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Stop Closing & Start Selling

Stop Closing & Start SellingI honestly can’t believe I’m writing about this topic again. There was a period (probably about 3 - 5 years) where I thought selling organizations had finally evolved and understood that closing is an overvalued, overfocused and overhyped part of the sales/buying process.

To be clear, if you think you have a closing problem, then I’m here to affirmatively and conclusively tell you that closing is never the problem (hell, it’s rarely even “a” problem). The problem just manifests itself at that stage of the process. The problem always - ALWAYS! - occurs earlier in the process.

I used to talk and write about this regularly. I shared the need for sales (and marketing) to educate, “peel the onion” to dig deeper and lead the way for prospects (and customers) to learn and understand more about their problems (including those they aren’t even aware of) and how to solve those problems and/or capture opportunities.  

I have to admit that I enjoyed that period where I was able to focus on the more meaningful components of demand generation and sales. It’s a lot more fun (and valuable) when the focus is on what organizations and people should be doing and how to execute successfully than it is to admonish on what shouldn’t be focused.

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7 Ways Sales Managers Kill Sales

7 Ways Sales Managers Kill Sales ProductivityI have tremendous respect and empathy for sales managers. Frankly, I can’t think of a job that is more difficult and complex than managing salespeople. Effective salespeople, by nature, are pretty stubborn in their ways and are always adjusting things based on the specific conversation they’re having at any given time.

I remember when I was in a sales manager’s role, I often felt like I could never win. I was responsible for implementing the strategy and approach that was devised by others (my bosses and their bosses) and required to achieve results through others (the salespeople that reported to me) that I had, at best, only a slight degree of control. Having been a top sales performer, I was always fighting against my natural inclination to just take care of everything myself.

Yet, despite the challenge, sales managers can have great impact. For most organizations, it’s the highest leverage, highest impact position in the organization. For the company, a strong sales manager yields growth and results across multiple performers. For the manager, success at this level opens the door for lucrative opportunities in the future.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there’s nothing quite so good as a strong sales manager and there’s nothing quite so bad as an average or weak one. In my experience, there are seven killer habits that sink managers who would otherwise be strong.

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The Most Important Sales Enablement Question for Your Business

The Most Important Sales Enablement Question for Your BusinessThe 2001 Oakland A’s had a problem. They’d won their division in 2000, but they were losing the league’s most valuable player, Jason Giambi, to the hated New York Yankees. What’s more, the A’s did not have the money or resources that their competitors had.

The front office, led by Billy Beane, had to figure out how they would replace Giambi and maintain the A’s winning ways. This is where he famously turned to his assistant GM, Paul DePodesta to develop a plan of attack.

This, of course, is the story that led to the bestselling book and movie: Moneyball. While DePodesta and Beane have achieved near hero status and as a result, went on to set a record for most consecutive wins (broken by the Cleveland Indians this past season) and repeat as division winner; they also highlighted essential lessons for every business executive.

In 2016, I spoke at Inbound16 to introduce and define the key principles that have come together to become the growing discipline of Sales Enablement. In that session, I defined Sales Enablement as the ongoing effort of aligning and optimizing all facets of an organization’s revenue generation process. It is focused on increasing the efficiency and acceleration of revenue generation tactics.  

I also highlighted that sales enablement isn't anything new. The world of sports and particularly baseball, have been implementing their version of sales enablement for more than a decade. They called it Moneyball.

So, let’s take a step back and think about the critical question that DePodesta was seeking to answer that led to the breakthrough and in turn, led to the book:

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Designing a Better Demo Experience to Shorten the Sales Cycle

DougTwitter.pngI recently was a part of a debate on Twitter with Brian Moseley about the role of salespeople, especially in SaaS. As you can see, Brian was saying the sales rep is dying.

I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve heard about the “death of the salesmen” over the past twenty years, and I’ve come to learn that one should never underestimate the resilience and the relevance of salespeople.

Brian then made an interesting point. He tweeted in response to me, “In SaaS at least, prospects don’t want a “demo” anymore, they want a “free version” with all the features.”

That got me thinking, as I’ve had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing a multitude of demo’s over the last two months as we’ve been spending more time helping our clients navigate the technology they need to support their sales and marketing objectives.

Shortly before I was going to agree with Brian, I realized a flaw in the thinking. Most (like 90%+) demos are bad, disjointed, boring and self-serving. While I would agree that no one wants a bad demo, I disagree that no one wants a demo.

A quick note for those readers not involved in SaaS or not involved in giving demos- you can substitute the word “presentation” for the word “demo” and this post will still play to you.

Demos are still an important, potentially valuable touchpoint and the time has come to revitalize the demo. Here are some keys to making that happen:

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Why We're Changing Our Approach to Serving Clients

Why We're Changing Our Approach to Serving ClientsFor years I’ve come to this blog to write how customers and the world of sales and marketing are changing at rates never before seen. Today I'm excited to share some changes that we're making at Imagine in how we are working with clients.

I've been advising business owners on growth my entire adult life. Figuring out how to grow businesses isn't just my vocation, it's my avocation.

For the first nine years of running Imagine Business Development, friends and associates would tell me that I needed to find a hobby...something that would allow me to break away from the intensity of what I do on a daily basis. I took up brewing beer, coaching baseball, reading fiction books and bird watching (okay the last one is a lie, I never took up bird watching). Finally, I realized that this is my hobby.

I'm lucky. I've had a front-row seat - as a student, practitioner and advisor - to the most dynamic period in business in the past 100+ years. I've worked firsthand with more than 2,000 companies and I can say conclusively that growing a business today is more complicated and challenging than at any time I've seen or studied. On the one hand, organizations have access to more talent, technology and opportunity than ever before. It is these assets and strengths that are also making things as challenging as they are. As Brian Halligan, CEO at HubSpot, shared in his keynote at Inbound17, "It's never been so easy to start a business...and so hard to scale one."

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The 5 Factors that Must be Considered Before Strategy/Tactics are Determined

The 5 Factors that Must be Considered Before Strategy/Tactics are DeterminedIt’s a dangerous time in the world of sales and marketing. There’s so much useful information, insights and data available to growth-oriented executives looking to find the elusive formula for consistent and fast growth.

What makes this time dangerous is the very reason that so much great information exists. More than $10 billion of venture and private equity investments have poured into technologies aimed at supporting growth (source:  VBProfiles). Every one of these companies has a vested interest (literally!) in convincing you that they’ve found the formula... that it’s simple and oh by the way, all you need to do is buy (subscribe?) to our product...and sales growth is yours!

Here is some of what I’m talking about:

  • Drift is telling the world that they should eliminate their forms (here’s my response to that).
  • HubSpot proclaims that no one answers their phones and outbound is dead.
  • SalesLoft teaches that outbound is still the answer.
  • Numerous sales consultants rail against “social selling kool aid purveyors” and remind everybody that cold calling and prospecting is the key to success.

I could go on (and on). It’s enough to drive anyone crazy.*

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[Video] Demand Creator Minute: Assess a Sales Opportunity

b2b-sales-review.jpgFor me, one of the toughest judgments I have to make as a salesperson, manager or growth executive is determining when a sales opportunity is ready to close.  

Push it too early and the likelihood of a sale is not only significantly lower, but the time you spend after the proposal is multiplied...taking valuable time from other pursuits. Wait too long, and you not only waste time, but you may lose the opportunity altogether.

Over the years, I've developed seven go-to questions that when answered clearly, concisely and confidently indicate the opportunity is ripe. The great thing about sales (for some) is that you’re never dealing with a perfect situation and you never have access to all of the knowledge you need.  

Successful sales is a lot like playing poker. A strong process and keen insights, mixed with experience enables you to find the opportune point to take action on the information you do have to maximize your probability of success. The seven questions I share in this video have helped me shorten the time to sale, while ensuring I spend the right amount of time and energy on the right opportunities. Just as importantly, it’s provided me the indication to know when to fold and walk away from the opportunity.

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7 Attributes of an Effective Sales/Marketing Playbook

SalesAndMarketingPlaybook.pngPlaybooks are back! When I first got into professional sales (in the ancient days of DOS), playbooks were a hot topic. Back then, the keys to organization and sales success were in the ability to create better approaches that enabled sales reps to perform at their highest levels. The focus was on training and process, embodied in a playbook.

Somewhere in the mid-late 1990s the focus turned from optimizing and building organizational capabilities, to volume and velocity. As the economy heated up and demand skyrocketed, the focus on playbooks virtually disappeared. At the beginning of this year I was talking with a senior sales executive about our sales enablement services and the focus turned to marketing and sales playbooks. He kind of laughed and commented, "Are playbooks coming back? Really?...Yeah, I don't think we really need a playbook; we have mainly senior reps and they don't need one."

I quickly responded, "The question is not, 'Do we need a playbook?' The fact is that you have one. The real question is do you want a purposeful playbook that guides actions and innovation, or a haphazard one that hides and confuses things?" He quickly got my point.

Today, more than ever, playbooks are crucially important. Both sales and marketing processes have multiplied in complexity, and the successful orchestration of complex interactions, involving all parties involved in the customer acquisition process, is continually increasing in importance for successful outcomes.

There are a variety of playbooks every growth-focused company should have:

  • Lead Generation Playbook
  • Marketing/Inbound Marketing Playbook
  • Lead Management Playbook
  • Sales Development Playbook
  • New Sales Playbook
  • Account Management/Customer Success Playbook

Now, I know what you're thinking. "Doug! Stop the insanity...this is O-V-E-R-K-I-L-L!" I used to think that way too, and I remind you: you already have a playbook for each one of those areas. The question is: do you want it to be purposeful or haphazard?

I'll cover the components of each of those playbooks in a future post. Today, I want to focus on the six commonalities that all effective playbooks possess.

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[INFOGRAPHIC]  The 7 Levels of a Growth Organization

7-levels-of-a-growth-organization-615777-thumbnail.pngEarlier this week I was talking with a fellow business owner about growth, and the difference between those companies that are able to consistently execute against plan to achieve objectives, and those that are always jumping for growth but never really seem to go anywhere.

In the conversation I started talking about a construct I had put together more than five years ago, called The 7 Levels of a Growth Organization.  I shared the model and some of the tools we created to support it, and he almost immediately replied, "Doug, why aren't you still talking about this and sharing it."

Realizing I had no real answer to his question, I decided to share it today.  I'll also be writing more about it in the future again as well.  The model highlights the path to what I call a Demand Creation Monopoly, where customers value you so much that competition becomes irrelevant.  It highlights the stages you have to pass through, give you some insights into the actions you need to take to drive greater results on your sales growth journey.

Click the read more link to see the full sized graphic.

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The Only Metric that Matters if You're Looking for Sales Growth

The Only Metric that Matters if You're Looking for Sales GrowthAnyone who knows me, knows I love data and metrics. One of Imagine's core values is "In God We Trust, Everybody Else Better Bring Data." If you've followed this blog for any length of time, you are well aware that we often write about important metrics that you should be tracking.

As six of our most popular posts on the subject would indicate, we take metrics very, very seriously:

While I look at a lot of metrics when analyzing and tracking the effectiveness of sales and marketing efforts (some would rightfully claim that I look at too many), I've come to firmly believe that, over and above everything else, there is really only one number that matters. Or, to put it more accurately, if this one number isn't strong, no other metrics matter.

Pause for a moment and think about your business. If you could only focus on one metric to guide decisions on growing your business efficiently and effectively, what would it be? Go ahead, think about it...I'll wait.

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