Posted in Lead generation, Toolkit on March 13th, 2013
Guest Post by Pete Gracey of AG Salesworks
Are you at quota? If so, great, let’s get past it. No, not at quota? Ok, don’t panic. We’ve got 7 steps you can follow that will build your own pipeline to ensure you get to quota this quarter and beyond.
As a salesperson you aren’t only at the mercy of your own cold calling and whatever Marketing and Teleprospecting are sending your way. It’s a free country remember, you can control your own destiny to a degree. Run your own campaigns to ensure you not only meet quota, but overachieve against it.
Sales reps that take some degree of ownership for their own pipeline invariably outperform those that don’t. Here’s a quick guideline to run an immediate campaign of your own to set the table for an epic Q2.
How to Run A Lead Gen Campaign On Your Own:
Who’s Your Ideal Profile?
Yes, I know Marketing has done this exercise before. They probably did a bang up job with it too, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take it a step further. Marketing’s ideal buyer is high level. It’s a persona, not a person. You, as a sales executive, can use your historical successes and failures to put a real face and a name on your own ideal customer. Look at your own wins and losses and determine the following.
a. Best type of company to close (industry, revenue, employee size)
b. Best title within that company to target (who signed your last contract with a similar company)?
c. Most common pain points experience by this person within this type of company.
Source a Target List of the Top 250:
Go to an outside resource like Data.com or NetProspex or if you have an internal inside sales list development team, use them to get the best 250 companies that match the profile above. After establishing those 250 have them pull at least 3 contacts within each that match or contain words within your ideal profile. 750 Contacts and 250 companies.
Craft Your Outbound Messaging
Do some hard work and come up with a sales friendly voicemail and email messages (short concise and no bull) that you would be comfortable delivering to any of the prospects on your target list. Keep it simple, aggressive, and polite. Build a live intro, a voicemail script, and an intro voicemail. You’ll need each in our execution phase.
Run An Email Marketing Campaign
We are only talking about 750 contacts here. Figure out a way to get your intro email out to all 750 at once to kick off your attack. Ideally, Marketing will help you with this. Have them load your list and intro message into their system and schedule a Tuesday morning delivery (best time to send).
Execute a Telequalification Campaign Into Your List
If you have a Telequalification representative assigned to you then you’ll want to have involved them from step one. If you don’t have someone to make these early dials for you, complain and get one. Make sure you explain in detail to your rep why you’ve selected these companies and contacts and update them on what messages have been sent to them already. Be sure to explain to them the goal of their own activity. Their focus should be on three things
- Find out what’s wrong within the target company today.
- How much that pain is costing them?
- How serious they are about spending appropriate funds soon to fix it?
In other words, you aren’t looking to bring donuts to their office and shake hands. You want fully qualified opportunities that can impact quota this year not next.
Close the Loop
Track your success with your reps. For every ten fully qualified leads your telequalification team passes over the course of this campaign, how many hit your forecast? Share this information back to them in real time and during monthly business reviews. The idea here is that you set a new normal for your marketing team. Your proven and impressive results from this campaign can be your case for having them do it for you next time.
Closing the loop is huge, but you’ve also got to track additional hard metrics for this effort to get Marketing to do it for you in the future. Look at these 3 KPI’s and ask Marketing to compare them to the success rates of the things they are doing.
- Connect Rate: % of all the outbound activities that result in a meaningful correspondence with a decision maker. Should be 15%.
- Lead Rate: % of all the meaningful conversations that turn into fully qualified leads that you follow up on. Should be 6%
- Conversion Rate: The % of the fully qualified leads that end up at the early stage of your sales forecast. 80% of leads passed should convert.
It sounds easy because it is. The hardest part is Step 3, the Messaging. Here is the beauty of that part. This is a sales campaign not a marketing campaign. They are your words. Clean, simple, pain focused, and aggressive.
If you embark on some self preservation lead generation you’ll find one additional fact about the leads you get. They close faster. It’s a little known and statistically unproven fact that opportunities generated by sales themselves close faster and for more average money than those that originate elsewhere.
If you don’t buy what I’m selling, the only way to prove me wrong is to try.
Pete Gracey, is the Chief Operations Officer and co-Founder of AG Salesworks, a marketing and teleprospecting services firm. Pete oversees the daily operations of AG Salesworks, is a prolific blogger and is also Adjunct Professor of Sales and Marketing for the University of Massachusetts Amherst. You can connect with Pete on Google+, LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter.
Posted in Toolkit on February 12th, 2013
Optimizing your sales engine doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Think of them as small changes to your current state of affairs and gradually work on tuning the engine in your daily work.
Sell What Makes You Different
People want to buy what’s different, not just “better”. Successful entrepreneurs are masterful at making a conscious decision to be different and focusing on it. Salespeople need to avoid selling the countless benefits of the specific product/service and, instead, focus on what makes it a solution for the customer.
Stop Answering RFPs!
As you may know, the RFP process is incredibly archaic and time-consuming. The next time you receive an RFP, immediately pick up the phone and call the sender. Ask for a 20-minute phone call with the decision-maker to decide whether you will bid. If they refuse to let you speak with him/her, let them know that you will not be issuing a proposal. Most RFPs are sent by Big Company X with a certain vendor in mind. If you’re going to answer an RFP, make sure it’s worth your time.
Reach Out to 5 New People
Even if sales are good, proactive pursuit should never stop. You need to pick up the phone and continue to have conversations. Consider calling: one former client, one current client you haven’t talked to in awhile, one person who a former client AND current client recommends you talk to (aka referral), and one “stretch person” (someone you’ve been wanting to meet but haven’t yet been able to). You never know where these conversations could lead.
Many salespeople are anxious to provide an answer to a problem, but research shows that high performers have a process that slows the conversation. When you receive an objection, first encourage and question. Get the customer talking and actively listen. This will boost your credibility and allow you to look confident and unafraid. Next, confirm with him/her the main root of the objection. Once you’ve done this you can (finally) provide an answer to the objection and check to ensure a mutual understanding.
Lead, Manage, and Get Out of the Way
We believe management is the most critical link to a powerful sales engine. Strong leaders set high expectations, communicate with each employee, and offer regular feedback. Managing well means that feedback is provided more often than just in annual reviews. Catch people doing things right and be vocal about it. Finally, get out of their way. If regular positive feedback is given and mutual trust exists, give this employee the room to do his/her job. Allow the high performers to do the work and invest in those that may not be performing to their potential.
Avoid Wasting Others’ Time
Preparing for a meeting is a skill. In order to avoid wasting time in an important meeting, commit to three simple tools. At the beginning of the meeting, provide the purpose and benefit of calling the meeting and check it with your audience. Next, ask questions that will have an impact. Impact questions get the conversation going and cause people to think and reflect. Finally, learn how to pivot. Transitioning from one topic to the next is an art form. Learn how to pivot so that the discussion doesn’t move off-topic.
Freshen Up Your Presentations
If you are presenting, you are in command of the conversation. The easiest way you can set your presentation apart from others’ is by stating why the meeting was called and how it can be successful. If you’re going to take people away from other tasks or projects, they want to know why you are doing it. And don’t forget—a presentation is often a performance. Be aware of your energy level!
Stop Confusing “Busyness” With Productivity
Being productive means doing the right things at the right time, without wasting too much time. Think about when you seem to get the most done. Recreate the best environment for you and establish a personal schedule that allows you to get things done on your own rhythm. Consider adding structure to your day by assigning certain tasks to a certain time of the day. Avoid massive gaps on your calendar by setting aside times to accomplish items on your “to do” list. If you find yourself feeling “busy” but not necessarily “productive” coach yourself to re-focus and get down to the task at hand.
If discipline is the fuel of the engine that drives you, sometimes you have to step back and ask if you have pointed that engine in the right direction. What does success look like? It’s likely not one big destination—it’s made up of 1,000 little checkpoints that you create for yourself and your team.
Give It Away
Sales isn’t just about reaching a certain number. And, oftentimes, the little things that you do for a client can be big in his/her eyes. Stop and consider what you’ve done to help a client or customer in the past 30 days. It could be as simple as introducing them to one of your contacts that could be helpful or picking up the phone to let them know about a piece of industry news that they might not have heard. Give away a small amount of time and you just might create more “wins” for you and your company.
If you want to dive into one of these tips, feel free to see the full versions here:
- Sell What Makes You Different
- Stop Answering RFPs!
- Reach Out to 5 New People
- I Object!
- Lead, Manage, And Get Out of the Way
- Avoid Wasting Others’ Time
- Freshen Up Your Presentations
- Stop Confusing “Busyness” with Productivity
- Define Success
- Give It Away
Craig is the CEO and Founder of Sales Engine. You can find him on Google + , LinkedIn, & Twitter!
Posted in Toolkit on February 4th, 2013
What is “presence?”
When we say; “That guy was really present” or “She was really present to what I was saying…” Are we just saying that he and she are good listeners? I think it’s something deeper than that, and I also think it’s something that can make us hugely more effective in our communications.
It starts with comfort. Not Southern Comfort. Not mac and cheese. Just being comfortable in your own skin. Making fun of ourselves, being quick to jest, pausing for a deeper thought in a conversation, asking the question no one else will ask, asking why, asking about the obvious, touching someone on the shoulder, writing a thank you note, even putting the chairs back where they belong as a meeting is breaking up. These things go beyond words. They demonstrate a light-heartedness and depth that is the paradox of presence.
It continues with awareness. Watch yourself. How do you behave at meetings? Do you thank the assistant as he asks you if you need anything? When you ask questions, are you too severe? Do you make no room for improvisation? Too much room? Once we are aware and can see ourselves through another lens, we can try to round ourselves out. But we have to be watching.
Presence is also about seeing gifts. Being completely present, I think, is understanding that this interaction…this very one…is a gift. When I talk to my mentor, he listens as if I’m going to say something that is unexpected, profound or just thoughtful. He just absorbs. And after these interactions, I feel like he has heard everything, processed everything and given me a great gift. And he has. I may not have said anything much at all, but somehow the interaction feels different and better. What a gift indeed.
Written by Craig Wortmann. You can find him on Google + and Twitter!
Posted in Toolkit on January 28th, 2013
How much time do you spend on your computer? A lot, right? And how much time have you spent learning all of the in’s and out’s of the software, how it works, etc? A ton.
Now, how much time do you spend in a conversation (live one-to-one, one-to-many, phone, email, text)? If you are like most people, the answer is a LOT! And how much time have you spent learning how to have a conversation? Huh. Uh..not much, if at all.
How can that be? Most of business (hell, most of life) happens in a conversation. So why don’t we learn this critical skill? You have been having conversations since you were two years old. So you know how to do it so well, you aren’t even conscious of it. But when it comes to business and influence, perhaps we should be conscious of it.
Most people meander in and out of lots of conversations. Don’t be most people. Be tighter than that. Be more effective. How?
Communicating with Influence: Three Strategies
- State the Purpose, Benefit, and Check Your Audience
- Ask Impact Questions
- Don’t Leave a Conversation Without Asking Qualifying Questions
State the Purpose, Benefit, and Check
Think of a conversation as a circle. Most times, we just enter that circle wherever and then fill the empty space with conversation. I prefer to think of conversation as a series of circles lined up in a row that start small and get progressively larger. The first circle contains the purpose, benefit, check. If I were going to state the purpose, benefit, and check of this blog post, I’d say:
“The purpose of this meeting today is to discuss three conversation tools. What I think we will gain from this conversation is some insights into how to use these powerful tools to make us more influential. How does that sound?” Purpose. Benefit. Check.
The Purpose, Benefit, Check is the simplest way to communicate with influence at the beginning of a conversation. This tool, when used properly, increases your credibility, gains alignment and sets your meeting out on the right foundation. Instead of wandering into a conversation (or worse, awkwardly jolting someone into the start), you and your partner know exactly where this is going and why. Hugely important. Stating the purpose, benefit, and check is another way you can make your customer comfortable, just as when you make the sales process explicit.
Ask Impact Questions
The second tool is the “impact” question. The impact question is one (or two, not 10) that you have prepared in advance based on where you want to take the conversation. (Hint: I asked a multi-part impact question at the beginning of this post, culminating in “How can that be?”). It gets the ball rolling so your conversation is more efficient and effective, and thus more influential. A great impact question simultaneously respects your partner, stimulates analysis and deepens the dialogue. And it does these things quickly, which is key especially in a sales conversation. Pay attention to the “influencers” around you and see if they use impact questions to communicate with impact. I’m confident they do.
Don’t Leave a Conversation Without Asking Qualifying Questions
The third tool that is essential for communicating with influence is a special kind of question called the qualifying question. Sales people know these cold. Even if you’re in an initial sales conversation, you cannot and should not leave it without asking these three questions:
- Does she have the budget?
- Is this the right time for this decision?
- Does she have the authority?
These are the Three Musketeers of every great sales conversation. For leaders more generally, a qualifying question is the link between the impact questions and your ability to persuade. If I am an employee and I’m discussing the structure of a sales conversation with you (my manager), you might ask: “How do you feel about these tools? Are these something you could put to use?” Something like that. That way, you can test whether I’m understanding the concept.
Here’s where we have to be careful. I’m NOT suggesting that you are manipulating me to the answer you want. Far from it. This conversation, and my answers to your impact questions, can lead anywhere. And that’s fine. But, in order to understand the sales process better, and in order to perform, don’t you have to determine levels of agreement? Everyone has to answer this for themselves.
Conversations are a gift. But you can have a greater impact by communicating with influence. How do you feel about that?
Written by Craig Wortmann. You can find him on Google + and Twitter!
Posted in Kick in the ass, Sales, Toolkit on September 27th, 2012
Sitting in the umpteenth session about how to wrangle “big data” and “go social” at the Dreamforce’s conference this past week in San Francisco, I had this vision of the audience – me included – looking like the character “Cruiser” from the movie Stripes— Just sitting there dumbly, with our mouths hanging open, trying to understand what the hell these people were talking about!
“Everything’s changing!” ”Big Data (I’m tired of this term already) is here!” ”Business is social!” Yup, this is all true. And it’s great. But there’s something that doesn’t change that, I believe, is MORE important than all of this other stuff. It’s how a sales person acts in the moment. In that crucial contact with the customer. THAT doesn’t change. Yes, he or she can be equipped with better insights going in, and his or her customer will certainly be, but does that fundamentally change the sales interaction? Not really. It’s still one salesperson trying to influence and convince two or three or five people sitting in a room or on a phone.
The nature of that interaction has not changed. Sales people still need to drive the conversation, listen, anticipate, ask impact questions, handle objections and close. We have to manage the push and pull – the jujitsu – of selling. Sure, all of these things are improved through better preparation and information, but the crucial behaviors that actually make us successful don’t change. And here’s the deal: those behaviors are what counts!
A salesperson with all of the information and insight in the world, but with poor behaviors, will go nowhere.
We spend so much time at these conferences learning new tricks, seeing new things and trying to understand how to get ahead. And Marc Benioff and his team do a fantastic job of creating a learning environment for this to take place. But these are NOT your most important tools. Your most important tools, the tools you should be building, sharpening, honing, are your behaviors.
Posted in Toolkit on September 11th, 2012
Why are entrepreneurs and leaders so often like the man who looks for his car keys under the street light? “They must be right here..this is where the light is!”
When we hold “strategy sessions” with our teams, isn’t it a lot like trying to answer our own questions? We think; “Well, better five brains than just one!” or “The wisdom of crowds will solve this problem!” But the solution will not be found if it is the same five brains or the same old crowd. The answers to your questions are not in the room. They are out in the world, and you have to go find them. After all, this is why we go away to college, why we travel, why we read.
So, in business, why should we look internally for the answers to our strategy questions?
Here are three quick pieces of advice for your next strategy session:
1. Get OUT of the office
Select your top five customers, your three best partners, the most productive sales people, the best customer service reps…and ask these people the questions that are keeping you awake at night. They may not have the tidy answers, but they will get you closer than you think. Worst case, they will give you perspective, and that has tons of value.
2. Ask “impact” questions
When you talk to these people, ask impact questions. Impact questions are the big ones, the juicy ones. They go beyond “open-ended” questions and they land with a punch. Here are some examples:
“If you were running this business, what three things would you do tomorrow that would really shake things up?”
“Why do you do business with us, and how will that change over the next year?”
“How do we have to change in order to serve you better?”
“How have your conversations with us gotten better or worse over time?”
Impact questions will get you so much farther than the usual; “So, how are we doing?”
3. Ask the FINAL question
Once you have gotten out of the room and asked your impact questions, don’t forget the final question; “Given this conversation, are there other people/partners I should have this conversation with?” People want to be helpful if you give them the chance, and if you set this up as a learning experience, chances are you will get access to additional resources that will give you powerful insights. But you have to ask for them.
Oh yeah, and send thank-you notes.
Posted in Toolkit on August 21st, 2012
Sometimes the little things are truly big things when it comes to managing a sales team. We think this story speaks for itself:
Is there someone on your team that needs a “thank you” for all of their hard work?
Posted in Management, Toolkit on August 17th, 2012
My mentor invited me up to Toronto Canada recently to deliver a speech on the power of story to a client of his. The audience was great, the client was fun, and it was particularly rewarding to have my mentor in the room to see one of the things I do in real time.
I wrapped up the talk at about 5pm and was really looking forward to going to get a beer with this mentor, someone who I love to spend time with. As he pulled out of the parking lot, he said “What’s one thing you think you did well?” Like any good manager or mentor, he was starting to provide performance feedback that was both consistent and timely. And like any normal employee, I thought, ”How dare he? All I wanted to do was relax, and now I have to do a feedback session!?! Ugh…”.
I, of course, said; “No no no! I know what you are doing. We are NOT doing feedback right now. I want a beer right now!”
And he, being my mentor, said; “No, we are doing feedback now. What’s one thing you think you did well?”
“Come on, man, can’t I relax for a minute?”
“Craig, what’s one thing you think you did well?” (Mentors can be such a pain in the ass, can’t they?)
So I finally caved and answered his question. And then I learned, for the 6,000th time, why mentorship is so powerful. When he got to the “Here’s one thing I think you should do differently” (step 4), he identified something that I was doing in my talk that was out of order, and that put in the proper order would be 10 times more powerful. Unbelievable! Here’s a speech I’ve given almost 200 times, and he picked out something that would make it measurably better.
I got a great gift that day. The next time I gave that talk, the people who came up afterwards to talk to me mostly focused on that change I had made. Because of that, I knew that his feedback had been dead-on. If I hadn’t gotten his performance feedback – and, more importantly – if he had not had the guts to dive into the feedback model to provide it, I would still be doing my talk the same way and forfeiting some of the power of the speech.
We think management is the most critical link to a powerful sales engine. And regular and consistent feedback is a key skill of a strong sales manager. If you want higher performance – out of yourself and those around you – it doesn’t happen by magic. It happens by providing performance feedback.
Craig is the CEO and Founder of Sales Engine. You can find him on Google + , LinkedIn, & Twitter!
Posted in Frameworks, Leadership, Management, Toolkit on August 16th, 2012
Yet another reason to love Chicago Booth… In the seminal article “Rethinking Management Education: A View From Chicago,” Harry Davis and Robin Hogarth built an underlying framework that Chicago Booth now uses in designing our courses to help students develop “insight skills.” Davis and Hogarth say that in order to be successful business people, we need to build “active and disciplined feedback” into our daily lives. This feedback creates an opportunity for us to see things from a new perspective, establish a pattern we haven’t seen before, or just simply get better at something.
As business people, we take actions and those actions have outcomes. But instead of leaving it there, Davis and Hogarth suggest that we find a way to gain greater insights into our actions and their outcomes.
But how do you do that? In a prior post, we talked about the skill and discipline of giving and receiving feedback. That’s certainly one of the most important ways to operationalize Davis and Hogarth’s model. Another is to surround yourself with people who will be honest with you. This is surprisingly hard to do. People who are close to you often tell you what you want to hear. Why? Because they love you! And people who are far from you don’t often offer direct feedback (which is one of the many reasons formal education is so important).
So there’s a sliding scale here. From quick, direct feedback using the feedback model to weekly or monthly meetings where you review performance to meetings with a trusted advisor or mentor. If you can build each of these into your learning process, you will quickly develop your insight skills and perform at a higher level.
Remember, though, that inherent in each of these is a degree of awkwardness. You are opening yourself to feedback that may sometimes take a form that you don’t want to hear. That is exactly why you should do it. It is the rare person who can become a higher performer through sheer self-reflection. Most of us need an outside perspective. Go get some, and rethink your own management and education!
Posted in Kick in the ass, Leadership, Management, Toolkit on August 14th, 2012
When you become a manager, the first thing you learn is paperwork. Forms, reporting, tracking, blah blah. Why do we do this? As is obvious to even a casual observer, this places the emphasis in exactly the wrong place. The first thing we should learn is the foundational discipline of management, and that is giving feedback.
To be clear, we are not talking about annual performance reviews (don’t get us started on the worthlessness of these). We are talking about day-to-day or situation-by-situation feedback that actually helps increase performance by offering tactical advice for getting better at a critical skill.
How to Give Feedback:
When a situation calls for performance feedback, most people use the sandwich method. For example, you receive praise followed by a suggestion on how to do your work differently, followed up with yet another praise. This method is fine and it’s certainly better than no feedback at all but there is a better way.
4 Steps to Giving Feedback:
“What’s one thing you think you did well?”
“Here’s one thing I think you did well:_________.”
“What’s one thing you think you should do differently?”
“Here’s one thing I think you should do differently:_________”.
If you look closely at this simple framework, you will see the underlying design:
- Steps 1 and 2 build confidence.
- Steps 3 and 4 build skill.
You can’t build my skill until you’ve built my confidence, and this is the power of the design. The sandwich method accomplishes this in a way, but then takes the focus off of building skill by pandering at the end. As managers, we naturally feel like we need to cushion the fall of providing negative feedback. The focus of feedback should be to develop each other, not to exchange pleasantries.
Notice that feedback of this form is driven by situations, not dates on calendars. This feedback process should be triggered by any high-stakes situation that requires people to perform, and it should become a regular, accepted method of communication. Providing feedback once a year will not accomplish anything. Your performance feedback has an expiration date. It has to be consistent and targeted by employee in order to have an impact.
How to Receive Feedback:
How to get it. Once this feedback process becomes a normal part of your management toolkit, you need to turn it on yourself. The simplicity of the four steps allows anyone to use it, but the key is in the asking. If you are part of a high-stakes situation, turn to your colleagues and ask them to walk you through the process and give you feedback. Once someone has walked in your shoes, that communications path is now two-way and you have become a better manager.
Craig is the CEO and Founder of Sales Engine. You can find him on Google + , LinkedIn, & Twitter!