Are Your Strategic Partnerships Your Passive Sales Force?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Fri, Jan 18, 2013 @ 08:01 AM

partnerToday, more than ever before, strategic partnerships, both formal and informal, are an important element of conducting business.  They exist at all levels, including these 10:

  1. Insurance agencies electing to provide a particular insurance carrier's policies,
  2. Marketing firms and their choice of printers, photographers and trade show booth fabricators,
  3. VAR's determining which hardware and software to integrate for their customers,
  4. A CEO's inner circle of advisors and resources,
  5. The directors of a company's board and their commitment to making introductions,
  6. The business networking group to which a salesperson belongs,
  7. A payroll company's partnership with a benefits provider,
  8. The attorneys, accountants, and insurance agents who work together to help clients,
  9. The distributors that resell a manufacturer's products and
  10. The referrals and introductions which happy customers make for their sales reps.

There are so many more examples.

Who are your formal and informal strategic partners? 
Whom do you recommend?
Who recommends you?
 
While many of you are using LinkedIn to accomplish some of the above, it just isn't the same as having real-life, real-world business relationships!  Get off the computer, on the phone and make this happen!
One of the most challenging areas of generating revenue is finding new business.  Shouldn't one of your priorities be to establish alliances who can lead to fufilling, profitable two-way partnerships with as many people and companies as possible?
 
At both Objective Management Group and Kurlan & Associates, one of my roles is to identify strategic partners.  Not necessarily the biggest.  Not necessarily the most well-known.  Not necessarily the one with whom everyone else wants to partner.
 
Instead, we want to make sure that a strategic partner is a company who:
  • Has people we know and trust,
  • Cares as much as we do about our clients and their challenges and
  • Can provide the ideal, complimentary solution in a related area - one that extends beyond our core competency of sales force development.
Let me introduce you to a few of the companies with whom we are proud to partner:
  • Everyone needs powerful, but easy-to-use pipeline management which emphasizes sales process, requires a minimal number of clicks and data entry, and has powerful out-of-the-box reporting and dashboards.  Our strategic CRM Partner understands this and has designed the best application that I have ever customized and used.  Please meet the Project Manager at Membrain, Henrik Oquist.  Contact Henrik .
  • Everyone needs marketing and lead generation help.  Whether the exposure and leads come from inbound, internal, outbound, print, internet, email, social sites, events, PR, collateral, or advertising, one thing remains constant.  There must be alignment between sales and marketing, a gap which increases in size in accordance with the size of most companies.  Our strategic Marketing Partner understands the importance of marketing and sales being aligned, and the role which they work to creatively support to drive sales and revenue.  Please meet the Founder and CEO of PENTA Communications, Inc.Deborah Penta.  Contact Deborah.
  • And everyone needs to make the most of their prospecting time.  Few salespeople, especially selling executives, have the time to get on the phone and dial the names on their lists.  That's where our strategic calling partner comes in.  They handle the dialing and you and/or your salespeople simply complete the conversations - a week's worth in an hour!  Please meet the Founder and CEO of ConnectLeader, Senraj Soundar.  Contact Senraj.
Over the coming weeks and months I'll introduce you to some more people whom you should know.  What will you do to strengthen the mutual quality of your formal and informal strategic partnerships?  Can they be your passive sales force?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales leadership, Sales Force, crm, strategic alliances, strategic partners, pipeline management tool, sales & marketing alignment

Top 16 Problems with CRM

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 23, 2012 @ 05:10 AM

Yesterday, I wrote about solving the sales performance problem.  Today, I'll write about solving the CRM problem.  CRM is very problematic, not because there aren't choices, but more because companies make bad decisions.  Just a few of the problems with CRM are listed here:

        • Company has no CRM.
        • Company has archaic CRM.
        • Salespeople won't use the existing CRM.
        • CRM doesn't provide management with an accurate forecast.
        • Management doesn't hold salespeople accountable for using/maintaining CRM.
        • CRM requires too much information input.
        • CRM is too slow to respond.
        • CRM is focused on data and accounts rather than opportunities.
        • CRM is not consistent with sales process.
        • CRM is viewed as busy work rather than a tool.
        • CRM is too expensive.
        • CRM can't be accessed via mobile devices.
        • Company wants too much unnecessary information about opportunities.
        • CRM allows salespeople to place prospects in the wrong pipeline stage.
        • CRM is too difficult to customize.
OK, so that wasn't just a few, but you get the idea.  Yesterday, I spent 90 minutes on a conference call with a client (the president, IT guy and 2 sales leaders) and their CRM provider (salesperson, regional sales manager and technical specialist) as they attempted to customize the application, so that it would follow the sales process which I developed for them, and provide an accurate forecast.  That shouldn't be necessary.
Last week, I spent 90 minutes with another client (8 people from operations, sales, customer service and marketing) showing them how CRM could be the answer to their inaccurate forecasts and pipeline reports.  All had different ideas of how much the CRM application should be required to do versus how simple it could really be.
CRM doesn't have to be complicated, expensive, difficult to customize or slow.  It doesn't need to require much data, give salespeople too much leeway or provide inaccurate forecasts.  Simply put, CRM can be everything your company needs it to be and more.  You just have to make a few good decisions:
        • You must already have a customized, formal, structured and optimized sales process in place and, if you don't, have a sales consultant create that for you.
        • You must choose the right CRM application (fast, salesperson-friendly, opportunity-focused using your new or existing sales process; excellent pipeline and forecasting tools, easy to set up, customize and use, etc.) as opposed to choosing a CRM application simply because you recognize the name.
        • Salespeople must understand what's in it for them and why they should embrace it.
        • Hold salespeople accountable for providing real-time updates.
I've reviewed 15 CRM applications (Landslide, Sugar, Oracle, Sales Logix, Microsoft Dynamics, Membrain, Fortuit, FunnelSource, Podio, OppTuna, Pipedrive, PipelineDeals, Act, Goldmine and Zoho) which aren't named Salesforce.com and because clients have had some of these applications installed, they've had to use many of them.  My feeling is that clients need to cut their losses and switch to a productive application, rather than sticking with a failed initiative, just because the money has been invested.  The Boston Red Sox dumped approximately $140 million in contracts this summer so that they could start from scratch in building a winning roster.  You should do the same thing with CRM!
Some things that CRM should be are:
        • An extension of the sales conversation, 
        • Salespeople should live inside the application rather than on email,
        • Salespeople should love it for the visual references which it provides,
        • Management should love it for the pipeline and forecast,
        • The best coaching tool on the planet,
        • Reports should be easy to coax from it and
        • Customizable without extra costs or fees.
So, you now have my 3 lists of bullets.  But what about the explanations and details?  What about examples?  For that I invite you to attend a 45-Minute Webinar on: 
How to Solve the CRM Problem
November 13
10 AM ET
Henrik Öquist, of Membrain, and
We will present the details, explanations and examples to help you implement CRM in a simple way where everyone - salespeople and management - get exactly what they need from CRM.  Please join us! CRM doesn't have to be complicated, difficult or undesirable; CRM can be the single most exciting tool in the sales organization.  You simply have to make the right decisions!

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales process, sales management, Sales Coaching, Salesforce, Sales Force, crm, membrain

Is Technology Ruining or Driving Your Sales Efforts?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 20, 2012 @ 10:08 AM

I don't usually write about technology and I'm not a technology writer, but I can't stand how ineffective and indecisive so many sales executives have become with technology!

There are many applications which can help us find opportunities, connect with people, manage the sales process and pipeline, manage relationships, share information, and keep us organized.

In addition to the applications, technology also comes in the form of smartphones, tablets, laptops, netbooks and desktop computers.

There are plenty of good choices, both with the devices and the applications, so how do you choose?

I've always been an early adapter and I've used much of what is out there, from free to paid, from simple to complicated, from useful to useless, and from integrated to stand-alone.  In the end, the most valuable feature for me, is the ability to sync across every device.   IN MY OPINION, THAT IS THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT FEATURE/FUNCTION FOR STAYING ORGANIZED, EFFICIENT AND LEAN, WHILE MAKING THE FEWEST MISTAKES, FROM ANYWHERE AT ANYTIME.

I'll share what I've settled on, based on the app's ability to be accessed from whichever device that I happen to be using: 

Browser - Google Chrome - Every Bookmark and saved AutoFill entry is saved so that you can access quickly all of your mission-critical sites regardless of the computer on which you are using Chrome.

Passwords - LastPass -A Chrome plug-in that remembers and completes your passwords and automatically logs you into your mission-critical sites from all of your devices.

Calendar - Google Calendar - It's on my desktop and laptop, it syncs seamlessly with my Android phone, and there is a terrific, 3rd-party app called Calendars for use on iPhone and iPad.

Tasks and To Do's - Wunderlist - Like Google Calendar, it's a Cloud application, so it appears as a Tab on my Browser, but it also has terrific apps for Android, iPhone and iPad.  I like its ability to simply have lists with tasks in each list.  You also can share your lists.

Email - I still use Outlook for email due to several factors:  1. it's flexibility with folders; 2. the simple ability to use and manage my three email accounts for OMG, Kurlan & Associates, and Baseline Selling without signing in or out, and 3. the Rules Wizard for managing incoming mail and customizing automated replies and actions.  You can configure any device to send and receive email but they only sync with Outlook if you're using Exchange.  If it weren't for my multiple addresses and tremendous reliance on the Rules Wizard, I would use Gmail.

CRM - Landslide is still my favorite, but I'm reviewing some simple, new applications from other companies.  SalesForce.com - I'm sure that you know it, but it's complex, expensive and not very user-friendly.

Contacts - I still maintain my contacts in Outlook and on my Android device, so by default, in Google contacts too.  I use SyncCell to sync those contacts between devices.

Notes - Evernote - There's an app for every device and they sync seamlessly, so what you note on one device shows up on all others.  You can also share your notes.

I have two monitors and they typically look like:

Monitor2

My email is open on the first monitor (not shown); the second monitor has several tabs at the top; one has Google Calendar running, one has Wunderlist running, one has Landslide (shown with dashboard), and one has Hubspot, my blogging and lead generation application running.

As for devices, I use:

Working at Home - Macbook Pro - It's awesome.

Working on the Road - iPad - It's so simple!

Monitoring Work from the Road - Smartphone - Take your pick!


Here is a list of other applications which I think are terrific:

Reachable.com for determining how to connect with people.

LinkedIn for building a network of connections which Reachable.com can analyze.  I don't accept invites from strangers or people whose reason to connect is not compelling to me, so I favor quality over quantity.  You may have a different view of that...

Wistia.com for sharing video.

VisibleGains.com for sharing files and tracking opens.

Are there any other great applications which you use?  Let us know about them!

Topics: sales culture, Dave Kurlan, crm, sales applications

What It Really Means When CRM Isn't a Sales Force Priority

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Feb 15, 2012 @ 14:02 PM

It's rare when a company isn't using something for CRM, even if it's an old version of ACT.  In most companies, it's not whether they are using CRM, it's which CRM they have chosen to use and whether the CRM has actually been adopted.  The CRM application of choice is completely useless to management unless the entire sales force is using it as intended.

The management dashboard, metrics, charts, graphs, tables, pipeline, forecasts, reports and anything else you can coax from today's feature-rich CRM applications will not contain up-to-date and accurate information unless every salesperson is committed and held accountable to updating it - DAILY.  Some CRM applications make this easier than others.  Landslide is a good example of easy because they provide VIP support to salespeople who aren't at a computer or mobile device, or to those who are computer-challenged.

But today's article isn't about adoption.  It's about the companies that fear CRM or any other important sales tool that requires selection, installation, training and adoption.  When companies fear providing tools, they are unknowingly saying that they are OK with their sales force being at a disadvantage.  Their competitors are using it.  It's a very similar scenario to companies that don't provide sales training or won't use sales assessments for selection.  They are sending a message to their sales leaders and salespeople, but it isn't the right message.  They are afraid of rebellion.  They are worried that, "If we demand that our salespeople use these tools, they will become upset, stop performing and leave our company."  Now, would that be such a bad thing?  Do you really WANT salespeople that would become upset and leave if you introduced and required them to use tools to help them sell more effectively and efficiently?  Salespeople rebel when their time is being wasted, not when they are being supported appropriately!

Selling has changed; it has become much more difficult.  Prospects are more resistant; there is more competition.  Margins are shrinking; sales cycles are taking longer.  As a result, salespeople are working harder, longer hours, dealing with more rejection and disappointment, and have less to show for their efforts.  Tools are their salvation!  Tools help them navigate the more complicated environment in which they find themselves.  Today's tools are integrated.  They are must-haves.

My rant is done.  Would you like to contribute?  Please add your thoughts below.

Also, the February issue of Top Sales World News (I'm on the cover, but not sure why) is available for download.  Inside there's a link to a short interview with me on the topic of, "Are Salespeople Still Cold-Calling?  The Ugly Truth".

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales performance, crm, jonathan farrington, sales assessments, sales tools

The $9 Million Cold Call - Do Salespeople Still Sell That Way?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Oct 18, 2011 @ 10:10 AM

cold callerI just completed an interview on behalf of a client and learned that this candidate landed $9 million in brand new business, from a brand new account over a period of 18 months from - are you ready - a cold call.

I'll be the first to admit that cold calling is more difficult than ever.  It's more frustrating than ever.  It's less productive than ever.  But that does not mean that your salespeople should stop making calls.  Hardly.  Finding new opportunities is more important than ever, but there are alternative methods so that calls are more productive, less frustrating and more effective.

Wasting time trying to reach prospects that never seem to be in?  There's a tool for that.

Trying to figure out how to get someone to take your call?  There's a tool for that.

Frustrated with going back and forth trying to find a mutually convenient time to meet or talk?  There's a tool for that.

Trying to generate more leads?  There is a tool for that.

Need a more salesperson-friendly, elegant CRM replacement/Pipeline Management solution to track progress?  There's a tool for that.

As a matter of fact, there are so many new tools available that it will make your head spin.  The key is to understand which tools will actually help you find/reach/connect/schedule/track new opportunities, as opposed to tools that are more versions of noise - novel or fun to play with but with little gain in productivity.

In the end, your salespeople still need to pick up a phone and make a call.  If the prospect isn't expecting the call, it's a COLD CALL.  Today, there are finally tools to make that a more enjoyable, productive and effective experience.  Is your sales force taking advantage?

Failure to take advantage of new tools, methods, and alternatives to cold calling is a combination of stubborness and sales obsolescence.   

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales force development, Sales 2.0, crm, essential sales tools, leads

Enough Already with all the Sales 2.0 Talk!

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Tue, Aug 23, 2011 @ 23:08 PM

When fax machines were first introduced (I remember the day a salesperson cold-called me with an "opportunity" for me to own my own fax machine back around 1987), experts wrote (magazine articles) about the power of the new machine and the many innovative ways it could be used in business.

When email went mainstream, experts wrote about how to integrate and use it for their sales activities.

Today, some experts are making a business out of writing about and teaching only Sales 2.0.  The thing is that Sales 2.0 is not a new way to sell but it is similar to email and fax.

Where Sales 2.0 is the umbrella for the tools that help you get found, it's not really any more than those tools and how to best use them.  Using some of these tools will surely lead to improved effectiveness but it can only happen if the tools are integrated into a sound sales process, used at the right time and used in an appropriate way.

One blogger sent me three emails pestering me to read a Blog article she wrote about her favorite Sales 2.0 tools.  I'm not interested in sending readers to her article because the tools she selected are not essential tools.  They are more like some of the apps one would find for mobile devices that are merely apps for the sake of being an app.

So what are the essential Sales 2.0 tools?

Believe it or not, one that you use every day, that has been around for years, that is worth billions of dollars - Google - but only if you show up on the first page when someone looks for what you sell.  For instance, if you conduct a search for Sales Force Evaluation, Objective Management Group and one of my Blog articles appear in the first two non-sponsored results.  If you conduct a search for Sales Force Development Experts, Kurlan & Associates and another of my Blog articles appear in the first two non-sponsored results.

LinkedIn - but only if you use it.  You must connect to top quality people that you know as opposed to connecting to everyone you know and even those you don't know.  Identify the connections not of yours, but of your contacts, that are in your sweet spot, and get introduced to those people  Join appropriate groups and when possible, participate in the group discussions. Answer questions when you have either the expertise or a strong opinion on the topic.  But use LinkedIn!

People Maps - When you know who you want to be introduced to, People Maps shows a visual representation of the people you know and paths you can take to get introduced.

Blogging is a an activity, and there are many Blogging tools on the market.  I use and recommend Hubspot's incredible platform. For many, Blogging is the most useful of all the Sales 2.0 tools, but if you build it, will they come? Realistically, you must be able to write or contribute frequent, useful, original content, create an identity and set yourself apart or nobody will come.  This Blog?  It generates more than 20,000 visits per month and nearly 200 leads.  While many of those leads are not in our sweet spot, or not ready, there are plenty of quality leads to keep us hopping.

Companies also use Twitter and Facebook but I'm still not sure that they are essential unless you have very frequent (multiple each day) updates that people want to know about.

There are hundreds of other tools - most of them cool - but not necessarily essential.  I'm sure that some of you have your favorites but remember, to qualify as Sales 2.0, it must help you to get found or introduced.

CRM is essential, it reached its peak during the Sales 2.0 era, but it doesn't help you get found or introduced so although it is worthy, I won't devote space to it here.  There are proposal writing apps, slide show creating apps, apps for accessing your apps that are all good, but not really apps to help you get found.

The point is that Sales 2.0 is not new, and we shouldn't be seeing so many articles written about what is essentially the marketing or, more specifically, the inbound marketing side of selling.  That's right. It's marketing, but marketing that some of you can actually participate in.

Topics: Dave Kurlan, Inbound Marketing, sales force evaluation, sales force development, Sales 2.0, crm, essential sales tools

Top 3 Steps to Successful Sales Force CRM Implementation

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Thu, Dec 16, 2010 @ 11:12 AM

crmEarlier this week, I was asked to recommend books or articles that would drive a successful CRM implementation.  They had already chosen Landslide as the application, a good choice, and now they wanted to be sure that their decision paid dividends.  This article is not about the merits of Landslide (UPDATE - Landslide was just named the 2010 Top CRM Solution), although there are many, nor is it about how to choose an ideal CRM solution.  Instead, I will share my top 3 steps to a successful CRM implementation:

  1. Skip the books - they're a waste of time.  They cover logistics which, if you make the right choice of CRM, is all covered thoroughly in training.
  2. You must set proper expectations including why the company is implementing this particular solution at this point in time, how it will help the company, how it will help the salespeople, and the importance of thorough, timely updates.
  3. Implementation is simply a three-ingredient recipe. The recipe is: 7 parts buy-in as in "this is not optional"; 1 part training, as in "Look at how easy we can make this"; and 2 parts accountability, as in "This is a condition for continued employment".

Some CRM is better and/or more appropriate than others.  They all work if you implement according to the 3 steps.  None of them work if you fail to implement.  Implementation is up to you from the top down, not your salespeople.  If you plan to leave any of the decision up your salespeople, don't even start the process. If you don't have or plan to have an effective CRM application, optimized for the way people sell, you are years behind curve.

Click me

Topics: Dave Kurlan, crm, sales management accountability, Landslide

Optimize Your Sales Force Without Spending a Dime

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 16, 2010 @ 15:08 PM

makeoverEnter to Win a Free Sales Force Makeover!

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a company that wants to grow more quickly....

If you can state your case effectively than anyone else, your company could win a Sales Force MakeOver worth up to $250,000!

Four companies have partnered to create the Sales Force Makeover and between them, you could have the opportunity to work with nearly a dozen sales experts over the course of about one year.

The companies are:

  • Landslide Technology
  • Objective Management Group, Inc.
  • Strategic Compensation Partners
  • Kurlan & Associates

For contest details and to Enter to Win your FREE Sales Force MakeOver click here.

I wrote an article for Alister Paine's Digital Business Site on How to Close More Business where I discussed the importance of optimizing the sales process. Check it out!

Topics: crm, omg, kurlan, sales management function, free sales force make over, dauphanais, objective management group, Landslide

My Salespeople Won't Use CRM

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Wed, Mar 17, 2010 @ 06:03 AM

Yesterday, we discussed whether you can really get salespeople to change. I mentioned that the key rule was #9, Consequences, and that I would discuss consequences today.

There are three primary ingredients to having Consequences.

  1. You must make the consequence very clear to the salespeople as in, "And I want to be very clear about the importance of this.  Anyone who fails to comply - who doesn't keep the CRM up to date - will face serious consequences. Let me detail exactly what those consequences will be..."
  2. The consequence must be significant enough for a salesperson to avoid at all costs.  There are levels of consequences, depending on whether it is a first-time offense or a repeat offense.  You might not reimburse a first-time offender for cell, gas or entertainment expenses.   Your consequence for a third time offender might be termination.
  3. You must, no matter how uncomfortable it is for you, follow through. It only takes one false promise of consequences for your salespeople to ignore the threats in the future.  Just one!  Think about this concept with children.  "I'm warning you, if you don't finish your dinner you can't have dessert."  And then, ten minutes later, "Alright, just have two more pieces and you can have ice cream."  That is called training and surprise, surprise, it's not the child that is getting trained, it's you.  You are being trained to give in.  The child, a very quick learner, has already been trained and it only took one time.  Ignore the threat of consequences because it is simply a bluff.

Every day we hear from Owners, Presidents, CEO's VP's and Sales Managers who are frustrated that they can't get their salespeople to comply with something.  I provided the CRM example because that is simply the easiest to solve.  When you can't get them to hunt for new business and new opportunities, you'll need more than consequences in your tool box.  The issues preventing consistent prospecting run much deeper and they must be identified before they can be overcome, coached to and penalized.

Will the proper use of consequences help you with simply compliance?

Topics: Dave Kurlan, sales management, Sales Force, sales motivation, crm, compliance, change management, salespeople won't comply with CRM, salespeople won't prospect

Are Sales Tools the Solution?

Posted by Dave Kurlan on Mon, Aug 10, 2009 @ 21:08 PM

When Sales tools are used properly, they become tremendous solutions, for example:

  • your salespeople update their opportunities in your Sales Force Automation application of choice (mine is Landslide.com) in real time (a minute here, a minute there)
  • your salespeople create slides for presentations, proposals, webinars and demos
  • those in your company that blog use it to generate credibility, visibility and leads
  • other social networking, like the use of LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are also used to generate leads
  • email is used for updates but not in place of conversations that should take place on the phone

But how often do you observe your salespeople doing any of these things?

  • taking a couple of hours, during the day to update the pipeline
  • taking a couple of hours to work on a power point presentation they'll need next week
  • spending time using a social networking site to communicate with others
  • responding to emails that can wait until evening
  • doing something other than focusing on finding, moving and closing opportunities

When your salespeople focus and play with the tools instead of using the tools to support their selling efforts, the tools become part of the problem. Am I suggesting a 15-hour work day? No.  You need balance, you should spend time with your family.  But salespeople must do the work that doesn't involve interacting with their prospects, at times when they can't reach their prospects.

(C) Copyright 2009 Dave Kurlan

Topics: sales competencies, Dave Kurlan, sales, sales management, selling, Salesforce, Sales Force, crm, time management, sales tools

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Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker and Sales Thought Leader.  Dave Kurlan's Understanding the Sales Force Blog has earned medals for the Top Sales & Marketing Blog award for eight consecutive years. This article earned a Bronze Medal for Top Sales Blog post in 2016, this one earned a Silver medal for 2017, and this article earned Silver for 2018. Read more about Dave.

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