Archives for category: Communication

“Daur “Hockey” Sticks” by Gary Lee Todd, Ph.D. is licensed under CC PDM 1.0

I’ve been in business for a good 30 years or so. For most of those years I remained confused about a phrase that a lot of my North American colleagues used.

‘We’re looking for hockey stick growth,’ they would say, ‘that elusive hockey stick growth curve.’ This image always left me flummoxed. After all, who wants to see a massive downturn in growth before you see the upswing? You might not survive the downturn…

I finally realised that I wasn’t thinking about the right hockey stick. In fact I was thinking about the right hockey. Hockey, or ‘Ice Hockey’, to give it its full name, is hugely popular in North America, and has a flat bottom part and then bends up in a straight line, the sort of sales growth envied the world over.

In Europe, hockey is field hockey, not anywhere near as popular in North America, and uses a differently shaped stick with a curved part where you hit the ball. Not the shape you want for sales growth…

Confusion over!

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The goal of underlying sales and marketing technology is that it is the slave, not the master, to your organisation. Automating your processes will enable you to embed and reinforce best practices throughout your organisation. The collection and inputting of good data and managing interactions for the complete customer journey will ensure you have visibility into your organisation, give you the insights to do accurate business planning and allow you to demonstrate your compliance.

Customer Relationship Management (‘CRM’) systems fulfil these responsibilities for your organisation. They are the machine to power your business, but are limited by the fuel you give them – in this case the quality and accuracy of information you import, enter and store. You can customise many CRM systems to suit your own business processes. You can also enhance them by integrating additional specialist software from third party organisations.

The CRM industry is extremely cluttered and competitive. There is a vast array of CRM systems, which vary appreciably in cost, functionality, reporting, flexibility, ease of use and size of their third party software ecosystem. It’s important to select the system which offers the best fit to your requirements and the long term vision you have for your organisation.

These 8 aspects will give you a solid structure to define your technology requirements, before shortlisting the alternative providers:

  • Your objectives for the technology
  • The functions within your organisation
  • The tasks you want to automate
  • The information you want to record
  • The metrics you want to measure
  • The users you want to enable
  • Their requirements
  • Your budget to accomplish these things

Think about your requirements as deeply as you can before you take the plunge. Companies often find that once they start using an implemented system there are additional things they didn’t think about that would have further influenced either their choice of system or how they customised and implemented it.

The best sales managers don’t micromanage their staff nor obsess over the numbers all day. The best managers have the right people on their team, all consistently selling the same way. They maximise their teams’ selling time and minimise their paperwork. They do structured deal reviews on key opportunities, offering advice and direction where needed.

They best sales managers focus on the few key metrics that determine success for their business. They champion the right behaviours and values. They call out their top performers and celebrate the example they lead. They forecast accurately and confidently, allowing the organisation to plan accordingly. They have the right technology in place to automate good behaviours and free themselves up to coach their teams.

Here are 8 areas that I think are key to great sales management:

  • How to design sales quotas, sales compensation and resourcing
  • How to do deal reviews
  • Pipeline values, composition and movement
  • Buying process, sales process and how forecasting relates to them both
  • How to define the behaviours and metrics for success
  • Pinpointing areas for improvement in individual sales people
  • How to conduct sales meetings
  • How to plan for growth

I’m sure there are others you’d want to add, but if you can master these 8, you’re well on your way to being the best sales manager.

How good are your sales people? How do they manage the sales opportunities and their existing accounts? You won’t be surprised to know that sales people need skills for the whole customer journey.

Here are the first 12 aspects that come to mind when selling to a new customer:

  • How they prospect
  • How they qualify
  • How they prepare
  • How they manage the calls, meetings, presentations and demonstrations
  • How they challenge the customer and manage objections
  • How they strategise on the opportunity and the competition
  • How they navigate the customer organisation
  • How they stay focused
  • How they win the customer
  • How they negotiate
  • How they close
  • How they hand over to implementation, support and account management

Within account management, the business of selling to existing customers, another half dozen aspects emerge:

  • How they grow the account
  • How they ask for referrals within the customer’s business and outside it
  • How they make the customer an advocate for the organisation
  • How they renew the customer’s business
  • How they do account planning for their key accounts
  • How they do account planning for their other accounts

Command of these different areas corresponds directly to the trust that the sales person establishes with their customers and the esteem with which they are held in the organisation and their industry.

Brand is the summation of everything we feel when we come into contact with an organisation, a product, a service or even a person. It’s a function of what we, see, hear, feel and consume. As such, brand is more than a logo. It is everything that helps form the customer or stakeholder experience. It manifests itself in its people, its products and services, and its interactions with you, the customer.

Profile is a function of how the brand is packaged and presented to the public domain. Public relations departments and agencies are responsible for managing and controlling profile in a way that’s consistent with the organisation’s mission. Here are a few things you should think about if you’re planning a launch or refresh of your brand and profile in the marketplace:

  • The vision for your organisation
  • Your mission to get you there
  • Your visual identity and accompanying strapline
  • The design guidelines around your identity and its products, services, promotional materials and documentation
  • Your current profile
  • Your desired profile
  • The activities you need to have in place to achieve your desired profile
  • Budget and timeframes for executing on the plan

This is also a great shopping list to take with you when working with a brand or image expert.

Are you in the 90% or the 10%? 90% of the organisations I’ve worked with were focused on their organisation and their products and services. In their calls, meetings and presentations they led with themselves and what they do. This is the wrong way round. Your prospects and customers are not interested in you, or what they do. They are interested in solving their problems and capitalising on their opportunities. What’s in for them? That’s your guiding star. When you start with yourself, it’s too hard for them to see the return on this investment of their time.

10% of organisations are market-led. Everything they do stems from the markets they’re serving and the target customers they’re trying to sell to. They earn the right to tell customers about themselves once they have demonstrated their knowledge of the market and their experience making similar organisations more successful. They lead with the market and the customer, and follow up with why they make organisations better. In their calls, meetings and presentations they start with their customers, and finish with themselves and how they can make the difference.

Customers are organisations filled with people like you and me. How you define and segment your market, your organisation’s business model and its routes to market are governed by the personas or specific people you’re targeting. They drive everything you do and you must maintain this mind-set – and stay in the 10% – to stay close to why your organisation exists.

Rings are a great way to communicate. Married, engaged to be married, not married – there’s a world of jewellery-inspired signalling on the finger next to your left pinkie finger, or your right finger, depending on where you’re from. It’s not always been that particular ring finger either.

We use jewellery to communicate our partnering availability and non-availability to others. I’ve seen women with rings on every finger of their hand except their wedding finger, and men who are married but don’t wear any kind of band. I couldn’t wait to get my wedding band on.

Then there’s the famous Irish Claddagh Ring. It’s supposed to originate in the oldest part of Galway, the Claddagh maritime area, in the west of Ireland. The three symbols making up the ring signify different things; the heart for love, the crown for loyalty and the hands for friendship. It’s often used as a wedding ring for men and women.

Perhaps most fascinating of all is how you wear the ring, by which I mean in which direction. If you wear it with the heart pointing into you, and the crown facing away, it means you’re spoken for. If you wear it what I would call ‘upside down’, it means you’re not.

As soon as I met Her Ladyship and found out about the Claddagh ring and its significance, I went out and bought one for my right pinky finger, putting it on with the heart pointing inwards. It looked like a signet ring and gave me ideas above my station.

Incidentally, and with full disclosure that I have been helping them with their digital marketing, JVD Claddagh Rings have their own take on the traditional Claddagh ring, incorporating a Celtic knot motif within the heart and a gentler treatment of the crown, as pictured. Lovely for wedding rings and heritage pieces, don’t you know. Here’s the link to the shop.

No, not the infantile word for urination, the abbreviation when you’re signing something on someone else’s behalf.

They say you learn something new every day. That was certainly true for me this morning. I always assumed that ‘pp’ stood for ‘pro per’, or on ‘behalf of, through’ as it is in Latin. It also used to irk me that you’d see the pp next to the person’s signature, rather than on the line of the person they were signing on behalf of. ‘pp John Smith…Jane Smith, Director of Policy’ wasn’t right, or so I reasoned, should be ‘John Smith….pp Jane Smith, Director of Policy.’

Well, blow me down. I looked it up this morning. It stands for per procurationem, meaning through the agency (of), or by delegation if you like. Furthermore, it turns out it can be shortened to per pro, not pro per, so doubly wrong. If that’s not enough, the pp belongs on the line of the delegated person too. Sheesh!

I took small comfort from the fact that the pp can also appear on the bottom line, but not much comfort.

Well, stap me vitals, as they used to say. That was the second thing I learned this morning, as I wrote this post. I always thought the phrase was ‘stack me/my vitals’…apparently I’m not alone in feeling confused (read the comments).

The TLA – the three letter acronym which of course is itself a TLA – is shorthand, jargon that we can use in good ways and bad ways. It saves us time and effort, but is also something to hide behind and can exclude others.

I think how we use the term TLA varies between the spoken and written word. If the first letter of the TLA starts with a vowel sound, and is a consonant like the F of FAQ, we’re more likely to say ‘an FAQ’ when we’re talking. It’s easier and sounds better.

If we use a TLA in the written word, like in a report, then we’re likely not to use ‘an’ before a vowel-sounding TLA, as in ‘If you have a FAQ, please consult the FAQ section.’ Or are we?

This is where it gets ambiguous, when you’re in the realm of email, which is kind of written but kind of spoken too, or at least is the chattier form of the written word.

Essentially you as the writer are signalling to the reader whether you want them to read it as a TLA in their head or read it as the expanded phrase the TLA refers to. For example, the other day I received an emailed that closed with ‘… a MNC’, where MNC is a multinational company. For me the reader wants me to think ‘a multinational company’. If he had written an MNC, I think he would want me to think MNC, which also means multinational company.

Geddit? Too deep? Neither relevant nor interesting? To answer the title of the post, if you want your vowel-sounding TLA to be read as a TLA, use the ‘an’, otherwise don’t.

Then there’s the vowel-sounding TLA which begins with an actual vowel, like an OTC drug, which is a whole lot easier!

I love a good heteronym, don’t you? A heteronym is two versions of the same spelled word that mean different things but are pronounced differently. In this blog post title, I’m referring to the word ‘live’ as in ‘we’re live in 10 seconds’, not as in ‘we live here’.

This post is not really about language, though, it’s about decision-making and about how mass communication has changed these days. I was talking to a neighbour of mine the other day. He’s a cameraman for a TV station here in Ireland. He was explaining how TV has gone. Many people now watch their drama in box sets or via piped, on demand television. The only currency in television nowadays, he said, was in live news and live sports. People still need to live in the moment and experience the present tense as it unfolds.

My neighbour is in the news business and was getting exasperated in a team meeting about a news item. A decision was not forthcoming and time was running out. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘either we go live, or go home.’ So succinct really. We’re in the live news business, we either get out there and film this thing or we’re done for the day, otherwise we miss the window, the moment has gone.

If you’re in the business of producing television, you either go live or you go home. Currency is the currency.