A disappointed Coca-Cola salesman returns from his assignment to Israel. His boss asked, “Why weren’t you successful with the Israelis? Didn’t you work with the local guys, was the market research incorrect, what happened?”
The salesman explained, “When I got posted, I was very confident that I would make it. But, I had a problem. I didn’t know Hebrew. So, I planned to convey the message via 3 posters.
First poster: A man lying in the hot desert sand, totally exhausted.
Second poster: The man drinks Coca Cola.
Third poster: The man is now totally refreshed.
“These posters were pasted all over the place, why didn’t it work?” asked the boss? “It should have worked”, said the salesman. “But, I didn’t realize that Israelis read from right to left!!!” (Look at the poster again)
The boss looks at the salesman and said, “If you are going off script then I don’t have to be right, but you do.”
Salespeople are paid to be creative, adaptable, competitive, and forced to make quick decisions without all the information available. It is sales leadership’s responsibility to give their employees battle cards, playbooks, and messaging specific to their opportunity. (RampedUp.io can help with these.) The synergy of the two working together wins business. One without the other usually results in management cliche’s and finger pointing.
As much as we would like to admit it, marketing alone is not enough to secure a healthy pipeline of business. I recently heard Kyle Porter of Salesloft (a company that sells sales development platforms) mention that even his senior sellers are required to produce a percentage of their own pipeline.
In response, senior sales people are asked to go from reacting to demand to generating it on their own. With this dynamic, I think the hardest thing for sales management to understand is that their BIG GAME Hunters are unprepared and unwilling to handle this responsibility.
Without any direction outside of a mandate to gain more evaluations – senior sales people do what they do best. They think their industry knowledge, tenure, and high compensation requires them to craft lengthy and well researched correspondence to targeted executives. (Imagine the laborious process of researching, writing and rewriting the perfectly tailored e-mail and phone script?) The problem with this approach is that when these lengthy, targeted pieces of correspondence go unanswered – senior sales people get frustrated. They begin to take on the mentality that they are closers and setting appointments only prevents them from do what they are paid so handsomely to do. In truth – highly compensated / senior sales people rose to their station because they are very productive and demand creation activity that doesn’t generate demand is just……unproductive.
What we need to understand is that our buyers are very busy and even if we craft the perfect pitch to an individual, it could be the wrong time, the wrong person, or even the wrong median. Demand Creation in today’s hectic and busy world requires a different outlook and process. We need to switch from a hunting approach to a farming mentality.
A successful demand creation process allows senior sales people to use their tenure, experience, and status for demand creation – but instead of spending this time focusing on an individual – they focus on a group of individuals. This process takes the same amount of time as traditional targeted demand creation efforts but is wildly more productive because it generates results.
These individuals need a message tailored specifically to them. A recent SAP study found that 45% of today’s buyers want relevant use cases to help them make a decision. They want information about how you have helped similar people in their position and in their industry. And not just vague value propositions, they want to hear specifics. I recommend taking a targeted audience based on job title, industry, and competitive install. Find a pain you have solved based on a recent Win Story (RampedUp.io can help here) for all three. Once the message is created – we need to think multi-touch and multi-median.
The Eight Touch Campaign
Snail Mail Touch – In a FedEx envelope to ensure it gets to the recipient. Reference 3 strategic pains you can solve.
E-mail Touch – Referencing letter, Pain 1, date to meet
Phone Touch – Referencing letter, Pain 1 and date to meet
E-mail Touch – Reference Pain 2, second date to meet
Phone Touch – Reference Pain 2, second date to meet
E-mail Touch – Reference Pain 3, third date to meet
Phone Touch – Reference Pain 3, third date to meet
Transitioning E-mail Touch to Lead Nurture
This process won’t work every time, but it will be strategic enough to motivate a senior seller and tailored enough to motivate the target to respond. Give it a try senior sellers and let me know how it works for you.
RampedUp, a recognized leader in Sales Enablement and Onboarding, today announced that they have located their headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia and will be growing their team there in the near future. RampedUp was accepted into membership at 22 Tech Park, a community of innovative and disruptive tech startups. This move is part of RampedUp’s ongoing growth, and will allow the company better access to top talent, strong partners, and collaboration with other innovative technology businesses.
“We couldn’t be more excited about the move,” said Scott Miller, CEO of RampedUp. “Being a part of 22 Tech Park and Atlanta, generally, is very closely aligned with who we are as a company and a culture. Atlanta has notable leadership in sales and marketing technology and we look forward to working with other future-thinking companies that are members and supporters of 22 Tech Park.”
Mark Metz, Founder of 22 Tech Park notes, “As selling has become more competitive, so has the need to onboard new sales reps more effectively and efficiently. Companies have to minimize the time it takes to ramp up their sales force or face losing customers they may never win back.”
RampedUp is a Salesforce app that provides Sales Enablement and Onboarding through Win Stories. RampedUp’s approach is very unique in that we provide context to competitive intelligence, buyer personas, and product positioning by leveraging our customer’s tribal knowledge. The result is a shorter ramp up and a quicker time to first deal. Visit https://www.rampedup.io for more.
About Atlanta 22 Tech Park:
22 Tech Park offers technology entrepreneurs a place to create, develop, network and flourish. Our mission is to provide early stage IT start-ups with a working environment that is conducive to teamwork, sharing, flexibility, and execution. From a single person pod to a functional team area that grows as you grow, 22 Tech Park has options for most early stage startups. Located outside the perimeter on the north end of The Perimeter, 22 Tech Park is perfectly located for North Atlantans who seek to work closer to where they live. visit http://www.22techpark.com/ for more.
Thomas Friedman of the New York Times wrote a classic column about the new untouchables in American Business. I found this quote to be quite prophetic, “In a world in which more and more average work can be done by a computer, robot or talented foreigner faster, cheaper “and just as well,” vanilla doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s all about what chocolate sauce, whipped cream and cherry you can put on top.” For Friedman – the New Untouchables have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work.
I thought about how the same concept applies to the noble vocation of selling. Forbes reports that 58% of executives consult the the web before they call a vendor to start a new project. Buyers are educating themselves on our solutions, via the web and social networking, and are less receptive to the “cold call.” Corporate websites are site optimized with messaging unique to the viewer, third-party research, info-graphics, and recorded demos. Top marketers employ consistent demand generation messaging across mobile, social, search, email, and web to pique the buyer’s interest. Tools like Eloqua and Marketo empower marketing with results about the effectiveness of their campaigns and highlight individuals who show the right buying propensities.
I heard a statistic stating that selling used to be 30% marketing and 70% sales. With the new shift in the buyer/seller paradigm – that percentage is now reversed. The latest research from SiriusDecisions states that buyers have completed 67% of their buying process before they contact a seller. Sales leaders seem to be adjusting their go-to market strategy with this paradigm shift accordingly. Marketing’s role is going deeper into the sales cycle to the point of handling the entire transaction over the web in some cases. As a result, Forrester forecasts that 1 million US B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce by the year 2020. Outside sales forces have been pushed inside with web-conferencing and online demonstrations as cheaper vehicles for selling. InsideSales.com, conducted research revealing that inside sales is growing 300 percent faster than outside sales, with 42,400 non-retail inside sales jobs being created per year. Key account retention is now the responsibility of senior leadership with advisory councils and strategic liaisons. As one CEO recently told me – “the days of the $100,000 doughnut-toter vanished in the wake of the great recession.”
Over the past two years, successful sales leaders survived doing more with less. These pioneers will only build on the lessons they learned – not return to unproductive habits of the past. Furthermore, as Software as a Service evolves into every aspect of business, it becomes less complicated for the buyer to understand, purchase, and even trial. The barrier of entry is just that much lower. The question then is how do modern sales people make themselves untouchable? I think the answer is to adjust and evolve. Today’s buyer wants to buy from a peer. We must embrace the new technologies and lack of control we once had in the buying process.
If our buyers are searching for information on our solution on the web – then be on the web – in the form of blogs, webinars, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Content is King after all. If our buyers can learn more about us online, then we should learn more about them. The information highway is a two-way street.
Try going to the BlueKai registry website to see what Oracle knows about you based on your web foot print: http://www.bluekai.com/registry/
Become an industry expert by reading the same whitepapers and joining the same social networks they do. Finally, remember that your biggest competition is no longer tangible, it is the web. If you can’t offer value over and above what a buyer can find online, then you are “touchable.” Be untouchable, be connected, be a resource.
Perhaps you have read, Forrester forecasts that 1 million US B2B salespeople will lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce by the year 2020. There is an excellent article in Slate covering the same topic entitled, Death of a Salesman. Of Lots of Them, Actually.
The main theme of both articles is that sales people are becoming “disintermediated” by the internet. The authors use examples of how auto salespeople, travel agents, and stock brokers have lost their jobs to sites like AutoTrader, Expedia, and eTrade. There is no arguing that B2C sales careers have been severely crippled by the information age but what about B2B? Truly.
Steve Woods, Former CTO of Eloqua and author of Digital Body Language, argues that a B2B salesperson’s biggest competition is Google. I have to agree. Salespeople don’t get involved in the buying process until the prospect has thoroughly educated him or herself about our service. The latest research from SiriusDecisions states that buyers have completed 67% of their buying process before they contact a seller! Our competitive differentiation and online demonstrations are available for the world to see on our website so why wouldn’t they? Every piece of information we as salespeople once thought so sacred in the sales process has been reduced to a click of a mouse. If you are saying the same thing to your prospect that can be found online then you have added no value to the sales process.
To avoid the same fate as Willie Loman, we have to tailor our message specifically to the buyer. We have to give them something they can’t find online. Luckily, the information superhighway is a two way street.
- The first step is to get out in front of the buyer by knowing who and when they were on your website or opened your sales collateral. Companies like Yesware and LeadForensics will give this business intelligence as part of their offering. Were executives on your site or just functionaries? Was your proposal forwarded on to legal? The pages they selected will give you the insight into their concerns.
- The second step is to do a thorough search of the buyers. Search LinkedIn to see how long the buyers have been working in their present positions and where they worked before. Oftentimes we can get a glimpse of predisposition by understanding the landscape of previous employers. What groups are they members of on LinkedIn? Review their last 20 tweets to see what is motivating them to post on social media.
- The last step is to research the company itself. Try searching the company on Owler for a competitive graph. Datanyze will provide an industry overview to gauge the reach a company has in a certain market. My favorite site is G2Crowd to get first hand insight into user reviews of a software product. Lastly, try Glassdoor for employee reviews of the company. You can catch hidden gems from disgruntled employees. Think competitive advantage in terms of how you can give it to your prospect – not against your own competition.
- Find the relevant wins your company has in the prospect’s industry or had the same problem. Link your potential buyer with previous buyers of your solution. Win Stories that are relevant to your buyer by product or against a similar competitor will bring context to your value proposition instead of rote talking points.
With these bits of information you can begin creating a talk track around specific intelligence that will compliment what the prospect already has learned about your solution. Here are a couple more ideas on how to avoid disintremediation from Business to Community. My favorite is to adopt a challenger sales model.
Lastly – Geoffrey James as 6 ideas on what selling will look like in 2024: http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/6-ways-selling-will-change-by-2024.html
Sales Onboarding is perhaps the most often overlooked aspect of sales enablement because it ranges from non-existent to drinking from a fire hose. But companies with a documented and consistent sales onboarding process experience 91% retention and 33% improvement in time to first deal. Another interesting stat is that 73% of new sellers report the most lasting and impactful information they receive during their first few months comes from veteran sales people. That is considering boot camp, learning management systems, and playbooks.
Therefore, if a company is looking to take the guesswork out of sales onboaording then it needs to have a consistent, documented process focusing on information from peer sellers. Try these ideas to foster a ground-up onboarding framework that focuses on best practices from your best practitioners.
Collect Win Stories from your A-players and keep them is a central location that can be searched. These Win Stories need to be facilitated through thoughtful and considered questions to get the most out of the material. The question should also be consistent and asked directly after the deal is won while the honeymoon is still ongoing. Catalog the Win Stories by the topics that are most important to new sellers and their biggest learning gap: Products, Buyers, and Competition.
Products: Provide an extensive overview of the product but remember you are training sales people. Leave them with three takeaways, the top three and the most important so that the seller has talking points. Then provide the seller Win Stories where these products and takeaways were the reason for the win. It would be a good idea to validate these takeaways against your A-players.
Buyers: Give the new seller an idea of the buyer persona and where they are on their buyer’s journey when they meet the new seller. Again – as new sellers we want to share the top 3 pains that your buyers have and how we can address these pains. The Win Stories should focus on how these pains were uncovered by your A-players and addressed.
Competition: New sellers need a thorough overview of the competitors but also some context as to which ones are most relevant. I recommend ranking the competitors from the most Win Stories to the least to give the new sellers context. Keep it simple with messaging from your A-players – let the new seller know their unique differentiation and how that competitor will try to position themselves against you.
You will also want to ask your A-players what they do to earn their success – whether it is talent, territory, or technology – and document these tactics in the form of a Game Plan. I use a simple survey tool you can review here. Record their demos, steal their email and proposal templates and place them under the appropriate sales stage in your sales process. I would also recommend getting your onboarding process on a checklist that covers these topics and orientation so that new sellers understand exactly what is expected of them and when. Loop the front-line sales manager in on the progress of the checklist to facilitate the initial one on ones.
Do you recall the old adage, “when it comes to breakfast, the Chicken is involved, but the Pig is committed?” That reminds me of sending my new hires off to sales boot camp and hoping they would come back empowered with the tools they needed to become successful sellers. Even at my last company – the Fortune 100 software giant – the first thing out of the trainer’s mouth was, “we are going to try something new with this class.”
When it comes to getting new sellers ramped up – the Sales Manager is the Pig – they are committed to the outcome of the seller because the manager’s success is crucial to the success of the their new hire. The chicken is the sales training company, hired to provide the basics in a formatted amount of time, to get their class of sellers “certified.”
Now I am sure many of your reading this are sales trainers so please don’t take this comment as derogatory. But front line sales managers can’t afford anything less than the most effective training available. They can’t afford to speculate on what might work. The latest sales methodologies are great – who doesn’t love Social Selling and the Challenger Sale? But if they aren’t in context with relevant use cases that are specific to the seller – then they are speculative.
At RampedUp – we believe that sales onboarding should be rooted in best practices gleaned from the tactics and successes of your best practitioners. Best practices are unique to an organization so be cautious of one-size fits all onboarding plans. Front line Sales Managers understand this all to well.
A recent article in Sales & Marketing Management finds an organization spends 73 days on average training entry-level sales reps. That may seem high but when you consider that the average tenure of a sales rep is 2.5 years – it is no wonder there is such an emphasis on filling the top of the funnel.
The irony is that we sales leaders spend so much time training people whose predecessors were most likely unsuccessful in the first place. The 80 / 20 rule or the Pareto Principal is alive and well in 2016. Think of the waste of time, energy and effort to hire and train under-performing reps – to then spend the same amount of time to do it all over again. At RampedUp.io, we think there is a better way to bring new sellers up to speed without cannibalizing the time of the Sales Manager or Productive reps.
- Create a Sales Onboarding Checklist. As simple as this may seem there are a disproportionate amount of sales leaders that have no consistent process to bring new sellers on board. Perhaps there are a series of one-on-one white boarding sessions where the sales process / competitive positioning / buyer personas are given to the new seller. Maybe you have used the “buddy system” where the sales onboarding is given to a peer in the form of shadowing. Perhaps the process is outsourced all together in that you send new hires to boot camp or ask them to watch a series of videos put together by marketing or human resources.
- Make it Comprehensive and Actionable. It isn’t as though any of the above are bad ideas – they are just incomplete. An onboarding checklist should cover the essentials of getting ramped up, orientation sessions on a white board, boot camp, and help from others inside your organization. A checklist needs to have detailed and actionable tasks. A bad example is, “familiarize yourself with our culture.” A good example is, “review our welcome video from the COO discussing our company culture.” Tasks should be prioritized by date and available for both the new hire and the direct sales manager to review with due dates for each. Lastly, the checklist needs to link out to tasks if they are digital or available online. Don’t make the mistake of handing a new hire a PDF, word, or excel spreadsheet without clearly defining where the rep needs to go to complete the task.
- Close the Loop. The Sales Onboarding Checklist needs to involve direct interaction with the sales manager to review the tasks – and should be a task in and of itself. These check-ins keep both parties involved and provide a path for course correction if needed. You also want to involve quizzes to confirm the information is being understood in the manner you would consider acceptable. I also recommend involving role playing every step in the sales process with peers or the direct manager before the onboarding period is completed. These too should be tasked on the checklist.
RampedUp.io offers Software that places the Sales Onboarding Checklist inside of Salesforce.com. Click here to Review my Sales Onboarding Checklist Template in a google doc. Give us a call if you want to see what it looks like in Salesforce.com.
Nick Saban, Head Coach for Alabama, has won a national title in 2015, 2012, 2011, and in 2009. His assistant coach – Kirby Smart commented on the achievement, “I don’t think anyone understands what that is, four national championships in seven years in a world where there is parity.”
Alabama has a winning sales culture despite the parity of college football’s limit on scholarships, time spent with the players, access to television. It is not unlike sales – where competitive differentiation rarely lasts more than a year. What does last is a Winning Sales Culture?
Smart said, “Kids come and go. Kids transfer. It’s just a different world of college football and there’s so much parity. For him to do that, it speaks volumes of his coaching ability. Nobody realizes how much mental effort, execution and ideas this guy puts into it.”
Sales Onboarding can be a sustained competitive edge and I wrote a blog defining how here. I also put together the following 8 steps that can help you create and sustain a winning sales culture after the hire. I hope it helps..
- Assess – Revenue attainment objectives should be S.M.A.R.T.
- Align – Management prioritization, vision, and buy-in
- Define – Your Game Plan and messaging
- Deploy – Consistent and repeatable language / strategy
- Enable – CRM with methodology, best practices, and metrics reporting
- Recruit – Hiring based on skills of A-players, strategy, and metrics
- Build – Reinforce the strategy with execution skills and coaching
- Measure – Hold managers and sellers accountable to objectives
The most important sales goal we have as sales leaders is a revenue target and a date by which we must obtain that target. Revenue – however is a lagging indicator of success and we need to attribute more specific leading indicators of performance to enable us to hit our revenue targets. Using Key Performance Indicators and prioritizing them in order of importance can help us focus on proactive areas of improvement. We recommend your goals to be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, and Timely) and be forward looking.
After you have assessed the needs of your organization and prioritized the key performance indicators you will need to improve sales effectiveness by gaining buy-in from the executives and your key lieutenants. After all, executives most certainly will want to be kept abreast of any changes to the revenue engine of the company and frontline management may have a completely different idea as to what is effective.
While a message should be unique to the stakeholder, successful organizations have already defined the pains, benefit statements, positioning statements, and probing questions to every possible stakeholder a sales person could encounter. This uniformity creates consistency in message and objection handling.
Successful sales organizations also understand, document, and follow the best practices of their particular sales cycle. Common language, milestones, and expectations are created when an entire organization follows a defined sales process.
The deployment phase of an implementation is where your hard work is exposed to the field. Successful deployments also have management prepared before the engagement so as to decrease any surprises on their part and to act as a vocal supporter. Salespeople, however, are difficult individuals to win over and successful deployments are made up of four components:
- Credible Delivery
- Credible Content
- Management Leadership
CRM adoption is difficult to obtain if the sale force sees the application as strictly a management tool. To maximize the investment in your CRM – successful sales teams embed their sales stages to mirror the ones defined as Best Practice. The sales methodology should also be embedded into the CRM to take the sales training out of the training room and into real-world practice. We put a lot of thought into placing these best practices into our RampedUp.io app in Salesforce.com.
We recommend also setting up a dashboard to report upon the Key Performance Indicators selected in the assessment phase. The success of your project will be measured by tracking the improvement of the KPI’s through your CRM.
Once we have an understanding of what traits make up an A player in your organization through the assessment, the key performance indicators critical for success, the defined best practices, and the methodology required to meet our revenue targets, the framework is set for a complete hiring profile. We recommend setting up this framework before top-grading your sales force because without this knowledge you are making an uninformed hire. You need individuals that execute your strategy based upon objective criteria.
Philosopher Aristotle famously wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.” What Aristotle knew 2300 years ago was that a onetime investment in improvement is a poor investment. I have found that working with frontline sales management is the key to sustained sales effectiveness and long-term success.
Frontline managers need to coach to the Game Plan and selected deployments at every opportunity. Once the sales force realizes this is no longer a fad and they will be judged by the Key Performance Indicators needed for everyone’s success, habits will soon form. Adults learn through practical application and we provide the tools that enable frontline sales managers to reinforce the sales improvement changes. All sales cycles have natural milestones where strategy meets execution.
Process improvement is ongoing and continuous. The ultimate goal is to exceed our revenue target but as we mentioned before we want to measure the selected Key Performance Indicators to give us a predictive indication of success. KPI’s should begin at the VP of Sales level and cascade down to every contributor. Every member of the organization should be held accountable for reaching their particular goal. KPI’s are objective and allow for transparency.