HBR: What Makes Great Salespeople

Below is a blog post from Harvard Business Review. Do you have the right customer engagement?

What Makes Great Salespeople

What behaviors drive successful salespeople? Last year, research by my people analytics company VoloMetrix identified three things that were highly correlated with top performing reps: More time spent with customers; larger internal networks; and more time spent with managers and senior leadership. These three behaviors persisted regardless of region, territory, or sales role, suggesting that they are foundational ingredients for success.

We came to these conclusions after studying the sales force of a large B2B software company using six quarters of quota attainment data for several thousand employees. We then correlated it against 18 months of VoloMetrix-created people analytics KPIs. Since then, we have had the opportunity to work with several more companies to perform similar and much deeper analyses.

Building off of the earlier findings, we have developed a broader framework for each of the behaviors we idenftified (two of which we combined), plus an additional one:

  1. Customer engagement.This not not only includes overall time spent with customers, but also factors in the number of accounts touched; time spent with each; frequency of interactions; and breadth and depth of relationships built within them.
  2. Internal networks.We’ve found that it’s useful to break internal network characteristics into three sub-categories:
    • General: This includes overall number of relationships within the company; time spent interacting with other colleagues; and influence within the network.
    • Support resources: A set of metrics focused on the relationships reps built with sales support staff, including pre-sales specialists, inside sales reps, and others.
    • Management: A set of metrics concentrated on relationships between reps and their direct managers, as well as broader rep engagement with company leadership.
  3. Energy:This new angle, which is very much related to the previous two, includes a collection of metrics that measure overall time and effort exerted by salespeople.

In total, our new analysis suggests that sales success requires the right engagement model with customers, the right relationships within your own company, and putting in the needed time and energy. These insights may seem intuitive — and in many ways they are — but, according to the data, the details matter. Here’s how our findings play out:

Customer engagement doesn’t just mean spending time with more customers. We’ve stated before that top performers spend up to 33% more time with customers per week which, depending on the company, is typically 2-4 additional hours of time.  It’s clear that time with customers matters. However, through further analysis we’ve found that degree of focus can matter as much or more than total time. For example, in one large B2B technology company, top performers spent 18% more time with customers per week. Yet they interacted with 40% fewer accounts over the course of a quarter allowing them to spend more time with each of those accounts relative to lower performers.

In other words, depth trumps breadth when it comes to accounts — top sellers focused on building deeper relationships with fewer customers rather than casting a wider net of shallower engagement.

Of course, these metrics are not one size-fits-all and the right balance varies by company based on what they are selling (e.g., highly consultative sales processes benefit most from depth whereas more transactional models can benefit from breadth). Regardless, these key metrics relating to time spent with customers and account relationships have emerged both as strong predictors of sales outcomes as well as highly actionable metrics for sales leaders to track, incorporate into territory design and use to help their teams improve performance.

A bigger internal network is generally better, with some nuances in sales support. No matter how we cut the data, top performers have significantly larger networks within their company (30-40% larger, which typically equates to 10-20 more people they interact with regularly), higher centrality (a measure of influence within the network), and spend more time with leadership. When you think about the level of complexity in a large organization, it makes sense that people who find ways to build more relationships get exposed to more ideas from across the business, are able to access expertise quickly when needed, and have more context about what’s happening. All of these things help them to be successful.

But building relationships doesn’t mean attending lots of meetings, especially those with 20 or so attendees. When we measure relationships, it involves both a frequency and an intimacy component. To qualify as a “relationship,” you have to not only interact with someone frequently (at least 2x per month), but that it also has to be in a relatively intimate group (five or fewer people involved in the meeting or email). So to establish a large network, you have to interact with many people, on separate threads, frequently.

This takes a lot of time. The top performers we study typically spend anywhere from 10-15 hours per week interacting with small groups inside their companies. Often sales executives balk at the idea of their reps spending so much time internally instead of out selling, but the data suggests that it is time well spent.

When we work with companies, we help them find ways to minimize large standing meetings and instead create ways to enable broader networks consisting of smaller groups of people. The unfortunate truth is that top performers in most companies are finding ways to build these bigger networks in spite of the processes they work within rather than because of them.

Management relationships are another important aspect of internal networking. Generally speaking, more exposure to senior leadership correlates with successful sales outcomes. That said, we have found a lot of variation in the specific interaction patterns between sellers and front-line managers across regions, product lines, and companies. For example, in some companies we have seen an inverse correlation between front-line manager involvement and seller success, meaning that top sellers spend less time with their direct manager than lower performers do. However, even in these situations, the top sellers spend relatively more time with other members of senior leadership.

Lastly, in complex sales organizations, the relationships between sellers and sales support staff is an area where more relationships is not necessarily better. In fact, in some cases sellers who have more relationships with sales support workers perform worse. This is sometimes the result of inconsistent pairings in which, for example, sellers aren’t able to work with the same pre-sales specialist consistently and instead have to work with a different one each time. This can lead to more relationships, but a weaker team. We’ve also seen that there is a stronger relationship between the time spent with support relationships and the complexity and number of products being sold than there is to actual outcomes. In other words, sellers who are trying to sell a broader portfolio or simply have more complex offerings are more heavily dependent on support resources, regardless of their effectiveness.

Sales is hard work (but you probably knew that already). Consistently, we’ve found that top performers simply put in more time. Their weeks are approximately four hours longer, with up to 40% more time spent outside of normal working hours compared to their lower-performing counterparts. But the answer isn’t saying that everyone should just work harder; even low performers work an average of 50 hours per week.

The implication, instead, is that every hour is precious. So echoing some of the findings above, here are some changes that could be made at the company level:

  • If salespeople have 15 hours available to spend with customers in a week, focusing that time on five accounts at three hours each rather than 15 accounts at one hour each is likely to lead to better outcomes
  • To facilitate the growth of internal networks, start with onboarding programs. New hires should meet and interact with a large and diverse set of colleagues, and can be supported through collaboration tools, trainings, coaching, and other mechanisms.
  • Create a model where sellers have access to consistent support resources and staff. Having to start over with a different specialist in each account adds lots of overhead and reduces outcomes.
  • Know that every additional product line in a seller’s bag comes at the cost of requiring them to build more expertise and more internal relationships to have a shot at being successful. While offering a broad portfolio can provide a powerful value prop to customers in some situations, the implication on sellers needs to be carefully thought through.
  • The right approach varies by company, and these things can and do change over time; companies that gather objective data on a regular basis to inform decision making have a massive competitive advantage over those that rely only on anecdotes and gut feel. Organizations we work with, for example, receive automated weekly updates on all of these metrics aggregated by team without any manual data gathering.

Lastly, a note on causality. All of the above metrics are highly correlated with sales success, but we haven’t yet accumulated enough data to have confidence on which of these metrics are truly causal. So while it is true that top sellers spend more time with customers, it is not necessarily true that an underperformer would suddenly become more successful simply by spending more time with customers.

That said, rigorously proven causality is not a prerequisite for learning from these insights. Quite a few companies are enjoying immense value in the predictive power of these metrics, which typically account for up to 70% of the variance in sales outcomes quarter by quarter And having access to objective, up-to-date data on what behaviors works and don’t work within a specific sales organization is a powerful compliment to existing management tools and allows leaders to set their teams up for success.


Forrester: B2B Customer Experience Is Grounded In Collaborative Relationships

TJ Keitt wrote a blog post on Forrester. Do you have a strong customer base to effectively collaborate with your customers?

B2B Customer Experience Is Grounded In Collaborative Relationships

Posted by TJ Keitt on April 10, 2015

On a recent podcast with my colleagues Deanna Laufer and Sam Stern, I was asked about the difference between business-to-consumer () and business-to-business () customer experience (). My answer is what I believe is the problem that vexes professionals trying to establish programs in firms: In a given account there isn’t one “customer”; there are many stakeholders whose interactions with the firm must help them be successful in their work. This puts stress on the organization — how do you coordinate these many experiences to ensure each of these stakeholders gets the value they seek from the firm?

In my report Customer Collaboration Powers Customer Experience, I propose the path to solving this problem starts with professionals embracing the concept of customer collaboration. We define this as the reciprocal exchange of valuable insights and information between a vendor and its client stakeholders. Done correctly, this is a continuous set of interactions that happens throughout the account’s life, as the picture below illustrates.

Forrester B2B

Now some of you may be saying to yourselves that your business is purely transactional and your clients aren’t seeking this type of relationship. I would argue that those transactions won’t be satisfactory for your clients if you don’t develop relationships that help you tune them. For example, CDW revamped its customer feedback surveys, ensuring that more clients had the opportunity to give their perspective on their interactions with the value-added reseller. In so doing, they were able to gather leads for potential upsells or cross-sales. Others of you may argue that your customer bases are too large or too disintermediated by partners to do this consistently. Here I would argue that this is where a strong CX ecosystem can help you effectively collaborate with your customers.

In the report, we state that there are two ways to effect collaborative relationships:

  1. Facilitate collaboration between customers and partners.
  2. Participate in a collaborative network with partners and customers.

In the former condition, B2B CX organizations create environments that allow for customers to help each other or for partners to provide those valuable insights. For example, Rackspace Support Network — an online community the company operates — provides a venue for over 5,000 enterprise technologists to discuss amongst themselves issues with Rackspace’s technology, as well as helping each other find solutions. The result? A 50% reduction in over-the-phone support calls, as well as substantial reductions in trouble-ticket submissions and online chat sessions.

In the latter scenario, B2B CX organizations carefully select high-value customers and partners to work with directly. For example, file synchronization and sharing service provider Box’s customer success organization rolls out new features and functions to those accounts that have agreed to help the cloud services provider test, iterate on and verify the efficacy of these new capabilities.

In either case, a company will only be successful if they’ve built a network of partners and customers who trust the company enough and feel there is enough value for them to share insights with the company or each other. The question now, though, is how B2B CX pros help their organizations decide when to simply facilitate collaboration and when to participate in the collaborative network. And this leads to the next logical area of investigation in our B2B CX research: Who is the “customer” B2B CX organizations must focus on?

B2B CX organizations must understand which stakeholders in their accounts carry the most influence over the ultimate disposition of the account (i.e. whether the client renews at a higher, similar or lower level) and at which stage of the account’s lifecycle they play the biggest role. Our work here will help CX pros understand how to:

  1. Identify the consequential parts of the account lifecycle
  2. Find the key influencers (visible and hidden) at each point in that lifecycle
  3. Build a CX organization to address the needs of these key people
  4. Work with the CX ecosystem to care for the rest of the stakeholders

If you would like to participate in this next iteration of this research, feel free to reach out to me. And if you have thoughts you’d like to share about customer collaboration, please share them in the comments section below.

P501: The Art of Pinging

I attended The National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association (NLBMDA) Spring Meeting & Legislative Conference last week. I had a wonderful time at the conference. Below is a blog post from Productivity501. This post will help me to keep in contact with everyone I met at the conference. Evernote is also a good way to keep track of your contacts and their interests.

The Art of Pinging
networking group

In this article we are going to talk about networking. Specifically, we want to look at how to “ping” people. I believe the term “ping” comes from the excellent book Never Eat Alone. A ping is defined as a small action that keeps the relationship with someone in your network alive. First let’s talk about the benefits of pinging your network of contacts, then we’ll look at how to actually do it.

Benefits of Pinging

Our brains organize information in a very efficient way. Imagine that our memories are a bunch of envelopes in a pile. The size of the envelope corresponds to the emotion associated with that memory. So you can easily retrieve the memory of your first kiss no matter how long it has been since you last thought about it because it is in a very large envelope. On the other hand, you may not be able to remember your college dorm room number after a decade because it is in a much smaller envelope.

Every time a memory is accessed, that envelope gets put on the top of the pile. It isn’t too hard to remember your departing gate number for 15 minutes after looking it up on the screen in the airport, but you may have a very difficult time remembering your parking space number after returning from a two-week trip. (There is an organization system like this called the Noguchi filing system.)

When it comes to your network of contacts, you want your name to be easy to remember. Since it is easiest to remember things that are emotional or recent, you have two options to make your name memorable. Saving someone’s life is going to be a very emotional experience, but obviously it isn’t very practical to try to save the life or have your life saved by everyone in your address book. There are other ways of creating emotional experiences, but they either don’t scale, have inappropriate side effects, have significant risk, or will make you well remembered, but not in a positive way.

That leaves us with trying to be memorable by being recent. So how do we do this?

How to Ping

You “ping” people by making some type of contact with them. It doesn’t necessarily mean having a four hour conversation–just a brief “how are you doing” or “I was thinking about you today.” It can be as simple as sending them a text message saying “happy birthday” or calling them up when you have a layover in their city just to say you were in town for 15 minutes, thought about them and wanted to know how they were doing.

Here are some tips for pinging your contacts:

  • Send a newspaper/magazine clipping on topics they find interesting with a handwritten note.
  • Call them up on their birthday and sing happy birthday to them.
  • Send them a text message when their favorite team wins or loses.
  • Send birthday cards.
  • Leave them a voice mail with a bit of info you learned that they might be interested in knowing.
  • Occasionally send an email with a link to something they would find useful.
  • If they blog, leave a message on their website.
  • Write a recommendation for them on Linked In.
  • Comment on their posts on G+, Twitter, Facebook or wherever they interact online.
  • Send them something through the mail. It could be a matchbox version of a car you know they want/have/had or a photograph of their hometown.

If you look back through that list, you’ll notice that the recurring theme is to do something that shows you know who they are and what they like. You are trying to do simple things that show you know their birthday, know their interests, read their blog, etc. Pinging is a matter of doing those little things that say “you are important.” Obviously you don’t want to be annoying, but making a conscious effort to ping all of your contacts 3 to 10 times a year can go a long ways toward making sure that you stay in people’s memory and keep your marketability high.

Sixth Anniversary

This year has been a wonderful year for my blogs. Below are my top ten views for the year.

  1. Using Customer Journey Maps to Improve Customer Experience
  2. Thank you for your business – we really appreciate it
  3. Very Funny Team Building Cartoon
  4. Cool GTD tip for tracking Waiting For items in Outlook
  5. The Great Depression Part 34. Tracking housing values from 1940 to 2011
  6. Using Evernote as a Customer Relationship Management(CRM) Tool
  7. Checklist Manifesto
  8. How to Deal with Rude People – 5 Lessons for Leaders and Others
  9. Do I Have an Opportunity to Do What I Do Best Every Day?
  10. TMN: 10 Wrong Ways Your Company Is Measuring Productivity

Thank you for your support over the past year.

Fifth Anniversary

This year has been challenging for my blogs. I had over 9,000 new visitors. Below are my top posts for the year.

  1. Thank you for your business – we really appreciate it
  2. North American lumber prices forecast to soar in 2013 and reach record highs in 2014
  3. The Great Depression Part 34. Tracking housing values from 1940 to 2011
  4. Using Evernote as a Customer Relationship Management(CRM) Tool
  5. Very Funny Team Building Cartoon
  6. Using Customer Journey Maps to Improve Customer Experience
  7. Checklist Manifesto
  8. Mind Manager
  9. The Power of Habit
  10. How to Deal with Rude People – 5 Lessons for Leaders and Others

Thank you for your support over the past year.

Fourth Anniversary

This has been an awesome year for my blogs. I had over 550 posts this year and over 15,000 new visitors. Below are my top posts for this year.my-thank-you-cards

  1. Using Evernote as a Customer Relationship Management(CRM) Tool (Second Year)
  2. How to Deal with Rude People – 5 Lessons for Leaders and Others
  3. The Great Depression Part 34. Tracking housing values from 1940 to 2011.
  4. The Role of the iPad in Construction Consulting, Green Building and Forensic Investigations(Second Year)
  5. Using Customer Journey Maps to Improve Customer Experience (Second Year)
  6. Mind Manager
  7. Checklist Manifesto (Third Year)
  8. The Power of Habit
  9. Thank you for your business – we really appreciate it
  10. Lignin — Wood Science
  11. Very Funny Team Building Cartoon (Second Year)
  12. 2012 Predictions for Timber Industry
  13. Great Designs in Wood
  14. Three Myths about What Customers Want

Thank you for your support over the past year.

Smart Customers Abandon Stupid Companies

Below is a post about a new book that was released a couple of weeks ago. Is your company nimble and responsive to smart customers?

Smart Customers Abandon Stupid Companies

By Michael Hinshaw

Take a critical look in the mirror, and answer this simple question: Does your company behave stupidly?

The harsh truth is, customers use the word “stupid” all the time when they talk about their experiences dealing with the companies that serve them.

Customers think companies are behaving stupidly when they require customers to make purchases, reach technical support, or ask a question about their orders during “normal business hours.” Or when they are forced to navigate opaque IVR systems only to wait for the “next available representative.” Or when they have to repeat the most basic information: name, account number, password, and more every time they transact on the Web, over the phone, and in-person.

Fortunately for customers, they are getting “smarter”–digital innovation and always-on connectivity mean they are increasingly empowered to take control of their commercial relationships in ways that should terrify CMOs and other executives.

Put another way, it’s time to prepare for the age of the “smart customer”–because massive disruption is coming to your industry, if it hasn’t already.

Digital innovation means smart customers can see, learn about, or purchase almost anything, anytime, from anywhere. They research, connect, and purchase online with laptops, tablets, and smartphones without a second thought. They have the power to behave in a far smarter and better-informed manner than ever before.

The scope of intelligence handed to your customers is unprecedented. With this comes radically higher customer expectations. Higher expectations of experience. Greater demands for personalization and customization. Lower tolerance for mistakes, inane hoops, or interactions that require mindless repetition.

The world has changed dramatically, but many companies have not.

The rise of smart customers is already undercutting loyalty: People download price-comparison apps to find the lowest price. It threatens to dissolve–perhaps in months–the advantages your business may have gained over years of investing millions in bricks-and-mortar (think Borders and Best Buy), as these same customers shop online and buy from a lower-priced competitor while standing in your store.

In short, smart customers abandon companies that they believe behave stupidly. This is the challenge your company needs to confront.

In SMART CUSTOMERS, STUPID COMPANIES: Why Only Intelligent Companies Will Thrive, and How to Be One of Them,Bruce Kasanoff and I explain the disruptive forces fundamentally reshaping customer experience. We’ve focused on the four forces most responsible for changing the basic ground rules of business competition and making it impossible for firms to survive with outdated strategies:

1. Social influence inserts other people and their opinions between a company and its customers, radically disrupting traditional notions of “customer relationship management.”

2. Pervasive memory is the data that accumulate in huge volumes as we interact through digital devices. It delivers competitive advantages only to firms who leverage this data to benefit customers.

3. Digital sensors are the trillions of devices that see, hear, and feel what is happening in our world. Smart companies must have smart products, and sensors are what make products smart.

4. The physical Web is what’s emerging, allowing us to browse, bookmark, tag, and manipulate the real world much as we do on the Web.

Together, these forces bring customers more choices, better information, and stunning new services. Put another way, they’ll continue to make your customers even smarter.

Whether you thrive in the face of these forces depends in large part on your company’s ability to act smart. The thing is, the very forces making your customer smarter can make your company smarter, too. An understanding of these forces and their implications creates countless opportunities for the kind of innovation that reshapes industries, propelling companies to the top of their markets (and others). Think Apple and music, Amazon and books, Google and Facebook and advertising.

Your company needs to assess opportunity and react intelligently and confidently to the fast-paced, continually evolving complexity of smart customers, disruptive technologies, and potentially infinite touchpoints. To do so, we suggest your company act SMART. It’s an ongoing system of capabilities comprised of the following five steps:

1. Segment your customers by needs and value because understanding them at a granular level is key to serving them, and to making a profit while doing so.

2. Modularize your processes and capabilities to increase your flexibility and responsiveness, and to boost your ability to customize experiences, products, and services.

3. Anticipate the needs of your customers by understanding the data that increasingly surrounds them.

4. Reward your employees for finding ways that profit both your customers and your company–and empower them with the tools to do so.

5. Transform your touchpoints to better meet customer needs, and make them smart enough to do so even more effectively.

Taken together, these steps will help you create a nimble and responsive organization–an organization designed around customer needs, as well as one that remains in ongoing, close contact with individual customers to deliver differentiated, highly relevant experiences, and driving significant value as a result.

Be smart enough to learn what your customers really need (and give it to them).

The disruptive forces we describe are raising customer expectations to an extent that should sound the alarm within established firms. That’s because only the most flexible, responsive, and intelligent companies will be able to profit from these radically greater expectations of customer experience.

Companies that react slowly or tentatively will be increasingly marginalized, until finally, they’ll wither away. It may take five, 10, or even 15 years, but eventually the companies that can’t give customers exactly what they want–when and how they want it–will be smothered by the competition and growing demands of their ever-smarter customers.

This book was written to make sure you’re not one of them.

Read more: http://digitaljournal.com/blog/16797#ixzz1xKNs6rlp