This month’s Featured Company Q&A is with Joe Blake, SVP Sales & Marketing for Econiq, who shares with us his focus for the coming year and strategies for sales success.
What do you enjoy most about working for Econiq?
Econiq is a young organization going through a period of rapid growth, and this presents a variety of challenges every day for me and the whole team. I enjoy working in such a fast paced environment with a team of highly experienced and skilled professionals, where we are focused on delivering great solutions for our clients and building the Econiq brand in parallel.
What unique quality separates Econiq from your competitors?
That’s simple – the Econiq solution is groundbreaking.
No other solution in the marketplace today will double frontline sales activity in 3 months with a return on investment in 3-6 months.
We are all coming off of a challenging year, how has Econiq handled it?
It has been a very challenging year for the industry as a whole where IT budgets have been reduced and many projects postponed or even cancelled. This has actually presented a significant market opportunity for Econiq. It has enabled us to clearly demonstrate why we are different by making firm commitments to our clients to deliver hard dollar ROI in 3 – 6 months. These are the types of projects that are generally being approved in the current climate over those with longer pay back cycles and less firm business cases. We have taken a slightly different approach to most software solution providers in our space by working much more closely with clients to define business requirements in a very precise way with absolute focus on hard dollar return on investment. We then partner with our clients to ensure that the financial benefits are achieved, which correlates into success for both parties involved.
What would you like salesjournal.com readers to know about Econiq?
Ground breaking technology to address the biggest issue facing most organizations today – how to better understand your customers in order to cross sell more products and services that meet their needs. Our clients are able to double their sales activity in 3 months!
What specific goals, including those related to your specific position within the company, have you established for 2010?
We have put in place ambitious growth targets for the year ahead in terms of revenue and client acquisition. I am glad to say that we are well ahead on this front for the year to date.
In parallel, it is also important for us to develop the Econiq brand, and this is more long term goal.
What creative strategies have you used to encourage/influence your sales team?
During a period of rapid growth, I find it is easier to motivate the sales team. Apart from the obvious monetary benefits, people get a great sense of fulfillment by being successful and delivering successful projects. Internally, people can also see opportunities for personal growth and career advancement in a growing organization. Additionally, our CEO is committed to ensuring that all Econiq employees benefit from the company growth through our Employee Equity Program.
What is your favorite methodology in sales training and/or business enhancement?
I am not fixed on any one particular methodology but I have a couple of thoughts in relation to how many organizations spend training budget. The most effective training programs are those that:
- are delivered to address each individual’s personal requirements and areas for development and not broad brush topic based training
- training plans should be directly linked to an individual’s performance, assessed using hard metrics
- the impact of training should be measured using the same hard numbers – the return on investment in training and development needs to be measured in the same way as other significant business investments
Are there any books, sales related or leadership related, that you use as a guide and/or would recommend?
I think Super Crunchers by Ian Ayers is a good read. Access to relevant, high quality data to support sensible decision making has never been more pressing than today. We see a large part of our role within Econiq being to help organizations to put data on all aspects of their sales process and in doing so enabling them to measure and manage each step to drive major uplift.
Do you have a mentor that you contribute your leadership success to? Do you feel it is important to have a mentor?
I have been fortunate to work with a number of exceptional leaders over the years and have made a very conscious effort to observe them and learn from them. I see this as a crucial skill for anyone who wants to continually learn and progress in life. I also like to tap into some of the more obvious world leaders across a variety of industries and disciplines. In particular, Steve Jobbs for his creativity, passion and energy, Jack Welch for absolute focus on execution and numbers and Edward de Bono for his tremendous logic and dispassionate problem solving.
What characteristics do you look for in a sales professional?
By far the greatest skill that I look for is the ability to ask sensible questions and listen to the answers. It never fails to amaze me how many sales people find it so difficult to stay quiet and listen to their customers!
Do you feel a sales professional must have experience in the industry they are selling in order to be successful?
Industry knowledge can be a help in the short term but at some point, we are all required to swim in unfamiliar waters and we need to have the skills to cope. I prefer to see people develop broader business skills that will stand the test of time and enable them to succeed in differing environments.
If an individual or the team as a whole is not meeting goals, what is your approach to nurture this?
The obvious thing is to find out “why?” Often, the default reaction is to press the eject button. Sometimes this is the right decision but it can also be a convenient way to ignore deeper business issues. A whole team not meeting goals is clearly different from an individual underperforming as it might reflect myriad factors including market condition, company value proposition, competitive issues and so on. Coaching an individual who is under performing needs to be a very clear, two way process where measurable expectations are agreed with set timelines. I always try to get to the route causes and deal with them, whether they be skill based, level of effort, support processes or otherwise. The key is (a) clarity by focusing on the data, (b) fairness to the individual as well as the company and (c) a clear timeframe.
How much time do you need to know if a new sales hire will “make it”? What are some indicators/behaviors?
Again, this becomes a lot easier for a sales manager if they have put in place the right numbers by which to manage the sales process and can access the data. All too often, sales performance is predominantly measured by deals closed and revenue which are outputs or lag indicators. It is vital that leading indicators are put in place for each step in the sales process and in particular, the earlier steps, to reflect how the business and individuals are performing. This way, managers can intervene earlier and take appropriate steps.