When It Comes to Forecasting, Sales Managers Should Be Afraid of Commitment

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By Donal Daly

The “commit theory” of sales forecasting – in which salespeople commit that their deals are on track to close – is in need of improvement. The “commit paradigm” rarely delivers the expected results.

One of the issues is that the confidence salespeople feel about the outcome of a deal can be based more on intention, subjective assessment, and pressure from their managers to achieve – rather than collaboration with their customer on when they need a solution to their business problem.

Accountability is good, and having a grasp on future outlook is important for business – but the over-emphasis on commitment can totally undermine a good sales practice, alienate skilled salespeople, and even jeopardize customer relationships.

Sales works only where there’s trust. That means there needs to be trust between salespeople and their customers – and also internal trust between salespeople and management. Inaccurate information, even if not given deliberately, can wear away at that trust, which is hard on both managers and on sales reps themselves.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are strategies sales managers can execute that make for more accurate forecasts, without the need for speculation or putting pressure on reps to make commitments on deals they are not ready to make.

Four Forecasting Strategies Better than a Vague Commitment

  1. Study history. Looking at past information is one of the best ways to get a feel for the future. Considering the team’s quota – as well as the number of deals closed, in process, or projected – is a fantastic way to identify patterns and recognize trends. This may seem like an extremely intuitive step, but many organizations still miss it. It’s easy to do, and extremely illuminating when organizations are forecasting. Past performance, put in the right context, is one of the clearest indicators we have of future achievement.
  2. Implement a standard sales process. Having one single, universal procedure for the entire team to follow minimizes confusion and creates a more objective basis for an activity that can often feel very interpretive. This process should be based on customer-verifiable outcomes and specific evidence, which most organizations already measure. The more sales leaders tie in hard metrics and solid practices, the more likely their teams will adhere to a more reliable program.
  3. Build an early warning system. At any given moment, there’s a lot going on in a sales organization, and it’s easy to lose sight of important details in the flood of data and activity salespeople encounter on a daily basis. Having a system in place to spot risks and highlight inactivity, deal slippage, or other factors sets sales managers up with more realistic expectations about whether a deal will close from the very beginning, so that – when forecasting time comes around – they’ll have a better lens through which to examine their pipeline.
  4. Decide where to focus. Not all deals are equal and, unless priority is given to the “must win” deals to make the forecast and the quarter, the risk is that deals will slip and the organization as a whole may suffer. Each deal in the forecast should be categorized as a “must win now,” “must develop for next quarter,” or “qualify out” – so the focus is clear. These categorizations help guide salespeople to make stronger decisions about their opportunities without putting them in the position of speculating about them on their own.

Forecasting is a useful tool to predict and measure future pipeline, but it must be accurate to be effective. Rather than asking salespeople to come up with estimates based on subjective estimates and personal judgments, sales managers who take a thoughtful approach to evaluating their pipelines will be in a stronger position than those who don’t.

Donal Option 1 (2)CEO, founder, and author of Amazon number one best-seller Account Planning in Salesforce, Donal Daly combines his expertise in enterprise software applications, artificial intelligence, and sales methodology as he continues to transform how progressive organizations sell. The TAS Group is Donal’s fifth global business enterprise.

selling power magazine

9 Things Sales Leaders Need to Know about Communication

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by Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE

Do you have big ideas for success? Do you know how to communicate those ideas to your team and to colleagues?

Without communication skills, sales leaders will flounder and their ideas will go unrealized. Don’t let this happen to you. Here are nine communication suggestions based on my 25 years of training and coaching sales leaders. To hear more insight, join me at the Sales 2.0 Leadership Conference in Philadelphia on November 16th.

  1. People believe stories more readily than numbers or statistics. The listener processes stories in three ways: intellectually, emotionally, and visually (visual aids and the speaker’s movements). Start with a story, and then use a statistic or visual to emphasize or elaborate the point.
  2. Remember the Who factor; audiences are people and they are interested in other people. Use stories about people, particularly heroes. Look internally and externally in the company for the stories of your own everyday heroes.
  3. “Sound words” build tension. Crack! (Was that lightning?) Build tension in the leadership message, and then break it or relieve it as a means of holding audience attention. We all love suspense.
  4. Smell and other sensory words also trigger the formation of memory. See, hear, smell, feel, taste what?
  5. Twist a phrase, “You can’t teach a young dog old tricks.” – That’s a quote from billionaire Warren Buffet on why he consistently hires retirement-age managers rather than younger ones.
  6. Add interest to your speaking with alliteration, repetition, and rhythm.
  7. Statistics should be used sparingly and distilled. Startling numbers are effective.
  8. Quotes allow us to borrow the best that has been said or written. They can convey authority, brevity, relevance, humor, etc. Quotes get the human voice in your leadership message. Use contemporary quotes if possible. Be accurate. Use tone of voice to convey the quote, rather than saying “quote-unquote.” Edit quotes down to the meat. Paraphrase quotes that are longer than one or two lines.
  9. When discussing a complicated idea, break it down into small parts. Take the impact of the idea, and explain how that impact will affect a single person. In other words, tell the story of the war through the eyes of one soldier.

Hear Patricia Fripp speak live in person — register now for the Sales 2.0 Leadership Conference in Philadelphia on November 16. For more information or questions about the event, email larissa@salesdottwoinc.com.

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Patricia FrippFor over 25 years Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE, has taught individual salespeople and sales teams how to speak more powerfully and boost their sales beyond expectations. Patricia is trusted by clients such as Microsoft, ADP, Visa, Genentech, Wounded Warrior Project, and the American Payroll Association. Her interactive virtual training platform offers a surefire shortcut to becoming powerfully persuasive and successful in sales. For more information, go to www.FrippVT.com.

Sales Leaders, Ditch Your Outdated Ideas about Hiring

Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.netA lot of sales leaders let old myths about hiring get in the way of finding superstar candidates.

The myths I’m talking about are based on the idea that certain characteristics or qualities can magically help you identify your next top performer among a pool of potential hires. For example, how many times have you heard people endorse job candidates by saying things like:

“He’s a hunter.”
“She’s a great networker.”
“He’s an ‘activity’ guy.”
“She’s a road warrior.”
“She used to be an athlete.”
“He’s a cold calling animal.”

These things are all well and good, but something about the language reminds me of the book Moneyball, in which baseball scouts would make decisions about players based on assessments like, “He passes the eye candy test. He’s got the looks, he’s great at playing the part.” Again, I’m not saying these things are negative. But can you really tell how good a player someone will be from the fact that he somehow looks the part?

As a sales leader, do you really want to make a hiring decision based on the fact that someone has been described as an “activity guy” or has a background in sports? It’s awesome if a candidate used to be an athlete (I used to be one, myself). He or she is probably very competitive and has thick skin. These are two traits that help a lot in sales – but those aren’t the only traits you need to be successful in a sales position, and they’re no guarantee that a former athlete will succeed in your particular selling environment.

Sales managers tend to get hung up on these myths because they have no real idea about what makes their top performers tick. As Moneyball showed, however, a methodology can help you assess new hires more accurately and change the game. In my organization, for example, we identified the Top Performer personality traits of our most successful reps as:

  • Listens well, but can also engage in two-way dialogue.
  • Offers a unique perspective and is intellectually curious.
  • Is comfortable discussing money and can push the customer.
  • Understands the customer’s business and can identify economic drivers.

I put this to the test by giving the Top Performer personality survey to my entire organization. No surprise that our top reps matched the personality traits of the Top Performer. Now I have a real way to identify and measure top reps – and I can hire an army of them.

As a sales leader, you have to watch out for descriptions of potential hires that are just empty words. Hunter. Networker. What do these words really mean? Dig a little deeper so you can identify whether or not a candidate has the specific traits that track to success in your organization. When you use methodology instead of myth, you’ll be able to spot the true gems.

Mike Nelson
Mike Nelson is Vice President of Sales at ON24, a cloud-based Virtual Communication software provider. He has more than 15 years of sales and business development experience in the SaaS, Cloud Software industry, with a focus on Enterprise as well as Channel. He was recently a featured expert during a Webinar on sales enablement strategies.

New Sales Conversations Helped Us Regain Our Competitive Edge

Often it’s difficult to realize and accept that changing your business approach could be beneficial or necessary – especially if your company is well-established and an industry leader.

Thanks to changing healthcare regulations and growing competition, we at Philips Respironics (a Fortune Global 500 company) recently found our dominance as the leading providor of sleep apnea products challenged for the first time in more than 30 years. We realized we needed to do something different and break out of our traditional mold – we had to elevate our messaging, positioning, and training and help our sales representatives differentiate in a competitive market.

First, we reached out to The Corporate Executive Board (CEB), which had published research about the importance of differentiating sales messaging from marketing messaging to see if they knew of any companies that could help us accomplish this task. The CEB referred us to Corporate Visions, Inc., who then helped us reassert authority in our market by shifting our approach to sales conversations.

Historically, our sales conversations focused on our individual products, their features, and pricing. Corporate Visions helped us realize that promoting these features didn’t differentiate us in the eyes of the customer, and that our solutions blended with those of our competitors. We needed to create differentiated messages focused on how our products solve the unique challenges of our customers and how we can help them to meet their business goals. 

After completing a series of positioning and training workshops (and training sessions for in-house trainers and sales managers) our salespeople took their new skills and messaging to the field. Just four months after the initial deployment, third-party measurement company BeyondROI surveyed 87 members of our sales force that participated in the messaging and training workshops to determine the quantifiable results. The impact was almost unbelievable: 

  • We generated a 10-fold return on specific deal closings and our overall sales pipeline.
  • We realized a $4.6 million impact on new business deals and a $1.4 million impact on won deals.

Tellingly, salespeople who were classified as “high adopters” (those who use the new messaging/skills more than 70 percent of the time) saw a nearly 5 percent increase in their monthly quota performance, whereas “low adopters” (those who applied the new messaging/skills only 43-64 percent of the time) saw a less than 1 percent increase in their monthly quota performance. High adopters also had an average deal size of $82,128 – double that of low adopters.

While altering our business approach was not comfortable or easy, elevating our sales messages and updating our delivery had an irrefutable, positive impact on our overall sales. It awakened our sales force, helped us differentiate, and positioned us to successfully reign as the market leader for another 30 years.

Susan McGinnis Philips Respironics resized 600Susan McGinnis is a Senior Corporate Sales Trainer at Philips Respironics

 

Managing Sales Team Talent: How to Help Reps at Any Level Sell More

By Nancy Martini

One of the most difficult challenges any manager faces is helping an employee improve performance. Creating a high performance sales team is even more complex. A typical sales team includes a number of top producers (10-20% of the team); these are the folks who crank out the numbers month after month — either with incredible skills, sheer effort, or a combination of brains and brawn. The middle group (60-80%); often includes reps who are adequate but not yet reaching their potential — various reasons get in the way, from confidence, to commitment, to limited skills or motivation. Finally, there is the small group (10-20%) of those struggling with the position and trying to figure it all out — they may or may not make it. Ultimately it’s up to the sales manager to drive the performance of the entire team, fortunately (as I discuss in my new book) science can help determine the exact scenario and who needs what.

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As a manager it’s important to look first at the relationship between the reps’ sales skills and their actual sales results. There are four science-based scenarios that occur to help diagnose and guide you for accurate coaching.

The “Muscle” Scenario: High sales results, Low sales skills.
These are top producers who get the job done, but likely in their own way. Their success may come from years of experience, superb product knowledge, or they’re simply extremely hard workers. The good news is, they get superior results. The bad news is how they do it. A rep with high sales and low skills tends to be highly reliant on a single muscle (for example closing skills, presentation skills or questioning skills). They are most likely working inefficiently. By building other muscles, they could potentially increase their performance and efficiency substantially. Most top producers are all over increasing skills that can help create more sales; managers tend to shy away with a fear of messing with success. Gather the sales skills assessment data and dive in; this effort is well worth the return.

The Execution Scenario: Low sales results, High sales skills
These are the folks who know what to do but have trouble executing on that knowledge. They’ve attended the sales training, they even get it, but they just have a block getting it done. We all know the old adage “the knowing-doing gap” and this the classic issue in this scenario. It may be from lack of confidence, lack of drive, or simply lack of coaching but this rep needs help with the “doing.” In this scenario, a focus one-on-one coaching is ideal. The rep gets to see how his or her judgment and knowledge plays out live with feedback from a skilled coach. When a person has the sales skills assessment needed for the role, it’s also helpful to examine their behavioral assessment to uncover the drive behind their selling.

The Knowledge Scenario: Low sales results, Low sales skills
Your sales reps who score low on the sales skills assessment and have low sales results need one thing — training.  You can hire the best reps in the world, with all the drive necessary to succeed, but if they don’t have core sales skills, they become a rocket without a direction. This one is fairly easy to adjust: start with solid sales training and reinforce with focused skill builders. By increasing a rep’s core sales skills, you are giving them the tools necessary for the role. These reps tend to be sponges and the sales skills training is absorbed and used.

The Leverage Scenario: High sales results, High sales skills
This one is the most complex of all. A terrific rep who emulates all the sales skills you want and creates outstanding sales results. Good as it is, you have two risks to stay on top of: 1) the rep may plateau because of time constraints; and/or, even worse: 2) he/she gets bored when “been there, done that” kicks in. In either case, your top producers need to be kept engaged, challenged, and leveraged. The leverage approach suggests that you examine all aspects of the person’s role to remove obstacles and increase support to give them as much selling time as possible. It may be additional technology or it may be a part time assistant but ultimately your goal is to leverage this talent with more time to sell.

In each of the four scenarios sales analytics help remove the guesswork and provide you with laser sharp focus of what’s needed. Pay attention to the sales skills assessment scores, the behavioral assessment profile, and the reps’ actual sales results — those three data points provide the accurate insight needed to impact the sales performance of every member of your team.

Nancy Martini
Nancy Martini is President & CEO of PI Worldwide, publishers of the Predictive Index (PI) and Selling Skills Assessment Tool (SSAT). She is the author of the newly released Scientific Selling. In October she will present Sales Coaching 2.0: How Using Scientific Data Leads to Better Sales Performance as a keynote  speaker at the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference in San Francisco.

Adapting to Today’s Customer: Q&A with Gerhard Gschwandtner

In this Q&A with Gerhard Gschwandtner, host of the upcoming Sales 2.0 Conference, (April 2-3 in San Francisco), we discuss how sales leaders are learning to adapt to the needs and expectations of today’s customer. We’re exclusively offering a special offer for this event: use code ggSLB3 at checkout by Thursday, March 29 and get $300 off registration. 


Q: How is sales changing and what trends should I be aware of?
A: Research by the Sales Executive Board shows that 57% of B2B buying steps are completed before buyers connect with a salesperson. Learn how successful companies adapt successfully to the new buying behaviors. Learn how high-growth companies give their salespeople better tools that help them spend more time to deliver more insight (not knowledge) to their customers.

Q: What is Sales 2.0 and how will I benefit?
A: Sales 2.0 is all about a) adaptation of sales productivity enhancing application b) acceleration of sales processes and c) integration of people, process and technology to optimize sales results. At this conference you learn from your peers as well as industry leaders and you will take home actionable ideas that will help you transform your sales organization and achieve far greater levels of sales effectiveness.

Q: Should we invest in social media tools now, or wait until we have a greater chance of seeing ROI?
A: We live in a social and mobile world and we see the formation of a new “social mind-set” that creates the foundation for the conversation economy. On a global level we realize that none of us can be as smart as all of us. Social technology allows us to connect, collaborate, and co-create sales. This new mind-set impacts everything; the way we manage people, the way we invest our time, the way we design our offices to optimize social and mobile interactions, the way we manage the flow of our work and the way we innovate, and the way we communicate with our customers. You’ll meet several experts in this new field who will impress you with their cutting edge ideas and proven processes. 

Q: Will you be available at the conference to answer any questions from the participants?
Yes, of course. I will also be happy to answer any questions you have before the conference. Just email me at gg@sellingpower.com

The event will be held at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco, on April 2nd and 3rd.

Gerhard Gschwandtner

Gerhard Gschwandtner is the founder and CEO of Selling Power and regular host of Sales 2.0 Events

Timeless Sales Messaging Tips to Win Today’s Customers

What is the number one problem that stands between your sales reps and prospects? Chances are that their sales messages fizzle in the marketplace. Prospects don’t know you, your company or your product; they don’t understand your message; and they don’t care about your story or your unique selling propositions.

Back in 1888, very few people had heard of George Eastman and his little black box that he called the detective camera. Only a few people understood photography, and even fewer knew his company. He started a sales revolution with the simple and compelling message: “You press the button, we do the rest.” Eastman’s sales message was as innovative as his camera.

Since 1888, advances in technology have created a landslide of products and an avalanche of information. Today customers are bombarded with sales messages that they have learned to tune out faster than ever.

Ask marketers and they’ll tell you that every year response rates decline. Today, more than 99 percent of all promotional emails are ignored or deleted. Why? The subject lines are boring, boilerplate messages. Ask sales managers and they’ll tell you that 90 percent of all prospects ignore a salesperson’s attempt to close the sale. Why? Because most salespeople talk about how great the product is, but they have little understanding of how their product can enhance their prospect’s business.

Why do most sales messages fizzle? When companies think of innovation, they think of innovative products, processes and technologies, but not messaging. What makes effective customer messages sizzle? The first author to write about selling with sizzle was Elmer Wheeler.

Wheeler’s bestselling book Tested Sentences That Sell was published in 1937, it revealed his experiments with sales messages and their impact on prospects. Wheeler spoke about meaty words that prospects could sink their teeth into and watery words that had little impact.

The world has changed since 1937, the advances in technology have been remarkable and business has become a lot more complex, yet human nature stays the same. For example, Wheeler found that if a waiter asked, “Would you care to order a red or white wine with your dinner?” it would double the sales of wine. Compare that with the unproductive questions that most waiters ask today: “What would you like to drink with your dinner?” Wheeler taught his students: “Don’t ask if, ask which!”

Today, winning customers has less to do with the right choice of products than with the right choice of words. Every market has its own jargon, acronyms and buzzwords that salespeople need to know. Each prospect lives in a different world that is governed by different preoccupations, perceptions and preferences. While a CEO’s perception focuses on the future, strategy and efficiency, the CFO’s preoccupations revolve around cash flow and ROI. For a sales message to gain access to the prospect’s mind it must reflect the language of the market, the preoccupations of the prospect and the challenges of the company. If salespeople want to get a seat at the table, they need to initiate the right conversation and speak the customer’s language.

Today’s successful companies take a more strategic approach to creating and distributing effective sales messages. The new process is called sales enablement which is designed to give each salesperson direct access to the collective intelligence that already exists in a sales organization. Why should salespeople reinvent the wheel every time they need to create a proposal or prepare for a call? Why should salespeople quiz each other for customer testimonials or to find the best practice for negotiating a deal? Why should salespeople create their own laboratory for tested selling sentences?

As regular host of Sales 2.0 Events, I am continually amazed by the sophistication of sales enablement solutions that can help teams collect their best “message assets” (such as talking points, white papers, conversation maps, persuasive stories, presentation videos, proposal templates, market overviews, research data, ROI analysis, customer testimonials and more) and make them instantly available to the entire sales team.

I am sure that Elmer Wheeler would come up with a clever way to describe such innovation in one sentence: “Sales Enablement is the crunch in the cracker, the whiff in the coffee, the pucker in the pickle and the commission in the close.”

Gerhard Gschwandtner is the Founder & CEO of Selling Power. This post appeared originally on his blog. Gschwandtner will host the Sales Management 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on March 5, 2o12 and the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on April 2-3, 2012

Achieving Sales Success & New Business in a Shrinking Industry

In 1933 my grandparents, Armand and Virginia Govin, founded MarkMaster as a rubber-stamp manufacturing company in Tampa, Florida. While stamps are still a big business for us (we make upwards of 10,000 to 12,000 stamps a day), we’ve since evolved into one of the largest custom-marking companies in the world with a basic product line of custom banners, signs, and name badges.

My brother Mark and I still value the same prospecting tools that our grandparents used – trade shows, networking, and referrals. At the same time, growing new business and achieving sales success in a shrinking industry is tough, particularly when marketing and IT resources are limited. Still, we’ve managed to pull off some significant growth, even during the economic downturn. Here are the three keys to our success.

  1. Streamline. The biggest barrier to our sales is that most prospects and customers dread the process of ordering our products. Managing layouts, text choices, and art placement can be a frustrating experience. We launched an initiative to redesign our new ordering platforms to make the process as easy for the customer as possible, while still giving them plenty of options. We also decided to add features behind the scenes to make our systems interface with other retailers online that sell our products.
     
  2. Innovate. While our product line continues to grow (in the next few months, we’ll be adding high-end items to our recognition line, including embedded and engraved crystal awards) there’s no escaping the fact that we’re living in a digital age. I even pay my own bills online instead of using stamps. To keep pace with today’s customer, we’ve begun to create collections that we’ve named the Impress Line. The first collection focuses on tradeshows and events. Now our customers will have a single-source manufacturer who will handle it all, from floor to ceiling. Not only will this make the process a less-stressful one, it will also mean a great deal of savings.
     
  3. Embrace Technology. We have a small sales team: three reps, a CSO, and a National Sales Manager. Thanks to our decision to establish an online sales channel, we’ve managed to see a huge return on our collective efforts. Using Ariba Discovery, we’re able to deliver speedy, reliable products to our existing clients and generate qualified leads for new business. As a result, we’ve created a robust, online sales channel and expanded our base of new customers by 65 percent and grow our overall business 20 percent year-over-year. We sell to 60 Fortune 500 companies, and we do almost all of it do through Ariba Discovery. The best way I can describe the service is like a Yellow Pages directory on steroids. We’re now so intertwined with this technology that it’s impossible to think of finding prospects without it.

In fact, Ariba Discovery recently helped our company land a deal with a large bank that had not considered us before due to our small size. We now service nine of the top 10 banks and eight of the top 10 insurance companies in the U.S. These are still important industry focuses for us, but we’re also seeing a turn toward retail, as our product mix has been moving toward signs and marketing items instead of strictly stamps.

Like any good company, we want to provide value to our current clients and find new ways to reach prospects. The traditional sales team is finding new ways to accomplish both of these goals. Sales teams today are more flexible, adaptive, and creative. They’re driven by collaboration and social business. Our business is no exception. By embracing new technology, our family business has managed to navigate around some pretty significant challenges, see significant growth, and achieve sales success, even during the economic downturn.

Now is a great time to invest in new technologies and new ideas. As a minority-owned company in the United States, it feels good that we’re able to offer products that are made right here. We’re not only investing in our company, we’re investing in the future of our families and the families of our employees – many of whom have been with us for decades. That means everything to us. 

Kevin Govin
Kevin Govin is CEO of MarkMaster Inc.

Sales Leadership Advice for Aligning Marketing & Sales

I’m publishing a series of Q&A excerpts from my interviews with Sales 2.0 leaders, which will appear in my next book. This is an excerpt from my interview with Mark Burton, former VP of sales at MySQL (acquired by Sun Microsystems), where he was responsible for growing and managing MySQL AB’s entire international corporate sales force, indirect channels and partnership alliancesHe has been involved in enterprise-level sales leadership for 30 years. 

Anneke: What were your “failures,” or things that didn’t go as well as they could have? What would you tell another executive about what not to do, or what to learn from your past experiences?

Mark: Failures: We’ve had lots of them. Processes and systems are so important. It took us a long time to work with a team to figure out everything we really needed to manage this environment. Marketing tends to be more positioning- and messaging-oriented, and more about just putting it out there. That whole idea of what a qualified lead is, and having something that ends up in the hands of sales that they want to deal with — it’s a big chasm between those two functions.

Get a very objective and measurable set of definitions, processes and systems to do some system-oriented scoring, and then have a very clear and written description for what becomes a sales lead. Get the marketing organization on board with forecasting and measurement of conversion rates, and make sure this is an activity that is worked monthly to continually pursue conversion rates that drive the company to profitability. This is a big change for most marketing and sales organizations. I wouldn’t call it a failure, but I will say it takes a long time to make sure everyone understands this end-to-end process, and what is involved in managing and measuring it. That was hard work with a lot of iterations and false starts.

Anneke: I see that changing rapidly, though, in many Sales 2.0 companies, where success depends on marketing and sales being aligned and collaborating. Do you see that working? How are companies bringing sales and marketing closer together?

Mark: It’s still a challenge for many companies. One of the first thoughts is, “Great, we’ll just give sales and marketing to the same person.” It’s unusual to have any one person who really understands sales and marketing well enough to add value across both functions through the Demand-to-Close process. There also aren’t many CEOs who really understand it. I would say this is still developing. My suggestion is to get advice from others who have successfully implemented the new model. This can be accomplished through a combination of outside consulting and benchmarking with companies that have successfully implemented such models.

Read the full interview with Mark Burton.

Anneke Seley
Anneke Seley is CEO and Founder of Phone Works and author of Sales 2.0This post appeared originally on her blog.

Predictions and Priorities for Social Business in 2012 – Part I

describe the imageMy pet peeve about the annual predictions ritual is that they lack context for action. It’s nice to know that tablets and big data are important — but what should you do about it?

So here’s my attempt at not only forecasting but also to provide actions that companies should be prioritizing in 2012.

The Process: I went through my speaking and client engagements in 2011 and looked at which topics and themes I kept referring to over and over again, especially toward the end of the year. I also analyzed which of the tweets from these events were most retweeted to verify where the heat was.

I boiled it down to three predictions and also explain why I think these are a priority for business leaders to address in 2012. Because they are on the long-ish side, I’ll be posting one a day so that there can be discussion about each prediction and priority.

Prediction #1: Consumers will reward transparent companies with their loyalty. Companies must get courageous with transparency and make it an every day occurrence. Or they will face the wrath of outraged customers.

Almost 8 million people have now seen the FedEx delivery guy tossing a monitor over the fence. FedEx’s response was timely and tried to be authentic, but lacked only one thing — a link to that video. It was just a short search away, so why not link to what everyone already knew existed? Regardless, I was glad to see FedEx respond quickly when so many other companies facing a crisis try to wait for the situation to fade away.

describe the imageThe gold standard on transparency reaches all the way back to July 2006 when Dell’s brand new blog had the courage to write the post entitled “Flaming Notebook” about a Dell computer bursting into flames in Osaka, Japan. And they included a link to a photo of their product exploding into flames.

Where did they find the guts to do this? Michael Dell made it crystal clear in his instructions for the post: Dell was built on the value of going direct to consumers and the blog had to communicate and live by those same values.

I’ve told the Dell flaming notebook story and shown that photo at hundreds of speeches and asked a simple question: If your organization had it’s version of flaming notebook happen today, would you be able to write that post? In a most telling way, there are only a few hands that get raised.

Dell’s flaming notebook was five and a half years ago, before there were Facebook Pages, before Twitter even existed. It was the Dark Ages of social media and Dell understood then that it was important to build a new, unique relationship with their customers.

Think about what would be needed to get your organization to that point and make it a priority to be transparent about the everyday small problems that always occur. Practice on the easy stuff to get prepared for The Big One.

Too busy you say, with your existing social media efforts to do this? All of the efforts that you make updating your Facebook page or posting on Twitter add up to mere hand-waving if you can’t master this new type of relationship demanded by your customers.

Does your organization have the courage to engage when things go wrong, no matter how big or small? How did you organization get to this point? Please share where you are on your journey, and what you found helpful to bring greater accountability and transparency into your company.

Next up: How well do you really know your customers?

Anneke Seley
Charlene Li is founder of Altimeter Group and the author of the New York Times bestseller, Open Leadership. She is also the coauthor of the critically acclaimed, bestselling book Groundswell, which was named one of the best business books in 2008. This post appeared originally on her blog.