How Intelligent is Your Sales Leadership System?

This is Kirk. Ready to fire photon torpedos.

Best in class sales models today far more resemble the bridge of the USS Enterprise (dating myself I realize) rather than the boiler room of Glengarry Glen Ross. Although regrettably far too many sales leaders continue trying to do it the Alec Baldwin way. (Just want to see the video, scroll down, have fun…)

Intelligent sales systems deploy as much technology, automation and skills specialization as possible. Laggards keep doing it like they used to because that’s what they learned.

This article is the “what” not the “how” – so here’s what we recommend today’s Sales Leaders should be doing.

Above the Funnel:

  • Data driven market analysis and segmentation
  • Customer and prospect profiling and benchmarking
  • Target and competitor research, active surveillance, trigger event monitoring and social media listening
  • Automated lead management, including website visitor-level tracking, activity based scoring and nurturing

Early Stage Qualification:

  • Sustained nurturing as leads progress through their buying stages
  • Score and behavior based lead promotion to inside sales for qualification
  • Relationship mapping using subscription databases, social network and on-line monitoring and insight
  • Account planning (following standardized process) on targets predicted sales ready by insights, monitoring, trigger event tracking, lead scoring, etc.

Qualified Opportunity Management:

  • Executing sales strategy
  • Continuing listening and surveillance activities on target accounts, key executives and known / likely competition
  • Highly targeted email messages guiding and validating leads through the buying stages (i.e. links to stage-sensitive content sent via marketing automation platform for tracking)
  • Honing your B2B sales strategy based on continued examination of website visitor analytics, social network monitoring, competitive intelligence
  • Sales management dashboard that includes sales benchmarks targets, customized key performance indicators (KPIs), and sales metrics and analytics customized to your sales lifecycle and revenue goals.

These activities should strengthen and improve – rather than replace – appropriate sales executive responsibilities. It should shift where and when the outside sales exec engages, not take them out of the process.

Back on the Enterprise recall the intelligence behind any decision to launch a photon torpedo. Kirk had fully reviewed available data, analysis, implication scenarios and contingency plans before any order to fire was ever made. It was an information-based decision and involved all the intelligence and insight that could be brought to the situation. Your sales system should look and feel much the same as Kirk on that bridge – smart, targeted and well informed.

Want to discuss, compare your process or ask some questions – contact us. We are glad to help.

P.S. You made it this far, reward yourself with this classic speech from Glenngary Glen Ross.

Wanted: Sales Process Fanatics

Ever wonder how it is that some organizations consistently out-perform their peers, in some cases with true domination, for years and years? It occurs across very diverse areas of specialization, from sports to business to entertainment to wine making – certain teams simply do better than the rest and in some cases for a very long time.

What’s the secret sauce? Carefully examine perennially successful groups, be they the New York Yankees, IBM, or the Rolling Stones, and it’s likely you find a single common success factor: they are process fanatics!

A load of talent and some razzle-dazzle plays might win you a big game, it might help you close a mega-deal or put a hit song on the charts. But repeatable success is not possible without a process that recreates, sustains and continuously improves on the winning formula.

The same is true in business functions. Look inside sales organizations that consistently over-achieve and you will find sales process is the key ingredient. It isn’t the archetypal charismatic sales leader, the elephant killer sales rep or even the unbeatable product line. It’s a sales process that consistently produces superior results.

For old school sales bosses this is crazy talk, they say ‘Sales is art, not science‘. Do not believe them!

Jim Dickie of CSO Insights, in their recent publication Sales Management 2.0, makes the following observation. “If we look over the product development side of our business, the mandate to the person running that function is very clear: debug the product! We expect them to do whatever it takes to deliver a high quality offering to the market that has the right features to truly meet our customer’s needs.

Well, the watch-words to the head of sales needs to be equally clear: debug the process! We need to turn how we sell into the same kind of advantage as what we sell. If sales management can step up to that challenge, they can take a leadership role in their market. If they fail to do so, they will be constantly trying to play catch-up to a competitor who has accomplished this.”

If you are Chief Sales Officer for your company make it your 2011 priority to implement a standardized selling process across your organization. If you are the CEO hold your sales leader accountable for it!

Contact ustoday to learn how we can help you get outstanding results from developing a sales strategy for your company.

OnTarget Partners Corporate Profile

Ed Trachier

Ed Trachier, CEO

Iあwas on the telephone last week with a prospect, conducting an introductory and exploratory call, and I received a request for information from him.あ He had been to our website, reviewed our information, had a good understanding about what we do, and liked our approach.あ Very politely, he asked me not to overload him with collateral.あHe wanted something basic that he could share with others within his company…business unit directors that would work directly with us using marketing’s (his) budget.あ

Truthfully, it had been about a year since I had updated our “one-pager”!あ

I noticed immediately how much our business had changed in the recent past.あ We have grown our client base dramatically, and our number of employees.あ We have changed our messaging and solution offerings, to better match the marketplace’s needs.あ We have been awarded recognition as one of Dallas-Fort Worth’s fastest growing companies.あ It was an eye-opening experience to see these changes in print.あ

So, here it is, the complete and updatedあOnTarget Partners Corporate Profile…all in one page:あ

OnTarget Partners Corporate Profile

A special thanks to Adam Linscomb, whoあhelped me create this.あ

Please let me know what you think.あ I hope you like it.あ

Ed can be reached at 214-618-4960, or via email at

Evolving Customer Acquisition for the Social Business – Brian Vellmure

From Brian Vellmure’s blog post: The Changing Face of Marketing

“As the social web evolves and we collectively turn off our ears to unidirectional ads and messaging, the face of marketing continues to evolve. Prospects continually seek to find and pull valuable information and content without wanting to give up much in exchange.How do marketer’s respond?

The new goal is to provide something of value…something so valuable that folks who have never even heard of you or your brand want to share it with their friends. The content that you provide might be a public webcast, podcast, video, white paper, etc. It might be funny, proprietary and valuable research, or something else that will resonate with your target demographic. The idea is to get something interesting and valuable in front of the eyes of some key buyers and influencers within your demographic.” Read the full post…

Marketing Automation Screeching to a Halt?

In late 2010 the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) called on browser makers to add additional privacy features to their software so users can decide how much information to share with sites and advertisers. Just a month later, leading browser developers have been announcing initial steps at doing just that.

On Monday, January 24, 2011, Computerworld reports, “A day after Mozilla said it was exploring a “Do Not Track” feature for Firefox, Google today announced a Chrome add-on that lets users opt out of tracking cookies that monitor their movement and behavior online. Both Google and Mozilla have followed Microsoft, which last month said it would add what it called “Tracking Protection” to Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), its next-generation browser.”

For the many companies that are already running marketing automation – and have likely become very dependent on it’s impact to their Above the Funnel efforts – these browser developments could be a game changer of significant impact. For those strongly considering marketing automation, or possibly in the process of implementing it, this is the kind of news that could bring those efforts to a screeching halt until the industry sorts itself out (with the help from the FTC). That would be a bad move.

Rather than pretending we have insight as to where this goes and how much change it ultimately represents, we recommend companies remain committed to the fundamental enablers of marketing success in today’s B2B environment – meticulous segmenting and prospect targeting, highly relevant content, and targeted and specific messaging. These fundamentals are the real competitive differentiators anyhow – as long as the technology playing field remains a level one for anyone choosing to play the game.

Not playing favorites, but Eloqua has a thoughtful post about this subject titled The Coming Changes to Privacy Legislation; kudos to them for getting in front of the discussion and making it part of their own messaging effort.

Want to share your thoughts on how this impacts demand generation and lead pipelines? Let us hear from you!

Has Anyone Seen My Sales Leads?

Leads, prospects, suspects, targets, contacts. Regardless the label your sales organization applies to the individuals working for your target companies, Sales Leaders need to have quality data for any Above the Funnel demand generation program to be effective. We point this out not because any CSO or CMO will disagree, but rather to alert us all as to how quickly our lead databases are degrading.

Like many of you I just received a cool update from Linkedin informing me that 23% of my contacts changed jobs last year! Assuming that same general percentage of job mobility across all working executives illustrates how much lead data changes.

The implications of those job changes on a demand generation program built on today’s best practices (i.e. automation, segmentation, scoring, nurturing) are significant.

Example: many of the B2B lead management programs we design and manage for 3forward’s Lead Readytm clients include segmentation based on the target rank of the lead’s employer, the industry sector their company serves and the decision level the lead’s title suggests.

Therefore, a CIO, working at an A level prospect account, in a highly targeted industry receives higher scoring, different nurturing messages and faster lead promotion than a manager level lead in B account whose company is outside a targeted sector.

Here’s your two takeaways!

First, maintain a close watch on the quality of your sales lead database. Refresh and update it frequently.

Second, if you have not deployed a demand generation program incorporating the requisite B2B lead creation best practices such as segmentation, automation and scoring, get it going right away.*

We are always interested in different points of view. Have one? Start the discussion!

*”Not implementing a marketing automation solution may be the ultimate career limiting move for today’s marketers. Digital marketing has exploded in scope and complexity making it practically impossible to efficiently and effectively reach your target audience without a fully realized marketing automation infrastructure.”

Marketing Automation Keys to Success, December 22, 2010, Gerald Murray, CMO Advisory Service, IDC

2011 Sales Planning Calendar

Companies that have a defined sales process – and follow it faithfully – outperform those that do not.* January restarts the sales calendar for most companies and presents a great opportunity to (re)establish your own sales management calendar. The basic program we recommend for our clients follows. We hope it helps you fine-tune your own or provides a framework for getting started.

For our clients we typically separate sales management activities into the three categories representative of most B2B sales organizations:

  • Sales Leader Chief Sales Officer / top level sales executive
  • Sales Managers Responsible for sales divisions, units or teams
  • Sales Executives Own an individual quota

Lastly, here is an equally important list of tactical activities critical to a high-performance sales operation. They matter as much as the schedule above and we recommend they become part of your on-going sales management discipline.

  • Market and segment reviews
  • Competitive assessments
  • Target prioritization
  • Proposal / pursuit strategies
  • Win/Loss reviews
  • Lead pipeline reviews (keep that critical eye on the targets above your funnel, not just those that have qualified there way to the pipeline)

Some clichゥs do have value: “Planning Your Work and Working Your Plan” is one that does. Following this kind of sales management calendar keeps everyone focused on the activities known to increase probabilities for success.

Now, open Outlook and start scheduling!

*CSO Insights in a study published in Harvard Business Review a couple years ago, clearly showed that formal process adoption has a direct impact on sales results. Yet still, 52.9% of companies they recently surveyed on level of sales methodology adoption reported random or informal processes. Jim Dickie of CSO Insights calls that challenge number one for sales leadership –”We need to bring more science to the art of sales.”

Sales Management 2.0 by CSO Insights

Sales-Management-2.0-eBook-Volume 3_CSO Insights

“If we look over the product development side of our business, the mandate to the person running that function is very clear: debug the product! We expect them to do whatever it takes to deliver a high quality offering to the market that has the right features to truly meet our customer’s needs.

Well, the watch-words to the head of sales needs to be equally clear: debug the process! We need to turn how we sell into the same kind of advantage as what we sell. If sales management can step up to that challenge, they can take a leadership role in their market. If they fail to do so, they will be constantly trying to play catch-up to a competitor who has accomplished this.” Jim Dickie, Managing Partner at CSO Insights

Aligning Sales and Marketing in Four Easy Steps

Is sales and marketing alignment something you know when you see it, or is it objectively defined, specific and measurable? We recommend the latter of course and have a suggested starting place for companies not yet getting what they want from these two highly interdependent functions.

Is B2B Lead Creation really that complicated?

Leads are the common intersection of marketing and sales. Marketing creates them (and we believe qualifies them up to Sales Ready status) then Sales converts them into qualified pipeline opportunities and ultimately into closed new business.

How do you get there?

First Mutually define a Sales Ready lead
Second Decide how many Sales Ready leads must be created each month
Third Set a shared target % for how many Sales Ready leads convert to qualified pipeline opportunities
Fourth Agree on the target % for how many qualified opportunities close as new wins

Start measuring the effort and begin looking for opportunities to improve your results over time. (How long your lead generation and sales cycles last will suggest how quickly you can begin evaluating results and making modifications.)

When Marketing and Sales share in defining leads and goals then both teams have skin in the game from above the funnel all the way through the sales pipeline. Later, when you tie financial incentives to achieving the goals, everyone will feel mutually committed to the shared success.

Looking for help creating your Sales Ready definitions, target percentages or other aspects of your B2B demand generation program? 3forward has insight, templates and benchmarks we would be glad to share – contact us and we will help you along.

George Washington on Improving Sales Pipeline Management

In 1776, David McCullough’s history of the American Revolution, the Pulitzer Prize winning author several times mentions what he considers one of General George Washington’s most important attributes. “Seeing things as they were, not as he would wish they were, was known to be one of Washington’s most salient strengths.

Finding a Sales Leadership parallel in this statement may seem a stretch to some, yet it’s actually extremely relevant to a chief sales officer’s responsibility. The best CSO’s are keenly aware of the real viability of their sales pipeline, whether they like how it looks or not. They also talk in very transparent, objective, realistic terms about both the total pipeline and specific opportunities whenever reviewing either with anyone else in the organization.

Yes, sales leaders and the sales team overall are expected to be optimists and champions for their deal. However, when opportunities are overly hyped (or downplayed as practiced by professional sandbaggers) it fosters distrust of sales by the rest of the company, and results in misapplied costly support resources, missed revenue projections and possibly other unfortunate outcomes.

Improve how you manage, discuss and present your sales pipeline by following these three best practices:

1. Define sales stages not as one or two word categories, (i.e. “Solution Proposed), but with unambiguous descriptions of specific client actions and selling activities that have occurred. (Download 3forward’s pipeline stages template for an example).

2. Using these new definitions, reclassify your entire pipeline into the appropriate stages. Prepare to see a lot of opportunities fall back to unqualified opportunity, lead status or even drop out completely.

3. Commit to regular, rigorous reviews of the pipeline where open, realistic and objective assessments of each opportunity are required. Pay particular attention to opportunities where sales cycle is approaching twice that of your average win – most of those are yet to be acknowledged losses.

In Washington’s own words, “We must bear up against them, and make the best of mankind as they are, since cannot have them as we wish.

Have a sales lesson from your favorite patriot? Please share it with us!