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August 2013
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October 2013

September 2013

Are You Getting ROI from Content Marketing?

Today, content creates customers. This is no secret, especially to marketers, who have spent years learning how to create content that is appealing, engaging, and compelling to their target audiences. We are rapidly reaching a level of content saturation, however, and the definition of what qualifies as engaging is a shifting target. Consumers are constantly inundated with messages. If we’re going to create relationships with customers, we have to cut through the clutter and offer them something of value for their time and attention. Only then can we gain their trust and business.

In May of this year, we surveyed 104 members of the Sales20Circle (formerly the SalesOpShop). These B2B sales leaders included heads of both sales and sales operations. The survey’s purpose was to provide insight into their level of satisfaction with their marketing content. Specifically, we focused on the key areas of content generation and quality, content alignment and distribution, and content as it relates to use by the sales force in social media.

Our goal was to uncover information that could help sales and marketing teams maximize ROI on content marketing. Sample questions included the following:

  • How satisfied are you with your content creation strategy and process?
  • How satisfied are you with the accuracy of your buying personas for each vertical market?
  • How satisfied are you with mapping your content with each step of the buying journey?
  • How satisfied are you with the quality of your content?

The results yielded some very interesting insight. In general, responses showed a moderate degree of satisfaction with the way content was developed and the quality of the content itself. In fact, more than 65 percent of those surveyed stated that their salespeople were moderately to extremely satisfied with the content they received to share with their customers.

In the area of sales and marketing content however, the satisfaction ended. To a large extent, there was dissatisfaction with content alignment, content mapping, collaboration in content creation, and the distribution planning for each organization’s content.


It is no wonder that satisfaction with the ROI on content investment, social-media areas, and number of sales leads generated was also very low. The results of this survey indicate that the first areas to begin improving are technology tools and processes for creating and distributing content. If you are interested in learning more, you can download a PDF of the survey highlights at


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What Happens When Sales Reps Game the Comp Plan

 Cabrera_newToday's blog post is by Christopher Cabrera, CEO of Xactly Corporation, the industry leader in sales compensation automation.


Tell me if this scenario sounds familiar.

You’re presenting your company’s new incentive compensation plan to the sales team. Before you’ve clicked through the final slide and turned up the lights, your sales reps are already manipulating the numbers up, down, and sideways.

I say this with love, but they are scheming to game the plan.

That light bulb that just went off? That’s the reps whose commissions are based on top-line sales revenue realizing they can close a lot of deals if they cut prices and undercut competitors. Result? They rake in the cash, while the company loses money.

The gal in the back who’s eligible for a monthly objective and achievement bonus? She’s got a big deal in October that will put her in her accelerators, so she’ll earn a nice fat check, then spend November binge-watching Netflix and shopping for the holidays. That’s a month’s worth of productivity and profit that your company will never see.

Situations like those are all too common, so it’s easy to see why company leaders try to stay a step ahead of reps to stop them from gaming the plan. You want your salespeople to be successful, sure, but not to the degree that it damages your bottom line.

I’ve thought about this problem a lot, and came up with my own solution:

Don’t fight it. Encourage them to game the plan!

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. See, the reason those examples are such lopsided win/loses isn’t because your sales reps are such a devious lot. It’s because without meaning to, you’ve created an incentive compensation plan that drives all the wrong behaviors.

What you want to do instead is build a plan that aligns the sales team’s goals with your broader company goals. Salespeople will still be motivated to earn as much as they can. But with the right incentive plan, the company benefits too. The more ways reps find to make money, the more your organization will earn. You’ll have nothing to fear.

OK, but how do you build the “right” incentive plan?  Here are some ideas:

Those are just a few of the techniques I’ve learned about incentive strategies and employee motivation in my years in the compensation space. The rest, as they say, could fill a book. So at the urging of friends and colleagues, I spent this year writing Game the Plan: Every Sales Rep’s Dream, Every CFO’s Nightmare, to be published later this year.

In it, I take a comprehensive look at compensation and incentives, from the present back to the days when Captain Morgan had to incent his band of pirates to keep their mitts (hooks?) off the loot.

Visit the Game the Plan website for more information and excerpts.

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Take Time to Coach Your Reps to Success

KeithRosen_75x100Today's blog post is by Keith Rosen, CEO of Profit Builders, a globally recognized authority on sales and leadership and the pioneer of management coach training. Keith has written several best sellers on time management, cold calling and closing the sale, including the globally acclaimed Coaching Salespeople into Sales Champions, winner of Five International Best Book Awards and rated the #1 book on sales coaching.  


Keith Rosen recently wrote an interesting blog post, "Coaching Questions that Work in Any Conversation." One of the points he makes is that sales managers frequently express concern that coaching takes time. In some cases, they fear that taking time to stop and coach the rep might actually endanger the deal. In other cases, managers might feel overwhelmed by management tasks in general. With all the other things on their plate, why add a laborious coaching conversation to the list?

Whatever the cause, many sales managers simply take the route of telling reps what to do rather than taking time out for a coaching conversation. The instinct to issue directives is natural, but counterproductive. In the end, taking time to coach will actually reap more positive benefits for you and your sales reps. As Rosen says:

In every conversation where something needs to be resolved, especially with your customers and direct reports, you always need to know at least three things.

1. What's going on?

2. Why is this happening? (Assess in order to uncover and identify the root cause rather than treat symptoms, which leads to repetitive conversations.)

3. How can you create a new outcome/possibility?

These three questions provide you with the bare-bone basic facts you need to understand any situation before moving into problem solving mode.

I recommend you read Rosen's expert list of coaching questions -- these can help guide you through almost any type of coaching conversation with reps so you can co-create success together. 

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Oracle OpenWorld Focuses on CX

Why is it that although 91 percent of executives want to be considered customer experience (CX) leaders, only 38 percent of them have started on any CX initiative within their company. As such, it is not surprising that the most-common challenges to starting CX initiatives include a lack of funding (32 percent), an inflexible technology infrastructure (28 percent), and a siloed organizational structure (25 percent, according to the 2013 “Oracle Global Customer Experience Survey.”)

This year, Oracle OpenWorld San Francisco has a specialized focused area around customer experience, CX @ OpenWorld.  This new focus area will provide sessions, mini presentations, interactive journey mapping workshops, and demos to help customers deliver a quality, targeted customer experience. Attendees will be able to learn, share, and network with Oracle executives, customers, and partners. Hear about CX trends as well as strategy, solutions, and technology.

Attendees will be able to explore the content by six different tracks:

  • Sales
  • Commerce
  • Service
  • Marketing
  • Social
  • Customer Experience Strategy and Design

Presentations will be given by top industry companies such as AGInteractive, Accenture, Avaya, Capgemini, Deloitte, Infosys, McAfee, SapientNitro, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro, and many more. Only CX @ OpenWorld offers such great content all in one location.

Program highlights include:

  • Dedicated CX zone for CX/CRM, Moscone West, Level 3
  • 140+ CX sessions across CX Strategy and Design, Marketing, Sales, Commerce, Service, Social and Industry tracks
  • Cloud and on-premise application content, including Oracle ATG, Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle Eloqua, Oracle Endeca, Oracle Fusion, Oracle Knowledge, Oracle RightNow Cloud Service, and Siebel
  • 15 Customer Journey Mapping workshops
  • CX Exhibition Experience
  • CX Industry Showcase Pavilion
  • Meet the Experts sessions

Don’t miss out on the largest business and technology event of the year, Oracle OpenWorld.  With this specialized focused area, CX @ OpenWorld, it will provide all of the industry experts and knowledge under one roof.  To register, visit the event website.

Sponsors Include:

Tata Consultancy Services
Wipro Technologies

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When Sales Training Isn't the Answer

Each year, companies spend more than $5 billion on sales training…with much of that time, effort, and money going to waste.

In the SalesOpShop video “The Sales Performance Puzzle: How to Solve It,” RAIN Group president John Doerr succinctly explains this conundrum. He says that many companies simply neglect to identify − before they dive in − why sales training may be necessary. Often, says Doerr, the following problems, not a lack of sales training, prevent companies from seeing bottom-line results:

  1. Sales reps are well-trained in selling skills but don’t have adequate product knowledge.
  2. Some companies just don’t provide sales teams with the tools they need to develop profitable customer relationships.
  3. Sales coaching may be lacking.
  4. There’s no incentive to show results – no reward for selling a lot, no consequences for selling a little.

In these instances, sales training won’t help.

Doerr says that, before investing in often-costly sales training, first identify where the sales process breaks down. Sales leaders should examine the company’s sales pipeline and also analyze the rate and causes of rep turnover. Moreover, Doerr suggests, sales managers should spend time observing reps to ensure that they’re accurately reporting their sales activity.

Above all, encourage fluency among your sales reps – this is where sales training may be the most appropriate method to achieve success. Doerr offers an example: in the middle of a sales call, a customer or prospect asks a question that the sales rep isn’t expecting; nevertheless, the rep easily provides a knowledgeable answer. That’s fluency. And a team of fluent sales reps just may be any company’s most strategic sales tool.

To learn more about fluency, watch this 10-minute video, featuring John Doerr, president of the RAIN Group.

Visit the SalesOpShop, an online community of sales leaders and sales operations managers who are dedicated to sharing their unique insight to advance sales improvement.  

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New Opportunities to Advance Your Business: Mobile, Big Data, & Cloud

Almost everywhere I look these days, I see opportunities to advance business. 

Mobility is always an obvious one. Not only is mobile increasing efficiency for many companies and shortening sales cycles, it's offered sales teams the ability to convey better and more compelling messages to engage customers. This video from is a great example of how mobility can speed up and enhance your business. Check it out. 


Of course, this is an extreme example. Yet it captures what customers expect to see today from companies. If you can't keep up with their demands to deliver great service, anytime, anywhere, they will find some other company that understands how to leverage this technology and make their lives easier.

Mobile is simply a better way to communicate with and engage with customers. Consider IKEA as another example. The company embeds invisible bar codes into selected furniture. By using your downloaded Smartphone app you can see detailed information about the product. Customers download the app in the store and start exploring products. Compare that to Best Buy where customers frequently use the store to research the product and then buy it from a discounter online.

According to IDC, the tablet will outsell the PC this year by 27 percent. Gartner Group predicts that by 2015, tablets will outsell PCs by 75 percent. My feeling is that the explosive growth of mobile devices is an indication that mobile is not a platform – it is a business strategy.

Of course, today we can go beyond even mobile and tap the power of big data and analytics to create a powerhouse customer service and sales team that's equipped to handle any selling challenge. I see that many companies are still slow to fully realize the benefits of these three key elements. That's why I've partnered with Vendavo to stage a Webinar to showcase how you can use a combination of Big Data, the Cloud and mobile strategies to win more in sales. Join me on September 5 and you'll learn

  • How to create more customer value with your mobile strategy 
  • How double-digit growth companies enable their mobile sales team  
  • How best in class companies harness the Cloud and Big Data 
Register here and join the conversation: "The Sales Transformation: Mobile, Cloud, and Big Data."