Have you ever tried to help someone with directions who has a hard time speaking your own language? Or maybe you’ve been in a situation where you’ve tried to explain a concept to someone and they just aren’t getting it no matter how hard you try to explain it in different ways. It’s frustrating, right? Well, the same thing can happen when it comes to HubSpot implementation.
Last week I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days with a client’s sales leadership team, discussing the transformation they need to embark upon to become the business they want to be. One of the things that made it such a pleasure is that this group is already doing a great job. They’re hitting their numbers and growing in an industry that isn’t, but they also know that what they’re doing today (and more importantly, how they’re doing it) isn’t enough to get them where they need to go.
One of the things I noticed about my client, which is very common across growth-focused mid-market organizations, wasn’t how committed and passionate everybody was. (Don’t get me wrong, they were those things!) It was how tired they were. They were busting their backends doing everything they could to make things happen. Meeting in early January served as a bit of symbolism. It was the beginning of the year, so they were all “hitting the reset button” to bust at it again.
I see a lot of top performers who are tired these days. Some of my best sales friends, while winning club and hitting new performance records, often spend more time sharing how exhausted they are and how they are striving to spend more time with family rather than sharing the stories of success and the challenges they overcome (which dominated our conversations just a few years ago).
Certainly growing a business requires hard work, often very hard work. But, I’ve learned that there’s only so hard you can work, and at some point working harder not only doesn't contribute to success, it gets in the way of it. The story of Sisyphus is supposed to be a parable of warning, but increasingly it’s becoming a descriptor for leading a growth team.
As I thought about this, I was reminded of the Predictable Success model (and book) that was created by Les McKeown--specifically, the transition from Fun into Whitewater and then Predictable Success.
Here’s how Les describes the fun stage: You’ve broken through the Early Struggle—you have cash (at least enough to take the pressure off) and an established market. It’s time to have Fun! Now you’re free to concentrate on getting your product or service into the market, so the key focus now moves from cash to sales. This is the time when the organization’s myths and legends are built, and the “Big Dogs” emerge—those loyal high producers who build the business exponentially in this time of rapid, first-stage growth.
Fun is followed by Whitewater: The very success that you reaped in the Fun stage brings with it the seeds of Whitewater: Your organization becomes complex, and the key emphasis shifts once more, from sales to profitability. Achieving sustained, profitable growth requires you to put in place consistent processes, policies, and systems. Unfortunately, putting those systems in place proves harder than you expected. Making the right decisions seems easy, but implementing decisions and making them stick is incredibly difficult. The organization seems to be going through an identity crisis, and you may even be doubting your leadership and management skills.
The Third Law of Thermodynamics is that entropy is always increasing. Entropy represents disorder and randomness. In simpler terms it means that a natural organizational dynamic is that disorder and randomness is always increasing. In your business this disorder mean more friction. As a business grows (or simply survives), it picks up more complexity. That complexity creates friction, and before long, what seemed easy becomes difficult or impossible.
Friction is a part of growth. It should not be ignored. Frankly, whether you recognize friction or not, it will yield its sharp edge. The key to sustaining growth, and making growth manageable, predictable, and, yes even enjoyable, is to manage the friction. These tips are for those who are committed to managing friction to accelerate the momentum of their growth flywheel.
Over the holiday break, Mike Weinberg, author of New Sales. Simplified., Sales Management. Simplified., and Sales Truth, shared 20 tips for salespeople to crush 2020. (You should read his tips whether you’re in sales or not.)
Mike was his usual: blunt, humorous and completely on-point. His third tip that there are only three verbs in sales (create, advance and close) is more valuable than most sales training programs I’ve ever attended. (I’d expand this tip to demand generation and marketing as well.)
I was so inspired by Mike’s post that I found myself thinking about what 20 tips I would share, and this blog post is the result of Mike’s inspiration. (Thanks, Mike!)
1. Spend 20 - 50% of your time on early-stage market development (yes, prospecting)
When I present to sales teams, I often start off by talking about what I like to call “the sales and marketing treadmill.” The sales teams immediately nod their heads, understanding that dreadful feeling where you need to run faster and faster, just to stay in place.
One of the things I’ve always noticed about the best salespeople (and I mean those who are consistently at the top) is that they never look rushed. They regularly operate in a state of flow, seemingly never worrying about this week, this month or even this quarter.
I used to wonder how they could always be so calm and relaxed; after all, I was busting my ass. What I realized was that they spent far more time than the typical rep on the early parts of the buyer’s journey. The “pre-funnel” is always stronger than their active funnel.
The single best thing you can do, as a salesperson or sales organization, is to spend at least 20% of your time on early stage, market development/prospecting. You’ll find that as you move towards 50%, the effort (and urgency) required to close sales decreases, and you’ll soon become one of those top salespeople I referred to.
Landing pages are a crucial component of your demand generation and inbound marketing strategy. You could write the best piece of content ever, but if you haven’t structured your landing pages to help users convert, your hard work could all be for not.
So how do you optimize a landing page to encourage interaction and ultimately conversion? First, let’s take a step back and define what we mean by “landing page.” There are plenty of definitions out there and plenty of debates to be had, but that is a conversation for another day. For the purpose of this article, let’s define a landing page as any page that helps nurture and direct website visitors to a conversion opportunity. Yes, that means I’m looking at pages that (gasp) don’t include a form.
Why? I want to point out an important, and often overlooked set of pages designed to direct users to what you might consider a more traditional landing page, where users exchange their contact information for a piece of content or offer that you have created. These are not necessarily core website pages, but they are vitally important in helping users convert.
As marketers, we spend a great deal of time on the conversion page itself but often forget about how users are getting there. Sometimes it just isn’t practical to push users directly to a traditional “landing page.” Sometimes users just aren’t ready for your “10 Step Guide to Running a Marathon,” they’re still training for a 5k! These intermediary landing pages help provide a little more information to help them identify and diagnose their underlying problem.
What is Page Optimization?
Page optimization is the process of improving the elements of a page to increase conversions using qualitative and quantitative data. The key component is data. Rather than re-design an entire page based solely on assumptions, you want to use data and observations to drive your adjustments. Note that this is a process and there is no magic wand. Page optimization takes time and often requires some trial and error.
One of the biggest challenges businesses face in growing is generating attention and engagement from companies (and people) in their target markets who are not currently looking to buy something.
They also know that generating word of mouth is the best form of marketing there is, but if you don’t have thousands of customers who regularly use your product, or your product isn’t “buzzworthy,” word-of-mouth can often feel like a distant dream. Today, especially, with the hustle and bustle of the always “on” world, it can be that much more challenging to find time to be present outside your business bubble.
If you’re dealing with these challenges, then implementing a community marketing program may be just the recipe you need. Joining or creating an online community might just be the extra spark you need to get connected with others. If you aren’t already a part of one, you’re missing out on so many opportunities to expand who you’re talking to, reach out to a whole new audience, and expand how you help others. You’re able to add a whole new perspective to your knowledge base! And just like the saying goes, “two minds are better than one,” you too can reach a better outcome through joining or creating an online community.
Quiz Time! Here are two outcomes:
- An opportunity in the sales pipeline was at an 80% probability that it would be won, and it was lost.
- Another opportunity in the sales pipeline (all other aspects including the value, the customer type, the timing, etc., are the same) was only at a 20% probability of winning and was won.
Which outcome is worse?
Most of the people I ask this question to quickly look at me with a quizzical frown and ask, “Is this a trick question?” I respond, “No, no tricks.” They then confidently say the first situation is worse. I understand why they give that answer, and I’d certainly have to agree that when it comes to revenue, profit, commissions and things like that, the first is definitely worse.
The reality is that both are equally bad because both forecasts were equally wrong. If you’re looking to scale growth sustainably, you must have the ability to create a meaningful degree of predictability for that growth; to do that well, your organization’s ability to forecast must be an area of strength.
In addition to the obvious reason that strong forecasting, in and of itself, creates a level of predictability, an individual sales rep’s ability to forecast individual opportunities makes them far more effective at utilizing their time and enhances their effectiveness.
I often compare selling to playing poker. In both situations, you’re forced to utilize imperfect information to make bets (forecasts) about future outcomes within dynamic situations, and you must put your money where your forecast is. In poker, that means staying in the game and putting more money at risk. In sales, it means investing more time and resources.
While we could literally write a book on how to forecast effectively, improving your forecasting ability and improving your tactical sales decision-making doesn’t have to be complex or hard. Implement two simple ideas, regardless of the level of your forecasting proficiency, and you’ll be sure to succeed.
Last week, I was talking with a colleague and he was telling me about yet another bungled CRM implementation a client of his was dealing with. I have to admit I laughed a bit as he shared the story.
I’ve been using CRM in one form or another since the early 1990s (ACT! for DOS for those who are wondering). I started using Salesforce.com in the early 2000s. I’ve personally used more than a dozen CRMs in my time, and that number easily goes above 20 if you count the companies that I’ve advised.
I’ve been on the front-line of Salesforce automation for far, far longer than I care to think about, and the one thing that has remained constant has been the results:
- 20-30% are outright, complete failures. More IT heads have probably lost jobs because of CRM implementation failures than anything else.
- 50% stumble along, creating more confusion and friction than existed before a change was made. The investments made to increase productivity and acceleration, do the opposite, but they don’t quite “fail”.
- 10-20% provide a moderate level of success. They don’t meet the expectations, but they do provide greater capabilities and incremental improvement.
- 10% are truly successful.
A couple of years ago, CEB found that the average company was spending nearly $5,000/rep/year more on technology, and conversion rates have dropped by 12%. When I saw the study, I was actually surprised the numbers weren’t worse.
When I started Imagine more than 15 years ago, I had four principles that I used to define what success is.
- It had to enable me to grow - professionally, financially and personally.
- It had to be a place where its employees could grow - professionally, financially and personally.
- It had to make a mark by impacting the businesses we worked with, enabling them to become better by positively impacting their investors, employees and customers.
- The community around us must become better off because we were there.
I’ve used these principles to guide just about every decision I’ve made since we started. While certainly there have been days (and weeks and months) where I’m sure I could have done better, it is directly responsible for many of the non-typical things we’ve done:
Metrics can either be your best friend or worst nightmare. When things are going well, your life is great, but what happens when they start to go against you? You start to freak out. Our world today is centered around being the top or the best in whatever we do. In business, this is especially true when it comes to websites. If I could guess, I would say one of the biggest metrics you look at when assessing your website is the bounce rate. It might not be the first or second thing you look at, but it’s up there. I could also guarantee that at some point that number has been higher than you anticipated and freaked you out. What if I told you that a higher bounce rate isn’t necessarily a bad thing? Take the opportunity to learn more about what to actually expect with bounces, and make the adjustments you think need to happen.
What is a bounce rate?
To put it in simple terms, a bounce rate is the percentage of people who land on your web page and then leave without traveling to another page (or blog) on your site. Most of the time this means they’ve only viewed a single page and then left.
High Bounce Rate = Bad, Right?
It depends. What are your website goals? What does your website look like? Usually, if you’re bringing traffic to a single page that doesn’t solicit for any other navigation or if your website is one page, then having a higher bounce rate isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The same thing goes for blogs because most people come to read that specific content piece and leave. If you have a website that includes more than one page, then a higher bounce rate could indicate something is wrong.
This past year at HubSpot’s Inbound 2019 conference, we were fortunate enough to fly the whole team in to Boston for the week. We were ecstatic to attend and be there for Doug’s session - The Ultimate Sales Manager: Coaching Reps to Coach Themselves. The week went by quickly, the sessions everyone attended either reinforced what we were already doing or inspired us to try something new, and we all (the Imagine team) left Inbound with some key takeaways. No two people had the same impact which meant everyone could bring something different to the table when we got back.
The Imagine Team’s Takeaways
Fiona - Head of Content
I thought one of the most interesting (and obvious in retrospect, as these things often are) tips from Inbound was from Kelsey Raymond. She recommended that content creators should sit in on a sales call at least once a month to hear first-hand what’s keeping potential clients up at night. That way, you’ll be able to keep these concerns in mind when creating content.
I also found Daniel Waas’ session helpful because he talked a lot about his ideal framework for a webinar. As someone who writes fiction in my spare time, it struck me how much it was like a VERY simplified structure for a novel. This just reinforced that all successful content, no matter the format, has some type of story structure.