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The Demand Creator Blog

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5 Actions for Sales and Marketing to Succeed Through Scary Times

succeed-through-scary-timesThings change quickly. Just six weeks ago, the economic conversations focused on the record-high balances of Americans’ 401Ks. While there certainly has been speculation about the possible (inevitable) market downturn/recession, the dominant questions were about how mild such a recession would be and whether it would even meet the technical definition of a recession.

Then in the proverbial blink of an eye, everything we thought we knew changed…radically. In a 24-hour period, America began to get serious about the pandemic that dominates news coverage today. Oil prices plummeted. Gary Cohn, past Director of the National Economic Council, referred to it as, "Where we were last month has nothing to do with where we are now... We are now dealing with an economy where there has been massive demand destruction in the oil market." 

We all entered a new world on Friday, March 13th and it’s important that everyone accepts this. I do not believe for a moment we won’t get through this crisis. I am also confident (as I’ve always been) that better times lie ahead. 

stockdale-paradoxIn times like this, I’m reminded of The Stockdale Paradox. Admiral James Stockdale was a Vietnam War POW for seven years. During this horrific period, Stockdale was repeatedly tortured. He found a way to stay alive by embracing both the grim reality of his situation and healthy optimism.

Stockdale explained: "You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be."

This paradox holds a great lesson on how to achieve success and overcome difficult obstacles. It also flies right in the face of the unbridled optimists and positivity peddlers whose advice pervades nearly every Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook stream today.

Stockdale discussed this paradox with author Jim Collins in the book Good to Great, where he spoke about how the optimists fared:

Collins: Who didn't make it out?

Stockdale: Oh, that's easy. The optimists.

C: The optimists? 

S: The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, 'We're going to be out by Christmas.' And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.

There is good news. Difficult times are your opportunity to stand out and be rewarded for taking strong action and making good decisions. It is in difficult times that good companies separate themselves from their peers and become great.

Difficult times, properly managed, are called defining moments in hindsight. Here are 5 actions to take on the go-to-market side of your business to make this a defining moment for you and your company. By the way, I’ll be sharing more details on this Wednesday in our upcoming webinar. (If you’re reading this after April 8th, you can watch the recording of the webinar.)

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The Art of Letting Go: What Every Salesperson Should Do

Editor's Note: The world of business focuses on the success, the learnings, and the growth they've achieved. Yet, no one talks about the failures, the hardship, or the process that led to the success. Today's blog is written by one of our Sales Development Reps (SDRs), Carolyn Nangle. She shares her personal story of being in sales and what it took for her to turn her failure into success. She shares her perspective on growth, working and making her mark.

letting-goI want to tell you about my best day working at Imagine. My best day at Imagine was the day I almost got fired. It was also the day I was ready to quit. I was so fed up. I was fed up with the work, with my own performance, with my boss, Doug Davidoff. (Some readers may have heard of him.) I was ready to be done at Imagine, and Imagine was ready to be done with me. Doug and I had a heated call that morning, and no one pulled punches. I was told I’d have the night to think things over and we’d meet again at the end of the next day. It was a tense exchange, and didn’t bode well for my future at Imagine. I guess, to give some context, I should back up a little bit.

Before I came to Imagine, I worked in the service industry as a server and a bartender for a decade, so I come from a background of providing exemplary customer service. In that context, the more information you have, the easier it is to provide that high-level service. My favorite bar regular, Roy, used to come in for lunch on weekdays. He had an iced tea, no lemon, and a salad with no tomato. The first time I served Roy, of course, I didn’t know all of this. I simply took the order and brought it out. After a few weekday lunches, however, I realized that Roy was a creature of habit. Soon enough, armed with more information, I was able to have Roy’s tea waiting at the bar when he walked in the door. I was able to give him the best service possible, because I had enough relevant information to do so. 

Suffice to say, I came to Imagine with a lot of experience helping people and a lot of experience being really, really nice--even to the jerks. But I had absolutely zero experience selling anything. I never even tried to upsell people on appetizers. This fact didn’t need to handicap my ability to learn and to sell, but it did. I wore my fear like a cloak made of lead. The fear that everyone would see through me, that they would know immediately that I didn’t know what I was talking about weighed on me constantly. I dragged it into every call I made.

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The D.E.A.L.S. Framework: Unifying Customer Acquisition & Success for Acceleration

Deal-Framework-Header

Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen the proliferation of marketing and customer acquisition “methodologies” multiply, fragment and confuse. One of the reasons for this was the success that HubSpot had with their focus on Inbound Marketing and the methodology they created to define it.

Since that time, it’s become part of the standard SaaS/tech playbook to create a new methodology to frame the product a company is attempting to sell. I’ve even seen some very successful executives and advisors proclaim that if you want to launch a new SaaS product you must create a unique methodology to frame it. 

What’s more, with the promise of each “unique” methodology, the focus moves to what you call things instead of on the objectives and results that should be driving the entire process anyway.

Here are just a few of the loudest:

  • Inbound Marketing
  • Account-Based Marketing
  • Outbound Marketing
  • Conversational Marketing
  • Advertising
  • Legacy Marketing

What makes this so confusing and frustrating is that the proponents of each method describe them with near zealotry. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have said to me, “We don’t want to do Inbound Marketing, we need to do Account-Based Marketing,” or vice versa. (You can substitute in for Conversational or any other option for either of those.)

Someone needs to hit the reset button. We need to stop talking about these approaches as though they are mutually exclusive. I, for one, am a fan of all of them, and while I would rarely use all of these methods within one company, I would also virtually never use only one. As an old manager of mine used to say, “Everything works and nothing works.”

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7 Tips to Having an Effective Remote Work Experience

Editor’s Note: As the world of business continues to evolve at an increasingly rapid pace, one often overlooked area for growth-focused companies is the changing nature of the workforce. Millenials are now entering their prime working years and are increasingly taking on executive positions. Generation Z is quickly becoming a force and the nature of work is changing. To help companies maintain alignment and reduce friction we’re adding to the focus of The Demand Creator Blog. Today’s blog is written by our Marketing Manager, Hannah Rose. She and others will be sharing their perspectives on growth, working and making their mark.

remote-workAbout a year ago, I was in the market for a full-time position right out of college. As exciting as that may sound, I was very stressed about it. You see, I was in a very different situation than most people; I didn’t have a lot of flexibility in terms of what I could do since my husband is in the military and I would be moving every few years. I wanted a marketing position, but I was worried that I wouldn’t be a fit for any job I applied for because I would have to tell them I’d be able to stick around for a little while and then have to pick up and move every couple of years. What good was I to any business with that logic? No one would want me. I had accepted my fate as not having a good job. Then I came across Imagine. Granted I’m not here with Imagine solely because of my need for flexibility; I’m here for a lot more than that. 

Remote work is up-and-coming as a highly searched term for job hunters, no doubt due to the benefits it offers. While I’m a huge fan of remote work, it isn’t easy. It takes a lot to make sure you’re excelling in your own space which is why it isn’t for everyone. It can be super-fun, flexible and exactly what you need, but it can also feel intimidating and lonely at times. It really comes down to what you decide to make out of it. 

Remote work is especially difficult for someone who is just entering the business world. The nature of college creates a structure and nudges (or forces) you into a flow. It’s rare that you don’t know what you need to do next, and when you’re in that position you just reach out to one of your classmates to find out.

If you’re currently in the market for a new job, you might want to consider working remotely. And for those of you who currently are remote workers, I’m sure you’ve struggled with getting adjusted at some point. 

So, if it isn’t as easy as it seems, why would you choose to work remotely?  

Why Choose Remote Work?

For Employees

There are a lot of reasons why you would choose to work remotely. It’s way more flexible because, in most cases, you can set up whatever hours work for you. You can also leave and come back when you need to. The biggest thing is as long as you’re getting your work done, you’re able to have that flexibility to go in early, leave late, etc. This helps if you have kids and need to be on a different schedule, and it helps with traveling because you can take it with you. That’s exactly what I did when I went on trips with my family. I just worked from wherever I was for a few days. So it’s great if you’re a traveler at heart but also want to work. And as a disclaimer, I am by no means saying solely take a remote position for these reasons, but it’s a good option if that’s your lifestyle. 

The other reason you might choose to work remotely is if that’s just how you function best. I’ve had in-office positions where people would go seclude themselves because they couldn’t get anything done if they were around others. Sometimes that environment just doesn’t work for some people and they need to have their own zen place to sit down and crank shit out. And that’s okay!

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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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