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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

Gloves that translate sign language in real time

(BUSINESS MARKETING) A new wearable tech translates American Sign Language into audible English in real time.

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Advancements in technology never cease to amaze. The same is true right this moment as a new technology has been released that helps translate American Sign Language (ASL) signs into spoken English in real time.

This technology comes in the form of a hand glove – similar looking on the front side to what one would wear in the winter, but much more advanced when in view of the palm. The palm side of the glove contains sensors on the wearer to identify each word, phrase, or letter that they form via ASL, and is then translated into audible English via an app that coincides with the glove.

This is all done in real time and allows for instant communication without the need for a human translator. The signals are translated at a rate of one word per second.

The project was developed by scientists at UCLA. “Our hope is that this opens up an easy way for people who use sign language to communicate directly with non-signers without needing someone else to translate for them,” said lead researcher Jun Chen.

The hope is to make communication easier for those who rely on ASL, and to help those unfamiliar with ASL adapt to the signs. It is thought that between 250,000 and 500,000 people in the United States use ASL. As of now, the glove does not translate British Sign Language – the other form a sign language that utilizes English.

According to CNN, the researchers also added adhesive sensors to the faces of people used to test the device — between their eyebrows and on one side of their mouths — to capture facial expressions that are a part of American Sign Language. However, this facet of the technology is not loved by all.

“The tech is redundant because deaf signers already make extensive use of text-to-speech or text translation software on their phones, or simply write with pen and paper, or even gesture clearly,” said Gabrielle Hodge, a deaf post-doctoral researcher from the Deafness Cognition and Language Research Centre (DCAL) at University College London. “There is nothing wrong with these forms of communication.”

What are your thoughts on this advancement? Comment below!

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Business Marketing

Stand out with video as part of your resume (but be careful)

(MARKETING) This new tool helps you stand out in the job market, as video now dominates – so it’s possible to use this to your advantage (with caution).

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In the midst of a pandemic, people are finding themselves thrust back into the job market sooner than expected due to mass company layoffs or underemployment as a freelancer. Fields are oversaturated and jobs are sparse so it can be hard to stand out in today’s job market.

Although standing out in the job market is hardly a new problem, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t use some new and creative solutions. One company, VCV.ME has designed a tool to help you get creative and stand out from your competition.

VCV.ME turns your traditional resume into a video à la Instagram stories.

The process is simple. You answer a few questions and upload a video of yourself then the tool will provide you with a sharable link.

VCV Founder and CEO, Arik Akverdian, believes that video is the future saying, “Video will represent 80% of all internet traffic by 2021 according to Cisco, and according to eMarketer 94.1% of millennial internet users were streaming digital video in 2019. With growing demand for video social media such as TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram stories, and others, we’re bringing the short video format to the job market.”

There are some obvious limitations to using this tool in your job hunt.

First, not all employers will take videos as part of an application both for technical and legal reasons.

On the technical side, many automated tracking systems are not designed to filter that kind of file, so there may not even be an opportunity to showcase it. That’s not to say there aren’t some work-arounds. Many job applications will have a place for applicants to link to their portfolio or websites. An alternate option for this tool could be to place the video introduction on your website.

Another problem with the tool is how it exposes candidates and hiring managers to bias.

As more companies work to remove bias from their hiring practices and hire more diverse candidates, a video intro just won’t fly. Some companies have removed names and even alma maters from their applicants in order to make more unbiased hiring decisions. A video introduction would expose many characteristics that people have conscious and subconscious biases towards such as race, gender, age, and ethnicity.

Although VCV.ME’s intentions are to help candidates stand out in the job market, it’s worth questioning whether they would be standing out for the right reasons, so tread carefully.

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Business Marketing

Why should you take Facebook’s ‘Summer of Support’ courses

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Every company can use a little marketing advice, well Facebook has partnered with big companies to give you some free digital marketing courses.

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Our world has turned into a place of upheaval and unrest and we are continuously surrounded by more and more evidence of it. One thing that the majority of us are constantly seeing is announcements from companies. Some of those are about closing hours, but others are more helpful. As they all attempt to get used to this new world that COVID-19 has created we begin to see some different tactics. Some are only politically motivated, but others are more focused on helping out their communities.

Earlier this week Facebook announced that they will be putting on a six-week digital marketing education series. This series will be an extensive collection of videos with a full in depth set of courses that will cover a large amount of topics. The company has put together a cast of renowned entrepreneurs for the presenters as well.

The topics will be done in themed weeks starting on June 24th, and running through the month of July. They include categories such “The Changing World” & “Resilience”. Focusing primarily on the world that is here and now, with recommendations on how to adapt to it. With this world in a constant state of flux the push for adapting to change and staying in front of the tide is crucial for a small business.

The next two courses will be going forward with discussing “Reinvention” & “Re-Emergence”. Encouraging struggling companies to take a serious look at their potential for moving forward, or changing the things that they can to stay more on top of their client base. They also plan on attacking the confusing world that we will have when things get closer to normal.

The last two weeks are focused on community and customer care, which is actually their names as well: “Customers & Commerce” & “Community”. These will help develop a sense of how your business affects your community and the impact you have on it. Keeping that in mind you can then develop a plan for how you want your community to see you and shape things within it.

These courses are all set up for free and open to anyone. With a completely online set up with their new “Summer of Support” mini-site they are prepped to reach millions of people. They’ve organized this with a range of partners as well: Dell, PayPal, American Express, & Small Business Roundtable. A helping hand for people who wouldn’t currently be able to source things like this.

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