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Lead Activation Syndrome (LAS): The Ailment that is Costing You Millions $$$

Posted by Doug Davidoff

May 9, 2018 4:00:00 PM

lead-activation-losing-moneyLast week, I was going through some older files when I came across a standard presentation deck from six years ago. Two things struck me as I reviewed that deck. The first was just how much of what we were talking about five years ago still applies today.

The second was the amount of time we spent in that presentation on the need to develop a formal lead generation process for businesses desiring growth. While the strategies shared are still applicable, what I found interesting was that, just five years ago, we spent a considerable amount of high-value sales time getting business executives to understand the importance of simply generating leads.

Certainly, there are companies that haven’t adjusted, but even those companies acknowledge the importance and value in designing top-of-funnel strategies to drive higher lead volume. (They’re just still working through their list of excuses.) Today, we rarely spend time talking about the importance of lead generation.

Instead we find, with increasing frequency, that companies committed to serious growth are suffering from a very different problem. They’ve generated the leads, and continue to generate them. Often, they’re generating more leads then they can handle.

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Topics: Sales Development, Sales Cycle, Sales Enablement

Conversations Don’t Happen by Accident: The 6 Strategies to Creating a Strong Chat Experience

Posted by Doug Davidoff

May 2, 2018 10:00:00 AM

CAPBot ChatYesterday, Drift announced the latest enhancement to their conversational marketing platform, called Leadbot 2.0. Leadbot 2.0 increases the power available to marketers and salespeople utilizing chat while also drastically improving the user interface and ease in building out strong chat experiences.

This news, combined with the leaps HubSpot has made with their soon-to-be-released update to their chat product, Messenger (I’ve had beta access to the product for the last month), means that the momentum behind Chat and Conversational Marketing isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.

And for good reason. I’ve always believed that the mantra of the modern demand generation executive is “Solve for the customer!” Done properly, chat is a powerful tool to empower both the seller and the buyer, enabling them to have meaningful conversations in the most effective and efficient way possible. I’ve made no secret that I don’t believe Chat means the end of other demand generation tactics, but the compelling use cases for Chat continues to increase every day.

However, Chat is by no means an easy or “quick fix” solution. It’s not as simple as throwing some code onto your site, assigning sales reps to manage it, and then waiting for the people to ask you if you will let them buy your product/service. Make no mistake, there are far more bad chat experiences than there are good ones.

Implementing chat requires a commitment of time, money, and a solid effort to develop the strategies, plumbing, and training to make it work. There’s no question it’s a great opportunity to create leverage and lower costs, if - IF - you do it right.

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Topics: Sales Development, B2B Sales Strategy, Sales, Technology Stack

Why I Don’t Give My Head of Sales A Revenue/Sales Quota

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Apr 27, 2018 1:00:00 PM

No-Sales-QuotaMake the number! It’s probably the three words that dominate the thinking of salespeople and executives everywhere. I’ll admit that over my career I’ve literally had dreams--and nightmares--where making the number was the central theme. (Of course, whenever this happened, I knew it was probably time to take a week off).

Sales quotas (or revenue quotas) are a foundational element of the sales. For most, the only question to ask about quotas is “Where should the target revenue or new customer acquisition quota be set?” Questioning the need, appropriateness, or effectiveness of even setting quotas is sacrilegious in business circles.

But the time has come for those leading businesses into the future to admit that quotas aren’t working. Recent research from CSO shows that barely 50% of salespeople are meeting quota, a trend that has been steadily deteriorating. Anecdotally, many senior sales executives responsible for setting quotas adjust to this reality by setting artificially high quotas and putting more pressure on salespeople.

Earlier this week, I presented a webinar where I revealed some research that we just completed, along with ways to implement strategies that can double your pipeline in 90 days. In this session, I shared that the nature of sales continues to undergo rapid change. If selling is going to remain a viable strategy, leaders must rethink their fundamental assumptions about sales, how they allocate talent and resources towards the sales process, and how they assess and compensate performance.

At the beginning of this year, I determined it was time to take a lead in designing the sales model of the future. As a part of our 2018 sales plan, I eliminated the sales quota as a key metric for our VP Sales. Here's why.

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Topics: Sales Development, B2B Sales Strategy, Sales Cycle, Sales, Sales Enablement

The Five Must-Have Elements of Revenue-Producing Content

Posted by Fiona Taylor

Apr 19, 2018 4:00:00 PM

 revenue-producing-contentA good rule of thumb for a blog post is to always lead with an introduction. So, while this may not be the kind of introduction you were expecting, I’m Fiona, Imagine’s new Director of Content. I’m thrilled to be here! Since I’ll be sharing my thoughts on content from time to time, here’s a little of background: I’m a writer and editor with extensive experience developing content and marketing strategies for Fortune 500 companies. On that note, let’s kick off my first bog post by talking about what makes content great!

We’re all barraged with content every day. If you’re like me, you have twenty browser tabs open because you truly intend to read all those articles and blog posts. You know, the ones that promise to make you a giant in your field. The problem is, there’s just so much noise.

There’s content constantly coming in from every direction—via email, social media, and the interwebz. 

This means you have to have some mental filtering system in place. Your time is limited and precious, so you need to know that you’re not wasting it by reading a piece that over-promises and under-delivers. You can only choose content that you reasonably believe will make your life better.

Which brings us to the question….

How do you make someone read your content?

As we all probably already know, engaging content results in reads and shares. It builds a relationship. It offers the reader something of value, which creates trust and increases your credibility. All of this moves a potential customer further down the path to purchase – moving them from indifference to emotional engagement.

So how does this mysterious and magical process happen? Every piece of content is different, but you can’t go wrong if you incorporate the following five elements:

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, Content

5 Steps to Design Your Pipeline to Shorten the Sales Cycle and Align Sales & Marketing

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Apr 10, 2018 3:00:00 PM

Sales-PipelineIf any of these objectives are a high priority for you, read this post (if not, feel free to skip it):

  • Create predictability in your customer acquisition process
  • Shorten the ramp-up time for new salespeople to be successful
  • Transform marketing momentum into sales momentum
  • Shorten the sales cycle
  • Improve your ability to forecast

While strong strategy, insight and execution are certainly crucial to achieving these objectives, what is all too often overlooked are two especially important operational structures that are 100% necessary for consistent success:

  • A clearly defined funnel structure
  • A clearly defined sales pipeline structure

You may be thinking, “Doug, you’re crazy. I haven’t overlooked a pipeline, it’s central to our CRM!” And while the vast majority of companies that I see do have stated deal/opportunity stages that define their pipeline; more than 90% of them aren’t worth the paper (or bytes) they’re written on. Not only do they fail to create any real value or insight, they are central to the problems that sales and demand generation organizations are working so hard to overcome.

This post will walk you through the key elements of designing an effective sales pipeline structure, as well as enabling you to diagnose some of the fundamental flaws that likely exist in your existing process.

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Topics: Lead Generation, Sales Development, B2B Sales Strategy, Sales Training/Coaching, Playbooks, Sales Enablement

7 Ways to Improve Your Most Important Sales Growth Metric: Connect Rate

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Apr 5, 2018 5:00:00 PM

connect-rateThere are two schools of thought when it comes to prospecting effectiveness. One school focuses on quality and maximizing the yield of the process. "Let no good lead go unconverted" is their philosophy.

The other approach focuses on volume, thinking "What we lack in effectiveness we can make up in volume." As a result, they hire more reps, make more calls and send more emails, continuously ramping up velocity to hit their targets.

Unfortunately, both camps are wrong, and, well, they're kinda right.

Your connect rate (the rate of attempts a salesperson or sales development rep makes to “connect” with their intended target) is the most important metric to use when assessing the effectiveness of the customer acquisition process.

The connect rate focuses on the biggest bottleneck in the sales process, capacity. The limiting factor for salespeople is time, and if your connect rate is too low, it means too much time is wasted. Be careful though, because if it’s too high it may also mean that too much time is being spent here, as too much effort (and time) may be spent in an attempt to reach a lead that could be better spent elsewhere.

In the end, the use of connect rate should solve for maximizing the output of right-fit leads entering the next phase, based upon the limited-resource capacity you have, which is selling time. Note that this output is represented by a hard number, not a percentage. I’d rather have a connect rate of 17% that generates 125 right-fit leads than a 38% connect rate that yields 67.

Identifying your optimal connect rate range (balancing quantity with quality) should be of the utmost strategic imperatives for your sales leadership team. Once this range is determined you can turn your attention to testing ways to enhance it.

To get your started, here are the 7 most common areas that we’ve identified in our work that lead to material improvements in connect rates and right-lead throughput.

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What it Means to Be Inbound

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Mar 28, 2018 2:00:00 PM

be-inboundI was talking with Meghan Anderson, VP Marketing for HubSpot, about how much has changed (and how much hasn’t) over the last 10+ years since HubSpot brought us the Inbound Marketing Revolution (okay, a little blog hyperbole).

At a recent Inbound conference, Brian Halligan, HubSpot’s CEO, shared what led to the entire idea that became HubSpot. He shared that while their product was designed to enable marketers, the idea didn’t spring from focusing on the problems that marketers had.

Instead, they focused on the problems that the targets of marketers - people - had. In that exploration, they realized that things were fundamentally changing and the buyer was seizing control of their own buyer’s journey and experience. This discovery led to what Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, Brian’s co-founder, called Inbound Marketing.

In the last decade, Inbound Marketing has completed a full lifecycle. Starting as novel curiosity that only a few on the vanguard even knew about (let alone implemented), to hype that everyone talked about. Which then lead to “The Next Big Thing” through must-have status, followed by line extensions (Inbound Sales anyone?), finishing off the cycle with claims like “inbound marketing doesn’t work anymore” and “no forms.”

This fond remembrance of the birth, growth and exploitation led us to talk about what Inbound Marketing means today. My response is what led to this blog post. I replied, “Meghan, you know, to me Inbound was always more to me than inbound marketing or inbound sales were. To me, Inbound was and still is a philosophy.”

Inbound represented - and still represents - a mindset, beliefs and principles far more than any series of tactics or processes. Being Inbound is to acknowledge that the customer controls the game today and businesses need to rise to meet the demands and expectations. While the tactics (and technology) are changing at an increasingly rapid pace, Inbound, The Philosophy is as relevant today as it ever was.

Meghan then challenged me. She asked, “Doug, I love where you’re going with this. But (have you ever noticed there’s always a “but”), if it’s a philosophy how do you define it? How does it have permanence, rather than merely becoming a trite idea like create value?”

This is my answer.

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Topics: Inbound Marketing

5 Keys to The Effective Use of Technology

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Mar 13, 2018 10:00:00 AM

hire-technologyLast week I was talking with Jess, our Director of Operations, about the inordinate impact that technology has had on the sales and marketing function. I told her about my first “CRM.” As a new hire with Alamo Rent-A-Car, I was assigned 624 travel agencies in my territory. A couple days after I started, I got a thick envelope with 104 pages of cards (there were 6 cards per page) printed on a dot matrix printer. I separated my cards, placed them into a file box and went to work.

Sales and marketing technology (or, the growth stack) has moved from being a complement to the work that needs to be done, to being at the core of virtually everything that happens.

The Role of Technology in Sales & Marketing

Consider the following:

  • The average company is spending almost $5,000/sales rep/year on sales technology. (source: Gartner CEB)
  • The Marketing Technology Ecosystem had just 120 names when it started in 2011. Today, there are more than 5,000 technology alternatives (and growing). (source: ChiefMarTec)
  • Investment in sales technology over the last two years tops $10 billion. (source: VentureBeat)

What’s clear is the mushrooming growth and impact of technology in demand generation and sales. Equally clear is that despite all of these investments, users are not seeing the returns they expected.

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Topics: Marketing, Sales, Technology Stack

3 Processes You Must Absolutely Master Now to Grow Revenue

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Mar 9, 2018 12:00:00 PM

While I’ve never been a principal in a manufacturing business, I’ve always envied the predictability, control and ability optimize that’s inherent in modern manufacturing processes. For years I’ve only been able to leave it at envy because conventional wisdom dictates that marketing, lead generation and sales can never operate with such precision.

I’m sure if we went back to the days when some caveman was carving widgets from stone many "thought-leaders" exclaimed that widget making was an art as well, but today we know better.

Today I find myself (and our teams) using modern manufacturing as the metaphor to design customer & revenue acquisition processes. When you view sales and marketing through the lens of manufacturing and supply chains, you’ll quickly see that the best way of looking at it isn’t as one manufacturing process, but instead, multiple processes that take raw materials through numerous assembly lines; with each line creating value and enhancing output.

customer-revenue-acquisition-process

There are significant benefits when sales and marketing organizations view their approaches through this same lens. If you’re focused on accelerating your organization’s growth here are the three “manufacturing,” or acquisition processes you must master:

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Is the Sales Development Process Still a Strong Strategy for Sales Growth?

Posted by Doug Davidoff

Feb 27, 2018 11:00:00 AM

imagine-blog-sales-strategyOver the last decade, the hottest trend for fast-growth sales organizations is the birth and dominant role of sales development teams to accelerate lead generation and the creation of qualified opportunities. Even as recently as five-years ago, sales development was still being adopted by only the most forward-leaning companies. Today, sales development is de rigueur. If you're a company that's committed to serious growth, a sales development function is pretty much table stakes.

In our own way, we've contributed to this reality. In 2015, I spoke at Inbound sharing how sales development was not only a complement to Inbound Marketing, it was necessary to successful execution. Back then (if two and a half years ago can be considered "back then") my topic was controversial with many people arguing against it. Today if I were to present such a topic I'd be lucky if anyone other than a member of my team was present for the session. 

I talk with executives every day about growth. I see how the strategy how gets implemented today. While there is a tremendous amount of content available on sales development (with more coming every day), one question doesn't seem to be asked: is it still a viable strategy?

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Topics: Sales Development, Playbooks, Sales Enablement