your clients see real ROI. Adopt these, and you’re looking at audience members becoming paying customers.

How To Use Purchase Intent Drivers To Convert A Social Media Audience

Use your data

The first thing you need to look at when making your client’s content more likely to convert is the use of data. This is a key element and if you’re not using data effectively you’re missing out on some vital opportunities.

By understanding your data about the posts you create for your clients, you are gaining an insight into what will convert. This is because behaviour around the posts can be identified as leading to conversion. The more the audience moves down the buying cycle, the closer they are to converting.

Once you’ve got yourself knee deep in the metrics, you can start making informed decisions. This means you can look at the posting frequency that brings in the most engagement, or the post format that works best for you.

Once you have the information, act on it. Then you’ll see that by giving your audience what it wants you’re moving them closer to considering using your brand.

Locowise Insights

That audience, who are they?

When you have an audience it probably hasn’t happened by chance. You’ve probably used advertising, referrals and some great content to bring in a regular audience for your clients. But do you really know them? Do you know what they really want?

If you don’t, this could be a key factor in converting them to buyers. Think about it. If you don’t know who you are trying to reach and why your chances of actually reaching the right people are just a step up from slim.

Some of the best ways to get to know your audience and their needs include ‘scenario-thinking’ where you actively connect with an audience member with a view to finding out what it is that they really need from you. If you sell cars, for example, you could ask the audience what their biggest headache is about their car’s interior. Then, presuming it’s not a design issue, you can create content around the fixing of that problem.

Once you know who you are talking to and what they want to hear, you have become the source of info they need. And you’ll be able to push them towards conversion because you keep supplying the answers they need.

Audience

Pushing towards the ‘sizzle’ point

Anyone who has ever sold professionally will know the old story of the steak and the sizzle. In selling, the steak is your product or service. It’s not going to change, it’s just what it is. The audience knows that.

What they most likely don’t know is what the product can do to help them. That’s the sizzle. It’s the benefits. The more you show your audience what they will personally get out of using your service or product, rather than ‘what it does’, the more you’ll convert.

This again goes back to the previous point about knowing your audience. You will have benefits that meet their needs, whether this is more time to get other stuff done, or a healthier body. By using these benefits at the core of your content, you are repeatedly going beyond the ‘awareness’ stage, and more towards the ‘consideration’ stage. They’ll hear what you have to say, and they’ll understand how what you do can give them something they’re lacking.

We’re not sure this approach will work with nail clippers, perhaps. But we do know that people don’t buy unless they need to. And that will never change.

Connect with Customers

Calls to Action

Again, nothing new here. A call to action is a part of your content that asks people to take action. This can be any kind of action, including making a phone call, clicking a link that leads to your website, or casting a vote in a contest.

Having calls to action as regular (and we mean regular) elements of your content will create a situation where your audience takes action. It’s as simple as that. And the only way they will be pushed down the sales funnel is by being repeatedly exposed to calls to action.

Now, you don’t have to make it spammy (well you can, but you won’t see results) and the very best thing to do is avoid spammy approaches. Focus on providing calls to action that are connected to the content. So if you’ve delivered an infographic about making a great apple pie, offer a call to action button that gives them three amazing pie recipes if they click it.

This goes beyond awareness on their part, and becomes a situation where they’re interested in being guided by the brand down a road that should lead to a conversion.

Calls To Action

Oh, and just to make sure we’re all on the same page here, calls to action are vitally important in video too. So if you’re creating video content for clients, make sure the video has that call to action at the end.

Make that first contact super-personal

You’re going to get new followers and fans every day (unless you are truly hopeless at social) and you really should get into the habit of making a personal response to all new followers.

What’s interesting to note here is that you will have been spending at least part of your time finding new followers with a targeted approach. You look for new and interesting people that may be able to offer value to your clients. So it should be a perfectly natural outcome to find a way to reach out to every single one of them, individually.

It will pay off because you’ll end up with useful followers, and also followers who are into what your client does and are also feeling liked and respected by a social media account that actively takes an interest in what they do.

Connect

Feel like really getting on top of your metrics so you can drive more purchases? Try Locowise for free, for seven days. We know you’ll love the way it helps you help your clients.