Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sales Intelligence via Blog Searching

by Sam Richter

Content marketing has, to some degree, taken over search engine optimization as a way for companies to drive traffic to their websites. Write educational articles that provide real value – and that subtly mention the company’s products and services – and others will forward the information to their friends, all with hope that the holy grail of online marketing occurs and that the article goes viral.

Because posting content online is so easy, consumers also write and post articles about products and companies. Sometimes these articles feature positive reviews. More often than not, consumers share their gripes online about a poor-performing product or inept customer support, hoping that an audience of thousands or even millions will convince a company to change its ways.

The vehicle that many companies and people use to post their information online is a blog. Blogs are real-time online Web logs, or “diaries,” on just about any topic imaginable. Content management platforms like WordPress make it easy for anyone to create a blog. Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook make it easy for anyone to distribute their content worldwide.

It’s estimated that there are more than 150 million blogs, some updated infrequently, some adding new content daily. On WordPress alone, more than 400 million people view nearly 20 billion pages each month. To grab attention, blog posts must continually provide value with companies and individuals sharing inside information about future products, new ideas, industry research, and more.

Because you’ll often find information in a blog post that you might not find on a company web site or in traditional media, searching blogs is a great source of sales intelligence and competitive research.

Google used to have a very powerful blog search engine, but in 2014, they discontinued the public service. The good news is YouGotBlogs.com came online in 2015, and it is designed to specifically search blogs and blog posts. In addition, because of its multi-field form, there is less of a need to use complex Boolean logic in your search than you might with a typical search engine.

Type in the name of a company, or even a person, that you’re interested in learning about and there’s a chance you might get lucky and find something valuable. If you get too many results, re-enter your search but this time add more keywords related to what you desire, e.g., marketing, sales, etc. Note that the default “All” tab will show results from across the Web. Click the “Blog Posts” tab to limit your results to blogs and/or blog posts that contain your search terms. Click the “Relevancy” tab to sort by relevancy to your terms, or by post date.

One note of caution: Remember that anybody can write about or comment on anything online, so what you read in a blog might not necessarily be true. Don’t assume the information you read in a blog post is factual. Verify it via other sources and when meeting with a prospect or client, don’t quote blog content as fact; rather, use it to ask better questions.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

In Remembrance of Jerry Tarkanian

by Don Yaeger

The year was 1989.  I had authored my first book about the NCAA and its “justice system.”  The book hadn’t sold many copies, but those who had purchased it expressed hope in its message.  One of the people who liked the book was Jerry Tarkanian, head coach of the University of Nevada Las Vegas men’s basketball team.  He had been through a very long battle with the NCAA—considered then to be the most powerful organization in sports—over allegations that he’d cheated as a head coach.

As was his nature, Tarkanian, the son of a resilient Armenian immigrant, didn’t take the NCAA accusations quietly.  His family had faced many perils—his mother even survived the Armenian genocide—and they taught him always to stand strong against adversity.  Tarkanian’s defiant spirit consistently fascinated me.  At the time, I had only written one book and yet he offered me the opportunity to tell his side of the story.  Truthfully, as a young man with a budding career, I hadn’t earned that opportunity…but he trusted me.

All of us have had someone give us a break and trusted us to do things we haven’t yet proven we could.  Tarkanian was that guy for me.  I had the opportunity last month to sit with him and thank him…words I wished I had said many years ago. I’m saddened today to learn of his death.

Recently, two icons of basketball passed away.  I didn’t know Dean Smith well, but I loved Jerry Tarkanian.  He lived a truly Great life and will be dearly missed.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

In Celebration of a Miracle

by Don Yaeger

It’s hard to believe that 35 years ago today, our U.S. Olympic hockey team—comprised of college players—took on the heavily-favored Soviets in the gold medal match.  It was an event known as “the Miracle on Ice” and would become one of the Greatest sports upsets of all time.

It was an uncertain time.  A nationwide recession gripped the country.  Oil prices and interest rates were high.  U.S. hostages were being held in Iran.  Our country was in need of positivity, and with the defeat of the Soviets, the U.S. team became a much needed symbol of hope and perseverance both at the time and a generation or more later!

I had a chance to get inside how that special team pulled that upset when I worked with goalkeeper Jim Craig, the heart and soul of that team, on our book Gold Medal Strategies: Business Lessons from America’s Miracle Team.  I’ll never forget the leadership and teamwork lessons he shared with me…and I’d like to present those to you.

I’m going to give you a quick excerpt of our book.  Take a moment to examine Craig’s lesson on personal sacrifice, and apply it to your own life.  I hope you find it inspirational!


From page 56 of Gold Medal Strategies: Business Lessons from America’s Miracle Team…

When I preach and teach the notion of personal sacrifice, I am not talking merely about putting in long hours on the practice field and in the office.  It is not just about a willingness to hurt more out on the ice or to get into the classroom early or to study late at the library.  I am talking about a far bigger concept.  I am talking about a constellation of giving, deprivation, and even suffering.  And this sacrifice isn’t just about you; it never can be.  It is also about all the people around you- your family, your friends, and your mentors.  They are all drawn in and sacrifice is demanded from all of them on your path to greatness.

To a man, every player on the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team will tell you that their own individual path to Lake Placid and the podium was one supported along the way by many people- and many people had to give their time, love, and commitment to make a dream happen.

And it starts early.  I remember my youth hockey days.  I launched my career when I was eight years old and in third grade.  Easton had a vibrant youth hockey league, with three levels, maybe 20 teams, and hundreds of kids playing.  Of course, the league didn’t run on its own; it wasn’t on autopilot.  It was supported by scores of parents and other adults who contributed hundreds of hours every season to organize practices and games- and to shuttle my friends and I to and from rinks.  And with so many local towns and cities having their own youth hockey programs- and since there were not  many rinks in the area- ice time was at a premium and you took it when you could get it.  That meant practice happened before school, at five or six in the morning.  So you got up at 4:30 or 5:00 and your parents took shifts driving the kids to one of the rinks, which could be 10 or 15 miles away.  They always stuck around for practice- and then they drove us home.  And then we went to school and they went to work.

Did the uniforms and equipment magically appear? Nope.  Someone had to spring for all that- and the funds were drummed up through parents digging deep, us players canning at local supermarkets, local merchants cutting a check, and adults and kids working together to plan and run fundraisers.

Again, it is a constellation of sacrifice.

When you notch it up and dare to try and work for greatness- and this applies no matter in what field you are going for the gold- then the magnitude of sacrifice demands and requires one to hurt physically and emotionally.  It will also make emotional demands on those who love and care about you.

Remember that.

  The unorthodox pairing of our country's best collegiate hockey players resulted in a true "miracle!"


If you would like to read more about the compelling story and leadership lessons behind the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, you can order Gold Medal Strategies: Business Lessons from America’s Miracle Team from my website!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Your Sales Team – Wise Investment or Money Pit?

by Sam Richter

Check out this great bookHire Right, Higher Profits, about hiring and training sales teams by Lee Salz.
The sales team is the primary revenue source for most businesses. However, this revenue is not without significant cost. If not carefully managed, this revenue source can easily become a money pit. There are five areas business executives should watch to ensure they make wise investments in their sales teams.
Hiring. In most organizations, if a new idea is proposed that costs $25,000 to implement,  blue ribbon panels are commissioned, meetings are held and a decision is ultimately made. After all, the company is considering a significant investment which requires careful consideration.
However, when a company is hiring a salesperson at a salary of $25,000, there isn’t nearly the same level of due diligence performed. Yet, it’s the same $25,000! In essence, the worst mistake a company can make is to hire sales people. Adding headcount to a sales team should be viewed as an investment made in revenue. Recognizing that this is an investment is a critical first step toward driving sales team profitability.
As executives evaluate sales candidates, there is a perception that they can hire great salespeople. Unfortunately, there are no great salespeople. They don’t exist! The issue is the word “great.” Greatness isn’t a standalone quality, but rather an attribute of the relationship between the salesperson and the sales role in your company. Don’t believe it? How many sales people have you hired – great resume, fantastic track record, polished appearance – and they failed in your company?
If you believe that there is an entity called “great salesperson,” you must also agree to one of the two of the following statements:
“When the salesperson arrived at my company, she completely forgot how to sell.”
“Our company is the absolute worst company to sell for in the history of business.”
After all, what other choices could there be if this person is truly a great seller? Companies with highly profitable sales teams don’t search for great salespeople. Their quest is to find the right salespeople with the potential to be great on their sales teams. While this may seem subtle, its impact is not.
This quest begins with a 360-degree analysis of the role to determine the factors that impact investment performance. Once all of those factors are identified, an evaluation program is put in place to contrast candidates with those performance factors. Now, instead of looking across the desk wondering if this candidate is a “great seller,” potential investors (which is what the executive team becomes when adopting this philosophy) are looking for synergy – or lack thereof – between the candidate and the needs of the role.
Onboarding. Many executives believe that – once they’ve hired a salesperson – the hard work is over. And, why shouldn’t they believe that? They’ve just hired a great salesperson! Hand the new salesperson a phone book and send him off to sell.
Highly profitable companies recognize the real work is about to begin when a new salesperson investment is made … for both the new salesperson and the company. This work comes in the form of an onboarding program. Onboarding is commonly seen as completing new-hire paperwork and getting the salesperson’s office ready to go. While administrative work needs to be done, that does nothing to protect the new investment or ensure a healthy return on it.
During the recruiting process, the evaluation program helped the investors make an informed decision prior to extending an offer to the candidate. The new salesperson arrives at the company with potential, but a program is needed to ensure the potential becomes reality – in as little time as possible. After all, every minute that the seller is on the bench, not yet ready to sell for the company, she is merely a cost on the books.
The starting point in the development of a sales onboarding program is the end. In other words, without identifying the program objectives, it’s impossible to create effective onboarding curriculum. The investors need to clearly identify the finish line for the onboarding program based on expectations they have of those new salespeople who successfully complete it. Those expectations are identified in the context of KNOW-DO-USE. If a new salesperson has successfully completed the onboarding program…
What should they KNOW?
KNOW refers to information like product knowledge and territory analysis.
What should they be able to DO?
DO refers to actions like conducting a sales calls or delivering a corporate presentation.
What should they be able to USE?
USE refers to tools or systems like a CRM or order management system.
KNOW-DO-USE provides the framework to identify the desired onboarding outcomes. With that, the onboarding curriculum is designed to lead the new salespeople to this finish line.
How do you know they are meeting expectations? Investors want visibility into the performance of their investments. There should be quizzes, a final exam and simulations to ensure proficiency has been acquired. If the new salesperson does not meet expectations, based on what the investors have documented as their expectations of someone who has successfully completed the onboarding program, there is an opportunity to protect the company by ending the investment early.
Managing. There is an age-old debate on micro versus macro management. Micro-management is often defined as constant, in your face management. Macro-management is aligned with the French “laissez-faire” philosophy of leave them alone. The debate seems to be limited to these two extremes. Yet, top performing companies cast this debate aside and take on a different philosophy.
Hiring and onboarding are seen through the lens of an investment in revenue. Managing the sales team falls in line with the “investment philosophy” as well. Each salesperson on the team represents an investment made on behalf of the company. When investors consider investment opportunities, they look for a sound business plan. This is the same philosophy highly-profitable sales teams have in place to ensure there is a strong return on investment.
The investor team develops a sales business plan template which is structured in a “wizard-format.” The plan is designed so that the investors can get a high level of confidence in the strategy, tactics and measures for each member of the sales team. Once the plan is completed by the salesperson, an investor call is held during which the the salesperson presents the plan for acceptance.
During the call, the investor team asks questions to instill confidence in their investment decision. Once accepted, periodic calls are held to update the investor team on sales business plan implementation progress.
Rather than argue micro-management or macro-management, these companies have a management structure in place that positions them for a high return on their sales team investment. Those sellers that perform well receive additional investment (time, dollars, resources, etc.). Those that don’t, they find their business ventures no longer funded.
Measuring. There is no end to the data associated with sales and it’s easy to get lost in it. Worse yet, it’s common for executives to focus on the wrong data points. Companies that recognize that the sales team is a revenue investment develop their sales metric management system designed to help them analyze performance.
Many start their system with “revenue” identified as their first metric. Yet, revenue is not a metric. It’s a result of the right metrics being delivered upon by the sales team with the right frequency. Companies can’t affect revenue, but they can affect the behaviors that lead to it. The investor team identifies a series of metrics that indicate that the business is on track. There are four criteria for each metric that is to be included in a sales metric management system:
1. Measurable. It is easily quantifiable as opposed to merely gut-feel.
2. Meaningful. The data point indicates something of importance to the business and seller performance.
3. Trainable. If a seller is deficient in this area, training can be provided to improve performance.
4. Goal-oriented. As it is measurable and meaningful, a driver is needed to ensure it is achieved.
With a sales metric management system in place, the investors have the ability to monitor the corporate investment and take swift action.
Compensating. “You’re only as good as your last sale.” This is one of the worst expressions ever uttered as it conflicts with how businesses are measured. Wall Street looks at tomorrow much more than yesterday. And, it is this expression that leads companies to develop flawed sales compensation strategies.
Traditional thought is that sellers are paid an incentive over their salary because they sold something yesterday. Profit-focused companies pay an incentive to get more sales in the future. Their focus is on growing a healthy sales pipeline in addition to winning accounts. When companies pay for yesterday’s news, their performance chart resembles an EKG.
The common starting point when developing a sales compensation plan is to ask:
“How much do we want our sellers to make if they achieve plan?”
While this is an important question, it should not serve as the foundation for the compensation plan. Since paying dollars beyond salary is a further investment made by the company the foundation question to be asked is:
“By paying an incentive (bonus, commission, etc.) to our sellers, 
how will that help us get more of the sales we want in the future?”
The answer to that question helps to guide the development of a sales compensation plan that not only rewards for yesterday’s results, but for a healthy sales pipeline.
Each of these five areas has a major impact in the profitability of your sales team. While it may seem like a large undertaking, the result of transitioning your sales team to a “revenue investment philosophy” is exactly what the corporate bottom-line needs.
Lee B. Salz is a leading sales management strategist specializing in helping companies build scalable, high-performance sales organizations through hiring the right salespeople, effectively onboarding them, and aligning their sales activities with business objectives through process, metrics and compensation. He is the Founder and CEO of Sales ArchitectsBusiness Expert Webinars and The Revenue Accelerator. Lee has authored several books including the just-released Hire Right, Higher Profits.