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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Is Brevity a Virtue? Maybe…

keep_it_short“Keep it short,” they say, “because folks don’t have time to read anymore.” That’s good advice. The shorter, the better. When is brevity a virtue? When you have nothing to say.

Truth is, most of the advice we get telling us to keep it brief is based on the assumption that what we’re writing—be it a blog post, an email, a letter, a proposal, a report—is of little interest to the reader, anyway.

Therein lies the real issue: It’s not so much the length of what we write as it is the content and the layout.

Let’s get more specific, more real, about this notion that people don’t have time to read:

  • They don’t have time to read things that are not interesting to them. When the subject is of interest, they’ll devour a 400-page book.
Topics: Digital

The Center for Sales Strategy Named HubSpot Platinum Partner

hubspotplatinumThe Center for Sales Strategy is proud to share that we’ve been named a HubSpot Platinum partner,  one of only twelve platinum partners in the world.

Patrick Shea, HubSpot Senior Manager of Channel Marketing, spoke highly of The Center and this accomplishment, “Achieving this exclusive status of becoming a HubSpot Platinum partner represents the highest standards of inbound marketing success and we are thrilled that The Center for Sales Strategy has reached that level. They not only specialize in delivering exceptional client results, but in sharing their expertise with marketers and business owners through world-class educational resources.”

How We Got Involved—and Grew—with Inbound Marketing

The Center for Sales Strategy is a sales performance company with a simple mission statement: To help our clients turn talent into performance. Our clients implement a seven-step process we created, called How Selling. Of course, we eat our own dog food and follow the same steps:

  • Find the strongest potential leads
  • Select the best prospects using the Ideal Customer Profile
  • Approach these prospects using a Valid Business Reason
  • Define the prospect's real needs using the Hourglass Needs Analysis process
  • Solve the prospect's specific problem with a collaboratively developed plan
  • Confirm the sale
  • Deliver better-than-expected results
Topics: inbound marketing

What We Wrote, and What We Read: April 21-24 Weekly Wrap Up

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

  • Mike Anderson wrote about Vendor Relationship Management, and said, "Just because you’re already the selected vendor and serving the customer, it doesn’t mean the customer is no longer interested in VRM—in managing their relationship with you."
  • Dana Bojcic wrote about listening for talent when interviewing salespeople, and said, "If you don’t know the answer, ask more questions. Ask a lot of questions… and then really listen."

week_of_april_21-24

Topics: Digital Management inbound marketing Talent Sales

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.

Topics: Management

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.

Topics: Talent

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.
Topics: Digital

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."

april_18

Topics: Digital Management inbound marketing Talent Sales

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.

Topics: Talent

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. 

Topics: inbound marketing

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.

Topics: Digital

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.

Topics: Digital

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.

PicMonkey_Collage

Topics: Digital Management inbound marketing Talent Sales

What the New Twitter Layout Means for Your Business

Surprise! Twitter just announced the rollout of their new profiles. New users will have the new profile from the beginning and the rest of us will start getting it over the next few weeks. 

Topics: Digital

Forget the Compliment Sandwich: Try the 5-7 Happy Hour Rule Instead

Forget_the_Compliment_Sandwich_Try_the_5-7_Happy_Hour_Rule_InsteadWe all have hot buttons– those things that fire us up and motivate us to work hard. For me, there is no bigger driver than the need for consistent improvement. I strive to become a little bit better every day. A little more knowledgeable. Better able to share my expertise and coach our clients to more effectively turn talent into performance. I’m not terribly competitive with others, but I am on a serious personal mission to achieve excellence in my craft!

Since excellence doesn’t happen in a vacuum and significant growth only occurs in response to interaction with others, you can imagine how important it is for me to have that interaction and receive regular feedback on my efforts. So many good things come of it! Clearly it allows me the valuable perspective of seeing my efforts through my coach’s eyes; it is enormously rewarding when my growth is recognized by someone who is invested in me. But there is another, less obvious reason that I find such value in feedback. It lets me know that my coach cares enough about me to spend that kind of time on my personal development. It’s hard to feel disengaged or want to leave a job when you feel that kind of connection with someone!

You’re probably nodding along with me, thinking about the positive effects strong feedback has on you as well. That’s because this concept is universal. Across the board, in any job, people need to know how they’re doing. It can’t just be at review time or when something wonderful or horrible happens.

You’re invited to the 5-7 Happy Hour

It is human nature to be drawn to negative information more strongly than positive and without conscious effort, the negative feedback will always jump in front of the positive.

Topics: Management

Sales Hunter, Farmer, Trapper: Which One(s) Are You?

Sales_Hunter,_Farmer,_Trapper__Which_One(s)_Are_YouNot long ago, we published a post here about the three archetypes of salespeople:  The sales hunter, the sales farmer, and the sales trapper.  In a way, the article prompted people to decide which type they most closely resemble: 

The Hunter:  Sellers who pursue their prospects like a lion might give chase to its prey… singling-out one account they’d like to land and then running after it as hard as they can.

The Farmer:  Account managers who realize the importance of nurturing and feeding their client relationships, knowing that it will eventually become ready for harvest.

Topics: inbound marketing

How to Increase Engagement on Your Company Blog

Last month, we discussed how to measure engagement on your company blog. Now, we'll talk about how to increase engagement. Take note of where you started, and implement the following strategies to get your content read by more people. Remember, though, more important than getting more shares/likes/retweets is your ability to attract and convert the right kind of people (your target personas). So take the following advice and increase the impact of your content!

Topics: inbound marketing

Never Send an Email When You’re Angry: Otherwise, This Might Happen to You

join_us_LinkedIN

If you have been on LinkedIn recently, you might have seen this response to a LinkedIn connection request circulating. It’s an email exchange where a young 25-year old asks to connect with a senior level executive in charge of a local job board on LinkedIn. The request was denied with a tirade about how the young woman behaved badly. Perhaps the younger woman was in the wrong, but the response the executive gave was exceptionally mean-spirited.

After seeing how this one executive responded to a LinkedIn connection request, I thought this might be a good time to remind everyone about LinkedIn etiquette.

But before we get into that, let’s talk about email. Email is, among other things, a revolutionary way to keep in touch with people you rarely see. You can convey a lot of information, share ideas, keep people on task, send cat pictures, and more. But there’s one thing you absolutely, positively, 100% need to remember: 

Email is forever.

Topics: Digital

Weekly Wrap-Up + Posts from Around the Web: April Fool's Edition

Today, we're still laughing about all the pranks that we fell for this week (even though we told ourselves we wouldn't believe anything we were told, we fell for all the same silly lines just the same). We also can hardly believe that we're past the first quarter of 2014! Time flies when you're having fun, right?

The Center for Sales Strategy Weekly Wrap-Up

  • Matt Sunshine got a terrible email, which prompted him to write How Not to Send a Follow-Up Email, and in it he noted, "Never forget that your potential customer owes you nothing."
Topics: Digital Management inbound marketing Talent Sales

5 Things to Include in Your Sales Collateral So It Doesn’t Get Trashed

man-reading-sales-collateralIt would not be an overstatement to say that at The Center for Sales Strategy we get to work with some of the best clients on the planet. Each has an impressive list of products and services to offer as well as a remarkable sales organization that is constantly working to get better.

But there is one item on their respective lists that still holds room for dramatic improvement in a great many companies… and that is their sales collateral.

Our clients have worked very hard—some of them for decades—to create a culture of mutual success between themselves and their customers. This means digging deep to find legitimate problems and working to build creative, effective, cost-efficient solutions. The first meeting takes place, and another appointment is set. What ties the two together? Very often, it is those clutter-building pieces of paper known as sales collateral.

Topics: Sales

When the Golden Rule Fails, Try the Platinum Rule

When_the_Golden_Rule_Fails,_Try_the_Platinum_RuleThe idea that you should “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” dates back at least to Confucianism (551 BC) and has precedents in nearly every religion. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Treat people with the same kindness and respect that you would want to be treated with yourself… and don’t do things to people that you wouldn’t want them to do to you. Simple and true, this Golden Rule is one of those kindergarten lessons that guides us to interact better with others. 

Except when it doesn’t work.

The Golden Rule fails when you are coaching and developing other people.

Brilliant in concept, the Golden Rule is completely dysfunctional in practice because everybody is different. What feels good to one doesn’t feel good to another; so rather than creating fairness, it often causes conflict.

Let me give you an example:

Topics: Talent

April Fools! Our Best Pranks

April-foolsToday is April Fool's day, which means you should not believe anything anyone tells you today. Get your guard up! We don't have any fake news for you today, but we do have stories of our best pranks from around the office.

Dani Buckley, Inbound Marketing Consultant:

One year, I spent the afternoon convincing my friend that I was having an affair with a colleague. I even convinced her to give me a ride to the motel before telling her it was all a joke.

Topics: inbound marketing