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The Demand Creator Blog

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Sisyphus vs. The Flywheel: 5 Tips to Eliminate Friction

sisyphusLast 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.

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20 Tips to Crush 2020

crush-2020Over 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.

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2 Simple Things To Do To Dramatically Increase Your Sales Forecasting Accuracy

sales-forecasting-accuracyQuiz 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. 

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Inbound 2019 - The Insights That We're Still Talking About

Inbound2019This 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.

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What Hansel & Gretel Can Teach Sales & Marketing Executives About Content Strategy

breadcrumbsIn 2010, we made a critical decision at Imagine. We decided that we needed to move beyond our focus on sales and support the entire customer acquisition & success process. This led to the creation of lead generation services, which led to becoming a HubSpot partner, enabling our clients to successfully implement inbound and content marketing.

I don’t often share the (real) reason that we made this shift. I remember the culminating event as if it were yesterday. I was debriefing with one of my sales coaches about the progress with a customer, and let’s just say that the progress wasn’t very good. 

The sales team we were working with wasn’t embracing the approaches we were hired to implement and was struggling overall. In the debrief, I was being informed of the obstacles and objections the sales team were confronting, and further, why those objections meant our approach wouldn’t work.

I have to admit that was one of the most frustrating days of my career. I thought to myself, “Why is this so damn hard for them? I’ve been selling for decades and I’ve never had these problems, and while - yeah, sure I’m good - I’m not so good that I’m immune from common obstacles and objections.

It was in that moment I was struck with a BFO - blinding flash of the obvious. I realized the one element that I’ve always had everywhere I’ve ever sold (or led sales teams) that this team did not have. That element was content. I’d always had content to support my efforts because I’d always created content if the content I wanted wasn’t already there.

I realize this observation from today’s perspective isn’t so enlightening. Today, content is a given. The problem is that as content has proliferated, its impact has decreased (which has further fueled the proliferation of content). A lot of people claim that the reason for this is that quality decreased. While I can’t argue with that observation, I’m certain that’s not the cause.

The cause is that people are doing content wrong.

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The Biggest Difference Between Companies That Sustain Smart Growth & Those That Don't

successful-business-growth-strategyEarlier this week I hosted our latest Sales Genius Network webinar. The webinar focused on how companies can increase sales without increasing the size of the sales team. We’ve been researching the critical few inflection points that lead to successful customer acquisition and success processes and we’ve discovered that the vast majority of salespeople could produce 33% (or more) impact for their organizations, if their organization transformed their go-to-market strategy.

As part of the webinar I focused on what I’ve learned is the crucial difference between companies that succeed consistently and those companies who are just as good, but don’t experience the same level of success. Here's what I shared:

 

 

Video Transcript

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5 Popular Sales Metrics That Destroy Sales Performance

Sales MetricsEditor's Note: This post originally appeared on the HubSpot Sales Blog

In 1997, Billy Beane became the General Manager of the Oakland A’s. The A’s had the lowest payroll in Major League Baseball and in the four full seasons before Beane became GM, the A’s averaged less than 70 wins a season. Beane knew if he was going to build a contending team, he would not be able to do it the traditional way.Beane’s strategy -- as depicted in the 2011 film, “Moneyball” -- has traversed beyond the world of baseball to nearly all sectors of business and has become synonymous with making data-driven decisions.The tenet Beane and the A’s followed enabling them to average more than 93 wins per year for the following eight years had two components:

  • Discard highly valued “vanity” metrics that did not have a significant impact on winning baseball games.

  • Identify different metrics -- preferably those no one else was paying attention to but which had a significant impact on winning baseball games.

If Billy Beane were to take over a sales organization today, he would feel like he’d traveled back by about 20 years.Sales organizations today are dominated by metrics, but they’re rarely data-driven and even take actions counterproductive to the outcomes they desire. This results in higher costs, burnt out reps, high turnover, and frustrated customers.When noted economist Steven Levitt published the book “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything,” he shared the disproportionate impact structural incentives have on the behavior of individuals and their output.Structural incentives are those created by the structure of what’s being done. They are often referred to as the law of unexpected consequences and are generally more powerful than explicitly stated incentives.Structural incentives are also one of the primary causes of difficulty in change management. In sales, the most common structural incentives are the metrics used to assess performance -- whether tied to compensation or not.

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5 Necessary Elements for a Successful Account-Based Marketing Approach

5 Elements of Account Based MarketingOne of my favorite things from 2018 was the opportunity to join Ryan McInerney’s podcast to discuss the pros, cons, and myths surrounding Account-Based Marketing (ABM). Ryan also hosted Sangram Vajre, the founder and CEO of one of the very first ABM applications, Terminus. The conversation was so engaging that one episode quickly turned into two. (You can listen to episode one here and episode two here.)

There’s no question ABM is still hot. The good news is that, as account-based approaches have matured and technology has evolved, the opportunity to implement effective account-based programs is better than it has ever been.

But, realize that merely saying that you’re adopting such an approach does not change anything. If you’re changing your strategy, you must change your behaviors.

In our work with companies implementing or embarking with ABM, we’ve identified five overlooked or weak elements that are often the cause of failure. If you’re considering implementing such an approach, be sure you address these items.

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The Missing Persona That’s Damaging Your Sales & Crushing Your Margins

BuyerPersonaA client of ours, who provides a uniquely designed sales performance improvement program design for a unique niche, was involved in a large, complex sale with a major company in their market. Traditional sales theory would lead to a focus on one of two roles/personas at the company:

  • The executive in charge of sales revenue, or

  • The executive in charge of training.

My client won the sale, and in the debrief we confirmed something very few people would have expected. While the client did a yeoman’s job selling to the typical roles, it was the head of technology (CTO) who was the key player that led the company to not only buy from my company, but to do so without decreasing the scope or paying less than my client proposed. It was also the CTO that prevented the head of training from “checking with outside vendors” to see if they could do the “same thing for less.”

The CTO had no formal role regarding the sales approach or training programs that were implemented by this company. Yet, because of the insights and knowledge that my client developed regarding this company, the CTO was engaged from the beginning. Looking back, it’s likely the smartest decision that was made during the several months of the sales process.

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The Real Buyer's Journey, Part 2: Manufacturing Revenue

Manufacturing Revenue Blog-2Welcome to part two of our series on understanding the real buyer’s journey. In the first session, I shared the findings of our in-depth analysis of how buyers progress through their journey and take actions that lead to buying. In this session I'm focused on the other side of the equation, how sellers can align with buyers to increase the likelihood of generating engagement, entering conversations, and yes, successfully making sales.

The approach I share today is based on decades of direct experience combined with in-depth analysis, interviews, and studies. My promise is that if you take this approach, you'll gain the following five benefits:

  • You'll be able to design and execute strong customer acquisition programs much more easily.

  • You'll gain greater predictability and repeatability in your customer acquisition efforts, and therefore

  • You’ll gain greater scalability.

  • You'll dramatically increase the results from the marketing and sales efforts that you are taking.

  • You'll lower your overall costs for acquisition (CAC) and position yourself for an extraordinarily strong customer success program and your team will be happier and healthier.

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