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May 2014

Crowdsourcing Lead Generation: 5 Critical Steps

Richard BeedonToday's guest post is by Dick Beedon, founder and CEO of Amplifinity.

 

 

 


There is a new strategy in the field of lead generation. The concept is simple and compelling, and it works. The idea: leverage people (customers, employees, and influencers) and/or companies who can influence your prospects’ buying decisions into a channel or community that drives leads on your behalf. You can call it crowdsourcing lead generation. You can call it a form of social selling. You can call it advocacy marketing – but the goal is the same: to build long-term lead generation channels that consistently drive leads on behalf of your brand.

Think of it as a new paradigm. Today, brands typically think of sales channels (inside sales, direct sales, third party) as channels that actually close business. This new channel sits somewhere between the current models, as it does not actually close business. It drives leads. I call it crowdsourcing lead generation.  

Customers, employees, and influencers are the fastest growing lead generation channel today. Smart brands are starting to ask these constituencies to become part of a channel/community that drives leads on behalf of the brand. By utilizing the latest in social marketing software and technology, business leaders can mobilize this community by creating and leveraging their social relationships to generate the highest quality leads and drive new business. In fact, so many brands are doing it now that there is a critical set of proven best practices:  

1.  Determine who influences your prospects’ buying decisions.  

Always look to your customers first. They are great sources of leads, and you have good access to them. Real estate agents can be a good channel for banks, security companies, etc., because they have some influence with new people or families who move into market. If you are selling payroll services, CPAs might be a high-producing channel because they have influence over small businesses, and it is the same with banks. Organizations such as chambers of commerce have influence over a large number of small businesses and can be a great channel.     

2.  Promote, engage, and recruit these advocates into a community/program/channel by motivating and nurturing them.  

Any place you “touch” them is also an optimal opportunity to recruit them, whether it is through an online banner ad after an e-commerce transaction, a sales rep in the field, or an email – but it is important to recruit them into the channel. Think of this as a professional channel/relationship. Ask them to read the overview of your program, sign the terms and conditions, and register to become a part of your team.  

It is very important that you motivate your new advocates by sending regular communications reminding them of the opportunities and encouraging further engagement. Nurturing is a key factor in creating long-term relationships with your advocates and growing the program. Make sure the software you choose to run your advocacy programs can be configured to send nurturing communications, thanking your advocates for their leads and encouraging future participation.

3.  Ask your advocates to give you leads.  

This is a professional sales and marketing channel and deserves to be treated as such. You can drive advocates to the program, but you must ask them to provide leads for your brand, and there are many subtle and unobtrusive ways to do it. Once advocates begin adding value to your business, reward them with cash, points, donations to a charity, special offers, or other forms of recognition deemed most effective.

Don’t forget to continue asking for their help. There is an effective cadence of reminders and communications that have been proven most effective at generating the highest levels of engagement and the greatest numbers of leads. Have a strategy based on proven best practices.

4.  Empower them with multiple sharing tools to make their job easy and convenient.

There’s nothing worse than watching a brand launch an advocacy marketing program designed to crowdsource leads and then realizing it has significantly limited the performance of that program by offering a limited choice of sharing tools. Make mobile, social, digital, and offline sharing available. These tools are vital to your program, and they are also key to tracking and managing your growth.

5.  Track and manage the leads and channel.  

Your advocacy marketing software must be capable of seamlessly dropping the leads into the buy flow and lead flow. In a B2B environment, this feature is a highly effective tool for sales teams. They are traditionally effective at knowing who could influence prospects and drive high-quality leads.  

The major benefit is simple and powerful: you extend your sales team with additional overhead. This team knows when friends are in the market. Another benefit: sales-management teams can measure their progress and motivate their sales teams to both acquire members into the channel and determine how to motivate the channel to drive more leads.

Crowdsourcing lead generation is an important part of growing a big brand today, and once a system is in place to automate the process, it couldn’t be much easier. If you’ve got a product worth referring and customer service worth talking about, then it’s probably time to maximize those assets using your customers, employees, and third-party influencers as a sales and marketing channel.

Every brand has customers, employees, and other influencers who are willing and able to refer leads. Ask them for those leads – they will share them.


Top 10 Steps Salespeople Can Take to Improve

DaveKurlanToday's post is by Dave Kurlan, founder and CEO of Objective Management Group Inc. and Kurlan & Associates, and author of Mindless Selling and Baseline Selling: How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know About the Game of Baseball.





Baseball players can have some really incredible games, yet there are other days when things just don’t go nearly as well. The players’ timing could be off, their swing can get too long, they may not see the ball clearly, they may move too much, they could drop the back shoulder, they could pull their head off the ball and open their hips or shoulders too quickly, or they could swing too hard. Any one of these things can cause them to hit a weak grounder or pop-up, miss entirely, or just suck – and that’s just the hitting part.

Salespeople can have the same kinds of days.

  • They can sound too tense, serious, or professional.

  • Their timing could be off.

  • They could try too hard.

  • They might be too easily put off.

  • They could be too aggressive.

  • They might ask the wrong question.

  • They might not listen well.

  • They could miss the big opening.

  • They could offend someone.

  • They, too, could just suck.

(And all of that could happen in just the opening phone call!)

The question is, how do we minimize the days when salespeople are ineffective and maximize the days when they are on their game? What would a ballplayer do?

In baseball, players would take lots of batting practice. They watch video; hit off the tee; hit soft toss; hit off a machine; hit against live pitching; practice bunting, hitting to the opposite field, and situational hitting; and more – before and after every game. There’s extra practice between games. That’s what the best baseball players in the world do. They are already elite and working hard to make sure they stay that way. After all, there could be a big contract at stake.

Elite salespeople make up the top 6 percent of the sales population. They practice more than the bottom 74 percent combined! They have sales coaches; push themselves; and prepare for their most difficult sales scenarios by watching videos, role-playing, and reading books, articles, and blogs – a lot.

They are constantly thinking about their opportunities and a valid reason to make a follow-up call, studying their notes, analyzing their competition, strategizing ways to win deals, and they’re role-playing, even if the role play takes place in their own mind. They record their phone calls, listen to how they sound, and identify areas where they could improve. They live in their CRM system. They do the things they dislike first. They don’t allow fear, negative thoughts, or negative people to influence them. They are confident but not overly optimistic. They know that they must question everything they hear. That’s what they do better than anyone else: push back, challenge, question, and question some more – but nicely.

What should you begin doing to improve yourself? Here are the 10 areas for you to consider.

    1. Sales process: Yours should be consistent, effective, milestone-centric, and predictable.

    2. Great tonality: People enjoy talking with you because of how you sound.

  1. Consultative selling: Develop excellent listening and questioning skills.

  2. Qualifying: You know for certain when an opportunity is real.

  3. CRM: You learn how to live in and leverage your CRM application.

  4. Pipeline: It is always stuffed with the right number of opportunities that are the right size.

  5. Persistence: You will make the 10 to 15 attempts to reach the person who is not returning calls or email.

  6. Social selling: You make full use of LinkedIn to leverage your network

  7. Closing: When you have an opportunity to close, you close.

  8. Trusted advisor: Prospects and customers alike view you, not as a vendor, supplier, salesperson, or option, but as a partner or subject matter expert.

In how many of these areas could you improve? Share your thoughts in the comments.


The Right Way to Provide Sales Reps with Feedback

Kevin HigginsToday’s guest post is by Kevin Higgins, president of Fusion Learning.

 

 


In a recent survey of North American sales leaders, we at Fusion Learning asked, “Do sales managers have a model they use to provide feedback to their people?” The response was amazing: 56 percent said yes, and 44 percent said no. This was an aha moment for us. Almost half of sales managers do not have a model for providing feedback. We also know from our experience in our sales-management training sessions that feedback offered without a clear model ends up as a one-way conversation delivered from the manager to the performer.

These one-way feedback conversations come in one of two types: the first is the “sandwich,” when the manager presents the performer with what he or she did well, “sandwiches” negative feedback in the middle, and wraps it up with more positive feedback. It’s a habit based on years and years of giving feedback – and it’s a habit we have to break.

The second is the “seagull” model, which is even worse. This is when the manager doesn’t attempt to engage the performer; he or she simply states negative feedback and moves on. This is why I liken it to seagulls: they fly by, poop, and fly on. You never want to provide “seagull” feedback. Remember, if you simply tell the performer, the conversation is one way, but if you ask the performer, this facilitates a two-way conversation.

If you constantly praise your team members without suggesting improvements, you will have an extremely confident, unskilled team. If you constantly suggest how they can be better without celebrating their success, you will have a skilled team that is lacking confidence. Balance in feedback is critical – but it’s not necessarily 50/50.

A two-way Effective Feedback model makes self-discovery by the performer the first and most critical part of this process. The model has four easy-to-follow steps:

1.     Ask performers what they did well.

2.     You add what you feel they did well.

3.     Ask performers what they will do differently next time.

4.     You add what you suggest they do differently next time.

Steps 1 and 2 build confidence. We need confident team members. Steps 3 and 4 build skill. All four steps create a confident, skilled, and engaged team member.

Do we spend an equal amount of time in each of these steps? Definitely not! Different people have different capacities for feedback and different abilities to assimilate information. Those who lack confidence need more in steps 1 and 2. Those who are very confident but lack skill need more time in steps 3 and 4 (but be careful that it comes after reinforcing confidence in steps 1 and 2).

Effective two-way feedback is common sense. The four steps are not a scientific breakthrough, but they are not common practice. Making them common practice will engage your team. Once this four-step process is in place and well embedded in your culture, you’ll find team members are so well versed in feedback that they can actually provide themselves with clear, actionable, realistic, and balanced feedback on a daily basis.

 How does this work in the real world? Fusion Learning’s average annual growth rate is 28 percent, and one of the most significant factors is feedback. When we hire new team members (all members, not just sales), we provide them with a two-page summary of what it will be like to work at Fusion Learning. Here is what we say about feedback: 

“Growth and development is key in our industry, not only for clients, but for employees as well – you will receive constant feedback here, some you will like and some that is harder to hear – either way there is an expectation that you take it and act on it. 

“We will be open and candid with you. If you are performing well you will know it and if you are not performing well you will receive feedback and coaching.”

 My belief is that our successful growth has a lot to do with feedback being frequent and helpful for our team. Everyone on the team knows that feedback is a four-step process, and they know that they will need to perform some self-discovery before they are given feedback by others.


Are Salespeople Born Competitive?

Kevin McGirlToday’s post is by Kevin McGirl, president of sales-i, award-winning business intelligence software that simplifies and improves the sales process.

 


What brings out our inner Usain Bolt? No, I’m not talking about how fast we can run. I’m talking about that competitive edge and drive to succeed. Are we born with it, or does it emerge when we pick up the phone in our first sales role?

It’s a question I’ve thought about a lot. In an industry such as sales, where a strong stereotype of the typical employee exists, can we determine whether it is the job that forms the personality or the personality that is destined for the job?

Recently, I set out to find an answer and, along with my company, surveyed 254 sales professionals across the United States and United Kingdom. The results showed that a salesperson’s personality and subsequent career may be decided from an early age.

Kevin McGirl blog post INFOGRAPHIC  (1)

Here’s a quick summary:

  • Sixty-eight percent say they were made to earn their pocket money as a child.

  • Thirty-one percent were first employed at age 13.

  • Seventy percent belonged to at least one school sports team.

  • Thirty-six percent selected “competitive” as a principal childhood characteristic. Qualities including “social,” “driven,” and “positive” were also indicated.

  • Ninety-two percent have at least one sibling (39 percent have more than three), and 38 percent are the eldest (eldest children tend toward diligence).

  • Sixty-six percent were popular at school. Only 7 percent were unpopular, while 3 percent say they were bullied.

  • In the United States, 55 percent of those with a parent working in sales chose sales as a first career choice.

When analyzing these results, I thought it useful to get a psychologist’s point of view. Enter professor Cary Cooper, CBE, from the United Kingdom. He confirmed that the survey reveals an unmistakable personality type for salespeople and commented that what’s really important for salespeople is to define themselves as competitive, driven, pragmatic, and confident.

This “unmistakable personality type” is something that employers might want to look for in candidates when hiring. Making the wrong hire is costly to the business, so if a future selling star can be identified by his or her personality, then great!

Sadly, reality is never as simple as that; hiring someone who fits a profile won’t guarantee striking employee gold, and I caution anyone from hiring a person based purely on confidence. I know plenty of confident, driven people who would struggle in a sales role. I also know people who, while quiet and demure in their personal lives, are selling gods in their professional ones.  

Ultimately, it is the sales manager’s responsibility to tease the best out of the team. Personality will get someone only so far, and whether a person is competitive or not, he or she will still need the right training, plenty of support, and the right technology to succeed. In fact, of the salespeople we spoke to, 57 percent told us that nurturing by managers and team leaders has helped them improve their selling ability.

So what’s the real takeaway from this survey? Good, nurturing leaders are key to a team’s success. Yes, a person with a particular personality type is more likely to end up working in sales, but personality doesn’t promise success. Concentrate on up-skilling staff, giving team members the tools they need to succeed and nurturing their talent, and you’ll soon find yourself with a high-performing sales team that meets and exceeds targets month after month.


The Number One B2B Priority for Big-Data Analytics

James Rogers  (1)Today’s guest blog post is by James Rogers, chief marketing officer at Avention.  

 



The increasingly complex business-to-business (B2B) buying process makes it difficult to determine with whom you should make contact. IDC predicts that, “by 2016, 80 percent of new information-technology investments will directly involve line-of-business executives as the lead decision makers in half or more of those investments.” While there are many ways to leverage data analytics and business intelligence within this market, organizations are still challenged to find the right fit for their strategic needs. The dramatic increase in the number of players involved in decision making, however, makes it clear where data analytics and business intelligence can offer huge return on investment (ROI): intelligent prospecting.

Organizations are overwhelmed with the volume of technology they must manage on a regular basis. Because the B2B decision-making process is both more complicated and faster, intelligent prospecting should be a major focal point for companies looking for the maximum ROI when implementing big-data analytics. For this reason (and a number of other factors), one of Avention’s top priorities is to create a comprehensive solution that allows reps across an organization to harness big data and uncover opportunities based on the way we think.

How do B2B companies identify prospects or companies they don’t know? They cannot take advantage of an opportunity if it’s not there, so it’s critical that big-data analytics be leveraged the way an organization thinks. For example, a company might want to search for cities with a high volume of agriculture or organizations that are involved in healthcare reform. These won’t come up in a search using traditional data such as location, market cap, and sector.

All too often, sales teams have to guess when determining with whom they should engage; note the IDC stat on the number of decision makers. When research is conducted, a simple Google search can result in hundreds of links to information that may or may not be relevant, and those results likely won’t tell you to whom you should reach out or whether it’s the right time to engage. Instead, big-data analytics can streamline what information is pulled and then weigh, score, and profile the opportunity for profitability.

For example, if you went to Google right now and tried searching for companies involved with the Affordable Care Act, you’d receive millions of hits – news articles, information, opinions, etc. It takes hours to sift through what’s viable. Moreover, you are not provided with actionable content and need to use another tool to connect what you just pulled and determine a contact person. With big-data analytics and business intelligence for prospecting, in a matter of seconds an organization can pinpoint results based on granular parameters but also provide clear next steps that meet the user’s specific needs. The same solution will then regularly update the results as new data becomes available.

Using the example above, within a few clicks, users would see these results: 22,980 sales professionals working at 4,223 midsize companies involved with the Affordable Care Act. From there, organizations can set additional, conceptual parameters to narrow down these results according to such characteristics as whether or not the company is growing or if it relies on e-commerce. 

Big-data analytics for prospecting is only as effective as the base of information to which it’s compared. Once an ideal opportunity is identified, big-data analytics can be used to find similar companies in real time. For example, you might request this search: "Pull all of the chief technology officers in Texas who are involved with companies that have mentioned the Affordable Care Act on its Website or blog."

While there are many options for using big-data analytics, one thing is clear: companies should prioritize use based on where they will see a measurable impact. Intelligent prospecting harnesses big data to uncover opportunities that B2B companies may not even know exist and help them find more opportunities on a regular basis for long-term growth.

To learn more about how Avention provides actionable B2B insight for intelligent prospecting, visit www.avention.com.


Winning Best Practices for Salespeople

Richard BeedonToday's guest post is by Dick Beedon, founder and CEO of Amplifinity.

 

 

 


The consensus is that referrals are the best form of leads. They close faster, buy more, and stay longer. In fact, great salespeople have been good at generating referrals for what seems like forever. Until recently, large corporations have struggled to figure out how to scale the success of individual sales reps to systematically and proactively drive large volumes of referrals.

But that is all changing. Technology is coming to market that can help large brands automate the best practices of sales reps and institutionalize the process of generating referrals from customers, employees, and other people who influence the buying decision.

Good technology systems typically are designed to automate manual best practices. Let's take a look at key functions that great salespeople all tend to have in common.

1. They build referral channel.

Most salespeople are excellent networkers. Whether meeting people through the local rotary club, the area chamber of commerce, or local pub, great salespeople can be very good at telling everyone—their friends, family, customers, other employees, and even strangers—about what they do. Great salespeople also know that the more people who know what they do, the better the chance of that specific network spreading the word.

2. They ask their channel for referrals.

Most great sales reps never leave a meeting, either business or personal, without asking for a referral, and they are skilled at handling it with a gentle approach. One of the most staggering statistics that I have recently heard is that between 70 percent and 80 percent of all people are willing to refer leads if asked, yet fewer than 15  percent of individuals and companies ask for them. The great sales reps ask for referrals, and they ask often.

3. They motivate the channel.

Compensation is a great motivator (just ask many of the 17 million commissioned sales reps in the US) and many successful reps build professional referrals networks so they can compensate people and companies for leads that become closed deals. There are both monetary and non-monetary ways to motivate people to do things that actually work.

4. They nurture the channel.

They always thank their network for referrals, they compensate their network in a timely fashion for referrals, and they keep them in the loop.

The good technology solutions should help replicate and facilitate those processes to “institutionalize” and scale the process of driving referrals. These solutions must

  • Make enrolling customers, employees, and influencers into the referral program easy. (The idea is to build a referral community.)

  • Provide them with the tools to make it easy to refer.

  • Track and manage all the workflows, so you can measure results.

  • Automate the process of thanking and nurturing these channels for their contributions so they continue to perform.

Though the marketplace is changing at a pace liable to cause even the top salespeople to question their sales strategy, one thing will not change. Networking will always be number one for driving quality leads that must be nurtured, thanked, and motivated.

The only real difference today is that these steps can be completed at a faster, more efficient pace, generating exponentially more leads and closed deals -- and enabling the best salespeople to be even better.


Why Salespeople Should Ask the Big Questions

Bill Dellecker Today’s post is by Bill Dellecker, president of Austin Outdoor. It appeared originally on the Austin Outdoor blog and is used here with permission.

 

 

 



If you don’t ask, who will?  What’s the price of remaining silent?  Will you miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime?

The world is a busy place, and it’s not going to slow down to figure out what you want.  It’s up to you to use your voice and ask about the things that matter most to you.  

  • Do you remember the days when you had to ask your parents for permission to do something?

  • As you grew up, did you learn how to ask teachers to explain a subject one more time or in a different way,  or did you ever ask an expanded question?

  • Have you asked someone on a date or for a lifelong commitment?

  • Do you know how to ask a team member to find a way to produce more?

  • Are you willing to ask the “hard questions,”  or do you avoid them?

  • Have you asked what success looks like to those with whom you work?

  • Are you willing to dig deep and ask more of yourself?

  • Do you make sure to always ask why?

  • If you ask a question but the answer isn’t what you expect (or want), what happens next?

  • Do you really want to know the answer when you ask, “How are you doing?”  (If not, why ask?)

  • Are you willing to ask yourself to step up, to do more?  What inspires you to push yourself to accomplish more?

  • Have you ever asked a customer what’s most important to him or her?  How about a family member?

  • When you ask someone to do something, does that person know why?  Shouldn’t he or she know why?

If you’re not willing to ask the questions, then how will you know what others care most about?  More importantly, how will you know what direction to take with your own life and career?  The answer may be yes, no, or maybe, but it’s most certainly equal to a no if you never ask the question in the first place!

Success and happiness begin with asking great questions but depend upon listening to the answers – and then actually doing something with them!  

What have you asked about today? Share your thoughts in the comments section.


When New Sales Hires Fail, Try, Try Again

MichaelAhearneToday's guest post is by Michael Ahearne, professor of marketing at University of Houston and principal at ZS Associates.

 

 

Ever wonder why newly hired salespeople fall into the rut of making boilerplate pitches to customers? New research of mine published in the Journal of Marketing suggests that missed sales goals are a significant contributor.

We followed 221 new hires selling high-ticket retail items during their first six months on the job. On a biweekly basis, we tracked the rookies’ sales goals, performance against those goals, and intentions to engage with customers in maladaptive ways.

Jeff Boichuk, a doctoral candidate and lead author of the research, summarized the effect by saying that newly hired salespeople “act more and more like stereotypical used-car salesmen with every sales goal they miss. The process can be likened to learned helplessness, where new hires who experience early failure give up trying to uncover and adapt to customers’ needs because they begin to think selling’s too difficult.”

How can managers help? In an effort to find an answer, we also tracked the degree to which the store managers in our study facilitated a guided learning environment by providing new hires direction, a model of desired behavior, and support from more experienced co-workers.

This style of leadership, however, proved to be fleeting. These transformational leadership behaviors, as they’re referred to in academic literature, lose their credibility when missed sales goals accumulate. You can inspire, show reps how it’s done, and tell them their teams will be there for them all you want; nevertheless, if you operate in a failure-prone environment and they miss their targets, you might as well throw everything out the window.

A more effective approach, we found, is to think long term, promote exploration, and most importantly, frame errors positively.

This leadership style, coined “error management,” lessens the shock of missed sales goals by giving rookies the comfort of knowing that their jobs are not on the line as they become socialized in the organization.

Here are the key findings from the paper:

“Newly hired salespeople need to know that they are likely to make errors as they actively try to uncover customers’ needs. For developmental purposes, managers should encourage newly hired salespeople to make errors, even if it means asking the wrong questions or revealing themselves as novices because they do not have all the answers. Furthermore, managers should downplay the stigma of missing sales goals during the sales force socialization process in favor of promoting these developmental benefits.”

These are profound recommendations given the short-term, results-focused culture in many sales forces today. Further, they add an important caveat to the saying “The road to success is paved with failure.” Evidently, failure is a slippery slope. Managers need to embrace and encourage failure in order to help salespeople succeed.

I hope managers heed this advice. As consumers, we stand to benefit if they do.


Don’t Let This Problem Demotivate Your Sales Force

ScottBroomfieldToday’s post is by Scott Broomfield, chief marketing officer at Xactly Corporation. Click here to listen to a recording of a recent Webinar, “Motivating a Multigenerational Sales Force,” hosted by Xactly and Selling Power. 

Remember when you were a kid and got a weekly allowance for doing simple tasks, such as raking leaves in the front yard, making your bed, or helping your mom do the dishes? You knew that, to get your $10, you had to get your chores done.

Now imagine if you finished all your chores but received only $5. This would have limited your ability to buy candy, comics, or toys, not to mention make you resentful and question what you did wrong to receive less payment.

When a kid isn’t paid his or her allowance in full, no matter how sassy the kid gets, there are no major repercussions. When a rep is paid only half the bonus promised or an incorrect commission, you can bet there will be a multitude of repercussions.

One of these negative repercussions is a lack of engagement. Research shows that 18 percent of employees are actively disengaged in their work. Gallup estimates that these actively disengaged employees cost the United States between $450 billion to $550 billion each year in lost productivity. They are more likely to steal from their companies, negatively influence their co-workers, miss workdays, and drive away customers

Along with repercussions for your company, underpaying your salespeople affects their personal life. They depend on their paycheck to keep the fridge stocked, pay the mortgage, and keep the lights on at home. How long do you think a rep will stick around when his or her buddy says that those kinds of mistakes never happen at his organization? The answer: not for long. People want reliability, especially when it comes to compensation.

In addition to losing rock stars, there are many other consequences of an unreliable, manual incentive-compensation system. When reps don’t know what their commission will be, to what business win their check is related, or even when it’s coming, what you have is a reward system, not an incentive one. So what’s the difference? An incentive system sets specific goals wherein salespeople know that if they perform X, they will receive $Y. This is much more effective in inspiring the behavior you want from reps than a reward system, which generally just gives reps a check that is not tied to any specific behavior.

When you have an automated incentive-compensation system, reps have visibility into their attainment metrics throughout the entire quarter, instead of waiting to be handed a report a few days before the check is cut. With this kind of transparency, employees are able to see just how many deals they need to bring in to make quota and exactly what their quota attainment will be if they make their numbers – no guessing and no time-wasting disputes.

The kids in the featured video know instinctively that being underpaid is wrong. They know that getting accurate payment is fair, and they know that they would be unhappy and “sassy” if they weren’t compensated properly for their hard work. If a group of elementary school students are aware that doing chores and then being paid incorrectly will negatively affect their behavior, don’t underestimate your sales reps’ reactions to incorrect payment. No one likes a sassy rep. Well-paid reps are happy reps, and happy reps are more likely to perform at the peak of their ability.

Click here to listen to a recording of a recent Webinar, “Motivating a Multigenerational Sales Force,” hosted by Xactly and Selling Power. 


What Sales Managers Need to Look for in a CRM System

Charles P. Collins Today’s post is by Charles P. Collins, executive vice president of sales planning automation at Precision Sales Engineering. It appeared originally on the Precision Sales Engineering blog and is used here with permission. See how Precision Sales Engineering can help with your sales planning; click here for a free demo.

 

Once you reach the stage at which you’re having difficulty managing your prospects, accounts, and marketing campaigns, and you can no longer rely on homegrown tools or off-the-shelf applications such as MS Excel or Rolodex-style contact managers, you are ready to evolve to the next level and choose a professional customer relationship management (CRM) system. Here is some advice to assist you in making this important decision, one which will impact your odds of sales success for years to come.

It's All in the Database

CRM systems are, in essence, a purpose-built database for lead, contact, account, and opportunity records. The databases built by vendors such as SugarCRM and salesforce.com, amongst many, are designed to appeal to a very targeted user, namely the sales and marketing professional. Screens, reports, and dashboards are crafted to display vital selling information, or the sales “pulse,” in easy-to-read and easy-to-manipulate objects.

The data can be entered into standard records provided by the CRM vendor, and customization of these records is a common feature. Since there is a remarkable similarity of function, intended use, appearance, and workflow in almost every major CRM system, your choice will come down to a difficult, matrix-style analysis when trying to differentiate one vendor from another. You’ll be comparing similarly styled databases with similar purposes. Few very exciting differences exist, and you might unfortunately end up making your final decision with too much emphasis on price rather than function.

What is missing in the CRM systems in the marketplace are tools built to serve its power user: the sales manager.

Setting and Measuring Performance

Managing selling teams is not just about operating a database of records and trying to extract meaningful business intelligence. Rather, it is about setting and measuring realistic performance objectives. It is about creating sales plans with well-plotted courses set and clear, successful destinations charted. It is about creating meaningful management interactions between the manager and the sales employee that result in superior, intended results. Surprisingly, you will find this functionality absent in today’s popular CRM systems.

Therefore, sales managers need to take matters into their own hands. Some CRM programs, such as salesforce.com, have such value-added applications as Longitude, which provides this functionality. Others require you to create dedicated workflows, task triggers, and calendar tools that enable the sales manager to define a set of objectives, syndicate the execution of the tasks necessary to achieve the objectives to those responsible for delivering a result, and monitor progress toward the objectives.

Lead by Objective

Whichever way you go, there is no getting around the fact that, in order to use CRM as a strategic tool, it is essential that the sales manager take the sales team’s reins and lead the team toward clearly articulated objectives. Once you have found a CRM system that enables you to accomplish this, you have made a substantial and measurable leap ahead of your competition.

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