Category: Performance Management

Performance Management

How to Build a Sales Pipeline

ScottLeese
Scott Leese

We all know that in order to be successful in sales you have to constantly build, and properly manage, your pipeline. But does everybody know what that means? More importantly perhaps, does everybody know HOW to build a pipeline?

Fast forward to 2021. Congrats! You have just started your new role at your new early-stage startup SaaS company. You made it through onboarding and sales training, you know your product, and you are ready to start hitting the phones…and here comes that magic phrase again “build pipeline.”

Uh oh…now what do you do?

Building pipeline early is two parts: Start the Foundation, and then Reverse Engineer the Build.

Starting the Foundation

To Start the Foundation it does not involve much more than the actual action.

  1. Get your leads/targets/ICP (ideal customer profile) from the company. 
    1. If they don’t have the ability to supply you with this, finding these leads is the first step.
  2. Create a messaging template and build a cadence.
  3. Begin a thoughtful prospecting campaign.

That’s it! 

Yes, it’s that simple. Just start dialing. Or start emailing. Or start reaching out via LinkedIn. 

Just start.

Why do we have to overthink things so much? Just get started, and get into a rhythm. It is within this stage that we are understanding the process, and preparing the foundation of our pipeline. 

Okay, maybe it’s a little bit more involved than that. How many dials? How many emails? How many messages via LinkedIn should you send per day? The correct answer is…more complicated than that.

Reverse Engineering 

This is where we are going to reverse engineer our pipeline strategy, and break it down into bite size consumable numbers. (And you will see why just getting started is so relevant.)

Start with your goals:

  1. How many deals do you need to hit quota?
  2. At what price point?
  3. In what time frame do you need them?
  4. Now break it down, and it only takes one deal to set some preliminary targets. 
    1. And if you’re still working on your first, use a peer, or an educated guess if this is deal #1.

Do you want to dive deeper into the data and turn your pipeline into a math equation? Good.

  1. How many contracts were sent?
  2. How many demos did you run?
  3. How many demos did you schedule?
  4. How many opportunities did you open?
  5. How many connections did you make with Decision Makers or Champions (folks who are critical to the buying process)?
  6. How many touches were made? (calls,email,social)

The correct answer is – it doesn’t really matter. What matters are the results that come from those activities. What matters is:

  1. How many connections you made
    1. And made with the Decision Maker(s) or 
    2. Folks that are going to be critical to the buying process
  2. How many demos did you schedule
    1. And how soon after the first call are they booked
  3. How many demos did you run today
  4. How many contracts you sent out
  5. How many follow up calls/appointments did you schedule
  6. How many deals did you close
    1. And what are the size of those deals

I always figure I need to have 10 deals in the pipeline in order to guarantee myself one deal actually closing. But wait – isn’t that overkill and too many? Yeah, for sure…but why cut it so close?

Work on building pipeline so big it becomes too big to fail you.

 

ScottLeese
Scott Leese
KPIs Performance Management

The 5 Essential KPIs For Inside Sales

hooplaprod
hooplaprod

We live in the platinum age of data. There’s probably, if anything, too much of it. But more than that, we are getting smarter and smarter every day—not just about how we can measure things, but what are the best things to be measuring in the first place.

Enter KPIs. KPIs, beyond being simple benchmarks, allow us to better understand how we as a sales organization can improve. In short: what behaviors lead to the best results. And that’s why we’ve curated five essential KPIs for your inside sales organization: measurements that, from our standpoint, can lead any inside sales team to work smarter and more efficiently.

But before we dive in, one important reminder: KPIs, just like sales organizations are not one-size-fits-all. In fact, a KPI that works super well for one sales team may simply not make sense for a similar organization. That’s because we all have different products, different processes, and different people. And in the spirit of getting started, here are those KPIs you so diligently didn’t scroll down to read yet:

Average Call Time

Here’s a KPI that can give you a lot of data to make smart business decisions right off the bat: how long are your reps spending on the phone with prospects and customers?

If you’ve got high performing reps who have very low average call times, is there something that you can teach to lower performers about getting off the phone quicker? Or on the other hand, does it seem like lower performers spend less time with prospects than those that actually close sales?

Only when you have true datasets can you start to find corollaries. And once you find corollaries, then you can start to set guidance that helps everyone perform better.

Potential Revenue In Pipeline

Whether it’s a matter of simply having leads loaded and ready to pursue, it’s essential that your inside sales reps be cognizant not only of having a pipeline, but the quality of that pipeline—and furthermore how much revenue that potential could bring.

Think of it this way: are you happier with a rep who brings in $10,000 off of one sale, or a rep who makes ten sales totaling $5,000?

If your goal as a business is to make a profit, you’re probably happier with the one sale. While not every customer will close, tracking the potential value of every opportunity helps salespeople identify exactly how much the company (and themselves) can make. Knowing that a sale has a higher potential revenue helps each employee prioritize. 

This transforms your team from simply thinking about closing sales, to making the best use of every potential sales—wasting less time on hunting down the smallest fish just to check a box.

Activity Efficiency

Simply put, activity efficiency measures how many different activities (emails, phone calls, etc.) it takes to turn a prospect into a customer.

An essential study from Insight Squared tells us, “While measuring the number of activities your reps perform gives you a baseline understanding of their effort and productivity, tracking efficiency ratios is much more important because it shows you the downstream conversion rates of these activities, such as how many dials it takes your reps to source a single opportunity.”

In other words, maybe phone calls are a waste of time where an email or two can get someone’s attention much faster. Remember: it’s about working smarter, not harder.

Client Engagement

Sophia Bernazzani raises a fundamental issue when she says that “It’s important to look at the big picture of a customer … Are they actually seeing value from your product or service?”

She goes on to point out that care for customers isn’t just about inking a contract—it’s about helping them to maximize your product long after you close the initial sale: “reps need to ensure that their customers are not only surviving, but thriving with their product. They must follow up with clients, offer assistance with problems, and help them proactively strategize for the future.”

If you’re in the business of holding on to contracts for the long-haul, it’s essential that you’re tracking client engagement beyond the “first date.” Are your customers still happy? Who’s to truly know if your reps aren’t taking the time to actually engage their clients?

Conversion Rate

This, in many ways, is one of the most actionable KPIs you can apply to your team. It’s something that’s going to help you truly take your team’s temperature, and allows you to dig into layers that might not have otherwise occurred to you.

Conversion Rate, often known as Client Acquisition Rate, is essential how often your inside sales reps are turning prospects into customers. Are they converting one prospect every ten calls? One for every one hundred? Any answer immediately opens the door to smart, tangible questions.

As Richard April reminds us, “ It’s natural for some salespeople to perform better than others — but if there are large discrepancies between conversion rates, dig deeper.”

Let’s say you’ve got sales rep A who can convert one in every twenty prospects, and sales rep B who’s converting one in every four. The primary conclusion might just be that Rep B is just a better saleswoman than Rep A. But upon investigation, you realize that the territory Rep B is covering naturally has a lot more qualified leads—or maybe you discover that rep A hasn’t been following proper sales guidance. By analyzing this KPI, you’re now able to correct the mistakes Rep A is making, rather than simply seeing that one rep’s numbers are lower than another and letting that low performer flounder.

In all of this, remember that KPIs are supposed to work for your team, not the other way around. Maybe you’ll find that these five are exactly what you need to jumpstart your team’s performance, or maybe just one of them works for you. Whatever the case, start digging into the data: you’ll be surprised what you can find out.

hooplaprod
hooplaprod
Performance Management Progress and Goals

Sales Scorecard 101: How To Boost Sales and Engage Your Team

hooplaprod
hooplaprod

We live in a culture that’s obsessed with trends. The latest influencer, the latest opinion, the latest hashtag. Are hashtags even cool anymore? But one such trend within the sales management world has the staying power to stick with us long after the Kardashians have faded from memory: the sales scorecard.

We’ve known the scorecard in many forms throughout our whole lives: report cards in grade school, the myriad polls ticking across our news channels, or the infinite number of stats we’ve created to kill time while our favorite sports are in the offseason.   

But what you may not have realized is that this is one of the simplest, and quickest-to-implement tools that you can have right now at your fingertips—not only to boost your sales, but get your employees truly engaged with their work and the coworkers around them.

What Are Sales Scorecards?

In some ways it can be whatever you want it to be. Cool? OK, great. Blog post over. But in all seriousness, the beauty of a scorecard is that it can be tailor made to fit your organization’s needs.

In essence, it’s a visual display of an employee’s sales performance, designed to encourage the top-performing before across the board. 

What it does is visualize employee behavior data (more on those specifics below) by measuring certain behaviors that can lead to broad success. It can be displayed as individual wins, or more like a leaderboard where sales reps are ranked by performance.

The biggest problem that we find sales organizations face is that their employees simply don’t know how to get out of their own ruts. But once they can see how they measure up to others within the organization—in a non-shaming way—they’re able to self-correct and even thrive.

Benefits: Healthy Competition

One of the biggest reasons that we (and most everyone else) is so nuts about sales rep scorecards is that they employ sales gamification —which, as we’ve shown before, is one of the most efficient ways to get employees more involved with their work.

But, but, but… writing for HubSpot, Gal Rimmon reminds us that it’s not just about rewarding the high performers, or shaming lower performers: “Gamification designed for sales teams should focus on encouraging behaviors that generate more sales, such as making more calls or improving the qualification process. Tracking actual sales misses the point” of sales scorecards.

If you’re just tracking the number of sales, Rimmon argues, you’re unfairly advantaging the better territories and bigger accounts. More on the right metrics to track below…

Benefits: Employee Engagement

As we mentioned above, many employees simply don’t feel their sense of purpose in an organization. And when they stop feeling purpose, they can lose sense of what it is that they even do for an organization.

As a sales manager, this puts you in a tough spot and  puts them on a slippery slope, where poor performance begets even more disengagement from the job. And that further disengagement leads to even further decline in performance. How do you get your sales people back on track? 

But therein lies the magic of a scorecard. Instantly, your sales reps can see not only how they may be lagging in their performance, but they can have a clear picture of what a great performance looks like. This gives them not only something to aspire to, but also clear cut goals that can help to give them direction in their day-to-day activity. 

This also can help with remote sales engagement: having a single, publicly accessible sales scoreboard can help keep employees on track. Knowing exactly where they stand whether they are an outside sales rep, an inside sales rep or working from home can keep an entire team on track without any need for micromanagement. More than the sales manager will know if they fall behind on metrics. 

And thus, purpose and clarity beget engagement. And a path to success.

How To Set Up A Sales Scorecard: 3 Key Steps

It may sound daunting, but now that you’re familiar with the concept of a sales scorecard, getting set up is a lot simpler than you might have thought. It all starts with the right platform . Here at Hoopla, for example, we pride ourselves on having created a straightforward, easy-to-launch leaderboard that works for any number of organizations. From there, it’s a matter of following these three simple steps:

Determine Your Goals

First and foremost, remember that a scorecard is there to boost everyone’s performance. So what are your larger goals for the organization? Are you looking to drive up everyone’s numbers? Are you simply trying to help your sales people feel a deeper sense of purpose?

Ensure that you are beginning to plot out how these sales goals could be visualized on a scorecard or leaderboard, and think through how you might group different individual sales people together for help or for better competition. Making sure that you are thinking through these different goals and having a solid outline can prevent unneeded reworking of these scorecards after the fact. 

Before anything, make sure that you know—and your employees know—what you want. Once you’ve got a destination in mind, then you can start to map out how to get there.

Align Your KPIs

As we’ve talked about here on the blog before, KPIs (key performance indicators) are a major key (forgive us) to driving success. They’re the map by which reps know how to reach higher performance. Without KPIs, you’re basically asking your reps to meet you for after-work drinks without ever telling them what bar you’re going to.

GoodData’s Sumeet Howe nails the essential point that aligning KPIs should be an organization-wide activity: “Transparency into the process of determining goals, KPIs, and quotas will help your reps to have some context on what their ideal quarter looks like.”

By clearly outlining what your KPIs are, and why they matter for each member of your sales team, you’re setting each and every one of your reps up with the tools for success. This isn’t about some secret managerial string-pulling, it’s about giving everyone the best shot possible at a great quarter.  

Target Your Metrics

Finally, it’s time to nail down exactly what metrics you’re going to display Are you going to measure activity such as phone calls per week? How about new clients? Maybe it’s simply the number of sales in dollars based on territory or quota? (Remember: Don’t unfairly advantage people with larger territories). This is why its so crucial to start thinking through how you’ll organize these scoreboards early. Got a top performer who is always out pacing everyone? Make sure that you measure combined metrics for different teams, rather than putting a spotlight on the same individual every single month.  

The bottom line is that your metrics should serve as proper representations of your goals and KPIs. If you’re looking for each person to hit a certain number at the end of the quarter, it really doesn’t mean much reward the number of cold-calls they made if it doesn’t necessarily lead to more sales.

Simply put, the metrics you display should be the ones that guide your reps toward the most success. If they’re not helping them work smarter or perform higher, those metrics are just a distraction.

And truly that’s it. Start to play around this week with what a sales scorecard could look like for your organization. And if you have any questions at all, please don’t hesitate to reach out. 

hooplaprod
hooplaprod
Performance Management Progress and Goals

Sales Team Lessons: It’s About the Journey Not the Destination

ScottLeese
Scott Leese

In this blog post – Scott Leese shares a memorable time in his career and some lessons we can take and use no matter the sales landscape. 

It’s about the journey, not the destination. This was never more evident than when looking into the story of a sales team and its leader on a journey that captured the spirit within. This is a time when a true story actually lived up to one of the most famous sayings we know.

The story begins

The year started off not unlike any other before; new comp plans, new products, followed by the announcement of the annual President’s Club Recognition Award. What was different about this year’s Club announcement were the eligible participants that now extended into new roles and positions previously not considered.

President’s Club is typically seen as an exclusive “sales only” club, leaving other team members wishing them well as they set off on their exotic destinations to celebrate their victories poolside. It never did seem right leaving behind people who made it possible. That year was different; everyone had a chance to go, a welcoming change and well received by all.  

The leader was fortunate to lead a team of great people. Of all the teams he’s managed in the past, this one felt the most complete and ready. One of the best parts is they all enjoyed being around each other. When presenting the President’s Club details to the group it played out exactly how the leader envisioned it. Three of the five sales people were talking Hawaiian shirts, google searching the resort site, texting their significant others to get ready for a trip next year. 

The two other sales people were more reserved in an understandable “need to take in more information” way. The sales engineer was listening, calculating, and not saying a word. The two support leaders, in the most facetious and joyful of ways were joking about the lounging activities they were planning by the pool and which spa treatments would come first.

At that point, only three out of eight team members had Maui in a clear line of sight. The others were between mulling things over and thinking what an amazing pipe dream fantasy. No big surprise, and to be expected.

However for the leader, his sights were on something bigger, even though he didn’t say it out loud in the group meeting. When studying the trip qualifications, the leader thought “oh my gosh, holy snickers, this entire branch, this team could make it”. President’s Club trips are normally about sales and individual accomplishments. Not about team performance and certainly not about an entire branch making it. This would take the President’s Club to a whole new level, a level that greatly intrigued the leader. 

So what is a leader to do?

The leader’s natural instinct was to hold off setting what could be perceived as lofty, wild, premature expectations. Don’t go down that rabbit hole. You may never find your way out. Those types of distractions can really jinx things. The leader found it best to take a pragmatic approach by sitting down with each team member to review and map things out, and help the team believe in the possibilities. 

Summer into Fall

As the months transpired, with summer ending and moving into fall, a new ground floor leadership pattern emerged within the group. The three sales people talking about Hawaiian shirts were closing big deals and on track to exceed the President’s Club qualifications. The two support leaders and the SE were also tracking. But now they were paying close attention to the P-Club standings. The two other sales people still had a ways to go, but were positive and excited about finishing the year strong.  

You could hear and feel the conversations change around the office. It was always a positive office environment, but the vibe and energy was stronger. ‘Double the octave’ was the best way to put it. Words of encouragement, support and ideas were being exchanged. And flowing throughout the day you could hear “I got that”, “have you tried this”, “let’s meet in the am to discuss”. Even the normally reserved Sales Engineer finally uttered the word Maui a few times. People were stepping up helping each other.

The leader didn’t need to say anything; the team was manifesting results themselves. This is what he wanted to see.  They started believing. They all started becoming leaders in their own way.

The end of the year is fast approaching 

As the year drew to a close, six of the eight team members were close or over P-Club qualifications. One salesperson was tracking, and a safe bet, if keeping the same pace. The other had work to do. They were all aware of his P-Club shortfall, to the dollar and penny. The sales person was three deals away. You could hear the office excitement with one saying “Do you realize we can do this, like the entire team to P-Club, that would be crazy sick!” 

By the middle of December, seven out of eight team members were in P-Club. The sales rep with the shortfall had closed two of the three remaining deals they needed to qualify. The third and final deal, the one still out there, was the big one that would put them over. 

The entire team went into rally mode; offering technical support, all the sales angles, and checking any and all network connections that may influence and help the case. You name it, they covered it.

But like most big deals there were complexities and check-offs that take time to work through. It seemed like every day presented a new challenge. A hold up here, a wrinkle there, a legal person out sick, the CEO wanting more information, compliance data and cert requirements and pricing issues. The deal was starting to feel like it could very easily slip into next year. 

Over the next week, the issues were addressed one by one in what felt like 40 hours of back and forth. But just like that, everything went dark, completely dark. Three days went by and no word from the customer. No returned calls or email. Not a peep. Nothing.

As the last hours of the year closed in, the positive feelings that permeated the office started to fade. Not through anyone’s words or actions. You could just feel it. You could sense it. Maybe the idea of the entire branch going to Maui was just a lofty, wild idea after all. Worse, the idea of leaving anyone behind was unimaginable.

The last day of the year

December 31st.  Still no word from the would-be customer.

When everyone arrived at the office that morning, they purposely didn’t say a word about the deal. This continued through the morning hours, into the afternoon, and late in the day. Still no word from the customer. Everyone was resigned to the reality that it was unlikely to come in. Everyone did what they could. 

People started to gather their belongings for the long weekend at home. A sadness and quiet comes over the office. As one person made their way out the door, another one not far behind. All of a sudden there was a loud yelp. A scream coming from one of the cubes. They all made a mad dash to see what was going on.  The sales rep inside is beside themself. “I just got it, they just sent in the paperwork, I can’t believe it”!

The entire office goes crazy. No doubt the tenant in the next suite was about to call the police. Adults dancing around like children in total joy, priceless. For the leader, in that moment, time felt like it stopped. The scene was like a photograph. A lasting image that has stayed with him through all the years. It was the hugs of course, but also the smiles. The smiles were so big and wide that they stretched across the Pacific. The smiles they will never forget.

They did it

They all made it to Maui, and were living the dream. Sipping exotic drinks poolside with their coworkers and loved ones. But the funny thing was all anyone wanted to talk about were the stories, the stories that were a part of the amazing journey.

For this team, it wasn’t about being in Maui, although nobody could complain. It was about the journey they all went through together, up to the very last minute of the year. Maui and P-Club was the destination, the initial object of inspiration. But what happened over the months that followed revealed something bigger, something more important and defining.

Weeks later, the leader reflected back on what the year meant. This is exactly what great teams experience. This is what it feels like. This is what makes a great team, great.

The leader collected the lessons and shared with the team, and now I share them with you.

Selflessness:  Teammates helping through the good and bad, no questions asked.

Psychological Safety: The office was a safe place where they trusted each other, helped each other, and accepted vulnerabilities. It was ok for people to be themselves without judgement, concern or consequence. 

Empathy: They felt for each other. They could feel what was happening to their teammates. Empathy changes everything, and we all could use an extra dose.

Fulfillment: The team understood the difference between happiness and fulfillment. Happiness was sipping exotic drinks poolside. Fulfillment was the growth and experiences they shared as a team[and sipping drinks together]. 

This was about growth and the experience changed them all for the better. To this day, everybody remembers this story and those moments.

For the team, the true reward was the journey. The journey that left no one behind.

ScottLeese
Scott Leese
KPIs Performance Management

The 8 Essential KPIs For Customer Service Reps

hooplaprod
hooplaprod

Customer service doesn’t always have the best rep.  Like many an unsung hero of any industry—like the person who operates the reel at a movie theater—we don’t often talk about customer service unless something’s wrong. At least, that’s how it feels. 

The good news is that, given how poor of a reputation that side of the business gets, people will also always talk about customer service when it’s really good People tend to notice great customer service—and call it out. Like JetBlue’s twitter, for example. 

But it’s about more than just some fancy tweet-work. There are ways that you can actually monitor your reps—and help them to better understand what it takes to be Jet-level great: start tracking KPIs

If you’re looking to dial in your customer service reps to ensure that you’re giving your customers the best experience possible, check out these essential KPIs that you can start tracking today. 

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

For many folks, this is the number one most important question to be asking any customer: “Were you satisfied with your experience?” 

At the end of the day, everyone’s going to experience a hiccup in a product or service—that’s not the sign of a bad organization. The problem comes when they can’t get the help they need. If your CSAT is low, it’s a canary in the coal mine. 

Often your CSAT score is the first place that you might go to start diagnosing problems within your organization. From there, you can dig into different KPIs to get a closer look at problem areas. 

Average Response Time

When you think of a typical customer service experience in your own life, you probably think of one standout moment in particular: being on hold. 

Average Response Time essentially boils down to how quickly you’ve got a rep interfacing with a customer after they try to get in contact with you. 

If you’ve noticed that your average response time is high, it means you’ve also likely got a lot of unhappy customers waiting on the other side. 

Net Promoter Score

While this may sound very data-scientific, an NPS can be summed up in a simple question: “How likely are you to recommend this product or service?” 

Your net score is then based on subtracting the percentage of “non-promoters” from the percentage of promoters. 

As should be self-evident, word-of-mouth is worth its weight in gold. Don’t underestimate the value of reps who inspire people to evangelize on your behalf! 

Number of Support Tickets

You can track support tickets in a number of different ways, but what may be most helpful is to assess how many a rep is able to fulfill on a daily or weekly basis. 

Given the number of issues that can arise for a rep, not all of them may be able to be resolved as quickly as others. But what tracking this KPI allows is to show how reps, on average, compare to their peers across any given period of time. This allows both some healthy competition, and the chance for reps to see what it looks like to really excel. 

Escalation Rate

More than just a sad, sad, meme, the trope of “can I speak to your manager” is a very real experience for most customer service reps. And it’s going to happen to everyone eventually. It’s not the sign of a bad rep—we all have to deal with a tough customer from time to time.

But if you see that tickets are regularly being escalated for either a) a similar issue across multiple reps, or b) the same rep for any number of issues, then you can clearly address the problem: either you’ve got a rep who doesn’t know how to problem solve, or an issue that needs further addressing on your back end. 

Resolution Rate

And just like you want a low escalation rate for you reps, you also want to see a high resolution rate: how often they are able to solve a customer’s problem.

Resolution rate, as you’ll find, is something that’s often directly tied to the CSAT score, because ultimately that’s what people are coming to you for. And this can quickly be the first KPI that you go to when you need to further investigate a low customer satisfaction rate. If the CSAT score is low, but the resolution rate is high, then it’s probably not your customer service that’s driving away customers—it’s something more seriously tied to the quality of your product or service. 

Average Resolution Time

Slightly different from resolution rate is the average time that it takes to resolve the issue itself. So you may, for example, have two reps with a 98% resolution rate, but for one of those reps the average resolution time is five minutes, and for the other it’s fifteen. While both have a great resolution rate, you can already see the problem: one rep’s slow time to resolve is probably going to lead to more people being on hold for longer, ultimately hurting your average response time. 

Occupancy

Lastly, we wanted to address a KPI that often gets overlooked in the customer service world: occupancy.

Occupancy, in short, is how much time an employee spends on their main task. If a customer service rep never took time off for lunch, forewent breaks, and somehow managed to sneak bathroom stops in while they were handling issues, their occupancy would be 100%. 

For that reason (and a few more), what we want to stress is that striving for 100% occupancy is a terrible idea.  While in a dystopian world of robots and “efficiency” obsession, that sort of non-human excellence might seem like a positive thing for your bottom line, it’s a terrible thing for employee retention, because it leads to lower employee engagement

Employees need to feel valued and balanced in their work. They need time for training, to reorient their minds, and to stretch themselves outside of a singular task. Otherwise they’ll start to become disengaged, lose their sense of meaning in their work—and ultimately leave. And as we all know, it’s a lot cheaper to keep employees than to replace them. 

While KPIs are a great tool to diagnose problems, and even make your organization the best it can be, don’t forget about the importance of empowering and engaging your employees to be their best. You’ll be amazed at what that kind of teamwork can accomplish.

hooplaprod
hooplaprod
Performance Management

Sales 201: Real Techniques That Will Actually Help You Close

hooplaprod
hooplaprod

In golf, it’s called the yips. 

It happens to athletes without discrimination based on age or experience. You step up to make a move you might have made thousands of times before—like a ten-foot putt—and suddenly your muscles spasm, you freeze up, or you just simply do the wrong motion.  Research still can’t seem to give us a clear answer on why we get the yips. But most people have assumed that it’s related to performance anxiety. 

It’s a mental game.  Because for most golfers, when you step up to putt, it’s not just about hitting a ball with a club and making it go a certain direction—a motion that they mastered a long, long time ago. It’s about making the ball go in the cup, which means a certain score, which means beating an opponent, which means maybe winning some money, or even a title. 

It’s about the pressure. 

And here’s the good news: it’s the same thing with closing. Closing a sale is, in many respects, the most important thing that a sales person does. If you never close, you’re never really selling anything. But the problem is that’s so much of how we think about closing. We tie it to all of the effects—making commission, hitting your numbers for the quarter, having a job.

But when you break it down, closing is just one of the strokes you make over the course of a game. You were able to pick up the phone and make that phone call—teeing off, if you will—with no pressure, because you were further away from the result. 

So let’s try something: let’s forget about all the pressure we put on ourselves to close, and start thinking about it like a single motion: a technique that you can master, that’s just as simple as all the other techniques in your sales process—whether it’s prospecting, building a pipeline, or maintaining a relationship with an existing client. 

With that in mind, here are some real techniques that you can use to focus on the mechanics of closing. Put them into practice, and watch your game massively improve. 

Identify and Access The Decision Maker

As Adam Heitzman, writing for Inc., reminds us, “No matter what industry you are in, knowing the decision maker is crucial to a quick close.” So what exactly does that mean? 

In any business, you can have five people working in an office, or five thousand. But no matter the size, any healthy business has a chain of command—meaning not everyone has the same authority to make the call on how money is spent. The person who actually signs off is your decision maker. 

So while your initial point of contact at a business may talk a big game about how excited they are to implement your product or service, what they may not be telling you is that it’s not actually up for them to decide. 

Unfortunately, identifying the decision maker isn’t exactly a straightforward task. As Hubspot’s Aja Frost cautions us, “The wrong way to ask is, ‘Are you the decision maker?’ Everyone wants to feel important and valued, even if they’re not the ones signing on the dotted line. This question will … [s]abotage this relationship, and you’ll lose their influence.”

Start by asking smart questions about their buying process. Research as much as you can about the organization, and even ask other folks on your sales team how they go about doing it. A little collaboration never hurt! 

Understand and Raise Objections

It may sound old hat, but the best defense in sales truly is a great offense. Naturally, no matter how well that first call goes, your prospects—or their bosses—are going to have concerns about your product. 

Unfortunately for you, that doesn’t always mean that they’ll come back to you with those concerns. They might just dismiss the whole thing as too much of a hassle, and move on. 

That’s why we are firm believers in raising objections to your prospect. In fact, it’s a great way to get your foot back in the door after that initial conversation. Find out what common objections have been from other similar clients, prepare good answers for how to overcome those objections, and then give your prospect a call. 

Not only does this quell fears, but it shows your client you care, and opens the door wide for a great close.

Create Urgency

One technique we love to bring up here on the blog is creating urgency: Set deadlines, be willing to walk away.

Sometimes, especially if you’ve been going through a bit of a dry spell, a customer can sense our desperation—and it actually ends up being a turnoff. 

But creating urgency doesn’t mean pressuring someone into BUYING RIGHT NOW, QUICK! It’s about showing them an opportunity that they can’t walk away from.

One of the simplest ways to create that urgency is to introduce a sale or promotional period that has an end date. “Hey, just FYI, our boss told us that if we can get customers to sign on before the end of August, she’ll approve a discounted rate.”

And before you know it, they’re in a rush to get you to close. 

Keep It Positive

If these are already techniques that you’re employing, or the trickiest part for you is initiating the close itself, then maybe you just need a little change in perspective in terms of how you’re broaching the topic. 

Enter your new best friend: The Assumptive Close. 

Writing for SalesForce Search, Claire McConnachie defines this brilliant technique very simply: The assumptive close “involves using a phrase or language that assumes the close is a done deal. For example, you could close with, ‘What day do you want to receive your shipment?’”

If you feel like you’ve had a great sales process so far—whether the client has minimal objections, or you simply have that feeling that they’re absolutely on the hook—the assumptive close gets you around the need to broach the conversation so directly. Just assume they’re in, and start talking like it. 

Sometimes, it really is that simple.   

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coaching Performance Management

The Importance of a Great Sales Coach

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In the last few weeks, the US Women’s National Soccer team took the world by storm—they are now back-to-back World Cup champions. 

This team is unique, and has certainly captured the hearts of old and new fans for plenty of reasons—but one particular stat stood out to us as we thought about our own clients and the challenges of putting together a great sales team: Jill Ellis, the USWNT coach, is first coach for men or women in United States history (and second in the entire world) to win two World Cup titles. To find her sole counterpart, you’d have to go back to Italy in the 1930s.  Undoubtedly, a huge part of this team’s success must be owed to Ellis. But often, that’s about as far as the conversation goes: Wow, what a great coach!

From Jill Ellis, to Steve Kerr, to Phil Jackson, we know great coaches makes a difference, but we really don’t talk about the “why” or “how” all too much.   If you’re interested in taking your sales coaching to the next level, come along with us as we explore a little bit of why great sales coaches make a difference for their employees—and the organization—and how exactly you can get to that next level yourself. 

The Myth of The Great Manager

When we’re really pressed, what do we say makes a great manager or coach? Is it their education? Their resume? Personality? Some perfect combination of all three and then a few other very specific things? 

Here’s the trap we get stuck in a little too often: we put the burden on a single woman or man’s shoulders, and expect them to carry their organization across the finish line. We thinks it’s about charisma, or an “x factor” that they have as a leader—which, when you dig even deeper, just translates to “they’re special, and we got lucky.” 

But that’s far from the truth. In a recent article exploring the value of great coaches, The Wall Street Journal’s Sam Walker compares the opinions of two men who have an exceptional amount of experience with good leadership: The Golden State Warrior’s Andre Iguodala, and Silicon Valley giant Bill Campbell. 

At first glance, it might seem, Walker says, that the two diverge on their opinion about leadership. For Bill, he was a truly unique individual who had leadership skills that simply can’t be taught in a classroom. He was almost transcendent.  But from Andre’s perspective, he points out, “a team’s ability to win depends less on the coach’s modus operandi than how well the players organize themselves around” or even against that M.O.  But Walker goes on to show how these two ideas converge into one ultimate key for great leadership. 

Are you ready?  “Mr. Iguodala, like Mr. Campbell,” writes Walker “believed that a coach’s influence is only as strong as the team allows it to be. A captain’s job, he believes, is to adapt the team to its coach.”  You might be saying to yourself that sounds like a lot of basketball talk and I’m an inside sales manager. What does this have to do with my job? And when did we start hiring people with the job title of Captain? The key point is this: A coach, or, in our parlance, a manager

, can only be as good as the team under them. Great sales coaching starts from the very first hire you make. But for most of us, those hires have already been made—and if you’re struggling to get your team’s groove together, we certainly don’t suggest firing everyone just to start with a blank slate. 

For any manager to thrive, you need to inspire a team mentality in your organization from top to bottom. And it works in the reverse: a sales organization will not live up to its full potential unless they have a clear vision, unified goals, and a desire to succeed as a single unit. You need people on both sides of the ball—that is, “coaches” and “players”—who want that same ultimate result.

One Team, One Goal

So that’s a little bit about the “why” of great sales coaching, and now here’s a simple, practical part of the “how” that you can introduce to your team as soon as this week: goal-setting. A huge part of keeping your employees engaged and motivated is by helping them to see the broader purpose in what they’re doing. That comes in a number of different ways, at both the individual level and the corporate level. 

First, they have to be oriented around how their performance directly affects their individual life. Do they have a life-goal that’s tied to a stronger Q3 performance? Is there a vacation they’ve been itching for, or a new addition to their house that they can tie to better numbers and performance? 

Secondly, there are the corporate goals? How does their performance better the organization as a whole? It may sound a little “rah-rah,” but it’s been proven time and time again: When employees understand how their job positively impacts the business they’re tied to, they find a deeper sense of purpose and meaning in their role, which directly leads to increased achievement. 

Take some time to sit down with your team this week and map out those goals. Not only will it make them feel seen and known, but it will give everyone the renewed sense of clarity they didn’t know they needed. 

Final Thought: Leadership Is More Than a Title

You may be reading this piece and thinking that this doesn’t apply to you—maybe you’re not a manager yet, or your office doesn’t work in a “team” structure. But leadership is a whole lot more than a title—just ask Megan Rapinoe, Alex Morgan, or Alyssa Naeher. As we learned above, it’s about folks who have a mindset to achieve more—not just for themselves, but for their whole organization. 

Don’t wait for a promotion to start acting like a leader in your office. You’ll be amazed at how a simple change in mindset will not only impact your own performance, but even help to bring others along with you.

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KPIs Performance Management

The Most Important KPIs Your Sales Organization Should Be Tracking Right Now

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When was the last time you had a performance review? In the days leading up, surely, you sat back in your chair and thought to yourself, “You know what? I’ve done a great job here. And I’m sure my boss will take my word for it!”

And then you undoubtedly waltzed into your boss’s office and said, “I’ve done a good job here. All right, review over!”

Or are we missing a few details? At every level of an organization, employees—and their managers—are viewed through a series of metrics, whether we’re calling them by that name or not. Because in the world of accounting, bottom lines, and competitors, it’s not enough to simply feel like you’ve done a good job—you have to measure it.

With that in mind, we’ve honed in on a just a small sample of the KPIs—that is, Key Performance Indicators—that are important for any sales organization to understand and analyze. With each, feel free to dive deeper into the metrics, and you’ll find that on the other side is a clear and true pathway to success.

Customer Acquisition Rates

Whether your employees are tasked with prospecting or not, this is a simple metric that any sales person can adhere to: are they turning their leads into contracts or not? That, in essence, is your Customer Acquisition Rate.

Allie Decker, writing for HubSpot, outlines exactly what Customer Acquisition Rates translate to for your business, noting quite simply that acquiring new clients “allows your business to 1) make money to meet costs, pay employees, and reinvest in growth, and 2) show evidence of traction for outside parties such as investors, partners, and influencers.”

Simply put: if you’re not consistently acquiring new customers (at a reasonable cost), your business simply cannot grow.

Existing Client Engagement

But what good is it to lock in a client once if you’re just going to lose them tomorrow, or in a month—or a year? Crudely: You could turn a cow into a cheeseburger now, or you could nurture it, breed it, and create a whole herd of meat, dairy and fertilizer-producing cattle. One of them takes a little more work, sure, but the benefits are hard to quantify.  

Make sure that you’re tracking not only how many new customers you’re bringing in, but how you’re engaging with existing ones. Research shows us that existing customers are much easier to retain and upsell than prospects in the pipeline.

Don’t neglect those who are truly taking care of you!

Employee Satisfaction

Finally, as a manager, this should be a metric that you are relentlessly trying to improve or maintain.

The numbers simply do not lie on this one: engaged, happy employees are the consistently outperforming those who don’t feel like they have attainable goals or a place within the organization long term. If they’re not satisfied, they’re not going to be selling as well as they could be.

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Performance Management

Prospecting During Holidays: Is It Okay To Do? Is It Even Worth It?

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Whether it’s National Friend Day, President’s Day, or everyone’s favorite Arbor Day, it can be hard to keep track of who’s celebrating what, and when it might be a bit taboo to be “on the clock.”

Or, asked more directly: is it weird for me to be prospecting on X holiday? Here’s the short answer: no. But who likes a short answer, anyway?

School’s Out, No Rules

First, to be perfectly clear, there’s no “rule” against prospecting over the holidays—even federal holidays. But by the same token, there’s never an excuse not to behave ethically. So when it comes to prospecting during the holidays, use the same good judgement and discretion you do any other time you’re prospecting.

Now is not the time to break the rules, it’s a time to use them to your advantage.

Get Creative

Prospecting whiz Ryan O’Hara says over on the LeadiQ blog that “The holidays don’t need to be a sales reps death sentence. It’s a good time to put your head down, and do some really cool experiments with prospecting.”

Think about this: anytime a holiday rolls around, what’s the one guarantee in your email inbox? About 3,000 messages from companies trying to use that holiday’s name to get your attention.

Don’t fall for the trap of being like everybody else. The truth is, most people are off when a holiday rolls around—most people don’t care to be on the clock when they don’t have to be. And that leaves you in a really cool position to reach the prospects that are jamming up your pipeline. So don’t be generic, mix it up with the sort of strategies that will get anyone’s attention—whether they’re in the office or not.

Accessing The Decision Maker Just Got Easier

Sales strategist Marc Wayshak points out over on the Selling Power blog that “In my surveys regarding salespeople’s biggest sales challenges, getting past the gatekeeper is always at the top of the list.” And what’s more, he goes on to say, is that holidays create a “perfect storm of prospecting opportunities … Not only is your competition often not prospecting, but your prospects are less busy, and their gatekeepers are on vacation. In essence, holidays can provide a very effective shortcut—if you’ve done some of your homework, that is.

Before the next holiday, take the time to assess who your key decision makers are. If you’ve already identified them, but can’t seem to get straight to them, use the holiday as an opportunity to bypass those traditional blocks, as Wayshak suggests.

But if you haven’t even had the chance to identify them yet, then use your prospecting over the holiday to create relationships with these more influential folks who are still plugging away when the rest of the company’s taking time off.

Ultimately, good prospecting means not taking days off. But in this ultra-competitive environment, your aim should be to work smarter, not harder. And prospecting during holidays, it turns out, is definitely the smart move.

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Performance Management Progress and Goals

Keep Your Sales Pipeline Full With These 5 Tips

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This article originally published on Predictable RevenueAaron Ross, of the award-winning, bestselling book Predictable Revenue, has been teaching companies how to double or triple (or more) new sales since he helped Salesforce grow from $5m to $100m.  You can find tips and tricks from Aaron on Hoopla, and look out for From Impossible 2.0

It’s the makings of your worst nightmare: deals that were once on the table disappear, new leads aren’t coming in as fast as they once did… your sales pipeline is starting to dry up. Anyone who’s been in this situation knows that there are two routes to take. The first is to panic (which we don’t suggest); the second, stay calm and work towards a solution. In any business, some months are quiet and others are tough to keep up with—much like the ebb and flow of a tide.

What Not to Do

It’s easy to panic about your dropping numbers, but don’t frantically scramble to fill your sales funnel. Turning to desperate tactics will likely hurt your business in the long-term. Following these simple rules will help you focus on being proactive rather than reactive:

  • Never buy an email list and spam the contacts. Your business will develop a reputation of being spammy, not good to work with, and you may be blacklisted.
  • Don’t discount your services; that includes listing “limited time” deals on your website. This strategy can attract clients that aren’t a good fit for your business and can potentially turn off good prospects that are.
  • Never settle for clients who don’t fit your  Ideal Customer Profile. Though these types of clients can boost your numbers quickly, a bad fit may end up being more trouble than they’re worth, costing you time and money. A prospect that’s a good match with your service understands the value and is less likely to contribute to churn.

How To Safeguard Your Sales

Ok, now you know what to avoid, let’s talk how to make sure your sales pipeline is always full:

1. Recycle

The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60–70%, whereas the probability of selling to a new prospect is only 5–20%. This means that recycling your list once a quarter can be very fruitful. Just make sure you remove contacts from companies you’ve qualified / disqualified, and nix anyone that unsubscribed or sent a ‘negative’ reply.

2. Revisit

Take time to look over your company lists once a quarter and expand your list of contacts at those same companies. This can help you reach new hires or connect with those in new roles.  New contacts can lead to renewals, upsells and cross-sales.

3. Change it up

You might be set in your ways with one comfortable lead source, but try different list sources to keep things fresh. Different sources have different contacts, so you can’t rely on just one medium. Find people on social media that are looking for answers to their questions right now. Sites like Quora, Clarity, Twitter and LinkedIn can also be great for lead gen, but continually require time and energy to yield results.

4. Widen your potential network

Try casting a wider net with broad titles (vs. getting super specific with one contact). Use the  cold calling 2.0 referral network  and reach out to ‘referral targets’ (CXO’s and VP’s), not just the decision makers you want to meet with.

5. Ask for help

Kickstart your outbound efforts by outsourcing the initiative with a third party. Pipeline Automation Apps like Predictable Revenue (shameless plug) can help you identify your ideal customer profile, set up targeted lists and optimize email templates. If you understand that leads can dry up and businesses have bad months, then you can be proactive in your sales strategy and avoid potential nightmarish situations. Instead of panicking, use the above tactics as a part of a larger strategy to ensure that your sales funnel runneth over for many quarters to come.

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