Time for a Bankable Forecast

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We’re quickly approaching the end of Q2 and the midpoint of the year. Obviously your forecast is probably front and center now as you start to get an accurate view of what your 2019 revenue will be.

Or are you still unsure of what this year will hold? No matter what your sales cycle time is, you can (and should) have a “bankable forecast.” What we are talking about is forecast accuracy. Do you trust your current forecast? Many of the CRO’s we talk to do not trust what their sales team report on the forecast. Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way. If your forecast is unreliable today, you are missing one important piece - accountability.

Accountability in the forecast comes down to using a system for determining how qualified a prospect truly is. Our system incorporates four elements from our 5 M’s Process. Salespeople in our system have to identify, through the prospect’s words, their Motivation, Money, Methodology and Market for our solution. We call these items the Four Aces. Once your salesperson has the Four Aces qualified, you have a qualified prospect worthy of a projected closing date on the forecast.

Here are the Four Aces defined:

Motivation - your Differentiating Value (DV) has traction in the prospect’s world motivating them to learn more about your solution

Money - delivering a strong DV to the emotional decision maker with compelling consequences will lessen (eliminate) their objection to your cost

Methodology - understanding how the prospect’s company makes decisions, including their methodology, priorities, and the relative weight of those priorities

Market - there is competition in almost every deal so your salespeople need to know how well your DV fits with the prospect’s objectives and if their is another solution that is a potentially better fit

Incorporating the Four Aces into your forecasting process will instantly bring accountability into the sales team. A fully-forecasted deal has to have these criteria qualified through the prospect’s words (not the salesperson’s speculation). We’ve seen this transformation first hand - it does not take long. There is still time to impact your 2019 revenue by implementing a bankable forecast today.

Your Sales Team Starting Lineup

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Summer is upon us and baseball is in the air. How would you handle your sales team if you had to submit a baseball batting order? Let’s list our starting 9 sales positions.

As a CRO, you are responsible for building your sales team for success. Obviously, there are many variables that drive your roster decisions, but you will need to put together your strongest starting lineup. Here is a baseball lineup based on your team’s sales positions.

1 - Marketing Rep
Hopefully marketing falls under your purview. Marketing sets the table just like a leadoff hitter. You need productivity here to drive your run/revenue production. Bunt singles, walks, etc., we just need good leads to be put in play for the rest of the lineup.

2 - Prospector
The 2 spot belongs to your prospectors - the salespeople who make contact and advance your leads. We can’t have strikeouts here; we need this player to build momentum for the team and pipeline. The prospector should have some revenue/run production so and occasional RBI/closed deal is helpful.

3 - Business Development Manager
You must have your best hitter/closer in the 3 hole. This salesperson closes deals while maintaining your best closing percentage (batting average). They understand selling and successfully beat your toughest competition (pitchers). They aren’t necessarily home run hitters, but they produce RBIs (closed deals) and help set the pace for the rest of your lineup.

4 - Hunter
Your hunters are in the cleanup spot as they swing for the fences. Flashy, strong and competitive, these salespeople close the big deals with big accounts. Yes, they will strike out at times, but they never get cheated at the plate. They get the big deal and then get ready to swing on the next big deal.

5 - Farmer
Your hunters don’t always drive in all the runs which is why you need the farmers in the 5 position. Farmers have some pop in their bats. They can hit some homers on occasion, but it is typically with an existing account. They help improve your revenue by driving in deals the hunters may have missed. Though not as flashy as hunters, farmers can drive in a lot of runs/revenue for your team…they are not to be overlooked.

6 - Channel Manager
At this point in the lineup we need some slap singles and some speed. Channel managers work through their distributors, representatives, value-added resellers, etc. Channel managers aren’t necessarily driving in runs, but they can respond quickly to their channel to assist in closing deals. They keep your company’s solutions at the top of the mind of their channel to drive revenue over time.

7 - Account Manager
This is a defensive specialist whom we hope can provide a hit or two on occasion. Their primary role is to improve customer retention. Putting the ball in play is constructive in the 7 spot. Keeping our customers happy while looking for referrals, or other revenue opportunities, is their focus.

8 - Customer Service
Yes, this position should report to the CRO. We are not looking for run, or revenue, production this low in the batting order. We simply need them to fix problems at our customer’s end. The goal is not to hit into double plays and not to lose customers. Note: a strong customer service person can preserve endangered revenue…do not underestimate the value of this role.

9 - Evangelist
The 9 spot is your second leadoff hitter. They can start a middle inning rally that leads to many runs and more revenue. Similarly, they can cover a lot of ground in the sales world talking about your Differentiating Value and, dare I say it, your solution’s features and benefits. They will spark revenue production, sometimes when you least expect it.

The CRO is the manager and the one responsible for consistent production from these positions. Many teams do not have all of these hitters simply due to size or structure. However, as you build your team for revenue/run production, think of the hitters you need today to be successful. Your lineup will build out as success drives your lineup’s expansion.

If you need help in building your lineup, we can help!

Selling In a Populist World

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Popularity is greater than exclusivity. Likes and follows are driving awareness. Crowd > Elite. The selling world is being modified by B2C interactions. The transformation is underway…have you noticed?

Amazon is almost single-handedly changing sales interactions. Searching, research, pricing and popularity are hallmarks of the Amazon experience. “Prospects” are well-versed in your multiple products, your general pricing and your relative popularity. Your salespeople are at a disadvantage compared to just 10 years ago. You have to make adjustments to your sales process to adapt to this new reality.

Marketing Is Prospecting
The halcyon days of salespeople generating their own prospects are now fading fast. Prospects in the discovery phase are less likely to call a company and ask to speak to a salesperson. Prospects are even less likely to take a prospecting call from a salesperson. This cultural change has shifted the burden of prospecting over to the marketing department. Marketing is now responsible for approach strategies and communications to open the door to a sales discussion. Your marketing approach must go beyond introducing your company, your products/services, and your history. Marketing now has to provide an flavor of your company’s culture and mission to invite the cold prospect into a selling relationship.

Differentiating Value will Drive Engagements
Commoditization is the devaluing of your Differentiating Value (DV). This devaluation is a prospect’s best weapon to neutralize any sales approach. “You are just like the other solutions.” “The other company does the same thing for less money.” “We don’t have a need for it.” You see how easy this is…and effective if your salespeople are unable to utilize your DV. The modern-day prospect is more informed than ever so your salespeople will need to leverage your DV to drive new engagements. This engagement is more than features and benefits - those points will have been discovered and intellectually digested by the prospect. Your salespeople will need to use DV to establish the next stage in the selling relationship.

Relationship Sales are the Future
There has always been a relationship aspect to selling, even when selling transactional solutions. However, the greatest change in the sales process is the shift from seller to sherpa. Salespeople now have to engage on a different level with prospects. Automation has taken responsibility for the nuts and bolts information regarding your solution. Your salespeople will need to build an immediate, and then ongoing, relationship with the prospect to close the deal. As this sales change becomes ingrained, who a salesperson knows will become the foremost factor in ongoing success.

The current state of selling seems like a new frontier and these 3 changes are having an impact on success. Yet, some aspects of selling are timeless. Being a good qualifier, asking tough questions, actively listening, etc. are all abilities needed to succeed. The key for all CRO’s will be to incorporate the new sales model into their existing processes.

Millennials-Too Much, Too Soon

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Do Millennials and Gen Z expect to be in the C-suite too soon? It appears so. Also, that is Gen Z…if you are still trying to understand Millennials, better buckle up as Gen Z is now in the workplace.

From Human Resource Executive:

A recent survey by InsideOut Development, a workplace coaching firm, finds that 75 percent of Gen Z members believe they should be promoted within their first year on the job, while 32 percent believe they should get a promotion within their first six months.

There is something to be said for aspiring to climb the corporate ladder. However, the promotions that many of them seek are truly beyond their reach at this point in their career. This desire to ascend quickly in the company does appear to be common to the Millennial generation.

As a CRO, you need to make sure you have a plan for handling the younger generations’ desire to rise within the company. This aspiration is present from your initial hiring process so there are three adjustments to make for these generations.

  1. Discuss career path in the interview
    Retention starts in the interview process before you hire a new salesperson. You do not need to have a career path for the candidate laid out in fine detail. However, you should be able to sketch out a general path for successful employees to move up in the company.

  2. Increase the frequency of reviews
    Many companies avoid reviews due to the thought that positive reviews lead to mandatory raises. Not so, you can conduct performance reviews separate from compensation reviews. The younger generations are used to voluminous feedback. Bi-annual reviews provide a structured format for continued employee development.

  3. Assess for motivations and rewards
    One component of our assessments provides in-depth measurements of a person’s motivational pattern and reward structure. As a CRO, you will know if that salesperson is driven to lead, driven to sell, driven towards both. In conjunction, you will know what rewards them. For some, self-improvement and advancement are more important that money.

The key is to keep a pulse on your salesperson’s enjoyment of the job and near-term advancement goals. This awareness has always been a component of successful sales leadership. The younger generations have grown up with ubiquitous feedback. They have short response times and a need for frequent guidance from their managers. In a way, the younger generation’s needs will help you become a better CRO.

3 takeaways for dealing with Millennial and Gen Z salespeople:

  1. Stay focused on a career path for this role even as you are interviewing candidates

  2. Set a 6 month schedule for performance reviews and anticipate weekly debriefs in between

  3. Use assessments to understand the motivational-reward structure of your salespeople

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.