Archive for the ‘Technology’


12 Steps to Account Planning in 2015

It’s that time. As you prepare for 2015 you need to be thinking about how to maximize revenue from your existing customers. I’m sure you know acquired business from an existing customer is six times more profitable than pursuing new customers. But, did you also know that you are seven times more likely to win business from an existing customer than you are when you are trying to capture that new logo? I have written about this extensively in my book Account Planning in Salesforce, but to get you started, here are 12 things you should think about as you look to how your existing customers can contribute to your 2015 revenue goals (with a focus on Salesforce users).

12 Steps to Account Planning in 2015

1. Research

If you are hoping to maximize revenue from your large accounts, it is really all about research, research, and research. You need to slow down your natural inclination to focus solely on pursuing deals now. Account planning is a long-term play. If you do your homework on the account, and apply the experience you have gained from working with other customers, you should be able to bring insight to the customer. If you don’t do the research, then you won’t have the knowledge, and then you can’t bring insight – and that is a missed opportunity

2. Customer Focused

Remember that the impact on a customer of a poor buying decision is usually greater than the impact on a sales person of a lost deal. Your role is to create value for the customer, not just to communicate information about your company or your solutions. Before you position your value, a prerequisite is having a deep sense of what the customer values. When you have done your research, you can begin to feel comfortable in the customer’s shoes, and begin the walk together toward Mutual Value.

3. Integrate

A single Account is a subset of your overall market, and a composite representation of all of the individual real and potential prospective opportunities within that Account. You must recognize it as an integrated component of the market ecosystem. You also need to integrate data, knowledge and information to achieve velocity. The data already exists in Salesforce – so your Account Plan must be integrated with CRM. Your Account Team has the knowledge and everyone needs a common platform to work together, and the customer has the information, so you need to integrate that into your plan.

4. Targeted

Focus is the parallel thread that runs alongside Mutual Value as a key aspect to Account Planning. It is in fact the catalyst for Mutual Value, driving you to uncover areas that benefit you and the customer. You will need to select which divisions or Business Units in an account are in your ‘sweet spot,’ that area where you can uniquely and competitively deliver true value, and then make some hard choices as you target the opportunities on which to focus – those that deliver Mutual Value – while at the same time choosing not to apply resources to less attractive opportunities.

5. Map People and Influence

As we know companies don’t buy – people buy, and the same is true of business issues, they are always owned by people and it is important understand the political landscape in the organization.

6. Aligned to Business Strategy

You’d be forgiven for thinking that being a customer is easier than being a sales person. All the customer’s got to do is pick a supplier, right? But when the customer makes that buying decision, we now know that the risk shifts from the supplier to the customer, and the impact on the customer of a poor buying decision is usually greater than the impact on the salesperson of a lost sale. Your job is to align your account planning efforts with the customer’s Goals, Pressures, Initiatives and Obstacles.

7. Trust

Trust is the foundation on which you create, develop, pursue, and win business that delivers mutual value for you and your customer. It is fundamental to business, and built one truth a time, promising what you can deliver, and delivering on what you promise.

8. White Space

Your objective is to maximize your penetration in the account in a way that maximizes Mutual Value. Once you understand the people and the problems and have developed a trusted relationship with your customer you can identify areas of opportunity – the white space in the account – where your solutions can add value to the customer. This is a key way to develop new opportunities. In our case we use the Opportunity Map in Dealmaker to visually represent this.

9. Collaborative and Social

At its core, Account Planning is a team sport; one where you can collaborate with the team and the customer. We recommend attaching a Chatter group in Salesforce to each account plan so that the team that is working the account plan can also use Chatter to make sure they are all kept up to speed on all changes as they happen. Also, by having a collaborative application integrated with Salesforce all information is available to everyone at the same time so that there is no loss of productivity.

10. Regular Cadence

Account Planning should not be an annual event. It is not about reporting what you know; it is about discovering what you don’t know, and then acting to uncover the missing information to inform your subsequent activity. Account Planning must live and breathe as part of how you run your business. It needs to become part of your culture, and should be integrated into your overall business cadence.

11. Measurable

How do you know if your account plan is working? In the first instance you need to be able to measure that the plan is complete, and we recommend automating this measure. Secondly, you need to be able to create a scorecard that will help you to assess whether the objectives you set for the plan – the target revenue, the pipeline goal, the penetration of the strategically important Business Units in the account, etc. – are all on track. Without measurement it is hard to know if you are making progress.

12. Action Oriented

While the plan in itself can be hugely valuable – it all comes to like when you define Objectives, Strategies and Actions that define the tactics that you need to execute everyday to make progress. Planning is important, but it is the execution of the tasks and actions everyday that determines the level of progress you make.

I hope you found this helpful. Let me know if you think I missed anything.

 

 

 

 

 

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Will all Future Presidents be White Men? -The Predictive Analytics Problem

The answer to the question in the title is of course almost certainly No. But that’s not what the data said.  If you look at the records from 1789, when George Washington’s presidential term began, to 2009 when Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States, the data would suggest otherwise.

If you examined the data in 2008, with a sample size of n=43, and a test on gender and ethnicity, the patterns in the data would show a correlation that would predict that all future presidents would be white males. We know of course that the prediction would have been wrong.  Of course there are other factors at play, and I use this example only to call out my concern about the dangers of the hype around big data and analytics as a panacea for all (or many) ills.

Over the past nine years my company has recorded and analyzed millions of sales cycles through our Dealmaker Smart Sales Application. We have looked at the effectiveness of certain actions in the sales cycle and their impact on the outcome of the sale.  There are certain signals that appear to be reliable indicators of the sales outcome (win or loss) but only when the context is considered.

For example: Budget is a key indicator when the level of organizational change for the buying organization is small, but far less so when, alongside the actual purchase of the solution, the buying organization has to undertake a material change management exercise. This is where the data can be misleading.  You need the domain knowledge to know what questions to ask.

One of the problems we have observed is that many proponents of big data don’t take enough care to distinguish between correlation and causality, the former being an extrapolation of past data as an indicator of the future, and the latter being an analysis of the real reasons behind past outcomes as a guide towards a future, heuristically determined, prognosis. It is more important to understand why certain patterns emerge than it is to just uncover the patterns.

In most cases, the missing ingredients are domain knowledge, context and applied reasoning.  Without domain knowledge, it is not possible to know what questions to ask of the data, and when you don’t have any context it is hard to know when to ask those questions.  Without applied reasoning (emphasis on applied) you don’t know what to do with the patterns and uninformed algorithms will lead you astray.

As with any other smart system, effective big data/analytics happen only when there is a combination of knowledge, context, data and applied reasoning.  All four components are essential.  Big questions are more valuable than big data.

Two Examples: One Bad, One Good.

Let me give you two examples from Google, one good, one bad, to highlight the difference between a prediction that is simply powered by big data versus another that uses knowledge and context as the core of its prediction.

Bad: Google Flu Trends

Google’s data-aggregating tool Google Flu Trends (GFT). The program is designed to provide real-time monitoring of flu cases around the world based on Google searches. Seems like a perfect use of the 500m Google searches made each day. But there’s just one problem: as a new article in Science shows, when you compare its results to the real world, GFT doesn’t really work.

GFT overestimated the prevalence of flu in the 2012-2013 and 2011-2012 seasons by more than 50%. From August 2011 to September 2013, GFT over-predicted the prevalence of the flu in 100 out 108 weeks. During the peak flu season last winter, GFT would have had us believe that 11% of the U.S. had influenza, nearly double the CDC (Center for Disease Control) numbers of 6%. If you wanted to project current flu prevalence, you would have done much better basing your models on 3-week-old data on cases from the CDC than you would have been using GFT’s sophisticated big data methods.

Google had data (copious amounts of it) but CDC had knowledge.

Good: Google Maps

Most everyone has used Google Maps at some point.  If you are like me, then you didn’t really think a lot about the smarts underlying that app on your phone.

Google Maps is a great example of a big data / analytics application that works well.  It uses a combination knowledge, context, data and smart applied reasoning to direct you to your chosen destination.

Here’s a little insight into how it works:

The maps you see in Google Maps are compiled by a private company with whom Google has a partnership. This company is called Tele Atlas and they are a world leader in navigation and location-based services. The maps are highly accurate and have been hailed for recording extremely rural areas and mapping the terrain correctly. [Knowledge / Data]

Google Maps also offers real-time views of how congested the roads were. But how does it know what traffic is like on the roads? Google realized that as more and more people continued to switch to smartphones, they had a miniature army of traffic monitors. Other phones that are on the same journey inform the traffic flow. Like it or not, you are part of the solution. Of course, Google uses its own algorithms to exclude anomalies, like a postman who chooses to stop much more frequently than the average driver. [Data/Knowledge/Context]

To calculate your ETA Google things like official speed limits and recommended speeds, likely speeds derived from road types, historical average speed data over certain time periods (sometimes just averages, sometimes at particular times of day), actual travel times from previous users, and real-time traffic information. That’s a lot of data. They mix data from whichever sources they have, and come up with the best prediction they can make. [Data/Applied Reasoning]

Google Maps just needs you to tell it where you want to go (small data), and because it knows where you are (context) it can use all its own knowledge, context, data and applied reasoning to get you there on time.

A Final Thought

If Google can provide me with the directions to my customer meeting, shouldn’t there be a smart app that can help me navigate the twists and turns in the sales meeting with the customer?

 

 

 

 

 

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5 Key Dreamforce Sessions and 3 Tips

5keyThere is a lot going on at Dreamforce. How do you choose which sessions to attend? This year there are many overlapping sessions, and conflicts between the keynotes and some fabulous breakout sessions.  It is not possible to cover everything, so you need to be judicious in your selections.

Tip: Remember that Salesforce make most of the keynotes available on YouTube very shortly after the event – so you will be able to catch up on these later.

 

My 5 Key Dreamforce Sessions for Sales Professionals

Tip: To get straight to these sessions in the Dreamforce Agenda Builder, first login to Dreamforce and then click on the title of the sessions here.

 

1. Sales Summit @ Dreamforce 2014: Mon 10/13 @ 10:00am

This is one mega event really. One day. Five sessions. Twelve of the world’s most respected sales minds. This promises to be one of the most educational (and entertaining) days at Dreamforce for sales executives. Bring your toughest questions. Walk away with answers — and a million new ideas on how your company can motivate sales teams and win more sales.

2.  How BMC Software Achieves Smart Sales Transformation: Wed 10/15 @ 8:30am

I am part of this session. BMC’s sales transformation story is amazing – a complete look at how to prepare a sales organization for our increasingly pressurized world.

3. Social Selling: A Live Conversation with Jill Rowley and Koka Sexton: Tue 10/14 @ 4:00pm

Two of my favorite social selling gurus, Jill and Koka think your sales team is on the brink of extinction! They will talk about the why, what and how to do Social Selling.  This session will not be boring!

4. How Salesforce.com uses Account Planning: Wed 10/15 @ 10:00am

If you use Salesforce, and you care about maximizing revenue from your key accounts this is the session to attend. I am thrilled to host two charismatic leaders from Salesforce.com to tell their story.  Everyone who attends this session also gets a free copy of Account Planning in Salesforce.

5. Triple Your Revenue With a Dedicated Sales Development Team: Wed 10/15 @ 2:00pm

There is a strong body of opinion on the rise of Inside Sales or Business Development.  This panel of 7 thought leaders in the area has a lot of insights to share.  Not to be missed.

 

3 Tips to Get The Best Out of Dreamforce

1. Attend the Early Sessions

Early sessions are better – energy level is higher and generally you get presenters who are at the top of their game.  Attend breakout sessions in the morning and visit the Cloud Expo in the afternoon.

2. Appropriate Clothing – Leave the Laptop

Ladies – leave the fancy shoes at home.  There will be a lot of walking. I am told that heels are a no-no. I wasn’t planning on wearing heels anyway :).

Ignore the forecast. It rains in San Francisco – so pack some light rain gear or a small foldable umbrella.

Don’t try to carry your laptop – it will get heavy really quickly. Ideally get a keyboard for your tablet, or carry an old-fashioned notebook and pen!

3. Be Social (Virtually and Physically)

There will be 125,000+ people at Dreamforce this year.  Connect on the Dreamforce app, or on Twitter or LinkedIn. There is a great opportunity to network.  Apart from the gala there are loads of parties – and they often fill up quickly – so pick the ones you want to attend and register.

 

 

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Make Every Sales Call Matter

So here’s the thing.  There are really only two things that a salesperson controls; (1) who they call on, and (2) what they say when they get there. Ideally a seller is spending as much time preparing for and executing on the ‘what’ as he is deciding on the ‘who’. After all, no matter how well you have refined your target market, figured out the ideal buyer persona, and sharpened your competitive positioning, nothing happens until you engage with the customer.

But the research shows that very few of these engagements are planned.  It is all too rare that a sales person has a detailed plan of what he wants to achieve on the call. What are the desired outcomes? Why might you fail? In the absence of a Call Plan many sales interactions leave a lot to be desired. In fact, 64% of all sales calls are ineffective.

Making every sales call matter – matters. This is where the magic is supposed to happen. It is the salesperson’s opportunity to progress the sale, to deepen relationships and to uncover and address vulnerabilities in the deal. It is his opportunity to show that he is a credible individual who can bring his own insight to the conversation, and create – not just communicate – value, all the time advancing the deal.

Unfortunately, most of the time, there is no value created by the salesperson. Only 25% of senior business executives are prepared to take a second meeting. Two-thirds of the time business executives are turned off by the lack of preparation by the sales person. They say that they don’t find a lot of value in sales conversations. We should not find it surprising that business executives who are being pursued by sales people play hard to get, using their executive assistants to screen callers, interrupt meetings, or delegating the entire interaction to a subordinate.

The harsh truth is that most sellers are not adequately prepared for sales calls. The consequences go further than you might think. If you waste an executive’s time – the most precious currency she has – your stock has fallen. The likelihood of progressing the sale has been damaged. Your value is questioned.  Any business you win will be on price alone. Research suggests that the purchase experience is the most significant arbiter of customer loyalty.  Now your customer loyalty is damaged even before you start.  You have a steep hill to climb if you ever want to use this executive to refer you to her colleagues.  You have just wasted her time – so why would she subject her treasured relationships to an ineffective sales call?

After every meeting, you always want the customer to feel that the meeting was a good use of her time, that she got more from the meeting than she expected.  Satisfaction or quality is always a function of expectation and performance.  If you don’t perform to the customer’s expectations then she will be disappointed, and that’s not good. You, your colleagues, and the customer, should all be clear as to the customer’s expectation of the call. That’s a good place to start.  Here’s a short video that might paint a picture.

Making every sales call matter – matters.

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Helping the Front-Line Sales Manager – It’s All about Rhythm

About once every six months I have the privilege of hosting some of our customers at our Customer Advisory Board meeting.  At these meetings we always learn a lot about how Dealmaker is being used to drive sales performance.  I am just back from San Francisco where we had gathered together a group of sales leaders to discuss our future plans and to get their input on how we can serve them better.

One of the topics we frequently discuss is the critical role of the front-line sales manager.  It is well understood that this important link in an organization’s sales ecosystem is a high-pressure role, but one that can be highly impactful when leveraged.  To help frame the discussion we had crafted a framework for the rhythm of a sales manager’s business.  The people in the room thought that this was helpful, so I thought I would share it with you.

(If you are interested in this topic we are hosting a Front-line Sales Manager webinar on Tuesday, February 25 with two of our customers; Salesforce.com and Shaw Industries. You can register here.)

One of the key observations is that effective sales managers can balance short-term current revenue activities (represented by your current forecast), with the future business pursuits (represented by your pipeline).  We endeavor to support both of these tasks with our Dealmaker Sales Performance Insight product, so we do have a vested interest in fully understanding the dynamics and efficacy of these competing motions.

temp-fcast-pipe

When most sales managers wake up every day they are concerned about the deals on the table right now.  Good sales managers triage the opportunities focusing where they can win and applying resources accordingly.  But at the same time they struggle with how to coach their teams, strategize future initiatives, ensure their teams are effectively enabled, worry about success at their existing accounts, hire and on-board new reps, performance-manage those existing reps who need help, liaise with marketing to help fill the funnel, and feed the corporate machine.

 

temp-cadence

 

………..

The chart here is a sample approach that you might consider.  The first column generally represents hygiene-factor activities but need to stay on the list.  Column 2 includes the most high-yield activities and as you move left to right you want to stay focused in the middle of the chart.  The last column is a necessary evil and can be almost completely off-loaded to technology. Spending time here adds no value to your business.

Our experience would suggest that if you can develop a rhythm in the business, balancing the important with the urgent, you will be more successful, particularly if you can off-load the management of the machine to someone else and leverage technology to automate as much of the reporting as is practical.

I am concerned about the current trends towards unguided use of analytics to ‘help’ the sales manager, and I have written about that before.  The experience of successful practitioners would suggest that sales domain expertise embedded in a structured business rhythm removes much of the friction.

 

 

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Unpacking Sales Velocity

When Henry called me yesterday he asked a really interesting question. ”Why is it”, he said, “that everyone feels that the start of the year is the only time that they should look to build their pipeline?”

Henry works for a software UX design company that we partner with. His company plays a huge role in designing Dealmaker to be really, really, easy to use.  They do spectacular work. If you are a Dealmaker user you will know what I mean.

Henry’s question was prompted by the fact that over the last month (i.e. since the start of the year) his company has been inundated with requests from customers looking for his help.  They want him to design new websites, upgrade the UI of their applications, and design new marketing campaigns to attract new sales opportunities.

What’s really great about Henry is that over the time that we have been working together he has assimilated much of the sales methodology that we embed in Dealmaker and has immersed himself in the personas of the sales person and sales manager.

His follow up question was “Anyway, why is it that they are fixated on pipeline, adding more and more deals that they then don’t qualify properly or follow a proper sales process?  Shouldn’t they be thinking about each of the four Sales Velocity levers?”  I have to tell you, I just sat back and chuckled to myself.  I just love the fact that in the process of getting to understand the very best UX for Dealmaker, Henry now automatically thinks about the things that we all want our sellers to think about every day.

I have written about the Sales Velocity Equation before.  At its heart it says that there are really only four levers that you can pull to impact how much you sell in a given timeframe.  These are (i) the number of deals, (ii) the average deal value, (iii) the win rate, and (iv) the sales cycle.  When you take this to heart, you can see that it is not all about more leads, more calls, or even more opportunities.  Some times it is about increasing your average deal size by understanding the value of what you can provide in context of the customer’s business problem. When mapping your sales process to the customer’s buying process you can often take some control of the sales cycle.  Win rates generally increase when you bring insights to the customer that lead to your UBV (Unique Business Value).

Each of the levers impact how much you sell, and you should care about each of them equally.

If I get time over the next week or so I will write about how you can increase how much you sell by working with each of the four Sales Velocity levers, but for now I will just point you at this Slideshare that unpacks Sales Velocity for you a little bit.

Sales Velocity Equation

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7 Principles for Successful Sales Leadership

One of the perks of my job is the interaction I am privileged to have with so many great sales leaders. During the beta phase for a new solution we just launched (to help sales managers understand the potential vulnerabilities in the sales performance of their teams), I had more intensive interaction than usual with a number of sales leaders.  Going beyond the challenges of the front-line sales manager, which is really the problem that Dealmaker Sales Performance Insight helps with, I was struck by some common principles that seem to be consistently applied by those sales leaders who are at the top of their game.  Here is my synthesis of those conversations.

1.    Lead with Purpose:  Your team cares less about what you are telling them to do, but more about why you are asking them to do it. With a shared understanding of where you are headed together, you can more easily collaborate and communicate.  If you can articulate a higher purpose than just hitting the targets – they know they have to do that without you telling them – they will understand the ‘why’ you are taking the direction you are taking, and that is always more powerful than the ‘what’.  When ‘why’ is understood, the team has a better chance of figuring out the ‘how’.

2.    Set High Standards – Hold Everyone Accountable:  Inspire your team to execute to the best of their ability – every time. Every single internal and external interaction matters.  It reflects on your values if you let poor practices develop without instant intervention. Slow response to a customer, casual email communication, bad manners to internal colleagues, poor quality proposals to customers, or arriving late or unprepared to a meeting, all let you (and the whole team) down.

3.    Write the Plays – and then Play them Right: Sales strategy is relatively easy. Constant execution and sales discipline is harder, and separate the great from the mediocre.  From business development through follow-up after the sale, the overall sales process (or go-to-market strategy) will contain milestones, trigger points, best practices, disciplines, and specific recommended tactics. Writes the plays, and then ensure that they are rigorously adopted, every day.

4.    Be the Role Model: As a sales leader you will undoubtedly have other things on your plate distracting from your core task. De-prioritize these time thieves.  Spend your time on exhibiting to your team how you are holding yourself accountable to the high standards that you have set.  Lead from the front. Execute your plays. Remember, you are in charge.

5.    Be Prepared to Rebuild: If you don’t have the team you need, you must be prepared to re-build. Always be recruiting and building a bench. Just like nurturing prospects for future business, the sales people that you want to hire are probably not immediately available the first time you connect with them. Start the conversation early.

6.    Prepare to Win: Winning doesn’t happen by accident. It usually happens when you are better prepared than your competitor.  Methodology helps, but systematic planning will equip you to deal with situations that arise without warning.  Deal reviews, account plans, sales process refinement, smart sales software, are tools you might use. Once the game starts they are usually on their own and it is then too late to help your team.  You need to prepare them in advance to win.

7.    Embrace Change Methodically:  The business world continues to evolve. Buyers change. New competitors emerge. Economic stability fluctuates.  Responding to change is never easy – particularly when things are already going well. When things are going badly you might feel the need to press the restart button. In either case you must accept two constants; (1) you need to make this quarter’s number working with what you have today and (2) what you have today will need to change just in time to serve your needs tomorrow.

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Surprise Your Customer

Flying from Ireland to San Francisco on the way to Dreamforce 2013, I was thinking about a session I was going to deliver. It was important. It was the first of 10 sessions we were involved in at Dreamforce and I wanted to kick it off well.  It was also the first public showing of our new Dealmaker Sales Performance Insight solution, so I felt the pressure of a product launch.  The session had been over-subscribed to the extent that it had to be moved to a larger venue, and still it sold out. No pressure.

The plan was that Joe Ryan, the session host, and product manager at Salesforce’s Work.com business, was going to talk about Work.com and the capability for partners (like The TAS Group, Xactly, Hirevue and others) to extend Work.com and the Salesforce Chatter profile in general.

That’s where I come in.

Joe would intro me “And now I’d like to introduce Donal Daly, CEO of the TAS Group, ….“, and I would come on go … “Hi, I’m Donal Daly with The TAS Group” (the audience knew that already – a waste of 5 seconds), “and The TAS Group’s unique combination of sales methodology and smart software has been helping companies like HP, Salesforce, Autodesk to grow revenue by …” (are you yawning yet? Seriously, I want to know).  Zzzzzz.

So, as I thought about this, somewhere over Greenland, I thought to myself, “You know that is not the way to do this.” This is an audience that will sit through hours and hours of sessions at Dreamforce – hopefully many of them ours – and they don’t need the standard “Hi, I’m Fred from XYZ,  we leverage the power of the blah, blah ….”.

So, as British Airways 285 left the coast of Greenland and continued on towards the east coast of Canada, I challenged myself to come up with a whole new intro; one that described our unique value in a way that the audience would remember amidst all of the noise at Dreamforce, and then I remembered a conversation that I had with one of our customers just a few days earlier.

No surprises“, Rob said. “What I love about what Dealmaker does is that it means we have no surprises; Surprise wins, surprise losses, surprise competitors, surprise price pressure, surprises in the forecast, surprises in the pipeline.  They are all bad and a waste of time. Now, because we plan better, and bring more value to our customers, and Dealmaker keeps us on track, we don’t get caught off-guard as much, and that’s why the revenue is up.”

Surprises. We help our customers avoid sales surprises.

The best way to prevent a surprise is to create one, and the best way to create a surprise in sales is to bring uncommon value to your customer.  We try to do that for our customers and help our customers do that for theirs.

So, go ahead. Surprise your customer.

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10 Rules for Great Sales Coaching

Over the last number of years I have given a lot of thought to Sales Performance Management.  I think that most experienced practitioners and observers recognize that the front-line sales manager is the key to scaling sales performance. But it is a really hard job. And if sales managers are in fact the linch-pin of the sales organization, then when sales management fails, sales fails. Bouncing from task to task, managing up, out and wide, getting to the important tasks often suffers under the pressure of the urgent. One of the important tasks that get relegated to the ‘I-know-I-should-do-it-but-I-just-can’t-get-to-it’ bucket is sales coaching. I thought that I would share some thoughts here on how you might make what every coaching time that you have most effective.

But first, some facts:

  • According to SEC/CEB, Coaching can improve sales productivity by 88%
  • Per Gallup, when sales coaching is effectively deployed, customer loyalty increases by 56%.
  • This is not surprising given that in a recent report from CEB, 53% of customers see the ‘Purchase Experience’ as the primary driver of customer loyalty.
  • Sales Management Association conducted a study looking at issues that are “important to sales force success” and examined the resource that was applied to those initiatives.  Sales Coaching stands alone, as being recognized as being important but not getting the attention it deserves.
  • According to a separate Sales Management Association study, most sales managers are spending less than 5% of their time on sales coaching. Perhaps given all of the time they are spending on all of the other activity, perhaps this is not a surprise.  But it is still worrisome.

We looked at why Sales Managers don’t coach, and saw a combination of (1) the lack of time, and (2) uncertainty about what to look for as two of the major obstacles.  As you would probably expect from me – I believe that technology and smart automation has a huge role to play in resolving both of these issues to empower the sales manager to (a) understand the vulnerabilities in his/her team and (b) provide coaching to help the team members improve.  (Disclosure: This is precisely what we do with Dealmaker Sales Performance Insight.)

But it is worth stepping back to consider what good coaching looks like:

Here are my 10 Rules for Great Sales Coaching

(I want to thank all of the experienced practitioners who contributed/validated/improved my work in creating a list and then reducing it to a manageable number of just 10!)

 

1. Collaborative:  collaborative

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Coaching should be a joint process. It is not about the manager telling the sales person what to do.  It must be viewed as connected to a shared positive purpose, with agreed expectations and suggested preparation.  You may jointly want to progress a deal, learn from a loss, or review strategy – but the emphasis needs to be on jointly – it must be a two-way flow.

2. Regular Cadence:cadence

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Coaching should be embedded in how you manage your sales business. If centered around deal reviews, assessment of account plans, discussing a sales process, coaching should not be viewed as an event.  Regular, scheduled coaching sessions will develop a consciousness and familiarity with the process that will grease the wheels and make each coaching session less challenging and more productive.

3. Consistent Framework:  framework

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Consider, for example, a Deal Review.  You should create a consistent framework that the sales team is familiar with.  You might start with an overview of the deal, allow for clarification questions, identify risks and vulnerabilities and then brainstorm solutions and strategy.  Do it the same way every time and it will flow more easily.

4. Apply Buyer’s View:buyer

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In truth there is only one perspective that really matters, and that is what the customer thinks.  Remember that the impact on a customer of a bad buying decision is typically greater than the impact on a sales person of a lost deal.  So the sales manager, or others in the coaching session, should take the perspective of the buyer. Honestly answer the question: “If I was the customer, would I buy from us?”  It’s a great lens to use to focus your thinking on what the customer cares about.

5. Look for Evidence:  evidence

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Always look for evidence.  When presented with comments like “Joe Smith really likes us,” or “We have strong compelling event,” you should always respond with questions like “How do we know?”  Be clear about the evidence of customer action that helps support those assertions.

6. Elicit Critical Thinking:thinking

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The role of the coach is to elicit critical thinking from the sales person.  Start with “If we were to lose the deal, or fail in this account, what would be the top three reasons?”  Then, when these risks have been identified, allow the sales person to come up with their own answers.  This critical thinking is a muscle that can be developed with progress.

7. Praise Good Insight:  good-insight

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People respond to praise – particularly in front of their peers.  If you don’t acknowledge or recognize valuable contribution, you are less likely to get that same contribution again.  You audience will think either that you don’t get the value – or think that you are too important (in your own mind) to respect their opinions.

8. Be Objective & Curious:  curious

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As Albert Einstein said, “Never stop questioning.”  Remove any bias that you have about account, the opportunity or the sales person.  Remain objective and seek the truth that will serve you all.

9. Don’t Take Over:  no-control

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It is not your job to close the deal, be too prescriptive on strategy or directive on the next action.  Don’t feel that you are the only one who can call the customer, or do the research, or plan the account.  You are trying to develop new behaviors and that only happens with practice.  Don’t take over.

10. Document Actions:document

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If the coaching session was worth doing, then it is worth recording what happened, the insights you learned, and the actions that were agreed, and then follow up.

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Why LinkedIn is losing its value to me

I don’t know about you, but I am a little frustrated with LinkedIn lately.  Every single day now I am getting multiple generic “I’d like to connect with you on LinkedIn” messages.  Most of these are coming from people I do not know, and as they are mostly generic, I have to assume that the senders are not really interested in making a connection – but simply are building up the contacts they have. That does not make any sense to me. In fact, I think it dilutes the value of their real network. Our Dealmaker Index Global Sales Benchmark Study would suggest that there is little correlation between the number of contacts someone has on LinkedIn and their revenue achievement.  The value is in how you build connections, not how you accumulate contacts.

I am a huge fan of social networks and have personally built relationships and won business directly as a result of our social media activity.  We have even built LinkedIn and Twitter integration directly into our Political Map Express and Dealmaker Smart Opportunity Manager products to make it easier for our customers to leverage their social networks.

At The TAS Group our core philosophy has been to shape thinking, cultivate customers and earn permission to engage. We try to follow 4 key principles:

1. The Social Universe is a great place to listen and learn

2. You Should Give Value First and Expect Nothing in Return

3. You Must Be Authentic, Be Prepared to Fail, and Don’t Give Up

4. It is advisable to be Open, Collaborate, and Co-Create – Let Others Play in the Community

The recent trend towards accumulating contacts seems to fly in the face of that. If those who you link with have a massive network, but you are not really connected to them, then it dilutes the value of your network, as they keep popping up as the link, and that sometimes gets in the way of people who you really now, and who might really help. Perhaps LinkedIn’s recent practice of continuously suggesting new people to connect with is partly to blame for this. It may well the case that LinkedIn has a different agenda – will we see them entering the CRM market with a ‘contacts-already-supplied’ strategy, who knows? – but as a social network to build connections it is losing its value, IMO.’

This was really brought home to me when a female colleague of mine received the worst kind of message.  It went like this …

Subject: Hello
How are you? I hope it has been a productive week for you..
I know the idea of using LinkedIn for an online dating websites purpose is weird. I don’t do this all the time. But i was captivated by your profile picture. I don’t how recent the picture is,but you caught my attention and you look very beautiful.We belong to the same group (Sales / Marketing Executives (CSO/CMO)).
However,I’d love to get to you know you if you’re single and available to date. We could get to know each other and meet for lunch,dinner or a cup of coffee whenever we are both comfortable to meet and depending on your schedule.
What do you think?

linkedin-message600

Really?

Is this really what LinkedIn has come to?

I seem to remember that, in the past on LinkedIn, you used to have to identify how you knew the person before you invited them to connect.  I, for one, would like to see that – or some other threshold of relationship – reinstated.

Otherwise the spam-factor will just increase and we will have to look at alternative solutions, and that would be a shame.

And yes, I will post this on LinkedIn, and see if there is any response.  If you care about this, please share.
 

 

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