You’re the Missing Link in Your Sales Success

By Joanne Black

Make a direct connection with your referral network. It makes all the difference.

When salespeople receive a referral, their close rate exceeds 50 percent (clients tell me typically 70 percent or higher). Leads from other, less-direct sources have a 1 to 3 percent close rate.

“Personal” Pushes Sales to Success

The definition of a referral is a personal introduction. The introduction can be by phone, email, or in person. If you just get a name, you are making a cold call. Yes, a cold call. You interrupt the person, they don’t expect your call, and they might not even believe that the person you mentioned actually referred you.

I view nearly everyone as a part of my Referral Network. And the people who know the people I want to meet become my Referral Sources. These Referral Sources are the (really cool) people who offer to introduce me.

Your Referral Source (your mutual connection) must reach out to your desired contact first and verify that it’s OK for you to contact them. Then, an email introduction makes sense, as you then share relevant contact information. Too many salespeople ask for referrals through technology alone—leaving your Referral Source with very little information. Plus, you miss the opportunity to reach out and reconnect.

With a little “instruction” you can empower your Referral Source to introduce you. Teach them how to introduce you. (For example, how do you want “what you do” to be described?) Teach them about your Ideal Client, and provide them with the answers to these critical questions:

  • What business issues do you solve?
  • What is the function of your Ideal Client? (CEO, VP, IT, Marketing)
  • In what industry or geography do you work?
  • What size company is your sweet spot?

Want to gain traction with your referrals? Always reconnect before you ask for the referral introduction. Don’t rely on technology alone to boost your referrals. Remember, people do business with people, and referrals are based on a trusted relationship. The missing link…is you.

4 Secrets of Focused People

By Laura Vanderkam,

(MoneyWatch) At one of my workshops recently, a man mentioned that he’d like to make better use of his time. In particular, he wanted long stretches of time to focus on big projects. But, as he asked his colleagues in the room, if he didn’t return their emails immediately, would they hold it against him?

I think this question is quite common. People describe the modern workday as a firefight. Emails are constantly coming at you, seemingly requiring an instant response. There’s no time to think except outside of normal business hours. And that doesn’t seem very fair if you want a normal life, too.

But some of this urgency may be more perception than reality. We inflict it on ourselves. Here’s how to establish new habits.

1. Start small. Even in the most frenetic office environments, you’re allowed to go to the bathroom or grab a coffee (or both). Consequently, you’re probably already comfortable being off email for 15 or 20 minutes. Challenge yourself to close your inbox and turn off your devices for 20 minutes while you focus. If 20 minutes goes by without the earth crashing into the sun, you can start stretching this time to 30 minutes on, 30 minutes off through the day.

2. Be disciplined. The first time you try to go an hour fully focused on one project, you’ll probably be jumpy. You’ll find yourself mindlessly trying to turn on your smartphone, but that’s just a sign of withdrawal. You’ll get used to it. An emergency may always interrupt your focused time, but don’t let that emergency be your own bad habits.

3. Create space. Designate certain times that you’d like to keep free, and do your best not let meetings and phone calls interrupt that time. I try to keep mornings open and schedule calls in the afternoon. It doesn’t always work, but if anyone asks me to suggest a time, it won’t be in the a.m., and hence I don’t have a lot of early calls. Try to model this expectation with your teams — that certain hours are better for meetings than others, to leave certain times open.

4. Try working at home. As long as you don’t have children underfoot, it’s the best way to avoid distractions. If you work in teams, you probably shouldn’t work at home all the time, but once a week or so when you need to think creates a great balance.

How do you find time to focus?


14 Tools to Help You Measure Your Sales and Marketing ROI

by T. A. McCann, Gistful Thinking

When it comes to sales and marketing, results matter.  So if you’re running your business without a defined set of objectives and a measurable way to determine whether or not you’re meeting your goals in these areas with a positive return on investment (ROI), you’re missing out on a tremendous opportunity to improve your business’s bottom line!

The following are some of the potential objectives you should consider when implementing management plans for your sales and marketing teams, as well as the tools that can help you measure the ROI of each goal more effectively.  Keep in mind that these are only suggestions – the specific goals that make the most sense for your business will vary based on your unique organizational structure and mission.


Customer Service

Improving your customer service process can result in more satisfied customers (and, in turn, more sales and referrals for your business).  There are several different metrics you can measure throughout the customer service process, each of which can have a measurable impact on your overall ROI in this area.

Consider setting any of the following goals for your Customer Service team:

●  Decrease overall response times

●  Decrease customer complaints

●  Decrease returned products

●  Increase customer satisfaction survey scores

Of course, with these and all the other potential goal types listed below, it’s important that you modify these objectives with specific metrics that suit your business’s unique needs.  For example, saying that you’d like to decrease customer complaints overall isn’t nearly as effective as saying, “I plan to limit customer complaints to fewer than 10 per month

To measure your performance according to these goals, you’ll need to add a few different types of tools to your business arsenal:

● Response tracking system – In order to establish a baseline performance level and track improvements over time, you’ll need a system that tracks when customer complaints, queries or other response are first entered, as well as when they’re marked complete.  Look into [free to start] or IssueTrak [free version available] to handle this task.

●  Sales CRM – To measure returns (as well as perform a host of other activities), you’ll need a software program that records your sales activity over time.  While this can be accomplished using a simple Excel spreadsheet, programs like[$15/month, per user, to start] and Microsoft Dynamics CRM [$44/month, per user, to start] make the process even more powerful.

●  Satisfaction survey monitor – One of the easiest ways to improve your company’s perception throughout your industry is to take customer feedback seriously and use both praise and complaints to make changes to your business model.  But to use this feedback, you’ve got to first capture it, which requires a satisfaction survey program likeWeb Engage [free version available] or KISS Insights [free version available]

Sales and Marketing

Implementing goals and objectives tracking for your sales and marketing activities is another great place to start improving your overall ROI, as changes here can have a direct impact on how much you sell and how profitably you’re able to do it.

Check out any of the potential goal options below for ideas on where to get started:

●  Increase number of sales

●  Increase profit margins on sales

●  Increase number of new contacts and leads

●  Increase number of new accounts

Again, you’ll want to modify these goals using the specific parameters that make sense for your business.

To manage any of these objectives, you’ll need the same type of Sales CRM program to track sales activity as described above.  Both Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics CRM offer great ways to track this information, although you’ll want to pair them with a contact management solution that allows you to tie customer data to sales history to determine the number and profitability of new accounts you create.

Website/Internet Marketing

No matter what industry you’re in, having a business website is pretty much a default expectation these days.  So instead of simply putting up a “billboard” style website that tells visitors more about your company and your products, turn your website into an effective sales tool of its own!  The following are some of the potential metrics to consider when forming a series of objectives to improve your website’s performance and ROI:

●  Increase average time spent on site per visitor

●  Increase website traffic from particular sources (including organic search, PPC traffic and social networking sites)

● Increase total number of sales online

To capture this information, you’ll need a website analytics program that tracks where people are coming from and what they’re doing on your site.  The best tool for the job is the Google Analytics program [free], which allows you to capture visitor data, as well as set up advanced sales goals and funnels to determine which sales are originating from your website and which traffic sources are the most profitable for your company.

Personal Productivity

Finally, while it’s important to focus on improving the overall ROI of your company’s sales and marketing divisions, applying this same practice of setting goals and measuring progress can be just as effective when tied to your own personal workstyle.  Consider the following elements of personal productivity that can be measured in order to increase sales and improve ROI:

●  Decrease time spent responding to non-urgent email

●  Increase total amount of focused work each day

●  Increase number of non-essential tasks delegated to other workers

Tracking and improving on each of these varying objectives requires a number of different tools.  Check out any of the following options:

● Email efficiency tools – There are plenty of different programs available today that can help to finally take control of your email inbox.  Take a look at Sanebox’s[$4.95/month] inbox prioritization program, as well as Yesware’s [free version available] email template system.

● Focus boosting apps – If constant distractions prevent you from completing the amount of focused work you’d like, check out apps that block in-browser distractions (including Leechblock [free] and RescueTime [free]), as well as programs like Focus Booster [free] that can help you measure your focused time each day.

● Delegation program– In order to manage multiple tasks across different workers, you need a system that allows you to define activities and assign them to your employees.  Basecamp [$49/month to start] has long been considered the “gold standard” in this area, but you should also take a look at Trello, and up-and-coming, free-to-use program that provides many of the same features.

What specific goal types are you tracking within your organization?  Share them, as well as the tools you use to measure your progress!

Leadership, Is Your Business Ready for What Lies Ahead?

By Kathleen Steffey

Prepare your business for the future, avoid business failure, national preparedness monthSeptember is National Preparedness Month.  On government websites such as, the focus is on preparation for natural disasters.  As a business located in the hurricane-prone state of Florida, I highly encourage everyone to check out the site for tips on preparing your business and your family for potentially devastating events.

However, the Preparedness actions outlined on the site are applicable not just to natural disasters, but could prevent a business disaster or failure as well.  The actions they outline include:

  1. Be Informed
  2. Make a Plan
  3. Build a Kit
  4. Get Involved

Be Informed

For businesses, being informed is critical.  Are you sufficiently monitoring the horizon to see what might impact your business?  I read an article recently about the reason Apple developed the iPhone.  It wasn’t because they wanted to be in the phone market, but that they were confident the phone market would cannibalize their big profit item – the iPod.  Business Leaders need to be reviewing direct competitors’ actions, industry trends, and supply chain developments in their direct industry.  However, leaders must be follow parallel industries, general population trends, global markets and other areas that impact their business over the longer term to prevent business disaster.

Make a Plan

Obviously, awareness is not sufficient to prevent disaster.  You have to take action.  Planning is critical.  Take the opportunity while you are not in distress to think clearly about what you would do under different types of circumstances.  Would you enter a new market through product development or acquisition if the current trends continue? Would you change your talent mix to meet the needs of a more diverse buying population?  Based on the information you monitor, make sure you have a plan for the high likelihood scenarios that will affect your business over the next 5 years.

Build a Kit

For businesses, building the kit refers to taking measurable action steps to implement your plan.  To use the Apple analogy again, they were building prototypes of the iPad more than 5 years before the product was ever introduced.  Without a defined launch date, or a full understanding of how the market would adapt to a tablet-type computer, there were teams of people working on products to protect their business future.  In the early days, it may just be brainstorming sessions of what your business would look like with a few people once per month.  But, as the market dynamics shift in the direction of your scenario, more resources and effort can be applied without the panic of impending disaster.

Get Involved

As leaders, it is critical to share your vision broadly, engage your team in anticipating coming up with solutions to future problems, and personally get involved in  planning and building your future.  Collaboration between leadership and the entire employee population is crucial to ensuring buy-in and success.   By being visible and a champion for preparing the business for the future, you will improve your standing and increase your chances of success.

So, check out the tools on the National Preparedness website.  Prepare yourself and your business for the natural disasters that could strike at any time.  However, more importantly, start now on preparing for the changes that most certainly will affect your business over the intermediate to long-term.


Setting sales goals and targets

Post by Matt Smith,

“Plan Your Work, Work Your       Plan” – Setting Sales Goals and Targets

We have devoted several posts recently to the importance of sales planning, including: The Complete 2012 B2B Sales Planning Outline… And It’s Only 359 Words and Proof That Sales Planning Increases Win RatesSales planning itself is such an important component of the sales process that we are hosting a webinar with CSO Insights on this topic this week (join if you can).

If you consider that the B2B sales plan sets the course for everything that goes into a successful sales year, the initial section of the sales plan, “Goals and Targets,” establishes the course for the actual written plan. Let’s take a closer look at this critical section and consider the required outcome of each key point.

The 5-Step B2B Sales Planning Handbook

Step 1: Sales Goals and Targets

  • Setting your annual sales goals and revenue targets
  • Prioritize challenges that could keep you from hitting your targets and create a defensive strategy for each
  • Define changes and investments that must be made to achieve success

1.  Setting Sales Goals and Revenue Targets

Although goals and targets are often used synonymously, they are in fact quite different.    Compare their definitions*

Goals: Destinations or where we want the business to be and feel, for example:

–      Relationships

–      Reputation

–      Image

–      Sustainability

–      Culture

Targets: Specific results we want the business to achieve, progress markers to attaining goals; for example:

–      Revenue

–      Profit

–      Market share

–      Recognition

An example of how Goals and Targets work together in this opening section of your sales plan could look like this.

Goal: Establish two new relationships per quarter in the US Financial and Accounting Outsourcing practice.  The targeted annual contract value of each new relationship is $2 million.

2. Prioritizing Challenges and Creating Defensive Strategies

Consider your last couple sales years and think about those things that kept you from achieving all your sales targets.  Be as specific as possible while keeping it functionally focused – not personal.   For example: Need more qualified output from marketing’s lead generation programs (instead of actually naming the VP of Marketing as the problem).

Here’s a simple but effective template for listing out challenges, their impact and priority, and assigning responsibility to minimizing them.

3.  Defining Changes and Investments Needed to Achieve Success

You are likely in the same boat as most sales leaders heading into a new year: You’re getting a quota increase. In the old days we might grumble a little, play around with territories and headcount then tell the CEO we need another seven incremental sales reps to meet the new number.  Your best expectation would have been for one or two of the seven to make quota.  The others become permanent “C” players or simply fail miserably.

More Effective Approaches to Investing in Sales Success

Yes, headcount is still a critical success factor for a sales team expected to make its number.   However, studies of best-in-class sales teams clearly demonstrate many other vital approaches to improving effectiveness and revenue that simply make your existing A, B and even C performers better.   (Fire the D’s, but that’s already in your plan, right?).

Here are five areas of your sales model that will benefit big time from focus and investment.   They are proven to create permanent increases in both win-rates and quota attainment for B2B sales teams.

  • Establishing a formalized sales process, including targeted account planning
  • Sales manager effectiveness training and industry-specific rep training
  • Lead segmentation and a marketing automation system
  • Sales leaders dashboard
  • Sales intelligence, prospect profiling and industry monitoring

There you have an example of Setting Sales Goals and Targets, the first section in creating your new sales plan.   You can clearly see why getting this area down on paper establishes the foundation for everything else in your plan.

Tools, Templates and Help Writing Your Sales Plan

If you’d like some help getting started we have many tools and templates on our Sales LeadersResources page.  We also offer a complimentary Sales Optimization Review for CEOs and Sales Leaders who know they need to make some big changes but want some ideas before getting started.   Let us know how we can help.

*From my well-worn version of Marketing Plans that Work – Targeting Growth and Profitability, copyright 2002.

Successful Marketing Automation: Preparedness Precedes Purchase

By Vince Giorgi  

If you haven’t noticed, marketing automation is on a steep adoption curve.

Yesterday came news from marketing consultancy Raab Associates, reported here in BtoB’s e-newsletter, that marketers are expected to spend more than $500 million on marketing automation (MA) systems in 2012, with vendors EloquaMarketoInfusionsoft and HubSpot to account for more than half of that spending.

Interestingly, the MA boom forecast for this year comes after an almost-as-robust 2011, when MA spending climbed 50 percent above 2010 levels, according to Raab, which advises clients on making MA purchases.

Marketing Automation Warnings and Worries

In light of MA’s popularity, what’s interesting is just how much online hand-wringing exists regarding MA — especially cautions to corporate marketers about how not to make a big mistake when investing in MA software.

Do a quick search on a term such as “marketing automation mistakes” and you’ll find plenty of posts, discussions and top-10 lists of things to beware of and avoid. It starts to sound as though MA should come packaged with a warning label.

And that might not be such a bad thing.

Because if you boil down all the pros, cons and concerns, the theme that tends to repeat is this:

Be prepared, or you’ll likely regret the purchase.

What cautionary voices seem to be saying (including some of the MA vendors themselves, to their credit) is that you’re asking for trouble and disappointment if, before you adopt MA, you’re not first squared away on such fundamentals as:

  • Business strategy
  • Audience personas and buying process
  • Market positioning
  • Content strategy
  • Lead qualification criteria
  • Lead management process (especially the interplays between sales and marketing)

In other words, some rather big, hairy marketing considerations.

Prepare for Marketing Automation, then Purchase

Basically, it’s a get-your-ducks-in-a-row-or-else caution that persists around MA, despite it’s growing adoption. A warning that even the greatest technology can’t salvage weak or absent strategy, alignments and processes. A heads-up that without content, even the best marketing engine will lack fuel to generate the lead-management horsepower needed to drive a brand and business forward.

I like the way Forrester analyst Jeff Ernst put it in this interview with Marketing Automation Times: Essentially, Ernst says, it comes down to having a handle on lead-to-revenue process, content, and measurement. Get those ducks in a row. Then, by all means, you might be ready to make the most of MA.

And what if it’s too late? You’ve already implemented MA, and it’s not delivering the ROI you expected?

Strategy and content are probably more to blame than technology.

Time to reverse engineer.

Time to start wrangling some ducks.

SALES QUESTION: “How Do You Deal with Anxiety Before Each Cold Call?”

By Michael Pedone,


Cold call anxiety happens when at least one of these two things is present:

  • Lack of confidence
  • Fear of rejection

You can psych yourself up all you want to make calls but if you are constantly being rejected when selling by phone, eventually no matter what you tell yourself or do to get all jazzed up before making the dials, the rejections will continue and eventually selling won’t be very fun anymore.

And when selling isn’t fun, you’re in real trouble. Like, “Can’t make the mortgage payment because I haven’t hit quota in 3-months” trouble.

You can try and find ways to stay positive in everyday negative sales calls but that never addresses the real issue of what’s causing the “rejection” (which causes lack of confidence and fear of further abuse / rejection… it’s a vicious cycle)

There are two schools of thought on this subject:

  • Its part of sales, deal with it or get out
  • It’s largely preventable (I’m in this camp and have years of experience behind me to prove this scenario exists)

When your cold call rejection rate is high, instead of accepting it as part of sales, why not ask yourself “why am I getting rejected a lot?” and refuse the answer of “that’s the way sales is” because it isn’t.

There’s a difference between being “rejected” and a prospect not being “qualified”

If your “rejection rate” is high, that’s a big arrow pointing to your sales process (what you say, when you say it, how you say it, why you say, who you say it to, etc)

In essence, your game plan (sales process) isn’t working and you need one that does.

The first place I would look to revamp your sales process is within the company you work for… who’s the top sales person month in and month out? Learn what they are doing and follow their sales process.

If that isn’t an option, find someone else who has already accomplished what it is that you want to accomplish and learn from them.

The “A” Factor

Once you’ve found a sales process that produces the level of results that you want, your confidence will jump and commission checks will grow. But every once in a while you’ll still make a sales call and get a prospect on the other end of the phone that will just rip you a new one.

I’ve seen too many salespeople (myself included) take a working sales process that has made them lots of money just to start tweaking the heck out of it because of one prospect that read them the riot act over the phone. This is a mistake!

A mentor of mine taught me a long time ago to never let the “A factor” change what you know works. When I asked what he meant by the A factor, he said when a prospect is being an @ss! (Actually, he was a little more verbal in his description, but you get the point)

Fix your sales process until you have repeated success with it. And when an occasional call goes bad, you’ll have the confidence to know it wasn’t anything you did and you’ll be able to move on to the next call without an ounce of anxiety.