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Break the vicious cycle of weak sales performance.

Many companies world-wide want to know how much liquidity is needed to sit out this unpleasant situation and what can be done to reverse sinking profits or rising losses. One of most obvious answers to all of these inquiries is this: Stop careless spending; increase selling!

In times past, sales have been easier to come by; with sufficient revenue income, mediocre sales performance from a few on staff was somehow tolerable. But as sales cycles get longer and purchasing decisions get further delayed, the term ‘mediocre’ gets a whole new meaning in value. Less value. Entire sales floors are taking a deep dive, based on last year’s performance. The fruits of success are hanging much higher in today’s economy, and companies unprepared to meet these new conditions will go on a wild ride in a dangerous and vicious cycle.

Jeff Gitomer is an author/writer, speaker and business trainer.

How Good is Your Sales Management Program?

This week’s blog is by Matt Sharrers, Principal, Sales Benchmark Index.

In business today, you will hear the expressions “we need to take care of our people” and “it is all about having A Players” more times than you can possibly imagine. Running parallel to these statements is the fundamental question: How good is your Talent Management program? 

How do you as a leader or company pick the best? What process do you use to train them? How do you help them develop into larger roles?

Hire, train and develop. Master these big rocks of talent management and watch your results take off.

Hiring
The term “A Player” is often thrown around loosely in companies. In our book Topgrading for Sales, Dr. Bradford Smart  and co-author Greg Alexander define an A Player as somebody who has a 90% chance of being in the top 10% in that particular role for the compensation available.

With this as your guide, a great sales leader must understand how many of the 55 key sales competencies their top performers must have. Secondly, they should always conduct reference interviews vs. old fashioned reference checks. The reference interview should be a 30-45 minute discussion with at least three of the candidate’s former bosses. A Players never have a problem getting former bosses to vouch for them. 

If you have a hiring process that includes these crucial steps, you will find A Players seeking out your organization and you will improve your odds of picking true performers.

Training
After you have the A Players in your organization, getting them ramped up to full productivity is the next big challenge.  For a company to spend all this time and money on attracting A Players and then abandon them at the door is the worst thing they can do. 

There are seven key categories that need to be covered in any on boarding process:

  1. Pre-hire (email, payroll)
  2. Administration (HR, benefits)
  3. Company Information (value proposition, industry)
  4. Product (competitive advantage, features)
  5. Competitors (strengths/weaknesses)
  6. Internal Processes (sales support, sales operations)
  7. Sales Methodology (selling process)

Within each of these areas are four key stages: objectives, duration, activities and verification.

If the initial training is executed in this fashion, three things happen. First, you will have consistency across your sales organization and a way to ensure knowledge is transferred the right way, in the right environment and by the right people. Second, you will be able to look back and see what areas are potentially lacking if people are not ramping up as you would like and know what to improve.

Last, and most important, the perception the new hire has of their new company increases. They feel excited that a documented, well thought out process is in place and it will motivate them to perform for a company that is giving so much so soon.

Development
Great players do not always make great coaches. And sometimes, above average performers become wonderful coaches. A world class sales force should have a robust, defined system for succession planning that effectively identifies who can lead and who cannot.

Upon identifying a person who appears to have a desire to lead, there are three things that need to be done to prepare them for a possible leadership role. First, set proper expectations that criteria will be made up of results, methods (how they sell, CRM usage), company culture fit and leadership ability. Second, provide a list of activities beginning as far out as two years from when you envision the potential promotion date and have them work through them (i.e. shadow interviews, mentoring a new hire, running a meeting). Last, push them to read and educate themselves. If you notice a positive response, begin guiding them to a reading list that helps them build knowledge in the key leadership areas (strategy, challenging leadership, change management).

 A combination of these three tasks will give you a great forward-looking view of whether or not your top rep can indeed take the next step.

Conclusion
Hire A Players; people who have a 90% chance of being in the top 10% for the job available at the compensation range. Train them meticulously, with checkpoints along the way in all areas of their role. Develop and invest in them through a series of activities that get them ready for the next job before they are in that job.

If you execute talent management through these three prisms, engagement will be high and your results will soar.

When Selling in Down Economy, Who You Know Matters Most

It’s no secret that top sales professionals possess both strong relationships and deep industry knowledge. But in a down economy, many have found that who they know has a greater impact on their sales success than what they know.

The reality is that in bad economic times, prospects aren’t willing to take a chance on new businesses when making purchasing decisions. Instead, they rely on sales professionals with whom they have already established a trusted relationship. Doing so helps mitigate the risks involved with investing limited budgets into an unproven or unknown product or service.

That is why the importance of maintaining solid customer relationships cannot be over-emphasized, particularly in today’s market when prospect pipelines are harder to fill no matter how experienced you are. Even if existing customers are not buying, cultivating those relationships ensures that you will be top-of-mind when they are ready to spend. It also increases your chances for referrals.

Of course, maintaining solid connections doesn’t absolve you of your responsibility to stay abreast of industry trends. The ability to share information and advise your customers from a position of knowledge is one of the most powerful ways you can continue demonstrating value and solidify your position as a trusted advisor – even when they aren’t buying.

Too, the pendulum is swinging, albeit slowly. As the economy recovers, possessing expertise and experience will matter just as much as a having a strong network when it comes to growing sales and generating revenues.

In other words, strong connections may matter the most right now. But enhancing those connections with a solid – and growing – base of knowledge will ensure that you are ahead of the curve when the economy turns.

How to Decide in a Time of Confusion

In the most unpredictable business conditions most managers have seen, it’s harder than ever to plan for three months out — never mind a year. Despite the chaos, there are well-established tools that can be used to navigate a murky business environment. “Even in the most uncertain times, you don’t have to just wing it,” says Hugh Courtney, associate dean of executive programs at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “There are systematic ways to deal with even the most uncertain environment.”

Kim Girard has gathered these techniques for you to use, to get a better handle on a rapidly changing environment and prepare for what’s coming next — whatever that might be.

Five Ways Managers Breed Incompetence

The Business Pundit tackles the national epidemic of incompetence: Imagine you’re a gung-ho new employee at Franklin Widgets, Inc. You come into the job ready to make an impact–until you notice that everyone spends most of their time staring slack-jawed at Facebook. After you realize you’re safe from managerial scrutiny, you join them. Why should you work hard if nobody else is? Remedy: The onus is on managers to create a sense of urgency and accountability.

JigSaw or ZoomInfo—which data service do you like best?

This week’s blog is from Ben Bradley, Managing Director at Macon Raine, Inc. who also blogs on marketing, sales technology and just about everything else at BenBradley.net

At MaconRaine, we help companies find customers by functioning as a “rep” and conducting selling activities on behalf of our clients. But before any of that can take place, our CRMs must be populated with accurate and up to date contact information.

After all, it is hard to market to someone if you don’t know who they are.

Having the right contact information makes it easier to get time with potential prospects. You know the sales and marketing process; simply finding an excuse to get in the door is a round-about, adaptive, gradual and hybrid process. 

To perform basic data hygiene and campaign targeting, we utilize a variety of data services: Hoovers, Jigsaw, and a range of value-added list services.   Some are licensed (but seldom used) by our clients and some we license directly.

We tend to use JigSaw the most because it can provide prospect email addresses. We don’t spam. All of our email contact is one to one and extremely personalized.

Unfortunately, my major complaint with JigSaw is the inability to filter and remove unqualified prospects from queries before the list is closed. When I have to edit my search in the Shopping Cart it slows my workflow and can be incredibly frustrating.

For example, I recently conducted a JigSaw search for vice presidents with keyword “Security” in the title. While reviewing the search results in the shopping cart, I noticed a number of contacts were actually responsible for physical security instead of network security. Removing them was time consuming.

A short time ago, we were contacted by ZoomInfo’s PR department, given a membership and asked to evaluate it on our blog. Since I love free stuff, here goes…

For sheer personalization, what we like about ZoomInfo is the in-depth profiles kept on each individual. We can quickly research a prospect and craft custom outreach that references past press clippings or web mentions.  ZoomInfo calls this capability “deep” data because it improves how we target and keep tabs on client competitive activity.

Zoominfo’s lead sources are updated daily and, as I said, the service allows for powerful list segmentation. I can also upload key account lists to expand my baseline understanding of organizations in my clients’ target market. This more than meets my criteria for a good prospecting application.

If forced to pick one of these services over another, I don’t know if I would be able to. Each does things slightly different and different projects require a different set of tools.

In a best case scenario, I’d recommend buying them all. But the economy being what it is, sometimes we have to make decisions. So for bulk prospecting, I recommend Jigsaw. For surgical high level prospecting, ZoomInfo is the way to go.

Which do you prefer and why?