What does Jazz have to do with Entrepreneurship?

Last night Phil Dwyer was at Founder’s Club. Phil is an extremely talented, humble and a Canadian national treasure. He shared with the group stories of his career, musicianship, admission to Law School and his accidental entrepreneurship. As a musician he has achieved a lot. He’s recognized among the Order of Canada, Juno award recipient, accomplished writer/composer and recognized as a master of his instrument, the Saxophone. He is now in first year Law School presumably pursuing a second career. He is also an entrepreneur. Along with partner Claudio Fantinato he is producing high end horns that sound beautiful and look even better. They are adorned with Jeremy Lee Humpherville’s rendering of Luna the Killer Whale.

During the discussion it was suggested that Jazz music is the most “powerful” expression of music. Its complexity makes it difficult for many people to understand or relate to but when executed well by an ensemble of talented musicians it can be extremely engaging, moving and electrifying. I’m not a musician but I do appreciate what was being described being a lover of good music and acquiring a taste for Jazz in particular.


“Powerful” was a very interesting word for the musicians in the room to use to describe what an ensemble can produce.

During the evening a really interesting discussion took place after Stephen Preece and Alan Armstrong (both musicians and entrepreneurs) talked about creating an event that brings together jazz and entrepreneurship. They asked the room, that was made up of equal parts entrepreneur and Jazz musician, what possible themes or lessons they could produce in such an event.

Earlier that day I was reading about how Buffer, a social media app company has no, zero, nada managers. This discussion centred around trust, empowerment and the amplified results as compared to a typical command and control structure. I immediately started to think that this too had the potential to be a more “powerful” organization model.

When I asked why the music produced by a Jazz ensemble is most powerful the answer was not readily available. These are guys that are way past the 10,000 hours we talk about when trying to describe what it takes to be truly expert in something. I could see that these musicians knew inherently how to produce the “power” while participating in an ensemble but couldn’t really describe how they do it. Maybe it its now “muscle memory” for them. A little probing produced words like complexity, awareness and talent. I can’t recall the exact way these words found themselves in sentences but these are the ones I latched onto and I’ll form them into a sentence like this:

The most powerful music is produced by an ensemble of talented individuals who are acutely aware of what they are doing and who they are doing for while each executing a complex set of tasks toward a common goal.

Now replace the word music with something like product, service or value proposition.

Jazz ensembles produce the most “powerful” music because no single musician has the capacity to recognize and understand the total audience sentiment nor does a single musician have the ability to execute the total complexity of the music to achieve the most positive reaction. The purposeful assembly of talented musicians playing different instruments under a set of common rules with the autonomy to execute what they feel or know is needed, at the exact time it is needed, produces a most powerful result.

Entrepreneurs can learn from this. Spend most of your time selecting the right mix of talented professionals. Lay down the right common rules. Rules that allow each player to maximize their individual talent without encumbering the results. Ensure they have a keen and timely awareness of their customer and what will delight them. Let them play.

Can a Company Cofound a Startup?

Heck ya!  They can. They do. They absolutely should!
This isn’t new. Companies co-found new businesses all the time. Sometimes called “spin-outs”, maybe subsidiaries can be lumped in, or even vertically integrated parts of a holding company. There are tons of examples. In the case of a new tech startup, in the context of entrepreneurship, it may not be the first thing you think of. Maybe it should. Here’s why.
Companies have underutilized non-core functions.
Participating in starting a new company may be a way to increase the productivity of your enterprise. You could be utilizing non-core resources on a fractional basis to help the new business during the formative stages. Take Jobs like accounting and HR for example. In the formative stages of a new company often one of the co-founders are performing these tasks at the expense of more important things. Things like talking to customers, building product and making sales. Now I’m going to point out the obvious. If one of the co-founders were an established company with dedicated professionals in the accounting and HR functions perhaps they can be utilized in the new startup as well.
Companies have underutilized employees.
I know it’s hard to believe but likely true. This may be the result of seasonal business cycles or other phenomena known by, and accounted for in the operating plans. If that’s the case, co-founding a startup may be a worthwhile strategy to increase utilization in the down times.
Alternatively, underutilization may be related to the level of motivation of certain key employees. Perhaps these are valuable knowledge workers whom you assign “side projects” or otherwise accommodate some non-productive time. You do this because they bring disproportionate value or possess long-term corporate memory important for your business or culture. Many of these individuals may be extremely jazzed about the opportunity to work in a startup for a while. What a great way to improve morale and increase their productivity.
It could also have a positive impact on recruitment. Folks who have an entrepreneurial “itch” but need the paycheck you are offering may favour your offer over others when they see you supporting your employee’s entrepreneurial desires.
Companies need to innovate.
Innovate or die. The argument here isn’t whether you do or do not need innovation in your business. It is about how you innovate. You can go out and buy innovative products and services from vendors who would love to sell them to you. Partnering with new and innovative suppliers or distributors can help with value chain improvements. Spinning up internal projects to address productivity, competitive or technology issues is a good way to go.
But wait, all these methods have inherent constraints that skew things or otherwise compromise the end result. Internal projects as an example are constrained by your internal politics, processes, budget, resources and so on. Even the most famous and successful example of internal innovation, Skunkworks at Lockheed Martin, is understood to be constrained. It is an extremely rare company that will disrupt itself. Therefore, almost all internal innovations become incremental. That means if you set about to innovate internally you are more likely to miss a true breakthrough.
Innovating in the open is less constrained and therefore has a better opportunity to bring value on the scale of a market disruption. So, how do you do that?
Create a company. Co-found one with an individual or a team that want to start a business and recognize your company as bringing an unfair advantage in the targeted market.
Companies have comprehensive knowledge of their markets.
If there is one thing that will help assure the success of a startup it is market knowledge and customer intimacy. Knowing what is going on in the market, how to get products to the market efficiently, how customers buy and how they use products is the killer app for success. Your current company may be customer number one for your startup. Alternatively, your sales channel may be your startup’s initial channel. This gives you a massive advantage over the typical “two guys in a garage” startup scenario.
Companies have lots of really good ideas.
But you have an ongoing business and stakeholders to think about. Companies tend to ideate then naval gaze. After a little more naval gazing maybe they determine a project should be initiated. They usually decide this after making certain it won’t screw up the current business. More naval gazing later a project plan gets produced and submitted for approval. Then more naval gazing. Sorry but I have worked at some large and medium size companies and that’s how many of your employees view it.
All that naval gazing really should be channelled into customer discovery and iterating. That’s what startups do. Companies have tons of ideas, see the problems first hand and can readily identify market opportunities. Identifying the best opportunities and releasing them into the wild by co-founding a startup will almost guarantee they are better executed and get to market faster.
So what are you waiting for? Companies like LifeLearn and Intrigue Media here in Guelph are doing it today. They are part of the first cohort of Startupify.me. Each of these companies brings a brilliant idea, resources and an unfair advantage in the targeted market. They are being matched with a technical co-founder who will discover, build and iterate their way to success. Maybe one of these startups becomes the next $100M software business in the region. Or maybe they get acquired and another major employer continues to build in the region. Or maybe your company acquires it brings all that value back where it should be. Benefiting you, your employees and customers.


Serial Entrepreneur or Parallel Entrepreneur







We hear a lot of (usually great) things about serial entrepreneurs. People like Elon Musk, Steve Jobs and Jeff Bezos are written about very often and with good reason. They make a lot of good stuff happen. Stuff like great products, new jobs and they create wealth while solving some of the worlds bigger problems. Then there’s other, lesser known folks like Omar Hamoui, a Wharton drop out who founded four companies before his $750M exit to Google with Admob. Then there’s Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis of Skype, Kzaa and Rdio fame. There’s lots of folks who can claim to be serial entrepreneurs and in the case of Airbnb co-founders there is at least one example of a cereal entrepreneur.

So what about a parallel entrepreneur?

Why must entrepreneurs create companies in series?

Arguably, entrepreneurship is the ignition in the economy. You know, they produce stuff, most importantly the jobs and wealth kind of stuff. That is powerful stuff. If our entrepreneurs are firing one cylinder at a time we may be sacrificing on an opportunity to produce more power. The early V8 engines were able to produce so much more grunt for muscle cars since they were harnessing power from more than one cylinder at a time.

If our best Entrepreneurs were enabled to create more than one company at a time what would that look like?

Let’s look at Elon Musk or Richard Branson for a moment. These guys are definitely parallel entrepreneurs whom are mislabelled as serial entrepreneurs. Canadian-American Elon Musk has Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity and Hyperloop among his current operating ventures. Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin (everything) Group includes something like 400 companies.

How do they do this? What’s the common thread?

In a word, Trust.

Well, besides the ability to generate great ideas. In addition to the super-hero like way they execute when building the business. As well as keen insights and fearlessness when making decisions. They use trust extensively.

They trust a co-founder or a manager to execute, adapt, iterate, build and grow companies as they might if they were able to clone themselves. These guys are responsible for and involved in making these co-founders as successful as they themselves might be if they had the time to do it themselves. It is a proven successful method for a parallel entrepreneur.

So why aren’t there more parallel entrepreneurs?

Musk and Branson are exceptional. They are magnets that attract great people. They get the pick of the litter when choosing someone to work with or co-found another company. Not all aspiring parallel entrepreneurs have this … yet!

Aspiring parallel entrepreneurs may need a little bit of help at the beginning. Identifying a funnel of candidate co-founders takes time. The dating process required to ensure a good match is distracting. Assuming the cofounder is less experienced, the startup phase can be all consuming. Entrepreneurs already have a full-time job and accountabilities to employees and stakeholders. How can they possibly survive the hours and intensity of doing startups in parallel?

Programs designed to harness the creativeness, boldness and overall prowess of successful entrepreneurs are needed. Entrepreneurs such as Michael Litt of Vidyard and Kurtis McBride of Miovision have tons of ideas trapped inside screaming for a release into the wild. The only reason they are trapped and unable to be released to become additional successful companies is the constraints of current success. These fellows have found and signed up to Startupify.me in order to overcome these constraints.

Canada needs more parallel entrepreneurs. More programs like Startupify.me may be the answer. Like the big block V8s that powered the muscle cars of the late 60’s and early 70’s, matching co-founders with experienced entrepreneurs and creating new companies will put more power to the wheels. If you are an accomplished entrepreneur and need to exercise those startup muscles to become a parallel entrepreneur, then you need Startupify.me.

Is your leader a “Rob Ford”?

The behaviours and acts of Rob Ford that are being amplified by media outlets around the world are comical at times, misguided for certain, illegal and problematic. But are they really problematic in terms of the job he is to perform or simply so opposite to the behaviours we expect of a leader that we immediately deem them problematic? Don’t get me wrong — Rob Ford is definitely behaving inappropriately. If, as Ford maintains, he continues to perform his job and is producing better results than his peers and predecessors, should we attempt to distance the personal behaviours from his role and track record as a leader?

What I wish to focus on here is not the sordid and incomprehensible behaviours of the mayor of a truly world-class, and Canada’s largest city, Toronto. Rather, I wish to shine the light on start-up leaders who behave badly.

Perhaps you have seen this before in your start-up? Your founding CEO is sometimes referred to as a visionary, super-smart, passionate, driven and so on. She likely commands a lot of respect and admiration for what she has accomplished and the opportunity she has created for you, your co-workers and investors. However, there are episodes of bad behaviour.

They may be outbursts like sprinting across the board room floor, ostensibly running to the aid of an ally while bowling over an old lady. Or perhaps something less egregious but every bit disruptive like grand-standing, disagreeing with or simply ignoring many things the board or management team prescribes.

Maybe the behaviours manifest as a loose canon uttering obscenities and using vulgar phrases to defend himself which only make the situation worse. Or he is simply wasting precious media exposure by drifting off-message and saying whatever they think best at the time.

Hopefully your leader is NOT offending the very people that he relies on to get the job done through favouritism, sexually suggestive comments, erratic firing and hiring or cavorting with folks who are clearly on the wrong side of the law. Although, he may be creating a similar effect among employees, managers and directors through whatever bad behaviours are being observed.

This is where it becomes problematic. Absurd and disruptive behaviour prevents progress, wastes time, erodes confidence and eventually kills motivation.

How do you know you have one of these leaders? Even if she smokes crack, you likely won’t know about it because she would be discreet about such things and they may not be in the public eye. There are many other indicators however. Answering a few short questions may indicate you have one of these. Questions like:

Do you and your peers spend an increasing amount of time discussing the leader’s actions and dwelling on the negative consequences?
Are you unable to predict the leader’s reactions and moods or is the team walking on eggshells to prevent bad behaviour when he is around?
Is there a clear dividing line between the few who are the leader’s favourites and the rest?
Is the word “dysfunctional” finding its way into conversations about the board, the management team or the individual.
There are many other indicators but these help you get the idea that no matter what the individual’s behaviour, if over time it is creating a dysfunctional organization, it’s bad!

We hold our leaders, especially political leaders, to a higher standard than most. This is not by accident. We need to look up to these people as we are motivated by them, develop confidence to help us weather storms and most importantly, so we can trust them to lead us to success.

It’s not a single transgression or lapse in judgment that is at issue. We have a tendency to forgive and forget these with sayings like, “We are all human” and “We all make mistakes.”

As it is with Rob Ford in Toronto, if the persistence of these bad behaviours manifest in dysfunction and an inability to proceed in a unified fashion, it will certainly increase costs significantly. even if it doesn’t cause the start-up to fail outright,

Most boards will react to a scenario like this in a similar way that Toronto City Council is. Often, boards will attempt to put the disruptor in a box, justifying this move by citing the value the individual can bring. This could be demotion, stripping of power, narrowing of duties and so on. In my experience, this simply allows the negative influence to persist to a point where the board deems the disruptions more harmful than the value the person is contributing.

I have fired founders in the past. In hindsight, I now know I have acted later than I should have. There is a clear path of destruction that a founders and leaders can leave in their wake by behaving badly. Often they remain ignorant of the problems they create and deny it in spite of being told. This should be the final warning bell.

Unlike the laws governing public officials, it is possible for a board to fire a founding CEO with or without cause (some jurisdictions excepted). It is incumbent on the directors and other senior leaders to identify the impact, confirm dysfunction, observe that it is persistent, understand that it won’t change, and then act decisively.

– See more at: http://francis-moran.com/startups/is-your-founder-a-rob-ford/#sthash.bX2ARK8k.dpuf

Sales Automation in the hands of sales people extend reach and expand to new territories, not channels.

I had an interesting call with a long time colleague and friend today. He is a well known and respected leader in his field. His expertise and notoriety has been developed over years of innovating and perfecting processes that are measurable, repeatable and produce consistently high quality results. This guy is, and has to be a great sales person in order to sell his ideas and grow his business. Currently, he is a partner in a software business, developing and offering software that provides automation and process management in his area of discipline.

The call was motivated by a problem he is having growing his business and he was seeking assistance. He explained that, while they have marquee customers internationally the majority of their business is confined to one region. Expansion to new territories is critical, he explained, because we need to grow revenue sure but there more important and strategic reasons. He went on to explain that they need to expand their global implementations as part of a strategy to mitigate risk of competition coming into the region from elsewhere and to increase the value of the enterprise for stakeholders.

He called me specifically to discuss channel development. His executive team and advisors had concluded this was the way to grow international sales and he called me because he knows of my track record and experience in developing channels and managing indirect sales. After a brief overview of his business and hearing his “ask” for advice and involvement in planning and execution I thought I should ask a few questions.

First line of questioning was around market opportunity and ecosystem internationally. Although they had not made a sale outside their home territory in over year, it was clear by the amount of competition and involvement of major integrators that there is robust market around the world with many high quality potential distribution partners. Probing for barriers I learned that language, product distribution, implementation, customer service and culture were not issues. The market is shaped by a highly specialized discipline that, for the most part transcends vertical industries, language and cultural issues. The product is very effectively distributed, implemented and supported via the web. So, I concluded its not a distribution or customer intimacy issue that needs to be solved for.

Next line of questioning was sales and marketing.

It was great to hear that my friend’s company is employing some leading edge practices in the marketing and sale of the solution. They are heavily invested and quite disciplined in content creation, measurement and analytics. A dedicated resource creates content, is actively posting, engaging and manages the overall content marketing process leveraging Hubspot and a cloud content distribution system. A weekly webinar hosted by my friend offers valuable insights to prospects and generates good attendance that contribute to a healthy flow of contacts who express interest in them.

Then in sales, he informed that there are three senior and accomplished sales people. All three in the HQ office in the home territory. They are using a sales force automation system (Maximizer) and they are tight with the marketers in that they have direct insight to activity on the portals, landing pages and webinars. They use GoToMeeting for on-line meetings and use phone and email extensively. There’s a rich library of materials and content at their disposal that is managed for them and available through the cloud distribution system. The Sales People are expected to generate their own leads as well as produce sales and they are. However, all sales in over a year have been in the home territory regardless of the abilities that the web tools afford.

So, I’m starting to conclude that they have the elements needed to be effective in selling internationally, yet they are not. Then I uncovered two critical issues.

They are passing Marketing Qualified Leads to Sales.

I define Marketing Qualified Leads as individuals who have offered details about themselves as part of an inquiry. These are clearly people who have shown interest in the solution and given up something (their deets) to get something (content download, attendance on a webinar etc.). Sadly, this is not an isolated case. This is prevalent across many industries and it is problematic. In a recent CSO Insights Survey it was learned that 79% of such leads die when they get to sales. This really bothers me for two reasons; one is the time spent by sales people trying to reach these people so they can qualify them against budget, authority, need and timing in order to prioritize them as a sales lead before they take them through the opportunity management process. And the other is even more vexing. Most of those leads will never be contacted by sales as sales people are going to prioritize there own leads over marketing generated ones almost every time. I suspect this is one of the main reasons my friend is not making sales outside the home territory.

Sales process, effectiveness and buyer behaviour is not being measured.

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Again this is not an isolated case. This shop, as in many others, has invested in marketing automation tools and is gaining actionable insight from content analytics in the lead generation process. These concepts and measurements, when extended into the selling channels enables sales and marketing managers to uncover the critical issues affecting both positive and undesirable outcomes. This knowledge then informs the right decisions for adjustments in process and most importantly, for effectively coaching Sales People to perform at peak.

Oh, and there was one other key piece of information exposed. They had tried hiring reps in remote locations in the past and failed terribly. I didn’t have to ask why.

The bottom line

My friend’s desire to expand into more, and more distant territories is motivated by sound business reasons. His conclusion to use channel partners to achieve this – simply will not work. In the absence of any other change, It will suffer the very same result that they experienced when they placed sales reps in remote locations.

I advised that he would be much better served to do two things.

1) Address the lead qualification issue. I introduced the concept of a Lead Develop Rep and suggested this be integrated into the Marketing team. Alternatively there are some very cost effective outsource alternatives. An outfit like Plan27 has proven capability and repeatable process that takes contacts (lists) and Marketing Qualified Leads and deliver Sales Ready Leads. Unlike other lead generation services Plan27 sweats the details of understanding the target buyers and developing comprehensive messaging and detailed procedures with their clients prior to initiating any activity. They do this for less than the cost of a headcount and consistently meet or exceed their service level agreements delivering sales ready leads.

2) Give the sales people lots of love and some new tools. Starting immediately with a tool that actually helps them without hindering. While Maximizer does what it does well, it doesn’t really help them do more of what they do to make sales or extend to new regions. A tool like RemoteRep® and its Sales Results Workbench™ would solve a lot problems for his reps and for his business. The reps would have one dashboard where they can access the marketing content, tailor it for an individual customer and deliver it effectively in any of three ways. RemoteRep® can be used when presenting to a customer in person, it has co-browser for on-line presentations and it can send the material via email. In all cases the sales activity data is being automatically collected and the customer engagement with the sales material is being measured, just like they do in marketing with the tools employed there. This one tool would directly or indirectly solve the majority of the problems he is experiencing.

Sales People can very effectively reach globally and sell like they are local. Measurement of accurate and timely sales activity data arms the sales leader with actionable insight that can be used to drive the correct behaviours, like following through on all leads regardless of location. Customer engagement measurement in the selling channel will inform messaging adjustments and provide meaningful data to help sales prepare for the next call. Marketing material management means that reps are not searching for things and that they are always using the latest updated materials.

When I told my friend about the real-time alerts in RemoteRep® he about fell off his chair. He immediately understood the value of an alert to the sales person the moment a prospect starts viewing the selling materials. This is a game changer! Shorter sales cycles and less phone tag will make a significant difference for his sales team. He was imagining his sales people engaging their prospects and customers at the perfect time, the time when the customer has chosen it is most convenient and they are already studying the materials!

I truly hope my friend follows this advice. I will be following up and sharing any further insights as I do so.

Is “the last mile” in sales automation keeping you from achieving better sales results?

A recent CSO Insights survey found that B2B sales people spend an average of 57 per cent of their time on things other than selling.

In my 33 years in the technology business doing sales, managing sales teams and building software businesses it has always felt like something was missing in the way we automated sales and this egregious productivity measurement supports this feeling. Now I can finally articulate what it is that’s missing. It’s the “last mile” of sales automation.

Let me explain.

In spite of all the investment in CRM (customer relationship management), SFA (sales force automation), sales enablement tools, marketing automation, web conferencing and the plethora of other tools, most (95 per cent, in fact) are still using bespoke methods and/or specific tools to communicate with prospects and customers.

Telephone and email are the tools of choice for the bulk of communications. Visiting the customer, sometimes after travelling long distances, remains the favoured method for presenting solutions or proposals. Web conferencing, with the hassles of co-ordinating schedules and getting participants’ computers and networks to comply with client software and host requirements, is now hugely popular (and hugely frustrating). To add insult to injury, after every customer interaction we ask sales reps to do data entry to tell a data base what they did. An appropriate meme/ecard circulating the web reads “The forecast for today: Unproductive with a chance of dicking around.”

So what is missing? What will help every sales person reach more customers, manage more opportunities and close more deals?

There isn’t a single integrated tool that enables a sales person to select the individual they need to communicate with, tailor a specific sales message for that individual and then deliver the message in person, in a web meeting or through a messaging system best suited to the customer while automatically tracking the activity and the customer’s engagement with the message. This is the last mile of sales automation and where there is the most significant opportunity for productivity gains for most B2B sales teams.

Customer CRM, SFA (including contact management) and web conferencing are the most common investments for sales teams. So let’s look at these in a little more detail.

What CRM is all about

CRM is all about finding, getting and retaining customer relationships. All CRM systems are basically an interface to a database where customer interaction data may be stored and accessed. The customer interactions that are stored include:

  • Campaign tracking
  • Purchase history
  • Shipping data
  • Account data
  • Customer support
  • Sales data

This is what Saleforce.com, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle/Siebel and many others are designed to do. The aforementioned also includes SFA capability that is integrated. This is the module that sales people are most familiar with and why many use CRM and SFA together. In fact, the competitive enterprise CRM vendors invest heavily in helpdesk/customer support, along with integration with ERP and marketing automation, in order to address events along the full lifecycle of customer engagement.

What SFA is all about

SFA is all about tracking the selling process and aiding and measuring the sales activity day to day. Similar to CRM, it also is an interface into a database that is focused on the sales funnel and sales enablement tasks. The primary areas of focus include:

  • Tracking sales
  • Tracking sales activity
  • Appointment scheduling and tracking
  • Lead/opportunity/account assignment
  • Contact management
  • Knowledge base
  • Internal workflow
  • Qualitative account details (sales observations)

When I think about why we hire sales people I think about a lot of things. Cold calling, targeting, proposing, quoting, account management, customer relationships, selling and all the administrative things we require as well. When I think this through and dig deeper for the most basic function that I am hiring a sales person to do, the core thing that they must do well in order for my business to succeed boils down to this: They must deliver the right message to the right person at the right time in order to influence a purchase decision. Most all else is context.

What needs to change

With this in mind, it becomes apparent that CRM and SFA systems are optimized for companies and management and not for the core thing sales reps are hired to do. Sure they help significantly with effectiveness of a single call through research, tracking and scheduling but they don’t help the rep do more of what we hire them to do. Sales people are, by and large, not big fans of CRM and besides the obvious loathing of anything administrative, I think I know the real reason now. CRM does not help them do more of what they need to do so they can exceed quota. That is, deliver the right message to the right person at the right time in order to influence a purchase decision.

With this in mind, here are some of the activities that sales people actually need a lot more help with from automation:

  • Sending targeted selling/marketing messages (relevant and personal)
  • Performing sales calls online
  • Performing sales calls in person
  • Tailoring selling/marketing messages for individuals
  • Assessing individual’s engagement (propensity to buy)
  • Administrative data entry (call notes, activity logging)
  • Marketing message/branding compliance

Many sales reps and management teams use a mix of  tools to help with these tasks. Use of web conferencing is prevalent, online file sharing tools, email, social media aggregators like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck and so on. Those who really get it use marketing automation tools and content management systems to help them with lead management. Did you know that only five per cent of B2B marketing teams use marketing automation? The rest rely on sales to nurture the leads that marketing generates.

Sales people use marketing automation or email marketing and content management systems to help them deliver more of the right messages to more people at the right time. This allows them to more effectively nurture their own leads. They do this because they know that 79 per cent of leads supplied by marketing do not convert to opportunities. On the flip side, they know businesses that use lead nurturing have a 451 per cent improvement in qualified leads and these leads generate 18 times more revenue!

It also means more juggling of systems and tools and with each additional tool comes more overhead. The motivation is there to take all of this on because it is getting harder to sell using only traditional tools.

Integrating these tools into one easy use workbench seems like a good idea to me. Why is it that sales reps are expected to juggle all of these tools? Why is it that CRM and SFA software consistently focus on back-end tasks and leave the last mile of interacting with prospects and customers to the sales rep alone? If you are sales rep, sales manager or marketing manager you owe it to yourself, you team and your company to seek out solutions that integrate the key ingredients that will make each sales rep more productive and leave all the juggling to the software.

Productivity gains are achieved not by the tools themselves, but by how little time the sales rep must spend using the tools.

Mind the Gap – Part 2

Gap? What gap?

In a previous post (Mind the gap) I described the gap that exists between marketing and sales. You know, the one where marketing measures campaigns by direct engagement with materials and by customer actions on the web whereas sales measures activity of salespeople and the state of opportunities. Because these are two different units of measurement along the continuum from awareness to closed sale, it is difficult to accurately gauge a return on the marketing investment and to forecast.

You may also recall how this makes the sales manager’s job a critical one in terms of translating the sales measures into a reliable forecast. The marketing manager, meanwhile, must reconcile marketing measures in the context of forecast and revenue to demonstrate a return on the marketing investment. In other words, “mind the gap.”

Well, there is an opportunity here. An opportunity for social business solutions to close this gap so that the “minders” — sales and marketing leaders — can get on with more strategic pursuits that bring even more value to the business. Also, so that the measurements used to indicate the health of the business are more reliable and consistent. The opportunity, I would suggest, is to take many of the techniques that today’s most effective marketers are using and extend them into the selling process. Specifically, what I mean is to capture data from customer engagement with the materials and actions performed on the web as salespeople engage them.

Marketers are becoming adept at harnessing the conversation on social media channels to understand customer sentiment and to communicate with markets. Entering the conversation opens many opportunities to generate greater influence toward a purchase of your product or service. These same listening and engagement capabilities allow marketers to monitor, control and evolve their brand and messaging.

Then there’s the big data advantage many marketers are capitalizing on. They are analyzing big data and using the findings to inform decisions that increase the return on the marketing spend. Targeting, tuning and individualizing the message is now taking place on a massive scale. This whole area is maturing into a new era of marketing where technology is a key ingredient in transforming the marketing function into a highly measurable, repeatable and data-driven discipline that has become orders of magnitude more efficient as compared to previous practices. In some of the most effective cases, web-marketing tactics are replacing traditional selling.

 The gap between marketing and sales
Why, then, are sales teams still operating the way they always have? Maintaining focus on activity and moving opportunities through stages as quickly as possible will drive some improvements but not the kind of success that marketing is achieving. Equally bewildering is the fact that sales, by and large, continues to work with marketing in a tactical fashion. By this I mean that there continues to be a very definite line drawn where marketing content production stops and sales consumption of that material starts. Sales teams take specification sheets, brochures, presentations, case studies and other marketing assets, either in print or electronic form, and apply them in varied ways in the process of selling. How customers are consuming these materials and the effectiveness of them continues to be measured through the lens of the salesperson. In fact, there is no way of measuring if a particular item or message contributed to the final sale. This is precluding the kind of benefits in sales that marketers are enjoying by employing the social and content marketing technologies discussed earlier.

Closing the gap

What if the marketing automation or content management and delivery systems were further optimized for personal selling scenarios and extended into the selling process? The delivery efficiencies, messaging/brand control and strategic benefits garnered through analytics would then be an aid in driving orders of magnitude improvement on productivity in selling, wouldn’t they? This would be in addition to making measurements consistent throughout marketing and selling on the path to closing deals.

Controlling the message

In spite of how this sounds, it is not a remedial tactic simply designed to keep everyone “on message.” Yes, this is one benefit. But gaining insight into how salespeople, prospects and customers use the various materials, and garnering measurements on how they engage with the messaging contained in the materials, will contribute to significant improvements. Marketers will have data to drive further improvements in messaging, particularly to evolve the message and brand to effect more and more consistent outcomes through critical phases in the selling process. Additionally, gaps in the story may begin to become apparent. There is an opportunity to identify how top performers are using, adjusting, or timing the use of materials and messages so that this may be shared across the organization to aid in better performance.

Minding the gap

Now, back to those who were “minding the gap.” Marketers may now approach content and messaging strategy from initial awareness through the purchase decision and have a consistent way to measure how these materials are performing in the field. In other words, by breaking the purchaser’s journey into many smaller decisions building up to a purchase, marketers may optimize materials and messages to support each of the various “wins” that are required to effect the correct outcomes that contribute to a purchase decision. This starts to reduce the burden on salespeople to adapt or create messaging that is translated to align with individual customer interests and will contribute to greater productivity overall.

Sales managers will now have a set of data to use when determining how to coach each salesperson to achieve peak performance. The analytics may inform use patterns that can be improved; these include volume of use, time of day, types of materials being used and how they are targeted. In other words, the sales manager now has data that is indicative of how much, how often and how effectively the team is engaging the prospects and customers in the pipeline as indicators of propensity to close, timing and team productivity.

Likely the most refreshing benefit is the fact that there is a more consistent set of measurements along the customer’s entire journey from awareness to close. The marketers can now point to how various investments will affect outcomes along the way. Sales leaders will have a new data set to use to determine team effectiveness. This is a key and strategic benefit in that sales leaders will be better equipped to immediately (and efficiently) identify how to increase the productivity and yield of the team and to provide specific coaching to individuals.

It is perhaps most important for the sales reps themselves who will now be armed with information that helps them plan and prepare for each sales call. For example, knowing that a customer has not read a particular set of materials or has skipped over a critical part in one document will be important for understanding what messages need to be understood and how they must be explained in a sales call. Now if the content management and delivery tool also provided the communication channel to deliver this message efficiently, you can see how productivity and yield would be positively impacted.