Moving from Customer Survival to Customer Success

For years, customers were often enslaved by on-premise applications that were very difficult to keep standing due to changing infrastructure, patch fixes and release upgrades. Then many of these customers were promised a seamless migration from on-premise to the cloud, only to have their hopes dashed when several of the same problems occurred, along with a few new ones. The process became more about customer survival than customer success.

Over the last two decades, the cloud emerged as an alternative to on-premise solutions and customer survival, liberating companies from acquiring and managing infrastructure, updating applications and creating data models. For Salesforce, customer success became the guiding principle at the heart of the company's culture. Moreover, with the subscription-based business model, cloud vendors have an important incentive to ensure that customers are successful—they can more easily take their data and business to another cloud provider if they are dissatisfied with the service.

Over the last 18 years, Salesforce has led a path to the future in the CRM industry with cloud, social, mobile, Internet of Things and now artificial intelligence technologies. Today, Salesforce serves more than 150,000 companies of all sizes and across all industries, most who have moved from another CRM vendor to achieve customer success. But, it takes far more than technology to deliver customer success. Salesforce is built on a set of core elements that has led to its success:

  • Customer Success
  • Trust
  • Innovation
  • Platform
  • Ecosystem
  • Equality

Customer Success

Too many vendors place their own bottom line in front of their customer's success, leaving customers to find success on their own. Salesforce is, and always has been, a customer success-driven company. It's not about building technology for technology sake, it's about delivering innovative technology that enables companies to get closer to their customers. It's about more than 26,000 Salesforce employees focusing on customers achieving value.

Groupe Atlantic—a major HVAC player in Europe—is a new customer about to begin its trail to success. "As a platform dedicated to customer success, Salesforce will give us the opportunity to improve each customer interaction and enrich the relationships we have with them over the long term," says Kim Vernier, Head of CRM and Business Efficiency at Within the Groupe Atlantic. "By implementing a solution that integrates the entire customer lifecycle, we will be able to increase customer satisfaction and accelerate our development. We are convinced that the new Lightning experience will be a vector of efficiency and will encourage user acceptance."

Trust

Trust is the cornerstone of customer success. Nothing is more important than the trusted relationships Salesforce has with its customers. Salesforce's technology delivers high levels of trust for critical factors such as performance, availability, and security. Salesforce's point of view is that companies must be more transparent than ever with their customers about their information and they must do more to protect users’ information. This enables Salesforce customers to deliver the same level trust to their customers.

U.S. Bank—the fifth-largest commercial bank in the United States—is using Salesforce to deliver trusted, intelligent and personalized experiences for its banking customers. “At U.S. Bank, we’re committed to cultivating trust-based, meaningful relationships with the customers we serve,” said Kate Quinn, vice chairman and chief administrative officer at U.S. Bank.

Innovation

Innovation should not be measured based on vendor promises. Innovation should be measured by a proven track record of introducing and delivering relevant innovations to customers time and time again. Vendors who tend to follow often offer messaging about being innovative but cannot back it up with customers achieving business results. For example, some vendors talk about artificial intelligence, but few are actually delivering solutions that are seamlessly integrated into the business workflow. With its Einstein set of AI-powered services, Salesforce has infused AI across its CRM applications to make every customer interaction smarter and more productive without the need for an army of data scientists.

Platform

Fitting into a vendor's pre-defined box or undertaking expensive application development is a false choice. Salesforce was founded on the principle “Make the Complex, Simple, and Make the Impossible, Possible”. In this Age of the Customer, data and connections are rich and complex and require companies to rethink how they deliver customer apps. And it’s not just about the apps themselves--companies must deliver unmatched customer experiences along with every app, and they must do so in release cycles of weeks, not months.

The Salesforce Platform offers unique advantages for building CRM applications:

  • Metadata Model
  • No Code to Low Code to Code Development Tools
  • Mobility

At its core, the Salesforce Platform has an innovative metadata model (something to this day I find many vendors struggling to get right). Simply put, who wants to deal with low-level database calls and interactions if there is no need to do so? Metadata minimizes complexity and enables benefits such as seamless upgrades and quick time to market. Interestingly, there were some vendors I found who would offer upgrade compatibility tools to validate changes before a customer upgraded. With seamless, automatic upgrades three times a year that don't break custom code, Salesforce customers have had no need for these kind of tools.

From a development tools perspective, Salesforce customers have a complete spectrum of programming capabilities, from no-code to low-code to code, allowing them to have more flexibility and capability in building apps and business workflows. And, with Trailhead, our leading-edge learning environment, customers can explore the possibilities of how technology can improve their business and careers. It gets new customers up to speed faster and enables anyone to learn more and do more—for free.

We live in an always-on, multi-device world. Salesforce's “mobile-first” strategy puts us in a unique position to handle both employee-facing and customer-facing mobile applications via a single, integrated platform. Because Salesforce was built from the ground up as a platform, every app has the flexibility and agility needed to keep pace with the business --something customers place premium value on.

Ecosystem

Customers understand that one vendor can't possibly deliver all the capabilities required to achieve customer success. Salesforce also understood this and developed a diverse ecosystem of developers, partners and the AppExchange, the leading enterprise app marketplace. If anyone in the world has a good idea they can build it on Salesforce, and offer it through the AppExchange and give customers immediate access to new functionality.

But it isn't easy to build an ecosystem—others have found out the hard way. Without cloud platform stability, tools and a focus on a specific application domain, such as CRM, it becomes an almost impossible task. I wrote about Salesforce's ecosystem and the impact of it has had on the customer success. Ecosystems are not created equally—it becomes quickly obvious whether an ecosystem and partner community have breath of capabilities to further customer success. Salesforce's growing ecosystem of customers and partners will contribute 1.9 million jobs and $389 billion in GDP worldwide by 2020, according to IDC. And, for every dollar Salesforce makes the company’s ecosystem will gain $4.14.

Equality

Businesses should not just serve shareholders, but all stakeholders—customers, employees, partners, the communities we live in and the environment. That means giving back to the community by donating employee time, adopting schools and helping train young people for the jobs of tomorrow. It also means supporting initiatives around equal rights, equal pay, equal opportunity, equality in education and environmental sustainability.

Salesforce's recent research report, “The Impact of Equality and Values Driven Business” found that companies who invest in equality and lead with values—such as diversity programs and equal pay—have a competitive advantage over those who do not. The findings indicated that employees are more productive and engaged when their workplace is committed to equality and other values that promote social good. Also, customers want to work with companies that have social responsibility as part of their corporate values.

Many customers are moving from the plodding path of customer survival to an illuminated path in the cloud leading to customer success. Salesforce, guided by its core values and in partnership with its community of customers, developers and partners, will continue to pave the way for those on the journey to customer success.

 

Why Aren’t More CEOs Using Social Media? 5 Ways to Change That

Every company and small business in the country has some kind of social media presence. I can’t imagine a business not having a presence in this day and age.

At every level of corporate America, CEOs want their companies to have a vibrant social media presence, but they themselves aren’t jumping into the fray. According to a 2015 Social CEO Report, 61 percent of CEOs have no social media presence whatsoever and none of the Fortune 500 CEOs are active on all six major social platforms.

Why the disconnect?

One way to possibly answer that question is because change doesn’t come easily, especially at the top. Many top-level executives are entrenched in their ways and they see social media as a waste of time, not a place to conduct business, and they simply don’t see the need in carving off time in their schedule to read their Twitter feed. Not to mention, the very real fear of screwing up and inadvertently creating a social media crisis.

While these are legitimate reasons not to tweet, or use Facebook Live, it’s not an excuse NOT to. The other side of that argument is the benefits CEOs can reap from being active on social media, even without posting on a regular basis. Social media can be an effective productivity tool, a global broadcast channel, a place to gather information on both consumers and competitors and a useful public relations tool.

Here are 5 ways CEOs can take advantage of social media:

Create buzz and brand awareness

CEOs can use social media to create buzz around a new product being launched into the market or a big company announcement. It can be a staggered effort, too. When I launched my book, Think Big, Act Bigger, in 2015, I used a number of social media initiatives to let people know about the new book. I started months in advance and ramped up efforts as the launch date drew closer. I did numerous Facebook posts, I tweeted regularly, and reached out to all of my LinkedIn followers, who themselves are influencers. This resulted in me sending galley copies to a select group of people who, in turn, told their friends and so on. Create a chain of people who will evangelize your brand.

Show your personality

CEOs are human beings too, so why not show that to the world? This doesn’t mean posting dinner pictures (unless the food is unique), but if you’re doing something for charity, have a cool hobby or are talking to a celebrity, let your followers get a sneak peek about what makes you, you.

Showing off your personality is an effective, yet simple, way of letting people know that an actual human being is running the company. Richard Branson has mastered this because he shares personal stories, career advice and shows everyone how much he enjoys life.

I take a slightly different approach.

Everyone knows I’m a workaholic and that I enjoy what I do, so I use social media to show people pictures of my fishing excursions, speaking engagements, and all that goes on behind the scenes with my show C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett, and my podcast, All Business with Jeffrey Hayzlett. I love giving my audience a sneak peek about upcoming interviews, give them a chance to ask questions I can ask my guests and even get some good feedback in return.

Thought leadership

CEOs are seen as leaders, so why not add some content to your social channels? When people think of CEOs, they think of someone sitting up in an ivory tower, sharpening No. 2 pencils and flipping through a Rolodex of contacts acquired from all their years in the industry, barely knowing how to use a computer.

Times are changing.  

Adding value-added content to the mix helps establish CEOs as thought leaders who have their finger on the pulse of their respective industries. People are always looking for content that is engaging and gives them valuable information and writing content on a regular basis, even a blog post, will establish you as someone looking to perfect their craft – just like your audience is.

Build trust in the brand

While many still have an image of the CEO as aloof and someone you only hear from during a crisis, things are moving in a different direction. If a brand wants to create loyal followers, they need to present a real, human face to consumers. Social media can create a powerful and efficient ways for CEOs to connect with consumers efficiently and at scale.

This doesn’t mean that company executives need to respond personally to every consumer request or complaint. But, a CEO can easily jump into a conversation and leave a big impression. For example, T-Mobile CEO John Legere randomly tweeted someone who praised their data plan (and regret about being locked into another company’s plan).

I don’t know if the company got the guy to switch over or not, but Legere definitely demonstrated the ability to show the world that ‘corporate’ cares about their customers. In an era where ‘less corporate’ is the new normal, nearly 70% of senior professionals say that seeing a CEO tweeting makes the company more attractive, according to Weber Shandwick and KRC Research.

Message amplification

With social media being such a powerful tool, your message can reach a worldwide audience within seconds. At times, it seems a simple Facebook post by a CEO can have the same impact a press release had a few years ago, not to mention more gravitas while adding another layer of credibility.

Social media reflects more than just a technological shift. It also represents a leadership and cultural shift. Research by McKinsey estimates that companies who can apply a variety of social technologies in the next few years can add $1.3 trillion in value to their brand. That’s the kind of numbers that any CEO can get behind! 

The bottom line is this – CEOs can no longer afford to hide in their perch. They need to roll up their sleeves, become immersed in social media and learn how to take advantage of every possible avenue that enhances the brand, puts a face to the name and reaches a wider audience. Stepping out of your comfort zone is the quickest, and fastest, way to grow (and join the 21st century).

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Jeffrey Hayzlett is the primetime television host of C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett and Executive Perspectives LIVE on C-Suite TV and is the host of the award-winning All Business with Jeffrey Hayzlett on C-Suite Radio. Hayzlett is a global business celebrity, Hall of Fame speaker, best-selling author, and Chairman of C-Suite Network, home of the world’s most trusted network of C-Suite leaders.

How to Get Your Team OOO This Summer

Whether you’re working at a startup or a major corporation, no summer ever passes without employees requesting time off to get out of the office and enjoy a quick getaway. In an annual survey conducted by Project: Time Off, full-time employees are getting more paid vacation days (22.6 as of 2016) now than ever before and they’re using an average of 16.8 of those days too. 

However, not everyone is taking a summer vacay. Some employees might want to save their PTO for the holiday season while others might be part-time team members with fewer benefits. And of course, there’s always the issue of ensuring that not everyone takes off all at once leaving your business looking like a ghost town either. For the few, the proud, the ones who stick around full-time during the summer, here are a few ways you can get your team out of the office and participating in fun activities to celebrate the season.

Go to camp for a month

Remember when you went to summer camp as a kid? Bring the adventures to the office! In July, “Camp MyCorp” is in session at my company and all of our team members are campers. We toast s’mores, get creative with arts and crafts, play games, and decorate desks. It’s an inexpensive way to have fun and get the whole team engaged, with everyone looking forward to the next activity. Organize a scavenger hunt around the office, hit the trails on a “nature” hike (which for many might just mean exploring your neighborhood park), and host a summer camp-themed snack potluck loaded with popsicles, fruit, and bug juice. 

Head on a field trip

If you can’t think up fun activities to do every single workday, consider heading on a weekly or biweekly field trip with your team. Close down for a few hours or opt to do the trip after work and have everyone join you for a wine and painting session, escape room, baseball game, or a trip to a museum. 

Spend some time volunteering

If you’re experiencing a slower month in the office, use the extra time to give back to the community. Not sure what to do or what opportunities are available in your area? Check out VolunteerMatch.org to discover causes and nonprofits near you that could use your passion and a few helping hands. Some ideas to get you started include joining up with Habitat for Humanity to build homes, heading to soup kitchens, reading and offering tutoring services at local libraries, and working alongside animals.

Time for a park day!

Ah, the great outdoors! Get a little sunnin’ and funnin’ going by hosting company picnics at local parks. Encourage your team members to invite family along, call in some food trucks, and participate in fun activities like Frisbee, softball, and hula hooping. Make it a point to return back to the park throughout the summer too. Encourage everyone to join you there for morning yoga classes. Go on afternoon Starbucks runs and head to the park afterward to enjoy your drinks and stretch out. Savor the dog days of summer outdoors, rather than use them to sit in front of the computer and aimlessly Google the day away — everybody will thank you for it!

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Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com. MyCorporation is a leader in online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, providing start-up bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent, DBA, and trademark & copyright filing services. MyCorporation does all the work, making the business formation and maintenance quick and painless, so business owners can focus on what they do best. Follow her on Google+ and on Twitter @mycorporation.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

5 Ways to Build Trust With Your Team

The importance of trust in the workplace was something I did not understand early in my career. I was more concerned with progress and performance. But as I’ve grown as a leader, now serving as Director of Marketing at Salesforce, I’ve come to realize that progress and performance are dependent on trust. I would go so far as to say that if a team or an individual is underperforming, there might be a level of trust that has been broken.

I remember being part of a team where we weren't “rowing in the same direction.” My manager sent out a questionnaire for us to fill out anonymously and specifically asked us about how we can improve our collaboration as a team.

After reviewing the responses, he gathered us all together to talk through the issues. What a bold move!

What surfaced was a root of broken trust. A history of random re-orgs, unintentional hurt feelings, and a perceived lack of appreciation all built up and slowly eroded our trust in leadership and each other. However, that meeting opened the door to transparency and vulnerability — and it was a huge turning point for our team. I always will remember that manager and his desire to develop trust.

From my own career experience, here are 5 “Be's” I've learned that can build a greater level of trust:

  1. Be Personal. I've told my previous team that my biggest regret was that I didn't get to know them personally earlier. There was so much work to do, and I was focused on progress. But remembering that progress and performance is tied to trust, I pivoted and began to invest more in the relationships. Having lunch with them (vs. working through lunch), showing up for more non-work related activities, etc. not only increased trust, but I began to enjoy my job more. Win win!
  2. Be Bold. Every direct wants to know that their manager has their back and will remove barriers. Being bold builds trust. I'm not talking about an obnoxious, cocky attitude; more like understanding what your team needs and going after it. Even if you can't get them everything they're requesting, they'll begin to trust that you'll fight for them.
  3. Be Responsive. Even the best-intended communication is hollow if it's not followed by corresponding action. Say you’ll do something only if you're able to follow through, and don’t commit if there's a chance that you won’t be able to deliver. Breaking a commitment can destroy trust you’ve built as well as make people less inclined to trust you in the future.
  4. Be Transparent. When we, as leaders, acknowledge our mistakes as well as our successes, our directs begin to see us as credible and will follow our lead. Encourage honest dialogue and foster accountability. Last year I created a hashtag #DreamJobTips on Chatter, our internal social network, that came from a place of my own growth as a leader as well as lessons I learned throughout my career. I'm not saying that you need to start a Chatter hashtag, but the point is that you can — and should be — transparent about your own growth.
  5. Be vulnerable. Healthy relationships grow during hard conversations. When you're vulnerable (not emotional), it opens the door to increased trust in the relationship. A colleague once pulled me aside and shared that she was having a hard time trusting me due to a few things I'd said in passing. Though I meant nothing by my comments, it broke trust between us. If she hadn't told me, I would never have known, and the relationship would've probably gotten worse. If you feel there's even a small amount of trust broken, be bold and talk with that individual. It can be scary, but it's worth the risk.

Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship — whether it's personal or professional. It isn't just Salesforce's #1 value we need have with our customers; it's also the #1 value that we, as leaders, need to champion on our own teams.

Interested in joining the team at Salesforce? We're hiring! See opportunities and apply today at salesforce.com/careers.

Get Motivated to Be an Equality Leader with These 20 Quotes

Today, the equality movement is everywhere you look. Customers and employees want to do business with — and work for — equality-driven companies.

In fact, 80% of business professionals believe companies have a responsibility to go beyond profit to make an impact on society, according to a report coming soon from Salesforce Research.

Similarly, 66% of global online consumers say they're willing to pay more for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact, according to Nielsen.

But we still have a long way to go. A couple more stats to prove it:

 

With these stats in mind, it's clear that equality issues go far beyond our personal lives. It's now important for companies and individuals to become leaders in the movement. And just a heads-up: that includes you.

Need some motivation to help you on your quest in equality trailblazing?

Check out the new interactive website 20 Quotes About Equality That Will Motivate You to Lead.

 

This is an interactive, explorable website that includes quotes from incredible equality leaders, including Maya Angelou, Billie Jean King, Malala Yousafzai, Martin Luther King, Jr., and many more.

Here are a few quotes from the interactive, then explore the full site.

Grace Hopper, Pioneering Computer Scientist:

“The most damaging phrase in the language is it’s always been done that way.”

 

Martin Luther King, Jr., Civil Rights Leader:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

 

Harvey Milk, LGBT Activist:

“It takes no compromise to give people their rights … it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.”

 

Patricia Arquette, Academy Award Winner and Activist:

“It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all, and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

 

Cherie Blair, Lawyer and Women’s Rights Activist:

“Business leaders benefit from having unique platforms and positions of influence, and I believe that using these tools to create positive social change is not just important – it is imperative. We have a responsibility to give back.”

 

Malala Yousafzai, Activist for Female Education:

"I raise up my voice — not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard … we cannot succeed when half of us are held back."

 

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund:

“When women do better, economies do better."

 

Want the rest of the 20 quotes? Head over to the interactive website 20 Quotes About Equality That Will Motivate You to Lead (no download or form needed!) for more inspiration.

How Your Customers’ Expectations Have Changed in the Age of the Customer

“New technologies have put customers in the driver’s seat of the marketplace — giving them power over which brands sink or swim in the digital age.”

According to Forrester, we’re five years into the Age of the Customer, in which newly empowered customers place elevated expectations on every interaction they have with brands.

As disruptive companies leverage breakthroughs in cloud, mobile, social, and artificial intelligence technology to deliver personalized, valuable, and immediate experiences, customers have more choices than ever. As a result, they grow to expect this superior experience from any business they engage with.

What’s more, Salesforce’s recent “State of the Connected Customer” report found that 70% of consumers now report that technology has made it easier than ever to take their business elsewhere — switching from brand to brand to find an experience that matches their expectations.

Forrester anticipates this challenging new environment will “place harsh and unfamiliar demands on institutions, requiring changes in how they develop, market, sell, and deliver products and services.”

The State of the Connected Customer report polled over 7,000 consumer and business buyers to learn exactly what those new expectations are — and how business leaders should repurpose their companies to respond. There are four core elements of the new baseline customer experience: immediacy, personalization, consistency, and anticipation.

Customers expect to be treated like a human, not a number.

There is a considerable opportunity for brands that are able to interact on an individual basis with customers — from personalizing marketing journeys, to providing informed and unique customer care, to better understanding a customer’s unique needs. Seventy-two percent of consumers and 89% of business buyers say they expect companies to understand their unique needs and expectations, while 66% of consumers say they’re likely to switch brands if they feel treated like a number, not an individual.

For those companies able to deliver this more human touch, the rewards are considerable. Delivering personalized experiences drives customer loyalty, with 70% of consumers saying a company’s understanding of their individual needs influences their loyalty, and 69% saying the same of personalized customer care. The issue is more pressing with business buyers, 82% of whom say personalized customer care influences loyalty.

Customers expect immediate, responsive service.

As connectivity becomes ubiquitous and customers grow used to conversational interactions with brands, immediacy has become vital. In the findings, 64% of consumers and 80% of business buyers said they expect companies to respond to and interact with them in real time. As the Millennial generation becomes more powerful in the marketplace, the issue will only become more pressing — 66% of Millennial consumers expect real-time responses and interactions, versus just 62% of Baby Boomers.

Meeting these expectations requires in the first instance a comprehensive, 360-degree view of each customer, so when interactions are initiated there is enough understanding for an accurate response. Second, business leaders must consider the viability of instant responses from a human workforce. Is the best solution a radical increase in headcount in customer-facing departments, or the deployment of chatbots and other AI-powered technology?

Again, matching expectations will have a considerable impact on customer lifetime value and churn, given 80% of consumers report that immediate responses to requests influence their loyalty to a given brand.

Customers expect consistency.

For many companies, several different departments clamour to own the customer, with marketing, sales, and service being three of the most common. Any decision on organizational structure changes must have at its core the ability for the company to deliver a seamless experience for the customer, regardless of the challenges behind the scenes. Seventy-five percent of consumers expect consistent experiences across multiple channels (web, mobile, in-person, social), with 73% likely to switch brands if they don’t get it. Customer loyalty — and attrition — is determined by every experience.

Predictive, anticipatory service is increasingly the norm.

As customers look to the future, they increasingly expect companies to leverage their data to provide anticipatory services. By 2020, 75% of business buyers expect companies that can anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they initiate contact, while 73% expect that products they purchase will self-diagnose issues and automatically order replacement parts or service.

For a company to effectively predict and prescribe actions for their customers, the ability to both manage existing customer data effectively and deploy new machine learning algorithms to make predictions is increasingly important.

Customers will share personal data — in exchange for better service.

Given the imperative for companies to deploy artificial intelligence algorithms to meet anticipated customer expectations, it’s fortunate that customer stances on sharing their personal data are softening.

Sixty-one percent of Millennials are happy to share personal data if it leads to a more personalized in-store or online shopping experience, while 58% will share personal data to power product recommendations that match their needs. 

The rapid evolution of customer expectations is made clear when we compare the Millennial approach to that of Baby Boomers, for whom only 41% are willing to share data for personalized shopping experiences.

A perfect storm is ahead.

Business leaders are faced with the prospect that as Millennials come to dominate the market, customer expectations will increase still further. The company that can’t efficiently and effectively transform customer data into personalized and predictive customer experiences is ripe for disruption by new technology-powered innovators.

This article was published in conjunction with Salesforce’s “State of the Connected Customer” report. Download a full copy of the report below.

Pipeline Management: Don’t Confuse Comfort with Competence

I recently had a conversation with both the Director of L&D and the RVP of Sales for a large global company. The topic: how to improve the company’s ability to manage its sales pipeline. The L&D director was keen on our pipeline management training program since her company was struggling with several pipeline issues such as decreasing deal win rates and increasingly long sales cycles. She believed we could help, and she wanted to gain the RVP’s agreement to engage us. His influence would help win over his peers and assist in moving the effort forward.

I explained our training program and its key objectives, including how to differentiate pipeline management and forecasting, determine the ideal size for a pipeline, qualify new opportunities early, and use the shape of a pipeline to isolate trouble spots.

After I finished, the RVP paused and said, “This sounds pretty basic. It might be useful for onboarding new sales managers, but some of our managers have been here for 10-15 years. They’ve been managing sales pipelines forever.” And with that, he exited the meeting. The L&D director then groaned in frustration, “His attitude is indicative of the core issue here: he doesn’t even see the problem!”

Unfortunately, the RVP’s perspective is not an uncommon one. Like many companies, he was confusing comfort with a task with competence in performing it. Comfort and competence are not the same thing. Just because someone has been managing a sales pipeline for 10 years does not mean they’re good at it. That’s a dangerous assumption to make—and it’s an assumption that was getting the company I mentioned into trouble.

Forget for a moment how long your sales managers have been in their positions and instead look at some of these key performance indicators that tie right back poor pipeline management:

  • Are you missing your sales targets? If so, it means your sales teams aren’t maintaining a pipeline healthy enough (either in size or quality) to get you to your targets consistently.
  • Are you losing too many deals and taking too much time to lose them? Low win rates and long sales cycles indicate that bad deals are being allowed into your pipeline and then being invited to stay.
  • Are you missing your sales forecasts? Forecasts are most often built off a sales pipeline. When your sales team misses its forecast, it means your pipeline isn’t clean and healthy.

These may look like basic issues, but they’re some of the most common problems companies encounter today, no matter how long their sales managers have been in their roles.

In our recent research on sales management practices at large B2B companies, we learned that only 44% of sales forces think they’re good at managing their sales pipelines. That leaves 56% of organizations struggling with basic issues like bloated pipelines, ‘stuck’ deals, inaccurate forecasts, and low win rates. And every one of these companies employs experienced managers. These common problems plague organizations of all sizes and sales managers of all experience levels.

Bottom line: Don’t assume that just because your managers have been doing something for a long time that they’re doing it well. Training and development still matter, even for sales veterans. And sometimes especially for sales veterans.

About the Author

Jason Jordan is a founding partner of Vantage Point Performance, a global sales management training and development firm, and co-author of Cracking the Sales Management Code. Jason is a recognized thought leader in the domain of business-to-business sales and teaches sales and sales management at the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business. Sign up for Vantage Point’s newsletter to stay up to date with the latest sales manager research and best practices.

4 Ways Great Sales Leaders Make Everyone Smarter

As a VP of Sales here at Salesforce, I've always wanted my legacy to be that my teams believe that they did the best work of their careers when they worked for me. I want to be the leader who inspires people to grow and to challenge themselves and others. I want to be the one to propel them to success.

Like a typical leader, I once believed that I could be great simply by knowing how to do the sales job and passing that knowledge on.  While I still believe that "leading the way" is certainly important, it doesn't cover everything a good sales manager needs to achieve. I've learned that there’s a science to attracting the best possible candidates and getting the most out of them.  While many leaders believe that their role is one of "command and control," the truth is that this strategy does not get the best out of people. Typically, teams find that this type of leader drains their energy, confidence, and sometimes even their desire to perform in the role.

I found the best distillation of advice in a book called Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter. Multiplier's taught me how to empower my employees, challenging them to push out of their comfort zones. I learned that a great leader needs to create the right type of environment within every interaction so that people can formulate their own points of view and hone their decision-making skills. Rather than solve problems for our people, we need to build an environment where they learn to trust their own abilities, resource their own challenges, and be a part of the decision-making team. Here are a few tips learned on the front lines on how to do that.

1. Build careers, not empires

The first lesson I learned is that it's important to get comfortable with building careers, not empires. Many new managers get greedy with talent when they find it, stunting careers in hopes of keeping top performers on their teams longer in the hopes of building their own success. Great managers should get comfortable with pushing their people to grow and then promoting them as soon as they are ready. While the short-term pain of losing an AE is tough, your reputation as a career advancing leader will draw the new freshman class to you.  

Additionally, what I've found is that many people that I have invested in and promoted have come back to work for me time and time again throughout the course of their careers. I've hired and “promoted out” AEs who have returned years later to become strong leaders, and AEs who have asked to be on my new teams when I moved into new, more senior roles. It’s a strategy that pays dividends in the long term!

2. Create safe spaces

Secondly, I learned that people do their best work when you create a safe space for them to perform at their best, rather than cultivating a culture of fear where they’re afraid to make mistakes. I've learned that giving people ideas but letting them make their own decisions is key to building confidence and skills. Listening and asking questions is more powerful than directing someone, even when I believe I have the right answer. Giving them the answer just means they come to depend on others, and not themselves. There is no growth in that, and believe me, as a management tactic, it definitely doesn't scale. Plus, I learn so much about my people when I ask questions. I learn how they think, how they approach problems, and what their strengths are.

3. Emphasize execution vs. results

Third, I've learned how powerful it is to distinguish someone's work from the outcomes. Especially in sales, we are all about the final outcome: annual contract value (ACV).  While "ACV is king," measuring only ACV does not develop the skills and long-term success of your team. I try to be a leader who holds people accountable for their execution versus just their results. For example, many sales leaders withhold any positive feedback about a person's work until they determine whether they succeeded or not (i.e. closed the sale). But it is possible to do the right things and get the wrong results — and vice versa. The best way to scale our teams and get the most out of our people is to reinforce the right behaviors, regardless of the outcome.

For example, one of the best run mutual plans I've seen recently was on a deal that we did not win. We learned hard lessons in other areas of execution, but the fact remained that the AE executed at the highest level in this area. His skills of driving the deal would serve him well in future deals, and therefore I made sure he understood what he did right in the cycle.  We have all had the boss who shamed us for our entire effort when we lost a deal, which only crushes confidence and throws out the positive lessons learned. I don't want to be that kind of leader, and I know from experience that it doesn’t foster long-term success.

4. Drop your ego at the door

Lastly, I've (hopefully) learned not to be a know-it-all. Being directive (i.e. I know what to do, so do what I say) is not scalable, doesn't empower people, and frankly, it's exhausting. Drop your ego at door, forget trying to look like you're the smartest person in the room, and give people the opportunity to discover for themselves the optimal path to the best outcomes. You definitely should freely give people a starting point; your experience is valuable. But then ask hard questions, challenge them to think it through themselves, weigh in on their thought process, challenge further, and then watch what happens. Just today, an AE told me he had hit a dead-end.  While I knew the answer, I didn't give it to him. I shared what I had done in a similar account and challenged him to find a way to develop a stronger, deeper perspective on his customer. Only an hour later, this AE had built a plan unlike any he had ever created before. He came over to high five me, proud of his work.  If I had to bet, I believe he is going to run that play over and over in his career and benefit immensely from it.  

The job of sales manager can be a daunting one, but one that can inspire you on a daily basis if your teams are learning, growing, and experiencing success. If you’re interested in more practical advice on how to make your team smarter and more successful, check out our eBook, “Sales experts answer your toughest sales management questions.”

The New Leadership Skills: How to Get Fast with Extreme Collaboration

In the summer and fall of 2016, Salesforce interviewed dozens of business leaders from around the world to discover the most pressing topics being discussed in the C-suite across industries.

In a series of posts, of which this is the second, we will share those findings and explore what they mean. The first article, “Confronting the Dangers of Legacy Attitudes,” also outlines the research we conducted.

There is intense pressure to get fast.

Almost every executive we interviewed is feeling the pressure of speed. They must move quickly to keep up with their competitors, customers, and CEOs. For them, speed isn't just about doing the same old things in less time; in business today, speed means pivoting, piloting, and experimenting quickly. Even the most traditionally risk-averse leaders — CIOs and VPs of Service — are under pressure to get fast.

On top of this, these same executives acknowledged that despite their seniority, they rarely make strategic decisions alone. Most meaningful decisions today are made with leaders in other disciplines. We know from the CEB's excellent work on the Challenger Sale that 5.4 decision-makers are involved in the average B2B purchase. That means 5.4 people need to reach consensus on any single choice. Leaders trying to make change need the buy-in of their peers, and it can be very messy when so many senior opinions collide.

Thus, many of these execs are engaging in what one called “extreme collaboration” — processes or structures that force people in different silos to work together. It can be painful at first and requires new ways of thinking.

If you're someone who feels like you have too many meetings, conference calls, and daily check-ins, you may find this insight a little counterintuitive. But the results apparently make the effort worthwhile: Leaders experimenting with extreme collaboration find they are better equipped to move at the higher speeds required. This isn't a buzzword yet, but given the realities of business today, I can imagine it becoming one.

Extreme collaboration comes in many forms.

We found the strongest advocates for extreme collaboration in the CIOs we interviewed. That's not so surprising — most thoughtful CIOs now organize their IT departments as service providers, and need to keep the pace of their internal clients. Take these representative examples:

One CIO empowers IT deputies that he designates. These deputy CIOs are assigned to a business unit outside IT (like sales or HR, for example) and given the budget and authority to make quick decisions without the CIO's approval. These deputies spend far more time with their “clients” than with their IT colleagues, and that keeps them moving at the speed of business.

Another CIO insists that every department that might have an IT need send a representative to the grueling budget planning sessions he leads every year. That CIO then facilitates the hard work of hashing out a prioritized plan that is collectively owned by these department leaders. It's a long, intense workshop, but at the end, every business unit knows the IT investment plan for the year, and IT can get to work delivering results.

Methods of extreme collaboration are not limited to CIOs. For example:

Service leaders are the executives that hear every customer concern and complaint. But VPs of Service often have less clout than their counterparts, like CMO or VPs of Sales. So many of these service executives stated that they have become adept diplomats. They join every committee, attend every meeting, and take every opportunity to work with their colleagues to make change at the speed their customers expect. Their form of extreme collaboration is really taking every excuse to share customer experience concerns and work with groups to improve that customer experience.

CMOs lamented that marketing budgets are becoming decentralized. Many business units are getting control of a portion of the budget that was once controlled by the CMO. As a result, many CMOs now have to manage their company's marketing through influence rather than directive and are spending far more time with leaders outside marketing than they did even a few years ago. Their extreme collaboration ensures that good marketing choices are made quickly, without time-consuming debates or last-minute changes.

Collaboration is a requirement.

Collaboration has historically been treated as a nice-to-have soft skill, but wasn't considered a requirement for executive leadership. It certainly has never been considered a tool for accelerating the pace of an organization. But that has changed for these leaders. All the executives we interviewed are being pressed to move at speed. Most were given a mandate for change when they first took their jobs. Yet none of them can make decisions, move quickly, or mandate change alone.

Extreme collaboration has become a critical, even urgent tool for faster management, career, and business success. Leaders that use extreme forms of collaboration to address the inherent challenges in their roles are finding they are better able to keep up with the demands of their customers and the moves of their competitors. This type of collaboration isn’t easy, but it seems likely to become a requirement for success.

Evan Mager is Senior Director of Creative Strategy at Salesforce. The research featured here was led by Salesforce’s Customer & Market Insights team and conducted by the research firm Usability Sciences, in partnership with the Creative Strategy team.

Conducting an Effective Mid-Year Review: What Do Awesome Sales Managers Do?

Many sales managers will be sitting down with their sales people over the next month or so to review progress on objectives, business plans, and development plans. 

Sales managers spend a considerable amount of time preparing for a mid-year performance review.  Sales managers may spend a day per rep preparing and delivering a mid-year review. Many managers have an average of 8-10 sales reps so all the time that goes into this review is significant.

Last week I was speaking with one of my favorite coaching clients. She expressed how excited she was about the process. She said, “there aren’t a lot of opportunities in the year to reflect on the positive accomplishments the reps have made.”

This led me to think about the mid-year review process. Below you will find my insights.

How Do Sales Managers Look at the Process? 

There are two ways a sales manager can look at the mid-year review.

Some sales managers see it as a pain in the ass.  For these managers, the review process means more work, having difficult conversations with their reps, keeping their salespeople accountable and doing a course correction. 

Contrary to this view, some sales managers are pumped about the opportunity to review successes, gain commitments to new actions, develop next steps and help move the business forward. They are completely comfortable with what has to be done and view it as an important time the year.

It is very clear that a manager’s attitude when approaching mid-year reviews has a tremendous impact on the value of the time invested. 

What is the Objective of the Mid-Year Review? 

Human Resources tends to see mid-year reviews as an important process that ensures that salespeople/employees will have no surprises at the end of the year. They expect the manager to highlight any deficiencies in performance and address behavioral issues with their rep.

That’s one way to look at it.

Great sales leaders understand that the objective of the mid-year review is an opportunity to celebrate successes. Sales reps have a chance to look at their business and make necessary adjustments.

What to Cover in a Mid-Year Review? 

Review Business Plans

Part of the mid-year review is having the sales rep update the manager on how their business plan is progressing and what their plans are for the balance of the year. The sales rep should come prepared with a plan of how they are going to accelerate their business in the back half of the year. See my article on Conducting Impactful Quarterly Business Reviews for best practices. 

Review Development Plan

The most important part of the mid-year review! Taking time to review how your sales reps coaching & development plans are progressing is critical.

I would ask myself/them:

  • Have they improved on the one skill that is part of their coaching plan?

  • Do you see improvement?

  • Is it time to refocus on another area in the back half of the year? 

Mid-year reviews are a great opportunity to gain a commitment from the sales rep on what they want to focus on from a developmental perspective. Once you have established what they want to work on, ask them what specific steps they are prepared to take as part of their development.

Remember the most important role the sales manager plays is improving sales rep performance. You know, moving the B-reps to B+ and the B+ to A! At the end of the day if this is happening the sales numbers will come.

Review Objectives and Behaviors

If you have specific objectives, KPI’s, and behaviors as part of the sales reps’ annual review, it is important to review and provide feedback and to make sure that both you, the sales manager and the rep are aligned.

If there are gaps between how you rate your reps vs how they rate themselves, then you need to ensure the sales rep is aware and has a strong understanding of what “good” looks like so that they are aware of what they need to do to bring up their ratings.  

The key is that you have communicated to the rep on how they are progressing with their objectives and behaviors so that there are no surprises at the end of the year. 

Celebrate Successes

Finally, given how busy most sales reps and managers are, there is little time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of one’s labor. Great sales managers understand that recognition of successes is a powerful way to engage sales people and reward their great efforts. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to do this on a frequent basis but do not, and I repeat do not miss this opportunity to celebrate the sales rep’s success. As we know, success breeds success.

Conclusion 

It is very important for sales managers to spend sufficient time on performance management. The mid-year review is a timely opportunity to get re-focused on business. It is a great time to refine or tweak business plans, sales rep development plans and let the rep know how they are progressing on objectives and behaviors.  

During the mid-year review, great sales managers take the opportunity to celebrate sales reps’ successes and inspire their people to achieve new heights in the back half of the year.

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Steven A. Rosen, MBA is the founder of STAR Results, a leading sales management training and leadership coaching Company. He is the author of 52 Sales Management Tips – The Sales Manager’s Success Guide. Steven has been recognized as one of the Top 50 Sales Influencers.