Maybe you’re the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer), the Chief Sales Officer (CSO), or the one doing it all (sing: C-I-E-I-O). In any case, you are deeply involved with setting strategy, goals and KPIs that will help you make your number. Which measurements matter most, and why? Are you swimming in data and metrics, and confused by the options? You are not alone. Here’s why, and how to solve it.
Today, almost all of you customer’s buying journey happens online before they speak with you. Often you aren’t even aware, although that can be fixed too (separate forthcoming post; follow this blog).
This means Marketing and Sales have to jointly engage potential buyers over a longer period of time, using multiple touchpoints, to reliably focus on helping the most needy customers and likely buyers.
Knowing what to measure, and when to measure it, for each Tactic (video, whitepaper, etc.) and each Buyer Journey stage (people ask different questions as they proceed through to a decision), helps you optimize your relationship building efforts and improve sales and service.
The dizzying array of measurements and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) often hinders progress, so we have reviewed the results of a number of client engagements to bring you an easy single-page reference table that you can use with any CRM system to guide your setup of meaningful measurements, accurately gauge progress, and know where your next sale is coming from. Your own circumstances may be unique, but this is a start.
A Handy Funnel / KPI Planner Tool
Click the spreadsheet snippet here to preview a .pdf of this free organizer tool that guides you through the most important KPIs to set for each Funnel stage, each Goal, and each Tactic you use to make customers and happiness happen. Sales and Marketing people across a number of client projects have tried this tool and liked it.
Get the Actual Working Tool – it’s free
The native file is much easier to work with than the Preview. It is an ordinary Excel spreadsheet, and I have pre-set it with split windows so you can scroll right to reveal over 30 KPIs that apply for each Stage, Goal and Tactic, without losing sight of the main row and column headers. Check the last box on the list on this online order form to order your free copy.
Over to You
Try it! I welcome your reactions, comments and suggestions. This KPI Chart will be added to our Resources page shortly, after it has been “out to play” among you for a little while and we have gathered your feedback. Of course, you will be notified of those updates, if you have downloaded the file.
As always, we couldn’t do what we do in this blog without your input, and from the valuable experience we gain working with clients and the many CRM, sales force automation and “social hive” tools we implement for them, too numerous to mention here. Thanks!
The Chief Revenue Officer is constantly stretched in multiple directions. How do we keep it all straight?
Sales leaders wrangle with team leadership, forecasting, partnerships, customer care, implementation strategy, etc. Marketing leaders need to manage Brand, research, communications, media, communities, etc. Both roles require technology and processes to support measurement, reporting, analysis and tactical adjustments to keep progress on track.
Complicating matters further, the Sales and Marketing roles have numerous touchpoints and overlapping responsibility which, managed well, provide a real “power couple” opportunity. How do you map that and keep it productive?
After some years in the role, I came upon a planning tool a few years ago, shared it with a few colleagues, and we evolved it to its present state. It continues to evolve based on input from users.
Here is a screen shot of the planning guide’s clickable map cover (sorry, click-map only works in downloaded .pdf and .ppt versions). Visit our Resources page to freely download the complete Sales & Marketing Development Plan for the CRO.
The tool is three “layers” deep and 33 slides long, with each detail slide covering a major strategic or operational topic. You can freely preview it ( item #5) at this site’s Resources page . There is also a download link where you can request a copy of the native file for your own adaptation and use. See below for details and user tips.
Sales Strategy – covers distribution models, pricing, direct and partner channel management, pipeline management and sales management.
Strategic Marketing – covers mission and branding, market segmentation, customer profiling, competitive analysis and value proposition development.
Integrated Marketing – covers lead generation, CRM, content marketing, audience / community management, web properties, media and PR.
Customer Engagement deals with product / service satisfaction, account development, customer asset management, etc.
For best results, use the Resources page’s “get the file” link to request the MS PowerPoint slide deck. Of course you can click the Preview link and view it immediately as a Google doc online, but you’ll only get the linear version – slide by slide, front to back. It is best viewed in Slide Show mode as a clickable map, with all links activated, so you can jump quickly to any topic you desire. Alas, those links are de-activated in the Googledocs version.
Another benefit of having the .ppt file is that you can then modify it to suit your individual needs, inserting sub-pages under each topic where you can detail your own planning progress.
As with all Resources page downloads, I welcome your feedback and suggestions.
In your quest for sales, do you leverage the value of lead nurturing?
Sales leaders know that in the process of converting a raw Lead to a Prospect, and then to a real Opportunity, and ultimately to a Customer, there are often many nuances and inflection points in the conversation, with the result that the sales process is almost never linear. Those nuances can include shifts in the Prospect’s priorities, needs, and role in the buying process. These things must be verified repeatedly to detect changes in Prospect status and respond accordingly. If you don’t frequently check them, your sales forecast becomes a fairy tale, and you won’t know where your next meal is coming from. You could be ignoring imminent buyers or focusing too much on long-shot prospects, and not even know it. Either way, you lose. Lead Nurturing helps you keep on top of the changes.
Click here for a free, crowdsourced process guide to help improve your forecasting.
A recent project we performed for Pluris Marketing, provider of OCDP (omni-channel dynamic profiling) solutions for large consumer marketing organizations, transformed from simply securing executive appointments to also nurturing leads, and illustrates how lead nurturing contributes value to the sales pipeline.
Not part of the original project scope, Lead Nurturing quickly grew in importance, for three reasons:
Establishing a dialogue with as many prospects as possible enabled us to train our ears to the “Voice of the Customer” so we could determine what value people derive from Puris’ solutions – in their own words – and tweak our campaign messaging to improve relevance. In short, what you call yourself is often not as important as what your customer calls you. Example: the phrase “Dynamic Profiling” is a term borrowed from a Prospect – not something Pluris dreamed up.
Nurturing leads enables us to captivate and sustain a broader, interested audience, improving our place in each prospect’s “Initial Consideration Set” of potential options when they decide they need a relevant solution.
The sheer number of “nurturables” far exceeded the number of immediate sales appointments generated under this project. The number of nurturables alone caused our client to take notice of the opportunity.
Why Nurture Now
Certain human behavioral tendencies make it difficult to convert a new Lead to a current Prospect, let alone a sale:
1) Relevance – People typically perceive immediate needs as more relevant and more urgent than future problems. No matter how relevant you think your offering is, your Lead’s opinion matters more. You stand a far greater chance of converting a Lead to a Prospect if they view your solution as currently relevant.
2) Consequences – People tend to discount the importance and consequences of future events. A distant goal or pain is less motivational than a current one, even if delay portends grave consequences. Moreover, people tend to see future consequences – even grave ones – as less important with every year such action is delayed. The farther into the future a need is projected, the less likely it will be perceived today as ever becoming important.
Surprise! Researchers Find Humans Illogical
Illustrating the Relevance and Consequences phenomena, Columbia University researchers found that the average person finds little difference between getting $250 now or $350 a year from now. Imagine that! You could opt to wait a year and earn 40% on a surefire outcome, or you could take the money now and forego the potential 40% greater financial benefit. You don’t need to be Warren Buffet to know that no investment vehicle can guarantee you a 40% one-year return on principle just by delaying receipt, and yet most people queried would rather have the money now, consequences be damned.
Heavily discounting future benefits or consequences can greatly distort corporate thinking, behavior and beliefs. As maddeningly illogical as human nature may it may seem, your appreciation of this phenomenon actually becomes your competitive advantage if you have a Lead Nurturing program that helps prospects learn, appreciate and promote the importance of your solution.
Lead Nurturing Includes Content Marketing
An effective Lead Nurturing program, including content marketing mapped to each prospect’s unique persona and information needs, enables you and your prospects to keep the discussion channel open and lively. Rather than attempt to drive each prospect toward near-term action, you instead conduct periodic relevant communication, build productive relations, and assist prospects in evaluating your offerings, so that they can intelligently shift priorities toward considering and adopting your solution – perhaps even sooner than they expected, but in any case, willingly. If done well, you can identify the “hand raisers” worthy of greater attention and likely to buy, and even determine their decision time frame.
Driving toward a sale too hard or too soon can be viewed by the Lead as pushy, inattentive and ignorant, and typically leads to a fall-off in response, inattention to your future communication attempts or, worse, unsubscribing from your feeds and possibly treating your ill-timed, irrelevant communication as unwanted spam. We’d all like to believe that prospects discount our pushy, sales-y human failings and focus instead on the merits of our offering, but you are more likely to hold one another’s attention over the long term if you actually listen, check for understanding and nuanced changes, and respond accordingly with relevant information.
In your eagerness to bring in more sales this calendar quarter, don’t risk alienating a next-quarter sale. The Leads you start to nurture today rarely move as quickly as you’d like, but a constructive, open dialogue helps you understand your relevance in the Prospect’s view so you can tune your messaging to match, while also giving them something to share within their own circles of influence to build consensus toward adopting your solutions.
Patience and persistence pay, and lead nurturing is the currency.
Having led goal-beating sales and marketing teams (details: see my LinkedIn profile), I have found that cross-functional synergy to be an essential ingredient in business success. ~Ed
To help keep sales teams focused on essential steps and processes, try using this simple, downloadableSales Pipeline Best Practice reference chart. Assess any single prospect using this plain-English chart, and you will instantly understand their deal value relative to their place in the pipeline, and pinpoint the next steps you can take to increase that value – or devalue it as appropriate.
Sales Stage Summary – helps you assess whether your prospect is Qualified, Scoped, Evaluated, post-mortem evaluated, etc.
Key activities – chores and self-test questions for validating and moving prospects up or down the Pipeline;
Milestones – Decision points and signposts for verifying your assessments;
Control documents and tools – essential elements for effective assessment and communication;
CRM tasks – recordkeeping duties which help your CRM system update the forecast and schedule/prompt you on next steps;
Probability – relative value of each prospect at each stage of the Pipeline;
Partner Forecast – analogous information for assessing your resellers and partners
Hope is Not a Strategy. Groom better sales pros using the Best Practice chart
What makes the top 15% of sales pros into stars, another 50% solid contributors, and the remainder only occasionally brilliant? I believe that you can have more top sales pros on your team if they could make this single page Sales Pipeline Best Practice chart into a habit.
No matter how great a relationship builder your top sales pros may be, they don’t stay at the top without attending to a customer’s pain. It requires methodical, relentless focus that can seem intuitive but can definitely be learned. Such learned, relentless focus keeps the client so comfortable that they can’t even imagine alternatives, relying on your top sales pro (“TSP”) for all their resource needs. Your TSP knows how to make him/herself an indispensable, irreplaceable, joined-at-the-hip resource for life, turning the client into a raving fan.
Of course, even TSPs don’t always win, for a variety of other reasons, some of which are covered in previous articles, like:
Can you groom more top sales pros? Yes, if they are willing. Are you a good enough coach? It requires a few essentials, like instilling in your team the ability to accurately forecast. I have seen accurate forecasting offset even the limpest personal skills. Customers respect the diligence and focus of an accurate forecaster who gets to the heart of the matter and focuses on the critical path to their satisfaction. A limp but accurate forecaster may receive fewer golf invitations, but they keep the customer and your organization effectively engaged.
Making it Work for You
TheSales Pipeline Best Practice reference chart has been jokingly referred to by colleagues as the “eye chart”. If you can read this chart, you know how to accurately forecast, and you always know what to do next. You can avoid overblown optimism and unrealistic assumptions. You can detect bottlenecks, derailment and other disruptive patterns. You can reduce financial miscalculation. The result is improved situation awareness and a more consistently productive sales and marketing team. Every aspect of this Pipeline Best Practice chart is also rooted in, and links back to, fanfoundry best practice. Diligently applied, it will help your Sales and Marketing team sing from the same piece of sheet music. You will share a common language, a shared mission, and a common set of criteria that maps to CRM, performance management and other processes.
If you are student of your profession, you will likely recognize that some terminology on this reference chart has been borrowed from widely popular sales training programs. This is done deliberately to mesh with your sales organization’s frame of reference, to facilitate understanding and immediate application. I have many colleagues to thank for helping to shape and tweak this chart over time. Your input is welcome.
Sales and Marketing really are a power couple, and need to know one another’s business intimately to succeed together. I know what it’s like to lead a quota-busting sales and marketing team, and have had to work hard at achieving sales and marketing alignment, so I thought I’d share some playbook pages from the Sales side of the aisle. If you read between the lines, you’ll find it contains implications for the marketing mission every step of the way.
I chose to talk about forecasting because I humbly believe it is the most vital skill any sales professional can possess. Without it, your revenue projections are a fairy tale, and your organization can’t reasonably plan its financial and operational future.
With that said, read this admittedly cutesy formula, and think about what types of questions you’d ask your prospects and customers to determine if you have accurate information to satisfy these 7 facets of converting a Lead to a Qualified Opportunity and plotting its trajectory in your sales pipeline.
The AIM HIGH Approach to Accurate Sales Forecasting
1. Align with appropriate internal and external partners. Partners could include members of the customer’s organization (or their partners) who contribute necessary skills and knowledge, or other third parties you can identify who could help you comprise a complete solution.
2. Ingrain pain and urgency. Find out how broadly and deeply the pain is felt — is there an executive champion? A critical event causing urgent attention? A persistent motivating force? Use the customer’s language to express this, and refer back to it occasionally to re-validate it.
3. Measure how your product/service can solve the prospect’s need. Paint a hard, statistical, monetary picture of how your proposed solution can solve a need, and take action to make that vision a reality. Get agreement with your customer on how success will be measured and verified.
4. Harden the decision criteria and processes. Gain clarity into the necessary steps and individuals involved in getting to final approval and sign-off.
5. Identify all buyers – economic/financial, technical, executive, etc. Discuss all possible players, even those your prospect might dismiss as irrelevant, if you think their support matters down the road. Extreme example: suppose you are selling a cloud computing solution. You and your prospect might ordinarily think the I.T. organization is not relevant. Actually, I.T. plays a vital role in validating cloud computing solutions for security of information and access, and increasingly are the experts in building account access solutions, so their standards and expertise are often critical.
6. Gain trust through internal champions with strong political capital. Ask your key prospect contacts about how they see your solution impacting the organization, and listen for clues to organizational strategy, institutional patterns of practice and key buyers’ alliances and affiliations. Include social networking sites like LinkedIn and Twitter in your research to determine how closely your key prospect contacts are aligned.
7. Hoist your solution over the competition. Give your customer the information they need to convince themselves that your solution is the right fit. Consider external competitors (know what & how they sell!) as well as internal ones – – apathy, inertia (stay the course, status quo). Note: the “right fit” can be based on price, feasibility, etc. – not necessarily superior technology. Often the best solution just lays on their template nicely, requiring less effort to implement, or perhaps matching their own complement of people and processes.