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The 3 Jobs Content Must Perform + Your Guide to Giving Your Content A Performance Review

Rain DelayI had the entire client services team together this week for two days. (Check out the awesome picture of the rain delay/postponement we all enjoyed Tuesday night.)

As we worked through the agenda for our get-together I posed a question to each person on the team. Here’s what I asked, “The CEO of one of our clients calls you up directly and asks you, ‘How are we doing with content?’ How do you answer their question?”

We then proceeded to have a conversation that I’m certain is remarkably similar to conversations that take place weekly at growth advisories and agencies like Imagine and within marketing and demand generation teams at most companies. Each person answered the question with a noticeable connection to their area of expertise. There were a lot of “it depends” and a variety of data points like traffic, growth, conversion, bounce rates, time on page, and more.

Like I said, the same conversation that takes place everywhere. The same conversation that has led to the exponential increase in content that has caused a precipitous increase in lead and customer acquisition costs, with little to no impact on outcomes. Many advisors argue, with some legitimacy, that content marketing in general and inbound marketing specifically is no longer worth the cost and effort.

I was not satisfied with these answers. They give no one insight and they end up creating a lot of noise. I’m a big fan of finding the signal and I believe that if you measure something, you best be able to identify that signal and create some scoring mechanism to guide you to where you want to go. So we proceeded with the conversation.

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The Role of Content In An Account-Based Marketing Strategy

content-marketingFew things are as misunderstood as content. In many ways content, and by extension content marketing, experienced a rebirth with the creation and mainstreaming of Inbound Marketing and the growth of marketing automation. As an executive shared with me many years ago, “Don’t spend money on marketing automation if you don’t spend a multiple of that on the content to use with your automation.”

In an Inbound Marketing context, content is a critical linchpin for the dominant Inbound tactic - search engine optimization (SEO). Content, laced with keywords, enabled people to find you. The more (good) content you created the more traffic you gain and the more leads you’d generate (at least that’s what the theory says). In a world where SEO is important, identifying the most important role for content generation and utilization is pretty easy.

In our work with companies that work in more highly defined industries/verticals selling fairly large ACV solutions, we’ve noticed that their approach to content is still being driven by the same guideline and expectations. But, it’s not effective.
Here’s why:

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Creating A High-Impact Outbound Scoreboard

Scoreboard

If you know me at all, you know that I’m a very competitive person (some have said too competitive, and I can’t really argue with them). I love to win and I hate to lose.

One of the great lessons I’ve learned about myself, and found applies to the vast majority of people (even those not as competitive as me), is how important clarity is if you want people to be engaged and motivated. A BIG part of clarity is the ease with which an individual knows whether they’re winning or losing the “game” they’re playing. I’ve often said that a key to someone being happy and engaged in their work is the ability to go home each day knowing whether they won or lost the day, and whether they’re winning the week, the month, the year and so on.

A scoreboard is a necessary element to creating such clarity. If you doubt the importance of “knowing the score,” just watch how the intensity changes when a bunch of kids are playing a game and start keeping score.

A strong scoreboard has five required components to be truly effective: 

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5 Strategies to Reverse Your Sales Productivity Problem

sales-productivityThis post originally appeared on HubSpot's Sales Blog.

For more than 30 years (yikes!), I’ve been directly involved in selling, managing, and leading salespeople, and providing advisory services to sales organizations. There are two trends that have persisted:

  • The increased prominence and investment in sales technology and sales force automation
  • The consistent decrease in sales rep productivity, or the time salespeople actually spend selling

Recent research from The Aberdeen Group and Docurated indicate good salespeople today spend less than a third of their time selling, while increasingly more time is spent managing various administrative tasks surrounding sales and demand generation.

Whether you’re a salesperson, sales executive or other investor or stakeholder in a growing organization, I’m certain I don’t need to tell you the direct and collateral damage done when salespeople aren’t selling.

Before sharing the key to increasing sales productivity, let’s look at the three root causes for the problem sales organizations have dealt with for decades:

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5 Rules to Effective Breakup Emails

breakup-emailsIf you’re in sales, there are two things you can count on:

  • You’re going to rely on email as a core communication tool
  • Prospects are going to go dark on you

It’s a particularly frustrating experience when prospects seemingly disappear. Part of the reason for this is that there’s a bit of a time warp from the perspective of a sales rep vs. a prospect/buyer. I advise people to realize that to a sales rep, every day feels like a week, but to a buyer, every week feels like a day.

Take a situation where a prospect who has promised to respond has “gone dark” for two weeks. To the rep, this feels like they’ve disappeared for almost ten weeks. To the buyer, they feel like they’ve missed their promised date by two days.

While that time warp certainly varies and there’s no science behind it, it illustrates the ambiguity that exists. If a salesperson acts too aggressively or desperately, they could create the very problem they’re worried about avoiding. Wait too long, and the prospect could easily forget about things or have their attention diverted to some new issue. (Time kills all deals.)

I sell as only a part of my overall responsibilities here at Imagine, and I deal with at least one of these situations every week. Full-time sales reps may deal with this every day.

This is where the breakup email comes in.

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What Is Lead Activation

activationAfter a decade of dominance, people are beginning to doubt—seriously doubt—the validity of demand generation. In the last three weeks alone, I’ve had more than eight conversations with prospects who flat-out proclaimed “We’re not interested in demand generation; that’s for low-price consumer commodity products. We sell high-priced, complex [fill in the blank] solutions. We need something more sophisticated.”

Despite the last five years, when lead generation has exploded, revenue and customer acquisition growth has actually declined per dollar invested/spent on growth initiatives, leading to a crisis of confidence for a core component of the modern revenue growth playbook.

What Is Lead Activation

Lead Activation is the process of generating active engagement from buyer personas at companies that meet your ideal client profile, before they’ve reached the point of buying intent. The Lead Activation Process purposefully advances engagement and increases their probability of becoming a high-quality sales opportunity.

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The Critical Role of Intent in Demand Generation, Sales and Marketing

intent-video-splash-screenWe've been doing a lot of research over the last year into a critical part of the buying process that seems to get very little attention in the design and execution of demand generation: sales and marketing efforts. Anyone who has ever been involved in attracting or acquiring new customers knows that buyer intent is an important ingredient in the customer acquisition recipe.

Intent varies by person, by market and/or by what you're selling. There are any number of factors that are going to impact when and where intent occurs, but somewhere along the buyer’s journey, buyer intent hits a critical point. Intent, initially, does not necessarily relate directly to buying from any particular vendor. Buyer intent refers to the decision that some level of action needs to take place. If you think about the last major purchase or even decision that you made, you can quickly and easily identify that point that separates pre-intent actions from post-intent ones.

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New Research from SiriusDecisions is Bad News for Sales Teams - Here’s What to Do About it

bad-news-for-sales-teamsA new research report from SiriusDecisions presents a pretty damning view on the state of sales today. The 2018 Global Chief Sales Officer Study surveyed the heads of sales from 250 companies covering a broad array of business, from small business through large multinational businesses.

Here are some of the key findings:

  • Fewer than 50% of sales reps are hitting quota
  • At 70% of companies, fewer than 70% of sales reps are hitting quota
  • Marketing is contributing less than (a paltry) 25% to revenue
  • Sales cycles are getting longer for 64% of companies, with 27% seeing an increase of more than 30% in just the last year.
  • For the typical company, sales reps spend just 27% of their time on direct activities involved in selling to customer or prospects. Higher-growth companies reported their reps spent 53% more time selling (though I'd point out that’s still only? 41% of their time spent actually selling).

I’ve got to tell you, I had to read the report twice before I believed what I was seeing. The last five years have seen greater investments in customer acquisition and sales than ever before, yet these numbers indicate that nothing has improved.

Of course, I really shouldn’t have been surprised to see these numbers as I’ve got front row seats to this whole thing. While I caution people to be wary in reading too much in surveys, this report is another piece in a growing plethora of evidence that shows that selling organizations have still not made the necessary adjustments in their approaches to sustain and succeed.

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

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

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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