Web 2.0: Driving Greater Sales Effectiveness as Customers Change Their Buying Methodology.

As leaders, we are all aware that customer procurement and buying process are under constant evolution. What are some of the key characteristics of today’s marketplace that we need to consider?

Customer Behaviors: Customers are well-informed and far more knowledgeable. They often know what they want and will find you before you find them. Customers will need to see from sellers a very clear value proposition. Aggressively promoting your product or service will likely turn them away from what your company has to offer.

Key Question:  “How effective are your sales professionals in adjusting to this change?”

Sellers Behaviors: Current up to-date knowledge is critical to a seller’s success. With significant changes in competitor’s effectiveness, emerging new products and services, as well as the discovery of unique applications, it is imperative that members of your team have access to all the most recent information. Given the speed of change and the evolving way we do business, information must be available from anywhere, at any time, as selling never stops in our 24×7 world.

Key Question:  “Are you still in the dark about how leading sales organizations are applying Web 2.0 for knowledge management and distribution?”

Driving Essential Change:  Change is constant…and change presents both an obstacle and an opportunity for companies.

Key Question:  “What is your plan for elevating the knowledge, sales competence and agility of your sales organization?”

If staying on the “leading edge” of sales organizational effectiveness is an essential part of your business strategy, then you should be addressing these key questions.

The Innovative Sales Organization!

On the road to greater business success, leading sales organizations know the value of innovation. Business is ever-changing. Pushed by global forces, technical advancements and evolving customer needs, what your sales organization did yesterday to be successful may no longer be effective. To remain competitive, sales leaders must be able to drive and manage change in innovative ways.

Innovation doesn’t happen in isolation. It comes from collaboration within your organization, with your clients (current and potential), and with outside experts.  In a recent Bloomberg Businessweek article (November 2010), the president of the Center for Creative Leadership, John Ryan describes some key elements required by organizations that want to be more innovative:

  1. Commit time & resources to innovative idea generation in the face of changing market conditions.  If you pull back too far and only focus on short-term objectives, you run the risk of eroding your future. Continuing to invest wisely in your offering, processes and people can benefit your organization greatly over the long-term.
  2. Take intelligent risks and accept failure as feedback for “enhanced innovation”.  Recognize that any new initiative may not experience immediate success. Progressive organizations encourage experimentation and accept failure while learning from their results.
  3. Use both business thinking and creative thinking.  In today’s complex business environment, one way of thinking is not going to lead to success. Synergy is the key. Organizations need to combine different methods and ideas in order to generate “out-of-the-box” offerings and approaches that create greater customer value.
  4. Establish a corporate culture that supports creativity and innovation. Open-minded leaders and sanctioned “continuous improvement” processes are vital to support the flow of new ideas from all levels of the organization. Leadership must provide the vision, feedback as well as reward innovation.

Wisdom on Value Creation for Revenue Growth!

How would you rate the 
“Value Creation Capability”
of your sales & support team?

The concept of “value” is often referred to by corporate Leadership when discussing their market presence, promotional programs as well as the uniqueness of their offering.  But seldom do you hear Executives assessing the significant potential within their business development team to create greater market value.

 Consider these three ‘nuggets of wisdom’ about value:

  1. Value is always…what the customer thinks it is!
  2. Value is “evolutionary” in that it grows and morphs as customer markets change, as their internal processes are altered, as supplier innovation occurs, as new technologies emerge and so on. A customer’s definition and recognition of value is a “slow-moving target”.
  3. Value must first be created for customers before you can ever expect an increased level of business and profitability.

Question: When was the last time you assessed the “value creation capability” of your front-line team? 

Given the above “nuggets”, it makes sense that your business development professionals are highly competent in their consulting ability.  In concert with this, it is important to coach the team, not to promote your product & service offering, but rather on “how” to explore the customer’s business to uncover their “CBIs” (critical business issues).  These issues are usually associated with:

  • The needs and requests of their customers (i.e.: “the customer’s customer”);
  • The customer’s internal processes as well as initiatives to improve them; and
  • Their future issues (i.e.: their strategic plans). 

Each of these topics will most likely “illuminate” new customer-defined value, which almost always defines what is motivating this organization to “act”.  If your offering can address these “CBIs”, your team will be much more likely to capture this business. 

A second conclusion from the “nuggets”, given the evolutionary nature of value, is that never should any established customer’s business be “taken for granted”.  Complacency is a killer!  Your front-line team should periodically be asking questions like:

  • “What new initiatives have you been focusing on?”; or
  • “What changes have occurred with respect to (relevant topic)?”

Systematic questioning like this can not only uncover new value-building opportunities, but also prevent competitive encroachment, and ultimately the loss of valuable business!

Your Goals For 2010: You Become What You Think About

Envision your future“Is your future important to you?” Even though this is a nonsensical question, a huge percentage of individuals will embark on tomorrow without a plan. At Novalliance, our target market is comprised of CEO’s, Senior Sales Executives, and Business Owners. While these individuals spend countless hours on business strategic planning, often they leave many facets of their personal lives to happenstance.

Maybe this is the year to begin applying a planning regimen to all aspects of your life; business and personal!

Whether it be for your Business or Personal life, your Vision & Goals will be easily achieved with the forethought of planning. By planning your Vision, it focuses you to concentrate on the most important things on a day to day basis. Without a plan, we often work on the most urgent task, which is often not the most important task. This is a challenge that even the most focused, and goal driven person will face. Having a plan will allow you to bypass the noise & distractions and keep you “on track” with what matters most.

Start off your business or personal planning by thinking about what is the most realistic outcome you could experience in the coming year. View this as your Vision for the year. Then, break this Vision down into the three goals that need to be achieved in order to reach the Vision. Click here to download our 2010 Vision & Goals Planner worksheet to assist you with this process. The first page is an example of a business vision with goals, and the second page is a template you can use for your planning purposes.

Working with a plan is only the beginning; you must remember to refer back and update the plan on a weekly basis as the year progresses, keep it a living document. It is just like you, it requires attention. Setting goals requires personal leadership and courage. Planning and goal setting bestows you with personal power and confidence. Be specific, be courageous, be committed and persistent and make 2010 your most successful and productive year yet!

If our team at Novalliance can assist you in pursuing your Sales & Business Development goals, please contact us at info@novalliance.com.

What is Your Sales Management Control Focus?

PerformanceEnsuring Alignment of Your Performance Management Methods with Your Business Strategy

When it comes to managing sales performance, two schools of thought persist:

  1. Manage team behavior (inputs) and the results will follow
  2. Manage results (outputs) and allow individuals to determine their own path to reach the desired outcomes

Which type of “control focus” will ensure strategy translation and optimize results? The answer is, “It depends.”

Determining the ideal performance control focus for your team is relative to a number of factors such as your organizational culture, the nature of your offering, your unique “value proposition”, your “competitive positioning”, your market environment and the experience level of your team,

When to Focus on Managing Inputs

Focusing on team and individual behavior is ideal in situations where:

  • You desire to establish a competitive differentiator based on the professionalism and behavior of your front-line team
  • You have a complex offering which requires some degree of compliance to an established process
  • You’re dealing with an inexperienced team
  • Your sales are high-risk, such as insurance or pharmaceuticals

When to Focus on Managing Outputs

Focusing on team and individual results is ideal in situations where:

  • You’re dealing with an experienced team
  • Your offering is straightforward
  • You wish to promote a culture of entrepreneurism
  • There is a high degree of diversity in your market and customers

Share your insights on optimizing performance by commenting below. Are you input or output focused . . .  and why?

Staying Ahead of the Competition with Mobile Learning

Communication on the Go

Communication on the Go

Keeping your business development team and customer support professionals truly productive-meaning skilled, market-aware, confident and motivated-requires constant attention by sales leadership.

So how do you keep the message fresh, frequent and convenient for busy professionals…? Mobile Learning!

With the proliferation of mobile devices, MP3 players and smart phones, not to mention the ubiquitous laptop, we operate with an “always-on” platform that we can connect to at the click of a mouse or button.  Combine that with quick and simple podcast recording, editing and production tools and you have a new, more exciting medium by which to deliver valuable learning on the go.

Practical applications for Mobile Learning with Podcasts

Here are just a handful of ways that you can use podcasts to engage your business development, customer support and front-line teams anywhere, anytime.

  1. Share sales success stories from individuals on the team along with rationale for why they captured the business
  2. Update the team on business lost and share valuable lessons learned
  3. Highlight a field issue or challenge along with applicable sales skills or strategies to overcome it
  4. Broadcast a best practices interview from a specific team member
  5. Introduce new products or services from internal experts (i.e. ideas on product or service applications that enhance value to customers)
  6. Deliver encouraging messages from your leadership team, such as company updates, new strategies, market intelligence, competitor updates or motivational thoughts

novacast-logo-smallRecently, we’ve used our novacastTM production process to help our clients implement mobile learning by

  1. Creating a “salesperson panel discussion” to capture the most valuable insights and skills from a sales workshop. This “live” panel discussion provided the entire sales organization with a brief 10 minute summary of the most important ideas to assist in improving their performance.
  2. Recording an Executive Briefing by phone, where the leader shares best practices and helps to reinforce the use of tools and training previously provided to the front-line team.

Getting Started with Mobile Learning Podcasts

  1. Think about how you can strengthen the existing messages you deliver to the front line team in terms of content, frequency and relevance.  What new information and ideas could you provide to keep them market-aware, confident and motivated?   For maximum impact, keep the messages brief with a narrow focus.
  2. You can get started with a few essential tools, such as a digital recorder and free online editing software. Once you become familiar with these tools, and develop an effective system for creating and using mobile learning, you can increase your frequency and variety.  Keep in mind that 80% of all podcasts are listened to on laptop computers, so your team is already “equipped.”  Mobile learning offers a great opportunity to engage road warriors and motivate telecommuters.

Share your comments: How have you used podcasts to connect with your business development teams and front-line professionals?  What specific ideas do you have for how mobile learning can help your team stay ahead of the competition?

RECESSION SELLING: New Tactics to Create More Opportunities

Sales Conversation

Sales Conversation

Recessions are the ultimate game changer for buyers and sellers alike.  Many of your customers now have to reassess their business objectives, rearrange purchase priorities and be prepared to justify expenditures, while under increased budget scrutiny. Sales and business development teams also face new and different challenges in a recessionary economy. Without proper redirection, they often miss-out or burn-up vital sales opportunities by simply increasing their sales activity without changing their approach or the conversation.

Changing the conversation

According to Scott Santucci of Forrester Research, “Buyers are stratifying their suppliers. [Only] 10% of vendors are value added suppliers.”  Customers are moving away from the non-essential and focusing on their mission-critical initiatives. So where does your company sit in the eyes of your key customers?  Is your sales force part of this conversation? Or are they struggling to be heard? Here are three simple, yet powerful questions that each of your sellers should be applying daily in their conversations with prospects and customers:

  • What new issues are customers facing in this economic climate?
  • What new markets might be available for our customers to tap into?
  • What new sell-through opportunities does this create for our sales team?

Now more than ever, sellers need to be creative, resourceful and agile in order to discover new opportunities and help customers see the critical value of what you’re offering. Tell us how you’ve changed your approach or how you’re helping the sales professionals in your organization approach customers differently.

Will Your Top Seller Make a Good Sales Manager?

Making the leap

For companies looking to optimize their sales performance, it’s not uncommon to promote top sales people to the role of sales manager. But not all top sellers have what it takes to manage.  And what at first seems like a natural leap can quickly become a fatal misstep on an employee’s career path.

Lest we forget the Peter Principle, people often rise to the level of their own incompetence. Few career advancements demonstrate this theory better than the promotion from salesperson to sales manager.

What makes for an effective sales manager?

A recent study, conducted by researchers, Dawn Deeter-Schmelz of Ohio University, Daniel Goebel of Illinois State University and Karen Norman Kennedy of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and published in the Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management offered an insightful look into the key attributes and skills of an effective sales manager.

Researchers interviewed 58 sales representatives and managers and found that both groups believed the following were among the key success factors:

  • Communication and listening skills,
  • Organization and time management skills,
  • Coaching skills, and
  • Ability to motivate.

After 30 years of working “hands-on” with sales managers and sales representatives, three additional success factors stand out for me as critical to the role of sales management:

  1. Hiring is job #1: If a sales person is inadequate from the start, and simply does not have the aptitude and demeanor necessary for success, there is little you can do to change this. In the end, their under-performance will become your underperformance. The same goes for appointments to sales management. Does the candidate have the aptitude necessary to succeed as a leader of people? Choose wisely and your half way to success.
  2. Show the Way: Develop a compelling vision for your sales endeavor and then rally your team around this. This is the essence of real leadership. Keep your vision continuously out in front and align your team to the vision as well as your company’s values.
  3. Innovate: Be a leader in new methodologies and tools. Invest in practical innovation, such as sales process improvements and relevant training. Take advantage of new and emerging sales 2.0 technologies such as wikis; blogs and mobile learning technologies to keep “road warriors” engaged and at the top of their game.

If you are currently in a sales management role, knowing how you measure up can be of significant value.  Use the above information as a self-assessment of your effectiveness.  If you are not a manager, and considering the idea of making the leap yourself, this review can help you understand what skills you’ll need to succeed.

How have you or your sales force fared in making “the leap”? Please share your experiences and insights in our comments section.

Generating Opportunity and Better Performance in Troubled Times

It is safe to say that many sales organizations today are “re-trenching” . . . dig-trenchcutting back and reducing investment in sales to fall in alignment with shrinking markets.  Although wise on the surface, many leaders forget that it is in tough economic periods that present the best time to capture competitor’s customers.  The reason is simple . . . . they are “re-trenching”!! 

Progressive sales organizations are doing just the opposite.  They are focusing on two primary avenues for driving up results while securing greater market share.  These are:

  • Increasing market & customer coverage, and
  • Strengthening the sales effectiveness and resourcefulness of all team members.

By doing this, sales & customer service team members will be more equipped and creative in dealing with all of the negative situations presented as well as be more motivated to perform overall.  As a result, more opportunities will be generated, new business uncovered and targets will be met.  

When it comes to market coverage, revisiting a disciplined territory and time management methodology is very beneficial.  If you have not done this over the past several years, NOW would be a good time to re-think customer and prospect coverage!

As for strengthening sales effectiveness, the most cost-effective avenue in today’s “limited budget climate” is to ramp up your field coaching effort.  From my experience, the majority of sales organizations either have no field coaching program in place, and if they do, it is barely noticeable.  There is simply no better performance improvement initiative than to implement a disciplined field coaching program.  To do this, be sure your program includes:

  • Monthly schedule of who the coach will be travelling with (Be sure to stick with the schedule to show the sales representatives how important this windshield time is.).
  • Follow a systematic call planning and feedback process with each team member that focus on the positive (strengths demonstrated and areas for improvement).
  • Employ documentation meaning that all outings should have a summary of the feedback with improvement action plans.  Ensure that forward momentum in team competence is a way of life.  

By increasing your company’s market coverage, frequency of calls, particularly with well-coached effective field representatives, you will be much more likely to deliver above average results in the coming year.  Please post you comments and ideas to this article by clicking the “comment” hyperlink. 

Harnessing Emerging Web 2.0 Capability to Increase Sales & Customer Service Team Effectiveness & to Accelerate Performance.

harness-web-20Leadership is always on the lookout for new resources and tools to ensure ongoing team motivation as well as to ensure their productivity and competitiveness.  One of the bright spots for this endeavor is Web 2.0, which encompasses tools such as wikis, podcasts, interactive e-learning tools, vodcasts, blogs and social networking.  These tools can be quickly and easily set up on the web, so they are available to your team within a password-protected environment . . . anytime, anyplace.  These Web 2.0 tools truly have a significant potential for progressive leaders to gain a competitive advantage in their industries.  (Trust me . . . most companies will eventually utilize this breakthrough technology . . . the key is “getting the jump on competitors!)  There are so many potential applications for strengthening sales team performance, such as:

  • Streamlining sales training for rookies and veterans,
  • Measuring traction and performance with new sales initiatives,  
  • Increasing the visibility and access to competitive and market information,
  • Improving stakeholder collaboration on major account development initiatives, and
  • Conveying leadership messages quickly to a geographically dispersed organization, just to name a few.

We would like to know what applications you would value in a Web 2.0 suite that would truly give you a market advantage as well as increase sales team motivation, productivity and performance.  Please post your ideas below.