One of the repeated themes at last week’s Ultimate Sales Conference was around measuring sales rep activity metrics. Sales is an unusual position in that the desired results and expectations are so easy to measure: revenue from deals. While measuring a rep based on quota makes sense, it’s also important to measure sales rep activity since it’s a great proxy for deals.
Here are four sales rep activity metrics that every sales manager should measure:
- Calls Logged – The phone is not dead. In fact, selling over the phone and cold calling is extremely effective.
- Meaningful Conversations – Just because calls are being logged it doesn’t mean the sales rep is productive. More importantly, making calls is not enough as reps need to reach people on the other end and have meaningful conversations
- Demos / Appointments Completed – Following the logical progression, meaningful conversations with the right people should turn into demos or appointments, and completed meetings are more important than scheduled meetings.
- Opportunities – Often the last step before signing a deal, an opportunity should be created once some defined criteria are met, typically budget, authority, need, and timeline (BANT).
What gets measured gets done and these four sales rep activities are key to a productive sales team and management visibility into future revenue.
What else? What are your thoughts on these sales rep activity metrics and what are others that you like?
Last Thursday the Atlanta Tech Village hosted the first Ultimate Sales Conference and four great speakers. With 200+ people, there was an excellent turnout and the quality of conversations set the bar high. Here are a few takeaways from each conference speaker:
Derek Grant of Pardot / Salesforce.com
Steve Richards of Vorsight
- Coaching is a critical part of sales management
- Use a headset splitter and listen to sales calls weekly
- Sales prospecting is a science
- Millennials want small promotions ever six months and a career path
Howard Diamond of MobileDay
- Listen, listen, listen – the best sales people are the best listeners
- Enter sales meetings with a goal but adapt during the conversation
- Culture is critical and should be nourished
Allen Nance of WhatCounts
- Embrace sales rep specialization as much as possible
- Recognize the need to go from individual contributor to leader as the company scales
- Sales leaders should not carry a quota while managing a team
- List building gets much more difficult as the team grows due to the need for such large numbers of contacts
- Scaling a sales team is incredibly hard
Special thanks to SalesLoft and Rivalry for putting on the event.
What else? What are some other takeaways from the Ultimate Sales Conference?
Inc. magazine’s latest edition has a great article up titled How to Sell to Humans where the author Jeff Haden interviews HubSpot’s Dharmesh Shah. Here’s one of my favorite passages:
A delighted B2B customer is a long-term customer: He will tell friends and colleagues (boosting your algorithmic brand), and if he leaves his job, he’ll take your business with him. But forget about Customer Lifetime Value. Person Lifetime Value matters most.
Over the years I’ve seen the power of a happy person repeatedly occur in three common use cases:
- Referrals – Word of mouth referrals are the best sales introduction possible, and happy people are most likely to make referrals
- Job Changes – When a happy customer changes jobs, it’s one of the best opportunities to earn a new customer
- Account Cancellations – Even with a seemingly successful account, everything can change when the cheerleader for the product leaves, demonstrating that people drive decisions, not companies
The next time someone brings up customer lifetime value, take it up to an even higher level and think about personal lifetime value.
What else? What are your thoughts on personal lifetime value instead of customer lifetime value?
Continuing with yesterday’s post on Getting the Most out of Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce ’13 Conference, there’s another Salesforce.com topic that I’ve received a number of questions about over the years: the AppExchange Certification process. Salesforce.com takes their marketplace very seriously with a heavy focus on security and value. Most companies go through the process of getting on the AppExchange to have the social proof and marketing of an approved Salesforce.com product as well to gain access to Professional edition customers (without certification, apps can’t access Salesforce.com data unless the Salesforce.com account is Enterprise edition or pays extra for API access).
Here are a few notes on Salesforce.com’s AppExchange certification process:
- Plan on it taking 3-4 months, so if it’s on the horizon, but isn’t immediate, go ahead and start it now
- Run the app through several security testing programs, especially ones for cross-site scripting and SQL injection
- Justify the value of the application and figure where it fits in the Salesforce.com ecosystem as the reviewers reject a number of applications for not adding value
- Know that even with a certified app, there’s often work to be done on the Salesforce.com customer side to make the integration smooth (e.g. the one click installs add a variety of functionality but the Salesforce.com user often has to change other security and permission settings to make things fully functional, so it isn’t as simple as installing an app on an iPhone)
The Salesforce.com AppExchange certification process is more thorough than might be expected for a marketplace of over 1,000 apps. Plan accordingly for it and everything will go smoothly.
What else? What are some other notes on Salesforce.com’s AppExchange certification process?
SalesLoft has a new Prospector product designed to make it easy to build high quality lists of prospects based on results from Google searches (Disclosure: I’m an investor in SalesLoft). As background, one of the biggest challenges for sales people is getting targeted lists of potential prospects that fit the ideal customer profile. There are many data sources out there but the information is often out of date.
The SalesLoft Prospector idea is really straightforward. LinkedIn has the best, most up-to-date information on professionals, and Google caches the public LinkedIn profile pages. So, provide a tool that takes the data from the Google results, puts it in a spreadsheet or CSV for a CRM, and augment it with phone numbers and email addresses via a third-party data sources. The end result is the best semi-automated list building tool on the internet.
SalesLoft Prospect Interface
So, the next time you hear a sales rep complain about the quality of their lists, have them give the SalesLoft Prospector a try.
What else? What are your thoughts on generating lists of potential prospects and the SalesLoft Prospector tool?
Over the past few weeks I’ve received an uptick in requests for advice on building out a sales team. More startups in the community are finding product / market fit or are past product / market fit and are in the process of building a repeatable customer acquisition machine. One of the first things I recommend is to hire a sales assistant to support one of the founders as he or she learns what works, and doesn’t work, first hand. Once the first 50 customers have been acquired, and things are looking good, it’s time to make that first sales hire.
Here are the top five mistakes entrepreneurs make hiring sales people:
- Culture Fit – Never settle on finding team members that fit the core values and culture of the startup. Too often, startups get desperate to fill a position and start relaxing standards. Don’t do it.
- Lack of a Clear Plan – When a sales person starts it should be crystal clear as to what’s expected of them in terms of role, metrics, and quota. The best sales people are self-motivated and want to know expectations.
- Commission Complexity – Whatever the system for compensation, human nature is to game it and optimize for what’s best personally. As an entrepreneur, the best solution is to keep the commission policy incredibly simple and straightforward. If it can’t fit on one sheet of paper in simple bullet point form, it’s too complicated.
- Cap on Commissions – In the fastest growing startups, the top sales people should make more money than the CEO, and that’s a good thing. Never put a cap on commissions as sales people need to stay focused on what they do best — bringing in revenue.
- Unrealistic Expectations – Top sales people shouldn’t be expected to hunt, farm, support, and exceed quota all at the same time. Sales people should be empowered to do one thing and do it exceptionally well. Limit the number of responsibilities and create realistic expectations.
Building a great sales team is one of the most difficult challenges for an entrepreneur. Moving quickly, having a clear plan, and being very hands-on is one of the best ways to do it. Regardless, don’t make these five common sales hire mistakes.
What else? What are your thoughts on the top five most common sales hire mistakes?
Early on in the B2B startup adventure, the majority on an entrepreneur’s time is tasked with finding product / market fit through customer discovery and sales. While cold calling and emailing (see Predictable Revenue) isn’t a high priority on most people’s to do list, it works for getting in front of prospects and gathering information. Because it’s so valuable, entrepreneurs should hire a sales assistant sooner than expected as it helps the entrepreneur make better use of his or her time.
Here are a few reasons why hiring a sales assistant makes sense for an entrepreneur:
- Building lists of companies, names, emails, and phone numbers is time consuming and easily delegated (see the SalesLoft Prospector tools)
- Coordinating meetings, web demos, and conference calls takes more time than people expect (see Schedule Once)
- Staying top-of-mind with personalized, relevant email is a key way to continue dialogue with leads, and a sales assistant can handle most of the heavy lifting
Yes, a sales assistant will cost $15 – $20/hour, but it’s well worth it if the startup can afford it. When budgets and future hires are being discussed, consider a sales assistant.
What else? What are your thoughts on the idea that entrepreneurs should hire a sales assistant sooner than expected?
During the Q & A session of my talk today at Drupal Camp Atlanta, one of the audience members asked the question, “where do you see marketing automation going?” Thinking about it for a second, I answered that I saw several trends on the horizon for marketing automation.
Here are three future trends for marketing automation:
- Benchmarking – With vendors like Pardot signing up a critical mass of customers, there’s an opportunity to benchmark results anonymously across different categories and become the Nielson Ratings of B2B marketers (e.g. for companies of this industry, size, and price point, here’s the average sales cycle, conversion rates, ROI, etc).
- Big Data / Machine Learning – Most lead scoring is done with a very static model of assigning values to certain web pages, forms, activities, etc. such that it doesn’t take into account actual data from previous prospects that turned into customers. Using big data tools and machine learning, marketing automation systems will be able to automatically build scores around a prospect’s propensity to buy that will be much more accurate.
- 3rd Generation Platforms – With Eloqua being a first generation platform and Pardot being a second generation platform, in the next few years a strong 3rd generation platform will emerge that’s simpler and cheaper, just like Mailchimp did to the email marketing space.
So, there you have it: three future trends for marketing automation. Marketing automation as an industry is still only getting started with less than a 10% adoption in the market. These three future trends are the natural evolution of the market and we’ll see them within three years, if not sooner.
What else? What your thoughts and these three ideas and what are some other future trends you see for marketing automation?
I love reading about Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) and sales ideas, so when I saw Peter Levine’s latest post titled SaaS Manifesto: Part Two – It’s Time to Build a Real Sales Team, I jumped right in. After going through the article, one stat really stood out to me:
LinkedIn has a 1,200 person sales team.
Yes, you read that correctly. LinkedIn has well over 1,000 people as part of their sales force — that’s enormous! As an entrepreneur, the standard tendency is to get so focused on the product that the concept of having to invest significant resources into selling doesn’t enter the mind. In reality, even with an amazing business like LinkedIn, and all the valuable services they have, they still have a massive sales team. Occasionally, some startups succeed without a sales team, but 99% of the successful ones have a sales team.
Great technology still requires a sales team.
What else? What are your thoughts on the need for a sales team?
Several months ago I wrote a piece titled HubSpot as the Next Mainstream CRM where I explored the lack of a clear #2 CRM provider in the market and offered that HubSpot might fill that role. Last month HubSpot, at their annual user conference, pushed the message “inbound sales” as the next phase of evolution with their solution.
With yesterday’s post titled User Engagement Tools vs Marketing Automation, Scott Voigt of Homebase.io offered up that these user engagement tools are quickly becoming a viable alternative to a combination CRM and marketing automation system for companies that don’t have an outbound sales team (e.g. no hunters and sales order taking is done in a self-service fashion). Mike Lewis offered up that his company uses Totango as their user engagement tool and that it’s great for managing user retention at scale.
So, looking back at the HubSpot-as-mainstream-CRM idea, the premise was wrong. The market doesn’t need a mainstream CRM as separate from the marketing automation system. Sales and marketing are inextricably tied together, and marketing campaign execution and tracking technologies are so good now, they’re leading the way. The marketing system is more important than the CRM system because it delivers more value in the organization. Marketing is driving sales, and marketing automation systems are a better driver at telling sales people where to spend their time, compared to the static information logged into a CRM.
If an entrepreneur came up to me asking which CRM to use, I’d start talking about marketing systems. A CRM is useful for logging calls and managing opportunity pipeline, but that’s less important than implementing a marketing system. With a marketing system, prospects are tracked, messages triggered, and rules automated.
So, yes, CRM systems do go away as a standalone offering and become part of a joint sales and marketing solution.
What else? What are your thoughts on CRM as a standalone offering?