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How to Sniff Out a Bad Sales Manager

October 5th, 2011 by Amanda Fischer No comments »

The success of a sales team is linked to the team’s management strategies. Sales managers tend to be vocal when talking about underperformance, but they don’t always reflect on their own contribution to their team’s shortcomings.   As a manager, you have the power to influence your team’s performance through compensation, and tools and practices.  The team’s success or failure ultimately is your responsibility.   In my work with sales teams, I’ve discovered some secrets to managing motivation.

1. Reward and punish the appropriate behaviors with your commission structure.

When I started my sales career, I worked for a midsize telecom company. The company provided comfortable base salaries and a horrible sales commission structure. Because it took no effort to collect the base salary and because hard work barely paid off, a few executives used company time to operate their entirely separate businesses—operations that provided each his primary income! Now this is an extreme example, but I’ve found many companies compensation structures to ineffectually motivate.  If you lack control over your team’s payment structure, you must at least be able to identify and terminate freeloaders.

Compensation manifests in many forms and must be designed to incentivize salespeople. Make sure the structure serves to reward desired behaviors and punish undesired ones. Promote an energetic environment by instituting contests and games which create healthy competition. Here’s an example:  Choose a company you would love to land as a client but have been unsuccessful at engaging and offer a reward of $100 cash to the first rep to hold a meeting with one of their C-level executives. Compensation includes even the very littlest of things.   Make it a point to compliment your salespeople in front of customers, colleagues and fellow team members.  Sales executives crave recognition, so public pats on the back can go a long way.

2. Offer productive feedback.

Managers can have a wacky way of rationalizing their style. I once had a manager who criticized harshly, yelled frequently and never offered praise. I learned he rationalized this approach by assuming it would keep me tough.  Even in his words he was “testing” me. While that approach may have worked for the wrestlers he coached, it is generally ineffective in motivating sales professionals.

Great sales managers know when to stay out of the way, and how to be helpful when needed. Bad sales managers seem to have a talent for the opposite, interfering when things are going well and running for the hills as soon as their own contribution can be measured.

3. Provide your team with effective sales tools.

I was working with a foreign airline experiencing revenue production issues stemming from an unsuccessful sales team. The team targeted primarily wealthy, high-level business executives. When I asked for a sample of their current brochure, I received a flimsy, discolored trifold with crowded language and numerous misspellings. A piece like this undermines the value of the represented company and contributes to the demise of the sale. A marketing piece must assist a company’s sales process by acting as a persuasive device that speaks directly to its target market. I have encountered many companies claiming to work with high-end clients while distributing materials that look, well, less than high-end. If your marketing materials don’t support your pitch, how can low sales possibly surprise you?

Having the right tools is critical in the selling process for high-yielding teams, and marketing materials are but one example. Another important tool is your Client Relationship Manager (CRM). A well-administered CRM is indispensable for sales forecasting and allows your sales professionals to keep track of prospect information and tasks required to move the sale forward.

4. Train with a road map, not just by shadowing.

Shadowing is a great training method, but only when combined with a more formal, standardized process. One larger company I’ve worked with deals in commercial and government contracts. It attributes its casual style in training and management to its entrepreneurial company culture and the rejection of all things bureaucratic. New hires are typically on board weeks after they are needed and are thrown into the fire immediately. Now, the company has hundreds of new hires all representing the company with different sales pitches. If you stop any one of the sales executives hired in the past year, you will get different, incomplete and usually inaccurate answers with regards to the company history, capabilities and practice areas.

In the above scenario, the sales hires are expected to hit goals but are provided no road map. Every person is “reinventing the wheel” with his or her personal technique. There is no brand consistency, company-wide service expectation or proficient method of sharing information.

5. Keep your word and follow your own rules.

I know a few managers who make a practice of arriving late to meetings or rescheduling them 30 minutes before they are supposed to begin. If you as a manager walk in late to a client meeting, how can your team take you seriously?

Actions speak louder than words, and management behavior serves as a model to encourage or discourage good sales practices. You don’t have to be in the office all the time, but you have to be present through communication and hold true to your commitments. Lead by example.

Curious if you or someone you know is a bad manager?   You can usually find your answer by looking at rate of employee retention. It always surprises me how companies can be so blasé about high turnover.  If the economy is so horrible and people can’t get jobs, AND STILL they are choosing to leave yours…My friend, you are probably doing something wrong.  What is it?  Well, it’s your responsibility to sniff it out, assess the situation and rework your management strategy.

This post was adapted from an article that originally appeared in Executive Travel Magazine.

Amanda Fischer

Amanda has worked with over 300 companies in areas of operations, communications, public relations, sales and marketing. Her company, Grade A Marketing supports a wide variety of organizations with extensive experience in professional services, consumer products and health care. Amanda strives to unite marketing and sales goals by forming practical and purposeful plans to ultimately increase revenue.

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Leading Organizations into the Present

September 30th, 2011 by Ken Fischer No comments »
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Last week’s OpenText’s Purpose-Driven Speakers Series event in DC featured Michael Edson, Director of Web and New Media Strategy at the Smithsonian Institution. Michael is always enthusiastic and thought-provoking, and in this talk, he summarized takeaways from 5 of the top Web 2.0 thought leaders.  He also provided a set of simple guidelines for leaders to use to move their organizations toward utilizing the transformational potential of Web 2.0 (download slides here) .

First though, in order to talk about organizational strategy, he provided a simple way to define that strategy:

Strategy is language that does work.

He a defined organizational strategy as aligning tactical actions over time, which move the organization toward a goal.

There were a lot of keen observations in the talk and on the slides, but these are the core guidelines, which Michael calls design patterns, to follow:

  • Our job is to make YOU succeed – It used to be that great organizations did great things.   Now great organizations help customers, members, vendors and the public do great things.
  • On ramps and loading docks – Moving ideas and information between people quickly is the key to a modern organization.  Accept deeply that most of the smart people in your field work for someone else, and leverage that fact rather than fight it.
  • Edge to core – Identify the successful innovators at the edge of your organization or audience, and free them up to continue innovating by moving successful innovations into the core processes of the organization.
  • Be self aware about change – Organizations have immune systems and metabolisms — be self-aware about change and how your organization deals with change so that positive change is not slowed or stopped because of bureaucratic turf wars between the old and new ways of accomplishing your mission.
  • Focus on your mission – Do not pursue or support innovation for its own sake. It must be about supporting the mission in a cost-effective way and at the same time preserving room for experimentation and innovative thinking.

Probably the overall thing I will remember from this talk are the penguins. You have to go through the slides or video to get this reference, but the point is that there are innovations available today that will transform the way you do business or run your organization. The trick is to figure the optimal innovations you can adopt quickly that will help achieve your mission more effectively.  Planning technical and specific actions too far in advance (as most organizations do) will ignore new technologies and innovations that appear almost daily during this new age of constant technology change.

Ken Fischer

Ken Fischer is the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) for ClickforHelp.com Inc, a web-based software and social media strategy company. At CFH, Ken has led over 100 software and web projects, including creating online communities, tools to measure the effectiveness of public service announcements, web based messaging, and online collaboration tools with unique search capabilities. Ken has also led software development projects in a wide diversity of industries such as finding new way to better deliver reliability centered-maintenance, to onsite visual iAHAection to creating online communities. Ken is also the founder of Gov20Labs and Director of Gov 2.0 Events for Potomac Forum. He has been involved in the Gov 2.0 movement to create continuing education workshops, as a sponsor, and as a solutions provider for over three years. Ken is especially interested in using technology to make Government more effective, efficient, and accountable through transparency, participation, and collaboration. He actively blogs on Open Government and creates training programs for the planning and implementation of Open Government. (He does not speak on behalf of any federal, state or local governments.) Ken also blogs about the commercial side of web 2.0 at web20blog.

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Flash on My iPad and iPhone? Don’t Mind if I Do!

September 17th, 2011 by Borzou Azabdaftari No comments »
Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

I’m a firm believer that Apple is winning the 21st century’s smart phone wars. There’s no question that the iPad is dominating the tablet market by what is actually a completely embarrassing margin.

I’ve owned recent Blackberry, Android and iPhone models, and can honestly say that iOS is best operating system out there. Android sells more phones; car dealers sell more Hondas than Porsches, but which would you rather have? The single biggest complaint about iOS has always been that the browser doesn’t support Flash. I have good news: now it does. I have bad news: now it does.

There are several reasons Apple didn’t want to support Flash on iOS devices. They could have. Steve Jobs could have flipped the switch whenever he wanted. Truthfully he never anticipated the competition would offer it that quickly, or that they would even want to. The truth is, Flash sucks. It’s full of security holes, massively unreliable and a resource hog. It’s a lightweight video player that Adobe shoved down programmers throats. Apple made its choice for the right reasons (Steve’s reasons here), but that didn’t stop Google from pretending it had a competitive advantage by supporting it (it doesn’t, Flash still sucks).

Apple’s share of the smart phone and app marketplace was too much for Adobe to miss out on, though, so last week they announced their Flash Media Server 4.5. The good news is you’ll finally have flash on your iPhone without wasting your resources. Flash built into your iPad or iPhone wastes battery and memory. It’s generally a miserable experience on Android devices. What Adobe has done is basically converted the Flash before sending it your device, thus both saving your device and giving you what you need.

The bad news is (did you forget there was bad news?): each website is going to have to update to version 4.5 before it works. So, nothing yet. Also it only supports Flash video, so you won’t see any Flash apps coming through Safari. You can get all the apps you need through the App Store; as you may or may not know, there’s usually an app for that.

To be honest, though, all my favorite sites have already converted and are offering all their video in an iOS compatible format. Frankly if your blog, site, video, or online project isn’t iOS compatible, I don’t care about it, because I don’t believe you do.

The iPhone 5 will be out next month, which is all I really care about right now. No, I’m not eligible for an upgrade. Yes, I’m going to upgrade.

Borzou Azabdaftari

Borzou is managing partner of Falcon Printing & Copying, a full-service printing and graphic design company in Tysons Corner, VA. His company focuses on building relationships and delivering the highest quality print materials, from poster to invitations to business stationery, to their clients. Passionate about printing to a fault, Borzou eats, breathes, and sleeps paper and ink, and his rare combination of intellectual curiosity, technical savvy, creativity, and interpersonal skills have transformed him from a print service provider only into a branding consultant as well.

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9 Social Media Crimes to Avoid

September 9th, 2011 by Monika Jansen No comments »
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Given the prevalent use of social media among professionals, small businesses, huge corporations, and everyone in between, it still surprises me that the following 9 social media crimes are continually being committed, and it’s driving me nuts.

The funny part is that all of these crimes totally ignore the fact that social networking is SOCIAL.  Communicating on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter is no different than talking to someone in person, on the phone, via text, or through email, it’s just a new platform for doing so.

This post originally ran over at Network Solutions’ Grow Smart Business blog.  Many thanks to Amanda Fischer at Grade A Marketing for her help with adding crimes to this list.

OK, time to get up on my soapbox.  In no particular order, here are the 9 social media crimes you need to avoid making:

1. Sending LinkedIn invitations without personalizing the message

“I would like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.”  Great, but why?  And also, please remind me where we’ve met if we’re not super good buddies.  Throw in something you remember me mentioning for extra brownie points.  But basically, don’t be so lazy you can’t take 30 seconds to compose a short note to me.  It smacks of sloppiness.

2. Sending LinkedIn invitations to total strangers

If I had a dollar for every invitation I’ve received from complete and total strangers (who also ALWAYS commit Crime #1), I could go to a very nice restaurant for dinner tonight.  Doing this is akin to walking up to someone on the street who you’ve never met and asking them to be your friend.  It’s weird.

Instead, go through our mutual connections and request an introduction from someone we both know.  Or, for pete’s sake, take 30 seconds to write me a personal note and explain why you want to be connected with me.

When I get one of these invites, I reply very nicely with something like this: “I am so sorry, but your name doesn’t ring a bell.  Have we met?”  Then I go scream into a pillow.

3. Using Twitter like it’s a megaphone

By now, I can spot the Twitter spammers: they’re the ones who have 10,000 followers and 3 tweets.  But when I get a notification that someone is now following me on Twitter, I generally check out their feed to see what they’re tweeting, if they’re retweeting, if they’re mentioning other people and companies in their tweets, and if they’re having conversations with others.

If you are not doing any of this and just using Twitter like a megaphone to push out your own content and tweet your own ideas, I have zero interest in following you back.

4. Locking your Twitter account

Will someone please explain to me why it’s OK to restrict your Twitter account so only select people can see it?  Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of Twitter? A few times a week, I get followed by people with locked Twitter accounts.  I have to then ask their permission to follow them back.  Not very social, is it?  Why don’t they just hang up a velvet rope around their account and hire a big burly bouncer while they’re at it?

5. Not sharing photos or videos on Facebook

Facebook is a very visual medium.  If all you do is update your status with text, you are boring, and by extension, so are your brand and company and products and services.  I like fun people and companies, as I am sure you do too.  I don’t want to work with boring people, and if I think you’re boring, I won’t work with you.

6. Friending strangers

Just as sending an invitation to total strangers to connect on LinkedIn is not cool, same over at Facebook.  It’s very stalker-ish behavior.

7. Using Facebook Groups as a sales platform

Do not start a group on Facebook and then use it as a sales platform.  As Amanda pointed out, the person who started the group is usually the only one contributing, which means the posts are one-sided, uninteresting, desperate and usually pushy.  It’s a social media tactic for those who are used car salesmen at heart.

8. Trying to connect with everyone everywhere

Repeatedly sending invitations to connect on multiple social networks – including ones that no one has heard of – will cause people to avoid you like the plague.  Social networks are only beneficial when widely adopted, and if I am already using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Google+, why would I spend time and energy on a new, unproven network?  I am going to focus my attention on my existing networks and ignore EFactor, Referral Key, and FastPitch.

9. Sharing is not always caring

Amazing as it sounds, some people don’t seem to understand that no one cares what you had for lunch or what errands you ran this evening.  This is not newsworthy unless it is somehow tied to a major company success or failure, encountered a news item in the making, made an embarrassing mistake, or ran into a celebrity.

Monika Jansen

Monika, President of Jansen Communications, is a marketing communications consultant with over ten years of marketing and corporate communications experience. By writing and editing fresh and succinct copy that is aligned with an organization’s overall marketing strategy, she positions her clients as thought leaders and energizes their lead generation and nurturing programs. Her expertise includes website content, blogs, newsletters, marketing collateral (brochures, white papers, and articles), and annual reports.

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Social Media Vending Machine

May 31st, 2011 by Borzou Azabdaftari No comments »

A few months ago, my three year old cousin was over, and he was dissatisfied that I was watching the news on TV. He walked up to my 50″ plasma and started swiping his hand against the screen to change the channel something else. When nothing happened, he looked back at me, shrugged his shoulders, and says, “It’s broken.”  I informed him that it was supposed to be that way and explained that the TV wasn’t an iPad. He shook his head and walked away. The TV was the problem, not him.

This moment made me really happy. I’m a huge fan of technology. I love progress. Innovation. Things getting better. The next generation is already tired of something I thought was amazing just a few short years ago. I’m looking forward to gesture-controlled TVs and other devices. My grandfather can navigate an iPad as easily as my cousin, and that tells me everything I need to know about where technology is going. Apple hit the nail on the head. Pepsi is trying to take it a step further.

This is Pepsi’s new social media vending machine. The huge touch screen on the front of the vending machine allows you to buy drinks for friends, or use their “Random Acts of Refreshment” feature to buy a drink for a total stranger. You can even send a video message right form the vending machine.

Not sold yet? There are important benefits for the owners of the machines too. They can monitor inventory levels and schedule deliveries remotely. That means no more unnecessary trip to the machine if it hasn’t sold enough drinks, and knowing it needs to replenshed right away when it does. More efficiency, more revenue, less work.

From the press release:

“Our vision is to use innovative technology to empower consumers and create new ways for them to engage with our brands, their social networks and each other at the point of purchase,” said Mikel Durham, Chief Innovation Officer at PepsiCo Foodservice. “Social Vending extends our consumers’ social networks beyond the confines of their own devices and transforms a static, transaction-oriented experience into something fun and exciting they’ll want to return to, again and again.”

Social Vending also enables “Random Acts of Refreshment” – the ability to buy a drink for a complete stranger through any other Social Vending system. For example, a consumer could send a symbol of encouragement someone in a city that has experienced challenging weather, or a congratulatory beverage to a student at a university that just won a championship. The platform holds potential to extend PepsiCo’s digital and social programs for its food and beverage brands.

Am I going to use this the second I see one? Absolutely. If this is a success, expect to buy everything this way really soon. I suspect Coke will be announcing their machine in 10…9…8…7….

Borzou Azabdaftari

Borzou is managing partner of Falcon Printing & Copying, a full-service printing and graphic design company in Tysons Corner, VA. His company focuses on building relationships and delivering the highest quality print materials, from poster to invitations to business stationery, to their clients. Passionate about printing to a fault, Borzou eats, breathes, and sleeps paper and ink, and his rare combination of intellectual curiosity, technical savvy, creativity, and interpersonal skills have transformed him from a print service provider only into a branding consultant as well.

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