Being successful in marketing and sales for business development purposes does not happen by doing the same things the same way with the same customers without some adaptation and evolution of your efforts. Customer buying habits continue to evolve, expectations continue to rise, and competition continues to increase.
There are 12 business trends that are inherent in successful marketing and selling efforts that you can integrate to meet these challenges.
- Marketing and Sales Alignment
- Collaborative Planning and Goal Setting
- CRM Systems and Processes
- Original Content and Marketing Automation
- Face-to-Face Marketing
- Build Repeatable Processes
- Business Skills
- Accountability and Transparency
If you have heard of these 12 trends and you have them in place, perfect! If you have heard of these 12 trends and need some additional information to convince yourself or your executive leadership about why you need to take these serious, then here is a further explanation of of the first four of these business trends to integrate for increased marketing and sales results.
The ability to adapt and evolve are not unique to the theory of evolution, they are important factors for your business to thrive in the marketplace. When was the last time you asked your customers what they wanted versus telling them what you think they want? Sure, some of the things they ask for will not be in your wheelhouse, but if enough of them are asking for the same thing and not receiving a solution from your competition, maybe it is time to innovate or diversify what you do to stay on top.
2.Marketing and Sales Alignment
One of the most pragmatic CEO’s that started her own company from scratch once told my B2B marketing class that until someone gives you money, everything you do is marketing and then you market some more until they give you more money. This makes “sales” a point in time on the spectrum, a triggering event where the stars align and the universe seems to make perfect sense to all of the relevant stakeholders.
My world has three phases to successful business development: awareness, conversion, and account management. Marketing has specific messages and activities aligned on the customers in all three phases just as sales has specific activities and milestones that need to be in the same alignment. Why did you send an email about what you do to a customer that you have had for years? Why did the sales team not follow up with all of the leads from the last targeted campaign? Why, on this earth, are you not communicating with and making visits to customers that just bought from you but then went silent?
Marketing and sales is a world of infinite possibilities but limited resources. Make sure that everything you do in marketing and sales is aligned to create efficiencies that minimize the overlap and maximize the opportunities.
3.Collaborative Planning and Goal Setting
Long gone are the days of leadership informing you of what your goals should have been in the annual company address that is three months into the following year, or at least they should be? If you want your business to grow, why are you not giving all of the stakeholders a seat at the table to set the goals and be part of the planning that it will take to reach your vision?
Wait, you don’t have a vision for the business and have not communicated it? This should not be a new trend and that is the reason there is not a number 13 to this blog. Marketing, sales, IT, finance, administration, HR, operations, and even a few strategic partners should all be at the table to help you determine what they can do and how they are going achieve that vision.
4. CRM Systems and Processes
One of my favorite hot buttons of all time. Did you know that only 10% of companies have some sort customer relationship management (CRM) in place and that only 10% of those companies use the CRM systems to their full extent? My math may not be the best but that means only 1% of companies are using CRM to the fullest extent. The top 1% is called that for a reason, and it is not always because they are lucky. This 1% uses the intelligence from their customers and their business to make smart business decisions.
Your customers are your largest asset and if you do not have a tool in place to manage that asset, then you should not blame internal or external forces for sales declines, shrinking margins, or lost market share. A proper CRM system can be your crystal ball to help you stop all three of those scenarios.
5. Original Content and Marketing Automation
I am sure you have seen or read plenty of white papers on how SEO is positively impacted by the original content you produce about what you do and how it impacts your customers’ business just as much as you should be communicating on every channel that the internet makes possible. I have to say that I have seen the results of this and you need to take it seriously. What have you done to document what you do? Do you even know how you make a positive impact on your customers? What are you doing to tell the world about it? Who are you even talking to?
Here is the answer to the last questions in point five. If you are utilizing your CRM system and marketing automation processes properly, then you should know which customers are ideal, which products are profitable, what market segments are growing, what lead sources are productive, and what activities are working. How efficient would your business development efforts be if you knew who you should talk to, could communicate how to increase your customer’s value to their customers business, and knew what products you need to sell more of? Instead of trying to be something to everyone and doing and saying what you think is right, why not let your customer intelligence and business intelligence tell you what you should actually be doing and saying?
In a previous post about legacy sales teams (link) and in the words of the immortal Montgomery Burns, it is time to “release the hounds.” Is your business development team expected to clock in and clock out on-site, working from desktop based software, making phone calls from a desk phone that is within proximity to 15 other conversations in the background, or do they have tablets or laptops with cloud based applications, have VOIP solutions that make them available seamlessly from anywhere, and have the autonomy to develop relationships anytime and anywhere? It is a 24/7/365 global economy that demands success to let go of traditional management and take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. Why do you think E-Commerce is growing? What time of the day did you place your last Amazon order?
You would be correct to set some boundaries for your mobile business development efforts but you would be foolish not to explore the technologies and practices that have helped the successful 1% we mentioned.
8. Face-to-Face Marketing
While we are on the subject of mobility, how are you incentivizing your business development team members to get in front of customers and prospective customers? Especially in the Milwaukee and WI marketplaces, showing up and talking to people is probably 80% of business development success. Magic happens when people get together and have conversations about what each other does.
With people you know, the conversation should have a point and targeted results. With people you don’t know, there is a different approach. I learned this from Robert Rose at a BMA-Milwaukee event in February of 2015 (I forgot where he stated it was from or if it was original) and it just seemed to make sense. When talking to an individual that you have never met before at a networking event or an event where you have a shared interest, use the (FORM) framework to structure the conversation. FORM is an acronym for (F) Family, (O) Occupation, (R) Recreation, and (M) Motivation. Tell me about your family, tell me about what you do, tell me about what you do for fun, and tell me about what gets you out of bed in the morning. I think your conversation will be amazing and probably lead to a next step with both of your efforts.
9. Build Repeatable Processes
Why re-create the wheel? Doesn’t that work alright? Business development is all about volume and velocity. We’ll talk about keeping it simple in point #11 but I will ask a simple question: What if you could predict results based on what information you have and what activities you executed regularly? Too good to be true?
How efficient would your business development efforts be if you were able to on-board new customers without having to do things differently every single time? I am talking about pricing, contracting, delivering, billing, and even resolving complaints. Did you know that the average person in a business development role is only able to “sell” about 10% to 20% of the time because they take it upon themselves to do everything else because there are no processes in place? What would your sales look like and what would everyone’s paycheck look like if your business development team could “sell” 60% of the time?
10. Business Skills
Have you read the book “The Challenger Sale” by Mathew Dixon and Brent Adamson? If not, you should (link). The book identifies the successful traits and skills of the business development people that have been exceeding expectation since the latest “recession.” Equip your business development team with the tools to understand business, not just the products and services you offer. Give your business development team the ability to understand how your customers make money. Stop talking about your product and service and start talking about how your product and service can impact your customer’s revenues, efficiencies, and profits and add value to their customers. Help your business development team become advisors to their customers and your business relationship with your customers will evolve from a supplier to a trusted partner.
In a previous post, we talked about the four “F” words you should be using when talking about your efforts. Those words are: focus, fill, forward, and finish (link). Whatever your efforts may be, they should be focused on the right activities that are designed on filling the funnel, moving opportunities forward, and finishing (closing) the opportunities that you have been cultivating….keep it simple stupid……that’s it! How much “new” business can you find and how fast can you on-board “new” business and use your sales funnel metrics to help you get better?
However, you need to be aware of opportunity costs your current marketing and sales structure and processes may be producing. Beware of “non-selling” activities delegated to the personnel that are responsible for your business development efforts because they will cost you money. These non-selling activities will impede new business development and should to be reviewed and be delegated to appropriate support personnel. Ask your team about what is keeping them from spending more time in front of their prospects and take the excuses away.
12. Accountability and Transparency
Sales is a team sport. Is everyone rowing in the same direction for the successful growth of your company? The actual activities that are associated with business development transcends just the marketing and sales department. Everyone in your company has an impact on your prospective customers and your current customers. What are the customer touch points? What are the roles and activities that are needed at each touch point? What needs to happen by whom and when to be successful?
Once you get everyone on board, determine what the goals are, determine the metrics to be measured, determine who is responsible for the appropriate activities, and make the results public so everyone holds each other accountable. One of my favorite tools is a “war board” that is visible to everyone. This single tool has aligned more efforts and generated more results than any other tool I have seen. I don’t care if you use chalk, dry-erase, spray paint, oil paints, or even permanent ink. Just make sure you are using something visible to all for documenting progress.
Integrating these 12 business trends into your marketing and selling efforts will make a positive impact on your results in a short amount of time when committed to. If you want to grow your business or even just your individual marketing and sales business development efforts, prioritize which of these 12 business trends could make an impact your marketing and sales efforts and make a plan to integrate them over the next 30-60-90 days.
Getting results out of your sales team is still the goal but the days of beating the Viking drum are over except for those lucky few that still work in a pirate culture where beatings will continue until moral improves. These are the companies and bosses that only care about how many calls you made, how many leads you found, and how late you are working this Saturday when you come in. Most socks in your dresser drawer have a longer life than the sales team members and sales managers in these types of cultures.
Today’s sales leaders don’t yell down from upstairs, ask questions that are meant to make you look foolish in front of your peers, threaten to take accounts away if you don’t make your numbers, or force their teams to sit through sales training from the bosses networking friend that only addresses perceived organizational problems.
Today’s sales leaders are characterized by the following:
- They work with and support their teams in the field
- They work hard to make sure their teams have the resources and training they need
- They make sure post-sales support is in place
- They make sure that marketing is aligned with target markets and generating leads
- They make sure that goals have been developed together, plans are in place, and that activities are aligned with meeting the goals.
They also keep their teams focused by asking these 6 simple questions of their sales team members on a weekly basis:
- What went great this week?
- What got in the way?
- What is your plan for next week?
- What does success look like next week?
- What changes do you need to make for that success to happen?
- How can I help you?
Today’s sales leaders get their team members to become autonomous and self-directed like independent business units that independently have a unique set of skills. These questions are asked in a one-on-one setting where individual hurdles and constraints can be solved like using a personal trainer versus the traditional drill instructor that we see in movies.
Results still matter at the end of the day but so does how you get them. Provide your sales team members with the resources and training they need and make sure they have a personal trainer to help them.
We’ll end with a quick quiz.
Q: What do typewriters, asparagus tongs, horse plows, beta cassettes, Polaroids, and 1950 sales management tactics have in common?
Feel free to contact us if you need help with the answer.
In our previous posting, we identified that most companies forget to build any “execution” into their business plans, financial plans, marketing plans, and sales plans. Most sales and marketing professionals are very good at telling others what they want to do and hope to do, but terrible at telling others what they are going to do and when it is going to be completed. So, let’s develop your execution plan to merge with your other plans for next year.
Including Others: Nobody likes having a list of things handed to them to do and being given goals that seem unachievable. You need to include the people that will be completing the necessary activities in this planning process. It will help you understand what their capabilities are, identify the potential skills gaps are for you to invest in training or hiring another person, and it will help everyone understand what you are trying to accomplish and what their roles will be.
Setting Goals: We will start with the end in mind by first setting a goal of what exactly needs to be accomplished. What does success look like when we look back at the end of the year? Do you have a financial goal or a non-financial goal for next year? Are you targeting a specific sales goal (as an organization or individually) or do you want to launch a new product/service, hire a key employee, buy a new piece of equipment, build an inbound marketing function, enter a new market, on board a number of new customers, or break ground on your new building? It does not matter what the goal is, but you need one, upon which, to align all of your resources and activities.
Reverse Engineer Success: Picture the instructions you laid out in front of you this past weekend to assemble that new TV stand, mount the stand alone wine rack, or install that kitchen sink faucet. What are the key things that have to happen in order for you to get this done? What are the milestones that have to be met and what are the deadlines? What tools do you need? What needs to happen step by step to get the job done?
Example 1: Let’s use an example of gaining 10 new clients next year: If your close ratio is 10%, you will have to pitch to 100 targeted prospects. If only 50% of your prospects let you pitch to them, then you will need 200 targets to meet with. If only 50% of targets meet with you, then you will need 400 targets. If only 50% of prospect turn into targets, then you will need 800 prospects……See where this is going? You will need to look deeper then at how many leads you need, where those leads are going to come from, and how you are going to reach them. You also may want to look at the quality of leads you are chasing to be more efficient.
Example 2: How about hiring that new key employee as an example. We will assume that you are not going to hire someone first and then start to find business to keep them busy and pay for them. Define how much additional business you need for that position to add value to your efforts and then plan the steps that it will take in reverse order to get there.
Assign Duties/Accountability: Go back to our goal of gaining 10 new clients. We now understand how many leads we need and maybe where they are going to come from. But however, we have not created the plan to contact them and convert them into clients. What are those key activities that need to be completed? How are we going to market to these leads? Who is going to contact these leads? How are we going to contact them? When are we going to contact them? What happens if we don’t contact them? What is going to prevent us from contacting them? Having your sales team develop their own plans will help keep them focused on what they need to do and help identify what support will be needed to keep them doing the right activities.
Develop Leading Indicator Metrics: Most sales management efforts are still like using a rear view mirror to drive forward. Just tracking the activity from last week is not going to help you but looking at the results from last week will….and make them public for all to see! Again, go back to our goal of gaining 10 new clients. Everything sales people do should be focused on growing their sales funnels and moving opportunities through their sales funnels…..that’s it! Anything else needs to take a back seat, be automated, or be delegated to a support role. With this in mind, how many meetings does the sales person need to have with “new” prospects per week? How many new opportunities do we need to identify per week? How many pitches do we need to make per month? Focus on the metrics that will guarantee success based on your numbers. If they are not met, then you can start asking questions about what is not happening based on best practices/training and what needs to be changed (coaching 101).
Release the Hounds: No time like the present. One useful line I remember from one of my coaches was “Every day that passes is an opportunity lost”. So there is no time like the present to start focusing on what you need to do today to ensure your success in the future. If you have a 6 month sales cycle and you do nothing today to grow or move opportunities in your funnel, guess what you can guarantee six months from now?
Execution will be the key to achieving your goals next year and following years. If you need help developing an execution plan or if you would like a copy of our Integrated Sales and Marketing Calendar to help keep everyone on task and on time, please contact us and we’ll get a copy of it to you.
“Execution”. Short posting right?
We have reached that time of the year again where sales teams are trying desperately to meet their goals and put together last minute sales plans, where CFO’s are developing the financial plan and top line revenue budgets to be met in 2015, and where leaders are revising business plans and looking to make changes based on the lack of meeting goals this year or the hopes of making goals next year.
It is also that time of the year where you (the sales and marketing experts) start down the annual marketing plan path looking to do market research, re-define your target markets, plan the content for your new products and services to launch, make SEO changes to your website, update social media profiles, revisit your SWOT and competitive analysis, communicate your mission statement, develop your marketing communications tactics and activities, schedule tradeshows, look at the 4 P’s, begin the begging process for a budget from your CFO, establish goals, define what metrics your are going to use to measure success, hopefully use some sort of system to track the results of your efforts, and put all of this nicely into a report that makes you look really busy to the powers that be.
Sound familiar? This scenario is being played out in companies all over the globe. You have all the latest articles that tell you what the trends are for next year, you have the latest templates downloaded from the various marketing associations for planning, you have your three focus words for the year, You even have a useful spreadsheet that a consultant left behind which performs brilliantly as a tool for organizing it all. But there is still something missing when all of the planning is complete and the appropriate approved forms are filled out and submitted to the leadership team for their 2015 files.
Where is the execution in all of this? Someone will eventually have to do the activities that are necessary to make all of these plans work. I guarantee that most of you will overlook the following questions and just submit plans on what you “want” to do and not what you are “going” to do. You will need an execution plan and it will need to answer the following questions:
- What exactly has to be completed?
- When does it have to be completed by? What is the timeline?
- Who is going to complete the activities?
- Who is capable of completing the activities or do we have to invest in training?
- What additional training and skills do we need to invest in?
- What tools and resources have we given that person to make sure they are successful?
- What benchmarks do we have to measure improvement?
- What happens if that activity is not completed? What are we at risk of losing if we don’t get that activity completed?
- What changes are we prepared to make if we can’t get the activity completed?
At the end of the day, the word “execution” and the execution plan are the only things that should matter to you for achieving your goals in 2015 and future years. Without execution, your plans mean nothing and you can guarantee that you will fall short. Look for our next article on how to develop an execution plan.
Do you know where to focus your sales activities to get to the next level?
Most companies were successful in the beginning because of one or two main clients that represented 80% of their sales. Their second stage growth then came from employers from those first two clients that moved to other companies and pulled that company with as a supplier. But what happens when that organic growth stops and your company has to go find new customers to achieve that third stage of success? Would you be able to develop a plan, create new habits, and commit to the right sales activities that drive your sales funnel growth and sales funnel movement?
For every sales effort, there is an identifiable key sales activity that drives the growth and movement of the sales funnel. It is that one activity that if you repeat it over and over, success will follow. Example of 1% sales activities would include:
- Presenting to ideal prospects and key strategic partners about value you can add to their business
- Having lunch with key centers of influence to understand how they integrate with clients
- Speaking at a business networking event full of people representing businesses that are in your wheelhouse
- Meeting with a new ideal prospect to learn about their business and understand where you might be able to help them add value to their clients
- Making introductions for others to help grow their business
- Writing blogs to share your experience with the world
I refer to these activities as the “1%” since when they are completed, the other 99% of activity follows automatically. My personal 1% is having 3 meetings per week; One meeting with a business owner to learn about their business, one meeting with a center of influence or a service partner in the market to learn about what their challenges are, and one meeting where I am introducing two people that I know should be working together. If I have those three meetings per week, I know that my sales funnel will stay full through referrals, and that I will be scheduling meetings with potential clients to learn where I can help their business.
When was the last time you reverse engineered where your sales success comes from? Do you know what your 1% activity is? Do you know who you need to perform that 1% activity with? What do you need to clear from your schedule to make sure that 1% happens every week? Please feel free to contact me if you need help identifying what your 1% is and creating the right habits to make sure it happens.
While working on my village late one night, trying to assemble a clan, and trying to gain a better league status, I realized how similar the tactics in Clash of Clans are to developing a market and managing a sales team. In fact, the tactics are also similar to playing such strategy games as Risk, Axis and Allies, and Battleship that so many of us grew up playing. When starting out, you have infinite possibilities but limited resources and competitive forces that sometimes have more experience and are better established.
So where do you start and how do you compete successfully in both the game and in market development and sales management?
Have enough of the right resources
In the game, it takes gold and elixir and you need to mine for both of them. In market development and sales management, it takes money, time, and the right activities. All three must to be used efficiently to build your market and using your resources efficiently will lead to more resource being available to continue your growth.
Defend your ground
In the game, you start by building a village that you will quickly need to defend because you are the weakest village on the planet. In market development and sales management, it starts with identifying a market, entering the market with an initial offering, and then protecting your market share from competition by servicing your customers with great customer service and delivering value.
Have the right team
In the game, you have a choice of warriors with various skills sets that serve different purposes depending on what you need to accomplish successfully in a battle. In market development and sales management, you need to have the right people in the right positions doing the right things for lead generation, customer conversion, relationship management, sales support, and customer support.
Choose your battles
In the game, you are given the ability to choose your battles which is helpful since you get to survey the competition and do a quick analysis of your resources compared to your enemy’s defenses to decide if you want to take the risk of competing. You will not be able to compete against some opportunities so it is helpful to have some foresight. In market development and sales management, we try to know the competitive landscape as best we can and use our differentiators to sell against our competition. Knowing how the competition might respond and knowing from experience which opportunities to walk away from are helpful skills in the long term.
Review your failures
In the game, you can watch a replay of your battle to determine where you need to make changes for next time. There is no better learning opportunity like having your village leveled 100%, your resource pilfered, and you are given a shield for 12 hours out of pity from the game creators to protect yourself since you lost so badly. In market development and sales management, you can’t replay your activities but you can perform a post mortem analysis and learn what behaviors, language, activities, questions, solutions, and competitive activities you need to be aware of or perform better for the next opportunity. You can actually learn more in sales from your losses than you can from your wins.
In the game, you are can see how much upgrades and additions cost and understand where you are weak so you begin to plan what changes you need to make based on how successful your offensive campaigns are and how successfully you defend your village from raiders. In market development and sales management, you are able to use business intelligence reports from the CRM and accounting system to identify what product lines are most profitable, which customers are most profitable, and what activities are the most productive so you can make adjustments to your selling plan and how you are using your team.
If you are not a fan of Clash of Clans or you did not grow up playing strategy based games, then this might not make as much sense to you. However, the same lessons can also be learned from competing in sports, competing in the talent shows, and from your current market development and sales management success. If you would like some pointers on Clash of Clans or in your market development and sales management, feel free to email me. Nothing like having a coach and a mentor to help you navigate through some difficult times.
Stay ahead of the market by maximizing the opportunities in the world around you.
Leading a sales team is a constantly evolving mission with a single objective: to meet and exceed the sales objectives for the area you’re managing. It involves constant recruiting, training, motivating, and coaching of both direct reports and non-reports. It is a constantly giving position that takes nothing and gives credit where credit is due.
The variables that can impact your success as a leader are tremendous. Below is a weekly sales management checklist and its purpose is to help you stay on top of the primary issues that should have your attention on a regular basis to keep you on track.
- Do we know what is going on in our industry?
- Do we know what is going on in our market?
- Do we know what is going on in our competitors?
- Do we know what is going on in our customers?
- How are we differentiated?
- Do we have the right metrics in place to measure change?
- What does the team need to know more about?
Goals & Roles
- Do we have defined goals for the year?
- Do we have defined sub-goals for the next 30/60/90 days based on the annual goal?
- Does everyone understand their roles and expectations in achieving the goals?
- Does my team have a plan for achieving those goals?
- Do we have the right metrics in place to measure progress?
- What can we provide to the team to help them?
- Do we have the right people on the team?
- Do we know what the team is great at?
- Is the team utilizing their strengths to their full potential?
- Do we know where the team needs help?
- What tools do we need to use better?
- What activities do we need to do better?
- Do we have the right metrics in place to drive success?
- How can we coach the team for better performance?
- How well is our lead generation working?
- Are we easy to do business with?
- Do we have the people and processes to support the sales?
- Are we maximizing our capacity?
- Are we meeting our revenue / units / margin goals?
- What are our customers saying?
- Do we have the right business intelligence to make informed decisions?
- What can we improve this week?
- Who are our top customer? Who changed? Who can we grow in the middle 60? Who do we fire>
- Do we have the right strategic partners to help us add value to our customers?
- Who else need to know about what we do?
- Who can we be a resource for?
- What is my 30-60-90 day plan and is it focused on the goal?
- Who can I use as a sounding board?
- Who can hold me accountable
- What books have I read in the last 3 months?
- How can I help others in their personal lives?
- What can we celebrate?
Your particular sales world will most likely involves a few more points or slight changes that are specific to you and your team, your company, your industry, and your market. You may be an owner in charge of the sales effort, a sales manager in a large company, or even an autonomous sales person that has to manage themselves. Regardless, the sales management function still needs to perform and consistently addressed, these are the sales management fundamentals that will put you and your team in front of the pack and help you maximize the opportunities in the world around you.