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Sales success begins and ends with engagement

Having success in sales isn’t done with any magic bullet, so we asked an expert to tell us how they oversee success in a meaningful way.

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We all know we’re supposed to “close,” but how?

We’ve all been to a conference, a team meeting, read an article, or attended a webinar that told us that sales is all about engagement. But if you’re selling jewelry and have expanded to six distribution centers, for example, you as a founder can’t exactly tweet every person that ever buys something or call them and talk about their hobbies and families.

So how exactly do you “engage,” and what does that mean for non-conslutants that rely on someone hitting a “buy” button? Kurt Bilafer, Global VP of Sales & Success at WePay outlines below in his own words, exactly how sales success begins and ends with engagement. We’re featuring his thoughts because as a 20-year sales veteran, he has experience as the Global VP of Sales at SAP, was SAP North America’s VP, and spent a year with PricewaterhouseCoopers to rebuild their SAP National Practice – he bleeds sales wisdom, you guys.

My metric for success: Engagement

As a sales leader, my professional life is filled with quotas, metrics and dashboards. But if I had to pick just one thing I’m optimizing for, it would be engagement. Why? Because I’ve learned that engagement is the leading indicator for success with whatever else you’re optimizing to achieve.

Early in my career, I was always optimizing for percentage of quota attained, which is a typical sales metric and usually tied to your compensation. Although I wasn’t insightful enough at the time to recognize it, my level of engagement with a prospect was usually a good indicator of the likelihood of making a sale. If a prospect was asking questions, working through their process, showing increased understanding and asking more questions, those were all signs of engagement. It took me a while to see the value of that.

Optimizing to quota

Optimizing to quota worked fine when I was an individual contributor, but as I moved into management and got further removed from the nuts and bolts of the sales cycle and engaging with customers every day, I had to figure out a way to influence the members of my team to make their number. So, I focused on optimizing for influence, working one on one with people to get them up and running and performing at a high level and hitting their quotas.

That worked fine when I was managing a team reporting directly to me.   As I evolved into more startup-fixit-turnaround specialist I had to shift gears again. Now I was working in matrixed organizations with distributed teams of hundreds of people who didn’t report directly to me. I had to evangelize new processes and programs, organizational changes and strategy shifts. I had to reach a lot of people I’d never be able to meet personally, let alone learn all of their names. To lead effectively, I had to influence the people who would influence them.

When you’re bringing change to an organization, everyone has to work through his or her process. With big, distributed teams, you don’t get to see people and work with them as often. It could take six to nine months to see whether my influence was having an impact. I needed to know much sooner than that whether my message was getting through, and whether people were buying in and working through their process. That’s when I started focusing on engagement. I increased my presence on social media and started blogging as a way to amplify myself and stay engaged even when I couldn’t be there physically. This helped me quickly capture feedback, learn, evolve and improve my message and approach.

Measuring engagement

Engagement can be difficult to measure, but there are ways to do it. One of the ways I’ve done it is by surveying my team. I ask, “On a scale from 1 to 10, how well do you understand the objectives?” Then, “On a scale from 1 to 10, do you understand how you can contribute to these objectives?” and then, “On a scale from 1 to 10, do you think these objectives are achievable objectives?”

Engagement scorecards such as these are a key component of my strategy management efforts, helping me determine where to spend more time reinforcing messages or giving examples.

I also look to see how many people have actually embraced whatever it is we’re doing and are executing on it independently. For example, if I’m implementing a new sales process, one of the ways I measure engagement is how many people are actually leveraging the new sales process.

I do that by doing a deep dive analysis on individual deals to determine if people are actually following all the steps, or they’re just doing it the old way and putting lipstick on a pig to position it differently.

I might also look at how many opportunities the team had to present, what the audience turnout was, the kind of the press or analyst coverage we were getting, and activity on social media.

The loudest actions

Those are all qualitative assessments. But to me, actions speak louder.

In sales there’s an expression, “coin operated salespeople.” It speaks to the fact that the most sales people get compensated on is achieving their revenue quota, and as long as the “new thing” is tied to their revenue quota, they’ll embrace whatever the message of the day is. But even quota attainment can hide lack of engagement, especially in a larger organization, and eventually lack of engagement becomes a problem.

So, I look for signs of engagement every day. Are people participating in meetings and contributing and asking questions? Are they changing behaviors? Am I hearing success stories?

Are they reaching out to me directly to ask clarifying questions, or asking for help on deals?

Beyond that, I know I have engagement when I have people asking to update the sales presentations, taking time to write a blog post, or start being more active on social media. I know I really have it when I hear people evangelizing sharing the message themselves, in their own words.

It’s very rewarding to see that growth, and to know I’m impacting someone’s trajectory. And I know that they’re going to keep executing on the strategy after I leave the room because they’ve worked through their process and made the strategy their own. That’s the level of engagement you need for your team members to be successful, and for you to be successful as a leader.

#Engagement

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. FP Group

    May 15, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    “If a prospect was asking questions, working through their process, showing increased understanding and asking more questions, those were all signs of engagement.”

    Great point. This is an important, yet often-overlooked, facet of sales. When your potential customer is actively seeking your expertise, you’re doing something right.

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Business Marketing

5 ways voice is changing the SEO game

(TECH NEWS) As voice assistants take over our lives, you may worry how your SEO fares in this new, uncharted territory. Let’s discuss.

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voice and SEO

SEO is a moving target. The standards change constantly so, despite years of experience, many web designers struggle to meet all the optimization guidelines. How, then, can any business confidently approach the web design process? It starts with recognizing those evolving norms, the newest of which is voice search.

Why Voice Search Matters

For years, the dominant SEO rule has been mobile first. The introduction of voice recognition systems, like Siri and Alexa, to smartphones has dramatically changed how we interact with devices. In fact, 20% of Google searches are voice searches with that number expected to grow rapidly over the next few months. Businesses and web designers, then, need to make sure their sites are voice ready if they want to stay relevant. Though the sites may stay the same visually, they need to gain a new edge functionally.

From The Ground Up

Modifying your website to support voice search isn’t as simple as many other SEO transitions, but if you take a ground up approach to the process, you’ll be able to reshape your website around those changes. Still, you’ll need help to do this correctly. When adapting your website for voice, SEO consultant Aaron Rains recommends hiring an expert for a full site audit and analysis to maintain your page ranking. You don’t want your page to take a rankings hit because you’re trying to keep up with the trends.

Expanding Your Device Options

In addition to its advantages from a mobile perspective, making the move to voice search also means expanding your site’s horizons by making it more accessible to new devices, particularly the smart home speakers that are gaining in popularity. Users are particularly comfortable with these devices because they rely on natural speech patterns rather than half-formed search terms. Children growing up with these smart speakers in their homes seem to view them as part of the family and will be native voice search users as they grow.

Snippets For Search

Part of updating your website for speech is optimizing the content to match changing search patterns. One of the key ways to do this is through the use of featured snippets.

Featured snippets are designed to help put your website in the #0 spot – the top ranking. To do that, you’ll want to put the answers to your most popular queries in the first few sentences on your page. This is especially for purchasing and local search since people frequently use voice search to find local businesses. If you can optimize for the most important snippets early on, you’ll be way ahead on the competition and have a greater ROI.

Rebuild and Reassess

After modifying your website for voice, you may find your rankings initially drop. That’s because you need to request your site be re-indexed. Otherwise, search engines won’t be able to match queries with your new site content. Re-indexing will put all of your new information into effect and make it possible for users to search using the featured snippets. Re-indexing your site will also help you ensure that you haven’t interfered with the crawl-ability of your site.

Experts expect half of all searches to be voice-driven by 2020, but since 50% of users with voice search access already use it at least occasionally, now is the time to act. Even if many users are still wary of voice search, you can’t afford to fall behind. Those users will still be able to rely on traditional text search mechanisms, but that won’t help voice enthusiasts. If you lose those early adopters now, they might not come back when you’ve caught up with the voice search revolution.

This editorial was first published here in March of 2018.

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Business Marketing

10 podcasts that every business owner should hear

(MARKETING) If you’re a business and want to learn something, give one of (or all of) these ten podcasts a listen.

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headphones listen podcasts

So many choices, so little time

As podcasts grow more and more popular, it has become increasingly difficult to sort through the sea of excellent options out there.

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From interviews with business leaders to industry specific advice from experts, podcasts are an incredible free and convenient way to get a small dose of inspiration and knowledge.

Business podcasts for your listening enojoyment

This short list offers just a taste of the myriad of business podcasts available. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur looking for some tips on breaking into a new industry or a seasoned vet hoping to get some new inspiration, we hope you’ll find something here worth listening to.

How I Built This, hosted by Guy Raz.

Podcast fans will recognize Guy Raz’s name (and voice) from TED Radio Hour. While that show can be a great source of inspiration for businesses, one of the most consistently inspiring shows is his new project that shares stories and insight from some of the biggest business leaders in the world. In just four months, Guy has talked to everyone from Richard Branson and Mark Cuban to L.A. Reid and Suroosh Alvi. While there are plenty of excellent interview-driven shows with entrepreneurs, if you want to hear about the world’s best known companies, this is your best bet.

The Art of Charm, hosted by Jordan and AJ Harbinger.

The Art of Charm is a business podcast by definition, but the advice it provides will definitely help you in other parts of your day-to-day life as well. With over three million listens a month, the incredibly populat show provides advice, strategies and insight into how to network effectively and advance your career and personal life.

StartUp, hosted by Alex Blumberg and Lisa Chow.

If you’re an entrepreneur, there is no excuse not to be listening to StartUp, the award-winning business podcast from Gimlet Media. The show’s talented hosts come from incredible radio shows like Planet Money and This American Life and bring a top-notch level of storytelling to the show, which provides behind the scenes looks at what it is actually like to start a company. Now on the fourth season, StartUp is one of those business podcasts that even people not interested in business will get a kick out of.

The Whole Whale Podcast, hosted by George Weiner.

One of the best things about podcasts is the wide variety of niche shows available that go in-depth into fascinating topics. One of those shows is the Whole Whale Podcast, which shares stories about data and technology in the non-profit sector. You’ll get detailed analysis, expert knowledge and can hear from a long list of social impact leaders from Greenpeace, Change.org, Kiva, Teach For America and more.

Social Pros Podcast, hosted by Jay Baer and Adam Brown.

Navigating the surplus of social media guides online can be a nightmare, so look no further thna Social Pros. Recent episodes talk about reaching college students on social media, the rise of messaging apps, and making better video content for Facebook. Plus, there are great case-studies with companies doing social right, like Kellogg’s, Coca Cola and Lenscrafters.

Entrepreneur on Fire, hosted by John Lee Dumas.

One of the original entrepreneurship shows, Entrepreneur on Fire has logged over 1,500 episodes with successful business leaders sharing tips, lessons and advice learned from their worst entrepreneurial moments. Sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always inspiring, this show is sure to have at least one interview with someone you can learn from.

The $100 MBA, hosted by Omar Zenhom.

Think of The $100 MBA as a full-fledged business program in snack-sized portions. The daily ten minute business lessons are based on real world applications and cover everything from marketing to techology and more. Cue this show up on your commute to or from work and watch your knowledge grow.

This Week in Startups, hosted by Jason Calacanis.

This is your audio version of TechCrunch, Gizmodo or dare we say The American Genius. Each week, a guest entrepreneur joins the show to talk about what is happening in tech right now. You’ll get news about companies with buzz, updates on big tech news and even some insider gossip.

The Side Hustle Show, hosted by Nick Loper.

This is the show if you want answers for the big question so many entrepreneurs face. How do I turn my part-time hustle into a real job? Featuring topics such as passive income ideas, niche sites, and self-publishing, host Nick Loper is upfront and honest about the tough world of side hustles. The show features actionable tips and an engaging energy, and may just be that final push you need to grow your gig.

Back To Work, hosted by Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin.
Focused on the basics that you don’t think about, Back To Work looks deep into our working lives by analyzing things like workflow, email habits and personal motivation. Somewhere between self-help and business advice, Back To Work takes on a new topic relating to productivity each week.

#LearnSomething

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Business Marketing

A personalized daily digital marketing checklist

(MARKETING NEWS) For all businesses, it is not only essential to develop an digital marketing strategy, but also necessary to utilize it in order to gain customers, and ultimately make a larger profit. This app can help.

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clearpath digital marketing

There is no doubt that starting your own business can be overwhelming. Along with promoting your business at events, meetings and in person, digital marketing strategies play a key role in the success of a company. For all businesses, it is not only essential to develop an online presence, but also necessary to utilize it in order to gain customers, and ultimately make a larger profit.

Simply creating a website and Facebook page for your business is not enough. However, software tools can help simplify digital marketing. ClearPath is a tool that organizes and creates tasks to optimize your online marketing. By creating to-do lists for you based on your online marketing strategy, you can focus on the areas of marketing that improve your business, all the while receiving useful tips and advice.

Using ClearPath is pretty straightforward and only requires one prerequisite. Before beginning, you must have a website.

If you are already lost, don’t panic. ClearPath can help you develop an online presence. Once your website is linked up, you get to choose the marketing channels that you would like to focus on. These include Search Engine Optimization (SEO), email, social, content, analytics, local, pay-per-click (PPC) and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Again, if you are lost, ClearPath is there to help you strategize.

After ClearPath analyzes your site, they start sending you customized tasks based they believe can improve your online marketing.

As you finish each task, you can simply check it off and it will disappear. New tasks will appear each day, and some may even repeat as they need to be updated.

Whether you are well-versed in digital marketing or not, staying updated with the newest ways to optimize your business online is a constant struggle. Tools like ClearPath give people a place to start. Although I don’t think it can supplement an active and experienced digital marketer, it is a tool that can help small businesses that cannot afford to add to their team yet. At the end of the day, it aims to save you time. And since time is money, your business will hopefully be more profitable.

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