Leading your team through change

by: Adrian O'Gara

Why Change?

If change is the only constant, then why do we resist it and continue to fail?

Here's the short answer:

"Over 70 percent of change programs fail—largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support. When people are truly invested, change is 30 percent more likely to stick."
— McKinsey (and many similar studies)

There are lots of reasons why people resist change—one of the more obvious—we are creatures of habit. A deeper explanation would uncover our need for survival, belonging and self-esteem. And these same needs, when met, can lead to people truly investing in change. It becomes difficult to invest in something, however, when many around you are resisting the change.

For example, people may not support a change program that is forced upon them from senior leadership. Or there is a lack of support to manage the resistance coming from their team. If your people have a ‘grey’ or closed attitude to change then you are more likely to fail. So how do you create a ‘green’ or open attitude to change in yourself, your team and your organization?

How To Lead Change?

Here are my top three ways to lead change:

  • Bring teams together around a common purpose—including a set of goals, values, or vision
  • Keep everyone engaged and informed during periods of change
  • Improve collaboration within and across teams—to breakdown silos and create interdependence

This is easier said than done, so here are my five steps to achieve the above.

1. Notice Your Response To Change

It has to start with you, your mindset and attitude to change and your conscious awareness to what is going on within and around you. You may be worried about the change. Notice it and own it. Feel free to share this with others in a constructive way. Are you going to be closed or open to the change.  Which of the following ways would you say or want to hear from others?

Option One:

"Each year management comes up with a new initiative. Why would this year be any different? As usual, hardly anybody really understands what it’s all about. And whenever we face a real problem with a customer, management is far away.”

Option Two:

“Management regularly creates new initiatives. When they announced this year’s strategy, I made sure to ask my manager all relevant questions. Getting my team involved wasn’t that difficult once I understood the big picture.”

I hope you say and hear option two more than one.  Either way, it's a shift from a closed mindset to an open mindset.

“If you want to change, you have to change twice. You not only need to change the reality of your situation, you also need to change your perception of this reality.”
— Luc de Brabandere, Fellow & Senior Advisor, The Boston Consulting Group

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2. Authentic Dialogue

One of the biggest challenges with change is a lack of open and authentic dialogue. Lack of communication leads to the whispers in the corridors. Leaders who increase their self-awareness and interpersonal skills can enable their team to do the same. Increasing emotional fluency with open and constructive dialogue. Start by providing a safe environment where leaders and teams can explore and openly discuss their thoughts and feelings with regards to a workplace issue or new initiative. This can greatly reduce resistance to change. It also allows people to consider alternative scenarios for success—previously obscured by ill-informed assumptions—like fear, personal rivalries, or organizational roadblocks. So focus on improving your listening skills and emotional fluency.

“By paying attention to feelings and needs, authentic communication helps cultivate the sense that ‘I matter, you matter, we matter’, which can improve relationships, build team spirit and contribute to the growth of the organization.”
— Martha Lasley, Founding partner at Leadership that Works

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3. Conscious Leadership

Identify stress-induced autopilot reactions, in yourself and others, and move beyond being simply guided (and limited) by your unconscious motives, assumptions and beliefs. You are then able to take objective, conscious and constructive action, leading to significant benefits for both yourself, your team and your organization. This leads to an increase in self-awareness and developing a clearer sense of purpose to lead your team.

Focus on the building blocks of human interaction that connect us all: emotions, reactions and behaviors. Encouraging an understanding of these behaviors, provide insights into how to change them, and explore the effect this can have in the workplace. Equip yourself with tools to understand the intrinsic motivation of yourself and your people, and offers your colleagues insights into how their own communication style and interactions with other people can contribute to a common sense of purpose. This will remove communication obstacles so everyone can work more effectively.

“Too often...we remain stuck in old patterns of seeing and acting. By encouraging deeper levels of learning, we create an awareness of the larger whole, leading to actions that can help to shape its evolution and our future.”
— Peter Senge, Director of the Center for Organizational Learning, MIT Sloan School of Management

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4. Courageous Conversations 

I believe that the benefits of authentic communication can best be achieved by infusing an environment of trust throughout an organization. This is not something that is best achieved through theoretical discussion or role-playing. I wouldn’t suggest it be ordained or imposed by top management. At best, it’s lived and practiced by both leaders and their teams. It’s particularly vital for geographically dispersed or virtual teams where the lack of face-to-face interaction can make it difficult to feel engaged.

Everyone can feel empowered and free to engage in courageous conversations with their peers and leaders in order to address the fundamental and underlying issues in any given situation. Then amazing things happen.

“As I define it, courageous conversations are heartfelt conversations around challenging, crucial, and pivotal topics. It's having the willingness to discuss processes and ideas that really matter, without fear of reprisal.”
— David Whyte, Poet, Author, Lecturer

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5. Boost employee engagement

By engaging employees around organizational or strategic issues, you can energize participants to focus on successful outcomes. This mounting energy feeds further engagement. Engaged people are more likely to achieve their objectives and have a positive influence on their environment and those around them. Each successful outcome builds confidence, and this positive energy can then be employed in solving future issues.

“Study after study indicates that employee emotions are fundamentally related to and actually drive bottom-line success in a company. Emotions are directly connected to whether our needs are met or unmet.”
— Steve Bates, Editor, SHRM

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.What next?

Real leadership includes the ability to support people moving from grey to green thinking and doing. In times of change, these interpersonal skills become evermore crucial. If you want to improve your ability to lead other we need to start with being able to lead ourselves. Seeing that we have a conscious choice in how we react to people and our environment is incredibly powerful. The key is to provide leaders, and their people, with tools to remind them of these conscious choices. There are many ways to learn more about your reactive behaviors—beliefs, assumptions, drivers and triggers—to support yourself and help others to find and express theirs too.

To put this into practice, join us in London on 31 March for a one-day workshop on leading your team through change.


Leading Your Team Through Change

Learn why 70% of change programmes fail and you can make it 30% more likely to stick. A clue: learn to change your mindset and your team's...

Find out more

 

 

The New Science of Persuasion 

Learn how to apply the new science of persuasion for sales and marketing messaging with Dr Christophe Morin...

Find out more

Winning Complex SalesTM

Increase your chance of winning your most important deals by working in opportunity teams to improve your strategy to win...

Find out more

The New Science of Sales and Marketing Persuasion

Putting Persuasion Science into Practice

For Sales & Marketing Messaging

By: Adrian O'Gara

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I see too many companies with confusing messaging, value propositions with no clear value and unique selling points that aren't unique.

So I spoke with Dr Christophe Morin about the 30 years of scientific research and development found in his book 'The Persuasion Code',  and how sales and marketing can deliver more unique and persuasive messages with real value.
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Here’s our Q&A:
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Q: What is persuasion science? 
A: In short, it’s understanding and predicting buyer behavior using neuroscience. Most attempts to persuade are doomed to fail because the brains of your buyers automatically reject messages that disrupt their attention. So you have to stop confusing buyers and start persuading them.
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Q: Why not use traditional research methods? 
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A: If you look at the evidence, customers don’t know what they want. Traditional research methods don’t help you find what triggers buying decisions in buyers’ brains. So you need a scientific approach to capture persuasion insights which explain and predict why your customers choose to buy from you or get excited by your sales messaging, ads, videos or website.
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Q. How does persuasion science help us persuade buyers? 
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A: I have conducted neuromarketing research for over a decade.  I believe you cannot create an effective message without first unveiling your customers’ subconscious PAINS.   To truly reveal what motivates your customers to buy from you or pay attention to your messages, I use a unique suite of neuromarketing techniques such as facial imaging, layered voice analysis, eye tracking, EEG, and biometrics. With subconscious data collected from the skin, facial movements, the eyes, and the brain, I can decode the persuasive effectiveness of a company's messages.
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Q: How can sales and marketing people use persuasion science? 
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A: I’ve created a proprietary model called NeuroMap™. It’s designed to make the complex science of persuasion simple. Anyone can learn the powerful 4-step process – PAIN-CLAIM-GAIN-PRIMAL BRAIN – and acquire the confidence and skills to apply the model to their own business.

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On-demand Webcast  |  The Persuasion Code  |  30 minutes QnA  |  Dr Christophe Morin   Watch Now
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Q. What is PAIN in persuasion science? 
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A: Diagnosing PAINS helps you unveil the most critical decision drivers that influence your buyers behavior. In persuasion science, we understand that the rational brain comes second to the primal brain. Our primal nature is to orient our attention to messages that awaken our fears. A product or solution that can clearly articulate which PAINS it can eliminate first will receive more consideration and create higher urgency.
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Q. What is CLAIM in persuasion science? 
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A: Start by identifying your unique CLAIMS. What are the top 1, 2 or 3 reasons for your customers to buy from you. Solidifying your CLAIMS will help your customers quickly understand what resolution you can bring to their PAINS. Choosing CLAIMS is a process, not just a creative exercise. Your CLAIMS must appeal first and foremost to the Primal brain. Your CLAIMS need to separate you clearly from your competition with a simple, tangible and recognizable benefit.
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Q. What is GAIN in persuasion science? 
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A: The GAIN is what the buyer gets in return for their purchase. You will need to demonstrate value to the Primal brain, in a way that is simple enough that even a non-expert would understand. Use customer testimonials or demos to, create ah-ha moments your targets needs to confirm a decision.
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Q. What is PRIMAL BRAIN in persuasion science? 
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A: Your Primal brain keeps you safe and manages critical internal states below our level of consciousness. Think of it like the memory chip and BIOS on a computer, with a set of basic instructions that control how your brain receives input and output. So it’s faster than the Rational brain. And the Primal brain dominates the processing of all persuasive messages.

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So, once you have identified the PAINS, solidified your CLAIMS supported by your proofs of GAIN , you need to use specific techniques to engage the decision-making part of your buyer’s brain.   You will need to deliver a story so it moves their Primal Brain. By doing so, buyers will understand you, they will remember you and they will like you.  This will give them the final emotional incentive to buy from you.

Join Dr Christophe Morin and me at a 1-day workshop in London this April to learn how to apply the new science of persuasion to your sales & marketing messaging. Find out more.


Upcoming Learning Days

Leading Your Team Through Change

Learn why 70% of change programmes fail and you can make it 30% more likely to stick. A clue: learn to change your mindset and your team's...

Find out more

 

 

The New Science of Persuasion 

Learn how to apply the new science of persuasion for sales and marketing messaging with Dr Christophe Morin...

Find out more

Winning Complex SalesTM

Increase your chance of winning your most important deals by working in opportunity teams to improve your strategy to win...

Find out more

Gartner Stats on Buyers Enablement

B2B buyers only spend 17% of their time meeting with you — their potential suppliers. The rest of their time is spent researching elsewhere and having internal meetings about their project — when you’re not there. That’s according to Gartner’s latest research.

Gartner suggests buyers spend over a third of their time (38%) in internal meetings, with others in the buying centre, where salespeople are not present.

“Today’s buying journey isn’t just hard — it has reached a tipping point where it’s become nearly unnavigable without a significant amount of help,” said Brent Adamson, principal executive advisor at Gartner.

“However, customers today don’t really care where that help comes from. A conversation with a sales rep isn’t an end in itself, it’s simply a means to gathering the information necessary to complete specific buying ‘jobs.’ But, what matters isn’t the conversation, it’s the information provided.”

“Much like sales enablement, sales organizations must focus on what we call ‘buyer enablement’,” Adamson says. “Sales teams need to harness empathy, and their deep industry and customer knowledge to develop and deploy information to help buyers buy — just as they do to enable sellers to sell more easily.”

Gartner defines it as:

“Buyer enablement is the provision of information that supports the completion of critical buying jobs.”

In other words, it’s the age-old challenge of getting the right information to the right person at the right time.


Two areas of buyer enablement: 

1. Prescriptive advice involves do-this or don’t-do-this recommendations to ease the buyer’s journey.

2. Practical support gives customers the tools to action the prescriptive advice.

“So buyer enablement is about salespeople acting as “information connectors… curators or brokers of information rather than individual experts,” Adamson suggests.

So salespeople need to offer the buyer helpful tools and data. To help them simplify the buying process. This increases the chances that buyers will make a higher-value investment and reduce the chances they will fear regretting their investment.

As soon as B2B buyers add multiple suppliers to the process they spend even less time with your salespeople — as the above mentioned 17 percent of time with suppliers is split among all of them.

“If they are speaking to three potential suppliers you only get an average of 5-6 percent of their time.”

“When you start looking at this world of buying and just how complex it’s become, with all the different people involved and the amount of information… as individuals, we have incredibly limited access to our customers to have any kind of impact on all of that complexity,” Adamson says.

I personally translate this as, a major role for salespeople today is to help buyers to help themselves. Help them identify the best-fit solution and to sell their preferred solution internally. Enabling buyers to cut through the noise in their own organization, the competition, and your own organization’s noise. Be a trusted advisor to guide the buyer to make the best-informed decision and close the deal together.

Questions to consider:

  • How are you maximizing the limited time you have with clients?
  • How can you best support your customer through the buying process?
  • Is your sales and marketing optimized to help your ideal client’s buy?

What are your thoughts and experiences on this topic? Please share your feedback below.

[Writted by Adrian O’Gara, Founder & Principal at O’Gara-Co. First published 22 October 2018. Updated 5 September 2019.]

5 steps to award-winning sales and marketing alignment

Following on from the theme of my recent posts, on what I learned today about sales and marketing automation best practice, I wanted to share more information on the essential topic of sales and marketing alignment. If you think this is a fluffy subject then read the latest industry research:

“Failure to align sales and marketing teams around the right processes and technologies costs B2B companies 10% or more of revenue per year.” IDC

“Companies with aligned sales and marketing generate 208% more revenue for their marketing, 36% higher retention & 38% higher win rates.” MarketingProfs

“B2B organisations with tightly aligned sales and marketing operations achieved 24% faster revenue growth and 27% faster profit growth, over a three-year period.” SiriusDecisions

Whichever way you look at it, there is no denying the power of alignment. So, if it achieves such high results then why aren’t we all doing it? Well, sales and marketing are two sides of the same coin but still on opposite sides. We do need each other and we do need to work together, in a joined-up process, for the most important person in our relationship — the customer.

So here are five key steps to take:

  1. Building jointly agreed go-to-market campaigns for awareness, pipeline and ultimately revenue
  2. Offer strong support through continuously improving sales enablement
  3. Clearly define and govern a seamless marketing and sales funnel where everyone contributes to pipeline
  4. Jointly agree KPIs around funnel quality, quantity & velocity — with real-time visibility, on a shared platform, for a single version of the truth
  5. Regular interlocks to improve communication, monitor results, share progress, course correct and build trust — working together as a team

To learn more about these five key steps, please join Dr Chris Boorman, CMO at Automic Software, on the following on-demand webcast, where we go through them in detail, and how they lead to Automic winning a sales and marketing alignment award: Improving alignment between B2B marketing and sales.

[a version of this article first appeared on LinkedIn on 2 December 2016 and updated here on 5 September 2019]

13 crucial questions most leaders can’t answer about their funnel & pipeline

You​ ​don’t​ ​drive​ ​all​ ​the​ ​way​ ​to​ ​work​ ​only​ ​looking​ ​in​ ​your​ ​car’s​ ​rear-view​ ​mirror.​ ​When​ ​you get​ ​to​ ​work​ , however, ​you​ ​might drive​ ​your​ ​business​ ​this​​ ​way—looking​ ​back​ ​at​ ​historical​ ​data​ ​to​ ​make crucial​ ​decisions.​ ​Most​ ​sales and marketing​ ​leaders​ ​use​ ​historical​ ​CRM​ ​and​ ​marketing automation​ ​data. Information ​like;​ ​how​ ​many​ ​leads​ ​were​ ​created,​ ​sales​ ​meetings​ ​completed​ ​or​ ​deals​ ​closed last​ ​week/month/quarter.​ ​​ ​While​ ​these​ ​metrics​ ​have​ ​their​ ​importance,​ ​as​ ​leading​ ​indicators,​ ​you may not best informed if​ ​drive​ ​your​ ​business​ ​only​ ​using​ ​a​ ​rear-view​ ​mirror.​ ​Best-in-class,​ ​high-growth businesses​ ​are​ ​using​ ​forward-looking​ ​metrics​ ​to​ ​understand​ ​their​ ​complete​ ​lead-to-revenue funnel.​ ​The​ ​following​ ​four​ ​categories​ ​contain​ ​the​ ​most​ ​important​ ​forward-looking​ ​questions most companies ​need​ ​to​ ​answer.​

Planning​ ​&​ ​goals 

  1. Is​ ​revenue​ ​on​ ​track​ ​to​ ​hit​ ​future​ ​goals?
    To​ ​answer​ ​this​ ​you​ ​need​ ​to​ ​calculate​ ​if​ ​you​ ​are​ ​on​ ​track​ ​to​ ​hit​ ​your​ ​targets​ ​based​ ​on​ ​your​ ​current funnel​ ​momentum.​ ​So​ ​if​ ​you​ ​keep​ ​going,​ ​at​ ​your​ ​current​ ​pace,​ ​will​ ​you​ ​hit​ ​your​ ​future​ ​revenue goals​ ​or​ ​is​ ​there​ ​a​ ​gap​ ​you​ ​need​ ​to​ ​fill?
  2. Are​ ​your​ ​goals​ ​realistic?
    Are​ ​your​ ​goals​ ​achievable​ ​and​ ​realistic?​ ​Possibly​ ​too​ ​high​ ​or​ ​surprisingly​ ​too​ ​low?​ ​And​ ​should they​ ​be​ ​adjusted?
  3. If​ ​you​ ​are​ ​not​ ​on​ ​track,​ ​what​ ​changes​ ​do​ ​you​ ​need​ ​to​ ​make?
    What​ ​do​ ​you​ ​need​ ​to​ ​do​ ​now​ ​to​ ​hit​ ​future​ ​goals?​ ​Can​ ​you​ ​identify​ ​exactly​ ​where​ ​in​ ​the​ ​marketing and​ ​sales​ ​funnel​ ​the​ ​problem​ ​is​ ​occurring?​ ​​ ​Why​ ​is​ ​it​ ​occurring​ ​and​ ​what​ ​can​ ​you​ ​do​ ​about​ ​it?
  4. Are​ ​you​ ​communicating​ ​the​ ​right​ ​information​ ​to​ ​management​ ​&​ ​the​ ​board?
    Does​ ​your​ ​leadership​ ​know​ ​what​ ​to​ ​expect​ ​from​ ​the​ ​revenue​ ​funnel​ ​in​ ​the​ ​future?​ ​Sales​ ​and marketing​ ​leaders​ ​need​ ​to​ ​keep​ ​the​ ​CEO​ ​informed​ ​and​ ​the​ ​CEO​ ​needs​ ​to​ ​keep​ ​the​ ​board​ ​and investors​ ​informed.

    Marketing​ ​strategy​ ​&​ ​demand​ ​generation 

  5. Are​ ​you​ ​generating​ ​the​ ​right​ ​quantity​ ​and​ ​quality​ ​of​ ​leads​ ​today​ ​to​ ​hit​ ​future​ ​revenue targets?
    Are​ ​you​ ​reverse​ ​engineering​ ​your​ ​funnel,​ ​from​ ​revenue​ ​back​ ​to​ ​leads,​ ​to​ ​determine​ ​the​ ​exact number​ ​you​ ​need​ ​based​ ​on​ ​your​ ​current​ ​conversion​ ​rates?​ ​Do​ ​you​ ​need​ ​to​ ​improve​ ​conversion rates​ ​(quality)​ ​or​ ​increase​ ​the​ ​number​ ​of​ ​leads​ ​(quantity)​ ​and​ ​bringing​ ​them​ ​in​ ​at​ ​the​ ​right​ ​time​ ​to hit​ ​targets?
  6. Which​ ​channels,​ ​programmes​ ​or​ ​campaigns​ ​are​ ​making​ ​the​ ​greatest​ ​impact?
    Can​ ​you​ ​identify​ ​what​ ​is​ ​having​ ​the​ ​greatest​ ​positive​ ​impact​ ​so​ ​you​ ​can​ ​invest​ ​more​ ​in​ ​this​ ​area?
  7. Which​ ​channels,​ ​programmes​ ​or​ ​campaigns​ ​are​ ​making​ ​the​ ​least​ ​impact?
    Can​ ​you​ ​identify​ ​what​ ​is​ ​having​ ​the​ ​least​ ​impact​ ​so​ ​you​ ​can​ ​divert​ ​spend​ ​to​ ​the​ ​high​ ​performing activities?

    Sales​ ​effort 

  8. Are​ ​leads​ ​being​ ​followed​ ​up​ ​with​ ​the​ ​correct​ ​sales​ ​activities?
    When​ ​sales​ ​receive​ ​or​ ​create​ ​the​ ​adequate​ ​quantity​ ​and​ ​quality​ ​of​ ​leads​ ​are​ ​they​ ​being​ ​followed up​ ​correctly?​ ​Are​ ​they​ ​being​ ​contacting​ ​in​ ​time?​ ​Are​ ​they​ ​being​ ​contacted​ ​enough​ ​times​ ​with appropriate​ ​contact​ ​methods?​ ​Can​ ​you​ ​measure​ ​quality​ ​and​ ​quantity​ ​of​ ​touches​ ​and​ ​time​ ​to​ ​first touch​ ​or​ ​first​ ​contact?​ ​Are​ ​they​ ​taking​ ​too​ ​long​ ​or​ ​not​ ​enough​ ​effort?
  9. Can​ ​you​ ​measure​ ​performance​ ​at​ ​each​ ​funnel​ ​stage​ ​per​ ​sales​ ​rep?
    Not​ ​every​ ​sales​ ​rep​ ​has​ ​the​ ​same​ ​level​ ​of​ ​performance.​ ​How​ ​do​ ​they​ ​compare​ ​across​ ​different stages​ ​of​ ​the​ ​funnel,​ ​who​ ​is​ ​performing​ ​the​ ​best/worst​ ​and​ ​why?
  10. Where​ ​do​ ​you​ ​focus​ ​your​ ​efforts​ ​to​ ​grow​ ​your​ ​revenue​ ​faster?
    Every​ ​business​ ​has​ ​multiple​ ​levers​ ​and​ ​dials​ ​that​ ​can​ ​be​ ​pulled​ ​and​ ​turned​ ​to​ ​make​ ​a​ ​positive impact​ ​on​ ​revenue.​ ​Can​ ​you​ ​easily​ ​identify​ ​which​ ​ones​ ​to​ ​focus​ ​on​ ​to​ ​maximise​ ​results?

    Return​ ​on​ ​investment​ ​(ROI)  

  11. What​ ​is​ ​the​ ​total​ ​ROI​ ​of​ ​our​ ​joint​ ​sales​ ​and​ ​marketing​ ​efforts?
    There​ ​are​ ​multiple​ ​ways​ ​to​ ​measure​ ​ROI,​ ​such​ ​as​ ​customer​ ​acquisition​ ​cost​ ​to​ ​lifetime​ ​value (CAC:LTV),​ ​but​ ​are​ ​you​ ​getting​ ​the​ ​best​ ​return​ ​from​ ​your​ ​sales​ ​and​ ​marketing​ ​costs​ ​and​ ​is​ ​your ROI​ ​getting​ ​better​ ​or​ ​worse?
  12. What​ ​activities​ ​generate​ ​the​ ​greatest​ ​return?
    Similar​ ​to​ ​looking​ ​at​ ​the​ ​best​ ​revenue-generating​ ​campaigns,​ ​are​ ​you​ ​monitoring​ ​the​ ​actual return​ ​and​ ​factoring​ ​in​ ​the​ ​costs​ ​of​ ​sales​ ​and​ ​marketing​ ​time​ ​and​ ​efforts?
  13. What​ ​should​ ​you​ ​spend​ ​in​ ​the​ ​future​ ​on​ ​sales​ ​and​ ​marketing​ ​investments?
    Should​ ​you​ ​spend​ ​more​ ​on​ ​sales​ ​and​ ​marketing​ ​activities​ ​and/or​ ​headcount​ ​to​ ​hit​ ​future​ ​goals?

As​ ​you​ ​look​ ​to​ ​drive​ ​your​ ​business​ ​forward,​ ​with​ ​a​ ​fully​ ​aligned​ ​sales​ ​and​ ​marketing​ ​team,​ ​I’m sure​ ​you​ ​agree​ ​these​ ​forward-looking​ ​questions​ ​need​ ​to​ ​be​ ​answered​ ​to​ ​give​ ​you​ ​the​ ​best possible​ ​chance​ ​of​ ​success.​ ​Many​ ​businesses​ ​have​ ​gaps​ ​in​ ​their​ ​business​ ​intelligence​ ​when​ ​it comes​ ​to​ ​forward-looking​ ​metrics.​ ​All​ ​too​ ​often​ ​the​ ​data​ ​is​ ​in​ ​outdated​ ​spreadsheets​ ​or​ ​static, rigid​ ​reports​ ​spread​ ​across​ ​too​ ​many​ ​dashboards.

As​ ​I’ve​ ​helped​ ​multiple​ ​clients​ ​manage​ ​the​ ​entire​ ​lead-to-funnel​ ​process​ ​and​ ​answer​ ​the​ ​above questions,​ ​you​ ​can​ ​be​ ​reassured​ ​it​ ​is​ ​possible.​ ​By​ ​using​ ​the​ ​Revenue​ ​Funnel​ ​Science framework​ ​you​ ​too​ ​can​ ​correctly​ ​measure,​ ​forecast​ ​and​ ​optimise​ ​your​ ​sales​ ​and​ ​marketing funnel​ ​to​ ​hit​ ​or​ ​exceed​ ​your​ ​future​ ​revenue​ ​targets.

 

6 Steps to Selecting a B2B SalesTech & MarTech Stack

SalesTech & MarTech (also known as sales and marketing automation platforms) has been around for many years. The early days of on-premise customer relationship management and automated drip email tools are now cloud-first and AI-powered with predictive and prescriptive analytics. But there are so many vendors and none are one-size-fits-all solutions. So it’s important that you choose the right stack of providers for your specific business requirements.

B2B companies have more complex and longer buyer journeys and more people involved in the buying centre. Your automation platform selection should focus on finding the best fit with your business plans, resources and company culture. There are several ways to navigate the selection process, including a formal RFP (request for proposal) for shortlisting vendors to running in-depth demonstrations. Here are six steps that will help you in this process.

1. Define clear business goals: In order to know what a vendor should be able to deliver in terms of features and service, it is important to clearly define the business challenges or opportunities that you are facing. Describe the gap between the current situation and the desired state. This will be a great starting point for a list of requirements that summarise your needs but also allows you to get internal feedback and build support from within your company.

2. Avoid shiny object syndrome: Looking at all the features of potential vendors, it can be easy to get distracted and go for the platform with that one beautiful feature. To avoid shiny object syndrome, summarise your wants and needs to determine what they will be assessed on. Try to split it into categories:

  1. Essential (deal-breakers)
  2. Key features (things that the solution should do)
  3. Desirables (nice to have but could do without)

3. Restrict your choices: After learning about the possibilities and making your first list of requirements, try to restrict your choices of vendors quickly. There are 500+ distinct SalesTech solutions on Nancy Nardin’s Sales Technology Landscape 2019. And a whopping 7,040 solutions on Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic 2019. So you clearly need to restrict your choices. You might choose to work with Nancy, Scott or other analysts your firm might already employ. Speak to your IT team and ask if they already have a subscription to an analyst firm that would allow you to talk with them too.

Each and every extra vendor you research will take extra time to analyse, consider, meet and makes the selection more challenging. You can’t easily assess all the features from hundreds of vendors. You have to move to a shortlist. Ideally, you would focus on 4 to 6 vendors in your RFP.

4. Professionally manage your own team and the vendor: The vendors might be used to pitching in every type of situation, but a professional attitude can greatly improve the whole selection process. Include a realistic timeframe in your RFP, where you outline the steps in the process and how you expect the interactions to take place. Do your own homework and ask them to present the requirements that you are most interested in. Use the same requirements across all vendors so you can make a fair comparison.

5. Challenge vendors with a scenario: After you receive the RFPs back, and you’ve spoken to the vendors to get an introduction, it’s time to shortlist 2-3 vendors for an in-depth demonstration. You really want to get insight into the features and benefits of the product and how they match your requirements. Create a scenario, or test case, and ask them how they would handle it. You can even ask them to run an example campaign. This moves decision-making beyond a checklist and gives you a real tangible visualization.

6. Services are as important as the product: The implementation, set-up and training are as important as the features and should be a key area of the selection process. Speak to similar companies that used the vendor’s product and services, with similar challenges, in the same industry as you. Ask the vendor to provide a high-level implementation plan and make sure you have the internal resources (people, time and budget) to smoothly move forward into implementation.

As B2B customers have longer and more complex buying processes with more people involved in the decision-making, it is essential that you have a clear strategy and plan in place. To choose the correct marketing automation platform you must first map out your business-specific buyer journey, lead definitions, scoring and the service level agreements between marketing and sales.

[A version of this article first appeared on SmartInsights.com, 24 August 2016 and was updated here on 5 September 2019]

What I learned today about sales and marketing automation best practice

No matter how long you have worked in your field of expertise, you’ll always meet new people, in the same area, who will open your eyes to new views of your world. This is even greater when you interact with a large audience of like-minded professionals. Here is one example.

I’d like to start off by thanking everyone who attended my live webinar today on sales and marketing automation. It was a good turn-out with some great questions and interesting survey results that I wanted to share with you as it’s a real eye-opener.

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As you can see from the first survey, most of the attendees are in the planning stage of sales and marketing automating. Some had no plans — probably looking to understand the benefits — where a few have been doing it for a while and were there to understand how to improve.

We ran through my recent post on 6 steps to selecting a SalesTech and Martech Stack but quickly moved onto the real meat of the presentation – namely, sales and marketing automation strategies for optimizing your marketing and sales funnel to increase revenue and customer lifetime value.

We ran through several best practice strategies and models — from funnel metrics to lead qualification/scoring, SLAs and nurturing. You can download all 12 templates here.

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When I asked what their top priorities were across the top 5 strategies the majority wanted to improve lead scoring and have more or better nurture tracks with half as many people concerned with funnel metrics and service level agreements with sales.

To me, this was a shocker! On reflection, the majority of attendees were planning to introduce marketing automation to their business for the first time, but they just want to nurture leads to score and pass to sales. No one was interested in how you qualify those leads and less interested in how you agree the lead stages and have it agreed with sales — which are crucial elements to successful implementation.

But things became clearer when I introduced the B2B Value Transformation™ framework, to understand where they are on their journey today:

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As the majority of attendees were predominantly in the Lead Generation and Activity Generation stages, with only a few classifying themselves in Demand Generation mode. And no-one saw themselves as a Revenue Generation or Value Generation team.

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I suppose this is not surprising as companies that are just starting their automation journey are very early in their SalesTEch and MarTech growth and maturity. Does this make them immature? I don’t think so. Every company is unique. If you’re a start-up you’re just growing your company. Budgets are small and so is headcount. So it’s natural you don’t have the resources for marketing automation.

But I have to say I saw quite a few big company names on the attendee list. So are these big companies going through a digital transformation? I’d say, yes! Especially B2B companies that have been traditionally technophobes. They now see that more needs to be invested in sales and marketing automation to help scale their efforts. They need to strive for lead quality and marketing, sales and service partnering to become revenue-centers that bring long-term value to clients and their company’s profitability.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these results. And to hear where you are on your B2B Value Transformation™ journey.

(This article first appeared on linkedin.com, on 29 October 2016 and updated here on 5 September 2019)

How to succeed with Marketing Automation

It may have started with automated messages but marketing automation platforms have gone beyond simple drip feed campaigns to multi-level, multi-track sophistication. Add to this the increase of online and offline functionality with thousands of supporting tools, it’s now a platform attempting to manage all-embracing, omnichannel campaigns. SiriusDecisions says 85% of B2B marketers believe they are not using their current Marketing Automation platform to it’s full potential (tweet that quote). And Venture Beat says 38% of Marketing Automation users are currently considering switching systems in the coming year (tweet that quote). So, whether you’re buying your first tool, optimising your current platform or looking to reassess your current vendor, here are four steps to achieving success with marketing automation.

1. Start with the end in mind. What are you trying to achieve? To automate marketing? That’s a bit vague! To reduce costs and increase efficiency in your marketing operations and monitor and measure ROI? That’s better but still not specific. Integrating marketing and sales with your specific customer journey to improve customer experience — leading to a consistently measured and predictive process for increasing revenue (by ‘x’) and customer lifetime value (by ‘y’)… That’s more like it — if a little wordy. But you get the point, right? It’s about your company’s goals and objectives.

What is your company trying to achieve today, next year and the year after? Usually increasing revenue and reducing costs. Usually at the same time! So how is marketing responding to these demands and what functionality do you require in your marketing automation platform to support this? Whether you are looking to invest in your first marketing automation platform or you already have one in place. Your business is changing (and hopefully growing), so is your marketing automation platform adapting as fast as your business and it’s goals and objectives? If not, it’s time to look at reassessing your current provider. But not before you’ve followed step two…

What is your company trying to achieve today, next year and the year after? Usually increasing revenue and reducing costs. Usually at the same time! So how is marketing responding to these demands and what functionality do you require in your marketing automation platform to support this? Whether you are looking to invest in your first marketing automation platform or you already have one in place. Your business is changing (and hopefully growing), so is your marketing automation platform adapting as fast as your business and it’s goals and objectives? If not, it’s time to look at reassessing your current provider. But not before you’ve followed step two…

2. Don’t just buy the bells and whistles. It’s all too easy to get excited by shiny things — especially for us creative marketing folks who are also a little bit geeky when it comes to new technology (or is that just me!?) Don’t let the tail wag the dog. First thing first (even though this is the second point!) You should not start with the technology. That’s your last consideration. First, you need to define a process that supports your people and the way they work — or should/could work. You must be objective. Revisit rule one — goals and objectives — and translate them into requirements. Think long-term. A three-year plan. Can the platform scale as your business grows? You don’t want to move to a new marketing automation platforms a year or two after go-live. Think about all the systems it plugs into (CRM, website, communities, BI…) This is not a simple rip and replace. And just because you buy a platform that has functionality for your future growth, you don’t need to use all the functionality today.

If, for example, one of your objectives is to build a closer relationship with sales, then maybe this objective can be translated into a closely aligned process across both teams. How do sales currently access your nurture programs to add the new contacts they’ve met — and hopefully added to the CRM system? How can they send their own micro-campaigns, that are a subset of your global campaigns? And even if you offer this functionality, will anyone use it? Your three-year plan should include time for cultural change too. Once you have mapped out the ideal process, and collected feedback from end-users, you can turn them into clear requirements to evaluate your current or future technology platform.

If, for example, one of your objectives is to build a closer relationship with sales, then maybe this objective can be translated into a closely aligned process across both teams. How do sales currently access your nurture programs to add the new contacts they’ve met — and hopefully added to the CRM system? How can they send their own micro-campaigns, that are a subset of your global campaigns? And even if you offer this functionality, will anyone use it? Your three-year plan should include time for cultural change too. Once you have mapped out the ideal process, and collected feedback from end-users, you can turn them into clear requirements to evaluate your current or future technology platform.

3. Know your limits. Even with the best strategy and strongest business case, you will always have limits on resources — like people, time and budget. Some of the more sophisticated platforms will require specialist people to manage them — either in-house or outsourced. And some of the lighter-weight platforms may have a broader spectrum of tools but with less depth of functionality. They could be easier to use but are you really going to use them all in the next three years? Either way, this equates to more time or budget. The best thing to do is rank your requirements in order of importance. Take a pragmatic approach and don’t over complicate things.

Once you have a list of requirements based on your clear goals and objectives you are ready to start assessing the merits of the different vendors. There are plenty of expensive resources to help you — like big analyst firms with their quadrants, waves and models. Some you can get for free. But beware of free guides from the vendors themselves as they will be biased towards their offering. As they are marketing automation providers they have some of the best content marketing writers. So, take vendor guides with a pinch of salt and focus on independent resources like analysts, specialist publishers, independent bloggers or online customer review sites (that have verified reviews from real customers).

4. Continuous delivery and improvement. Once you’ve chosen your new vendor, or stayed with your current investment, you have to keep innovating and improving. Take an Agile approach. Release a minimum viable product to get things up and running and communicate this to everyone — or they will think your first release is the final version (not good!) Even if you’ve had your platform for years, marketing automation is a competitive market and your vendor will, no doubt, be releasing new features with benefits you may now need. So keep iterating and improving your implementation — repeating the 3 steps above. Monitor the meaningful metrics in your campaigns. What’s working and what’s not. Are you A/B testing to find new ways to improve results?

Keeping working closely with sales. From agreeing a shared language to developing a lead scoring model — that needs to be updated as your business changes. Create relevant reports and dashboards for the right internal audience. Some reports will show details of ‘views and clicks’ which are great leading indicators for marketing — but sales don’t need to see it. Show them how you are impacting the pipeline and revenue. In return, ask them to agree to service levels on follow-up. Focus on increasing quality over quantity and velocity before volume. Prove the actual value of marketing sourced and influenced leads, opportunities and closed/won business.

Marketing is changing fast to keep up with the ever-increasing demands for a better experience across the customer journey. Make sure you enable your people to optimise this process inline with your company’s need to support it’s most important stakeholder — the customer. If you do this, you will be on the right path with marketing automation.

Where are you on your ongoing journey with marketing automation? What has been your personal experience? And what advice would you give to others? Leave your reply below.

(A version of this article first appeared in B2BMarketing.net on 28 June 2016, which requires free sign up to access)