|TAG Panel on “How Dynamic Sales Orgs Drive Results”. Pictured from left to right: Jon Birdsong, Mary Ford, Ryan Radding, Eric Mercado, and Kyle Tothill
- Jon Birdsong (CEO, WideAngle)
- Mary Ford (Director of Sales Operations and Strategy, Dell SecureWorks)
- Ryan Radding (AVP, Salesforce)
- Eric Mercado (VP of Business Development, Force Marketing)
- Kyle Tothill (Partner and Managing Director, eHire)
The majority of the discussion revolved around engaging sales teams either in mentoring and coaching or via direct incentives. Here are a few take-aways:
- There’s a spectrum of engagement and performance that ranges from (low to high): Resistant, Reluctant, Existent, Compliant, Committed, and Compelled. Mitigate (or remove) reps in the first three groups while promoting and sharing practices of the high performance reps who exhibit innovation and leadership.
- Drive engagement in these areas: Connection (connect individuals together to form the team), Support (mentoring and coaching), Reward (incentives), Progress (clear career progression model), and Structure (ensure alignment and understanding of roles and responsibilities).
- Measuring success and engagement should go beyond metrics and activities. Include personal goals – set, met, exceeded? Understand that the “outside” lives of reps has a very real impact on work performance.
- Beyond retention and promotion stats, evaluate the effectiveness and engagement of the team with referrals by reps and how quickly reps ramp up.
- Gamification plays to the competitive nature of sales reps with a layer of transparency and accountability.
- Pull ideas from reps on selling, don’t just push “best practices”. Sales reps can be innovative in how they sell and pushing “best practices” may not be conducive to the reps’ individual styles.
- Coaching tends to have a “master-subordinate” structure set with boundaries while mentoring allows freer structure and less formality. Mentors tend to go beyond sales topics or even at the current job. Have/ establish both.
Good points raised by the team, and continues to illustrate that to drive sales, it’s all about driving engagement from the team. Companies are organizations of people. Engaging the people within, at the group and individual level, can produce a culture that drives sustainable practices for business growth and team motivation.
|Just checking out what’s under the hood (image source: http://library.duke.edu/digitalcollections/media/jpg/gedney/med/KY0344.jpg)
- The foundation of Salesforce is built on Leads, Accounts, Opportunities, and Contacts. In fact, check out a quick intro via Rivalry’s blog—“Leads, Accounts, Opportunities, and Contacts in Salesforce: The Basics”.
- Re-packaged and glorified spreadsheets and Outlook in one. That is to say, when you play with Salesforce, you can quickly see how Salesforce grew so fast because it really is Excel and Outlook repackaged. In the end, many sales people started with cruder products earlier and Salesforce’s structure, the reminders, etc. were familiar already.
- You can see its earlier “Big Platform” cloud beginnings. Marc Benioff (Salesforce’s Founder) is a former Oracle Exec. When you click around Salesforce, you can see very similar UI/ UX as some of the other big platform players like Oracle and SAP. Not originally Oracle, but I see similarities with Oracle’s Agile PLM, SAP eSourcing, etc. (full disclosure: I played with these systems three years ago).
- Salesforce’s power is its core + all the third-party apps. Salesforce is #winning and killing it by being simple, and also the system that holds the data. At the end of the day, it’s hugely simple in concept, and what makes it powerful is integration to other powerful apps through its App Exchange like Rivalry, SalesLoft, Tinder Box, ToutApp, etc.
- Salesforce is still cumbersome. The opportunity is automating/ mechanizing it. I love tools like those mentioned above, but especially Voxa. Everything Salesforce does, I was doing already in my own setup with spreadsheets. I could make it more powerful with notifications and the like, but really, that’s all it was. As I did Biz Dev for Body Boss and others, the biggest pain in the rear, and ultimately what makes Salesforce powerful is the data that is inputted. From this standpoint, every CRM is still annoying… until you can automate logging events like contact history, adding leads/ contacts, etc. That’s where tools like Voxa which can automatically log your activities and even detect human language to schedule follow-ups that much more powerful. You get around the biggest pain!
- There are better tools, but they integrate to Salesforce, too. You really don’t need much time in Salesforce to see where it could improve. However, like I said in the bullets before, there are tools that are better and can MAKE Salesforce better. For example, as a pipeline tool, I’m visual guy, and I don’t see Salesforce’s Opportunities list as a great tool. It really just looks like a list. PipeDrive, however, is a much better, visually-oriented tool to manage your pipeline. Luckily, it, too, can integrate to Salesforce.
Obviously the above didn’t just come out of three hours, and okay, maybe I’m not an expert. Some of these were notions I had coming into the learning sessions, but were reinforced. Can’t say anything was dispelled other than Salesforce is really, really easy. I know during my three hours I didn’t play with every module, and maybe one day, I’ll get that opportunity in MY OWN instance. Or, maybe I’ll be a part of simplifying Salesforce into another CRM startup. (Okay, that made me laugh because there are several others that do a decent job.)
- Have customer-PARTNERS at the beginning. Partners at the beginning give you momentum coming out of the gate to not only build the product, but also to sell the product. Social motivation is a powerful tool.
- Research should weigh heavily on building your product/ service WITH your customer-PARTNERS. Engaging your customer-partners early and often (in an effective way) will mitigate risks you’re building something that they don’t want, need, or it’s just too far outside the process. The first versions of your product/ service will need refining, and communicative partners will tell you how to improve.
- Dedication to the startup is clutch to iterate. I’ve said it in a post before that speed is one of the critical elements of a winning startup strategy. With speed, you can iterate through ideas and test them with your customers. The best way to do this is to work full-time on the startup and have high quality engineers/ developers. Quality builders can implement changes quickly and mitigate against the risks of glaring bugs.
- For a tech startup these days, design is the second part of the winning strategy.If it isn’t quick to understand and navigate, users will likely not give you the time of day to figure it out.
- Quick set-up is the catalyst for early success. Apps these days that sign up and login with Facebook, or have API implementation with big platforms like Salesforce.com can help customers get set up quick. It turns out to be a turn-key solution. Most people don’t want to take precious time to learn or set up a program, especially when they have an existing, albeit weaker, solution.
- Establish an effective method and rhythm to reach prospects. With social media, many people believe it’s the best way to reach new customers. But it’s not necessarily. You should know how your target market absorbs new ideas/ products. Do they read magazines? Do they read blogs? Are they social media users? Your marketing strategy may not make sense.
- Don’t believe you’ve made a sale till days after a check clears. Can’t tell you how many prospects said they’d buy only to go cold a day later. And even when someone gives you his/ her credit card information, wait for the amount to clear your bank account before you celebrate that new signing.
- Establish roles be it with titles or equity. It’s amazing what happens when everyone is equal and everyone has different ideas – wheels spin but you’re going nowhere. I applaud those avant-garde companies trying out flat orgs with “no titles”, but that’s not for me. In Body Boss, we had 4 Co-Founders — equal shares, no hierarchy… just friends. To have a single, clear vision to fall back on when consensus isn’t there is a beautiful thing.
- Treat your startup like a real company. Your startup is not a hobby. It can’t be a “project” if you want it to be something greater. It’s a company. Take it seriously. Everyday you aren’t improving your company, everyday you’re not making your product or service better, you’re wasting your company’s talent and resources. Sadly and ironically, that happens to be your own.
- Market like a king with a blacksmith’s earnings. If you’re going to spend any money on marketing like attending trade shows, make sure you standout. We once sponsored a dinner for an event thinking it’d be a great way for us to reach prospects, except it didn’t. Everyone just ate and barely heard our message. That’s a good bit of money down the drain. If your hard-earned dollar isn’t going to WOW and prompt your prospect to the call to action (CTA), don’t bother.
- Be ready to pitch anytime and everytime you walk outside. It’s an amazingly small world, and you will run into potential customers, investors, or just everyday people who can connect you. Be ready to pitch.
- All about the team. To have diversity in a team is incredibly frustrating. However, it’s beautiful. It’s needed. For success, you need people to debate productively. If you don’t debate new, fresh ideas from your team (not just customers), you may be potentially paddling down a waterfall in unison. Diversity forces you to sometimes build only what’s necessary, and cut out the fat unless there’s true value. That, or you may never get those new, fresh ideas at all.
- New sales are good, but recurring sales are better. One issue that we found at Body Boss was many customers subscribed and bought in, but then, didn’t re-subscribe. After talking to many, there were various reasons why it didn’t work out including glaring product-related issues that we weren’t aware of. If they don’t sign back up, find out why because marketing a product that loses customers later can crush your business. Existing customers can be powerful advocates, and word-of-mouth marketing is the best type of marketing.
- Solve a real problem. Definitely don’t introduce a new one. So much of the above can also be addressed if you solve a real problem. With a real problem, you’ll get the buy-in from prospects to buy what you’re selling, or work with you because in the end, IT’S A PROBLEM!
- Pick an industry where you have LOADS of experience can go a really long way. Not only to give yourself and your startup credibility, but it’s a great way to network and find your initial customer-partners. I think one of our struggles at Body Boss has been because we approached professional strength and conditioning within an institutional setting – a setting none of us have had much experience. Thus, we didn’t understand our customers as well as we should’ve to build and sell our product.
- Know your limitations, and when to break them. Not all of your customers will buy into what you’re selling. Not all of your team members can work full-time. You might not have the skills to pick up the keyboard and start coding. However, all of these challenges end up being opportunities to build a greater startup, a better product, and a better service. If you pay attention to those limitations, you may be able to find creative solutions around (or through) them.
- Know when to stay rigid, when to flex, and when to break on your ideals. We start companies with the confidence that we can do things better. By that very nature, we enter with ideals. Know when your ideals should stick or when they should take a back seat for the growth of your company.
- Don’t make excuses. Just sell. My main role in Body Boss is to sell. I catch myself sometimes saying, “oh, it’s hard because of timing” or “they’re not answering their phones, so… yeah”. It’s admittedly poor. If you feel an inkling like you didn’t bust your @$$, then you probably didn’t. Find the value. Convert.
- Measure everything you can within reason. Use Google Analytics to track your website traffic. Analyze user engagement data (effectively, not analysis paralysis). Track by device, by user, what is your customer doing? With data comes the ability to draw patterns and make actionable changes. “What gets measured gets improved.” (That’s actually a Trademark we have.)
- It’s your company so choose who to hear and who to listen to. Everyone has ideas. Everyone will give you advice whether you want it or not. Know which ones make sense. It’s your company. You have to make the calls.
- SALES IS HARD! At the end of the day, companies, teams, etc. are made of people. And because you’re selling to people, it only makes sense that not everyone will be seeking the same values out of your product. It’s best to learn quickly about your prospect when selling, and catering your value prop accordingly. A couple tips: (1) the international language and what everyone wants more of: money. Help them pull and push the lever to add revenue and/ or cut costs. (2) You have two ears and one mouth. Let your prospects do the talking so you can assess what he/ she needs, and they’ll be bought in. (3) In-person goes farther than phone or email. Also, emails suck. Too easy for customers to delete/ not read.
Are you ready for the ride? Have you perhaps fallen victim to any of these hard lessons? What advice would you give to entrepreneurs?
If you’re single and ready to mingle, chances are good you have a number of “online dating” apps on your phone. They’re everywhere — the usual suspects of Match.com, eHarmony, OkCupid (a Match company now actually), Plenty of Fish, etc. are joined by the swipe-addicting Tinder, Hinge, Twine, and so many more. Most of those apps and companies didn’t exist three years ago. However, this post isn’t about dating apps.
- APIs are a great way for especially software and hardware players to integrate into existing platforms, and enable customers to get set up quickly.
- The big players are establishing themselves as the common integration point creating another sustainability point with added revenue-stream implications — you can definitely see this in Apple’s App Store, SalesForce’s App Exchange, Facebook‘s ubiquitous login option, and even NCR’s Cloud Services.
- Smaller startup players will have a frantic fight over the next years to stay in the game and relevant. Switching costs for customers are becoming much lower meaning the power is virtually all in the customers’ hands.
- Hardware manufacturers are getting in on the exact with APIs such as Thalmic Labs’ Myo Band, Atlas Wearables, Jawbone Up, Logitech peripherals, etc.
- There will likely be much consolidation in the markets over the next few years as the smaller players get gobbled up by other startups or by the big platform companies themselves. And of course, there will be the natural attrition of startups who just peter out.
- There’s still significant opportunity for markets where there isn’t an established platform whereby large swaths of companies plug into. Or, you can be an integrator/ middleware connector by which startups connector through you to platforms