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June 2014

Communication Tips for Leaders of Global and Remote Teams

TristamBrown_200Today's guest post is by Tris Brown, CEO of LSA Global. Download his white paper, "10 Simple Steps for Successful Virtual and Global Teams."

 

 

Managing teams across multiple time zones and cultures isn’t easy. If you get it wrong, you can be plagued by everything from high turnover rates to low profitability. Although sometimes CEOs decide to rein in remote teams, that’s not always an option. Managing remote and virtual teams is an issue that’s only going to grow in importance. Consider the following:

  • According to a Forrester report, 34 million Americans work from home; this
    number is expected to expand to 63 million (or 43 percent of the US workforce) by 2016.  (US Telecommuting Forecast)
  • A poll conducted by Cisco revealed that 29 percent of college students believe that the ability to “work remotely with a flexible schedule” will be a “right” once they enter the workforce. (Cisco Gen-Y Study: Mobile Devices Valued More Than Higher Salaries)
  • More than half of respondents in a global study said managing virtual teams will be a vital future competency, but only 36.5 percent believed their managers had mastered the necessary skills required to manage virtual teams effectively. (Developing Successful Global Leaders)

When global teams hit the headwinds, they must rely on trust and commitment to stick together. So how can you build trust and commitment across time zones? One of our global-team clients has put together a set of guiding principles on how team members will interact with each other. The client says this framework helps keep the team focused, as well as more mindful of other virtual-team members.

Here are some questions to distribute to your team members to get them thinking about how they’d like to work together.

  • What constitutes a timely reply to an email?
  • Do emails with certain subject lines get priority response times over others?
  • What is the definition of “the end of the day” for teams working in different time zones?
  • What are common expectations around any of the following: deadlines, next steps, and instructions for follow up?

Working collaboratively, team members can agree to some common (yet powerful) definitions around these very simple communication practices. They can also come up with templates to respond to their peers when they feel communication is starting to go off track.

Above all, this exercise gets the point across to your team that you don’t want anyone to get bogged down by vague, ill-timed, or incomplete communication. When all members know that they have a manager who supports improved communication, they’ll be more open to bringing issues to your attention – before they become a habitual problem.


Nine Things I've Learned in Nine Years as a LinkedIn Member

KurtShaverToday's guest post is by Kurt Shaver, founder of The Sales Foundry. This post appeared originally on The Sales Foundry blog and is used here with permission.

 

http://thesalesfoundry.com/category/linkedin-philosophies/

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In March I celebrated my nine-year anniversary* of joining LinkedIn. I was living in Silicon Valley managing sales for a software company when I first heard of LinkedIn. You don’t get much more “early adopter” than that. I signed up on March 14, 2005, as member number 2,174,063.**

Here is what I’ve learned in nine years:

1. It’s no longer just an online résumé. While its use for hiring purposes accounts for half of LinkedIn’s revenue, LinkedIn has moved beyond this single purpose. Every day it’s getting to be more like users’ personal Website.

2. It is ridiculously underutilized. Like many software applications, the average LinkedIn member uses less than 10 percent of it capabilities. As one of my friends remarked, “I can’t believe you built a business teaching people to use a free Web app.” That’s because people realize its value and complexity.

3. There are hundreds of LinkedIn user interfaces (UIs). Part of the complexity comes from the fact that there are hundreds of LinkedIn UIs when you consider the combinations of free and 15 premium versions, operating systems, browsers, and mobile platforms. That mean features and screens are not consistent.

4. LinkedIn likes phased feature rollouts. It is good to be cautious, especially in a network of 275 million people. I have taught classes in which some people did not have a feature first rolled out seven months prior. It can be frustrating because members often do not know the schedule.

5. It’s a powerful tool for finding people. As more members joined and kept their information up-to-date, smart salespeople realized that LinkedIn is an incredible database for finding prospects. Add the unique benefit of being able to leverage your network for introductions, and it becomes one of the top ways to initiate a sales dialogue.

6. It’s a powerful tool for building your brand. The other half of social selling is building your value and attracting potential buyers by sharing content. LinkedIn continues to add features to position people as subject matter experts.

7. LinkedIn giveth and LinkedIn taketh away. Just as valuable new features appear, sometimes valuable ones disappear, too. R.I.P. to Events, Reading Lists, Signal, Activities, LinkedIn Today…

8. It’s mainstream media now. If content is king, then LinkedIn is the king’s office. It is many people’s top destination for business news related to their interests. Acquisitions like SlideShare and Pulse, along with the LinkedIn Influencers and the new long form Publishing feature for the masses, all support this ambition.

9. It’s amazingly well self-policed. For all the horror stories and misuse of other social networks, I have to compliment LinkedIn and its members on maintaining good business etiquette. Sure, I occasionally see discussions that belong on Facebook or other more personal social networks, but, in general, people stick to business.

* Find your “Member since” date in Settings.

** Your member number shows in the browser bar URL when you are looking at your own profile.

What’s your LinkedIn member number? Please share your experience with LinkedIn in the comments. 


Executive Buyers: They’re Just Not That into You

BillWallaceToday's post is by Bill Wallace, vice president of Revenue Storm, a global sales consulting and revenue acceleration firm.

 

 

Why Executive Messaging Fails

Your messaging should capture an executive’s attention within eight seconds. Miss the mark, and you’ve not only wasted the executive’s time but created a negative impression.

Unfortunately, many sales and marketing professionals don’t communicate well at this critical level. Instead of giving executives the information they want, sales and marketing professionals often share what they want executives to know about them.

Executives don’t care about you, your products, or your services. Quit talking about yourself and make the message about them – their wants and needs. Start connecting your messages to the business issues that matter most to executives. Come with insight instead of data.

According to research conducted by SiriusDecisions, executive buyers value business and industry insight four times more than they value traditional product knowledge. Express in clear, measurable terms how you can affect their business or drive revenue, improve margins, gain market share, reduce churn, etc. If you miss this essential component, all of the creative coolness in the world won’t save you. Everything else is just fluff.

How to Fix It

First, you need to determine to whom your messaging should be directed. That sounds easy, but it isn’t. In the world of complex solutions, your messaging should target several people. Multiple decision makers and influencers are involved. An average complex solution could involve six different titles.

Make this your mantra:

  • Right Target: What titles are commonly involved in making decisions, and who are the key influencers? Each of these titles will have different concerns, and your message should be tailored to accommodate them.
  • Right Message: Exactly what are you going to say to them? They don’t have time and won’t bother to figure out your intent unless it’s short, sweet, and plays to their interests. Your message needs to communicate what you can do for them, and it needs to be expressed in business language. Industry jargon and tech talk are the kiss of death. Test your message internally with titles similar to your targets. You have one shot. Don’t miss.
  • Right Media: What form will your message take? While using multiple channels is best, leverage the appropriate media for that buyer profile. Make sure you are being consistent. How many times have you seen messaging sent to the field but undermined by the Website? Your advertising, PR, Website, social media, and sales support materials MUST have the same messaging for the appropriate targets.

Finally, consider the goal of your message. Are you trying to sell something directly to the target? Are you working to open doors? Are you preconditioning? It’s all about mental shelf-space: you need to capture attention and be clear on the intent.

Once you’ve determined the objectives of the messaging, the mantra, “Right Target, Right Message, and Right Media,” is a great way to keep you on the right trajectory and ensure that your messaging hits the mark every time. 

Hear more about Sales & Marketing Convergence from Bill and Revenue Storm at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas on September 18, 2014. 


The Impossible $5.7 Billion Sales Target

BobUrichuck Today's post is by Bob Urichuck, speaker, trainer, founder of the Buyer-Focused Velocity Selling System, and best-selling author of Velocity Selling: How to Attract, Engage & Empower Buyers to BUY and Motivate Your Team in 30 Days.

 

Let me share the biggest target challenge I faced and met in my 50-plus years in sales and 20 years as a sales trainer.

Several years ago in Dubai, I met with a CEO of a major land-development company, who wanted my help to get back on target. It was late September. The company’s year-end target (December) was US $5.7 billion. Current sales were at $2.4  billion – not even 50 percent of target.

 I asked the CEO what was expected from me. The reply was “to conduct a day or two of training to get the sales team back on target.”

“Why don’t you just give me $25,000, and we’ll call it quits,” I said.

The CEO did not understand.

I explained how he would be wasting his money; a day or two of training will not change anything. To change attitudes, behaviors, and competencies, sales training has to be continuous or an ongoing process with management coaching.

I stayed to conduct two days of training on the condition that he follow up with the participants in the following two weeks, as they needed to decide on whether or not to continue the sales training. If the feedback was positive and they wanted to continue, I would provide him with a draft proposal for an annual, ongoing sales-training program.

Two weeks later, he requested a proposal that became a 30- to 50-day agreement with some very rewarding terms (a story on how to engage buyers on price and terms that I’ll reserve for another time).

In November, I was invited back to Dubai, and I committed to working with this company on a 30- to 50-day annual plan to train the sales teams on the Buyer-Focused Velocity Selling System and create a winning sales culture within the organization.

The challenge: I had fewer than 60 days to help this team more than double $2.6 billion in sales to $5.7 billion.

I learned that a “large sale” was considered selling an entire floor of a building.

Early in week two, I sat down with the CEO and suggested selling buildings instead of floors. His immediate response was that it would be impossible –  a word I like hearing, as it motivates me to prove people wrong, for I believe nothing is impossible.

Six buildings were quickly identified and priced, and six reps were selected. Together, we analyzed the database and identified all high-end buyers, matching buyers to sales reps by country, language, and other criteria.

Each sales rep also became an expert in one building, and a strong team with clear direction was created. At the end of the second week, I left the company to implement its plan while being an email or telephone call away.

In fewer than six weeks, before year’s end, the team exceeded the sales target of $5.7 billion. The rest was history! 

I facilitated it, and they did it! That is what bottom-line results are all about.


What Attracts Sales Leaders to the Sales 2.0 Conference?


The thing I'm most excited about right now is the upcoming Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston. I've been producing these events with Sales Dot Two, Inc. (Selling Power is a media co-sponsor) since 2007 and they are only getting bigger and better.

At the most recent Sales 2.0 event in San Francisco I interviewed numerous attendees, speakers, and sponsors and put together the video above to provide a sense of what sales leaders find most valuable about the conference. Here's a summary.

  • You'll hear real thought leaders tell you what's changed, what you need to do now, and what changes you can make to impact your number.

  • You will learn what you can do to add creativity to sales process.

  • You will pick up valuable information in the hallways and during breaks in addition to the insights shared onstage.

  • You'll learn immediate takeaways you can bring back to the sales team to help them improve.

Watch the full video to grab a discount registration code for the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston on July 14. Bonus: you will also see some great examples of how we have fun at these conferences, including juggling and a backflip!


Three Steps to Connect with the Right Prospects Online

WillSpendloveToday's post is by Will Spendlove, vice president of product marketing at InsideView

 

 

One of the most important parts of prospecting is finding the right person at the right time. It starts with identifying the key persona you’re targeting, then understanding the correct title and job responsibilities for each target company, looking for any connections you might have in that account, and then actually looking for an introduction with a real human. It’s a daunting process, to say the least.

A huge lifesaver has been LinkedIn. Generally, people use LinkedIn to manage their professional connections, and successful sales and marketing teams use it to prospect; however, building an entire connection strategy around LinkedIn just isn’t enough. At InsideView, we have figured out a way to reduce the time spent finding people and built a model to help sales and marketing teams find the most prospects. We use three key steps in our “finding” strategy:

1. Use a multipronged strategy to build a virtual connections pool.

When I talk to sales teams, I usually ask them what technology or system they use to find unknown contacts. The immediate answer is LinkedIn, which is a well-known and trusted strategy. LinkedIn is the world’s premier connections platform, but using LinkedIn, however, isn’t enough. There are many contacts who don’t use LinkedIn. In some cases, entire verticals are light on LinkedIn, including medical and government industries.

It’s important, therefore, to ensure that you have a multipronged connection strategy. Connection prongs can include LinkedIn but should also include social networks such as Facebook and Google+. There are many connections that exist on Facebook and Google+ that don’t exist in LinkedIn. By building a strategy using multiple social communities, your chances of meeting the right person are much higher.

You should also engage your email and telephone contact lists. There are often people you’ve engaged over the years but with whom haven’t recently connected. Make sure you are always keeping a CSV-file version of your email and telephone contact lists, backed up and available for your use. By including all social and email contact lists, you can build your own virtual connections pool. This pool ensures that you aren’t missing any key contacts you’ve engaged recently or in the past.

2. Engage your entire sales and marketing teams.

“You don’t know what you don’t know” – this adage rings true in a connections strategy. Right now, there are dozens of people at your company who have connections you want, but how are you going to know where they are? By encouraging all members of your whole team to share their network with each other, you can have many more opportunities to find and build relationships.

The easiest way to share connections among your teams is through a private connections cloud. These clouds allow sales and marketing teams to upload their contacts into a private space that’s available to only your individual organization. Details such as phone number and email address are suppressed to maintain privacy, but the connection details are made available. This way, you can request an introduction to a prospect directly from your team members.

3. Get out there and make new connections.

Using social tools and networks to your advantage may seem obvious, but BEING a good connection is also key to establishing yourself as someone with whom people should do business. Here are some key ways to build your social prowess:

  • Use Twitter daily. This may seem odd to those who aren’t Twitter aficionados, but those who are often look at people’s Twitter statistics (followers, posts) to see if the Twitter users are truly social. Three easy ways to begin to engage in Twitter: 1) follow key influencers in your industry, 2) use scheduling technologies such as Buffer to help create a regular cadence in posting, and 3) respond to the Tweets you like.
  • Make your Facebook/Google+ profiles public and reflect your best self. Many people feel that their Facebook page is personal, but these days, if you don’t have your profile at least searchable, people may think you’re hiding something.
  • Keep your LinkedIn profile current.
  • Use multiple social tools (Pinterest, Instagram, Google+, etc.) so you are easily found.

So go ahead and start finding those prospects. You’ll realize it’s easier than you thought – and maybe most of your competitors haven’t figured that out yet.


Winning Best Practices for Salespeople

Richard BeedonToday’s 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. 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 practices that great salespeople 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 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. Great sales reps ask for referrals, and they ask often.

3. They motivate the channel.

Compensation is a great motivator (just ask the 17 million commissioned sales reps in the United States), and many successful reps build professional referral networks so they can compensate people and companies for leads that become closed deals. There are both monetary and nonmonetary 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, and they keep network members in the loop.

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

  • make it easy to enroll customers, employees, and influencers into the referral program (the idea is to build a referral community);

  • provide tools that make it easy to refer;

  • track and manage all the workflows so results can be measured;

  • 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 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.


The End of Feast or Famine: Managing the Funnel and Pipeline for Consistent Performance

BillWallaceToday's post is by Bill Wallace, vice president of Revenue Storm, a global sales consulting and revenue acceleration firm.

 

 

I’ve been a sales executive or consultant for a long time, and I’ve heard every excuse in the book about why forecasts are inconsistent, opportunities slip into the next period, win rates are unacceptably low, and a high percentage of salespeople fail to meet quota. The main reason why these failures occur is that most sales leaders don’t have a solid process of funnel and pipeline management and aren’t capable of holding the necessary coaching discussions with the team.

There are two distinct components at play here: one is the funnel, where we CREATE new opportunities, and the second is the pipeline, where we CAPTURE qualified opportunities. Think of it as “today and tomorrow.” Opportunities you’re going to close this sales period, or today, are the pipeline. Opportunities you are working to close tomorrow are the funnel.

Good sales leaders manage both aspects. Not managing both typically results in having either great potential business but nothing for now or having terrific business now with nothing for the future. It becomes a cycle of feast or famine, but the intent is to create smooth, consistent results without peaks and valleys.

To minimize this feast-or-famine cycle, it is imperative that sales leaders ask themselves three questions:

  1. Are we going after the RIGHT business? Chasing unqualified business wastes time, creates false expectations, and lowers the win rate. All too often, we chase requests for proposals (RFPs) or join a competitive battle, only to find that we were never really being seriously considered in the first place. If you haven’t influenced the RFP or helped to write portions of it, one of your competitors more than likely has, and you are already too late.

  2. Is the funnel RICH enough? Do you have enough in the funnel to consistently achieve quota? Many sales leaders use a quick measurement of 3 or 4 x quota to ensure that there is enough new business opportunity to achieve consistency. If there isn’t, your coaching must be on demand creation. Coaching discussions should focus on how team members are going to create new opportunities to fill the gap – where they are going to find the opportunities, with whom they are going to connect, and what messages they are going to discuss.

  3. Are the opportunities in the pipeline REAL? This is where heartache, drama, and quite a bit of antacid come into play for sales leaders. Have you ever had a “sure-win” deal vaporize after one of your salespeople insisted it was going to close? Do you automatically apply a discount factor to your team’s forecast, or find yourself recalculating the forecast and accounting for margins of error? An opportunity should NOT be included in the forecast unless it has an 80 percent probability of closing. What are the very clear means of testing needed to determine if the opportunity is going to close? Create a standard and stick with it. No exceptions.

The next step is to establish metrics that are measured at least once a month. What is your expectation for the number and amount of new opportunities to be created and entered into the funnel? What key questions are you going to ask to evaluate an opportunity and ensure that your salespeople are as conservative as you are? What standards are you going to use to validate that an opportunity should be forecasted? Create the discipline, and watch how the results manifest themselves in a positive way.

Spend the first part of your coaching discussions on the opportunities that are forecasted, and come to an agreement about which are real and which are suspect. Move suspect opportunities out or back into the funnel.

Next, evaluate the quality of the opportunities within the funnel. Remember, when in doubt, throw them out.

The last portion of the conversation should focus on the amount of new opportunities that are being created and added to the funnel. This is usually a weakness for salespeople and should always be part of your conversation. Ask your salespeople to note action items for improving the funnel and pipeline, and always end the discussion on an encouraging note.

Lastly, you have to create a culture of honesty. Never chastise or condemn a person for showing you the reality in his or her funnel or pipeline. It is what it is. Now that you understand where the challenges are, you can work with the salesperson to improve it.

If you invest the time to ask the critical questions, inspect the math, and conduct coaching around RIGHT, RICH, and REAL, you will see drastic improvement in your forecast accuracy and win rates and a greater number of salespeople achieving plan.

Hear more about Sales & Marketing Convergence from Bill and Revenue Storm at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas on September 18, 2014. 


Avoiding A Social-Media Spectacle

GregTiricoToday's post is by Greg Tirico, director of digital media and content for Sage

 

 

Social-media interaction and real-time marketing can be risky. We were recently reminded of the importance of communicating professionally on social media when a very unkind response to a LinkedIn request went viral. The backlash to the unorthodox response is proof that social media can have a negative effect on a business or organization when made available to the public.

With this in mind, here are some tips that people should remember when it comes to professional interaction on social media.

  • Networking hasn’t changed just because we have the ability to connect via social media. First and foremost, seek to help. In turn, when you need help, your network will be primed and ready.
  • Speaking of your network, the worst time to build one is when you actually need it. Social-media tools help you build a network quickly – one that is far wider and more varied than in the past – but the quality of your connections, not the quantity, is what counts. Get started now. Don’t wait.
  • Any connection you make – be it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. – deserves a little attention. I investigate any connection I make on LinkedIn. Does this person have a Twitter handle listed? Check out what this person is saying. Is there a blog listed? Go read the most recent article, and leave a comment. It doesn’t take a lot of time. I find that the personal touch usually gets lost when networking in the social space. It’s far too easy to hit the connect button and just move on. You wouldn’t shake hands with someone, accept a business card, and walk away, would you? Don’t do that in the social space, either.
  • Set up an approval protocol for tweets and live communication. For instance, don’t answer an angry tweet with an angry tweet.  A good rule of thumb is to refrain from writing a terse response to someone you don’t know.  If you have any doubts, write your tweet or response and have someone else take a look at it before you hit the send or post button; two heads are better than one. The irony in the LinkedIn story is that the woman who responded so tersely to the Millennial looking for a LinkedIn invite was so much more inappropriate in her response than the person who sent the simple request.
  • Act appropriately after the social-media blunder. If you’ve posted something inappropriate or participated in social interactions that, after the fact, you find has or may hurt your business, take steps to remedy the situation. If the post or message has gone viral, don’t ignore it, but attack the situation to get ahead of it. If an apology is in order, give it. Most importantly, put a plan into place to ensure that it does not happen again.

Get more Sage business advice at http://na.sage.com/sage-na/newsroom/in-the-news.


How to Handle Customers Who are "Considering Other Options"

In case you missed it, here's a video interview I recorded with the great Jeffrey Gitomer. Watch above to see his best tips about how to handle a customer who says he or she is still considering other options.

What do you think of the tips in this video? Share your thoughts in the comments section.