Insight for More Excellent Sales Management in 2013

This week Inc.com announced that bad managers cost the economy $360 billion in lost productivity annually. Hopefully, your sales managers aren’t making any personal contributions to this statistic. Either way, we thought it couldn’t hurt to assemble some collective insight for better sales management as we move into 2013.

ONE: Understand the skill set of a good sales manager, and fill the role accordingly.

Many sales managers were promoted from the position of sales rep. This isn’t a great idea. In fact, Peak Sales Recruiting says there are at least six basic reasons to NOT promote a top-performing rep to a position as manager. Jonathan Farrington, a globally recognized sales thought leader, agrees — as he points out, the successful attributes of a sales manager usually don’t align with the successful attributes of a top performing rep. Make sure you’re hiring sales managers based on management skills, and not solely on a track record of sales success.

TWO: Make sure your sales managers are practicing good coaching habits. 

A pre-call briefing, a ride-along to observe the sales call, and a post-call coaching session are all best practices for coaching recommended by Norman Behar at Sales Readiness Group. Are your sales managers actively involved in these activities? Or are they too busy running from one fire to the next as the end of each month and each quarter looms large? If your managers don’t know how to coach (or are simply not making time for it), you’re almost certainly cultivating discontent among your reps. So perhaps it’s no surprise that research from Oracle (quoted by Chuck Penfield at the most recent Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference in San Francisco) has indicated that 89% of sales reps want more coaching from their managers.

In a Sales 2.0 world, managers who aren’t invested in coaching are going to lose out on the rewards you can reap by combining science with soft coaching skills. According to PI Worldwide President and CEO Nancy Martini, who also spoke at the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference, the ability to combine analytics with coaching holds unprecedented opportunities for sales managers to build more effective and productive sales teams that generate higher revenue. Clearly, coaching is a vital aspect of sales management and should not be ignored.

THREE: Make sure sales managers aren’t letting underperforming reps linger.

Christopher Cabrera, CEO of Xactly Corporation, recently blogged about his company’s joint research project with MIT which is examining data related to about 200 million transactions handled by Xactly each month. One early takeaway from initial analysis is that sales managers are probably hanging on to bad sales reps for longer than necessary. To quote from Cabrera’s post:

Our hypothesis is that many managers, if on the borderline of attaining their quotas, tend to keep low-performing salespeople on the books for too long. Those managers would rather keep underperformers on the books to generate even a few sales rather than the guaranteed zero sales they’d get if they fired the bottom tier.

This can obviously be a difficult call for a sales manager to make — and an even more difficult conversation to have once the reality sets in. But after you’ve done all you can to give lagging reps a leg up, it’s better to face the problem head on than to sweep the problem under the rug.

FOUR: Embrace the virtual meeting.

Based on her in-depth survey of 150 managers, Yael Zofi, founder and CEO of AIM Strategies told Selling Power magazine that “virtual teams are here to stay.” In fact, at least 70 percent of those she surveyed reported seeing a rise in virtual teams. Obviously, the virtual element of management has some very basic implications for process and operations. For example, take your weekly sales meetings. Are your sales managers holding frequent and regular meetings with field sales reps, no matter where they’re located? Your sales managers should be using video conferencing tools (like PGi’s iMeet, for example) to facilitate more effective and collaborate meetings, no matter where meeting participants are located.

Incidentally, if sales managers are already making use of video conferencing for meetings with reps, then it stands to reason that reps can use the same technology to meet with customers and prospects as well. That sets up your sales manager to increase team productivity and possibly win rates.

In the end, a bad sales manager adds up to a dysfunctional sales team populated by unhappy reps. And unhappy reps will only stick around for so long — the same Inc.com infographic shows that 65% of employees said they’d take a new boss over a pay raise.

Consider, too, that the workforce is fast becoming populated by Gen Y workers, who tend to prefer feedback from coaching and collaborative work environments. An investment in upping your standards for sales managers will put you on the path to success now and for years to come.

What are your best practices for sales management? Share your thoughts in the comments section. 

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.

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.

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.

Transitioning from Sales to Management

The Harvard Business Review article, “Selling is Not About Relationships,” (the title is misleading) categorizes sales people into 5 buckets:

  • Relationship Builders focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships and advocates across the customer organization. They are generous with their time, strive to meet customers’ every need, and work hard to resolve tensions in the commercial relationship.
  • Hard Workers show up early, stay late, and always go the extra mile. They’ll make more calls in an hour and conduct more visits in a week than just about anyone else on the team.
  • Lone Wolves are the deeply self-confident, the rule-breaking cowboys of the sales force who do things their way or not at all.
  • Reactive Problem Solvers are, from the customers’ standpoint, highly reliable and detail-oriented. They focus on post-sales follow-up, ensuring that service issues related to implementation and execution are addressed quickly and thoroughly.
  • Challengers use their deep understanding of their customers’ business to push their thinking and take control of the sales conversation. They’re not afraid to share even potentially controversial views and are assertive — with both their customers and bosses.

In their analysis, they state that Challengers far outperform others, with Relationship Builders coming in dead last. Not that relationships are unimportant, their point is that the type of relationship is what is important. Challengers push the relationship, to make it better while Relationship Builders focus only on reducing tension.

This made me stop and think: How does this apply to management/leadership? I have often debated the merits of sales people transitioning from sales to management – where they can leverage their relationship skills. What this made me realize is that it is more than that, the ability to build relationships is important but success will hinge on what type of a person they are. Consider the same definitions applied to management/leadership with a few key words edited (i.e. customer changed to organization):

  • Relationship Builders focus on developing strong personal and professional relationships and advocates across the organization. They are generous with their time, strive to meet everyone’s needs, and work hard to resolve tensions in the internal relationships. (Add: Infrequently progress from manager to leader as they are the keeper of the status quo).
  • Hard Workers show up early, stay late, and always go the extra mile. They’ll make more calls in an hour and conduct more visits in a week than just about anyone else on the team. (Add: It is naïve to think that you do not have to work hard to be successful. You do. But the person who thinks that hard work is enough stay managers. They are great ‘do-ers’.)
  • Lone Wolves are the deeply self-confident, the rule-breaking cowboys of the organization who do things their way or not at all. (Add: Often burn bridges and have difficulty moving from manager to leader as they are not a team player. After all, people follow those they trust)
  • Reactive Problem Solvers are, from the organization’s standpoint, highly reliable and detail-oriented. They focus on follow-up, ensuring that issues related to implementation and execution are addressed quickly and thoroughly. (Add: Great reporting to a leader)
  • Challengers use their deep understanding of the business to push their thinking and take control of the conversation. They’re not afraid to share even potentially controversial views and are assertive — within the organization. (Add: Can build, communicate and execute a vision … in other words, can lead).

As with the sales profiles, I would suggest that the Challenger will outpace the others as they are willing to paint a vision of the future, push boundaries, take risks, face big issues and execute – with relationships, problem solving and hard working contributing to that success.

Ken Powell
Michael Weening is VP Business Wireless, Radio & Paging at Bell Mobility. This post appeared originally on his blog. Weening will be a speaker at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on April 2-3, 2012. 

How to Succeed as a Sales Manager

As a sales manager and leader, are you measuring the right metrics for sales success?

At Vantage Point Performance, we recently wrote a book based on a groundbreaking research study we conducted about the metrics that leading sales forces are using to measure and manage their sellers. Interestingly, we discovered that thousands of sales metrics fall into one of three categories:

  1. Business results (such as revenue and market share).
  2. Sales objectives (such as acquiring new customers and selling certain products).
  3. Sales activities (day-to-day tasks like planning and conducting sales calls).

A key insight from the research is that only sales activities can truly be managed. Numbers related to sales objectives and business results are important to everyone, but these numbers cannot be directly controlled by sales management.

In fact, sales objectives and business results are trailing indicators of a sales force’s performance – they only show what you’ve accomplished in the past. Measuring sales activities, on the other hand, (which provide insights into current behaviors) are leading indicators that foretell whether those objectives and results will be attained in the future.

Amazingly, only 17% of the metrics in our study were focused on sales activities. Or, stated differently: more than 80% of the things sales forces are measuring are things that they cannot actually control.

You can’t control revenue – you can only control the things that your sellers are doing day-to-day. For example,

  • which types of prospects your reps are calling this week; 
  • what types of conversations they’ll have;
  • whether they’re completing their call plans; and
  • whether they’re proactively managing their opportunities.

Clearly, many sales managers are only looking at metrics that tell them how successful they’ve been in the past. But as our research shows, a far more effective approach is to start measuring and managing sales activities instead. These are the critical inputs to success.

It’s important to remember that CRM is just a tool, and it only does what we tell it to do. Information goes in, and information comes out. Which information we request and what we do with that data is up to us as sales managers. Once we start using CRM to measure the right metrics, we’ll begin to predictably influence the future and manage sales teams that fulfill their highest potential.

To discover the best practices and frameworks you can use to influence the future, register to download a free chapter from Cracking the Sales Management Code, including a forward by Neil Rackham, best-selling author of SPIN Selling.

 

Jason Jordan
Jason Jordan is a partner of Vantage Point Performance and coauthor of Cracking the Sales Management Code.

Why Sales Success Starts with Credibility

There are four very basic sales management questions that a great front line or senior sales leader should be able to answer “yes” to:

1) Do your people trust you?

2) Do they have clarity on overall strategy?

3) Do you make yourself available to them?

4) Do you exist to unleash their potential?

These questions might be basic, but the execution is always complicated. In a world where the speed of sales increases year-over-year, it’s easy to forget that when you peel back all the technology & innovation that have helped increase rep productivity, sales is basically about making connections. Connections with partners, with customers, and—most important—with your team.

Connections create credibility, and credibility drives sales success. But how do you become credible as a sales leader? Start with these evaluation questions:

Is it important for a sales leader to have first worked in sales?

Would you get in a plane with a pilot who has never flown? Of course not. Sales is the same. It’s essential that sales leaders and sales managers have a background in sales. Steven Covey says trust is built through competence and character, and both are only achievable after you’ve walked the walk. That’s why I only hire high-potential, top-performing sales leaders as part of our leadership development academy. With a sales force of 6,500 associates at ADP, it’s critical that we train the best with the best.

Do all great salespeople make great leaders?

No way! The question to ask yourself is, “Do you get more excited by closing the big deal, or seeing someone you coached close the big deal?” The traits that put the best salespeople on top are the same traits that make them terrible sales managers. They tend to overachieve because they’re selfish with their time and accountable to themselves. On the other hand, the great sales leader can channel that overachieving spirit and create one collective unit focused on team results. Being able to identify salespeople who have leadership potential is an art and a science. Fortunately, there are a number of selection tools that can help you identify sales leadership traits.

What should you consider as you move into a leadership position?

Your time is not yours. You exist to drive the performance of others. The great sales leaders who build trust, set a vision, and inspire their teams are the first to arrive at the office in the morning and last to leave at the end of the day. They have a servant’s heart and the clock never turns off.

What do you think it takes to succeed during a transition from a sales role to a leadership role?

I refer to this as “relationship reengineering.” Others need to see you in a new light. Focus on redefining sales success, setting time-bound, realistic goals, seeking feedback, gathering insight, and building a new sense of trust. Most important, new sales leaders that try to lead with the idea that “This is how I did it” generally fail. Be humble, observe others’ strengths, and lead each salesperson with an individual style.

Ken Powell
Ken Powell is Vice President of Worldwide Sales Enablement at ADP

3 Sales Management Challenges & How to Solve Them with Science

Are great salespeople born, or made? With today’s advanced scientific sales analytics and measurement tools, sales managers can actually find out.

First, behavioral assessments give sales managers insight into a salesperson’s nature and psychological makeup (“born”), while skills assessments provide concrete data on sales knowledge and skills learned via experience, lessons, observations, etc. (“made”).

This combination of information gives sales leaders new ways to tackle three perennial sales-management challenges:

Sales Management Challenge #1: Hiring
Sales teams are only as good as the salespeople themselves. Sales managers need individuals who can work within the culture of the organization, leverage their unique strengths, and find satisfaction in getting great results. This is simply about job fit.

To find the right people for your team, you have to know what kind of salespeople you’re looking for. Hiring the right salesperson starts by defining the role. Sales managers need to take the time to complete a job analysis that defines the behavioral needs of the position. You can imagine the different needs of various sales positions—including B2B, B2C, outside sales, inside sales, and call centers. By defining the job, you have a “target” to measure candidates against. The next step is to administer a behavioral assessment on solid candidates, review and compare it with other critical data about experience, education, and past successes. You’re now using science and multiple data points to find a good fit.

Sales Management Challenge #2: Motivation
Sales is the one job inside every company where you cannot hide from results. Sales professionals are measured every day; and if one hits a slump, has a bad week or month, not only does that individual feel it, the results are also highly visible. While the visibility can help motivate some people, it can also create a “pressure cooker” environment where morale is difficult to maintain.

In addition to pressure to produce, external factors like these can also impact a rep’s motivation levels:

  • tough economy,
  • increased competition
  • shift in the individual’s role
  • change in the company’s direction or vision.

For example, an inside sales team that goes from 95% inbound calls to 95% outbound calls might experience a drop-off in production, which would create a significant challenge for the sales manager to keep the team focused, motivated, and productive. Behavioral assessments provide essential insights to how an individual is motivated. Armed with data on motivation, the sales manager can stay ready to accurately guide his or her team through change of any kind.

Sales Management Challenge #3: Retention
Hiring the right people will always be a concern, but retention will be an even greater challenge over the next decade. Top producers always have and always will have choices of about where to work. As drivers of revenue, they are a huge asset to any company and remain in high demand. In addition, top sales professionals expect great leadership and a high level of job satisfaction. Most organizations find that there are not enough candidates to fill critical roles; this problem is likely to get more serious now and in the future.

How can science help? For one thing, people stay in jobs when they’re engaged, learning, challenged, and believe they can succeed in the environment. Science provides two key aspects to combine nature and nurture and help keep producers actively engaged and reduce sales personnel turnover.

While behavioral assessments provide insight into what makes each rep tick, sales skills assessments provide data on their strengths and areas of growth. With the combined data from a behavioral assessment and a skills assessment, sales managers can take the mystery out of retention and figure out ways to keep their top performers happy and engaged.

Ultimately, leveraging science to drive sales performance enables organizations to increase efficiency, manage effectively, and produce outstanding sales results. The result is predictable, sustainable, and repeatable success.  

Nancy Martini
Today’s post was contributed by Nancy Martini, President and CEO of PI Worldwide, publisher of science-based sales analytics including the Predictive Index (PI) and the Selling Skills Assessment Tool (SSAT). Contact her at nmartini@piworldwide.com.

What Does Successful Sales & Marketing Alignment Look Like? (Part II)

When I first got into marketing over a decade ago, the landscape was much different than it is today. Marketing and sales typically worked independently from one another; marketing managed things like trade shows and print collateral (with limited visibility into their impact on overall ROI) and sales managed the leads that marketing acquired.

This made marketing an overhead expense, and it was an easy target for cuts when budgets got tight. It was hard to show conclusive evidence that marketing made a measurable impact on the overall success of the sales organization beyond getting more leads. We knew it was true, but the data was elusive.

Fast forward to today, and things look somewhat different (but still far from perfect). As a marketer, I now have tools and applications that can more easily generate data and therefore quantify results of our marketing activities. I can follow the activity of a lead through the entire lifecycle, including if and when a lead turned into a serious prospect. And I can see the touch points that marketing created or influenced along the path from initial inquiry to a closed deal. Suddenly, there is real correlation between the campaigns we run and the ROI for my colleagues on the sales side.

With that in mind, I thought I would share a few insights I’ve learned along the way:

Make Marketing Your BFF: Sales and marketing teams actually have a symbiotic relationship. That means that despite the fact that we are different types, we each depend on each other and benefit from the relationship. Your marketing team should provide essential insights that help sales generate and identify the best leads, the best ways to interact with those leads, and provide the resources, messages and delivery methods to support those interactions. And sales should provide feedback from the front line to create a knowledge-sharing loop with marketing. Marketing and sales should have their goals aligned, work cooperatively toward those goals and, ideally, should be BFFs (Best Friends Forever).

Set Specific Marketing Goals: My income is tied directly to the number of qualified leads I can drive through marketing initiatives, among other measurable goals. Don’t be afraid to assign metrics to your marketing team and engage them in the process. And reward them for meeting those metrics. Nothing says motivation like dollars in your pocket! Sales reps have known this all along. Now it’s marketing’s turn to benefit from hitting their targets.

Use the Right Tools: While many of the marketing-specific tools on the market are relatively new, they have evolved quickly and can be quite powerful. Example 1: Marketing automation tools help marketers track and understand data behind campaigns, while also observing the behaviors and patterns of your prospects. We use Marketo and there are other great systems to choose from depending on your needs. Example 2: As part of our BigMachines software, we offer the BigMachines Document Engine, where our customers can store the most up-to-date templates for proposals, contracts and quotes, making it simple for sales team to generate branded, marketing-approved sales documents. This allows you to maintain corporate standards throughout the sales process, and when you present a consistent brand that reflects well on your company, you have a competitive advantage and can sometimes even command a higher price.

I’d love to hear what other marketers and sales executives are seeing. Are you noticing more alignment between the marketing and sales groups at your company? Have you implemented strategies within your organization that help sales and marketing work better together? Leave a comment below or reach out to us on Twitter @bigmachines.

Will Wieglar

Will Wiegler is Vice President of Marketing at BigMachines. Follow BigMachines on Twitter @BigMachines.