3 Tips for Coaching Millennials

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There is a vast digital divide between Baby Boomers/Gen X sales leaders and Millennial salespeople. We hear stories about this divide frequently in our RoundTables. So how can you be more effective in handling your younger sales team?

Selling Power offers up an excellent article with 3 suggestions for you to improve your coaching with your sales team. Coaching is a critical piece of any CRO’s responsibilities. The generation gap creates a “digital divide” to use the author’s excellent phrase.

Here is a quick summary of the 3 tips:

Tip #1: Use structure and guidelines.
Many millennials grew up in an environment where their day was carefully plotted and scheduled, with many after-school activities, sports, etc. Their educational system emphasized standardized test scores, resulting in teaching to exams – a process that necessitated instruction in a specific structure and format.

For a considerable portion of millennial sales reps, hearing the phrase “figure it out” can be alarming. When your formative years had a built-in structure and clear guidelines, you might naturally find the open waters of uncertainty and vagueness disturbing.

When coaching sales reps of this generation, use structure and guidelines – both in the sales coaching session itself and the skills and accounts being coached to.

Tip #2: Make technology your friend.
To paraphrase Bane from the recent Batman film franchise, millennials were born in technology, molded by it. This extends into the generation’s daily life, where a large portion will look up how to do something via YouTube instructional videos, for example.

You, too, can use technology to your coaching advantage with millennials. 

Tip #3: Give consistent and frequent feedback.
It’s inaccurate to say millennials have poorer interpersonal communications than previous generations. Rather, the form of communication has changed. Rather than face-to-face, much conversing takes place via text, social media platforms, and other forms of digital communication.

In fact, there’s even more communication in the digital, global society than we’ve ever had before – it’s just that less of it occurs face-to-face. Given this increased, real-time discussion, particularly against the background noted in our first point, your millennial sales reps will expect consistent, frequent feedback on their performance.

In regards to the second tip, we use a tool that greatly increases your coaching effectiveness. The software is SkillFitness and it is a mobile, video-based skills mastery platform that transforms how teams perform at a higher level to deliver business outcomes. The software, which runs as an app on your phone, is the perfect bridge between the sales leader and his or her younger sales team.

9 Most Successful Business Models

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Bernard Marr has a thoughtful LinkedIn piece on business models for today’s world. He contends that you need to understand your business model to compete in today’s disruptive business world. How true.

Here is a quick excerpt for each model:

The servitisation (subscription) business

Instead of selling a product or a service as a one-off, servitisation companies operate on a subscription or ongoing service model, building a more intimate understanding of their customers in the process.

The platform-based business

This model is closely linked to the sharing economy and subscription models (see above – in fact, platforms are particularly powerful when combined with a subscription model). Well-known examples of platform businesses include Facebook, GitHub, Uber and Airbnb. As you can probably guess from these examples, platforms provide a mechanism or network – this could be a physical network, not necessarily online – for parties to interact with each other.

The social, authentic business

The traditional, corporate business model, with its hierarchies, silos and endless formal meetings is changing. These days, customers want to see the people behind the brand; they want to really “connect” with a business. Remember how companies and, more specifically, the people who work for them were discouraged from voicing personal viewpoints or discussing the company outside of work? That’s now an outdated way of operating. Today’s authentic businesses share their opinions and stand up for their values.

The employee-centric business

The way we work is changing. People are more nomadic in their work, and the days of a “job for life” are well and truly gone. To be successful, companies still need great people, but the way they go about attracting those people is changing. The “gig economy” has played a huge role in this transformation, since it gives businesses the means to create a fantastic team in lots of different ways – not just the traditional, full-time, permanent employee route.

The partner-centric business

As well as becoming more employee centric, companies are also becoming more partner centric. They are almost like networked businesses, outsourcing work, tapping into on-demand services, partnering with providers, and insourcing expertise where necessary. They create attractive networks of partnerships – and are a valuable partner to others. Just look at the average small or mid-sized business these days and you’ll likely see an example of a networked, partner-centric business.

The customer value-obsessed business

For me, this model applies to absolutely every business because it’s all about solving customers’ problems, anticipating their needs, making people’s lives easier and removing any friction or hassle. Amazon is an obvious example of this. Online personal styling subscription service Stitch Fix is another great example. With Stitch Fix, users detail their size and style preferences by filling out a questionnaire (they can also link to their Pinterest account). Then, using artificial intelligence, the system pre-selects clothes that will fit and suit the customer, and a (human) personal stylist chooses the best options from that pre-selected list.

The constant-innovation business

The ability to innovate is crucial to business success. But, today, the pace of innovation isn’t just fast, it’s constant. Some of the most successful businesses in the world are constantly innovating and transforming, even if it means cannibalising their own products and services to create something new. Take Apple’s iPod, for example. By introducing smart phones that could hold your music, the company effectively killed off the need for a separate device.

The data-driven business

Smart organisations recognise that data is one of their critical business assets. Really smart organisations encourage a data culture, where the importance of data is recognised at every level of the business, and decisions across the company are based on data, not assumptions.

The tech-savvy business

We live in a time of break-neck technological innovation. AI, big data, blockchain, 3D printing, augmented reality and virtual reality are just some of the massive changes that are taking place right now. So it’s no surprise that many of the most successful companies on the planet are tech businesses. Apple, Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook are, at the time of writing, among the six most valuable companies in the world; the only non-tech company in the top six is Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway.

This comprehensive list addresses almost all of the current models. It seems that these models will potentially change in the near future. The technological changes on the horizon will certainly drive new models embracing new technologies. For now, understanding your ideal model will help define your revenue focus.

What Makes for a Good Leader?

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Matrix corporate structure. Millennial mindsets. Artificial intelligence. Remote communication. As the business world evolves, some core, fundamental traits transcend the changing workplace.

Monster.com offers up an article highlighting 10 attributes of successful, strong leaders (they use the word manager which we tend to avoid). For a taste:

Problem solving

Companies rely on problem solvers to navigate unexpected challenges, says Kathy Robinson, founder of Boston career coaching firm TurningPoint. The best managers don’t just tackle issues, though—they also identify weak spots before serious problems arise.

We assess for this trait as it is critical to successful leadership. Any CRO knows that leading salespeople requires you to see problems before they take root. The reason is simple; your revenue success depends on it.

Empathy

Being able to read a person’s moods is a core quality of a great manager, which may explain why a whopping 96% of workers said empathy is important for employers to demonstrate in BusinessSolver’s 2018 State of Workplace Empathy survey. In addition, research from the Center for Creative Leadership found that bosses who show empathy to the people they manage are seen as better performers by their own managers.

Empathy is a component of Emotional Intelligence which is the focal point of much hiring today. Communication is only 7% verbal (i.e. words) while the remaining 93% is nonverbal. That nonverbal space is where empathy provides the leader the ability to read his or her people. The inability, or unwillingness, to read these signs is a significant weakness in any modern-day leader.

Lastly, the one trait that has charged to the forefront of leadership today.

Creativity

Top managers—like top-performing employees—generate out-of-the-box ideas that push businesses forward. These individuals introduce new strategies that improve their company’s workflow, productivity, and bottom line, says Karen Litzinger, a career coach in Pittsburgh. Put simply, they’re change agents.

Disruption is prevalent in almost all business markets today. The complementary trait for handling disruption is creativity. This trait provides the leader with the ability to move in new directions to stay ahead of the disruptive forces in play today. Stodgy, unchanging leadership will not survive. The ability to think outside the box in dealing with paradigm-shifting disruption is mission critical today.

If you are looking to enhance your leadership abilities, why not consider the RoundTable today?

Myths About Persuasion

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We like to boil sales down to getting other people to change behavior. This “change” requires salespeople who are persuasive.

The Selling Power archives contain a quick-read article about persuasion. The focus is debunking myths that permeate sales cultures regarding how to be persuasive. There are 6 myths they note, but this one is preeminent:

2. If you give customers enough facts, you’ll get their business.

Wrong. People do not base their buying decisions on facts. Research shows that the first step in a decision process is emotional engagement. Without an emotional response at the outset, persuasion does not occur.

Absolutely true. People make decisions emotionally and justify them (later) intellectually. If you do not understand this fact, you will sell on features and benefits. This will work if you are selling to Mr. Spock, it will not work on humans. Successful salespeople know their Differentiating Value and they know their Critical Qualifying Questions. Those two items, when connected to an emotional response, guide the salesperson to qualify the prospect.

That ability leads into the author’s third point:

3. Some folks are natural salespeople.

No. Charisma and personality are helpful, but they do not guarantee success, particularly in complex or technical sales. Effective salespeople have certain habits and behavior in common – and that includes the so-called naturals, even if they’re not consciously aware of the habits and behavior.

Many truths to unpack in that paragraph. First, many people confuse charisma for competence when it comes to selling. This conventional wisdom couldn’t be more wrong. Sales are won by the salesperson who asks the right questions and listens closely. This leads to the second point that certain behaviors are key to success in sales. Stephen Covey used to say, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Understanding is key - the strongest salespeople are attentive to the prospect’s words which is conveyed by the salesperson’s body language, focus and responses.

All six of the points from the article are key. Persuasion is a process and the backbone of all successful selling.

Learning From B2C Sales

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We’re in the midst of dramatic changes in the B2B sales world. The rapidly-expanding automation tools are changing the role of the salesperson’s role from prospecting to qualifying. These changes have already been absorbed, at some level, in the B2C world…and one major change is driving the shift in B2B sales.

The main driver of change is the expectation for a customer-centric approach to all sales. This principle has always been a marketing motto, but today it must be part of the fabric of your sales culture. The B2C companies have already embraced this approach.

A quick-read article from Sales & Marketing Management expands on this topic also. The author’s assertion is that B2B sales incorporate a model that relies on market data/feedback to flow through the salespeople. B2C sales rely on direct data compiled by the marketing department to guide development. This distinction is precisely what we are seeing. B2B sales are starting to migrate much of the early qualifying into the marketing department.

A summary of the adaptations needed in B2B selling to succeed in the new economy:

Sales invites marketing to participate in buyer interactions — Marketing is able to gain and maintain a pulse on the market through firsthand interactions, and sales provides marketing the opportunity to do so on a regular basis when it will be most valuable to winning the sales cycle. Net, marketing adds value to sales and is invited to help more — gaining invaluable buyers insights along the way.

Marketing directly engages the buyer – Marketing can invite clients and prospects alike to join working sessions on go-to-market strategy and messaging, bringing the voice of the buyer directly to the frontline. Mereo maintains the Decision Maker Network™ for this reason, with 300-plus business buyers for buying journey insights.

Applying market insights effectively – Directly hearing what matters to the buyer and why it matters will influence the messaging framework marketing applies to its content engine, but it also provides opportunities for marketing to transform information into insights, such as buyer personas.

Exactly right - marketing has to be brought into the prospect/market area to understand what is happening in the sales world. There is a fusion occurring between marketing and sales in the early sales funnel. Marketing is identifying target niches while staying involved through the initial contact/qualify. This light qualifying activity is the key component of the B2C model. It has now been brought into the B2B world by buyers.

This newly acquired data provides background for strengthening your Differentiating Value (DV). The foundation of your sales and marketing activities is your Differentiating Value. Your marketing message has to be confirmed by employing market feedback directly from your customers. This confirmation reinforces your DV message. If it is misaligned, your salespeople will be pushing Jell-O up a hill in their prospecting efforts.

We provide a DV Survey that will capture what your customers perceive as your DV. This information is beneficial to both marketing and sales departments as you craft your message to attract the right prospects for your solution. If you are unsure of your DV’s effectiveness, contact us today to learn more about our DV Survey process.

Leader vs. Cheerleader

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Both contain the word “leader” but they are not equal.  Working with organizations all over the world opens the door to leadership models that run the gauntlet from good to bad to ugly.

Cultures can be toxic when products never work, core values are flawed, employees are abused, etc., but the one component you typically spot first is where cheerleaders are masquerading as leaders.

Most execs today have had enough managers in their careers to know there is a significant difference in leadership effectiveness and those differences can have massive impacts on the overall performance of the organization.  Those managers we worked for - and would gladly do that again - typically had the best organizational traction with delivering success as well as motivating exceptional employee performance.   The other group of bosses – the ones we would never work with again – always seemed to survive but could never cast a leadership shadow even on insignificant issues. 

Leaders
The best street level definition for leader we use in our RoundTable programs is simple: someone people will follow.  Any manager or executive candidate has a track record.  Find out if the people who reported to the candidate would ever volunteer to do that again.  The tools to locate those individuals are available today (clearly start with LinkedIn).  Strong leader profiles are always supported by their previous direct reports along with descriptions like honest, fair, responsive, challenging, demanding, direct, clear, etc.  Any absence of feedback about the individual or a “no” to question about another tour as a direct report are major flags that you are looking at a cheerleader.

Cheerleaders
This profile is a chameleon in that they find ways to take credit for everything positive and avoid anything going the wrong way.  They are the perpetual “success survivors” even when the organization is circling the drain.  The employees view them as empty suits meaning they only have their personal agenda about “how do I win” on their mind.  No career is burdened with only success outcomes – real leaders have all taken hits and had to navigate recoveries.  That is what establishes their leadership profile.  This is the first topic to explore and listen to how they address their role.  If your BS meter locks on tilt with their answer, you have the wrong leader candidate.

Sales as a Guide, Not an Educator

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The sales world has changed dramatically over the past decade as salespeople are no longer educators.

Granted, education is still a component of the qualifying system. However, salespeople are now a guide in the process. Clearly, the availability of information on the web has created a highly-educated prospect.

The clearest key is this transformation shows up at the beginning of the selling process. Prospects now approach companies with a certain level of understanding regarding your solutions. They have probably researched your company through other sites, scoured your website, and even talked to some of your customers…all before they make first contact with your sales team.

This transformation fundamentally changes the relationship between the salesperson and the prospect. Adjustments must be made. Perhaps your sales team needs to take an evangelical approach by spreading the good news of your solution in the market. Or maybe you have to switch to a relationship-based sale with a sales team focused on interpersonal skills. Qualifying will always be the backbone of successful selling, but the methodology will change.

The success of your team will rely upon their ability to adjust, if they haven’t already. Some categorical shifts to consider:

Old - Sales is an educator
New - Sales is a guide

Old - Prospect profile is information-gathering
New - Prospect profile is solution-savvy (from your competitors too)

Old - Prospecting is general introduction
New - Prospecting is specifically focused

Old - Qualifying focus is Pain and Money
New - Qualifying focus is Want and Need

To be clear, any successful qualifying system will require uncovering the prospect’s perceived pain and their budget to remove that pain. However, the initial qualifying pass will need to start by sorting out the nice-to-have vs. need-to-have solution for a partially-educated prospect who approaches with the beginnings of a self-determined solution.

Peer Groups Provide the Power of the Pack

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Maybe the most important aspect of being a member of a peer group is the opportunity to share challenges.

When you are a CRO, you are expected to have the answers…to almost all difficult questions. The most important topic is revenue. CRO’s are measured by their ability to grow profitable revenue in the shortest amount of time.

We start each RoundTable with a discussion of the number 1 challenge for each CRO. The process here is bolstered by the power of the pack. Think of a wolf pack and how they work cooperatively to achieve their goals (hunting, of course, being the prime example). The same principle is in effect in the RoundTable. CRO’s, from different companies, markets, industries, etc., bring the power of their knowledge to help a member achieve a specific goal.

There is power in peer-level wisdom. Imagine having a team of the revenue experts that you can use as your own advisory group. The group usually has someone with experience in the challenges faced by the different members. Experience and expertise are key to any RoundTable meeting. What effect would your very own revenue advisory group have on your company’s performance?

Coaching for Qualifying

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As a CRO, you have many responsibilities, but one not to overlook is a concerted effort to coach your team. CRO’s are force multipliers - your ability to impart wisdom to your team will make your team more successful. The best ROI for your coaching time with your salespeople is qualifying.

Qualifying is the backbone of all successful selling. There are 5 stages of our Critical Qualifying Questions (CQQ’s) that we espouse in our selling system. However, no matter what selling system you use, your team must be strong qualifiers to succeed. The responsibility for growing that qualifying ability falls on you.

Selling Power has a quick-read, archived article that describes some fundamental questions your team should be asking of any prospect. The author compares qualifying prospects to investigative journalism. From the article (emphasis mine):

In many respects, qualifying prospects is like investigative journalism. The reporter (or, in this case, the salesperson) has to find out the facts of the story, based on who, what, when, where, why, and how. That means coming up with answers to the following questions:

  • Does the customer actually have a need for our products or services?

  • Can the customer afford to buy what we’re selling?

  • Is my primary contact the person who has the ability to make a buying decision, or is this person just gathering information? If not, who does have the authority to purchase?

All qualifying starts with a need so the author is on target. The CQQ’s from our Revenue as a System include Message, Motivation, Money, Methodology, and Market. When you are coaching your team, always keep the qualifying topic at the forefront.

6 Sales Predictions for 2019

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Every January brings articles of predictions for the upcoming year. Here is a Sales and Marketing Management article that lays out 6 predictions for 2019.

Here is the cliffs notes version of the 6 from the article:

1. Data matters more than ever

Today, the comprehensiveness of customer data separates winners from losers. The front-runners focus on data hygiene and ensuring they have accurate and holistic customer information across sales, marketing and service departments.

2. Automated sales prospecting

Sales prospecting tools, such as Pipedrive, Vainu.io and Intelisale, enable businesses to use filters and predictive insights to choose prospects wisely and focus on those most likely to convert. In addition to finding the right people to contact at the right time, reps have up-to-date information at their fingertips on the latest news and other information about their prospects and their businesses.

3. Account-based selling becomes entrenched

This strategic sales approach enables companies to focus their resources on closing deals with accounts that will make a significant impact on their bottom lines rather than chasing down inbound leads that happen to come their way. As technology provides even better ways to target such accounts and personalize the sales and marketing approach, ABS is becoming increasingly influential.

4. Social selling

According to Forrester, “B2B companies that embrace social selling are 72% more likely to exceed quotas than their peers who don’t.” The catch is that it can be time-consuming. To cut down on the time it takes, many tools are emerging. You can use them to pull social media data into CRM systems, share the ideal content at the right moment with the right person, customize engagement with social drip campaigns and track all of your social activities.

5. Automated personal emails

While artificial intelligence (AI) will not replace a professional salesperson, it will enable them to be more efficient. For instance, AI now customizes emails to prospects and addresses their problems. It can also tailor email subject lines based on what will entice prospects to open them. If necessary, salespeople can edit the AI drafts. While the technology is in its early phase, it will inevitably become more sophisticated and effective.

6. The human touch remains critical

In a world of artificial intelligence (AI), automation and technological devices, the need for human connection does not go away. Perhaps it’s needed more than ever before.

So we cannot let machines do all the work. Salespeople should employ technology to increase their productivity and to personalize their outreach, then use the time that’s freed up for more human interaction. By making a human connection, they’ll separate themselves from the pack.

Hard to disagree with any of those predictions. I would add that the price point for AI packages will come down to a level that allows many mid-market companies to leverage that technology. Once that happens, selling will change in dramatic ways.