The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Burn Your Ships: A History Lesson About How to Be a Great Leader

ship_at_seaIf you are a history buff, you may know the story of Cortés and the burning of his ships. In the year 1519, Hernán Cortés arrived in the New World with six hundred men and, upon arrival, made history by destroying his ships. This sent a clear message to his men: There is no turning back.

Two years later he succeeded in his conquest of the Aztec empire. 

As leaders taking our people into new territories as unknown and potentially hazardous as did Cortés, we need to ensure those we are leading that there is no turning back. He knew how to be a great leader. We need to be certain there is no off-ramp our people can use to avoid the challenges of our own new business worlds. We need to burn the ships.

What Does Burning the Ships Mean Today? 

We’re long past the days of conquistadors, but the story of burning the ships is as relevant as ever. I bet you’re already thinking of some aspect of your company that needs attention right now, that needs your leadership. If you leave the ships in the harbor, your people will see that you’re not fully committing to the transition needed.  If you’re not fully committed, why should they be? By burning the ships, by removing any available path back to the previous way, your team will become as fully committed as you obviously are.

Read More

Topics: Management Edge

How to Listen for Talent when you are Interviewing Salespeople

Interviews are challenging. The person you’re talking to wants the job, so they’re motivated to give you the answers you want to hear. But you’re not looking for the textbook-correct answers. You’re interested in whether the person on the opposite side of the table—or the other end of the phone or Skype call—is qualified for the sales position you’re looking to fill. 

When you're interviewing salespeople, even something as innocent as a yes-or-no question will often take on a life of its own. The candidate, in an attempt to impress, will fill the space with a lot of words, examples, and ideas that seem to fall all over the spectrum between yes and no. Consequently, the process becomes tricky and messy and not at all direct.

interviewLet’s say you ask questions like these:

  • Do you like to work hard?
  • Do you like to be a leader?
  • Are you competitive?

Even these simple questions will elicit answers that are extremely complex, often including qualifiers like “it depends on the situation.”

Here’s a sampling of the answers you might receive. As you read these, ask yourself, is the candidate saying yes or no?

Question: Do you like to work hard?

Answer: I do, I love to work as hard as the opportunity allows me to. Really it is more about working smart than hard. In fact, planning is what it is all about. Planning allows me to work smart which is better than working hard.

Read More

Topics: Talent Edge

The Flip Side of CRM: Vendor Relationship Management

Vendor_Relationship_ManagementWe’ve all heard of Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and most sales organizations are using CRM software of one kind or another. One intent of CRM is to make sure no clients or prospects “fall through the cracks.” It’s a neat piece of software that helps the sales team make sure they are calling on prospects with sufficient frequency, suggesting upsell opportunities, and learning the buying cycle of existing clients. Sometimes the CRM system can even automate the process of corresponding with the customer. 

And now, many of those customers are automating their vendor relationships.

Have you experienced “Vendor Relationship Management?” If you’ve been stung by any of the following practices, you’ve run into VRM: 

  • The human gatekeeper who is paid, in part, to protect their executive from most “typical salespeople.”
  • The habit of sorting quickly through traditional mail or email, swiftly discarding anything that is from an unfamiliar sender.
Read More

Topics: Digital Edge

What We Wrote, and What We Read: April 14-18

Today, we're happy to have our taxes done. Do you wait until the last minute or do you file as soon as you get your return?

The Center for Sales Strategy Weekly Wrap-Up

In 6 Immutable Rules of Communication in the Age of Content Marketing, Mike Anderson writes, "Picture a room filled with dozens of people who are talking, while only a handful of people are listening. The folks who are pumping information out (publishing) are literally overwhelming the poor folks who are taking information in (listening)."

In Best Practices when Networking on LinkedIn, Brian Hasenbauer writes, "Don’t send LinkedIn requests to people you don’t know or don’t have a solid reason for knowing them."


Read More

Topics: Inbound Edge, Digital Edge, Management Edge, Sales Edge, Talent Edge

You Can’t Fix Any Problem Without Talent

While the economy has shown general improvement the last few years, most of the clients I work with remain in a difficult business climate. The job of sales management is much tougher than before the recent recession. Their sales engine needs to be firing on all cylinders if there’s any hope of exceeding goals.

While helping several clients work through some tough problems, a powerful truth occurred to me:

Talent doesn’t fix every problem, but you can’t fix any problem without the right talent.

I was with one particular client for a few days, meeting with various managers and hearing about their problems, one after another. Each time, I probed for more information, asking for specific data, drilling down, so I could provide useful insight. One issue stood out every time: The organization was expecting outstanding sales numbers from someone who didn’t have sales talent.

You can have a great product to sell and the right prospects to talk to, but if the salesperson on the account doesn't have the talent needed for success, there isn't going to be a good outcome. In these situations, there was very little in the way of useful advice I could give, other than replace the salesperson.

Read More

Topics: Talent Edge

When Will I See a Return on My Inbound Marketing Investment?

men_with_laptopsThis question is one we hear quite often and for good reason. When embarking on any new marketing program, you should be asking yourself (and your marketing partners) not only how you’ll measure and track results, but also what kind of expectations you should have: What will the return be and when will it show up? If you’re thinking about starting an online lead generation program, like the ones we help our clients execute, then you’ll want to be sure your expectations are realistic and that you are tracking the right key performance indicators (KPIs) for your business.

In order to understand how long it might take for your inbound marketing program to start generating results let’s take a look at some of the factors to keep in mind.

Developing a strategic inbound marketing foundation for your business is the first, and most important, step.

First things first: You have a lot of questions to answer. We typically kick off every program with an Inbound Marketing Planning Day to cover all topics absolutely critical to setting yourself up for success. Who are you writing for? What is your keyword strategy? What kind of premium content will you develop to convert visitors into leads?

All of this and more should be discussed, strategized, clarified, and recorded before moving forward with anything.

Expect the pre-launch planning to take anywhere from 30 to 90 days. 

Read More

Topics: Inbound Edge

Best Practices when Networking on LinkedIn

Five_Big_Things_Happening_in_Social_Media_Right_NowThe recent lighting up of the Twitterverse following the rather intemperate remarks of a Cleveland job-bank executive gave many of us one of those cringing laughs. Or was it a laughing cringe? We cringed at how mean she was to a young job seeker, but we laughed at many of the comments made as the event proved again that bad news travels faster than good, that ugly behavior often makes for more interesting copy than does good behavior.

But let’s take this opportunity to look at what that woman was trying to accomplish—to respond appropriately to a LinkedIn connection request. She failed miserably, but you can succeed if you follow these best practices.

3 things to remember when you're networking on LinkedIn:

1. You don’t have to accept every LinkedIn request that you receive.

Read More

Topics: Digital Edge

6 Immutable Rules of Communication in the Age of Content Marketing

Recently, someone sent me an article about the new features within LinkedIn that are designed to help companies publish on the web. In the subject line of the email was this statement:know_the_rules

“Everyone's doing it!” 

Didn’t your mom and dad talk with you about peer pressure when you were in high school, or even earlier? Sure, they were probably talking about illicit activities like drinking, drugs, or promiscuity, but the point applies to blogging and other forms of content marketing: just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you should. 

“Everyone is doing it” is not a reason you should get into content marketing. It’s the reason you should take it very seriously, and do it really well.

Let me be blunt about this. Because so many companies are publishing, it is impossible for all that content to be consumed. Picture a room filled with dozens of people who are talking, while only a handful of people are listening. The folks who are pumping information out (publishing) are literally overwhelming the poor folks who are taking information in (listening). 

There can only be one result: A good number of the people who are talking are being ignored. To avoid that fate, consider these six immutable rules of communication in the age of content marketing:

1. Don’t just talk. Listen.

Read More

Topics: Digital Edge

Weekly Wrap-Up + Posts from Around the Web: mid-April Edition

Today, we're enjoying April showers, and working on many behind-the scenes projects. This week, we tried something different, and published a timeley piece on Sunday. What did you think? We'll be adding a weekend post here and there, especially if there's something newsworthy that just can't wait.

The Center for Sales Strategy Weekly Wrap-Up

In Never Send an Email When You’re Angry: Otherwise, This Might Happen to You, Brian Hasenbauer described how there really is such a thing as bad press, and how an angry email sent in the heat of the moment caused a PR disaster for one professional.

In How to Increase Engagement on Your Company Blog, I wrote about how to look beyond comments to see which posts are really resonating with your target personas and write more content that appeals to them.


Read More

Topics: Inbound Edge, Digital Edge, Management Edge, Sales Edge, Talent Edge