Last Updated Sep 11, 2009 12:43 PM EDT
It will probably be worth your time to check this post periodically throughout the day. For example, readers of my Boston Sales 2.0 Conference post were the first to learn about Dr. Oldroyd's groundbreaking research on the timing of cold calling. (See "What's the Best Time to Cold Call?") That gave them a heads-up on information that could wildly improve sales productivity -- days before anyone else learned about it.
Here are my general remarks. These conferences are spectacularly better than the norm. Not only is the quality of the presentations high (since almost all the presenters are sales professionals), but every presentation has multiple "nuggets" about how sales is changing, as well as practical "how to" stuff on how it's done. Even better, there's also no vendor BS and I haven't heard a single line of biz-blab.
It amazes me that this conference doesn't have thousands of attendees, because it really provides the best picture of the future of sales that I've ever seen. Everything I've learned about sales and sales tech is collected up here -- and presented by people who are in the trenches using it.
Even better, they opened the open bar (is that redundant) BEFORE the final session on "social networking" so
that everyone can get sloshed rather than leave early. That's REAL social networking!
My friend (and role model) Gerhard Gschwandtner, publisher and founder of Selling Power magazine gave a keynote that brilliantly summarized the massive changes that are taking place in the entire culture of selling. He predicted that 2 to 3 million sales people will be out of work because "transactional selling" (i.e. traditional vendor-driving selling) is becoming obsolete. He also predicted that sales activity will become thoroughly wired and the main differentiator in actual markets will be how well companies use sales technology.
Creating a More Productive Sales Pipeline
Description from the program notes: In the Olympic relay, each athlete focuses on his or her segment and a flawless hand-off to the next team member. While only one of those teammates will "bring it home," everyone shares in the win. Creating a winning sales pipeline has many of the same attributes. Levitt will outline the key steps for creating a high-performance sales pipeline and how management can enhance it with a measurement framework. With this framework, every participant in marketing, administration, and sales will understand both his or her role on the team and the effective hand-offs necessary for winning.
- Speaker: Lee Levitt, Program Director, Sales Advisory Service, IDC, ran over his ideas about what needs to change inside most companies to be productive in selling. My main impression was that he was trying to squeeze a day-long presentation into a short format. Still, he did provide some interesting data. Example: 25% of sales reps go to face-to-face meetings totally unprepared, and only 16% turn up well prepared -- based upon a survey of B2B buyers (!!!). Another great factoid: 90% of the materials made by marketing groups never get used by a sales professional. He also made the key point that sales productivity is largely a matter of measuring the ability to DISQUALIFY leads, rather than qualify leads. I made ths point -- and got a lot of flak about from some readers -- in "Get That Prospect Off Your List."
Description from the program notes: Learn how leading companies are generating sales leads and what methods they use to move new prospects through the sales funnel. These best practice presentations review how sales organizations are helping their salespeople connect with more prospects. The panel discussion will revolve around specific strategies to help salespeople pursue better opportunities, cut lead acquisition cost, and cut wasted time chasing unprofitable prospects.
- Panelist: Richard Stokes, CEO, AdGooroo, LLC:They an consulting firm that gathers search engine intelligence, analyze it, and then package up the results so that companies can better target online ads. Their challenge was that they had too many leads because 850,000 companies advertise on the web. However, only about 4-6% are paying more than $5k a month on Google, their "cut-off" point for being a qualified lead. Close rate on these prospects is 30% after a trial usage. AdGooroo used Jigsaw to pull in contact information for the top advertisers (which they know from their research). The combination of the two resulted in 25 qualified leads a week, per rep. They now generate almost all of their leads through marketing rather than through sales activity. Incidentally, guys, AdGooroo is hiring qualified sales reps, so check out their website if you're looking for a cutting edge job in marketing tech.
- Panelist: Dan Demko, President, SBTV.com. His company provide news and information to small business owners and has a user community of owners that share stories, provide mutual support, etc. They needed a sales process that would reach people who wanted to sell to the small business owners, which meant calling on big and small companies, as well as ad agencies. Agency lists weren't very useful nor were business card collections. Google, by contrast, offered too much information. He used a mashup of Hoover's and ACT! to build and manage targeted prospect lists so that his relatively small sales force could make every sales activity count. He used the example of finding out that Ford was about to release a truck targeted at SMB; the information allowed him to develop the account. As a result, Ford came to see them as a good method of reaching an audience on which they had not previously focused.
- Panelist: Dave Fitzgerald, EVP, Brainshark, Inc.": His company helps other companies move from live communications to online communications by putting their presentations online with voice-over. He faced the challenge of increasing sales productivity and increasing marketing campaign effectiveness. They went with InsideView's Salesview to improve their lead generation capability. He cited a success story and then used his product to show a presentation with a voice overview describing how they used InsideView product to make a $120,000 sale. He found the target company with a "find me similar companies" search, checked out the news stories to confirm that they were a prospect, then automatically (with review and duplicate entry avoidance) incorporated the data into their CRM system (Salesforce.com). Overall they increased pipeline 12%, with a 321% ROI in six months on the software investment.
- Panelist: Jeff Koser, Founder, Selling to Zebras, LLC: They're a sales consultancy that used Web 2.0 tools to move from a company with customers in 3 countries to customers in 88 countries. (A "Zebra" is a perfect prospect.) He has a lead scoring method that he claims provides predictability. He pitched his own stuff, mostly, and then explained that his audience was in the mid-range business. He therefore implemented Salesgenie in order to locate detailed information about prospects that otherwise would be hard to get onto the radar screen. By creating a profile of the type of customer they can most easily sell to, they came up with nearly 600 prospects -- with detailed information about all of them -- which is what fueled the quick global expansion. This is made somewhat easier by the fact that their "Zebra" resembles their own firm. Then he went into a pitch of his own product, which was a bit irritating, since these aren't supposed to be vendor presentations.
Description from the program notes: Discover the best practices of sales leaders who openly share how they engage their customers online, by phone, and in person. The presenters will review how their salespeople launch their own marketing campaign, read and responds to a prospect's digital body language, and how their reps leverage business intelligence to engage customers in a more collaborative and productive way to move the sale forward. The panel discussion will highlight how sales and marketing can work synergistically to improve the customer experience.
- Panelist: Elliott Baretz, Director of Business Development, SWC Technology Partners: This is an IT consulting group that serves the midmarket in the midwest territory, usually small projects that last a few weeks. Their challenge is that they need to manage their pipeline to handle lots of small engagements. They use an email engine to invite prospects to webinars, with an inside team who calls and convinces people to attend, then follow up on attendees. They use Microsoft CRM and workflows to move the process forward, using the system to handle many steps (like sending emails), freeing the sales team to get in front of the customer. More importantly, they use ConnectAndSell.com to get through to decision-makers, allowing them to get 8 to 10 connects in an hour. (ConnectAndSell works through voice-mail and email trees and gatekeepers, then hands it over the the sales rep when a decision-maker,) They've increased their pipeline opportunities by 10% and have reduced sales costs because they're highest-value people spend more time in front of customers.
- Panelist:" Jake Freivald, Vice President of Corporate Marketing, Information Builders: The company focuses on business intelligence, analyzing the past, monitoring in real time, and predicting the future. They also integrate information and they work on integrating technology. Their challenge is that both "practices" are direct sales and highly competitive and "big money" (deals over $250,000), and thus they have a "powerful" sales force. They therefore needed to show how the "old way" was failing them, raise awareness of how contacts were contacted (as it were), and having some centralized oversight with decentralized control. They use specialized ad placements to find interested customers, and then use Genius.com to nurture those leads. (Genius allows them to do email marketing and then track the results based upon click-throughs and who opens the email.) Interestingly, the technology, and the information it provides, has been driving a dialog between marketing and sales about how they interact with customers.
- Panelist: Don Gushurst, Director of Global Lead Generation, Molex: Molex makes interconnects and is a $2.6 billion a year high tech company that nobody knows about. Highly innovative with hundreds of thousands of products. They track their website closely to look at the kinds of things that people check out and need to understand how to take those "points of interest" and turn them into revenue growth. They've got SAP for ERP and CRM, but they decided to use "Dow Jones Companies & Executives" -- a database of global business contacts. They're working to take that market intelligence to improve their lead generation process. As a result they focused down their leads to certain kinds of visitors, cross-referenced with names discovered from trade shows. They expect to increase conversion rate of qualified leads to actual customers from 22% to 65%.
- Panelist: Andy Stanis, Executive Director of Sales, SPR Companies: Business and technology consulting business that's been around for 35 years, with three "branded' companies. They had poor adoption rate of Salesforce.com, a limited email database, and poorly-supported marketing events. They decided to use ZoomInfo because they had a lot of email addresses and focused on business information, and the data was fresh, and covered the SMB market. They added 2500 accounts and 3800 contacts into their CRM data in six months, versus 545 accounts and 3300 contacts over the previous three years. That resulted in a richer pipeline and consequently more wins.
Description from the program notes: Learn how HP leverages CRM technology to track and measure sales opportunities to build predictable sales forecasts. Mr. Hooper will also share questioning methods that will help you uncover the real story behind CRM data. You will learn how these questioning methods will help you uncover new business opportunities within your current customer database.
- Speaker: Kevin Hooper, VP, Technology Solutions Group, Hewlett-Packard Company: Described how HP's Commercial group sells to customers who aren't govenment and aren't the Fortune 1000. Their sales force tended to be order takers; he neded to change them into consultative sales models. The goal is to raise the number of $100,000+ deals and move those larger deals into the $250,000+ range. To do this, he implemented Barry Rhein's "selling with curiousity" model, where sales people use playbooks to "empower" young sales reps to sell inside fairly complex environments. They do this also by creating "avatars" that represent the typical players and decision-makers. The biggest change is that marketing is no longer paid for the number of leads that they generated, but instead own 15% of the quota and are compensated on ensuring that the 15% closes, based upon sign-offs from sales. The result was fewer campaigns as marketing started working on things that sales needed. The effort moved the percentage for revenue from $100,000+ deals from 47.3% to 53.4% -- comprising about $130 million of additional sales.
Description from the program notes: Benefit from a best practice presentation that drills into core of sales success: sales performance. Armed with precise data, sales managers will no longer act on hunches, but plan and manage by metrics, and hold their salespeople's feet to the fire, to improve sales performance and effectiveness. An engaging panel discussion following the best practice presentation will review best practice approaches to key sales management metrics, compensation management and reward programs.
- Panelist: Dave Egloff, Commissions Manager, Motorola: He's responsible for the North American Enterprise of mobile solution, around $800 million a year and has a sales group of around 500 people, all compensated in different ways to do different things. His challenge was to get those employees focused on the right type of sales, even as the market was changing. Unfortunately, they had a legacy sales tech and commission system that didn't work well. They worked with Xactly to automate the crediting and paying of commissions, which made it easier to direct sales activities and also increased sales rep satisfaction, due to their now receiving quick knowledge of what they're going to be paid. They did a very detailed ROI study that showed 100% ROI in 13 months, but when they included indirect benefits (like higher sales), the ROI dropped to 6-7 months.
- Panelist: Kevin Hooper, VP, Technology Solutions Group, Hewlett-Packard Company: He just gave his own presentation, so he didn't make any additional remarks. He did give a very strong endorsement of Barry Rhein, which was seconded by Gerhard (who was moderating the panel). During the follow-up Q&A, however, he held forth on the concept of aligning sales and marketing by goaling marketing on a percentage of quota and how that utterly changed the way markteing was performed for his group. Since HP inherited some very bad marketing habits from Compaq and Digital, one can only imagine how some of the marketing people reacted to this concept.
- Panelist: Pelin Wood Thorogood, Managing Partner, Aegean Group: She pointed out that if you don't have good metrics, you're more likely to be damaged by a weak economy because you won't know what to do and what to change in order to win. She believes that companies should create a "culture of measurement" so that all customer-facing organizations get measured. You do this by establishing "key performance indicators" which function as drivers of behavior. (Example: average closure rate for sales, number of pageviews for marketing, etc.) Then create a company scorecard and a plan for driving up those metrics. She then went through an insanely complicated chart showing some stuff she measures. Anyway, despite the chart, she was able to show how marketing spending resulted in additional revenue. When there was a bigger squeeze on the dollars, she knew where to cut back with the minimum of damage.
Description from the program notes: Discover how successful sales organizations continually improve their sales process with the help of innovative Sales 2.0 tools that accelerate the sales pipeline, drive up sales productivity, enhance salespeople's performance and corporate revenues. The panel discussion will review how Sales 2.0 tools will create a new breed of sales professionals that deliver more predictable results with less human effort.
- Panelist: Byron Matthews, Global Sales Leader, Mercer Consulting:His company provides consulting, outsourcing and investment services, mostly in the HR area. They're in 40 different companies and organized into 8 lines of business. Their challenge was figure out a way to cross-sell in order to increase wallet-share, but because their their structure didn't match the way that their customers were structured, reps often found themselves calling on the same people and working at cross-purposes. THey hired Miller Heiman to create a common process and language throughout the various organizations. The "language" part was important because different groups used terminology different ways, causing the overhead of confusion. He said a lot of nice things about Miller Heiman, which has a very full product set, including coaching and e-learning. (Their CEO, Sam Reese, BTW, is one of my favorties guys, and I've quoted him frequently on this blog.) Big emphasis on training management so that they can help with the sales process. Their average win rates have increased 10% even during a down economy. Interesting metric: the "decline to bid rate" which increased, showing that they're pursuing fewer dead ends.
- Panelist: Paul Robert, Director, Professional Development Services, BAI: This is a consulting firm that focuses on the financial services industry. They put on conferences, sell research, and have a training division. Their challenge was to turn the collapse of the sector into an opportunity. They obeserved that financial institution now needed to retrain their face-to-face staff in order to rebuild customer trust. They hired Richardson to build an e-learning system that provides coaching on key elements of how to deal with specific situations while selling financial services. They also added tools and resources to reinforce the learning, like "quick-skills" short books and audio programs that allow sales managers to use sales meeting to reinforces the sales methods. They're working with banks to implement this, with an emphasis on deployment, which involves a lot of hand-holding.
- Panelist: Lee Levitt, Program Director, Sales Advisory Service, IDC: He explained that most top managers don't understand sales and what kind of problems sales reps have. He cited the example of a top sales person who was spending time several hours a week driving demo gear around -- when they could have hired someone who was paid less. He dinged sales training because it's usually ignored after a few days; ongoing coaching is required. He came out with some interesting factoids about sales tech; turns out that the most commonly used sales tool is (wait for it...) Microsoft Excel. During the Q&A, it emerged that he sometimes throws away a booking when a customer would be satisfied by free briefing, simply because it creates a closer customer relationship. Maybe so, but the privilege could be easily abused, especially if the selling company is much smaller than the buying one.
Description from the program notes: Learn how to leverage the power of social networking to increase your sales volume and velocity. These experts will show you practical examples how to use social networking sites so you can make more money off your personal and professional connections.
- Moderator: David Thompson, CEO & Co-Founder, Genius.com, Inc: Pointed out that there's a need for strategy around social networking. Social media presents a problem because it breaks B2B social conventions and creates an outside influence on your brand. However, although you lose control of your brand it creates an opportunity to interact with your customers. He quoted some (IMHO) questionable data about the financial value of social media marketing, and then pointed out that the idea is to use social networking into selling opportunities.
- Panelist: Nigel Edelshain, CEO, Sales 2.0 LLC: Before the session Nigel came up to me and pointed out that he's a frequent commenter on this blog. As a matter of fact, I've run into quite a few Sales Machine readers here, which is great because I seldom get to meet any of your personally. Always a HUGE pleasure. The most interesting part was the idea to use social networking to "warm up" cold calls. He claims that you can change a 100:1 conversion rate to a 12:1 conversion rate by using social networking for lead generation. Needless to say, that would make an investment in social media worthwhile in a financial sense.
- Panelist: Kevin PopoviÄ‡, Founder / Communications Director, Ideahaus: This is a branding firm that works with social media. He pointed out (quite rightly) push marketing isn't working and push strategies are failing. What is working are "pull" strategies like getting people to participate. Most people are using conventional marketing, which assume that "the prospect will listen" which isn't true. Instead, you need to leverage consumer behavior and insights to devleop personalized messaging. He bases customer relationships on conversations, which is easier if you start the conversation where they already are. However, you can't enter the conversation in "sales mode". He points out that the most useful part of Twitter is listening in aggregate to what people are talking about. Also you can use the technology to get to know your customers more closely.
- Panelist: Anneke Seley, CEO, PhoneWorks: She cited some examples of using Twitter. Dell got 1 million followers for a "discounts and refurbishes" tweet-stream, generating some millions of additional revenue. She then showed how a single sales person uses the "what I'm doing" updates in LinkedIn as an outreach platform to share success stories; this generates inquiries about what he's doing from his network. He backs this up with an online presentation in his LinkedIn profile. He's also keep track of customers who leave their current employer, thereby creating a new opportunity. She then showed a company that was augmenting their press release with various social networking tools like Twitter, and links to a free trial offer. She then showed the use of a blog to add additional publicity. She claims that 50% of leads from traditional sources qualified, while 90% of leads from social networking qualified.
- Gerhard Gschwandtner, publisher and founder of Selling Power magazine. He explained how he uses Twitter to send interesting links to his various friends and colleagues. He advises using it as a tool to reach customers, and having a policy to ensure that it be used appropriately. He noted that acceptance of Sales 2.0 tend to be a bit geographical, with the West Coast embracing it most, followed by Chicago, and lagging on the East Coast. He announced the next Sales 2.0 conference would be in San Francisco in early March 2010. More on this later, because I imagine I'll end up going. That's it! On to the open bar.