Sales processes are fantastic guidelines to ensure that you are doing the proper things to be successful in your sales career. However, it is important to pay attention to the customer and make on-the-fly modifications to your process as the situation changes. As an example, the other day we had a consultation for some work to be completed around our house, and it was a very uncomfortable process. The sales rep was a 30-year industry professional that at some point in time made the switch to sales… It was clear during this consultation that this rep was using the Sandler Sales Process, taking me down the Sandler Pain Funnel. He was following the process to a tee, which wasn’t the problem. The problem was that he was so focused on the process and the questions within the process, he forgot the most critical item in sales or any customer-facing role: listening. While he was asking questions, he would look to his notebook and scribble notes as I was answering them. But, it became apparent that although he was taking notes, he wasn’t really listening. Instead, he was focusing on the next question in the process. As a result, we found ourselves giving him the exact same information multiple times—information that was shared as part of an answer to a previous question. This grew frustrating overtime because it didn’t just happen once or twice; it got to a point where we were repeating ourselves after every other question.
Every time we read a new article on increasing sales from sales coaches, consultants, or the media, we see them hyping up social selling. This is a great suggestion, as we couldn’t agree more. Why? Because social selling does lead to an increase in sales. Here is the problem: a majority of sales reps and leadership have no clue what social selling really is or how to properly employ social selling tactics. Furthermore, most organizations as a whole have no clue how to sell socially or provide any real training around the topic. So, while everyone is hyping social selling, there is little about how to actually socially sell. In this article, we plan on reviewing Social Selling 101 techniques.
The first thing to understand when it comes to social selling or social media is that this stuff does not happen overnight. Social media is a process that takes time in order to develop a true online presence and impact revenue. We point this out because even at the executive level, we find that social media at its core is not properly understood. This leads to people being quickly discouraged when they do not see immediate results. Social media is an intangible marketing channel as it takes time to build up an online presence, and those results are not as directly trackable as traditional lead generation campaigns. Like TV or magazine advertising for example, it is understood that the ad is making an impression, and that those impressions lead to sales. Unfortunately, it is next to impossible to track which specific ad led to which specific sale. There are tools that can be used for social media that will make tracking of social campaigns easier, but that’s for another article.
How does social selling work? Traditionally, the only way to educate prospects or clients is to be in direct communication with them via phone, email, or face-to-face meetings. Social media breaks into a new dimension of indirect selling. When social media is done properly, it becomes a new channel to educate your prospects about you, your company, products, success stories, and the industry at their own pace. Essentially, it is a new channel for brand education and impressions, which eventually leads to more educated and confident buyers. Another aspect is that people buy from people. Again, you only traditionally interact with your prospects and clients in a very limited window of time, which does not give them time to really get to know you. Social media gives them more exposure to you as a person, and overtime, it helps them become more comfortable with who you really are and builds up a trusted advisor status. It’s all about breaking down the traditional selling barriers.
With all of that said, here are a few tips to get you started:
Choose Social Channels – The first thing to figure out is which channels should be included in your strategy. LinkedIn and Twitter are pretty much a given for most professionals, but then there is Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest. In reality, if your business is heavy B2B, it is best to stick with LinkedIn and avoid the others. If your business is heavily consumer-focused, I’d put more emphasis on channels like Facebook, Instagram, and others. The key is to put yourself into the seat of your consumer to figure out what channels they may be using.
Set Up Social Accounts – This should sound basic, but as a next step, set up social accounts across the different channels you picked. Ensure that usernames are either your real name, a similar variation of your name, or something related to the industry. They need to be professional and convey exactly who you are. Also, this is the time to pick a profile picture that is actually you and a bio that makes sense. Again, people buy from people, so you want your community to know who you are professionally.
Start Following – Avoid following random people that have nothing to do with your industry. Start by focusing on people that are key influencers in the space, competitors, industry news outlets, your account base, and people within your accounts. People buy from people, and the more connected you can be with your industry, prospects, and accounts, the more familiar they become with “you” as a person. The key thing to remember is that this is not a onetime activity. Personally, every time I meet someone new, they get a LinkedIn and Twitter follow request. This is where the time aspect comes into play; you will start out with zero followers, and it will take a while to build up more followers.
Start Sharing – The second step to becoming social is to actually share content… This is also where the rubber meets the road when it comes to “social selling”. The first thing to note when it comes to sharing content is that under no circumstances should you directly message prospect sales pitches, or really anything; this tactic does not work (it pisses people off more than anything). Sharing content on social media should be educational; typically, we recommend sharing content, such as case studies, press releases, marketing content, trade articles, industry news, and other material such as that. The shelf life of a social post is usually minutes within certain channels—once you share content, after some time has passed, the likelihood someone will see it drops significantly. With that in mind, you want to continuously share content. We typically recommend sharing a minimum of 3 – 6 pieces of information a day.
Start Communicating – The third step to social selling is interacting with your connections. This does not mean sending a LinkedIn, Facebook, or Twitter sales message (as mentioned earlier, this does not work). Instead, read the various feeds to see what your community is sharing. If you see something interesting, Like, Share, or Comment on it. Another option is if you see some news on one of your accounts and/or contacts, you can mention them when you post content. Again, people buy from people, and this just helps bring in the human element back into the picture. There are tools available, such as HooteSuite or TweetDeck, that are free and can help with the monitoring aspect.
Recruit New Departments – Social selling is not limited to just the sales team—get other teams involved too. The companies that do it right have executive leadership, marketing, product, and other teams involved as well.
The key with social selling is to actually be social and educational without being a typical sales person. Also, it’s important to note again that social media takes time, and results are not seen overnight. Furthermore, social media is not a one-and-done event. The main mistake we see all too often is someone setting up their various profiles and walking away thinking people will magically come to them. Instead, dedicate a few minutes a day to social media; it truly doesn’t take much more effort than that. There are a few organizational examples to check out, such as @Drift and @HubSpot. They have some of the most socially-minded employees out there, and much can be learned from their use of social media.
One additional note: there is a byproduct of becoming social. It is that you begin to build your own personal brand in the market. The more information you share, the more people will take note. Future employers may take note on how influential you’ve become. Your community also becomes an additional asset that can come into play regarding how valuable a company may believe you are. Plus, social media is not easy, so it shows that you know how to put in effort.
Good luck and message us with any questions and/or tips!
Most CRM systems these days such as: Salesfore.com, Zoho, SugarCRM, Infusionsoft, and HubSpot are highly customizable, yet, even at their bases, they have enough capability to have significant impact on your business and efficiencies within it. In spite of this, you wouldn’t believe how many small businesses still run their firms with a piece of paper or Excel spreadsheet! What is even more unbelievable is that most small businesses have some type of CRM within their organization, but it sits to the side like some leftover desktop computer from the 90’s collecting dust. When used properly, CRMs can be one of the most useful and time saving tools within your business. In this article, we will cover how a CRM can be used to optimize your small business, and we’ll cover one of the most challenging topics when it comes to CRM in any organization—usage.
While CRM implies a tool for the sales team, when properly implemented, a CRM can be used as a single point of reference throughout the organization. However, at its base, a CRM is only as effective as how it’s being used and the data quality inputted. When it comes to CRMs, the expression that I like to refer to the most is “garbage in, garbage out,” and a CRM is pretty much useless without the various teams using it properly. Before we get into the mechanics and usefulness of a CRM, we need to first talk about usage.
When it comes to CRM implementation, especially when first being implemented into an organization, usage is typically the biggest hurdle. Most people see it as an additional step to their already busy and packed daily schedules as they are not aware of the downstream effects of a system like a CRM. The first step to usage is to implement a system that measures the team utilizing the reporting capabilities of the system and keeping the mindset of “what gets measured, gets done”. This means that essentially every team connected to the CRM needs to have some type of measurement: sales – pipeline and connections, marketing – lead counts, customer service – call resolution count, etc.
However, it doesn’t stop there; management needs to adapt a policy of then tracking these metrics on a consistent basis and using them for corporate reporting & meetings (not Excel Spreadsheets). Too many times, we see leadership defaulting to Excel spreadsheets, emails, or a piece of paper for tracking details, and this will frustrate employees. The question of why take the time to input information into a system that is not even being used by management always gets asked. Furthermore, another fix to ensure usage of a CRM is to directly tie compensation to stats and usage. As an example, no sales rep should ever receive commission if an opportunity is not in the system and doesn’t have proper documentation. Similarly, if your Customer Service team has a call resolution quota attached to their bonus, this information should be pulled via the CRM and not by other methods like Excel. At the end of the day, to ensure proper CRM usage throughout the organization, it truly does need a top down approach reflecting on the actions of management in what gets measured, gets done. As a tip, we have a habit of pulling up our CRM reporting in meetings and forcing the team to talk to their stats based on the reporting in the system.
As mentioned earlier, CRM is not just for sales. A properly implemented CRM can be incorporated throughout an organization making it a single point of reference for the organizations and improving efficiencies across the board. Remember, at its base, CRM is not meant for “oversight”, it’s just a byproduct of proper usage. Below we’ll review some of the departments and use cases for proper CRM implementation.
The sales department is clearly the best use case for a CRM; however, to ensure you are getting the most out of the system, do not limit usage to just sales opportunities or contacts. Sales should be using their CRM as the sole system of record and ensuring that they are transcribing all conversations, connections, and actions in the system. This will allow sales to ensure that they have a working knowledge of all their activities within each account—and most important of all, a proper pipeline. With so many conversations happening within a sales person’s day, it is fairly easy to forget conversations that happen earlier in the morning or throughout the week. With proper usage, they can use a CRM as that system of record, which allows them to keep tabs on past conversations and actions needed. Furthermore, as other departments interact with these same accounts, the sales notes become equally important to understanding the history of an account.
Marketing has changed over the years from being completely independent from sales, tending now to being fully integrated with sales, and in some cases, having the same leadership teams. Years ago, Sales had their CRM, and Marketing had their Marketing Automation Platform where they were two completely separate systems. However, as an example with Salesforce’s purchase of Pardot, marketing capabilities are now being built directly into CRMs. Especially with small businesses, this means that there is no need to purchase expensive marketing automation software anymore. This integration also allows sales to have a complete view of prospect and account activities leading to more efficient sales cycles.
Customer Service / Tech Support
Most organizations look to deploy separate systems for these departments, which might work for larger enterprise type organizations, but in small businesses, it is a key mistake. Small Businesses should look to take advantage of their existing CRM which may already have these capabilities out of the box. As an example, Saleforce.com has “Cases”, a complete section built out of the box for Customer Service or Tech Support. A few key advantages of using your CRM for these teams starts at simplicity, where there is no need to duplicate information across multiple systems. Not having to purchase a separate system keeps software and software management costs down as well. However, another advantage is that these teams now have access to critical sales notes to understand more about the history of an account. This leads to faster and higher quality closed calls ratios, as well as an overall better customer experience. Also, as sales is interacting with these notes, it gives them the ability to see call history which also leads to better customer experience from a sales perspective.
Most likely, one of the most overlooked departments from a CRM perspective is Product Development. However, companies like HubSpot have fully integrated their product teams into their CRM. Why? It’s simple: within their CRM, they actively track each and every customer’s usage and apply a score to that usage. This score can then measure how active or inactive each client is; this allows for sales and support teams to take actionable steps within each account to improve customer experience as it relates to their software. The overall effect is more customer usage and happier customers. There is also another byproduct; this view gives HubSpot’s entire product team access to usage data allowing them to pivot and make changes within the software. Although this information can be pulled from the software itself, the benefit of having it tied to the CRM is that they can have visibility into the specific accounts and history, giving them a more holistic view.
Finance is another overlooked department for CRM usage. Typically, like Customer Services and Support, organizations will deploy additional financial software. However, within a Small Business, it is not necessary. Although most out-of-the-box CRMs are not built for the financial department, small customization or plugins can offer solutions. For example, FinancialForce will give most financial teams the full capabilities needed in order to do their jobs. Again, this leads to a single system of record and decreased software cost.
Executive & Leadership
Executives are hit and miss when it comes to CRM usage, however, most are unfortunately a miss. Typically, you’ll find CEOs and Leadership running around at the end of the quarter with a piece of paper or some type of Excel spreadsheet looking for “real time” updates from their teams on opportunities to close or other stats. However, with a properly motivated team, a CRM can be updated in real time along with reporting functionality displaying real time updates directly to the CRM. Some areas included, but not limited to, are total pipeline, pipeline age, average close time, average deal size, average collections outstanding, call resolution times, etc. Many executives believe there is a need for an expensive EPM system in order to obtain cross-organizational insight, however with a properly set up CRM, a Small Business can get all this information and more in one spot.
Again, it is staggering the amount of businesses that do not have a CRM, and the ones that do barely scratch the surface of functionality. With a small amount of customization, a CRM can become an extremely powerful tool to optimize the performance of a business and get everyone on the same page. Most importantly, remember that “what gets measured, gets done”; your CRM should not be a set-and-forget system. Finally, management, once your system is set up, drop the Excel spreadsheets!
Beats by Dre is arguably one of the most successful marketing stories in recent history. Sure, Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine are very successful businessmen and music producers, but what really made the sale to Apple was their success in how they marketed the headphone company to the consumer market.
At the end of the day, Beats by Dre are nothing more than an estimated $16.89 pair of weighted headphones that Apple paid an estimated $3 Billion to acquire. How Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine made it to this point was nothing more than marketing genius. Founded in 2006, Beats became a household brand in a matter of months as a result of a marketing plan pushed by the duo. As Beats were just hitting the market, both Dre and Iovine worked closely with well-known music artists to ensure they were seen with the headphones by public eyes as detailed in their latest biography, The Defiant Ones. In short order, Beats made their way into music videos, artist social media accounts, and photo shoots, amongst other places. The pair then set their targets on professional athletes within the NFL, NBA, and other professional sports; this made Beats visible to a whole new market with major sports athletes now wearing Beats daily on national TV for tens of millions to see. The widespread use of Beats within the music and sports industries quickly skyrocketed the little-known venture into the national spotlight, and in 2012 Beats made their way into the global spotlight with Olympic athletes. The visibility with music artists and athletes alike made Beats a household name and at the top of every teenager’s wish list.
However, the marketing genius of Beats didn’t stop with celebrity endorsements. The design of the headphones themselves were straight out of a “how to” marketing playbook, starting with the iconic “b” logo on the side of each headphone. This simple but unique logo made Beats stand out, not only when celebrities would wear them, but when your everyday consumer would wear them as well. When someone was wearing Beats, there was no missing it. With brand recognition as a major influencer in today’s consumer market, the simple little “b” was integral to getting the brand the visibly it has today.
Beyond the logo, the headphones themselves were all about the design as opposed to one of their main competitors, Bose. When sitting a pair of Beats headphones next to a pair of Bose headphones, the differences were clear. Bose’s simple matte black finish with a chrome logo contrasted with Beats’ multitudinous array of glossy colors that not only stuck out in a crowd, but allowed individuals to personalize by picking their favorite color. As Steve Jobs did with the induction of the iMac, the duo did the same with Beats; personalization was a game changer for the high-end headphone market and everyone wanted it.
Finally, the pair didn’t stop at celebrity endorsements, a simple yet clever logo, and a look that everyone wanted, they also made a product that “felt” like quality. Part of the design included heavy metal components (that some say equates to about one-third of the total weight) giving the product a heavier and more expensive look and feel. With most consumer products, lighter tends to have a cheaper feel, whereas something heavier tends to lead to thoughts of higher quality. As an example, car companies spend millions of dollars to get the feel and sound of a closing door right because consumers want a product that feels quality.
Overall, the quality of the sound has been considered “decent,” not great, when compared to other competitors, but that’s not why Apple paid $3 Billion for the brand. The partnership between Dre and Iovine led to a brand that quickly became a household name with a significant fan base and sales numbers to back it up showing no signs of slowing down. The key to the story of Beats by Dre is that marketing should play a significant role in product design and everyday product strategy. In the social day and age that we live in today, having a great product is just not enough anymore—it needs to look and feel the part.
They all offer up their services for free either as a free trial or as a free service alternative to their premium paid service; they rely heavily on their free services to drive revenue for their organizations. Most of these organizations even used a free version of their services as a launching pad for the business. Case in point, there was a time when you could not buy a DVD player without getting a free 30 day trial Netflix coupon inside the box. At this point, Netflix did not have the name recognition they currently have, and it was their free trial that truly helped them become the household name they are today.
If you run either a software or a services based organization, it is in your best interest to establish a free trial or a free version of your service. Not too long ago, I made this recommendation to an organization. Their CEO’s instant reaction was, “No, offering free trials will give people the ability to sign up for the trial and download our entire library. As a result, they will have all our content for free, and no one will pay for our service”. Sure, that was a valid statement as some people will sign up for a trial, use it for all its worth, and never become a paying customer. However, the first thing we say to that is when it comes to free trials, there will be some people that will take advantage of the free trial and never become a paid customer. At the end of the day, these people will never become a paying customer, regardless of the free trial’s availability. A free trial of a software or service must have a delicate balance between showcasing enough of your solution to allow a buyer “to want” to become a paying customer, and not giving away too much for free. When it comes to free trials, there are a few stopgaps that should be put into place to ensure you’re providing enough value, but not letting people take advantage of your service. In this article, I’ll review some of the basic steps your organization can put into place to launch a successful free version of your solution.
- Time Limits: Most services offer a 7 or 30-day trial. Choose what is best for your organization; 7 days may not be enough, but 30 could be too much.
- Qualification: Some free trials do not need much qualification beyond an e-mail address. However, if you believe your service is valuable enough, set up a qualification process where a prospect must be qualified by an actual person on your team before being allowed into the trial.
- Limits & Gates: Do not offer up everything for free. Allow a prospect enough access to your solution to see the value, but limit access to premium items. This gives them more of a reason to purchase a solution. However, do not limit the trial to an extent that no value can be extracted.
- Cut-offs: Repeat offenders should be cut off when trying to sign up for another trial.
- Training & Communication: Many organizations fall short on training and communication. Assuming that the prospect knows exactly how to use your service is a surefire way to have an unsuccessful trial. Ensure that you offer training, guidance, and other communications with your prospects throughout the process as many prospects will abandon a trial when they are lost or not seeing the value they were expecting.
A free trial, although simple in nature and can generate customers on its own, must also have some structure in order to generate the highest numbers of conversions to paying customers. Here are a few things that you should look at when deploying a free trial.
- Trial Tracking: Whether it’s a piece of software or a service, it’s important to understand exactly how prospects are utilizing a free trial. Tracking trial usage can provide valuable insights to where prospects are getting hung up, tools that are used most often, and other actions that will help you understand the overall experience prospects are having. Armed with this information, your sales team can build a tighter bond with your prospects giving them actionable insight to progress successfully through the trial. Also, the data collected can be invaluable for improving your solution in future revisions.
- Training & Consulting: As mentioned above, do not assume that your prospect has the best understanding of your solution, or even the best use case. There should be several methods of communication, training, and assistance throughout the trial process. This will allow your prospect to extract the maximum value from a trial increasing the likelihood they will purchase.
- Customer Contact: Ensure that there is always an easy path for your prospects to reach technical support, sales, or any other relevant department whenever they have troubles, questions, or just want to learn more. Responsiveness is key in this situation, as your prospect can be evaluating other solutions at the same time.
- Ease of use: You would not believe how many free trials are out on the market today where you need a Doctorate in Astrophysics in order to figure them out. Prospects have extremely short attention spans and if they cannot figure out how to use your service in a few short minutes, they will most likely abandon your trial.
- Marketing: Many originations will hide their trial or make it extremely difficult to sign up. Instead, like the organizations mentioned earlier, put it front and center. Again, trials convert to paid customers at an exponentially higher rate than most lead generation sources.
Adding a free trial to a portfolio is not enough; take the time to think about how your trial is set up and executed for maximum benefit. Properly executed trials will increase an organization’s lead to customer ratio, shorten sales cycles, and ultimately lead to increased revenue. In conclusion, do not be afraid of the prospects that use your trial and never purchase—they were never going to buy in the first place. Instead, focus on the prospects that show genuine interest in your solution!
One of the biggest mistakes organizations make today is not having a “real” account management plan in place. Whether it is at the executive, marketing, or sales rep level, we’ve uncovered that once you peel back the layers of the onion, you find the strategy is nothing more than a bunch of names on a napkin defining a territory. Most organizations will define that account territory based on a list of accounts that match what “they sell,” starting with the largest or most recognizable accounts, and in some cases, every possible buying account in a given region. Once a territory is defined, it is then up to sales to start calling down the list and do their “sales” thing. Separately, marketing is on the other side of the wall doing their “marketing” thing. Sure it’s an okay place to start, but if an organization really wants to be successful, it has to take the account management strategy to the next level. In this article, we’ve defined a few strategies to tighten your account management strategy.
As a first step, you’ve identified your ideal account territory as it relates to the products you sell. It’s a start, but in order to be successful, more layers need to be put into place to identify where to start. A list of accounts is nothing more than a list of accounts; a lot of time can be lost before you find the ideal buying accounts within that group. However, there is a methodology that can be applied to that list of accounts that will allow your team to identify who they should be targeting first, and how much time they should be spending with each account. This is called the account tiering process. When you tier an account base, you are essentially grouping them into buckets in a fashion that gives focus to your account management strategy.
Factors in reviewing accounts:
There are multiple factors that should be reviewed when starting to tier the individual accounts. Here are a few:
- Website – Is it clean and does it look like they spend money on marketing? Or does it look like it was coded in someone’s basement back in 1999? This is important as an indicating factor of whether they spend money on marketing and technology. If they spend in these areas, it means they could likely have available budget in others as well.
- Employee size – Are they a one or two-person shop, a business of a few hundred, or an organization of tens of thousands of employees? Typically, you want to shoot for targets that fit in the middle. Midsize firm decision makers are easier to obtain direct access to, and the decision-making process is usually simpler. Stay away from smaller firms as they commonly have little to no budget and can easily turn into time sucks. Larger firms, although they provide great logos for the company overview deck, are usually extremely difficult to turn into buyers, take longer to pay, and typically have long vendor approval processes.
- Tenure – How long have they been around? Are they a startup that just received funding, or are they someone who has been around for a while? Although first round start-ups spend money, they are someone to steer clear of until they get more established. Even if you get a startup to buy, you will most likely take up most of their available budget, and their likelihood to purchase again is low. On the other hand, an established firm will have a firmer budget and be more likely to spend again.
- Pricing – How much do they charge for their product, and how much do you charge for yours? Are they selling high ticket items and can recoup their investment in one or two sales? Or is their sales price significantly lower, and if so, do they have the volume to recoup the investment? If you’re selling something worth $100,000 and their average sale price is $8 a month with a small customer base, you are guaranteed not to get a sale (unless they have huge funding).
- Prior spend – Have they spent with your organization before? Prior spend is a great indication that they could spend again. Getting someone to buy for the first time is the hardest part.
- Annual Reports and 10k’s – These are untapped resources for many companies. They will typically list key organization priorities, changes, and in most cases, budget for certain departments. Do their priorities fit yours?
All of these factors come into play with tiering your account territory as it all plays into ease of sale and their likelihood to purchase from your organization again. Once you’ve evaluated your account territory across the factors above, the next process is to begin to tier each account.
- Tier 1 – These should be the accounts that are 100% in alignment to what you are selling without question, along with checking every box in the criteria above. These accounts are a direct home run fit, and the very first place to start. They should be the focus of 60% – 70 % of all activity.
- Tier 2 – Although you cannot check all boxes from above, you can check most of them. And overall, they are in great alignment to your products & solutions. These accounts should be about 10% – 20% of your focus from an account management perspective.
- Tier 3 – They fit less than 50% of the boxes above, but are still interesting. They should be about 5% – 10% of your focus.
- Tier 4 – They fit one or maybe two of the boxes above. Focus 0% of your time on these accounts and figure out a nurture marketing campaign to target them. Let marketing automation do the hard work for you, as it will take too much effort to get a sale, and they will most likely not be a repeat buyer.
- Global Accounts – Finally, the F500 or above. These organizations hit every one of the attributes above, but are historically the hardest accounts to crack. Most organizations make the mistake of targeting these establishments first, but so is everyone else. Not only are these accounts hard to crack, there is also an extreme amount of competition in the mix. Focus around 20% – 25% of your effort into these accounts. If you do things right, you will get them to buy over time, and they will be your greatest accounts without you having to sacrifice your short term gains by working on other accounts.
You’ve taken your account territory, and you now have an organized list tiering out each target. What’s next? Name development! Both sales and marketing need to know who to target within each account. When it comes to name development, do not make the mistake of only finding one or two names within each account—it’s a losing battle. In order to set yourself up for success, you must target a minimum of five to ten names per account across multiple departments. Each account is a little different, and you never know who could be a key influencer, a core decision maker, or who left their position and didn’t update LinkedIn. Furthermore, as you begin to target these accounts, you should constantly add new names to grow out the list. With each new connection, you should go beyond your typical email and title, and ensure that you are connecting with them on social media profiles like LinkedIn and Twitter.
Sales & Marketing Alignment:
Finally, once you’ve identified your account tiers and key contacts within each account, you can now start the planning with marketing. In most organizations, marketing and sales couldn’t be further apart; instead, bring these two departments together and develop a strategy. Marketing should know who your most important accounts, contacts, and opportunities are in order to develop marketing campaigns targeting these accounts and contacts. The sales and marketing strategy should be updated each week to include new weekly targets.
As marketing and sales get together to develop a strategy, there are just a few things that should be covered:
- Social Media
- Have these key targets been followed on individual and corporate social platforms?
- How do we get these key targets mentioned in social media posts?
- Are they posting any content that can be commented on, liked, or shared?
- Has there been any content that mentions these key targets directly?
- Has any content published that they would be interested in?
- Do they have a key strategy or use case that can be covered in a blog?
- Have these key targets been added to the newsletter?
- Have they been targeted as part of an email marketing campaign recently?
- Can a special campaign be created for them?
- Are there any analytics that show they have been reading these emails?
- Do you know if they visited the website?
- What pages have they viewed?
- Does anyone have personal knowledge of these organizations?
- Has executive leadership reached out to them personally?
Many of the items above, can help create marketing air cover for sales as they are making direct contact with your key targets. These activities show your key targets that your organization has taken genuine interest in them, while giving them educational material to help progress them forward in the sales process.
A proper account management strategy does not develop overnight and does not only include sales. Knowing who to target and how to target individual accounts will increase an organization’s efficiency from both a sales and a marketing perspective. This will lead to a faster sales cycle and increase overall deal sizes. Just because you have a list of accounts to call, it doesn’t actually mean you have an account management strategy in place.
A few months back, United had experienced some troubled times. And after having time to reflect, it brings a few certain thoughts to mind around how the world has changed for both consumers and big box retailers. As of late, big box retailers have become increasingly calculator-driven, so much so that they have almost forgotten about the customer service aspect of business. As a result, consumers are voting with their wallets, and big box retail corporations are crumbling all around us: Sears, RadioShack, and J.C. Penney are just a few that have announced closing stores, bankruptcy, or both. In the case of United, one article points out their loss of more than a billion dollars in evaluation happening practically overnight.
These corporations need to realize that we are in a time where it is not business as usual, and they’re getting their butts kicked seven ways to Sunday. Power has flipped from these big box retailers to the consumer, and this has changed the entire dynamic of business forever.
Here are just a few examples of the power shift:
- Choice: There was a time when there wasn’t much of a choice for consumers looking to make purchases. Not long ago, the Sears Catalog was the premier way many would shop for items, and over time these shopping behaviors evolved to malls. In today’s market, you now have boutique stores popping up everywhere, including the internet with Amazon, eBay, and virtually countless others changing the retail landscape forever. The ever-increasing large amount of competition being injected into the marketplace has been a predominant force for stealing market share from these large retailers. This means that if they did nothing at all and continued business as usual, customers are going to leave and market share will fall.
- Instant Gratification: With the increase of choice, also has grown the need for instant gratification. No longer are people willing to wait for weeks to receive items they’ve purchased. There was a point in time when malls kept locations fully stocked with inventory serving to this need of instant gratification; however, in today’s calculator-driven economy, big retailers have cut down on the amount of inventory on hand. With Amazon pushing Prime’s two-day delivery and Walmart following, customers now know that online will have a wider choice and delivery to their doors in days. Also, the smaller boutiques have caught on to this and have created equally strong online presences as they have in a physical retail setting. This allows them to keep a smaller inventory on hand and quickly pivot a customer to make an online purchase without losing out on the business.
- Customer Service: Not only do customers want instant gratification, they also want strong customer service, and they are not afraid to let you know when you’ve failed them. Social media has leveled the playing field for the everyday consumer. Beyond United’s PR nightmare, you regularly hear something in the media showcasing sometimes nightmarish consumer experiences. As an organization, customer service needs to be at the highest level of priority, from the senior executive staff down to the shelf stockers. In today’s calculator-driven economy in big retail’s quest to cut expenses, they have forgotten all about customer service. Reduction in employee head counts and wages have left stores in absolute disarray with long lines and employees that seem less than enthused to help customers. Sears has been a prime culprit of these types of cost-cutting measures; Business Insider recently covered their demise in an article published in July. As a result, customers are opting to shop at more personalized boutique stores and online where customers are treated as if they are the only customer in the room.
In summary, unless big box retail can focus on the customer and find ways to innovate rather than ways to cut costs, they are going to continue this downward spiral. However, their downward spiral presents opportunities for small businesses to capitalize on where these big box retail companies are failing. Smaller boutique stores and online companies are winning the battle for customers because they are increasingly customer-centric in their approach, along with finding ways to innovate around the customer experience.
The other day skimming though LinkedIn and came across a post getting a great deal of attention. It was someone complaining about a response they received from a CEO after sending three prospecting emails…. The response from this CEO was fairly blunt, telling this person to stop wasting their time and the rep was offended by this response.
While reading, I thought to myself most reps tend to forget there is big world out there and everyone is fighting for executive attention. Just think, how many times has sales management said that in order to win “you need to be at the executive level”?
As an example of the current state of the market; this article points out over 700 Sale Enablement Technology providers out there today: http://www.salesforlife.com/blog/making-sense-of-700-sales-tech-players-roundup?es_p=4684431. Let that sink in for a minute, “700+ Sales Enablement Technology Providers”. We are talking about the fact that these 700+ providers are only for one market segment. Another article points out that there are roughly 3,874 Marketing Technology Providers in market as of 2016: http://chiefmartec.com/2016/03/marketing-technology-landscape-supergraphic-2016/. As a result; executives today most likely receive prospecting emails from a majority of these two segments. Now to further compound the issue, there are other market segments also fighting for executive attention, for example: Financial Management, Supply chain, Order Management, HR, Legal and the list goes on.
To win in today’s market; you need to do more than just send prospecting e-mails, because everyone is doing the “exact same thing”… You need to think to yourself, what are you doing differently to make yourself and your company standout from everyone else?
As fiscal 2017 budget planning comes to a close for most businesses, I wanted to share a little food for thought as compensation planning comes into full swing.
Over the years, I’ve seen more than a fair share of commission and bonus structures (Some good, some bad). Historically I’ve found best plans to be ones that do not require an abacus or legal degree to comprehend. However, there is one type of compensation plan that I always urge caution around developing…. The “all or nothing” compensation plan: hit 100% of your metrics – get your bonus, miss by 5% – get nothing. Nothing can kill the morale or demotivate a team more than the feeling of working for nothing.
There are few core reasons “all or nothing” compensation plans typically fail:
– So Far Behind: When a team member is so far behind their number, they realize mathematically it would be impossible to hit. At this point, most people take the foot off the gas or start looking for a new job. With the thinking; why put the effort in, when they are not getting the benefit on the backside?
On the flip side, you can financially motivate that same team member by just a change of the compensation plan. Creating a plan that compensates based on actual quota obtainment, will motivate someone to go just that much further. Because at the end of the day 90% vs 80% of a bonus, is a much better than knowing you’re mathematically out of a bonus completely.
– Morale Killer: The “all or nothing” compensation plan is also a huge killer of team morale. There are always those team members that putting in a solid quarters or years’ worth of effort, to only miss a bonus by 5 or 10%. Noting makes an employee feel more unappreciated than missing out on a bonus by only a few percentage points.
Compound that by a few employees (because it’s never just one), and you now have a real morale problem throughout the team going into the next fiscal quarter or year.
– Overachievers Get Hurt by This Model Too: Typically, with all or nothing plans you’ll have steps and or compensation caps in in place. Especially with caps, you are demotivating your best reps to only perform up to the cap, because there is no motivation to go beyond it.
One organization comes to mind, where there was a compensation cap of 125% in place, anything beyond would receive no additional compensation. Every year in November, there were a few teams that would hit their 125% ceiling and would effectively take the remainder of the year off. Great for them, however the company lost almost two full months of employee productivity.
Additionally, another aspect to consider when planning out a compensation plan, is removing all roadblocks to paying out on plans. Nothing is more demotivating to a team, than when they have to fight for the compensation they’ve already earned. It gives them a sense that the company really doesn’t have their backs.
Let’s face it that in today’s talent market, financial motivation plays a big role (of course it’s not the only reason) in why your employees want to work for your company. It’s also a big motivation factor of keeping your employee’s happy and motivated while they work for you. Choose your commission and bonus plans wisely, and ensure that your team is compensated properly when they do hit those commission or bonus triggers. Otherwise you’ll have morale issues and productivity will take a huge hit.
The lifecycle of a customer: why is it important to track? Ultimately it’s because the customer lifecycle directly links to increased sales velocity and higher client retention. Pareto’s Law, if you’re not familiar with it; is the rule of 80/20. Eighty percent of your business comes from 20% of your customer base. When you can begin to understand how such a relatively small percentage of your customer base drives the majority of your revenue, you can then start to understand how to better extract value from the reminding customer base.
The key to tracking the lifecycle of your customer is a proper web analytics tool that has the ability, not only to track what people are looking at on your website, but also to track the journey of a customer from the minute they first hit your website to the last support ticket they filed with your customer service team. Tools like HubSpot, Marketo, Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud, and Oracle’s Eloqua are some of the more popular tools available on the market today.
When tracking the customer lifecycle, the first step is to consider the customer base from both pre- and post-sales perspectives. Post-sales analysis will begin to show which customers drive the majority of your revenue and tend to generate lower expenses over time. Factors typically underlying good customers could be:
- A higher demand for the product going into the sales process
- The quality of the sales team’s interactions with the customer through the process
- The post-sales team was more effective working with the customer in the setup process
- The setup process itself was more effective, resulting in reduced customer service calls
- The customer uses more features and functions of the product
- The customer consumed a wider array of marketing and educational content
These are only a few of the factors that your organization can look into to understand what makes a top customer. Once, you have this information, you can then find operational improvements in people, process, and technology enablers to influence optimal behaviors throughout your customer base. This is also where a good marketing automation tool will come into place. Collecting the data to conduct these analyses can be done manually, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to do with tools specifically built for this purpose.
Once you trace the anatomy of a good customer, you will wish to begin dissecting their habits as well as investigating how they become a customer in the first place. You’ll do this by looking at questions such as:
- What marking campaign or traffic source first brought the customer to the website?
- What content or collateral did the customer review and at what stages of their journey?
- When did sales get involved?
- What were the stages and the sequence of the sales process?
- What information or collateral did sales share?
- What information did the customer review right before making the final decision?
The same principles we applied when we thought about driving customers to be better customers, we apply here to help drive changes in sales strategy that generate faster-closing, higher-quality leads.
Progress is cyclical. Once you know what your good customers do, you can then start to encourage those same behaviors across the rest of your customer base. The same can be said in the pre-sales process: once you know what you did to acquire those good customers in the first place, you can formally incorporate them into your pre-sales methodology.