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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

Customize and schedule your URL all in one place with URLcast

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Need a hand with marketing your latest URL? URLcast.io seeks to simplify the sharing process by bringing helpful link interactions together.

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Laptop on desk with man typing, open on blog custom URL page

Something that has become commonplace in our tech-heavy world is making URLs easier to click, read, and navigate. That’s why we turn to places like Bitly and Tiny URL to make URLs shorter and more customizable for blog and social media posts.

We also rely on tech to help give us a hand with other tech. An example of this includes using TweetDeck to schedule Tweets or using a number of platforms to schedule Instagram posts. Anything to make our online lives easier.

Now entering the URL realm is Urlcast.io, which comes equip with scheduling capabilities, donning itself as “the URL scheduler.” It works in 4 simple steps: Have an idea, schedule said idea, share that idea, and finally, play the waiting game.

Here’s how those 4 steps play out: First, find your idea and, when you have an online resource that you’d like to share, you can then set the URL to be scheduled for a release of your choosing. So, you will use the tool to create an online waiting room that people will be able to visit until the time that has been scheduled.

Next, write a catchy title and decide on a publication date. With this information, a new page is generated just for you with the title you have chosen and a countdown until the day you have chosen.

Then, share the new URL with your audience and your waiting room with everyone you want, every time they visit it, they will be able to see how much time is left for the big moment.

Finally, wait for that moment. Everyone who visits the new link will be able to see your waiting page until the date and time you have chosen is reached; when that time arrives, they will be redirected to the original link, leaving it uncovered.

This is a good way to build momentum around a marketing or PR campaign – or would be useful when something is embargoed. This also could be useful for ticket sales and the like.

On Urlcast’s website, an FAQ asks the developer what the future plans are for the tool. The answer? “The countdown page is very simple, currently it consists of a title and a countdown to the date you have selected. In the future we would like to add more features, like being able to change the background colors or add an image, a chat and a place to add posts and notifications to those who are waiting for the release time to arrive.”

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Business Marketing

How to be the best potential employee in your job hunt [INTERVIEW]

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Struggling in the job hunt? You’re not alone – but Nicole Clark, a Senior Professional in HR, has some advice to help you stand apart from the crowd.

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Interviewer writing on clipboard talking to person across a table during their job hunt.

The job hunt is a journey not often enjoyed by the potential employee. It can take a lot of searching, a lot of resume tweaking, and a lot of interviewing, in order to find a good fit. Sometimes, it takes more than that, and you need a little insight from an expert about how to go about the job search. Luckily, we have Senior Professional in Human Relations (SPHR), Nicole Clark, on tap to give us the inside scoop.

Taylor Leddin: What’s the number one thing a HR specialist looks at when reviewing a candidate?
Nicole Clark: When reviewing a candidate’s resume, it’s always imperative to ensure they have the fundamental skills needed in a position. When I move forward with conducting a phone screen or in person interview, it’s always important to ensure they’re a good fit from a cultural standpoint. Every company has its own unique culture and it’s important for hires to fit that culture otherwise it will eventually lead to issues down the line. With that being said, every candidate has their own personality and unique traits that they will bring to the role. However, the best hires are those that are able to make strong individual contributions while also working well within a team setting, which is why cultural fit ends up playing such an important role.

TL: What’s your biggest pet peeve with the job application process?
NC: My personal pet peeve is when candidates are not honest about their salary expectations during the beginning stages of the interview process. It’s frustrating when a candidate is in the final stages of an offer being made and they suddenly have high earning expectations that are not aligned with the company’s salary structure. I do not at all mind when candidates negotiate and are aware of their worth, but it’s a different story when all of the sudden candidates are asking for way more money than what we initially discussed. It’s important for candidates to be honest throughout the process about their expectations to ensure everyone is on the same page.

I also find it disheartening when candidates are only focused on the benefits and perks of the position as opposed to their job responsibilities. I understand that benefits are important, but it’s a red flag when candidates are asking me about how many days off they are going to receive during the initial phone screen. It makes me question candidates’ work ethic and also their priorities. I enjoy taking time off too, but those benefits will be discussed when the timing is appropriate, so it’s best to let the company lead that discussion when the timing is right.

TL: What advice do you have for people currently on the job hunt?
NC: Searching for a job is not easy and it can be a very demoralizing process. I think it’s important to not limit yourself during the initial application process. When I was job searching, I would apply to as many jobs as possible even if they did not appear to be “perfect” on paper. Every interview you have is good practice and allows you to better understand what exactly you are looking for in a position. Also, it’s important to remember that there is no “perfect” job! Every job is going to have downsides, but the best jobs are those where you enjoy both the work and the people who you are working with.

TL: Since you’ve been on both sides of the interview table, what would you say is the most important thing about interviewing?
NC: To me, the most important thing about interviewing is to be yourself and to remember that you’re interviewing the company too. While they are looking for the best person for the role, you’re also looking for the best position for the next step of your career. It’s important to ask questions and really understand the role that you’re going to have in the company. While it’s completely understandable to be nervous during the job hunt, it’s important to remember that they want to find the best person for the position and for them to do so, they need to really meet the real you.

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Business Marketing

How becoming better listeners eliminates our culture’s growing isolation

(BUSINESS MARKETING) We have all be frustrated by someone who doesn’t listen to us; so why not make sure that you are taking the steps to not be them, and be better listeners.

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good listeners breed good listeners

We all want the same thing: to be heard. In this digital age, we’ve created an endless stream of cries for attention via comment sections, forums, and social media feeds—shares, retweets, tags, videos, articles, and photos. Worse, our words echo in our digital bubbles or specific communities, doing nothing but making us lonely and isolated. However, in the midst of a divided political climate, we can all stand to strengthen our ability to listen.

Me? A bad listener? What are you trying to say? I got enough flaws to worry about and don’t wanna hear about another skill to improve. Oh, the irony.

“Bad listeners are not necessarily bad people,” assures Kate Murphy in her new book You’re Not Listening. “Anyone can get good at it. The more people you talk to, the better your gut instinct. You’re able to pick up those little cues. Without them, you’re not going to get the full context and nuance of the conversation,” she says in an interview with The Guardian’s Stephen Moss.

Our bad listening aside, we can all remember a time when we weren’t treated with the attention we craved. Moments where you’d do anything for the person you’re conversing with to give a sign of understanding—of empathy—to validate our feelings, to acknowledge the vulnerable piece of ourselves we’ve entrusted to them is cared for. Nothing is worse when we’re met with blank expressions and dismissive gestures or words. These interactions make us feel small and lonely. And the damage can stay with us.

So what can we do to ensure we’re the listeners we’ve always wanted from others? Being a good listener does take time, energy, and tons of practice. There are easy tips to keep in mind:

  1. Show you care by making eye contact and putting away your phone.
  2. Patience. Everyone opens up on their time.
  3. Ask open-ended questions. Yes/no responses inhibit the flow of conversation.
  4. Repeat what you’ve heard. This clarifies any misunderstanding and validates the speaker.
  5. Give space. Let the conversation breathe—silent pauses are healthy.

By becoming better listeners, we show care. We become curious about and empathetic towards others, leaving our bubbles—we become a little less lonely.

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