Innovation Feed

The Side Effects of Technology

The technology industry suggests that we all can win by out-innovating our competition. That’s a bold promise; however, in reality, technology is like medicine: it often has side effects.

For example, in the year 1900, automotive companies produced 4,200 cars, of which 28 percent were powered by electric motors. While electric cars could run efficiently at about 30 MPH, gasoline-powered cars could reach higher speeds and travel longer distances.

1910 Ford-T

In 1908, Henry Ford began mass production of the Model T with a gasoline engine. The decision prompted Thomas Edison to stop the development of a longer-lasting battery for electric cars.

During the last century, automotive engineers designed more than 10,000 automobile innovations, such as the electric starter, the automatic transmission, the car radio, the electric turn signal, the electric window, power steering, cruise control, cassette and then CD players, ABS brakes, GPSs, heated seats, massaging seats, solar-powered cooling fans, and more.

Then there are related innovations such as traffic lights, speed bumps, detours, radar detectors, speed traps, traffic courts, and more. Today’s cars are designed to drive more than 120 MPH, but traffic conditions slow us to an average speed of about 30 MPH. It is ironic that after more than a century of innovation, we’ve only doubled the speed of a horse. But slow-moving traffic isn’t the only side effect of technology.

Imagine what would have happened if Henry Ford had decided to build the Model T with an electric motor. Charging a battery might cost only $5 per week. Global warming and dependence on foreign oil might not be pressing issues.

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Information technology creates different side effects. We’ve accelerated the speed of information and increased the volume of information, and every day we master a smaller fraction of what there is to know. Surveys show that with all the computing power at our fingertips, neither business productivity nor customer satisfaction has increased. That’s because information is moving quickly and growing exponentially. Consequently, our days vanish in a blur of emails, conference calls, and insane travel schedules. Information technology tends to subdivide our time, which dilutes our overall focus and often prevents us from thinking harder and deeper.

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Technology allows us to communicate with a lot more people a lot faster. The side effects are that we miscommunicate more often, and we often miss the chance to communicate with honesty.

What does innovation and technology teach us? First, all innovation has hidden side effects. Second, technology does not eliminate complexity.

Managing complexity is one of the toughest leadership challenges. The solution is not to blindly eliminate complexity but to embrace it where it drives up revenues and value. We need to eliminate it when it just adds to waste. Today we need an intense curiosity about how to win without allowing complexity to strangle our humanity or sabotage our hard-earned progress.

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6 Tips to Write More Profitable Prospecting Emails

SueHC_headToday's blog post is by Sue Hershkowitz-Coore, author of Power Sales Writing: Using Communication to Turn Prospects into Clients (Second Edition) which appeared on the Selling Power Best Books for Sales Success in 2013 list.


Every day people forward awful sales emails to me. A recent favorite opened with, "I just wanted to take a moment to personally introduce myself as your sole contact for XYX company! I am truly excited to be put in this position as I am very proud and passionate about … etc." 

It seems reasonable to assume that the salesperson who crafted that email also has her own email account, doesn’t it?  Would she take her valuable time to respond to an email like that? 

What can you do to ensure your emails don't end up on the "Can You Beat This?" segment of my Facebook page? How do you write a selling message that engages buyers and creates sales potential?

Here is the most important thing to remember: prospects are just not that into you. As awesome as your product or service most assuredly is, no one will care about a cheesy, self-involved, features dump. Here’s a hint. If your email begins with the word "I," you've just put yourself in the reader’s delete zone. 

Prospects are twice as busy as you are. Treat them that way. Show value for their time and eliminate all the parts of an email that no one ever reads anyway. From my book, Power Sales Writing: Using Communication to Turn Prospects into Clients (Second Edition), here are six practical tips to help you write more exciting, appealing, profitable prospecting messages:

1. Know why you’re writing the email. Most salespeople think the purpose of an initial prospecting email is to introduce themselves. Dead wrong! You’re writing to get the prospect excited or pique her interest about how she might do the best job. So why are you writing? Plan it out.

2. Be authentic and transparent. Opening your message with: Your name was given to me because you plan meetings... is respectful and quick. It may not be earth shattering, but at least you haven't turned off your potential lead with a phony or self-serving statement. By beginning with a simple truth, you've started the groundwork for a trusting relationship. Of course, if you have a referral, always start there ("Sophie Spaniel suggested I contact you … ”).

3. Paint a picture of your prospect's success. Instead of going into sales-kill mode, think about what the prospect gains by talking with you. Let's say you're a hotelier representing a luxury brand writing to a meeting professional.  Use words that evoke a positive emotion to help the prospect feel what she can gain from talking with you. For example, “Your name was given to because you plan meetings and when you're looking for a beautiful backdrop for your event -- one that creates a relaxing, positive learning environment - we may have an awesome option for you.

4. Explain the next step. Depending on your brand and complexity of the sale, you might either explain how you'll take the next step or ask permission to do so. You might write, “I'll plan to phone you Tuesday morning to learn more about what ensures a productive event for you. If another time is more convenient, I'll follow-up as you suggest.”

5. Don't use pressure tactics. If the prospect wants to buy right away, she’ll tell you. In the meantime, avoid phrases that make you sounds overbearing. Instead, try saying, "when the time is right." This reduces pressure and sounds less pushy. 

6. Use a subject line that gets to the point. The best subject lines accurately reflect the main point of the email. If you're writing to request a phone call, the subject line could be, “Action request: Phone call Tuesday.” When you want your message to get opened, especially when you don't yet have a relationship with the reader, use a subject line that doesn't sell and quickly explains the essence of the message.

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What's in a Next-Gen Sales Pro's Toolbox?

1d912eeToday's blog post is by Jacco van der Kooij, sales leader at Harmonic Inc

 

 

Traditional focus: internal tools that power the sales process

Over the last decade, marketing and sales processes have been very focused on understanding and managing the transactional part of the business. These include processes that focus on lead generation, demand generation, opportunity creation, demo/trial conversion, closing, order processing, account management, and so forth.

We call it “a process,” which is pretty accurate considering the striking similarities to a production line at a car manufacturing plant, where robots make sure all cars look 100 percent the same.

Process

What tools did we deploy to help our clients and facilitate the role sales plays? 

So what happened to the sales professional in the field? Well, most of us still tap out a couple hundred emails a day on our smartphone while accumulating frequent-flyer points traveling to a client to deliver an in-person death-by-PowerPoint experience. Or if the client’s lucky, we just drown him or her in white papers.

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SaaS created a demand for NEW sales tools.

Fast forward to SaaS solutions. With its lower ASP, traditional selling simply became too expensive. Hundreds and perhaps thousands of small companies needed a new class of tools that could help them make transactional sales at a fraction of the cost (no travel), at a higher quality (engaging), and 24/7 (online).

After a couple of years, these tools have matured, and together with key developments that make them compatible with the iPad, they are now ready for deployment in the more complex B2B sale. The one who masters new tools first wins first.

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New tools are externally focused on client experience.

It is important to recognize that, unlike CRM tools, the new marketing and Sales 2.0 tools were not built or designed to fill the requirements of a few large corporations. Instead, they were born to fill the needs of hundreds of small, often start-up companies. Most of the smaller companies flourish as they lack irrelevant processes and focus on the client.

These businesses live and die by a great and personal client experience. The very same tools that SaaS companies have used to scale their success are now changing the way we do business. Not only are the solution and consultative sale impacted, but the strategic sale is impacted also. Below is an overview of the tools I’m using these days, and I’ve separated them into categories.

1. Infrastructure 

  • iPad mini in a Moko case is my preferred “delivery” tool and “consumption” device. For content creation I use a Mac to develop engaging content that wows clients.
  • Because I move back forth between devices, I need everything to be in the Cloud, allowing me to instantly share with my clients.
  • I use an iPhone with an additional PhoneSuit battery pack with service through Verizon, because I need a hotspot to connect into my AppleTV. I never depend on clients' networks.
  • I also use AppleTV connected through HDMI to a projector or TV. I use the screen sharing to show Websites and apps and to play YouTube videos.
  • SalesOpShop is my network place to exchange ideas and learn from others.
  • I really appreciate SFDC and love Chatter. My main issue is with how it is deployed by most companies.  You can file that under "Using a Ferrari as a Lawnmower."

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2. Social-Media Tools That Provide Scalability 

◦ I use SlideShare to present business ideas and share points of view.

◦ I like InMail for contextual cold calls andleveraging shared connections.

◦ I distribute a personalized newsletter relevant to my market (technology within media and entertainment).

◦ I use Twitter as a newsletter and feed with approximately three messages per day. In the morning, I prefer to send out stats; in the afternoon,I like to send out photos; and at night,my tweets are of a social nature.

◦ I use TweetDeck on my PC and HootSuite on my iPad to monitor for content that may be of use to my clients.

◦ BufferApp loaded on all my devices and in my browsers serves as a workflow system for my status updates and tweets.

  • I have a WordPress blog that serves as my FAQ resource and provides a reference site for my clients.
  • I use YouTube for relevant videos. Sometimes a little “kapow” can change a block of text.
  • Pinterest – I’m still figuring things out on this, but I do love it.
  • I use Google+ to share very specific information targeting the engineer.
  • And yes, I disconnected from Facebook (which goes beyond the scope of this post).

3. Other Cloud Tools

  • Evernote is my notebook. I never thought I would use it so much.
  • Box.net is my public file-sharing system. I can then upload docs and share them in a Twitter feed or LinkedIn update.
  • I use abunch of Google tools (e.g., Google Voice and Google Docs).

4. Content-Creation Tools

  • I use Prezi for remote whiteboard sessions and creating super-engaging content.
  • SlideRocketis my tool for holding virtual Webinars and tracking viewer stats in detail.
  • I use WeVideo to create simple online videosand Apple iMovie for more complicated ones.
  • I still use PowerPoint but drastically less. It is more of an API to other platforms.
  • I license my visual artwork via iStockphoto.

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5. Communication Tools

  • I use join.me for instant online meetings, and it allows me to very easily share my desktop.
  • I use Skype on all my devices for multiparty, international video conferencing.
  • I’ve also started to use VSee. It' superior in many respects, such as in high-definition multisource recording.
  • Google Voice is my screening service.

What tools are you using, why did you choose them, and what do they do really well for you?

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The Sales-Performance Puzzle: How to Solve It

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This is the month in which many sales organizations are busy with the Big Sales Kickoff. As the sales leader, you orchestrate a fast-paced show delivered by your company’s best platform talent. The CEO’s keynote is inspirational, the CMO’s presentation is aspirational, the product manager’s demo rocks, and your keynote is densely packed with bold and optimistic predictions and tough challenges. As the sales leader, you are the merchant of hope, and your salespeople are swallowing your message hook, line, and sinker.

But after the team heads for the airport, you may be left with a nagging question: what impact will this kickoff have on your sales numbers? Here is my guess:

1. Retention of information

Twenty percent of your salespeople will absorb 80 percent of the content and then use half of it with customers. Eighty percent of your salespeople will absorb 20 percent of the content and use one-third of it with customers.

2. Impact on motivation

Eighty percent of your salespeople will feel recharged and optimistic about the company and their future, and 20 percent will continue shopping for better opportunities.

3. Acquisition of selling skills

Ninety percent of your salespeople listened to some of the selling skills you shared during the kickoff meeting, but fewer than 10 percent will try to apply the new skills, and after experiencing some failure they’ll revert to their old behavior.

If you don’t believe my guesstimates, consider the solid numbers uncovered by ES Research: according to ES Research’s sales-training surveys, between 85 and 90 percent of sales training has no impact after 120 days. Of the $5 billion US companies spend yearly on sales training, more than $4.25 billion are wasted.

Last week I interviewed John Doerr, a sales-training expert. John is co-president at RAIN Group. I edited the one-hour interview to the most essential nine minutes, and I highly recommend that you watch them, since he shares uncommon insight into solving the sales-performance puzzle.

If you are short on time, you can skip to the end, where I summarized the key points in a few PPT slides (that you can download from our new Website, www.salesopshop.com). To watch the video, click on the image below.

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Please feel free to comment below, or tweet your questions using #salesopchat.

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Will You Set Smart Goals for 2013?

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We cannot expect to become the directors of our lives if we fail to choose a meaningful direction.

As we approach 2013, we can choose to sit on the sidelines and watch other people score or take charge of our lives by pursuing our goals. Goals are difficult concepts to grasp; many people don’t see themselves as capable of changing, growing, and achieving. They see goals like statues: cast in bronze and placed out of reach.

I suggest viewing goals more like a river that flows from the present moment to a rich land filled with amazing opportunities. Instead of focusing our attention on the two obvious points, the present and future, we need to look at the emerging road between these two points.

Goal setting doesn’t amount to simply creating a narrative about what we want to get out of life or what we want to give back. We need to decide on the quality of our journey. We need to choose a road that challenges our capabilities and our will.

Sometimes people attach so much meaning to their distant goals that they obsess about them while ignoring their need to feel good in the here and now. They overrate the value of the trophy and ignore the meaning of the trip. They tend to forget that success is not a vague destination that resides only in our imagination but a journey into a forever-expanding and precious present. If we can’t expand our awareness to match the richness of the here and now, we’ll never get a chance to claim the fortune we imagine in the distant future.

To become the director of our own life, we need to…

know who we are and take inventory of our talents,

know where we are and scope out our future,

and decide on our goal and the quality of our journey.

One more important thing to remember is not to be influenced by the noise on the sidelines, such as talk about the “fiscal cliff,” the “European debt crisis,” or the “growing economic uncertainty.” Pessimism is misuse of the imagination. Think of the two words “smart goal” as acronyms with two meanings. The logical meaning is SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-based. The emotional meaning is GOAL : Guts, Optimism, Attitude, and Loyalty.

With a little effort, we can shape our future in the image of our goals. But without a set direction for 2013, we won’t be able to direct our lives, and we’ll continue to repeat what we know hasn’t worked for us in the past. Take a moment now to write down your number one goal for 2013. Carpe diem leads to Veni, vidi, vici

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Are Your Managers Hanging On to Bad Sales Reps?

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

 

One of the benefits of collecting detailed data is the insight you can glean about your company's training needs. Armed with information that clearly highlights each field rep's strengths and weaknesses, sales managers can devise training plans that are tailor-made for each individual.

Great plan!

But while so much coaching advice focuses on field reps, another group has been all but overlooked: the sales managers themselves.

This year, Xactly enlisted researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to help us analyze some of the 200 million transactions we handle each month,  and some interesting patterns emerged when we looked at sales managers and their relationships to field reps. In the coming months, we'll report on our findings in more detail.

We're still interpreting the data, but our hypothesis is that many managers, if on the borderline of attaining their quotas, tend to keep low-performing salespeople on the books for too long. Those managers would rather keep underperformers on the books to generate even a few sales rather than the guaranteed zero sales they'd get if they fired the bottom tier.

That can have worrisome implications for company leadership. It doesn't do your company any favors to have bad salespeople representing you. They can tarnish your hard-earned reputation, blow solid leads, anger potential customers, and lose a lot of deals.

How did we come to this supposition? Through a lot of digital legwork. Our extensive study looked at data from

  • 22 million transactions
  • 7,492 sales managers at 244 firms
  • 61,092 of their immediate subordinates
  • 134 million events on which an individual is credited
  • 5,897 distinct incentive plans

Here's some of what we found regarding sales managers:

  • When managers were on target to hit their quotas, sales-rep turnover was 22.2 percent. If the managers are on track, there's no benefit to keeping salespeople who aren't up to snuff.
  • When managers were clearly going to miss their quotas, turnover of sales reps was 18.6 percent.  If there's no advantage to keeping poor performers, managers will go ahead and cut them loose early.
  • When managers were on the margin of making quota, when every little bit counts, sales-rep turnover was only 5.6 percent. The sales managers held on to bad reps if they considered them essential to achieving their own quotas.

The message here? You want to monitor your poor performers to determine if you should be coaching them or letting them go. But along with that, be sure to monitor the managers who might be protecting them. You don't want to waste good leads on bad salespeople.

This is just one facet of the data MIT is analyzing with Xactly. Look for more as we develop it further and create benchmarks beyond single companies. Our use of the most current technology, multitenant SaaS, allows us to gather this information across companies and industries.

We'll use this information to help us – and you – learn more about quota attainment and quota-setting trends, and learn more through benchmarking.

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Sales and Golf

Clip_image002Today's blog post is by Steven Comfort, VP of business development at Radius Intelligence Inc. His golf handicap is 2.

Most of us have heard the adage, “The big deals get done on the golf course” (or sometimes, “on the 19th hole”). A lot of selling happens on golf courses, but the sport teaches its players many of the qualities that are shared by the best salespeople. Here are a few of them.

It’s Just You

Because the golf ball doesn’t move before it’s struck, whatever happens to it is your doing. Your opponents are on the same course playing in the same weather conditions.  

In sales, your opponents want the same deal as you do, and the economic conditions (weather) apply to all. It’s up to the salesperson to decide on a strategy (club choice, shot direction, mechanics) and execute it.

If you chose the wrong clubs (company or product) or executed poorly, there’s only you to blame. Conversely, when you do well, success is overwhelmingly because of your individual effort.

There’s Always a Better Player

Soon after establishing a playing index in golf, you’ll want to lower it.  Despite your initial improvement, you’re forced to face the fact that you have a lot of skills to work on if you want to keep making progress and lowering your index. There’s always another shot to learn or improve on – and golf is a lifetime sport.

Salespeople typically have some natural strengths (presenting to large groups or prospecting, for instance) and other areas that they’d be well served to try to improve (perhaps writing, active listening, or entertaining). There’s always another trick to learn from your fellow salespeople, but you’ll never know it all, just like no golfer can master all the shots.

You Have to Be Able to Scramble

Good golfers can hit good shots in good conditions. Great golfers can hit passable shots in horrible conditions. Golf games are honed on the practice range, where the ball’s lie is always favorable and conditions are consistent. Scoring in match play depends largely on the golfer’s ability to scramble – to come up with a decent shot when the conditions are conspiring against him or her (for instance when a tree branch is blocking your path to the pin, or when your ball is stuck deep in a sand trap, aka “a fried-egg”). These are the scramble shots that are rarely, if ever, practiced.

In sales, the call rarely goes just the way we anticipate, and of course, sometimes things really go awry. Keeping your head about you when things get wacky is the key to escaping a disastrous call with a chance to win the sale. The best salespeople can scramble on a call and almost take a perverse pleasure in dealing with unforeseen obstacles (e.g., facing strong objections).

The Truth Comes Out in Time

There’s a saying that states if you really want to know about people, play a round of golf with them. Within the course of a round, you’ll be able to watch how a player competes, interprets the rules of the game, socializes, and performs. By the end of 18 holes and about four hours of play, you’re going to have a general sense of the person’s character: Does this person cheat? Is he or she loosey-goosey with the rules, gracious, calm under pressure, fun to be around?

In sales, the truth about you also comes out in time: Do you make good on your promises? Are you strategic, consultative, relevant, fun to be around?

There’s no faking in golf or in sales; the truth always comes out. But because these are both lifetime sports, you can always hit the range and the putting green to work on your game.

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What's Ahead for Sales Organizations in 2013?

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How clearly do you see the road ahead? When we are driving down the highway, we notice that, the faster we go, the more the view begins to blur – yet the dashboard is clear and bright. This also applies to sales leaders. While the speed of change accelerates, many sales leaders become confused by the rapid shifts in buying behaviors. While some customers act as if they’re in a boom cycle, other customers react and prepare for tougher times in the road ahead.

As we plan for 2013, salespeople demand more clarity of vision from their sales leaders. An overarching vision has three elements:

1. A guiding vision. It begins with an accurate appraisal of the present. Salespeople want to know the answer to these questions: Where are we now? What are our strengths? What makes us vulnerable? What threats are we facing?

2. A guiding fiction. Nobody can predict the future, but effective leaders have an uncanny ability to direct followers to imagine and find the best opportunities in the market. Uncertain times demand leaders who can stimulate the imagination so that their followers can clearly focus on winning more business month after month. The best leaders are merchants of hope.

3. A guiding process. Salespeople need a continuously improved and accelerated process for everything from generating leads to closing the sale. Successful sales leaders need to constantly realign people, process, and technology. 

In many companies, there are as many sales processes as there are salespeople. World-class sales organizations follow a process that’s based on A) the know-how of their best salespeople and B) how customers want to buy. Many sales leaders believe that their well-thought-out sales process reflects the customer’s journey.

While the economy continues to challenge, confuse, and surprise decision makers, effective sales leaders ignore the noise on the sidelines and get busy improving sales productivity across the organization. According to a survey performed by the SalesOpShop, sales leaders’ top two priorities for 2013 are 1) topline growth and 2) improved sales process. To achieve these goals, sales leaders need to become more innovative when aligning people, process, and technology. The challenge in most organizations is that people are often too slow, processes are often too old, and technology is often too complex. To meet that challenge, we need to invest 60 percent of our effort in helping people change, 30 percent in improving our processes, and 10 percent on implementing simpler and better technology. The key to winning in 2013 depends on expanding the innovative capabilities of the organization.

Albert Einstein once said that imagination is more important than knowledge, because knowledge tells us what was, whereas imagination tells what will be. What will be in 2013 depends on adaptive and creative sales leaders, who drive people’s capacity to change and lead them to execute on a customer-focused process that’s accelerated by the best technology available. Your success will also hinge on what you believe you can achieve. 

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Planning for 2013: Six Fatal Mistakes to Avoid

2b29614Today's blog post is by Ron Snyder, President of Plan 2 Win Software, which provides apps that enable salespeople to create and manage territory and account plans in their Salesforce.com environment to dramatically improve sales results.

 

As you prepare for success in 2013, here are six common planning mistakes to avoid to ensure you achieve your goals. Those sales managers engaged in complex, value-based selling should be especially vigilant to avoid these fatal mistakes. You need a plan to win!

1.    Not Having a Plan

Many salespeople feel that they don't need a plan, that they understand their market and how to sell to their customers; however, in a complex selling environment, there is so much to consider and keep track of that a plan is essential to success. Otherwise, the salesperson is strictly in reactive mode and is going to miss opportunities and spend more time on opportunities that will be unproductive.

2.    Not Analyzing Your Target Market

Simply working through a list of target accounts, opportunities, and contact information is not sufficient to achieve sales goals in proactive, value-based selling. Analyzing your target market and customer profiles will determine the best sales approach. Without this analysis, the sales rep is likely to pursue accounts in a very opportunistic fashion, often creating the selling proposition on the fly. This leads to a very inconsistent approach and results. Your team must have clear criteria about the target prospects, their needs, and your value proposition. They must prioritize accounts and opportunities so they spend their time and limited resources wisely.

3.    Not Connecting Strategy to Action

Territory and account plans must be based on the trends in the industry, geography, and/or vertical market. From here, strategies are generated to optimize results and form the framework for the action plan. Each strategy must be linked to a set of tactics and actions that will yield the results you intended. This must include plans for each critical sales call (i.e., call objectives, participants, and their roles; issues to be prepared to address; and the intended next step), focusing on letting sales actions drive the strategy.

4.    Not Responding to Change

Every plan must be a living document, enabling the salesperson to adjust to changes in the environment. In order to do this, the plan must live in your CRM and be readily available to use and fine-tune as needed. To support this, there should be reports and dashboards that highlight progress on critical success factors and regular plan reviews that provide input from sales management and others on the team.

5.    Not Using All Available Resources

In today's selling environment, one person cannot know everything that is going on in any account or territory. Effective and efficient use of all resources and tools will enable the sales team to compete and win. Confirm that your sales reps know what resources are available and how to use them most effectively in each stage of the sales cycle. These resources include extended team members, (i.e., from technical, marketing, and support) and partners. Using the most effective sales collateral available without having to create it from scratch will provide more selling time. Finally, there should be a coordinated effort to leverage references across the organization.

6.    Not Making It Easy

It is important that the manager make it as easy as possible for the sales team to create and implement the plan. Provide training to make certain the team understands the key ingredients of a successful plan and is capable of creating one. Using a readily available template (i.e., a template that exists in your CRM system) can guide and shape the thinking that goes into creating an effective plan. Finally, there must be coaching, especially in the initial phases, to help people as soon as they get stuck.

Salespeople must see how planning improves their results. The manager must socialize how specific plans have contributed to sales results, having successful sales reps share their experiences with the team. This is critical to ensure that the planning process is adopted by the team.

Creating an environment in which salespeople generate plans that are consistently implemented and produce desired results is one of the key jobs of management.  Avoid the mistakes listed here and win in 2013.

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Using Technology to Sell

JonathanLondon_100Today's blog post is by Jonathan London, author of Using Technology to Sell: Tactics to Ratchet Up Results and the founder of Improved Performance Group (IPG).

 

A9781430239338-3d_2Technology and data are exploding in every facet of our lives to the point that we can feel overwhelmed or confused by all of our options. What does this explosion mean to the world of sales?

The Internet; computing power; faster and more available bandwidth; mobile devices and their apps; higher-resolution screens and cameras; more sophisticated hardware, software, and imagery; voice recognition; GPS; and more all provide greater capability than ever before to help people sell and prospects to make decisions.

Technology advancements also allow companies to expand their markets or sell in numerous ways that they had never been able to before. And keeping up with technology and knowing which to use where, how, and when is a challenge for businesses of all types in all industries.

Because information and analytical tools are so widely available, more logical and informed purchasing decisions can be made. More prospects than ever before are using data, metrics, and measurements as part of the decision-making process.

A recent study by Forrester Research established that people who are making business decisions rely on their own research and input from people they know rather than from vendors. This is having a dramatic impact on people’s buying behavior, since they are much better informed; therefore, the best salesperson needs to emphasize different insight, such as deep knowledge of a client’s industry and the most productive applications of his or her solution, rather than just spew generic benefits or regurgitate reams of data. The terms “subject matter expert” and “trusted advisor” reflect an ability to share such insight.

Because prospects are better informed, they have a better filter to decide if what you are saying is valid, valuable, and true. People no longer have to rely on brochures or proposals.

Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon is buying a car today. You can go online and find out exactly how much a dealer has paid for the car you want to buy and what incentives the manufacturer is providing. You can therefore go into a car dealership knowing the exact costs to the dealer. That puts buyers in a much better position to negotiate and choose from whom they want to buy. (One adaptation: many dealers now sell more used cars because this information is not as available, and they can charge more for them.)

What does all this mean for you, the salesperson? Two things to consider:

  1. You need to be ahead of the curve in using technology to your advantage.
  2. You need to understand people, i.e., your target demographic and how they buy using the Web, which methods they prefer (visual, text, PDF, graphics), what they need to know (the content itself), and when in the sales process they want information to make a decision in your favor.

The ubiquity of technology and information is a double-edged sword. On one hand, the sheer volume of information can make selling more difficult. It can become unwieldy, confusing, and overwhelming to you and your prospects, thus hurting your sales efforts. If you know how to control and use it, however, know which bits of information are important and which are a distraction, you are in an enviable position to sell more. How you best engage with technology and information and use it to your advantage to get the optimal return is addressed thoroughly in my book. As you’ll learn, salespeople need to become master craftsmen, better able than their competitors to use the tools they have. This has always been true but is more so now than ever.

Used properly, technology allows you to expand your skills and markets, get greater exposure, and create more sales opportunities.

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