5 Ways to Create A Safe & Supportive Work Environment

The horrific attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando is still fresh in everyone’s minds. Although we have perhaps gotten too familiar with these types of tragedies, the pain, fear and urgency to people’s social media posts seem to have increased. Companies are sometimes afraid to acknowledge shootings because of the political climate, but it is every company’s responsibility to:

  1. Keep employees safe
  2. Create an environment in which employees feel supported and can flourish
  3. Support them as individuals in the long-term

All of these things drive productivity and ultimately profitability.

In the wake of the Orlando attack, here are 5 ways to create a safe & supportive work environment:

  1. Communicate resources & channels of support.  Send out an email, post to internal social channels about available resources for employees who need support, reminders of mental health benefits and reference published sources for tips on coping, like this one from the American Psychological Association. Remind employees that they are safe at work and share company safety measures and protocols.
  2. Create space for dialogue. For those wanting to discuss the events, schedule a lunch or other allocated time for people to talk about their feelings about the shooting. Include a mental health professional to facilitate and an HR team member to ensure everyone at the company feels they can express their opinions.  Consider offering 1:1 sessions if resources allow. Encourage employees to take a bit of time to themselves to reflect and process.
  3. Plan a team event to benefit the community. Volunteering as a team fosters a sense of belonging. Helping others also has the benefit of helping you feel better too. This is a great checklist from the Entrepreneurs’ Foundation of Silicon Valley to help you get started.
  4. Host an event to educate your team on different cultures, religions, sexual orientation, gender or other group. In addition to belonging to a team, uniqueness drives the other portion of true inclusion at work. Muslims are currently celebrating Ramadan, host an Iftar celebration in the evening and invite employees or guests to talk about their views and experiences. Here are some tips on how to host the celebration. This month is also LGBTQ Pride. Your company, if it hasn’t already, can get involved in a Pride Parade, form partnerships with organizations that support the LGBTQ community, company sponsored events or educational offerings.
  5. Follow-up. When so many lives and families face this type of devastating loss, the immediate outreach and reaction is overwhelming. But weeks and months down the line, once some have moved on, many simply cannot, especially those personally impacted. Grief is a long process. Set reminders a few weeks and months out to repeat steps 1-4 in the coming weeks and months, fostering a true culture of support.

May we all be inspired to work towards a more harmonious world, beginning with the communities, like our workplaces, that we inhabit every day.

3 Reasons Sales & Marketing Aren’t Aligned…

…and how to fix it

I often describe our work as couples therapy for Sales and Marketing. How much of the buying process is conducted before sales gets involved is hotly debated. SiriusDecisions has done some great research on the topic. They suggest that instead of the buyers are entering the process more than 60% through the buying cycle, they are engaging early and looking for more support from Sales. Hubspot is singing a similar tune with their newly-coined term Smarketing, and plethora of Sales & Marketing Alignment Resources to lay the foundation.

The upshot: Sales and Marketing can’t afford to not get along anymore — and they don’t need just to align, they are one. There is one thing that I can’t find in these great tools and strategies: Why? Why aren’t Sales and Marketing getting along? There are articles out there that attempt to answer that question, but most are about resulting behaviors and less about underlying causes. Here are the underlying causes:

  1. No explicit shared vision. Neither team knows what the company is trying to achieve or sees how they fit into what the company is trying to do. They are, therefore, likely have different ideas of success.
  2. Compensation is not aligned. One of our clients recently came to us saying that Marketing was exceeding expectations, but Sales wasn’t making its number. When we dug around a bit we found some surprising results: lead-to-op was very low, but op-to-close remained high. Marketing was compensated on leads generated and made their number while Sales and overall the company revenue fell short of expectations.
  3. Culture of blame. Everyone needs someone to blame. It’s easier to point a finger at another team if something goes wrong than to work together to figure out how to fix it.

What can you do about it?

Create a clear vision and strategies that are in service to that vision. This process cascades and subsequently each department, team and individual must create their own vision and strategies that support the overall top-level company vision. Salesforce does this with V2MOM, Symantec creates Victory Plans, and many other companies use GOSPA.

Change your compensation plan. Some of our clients have compensated reps more for net new logos vs. overall deal value, set up specific additional compensation for deals in specific industries, and provided some compensation to reps for deals that are self-service sales to drive customer success behavior. Check out some ways to align compensation.

Spread the blame (and wins) around. Create a culture where everyone shares responsibility. Set up regular (weekly, monthly or quarterly) meetings to talk about how campaigns and pipeline are running, and be sure to discuss cooperation between the teams. Borrow from project management and use a Lessons Learned template like this one from Wrike where you answer questions about what you should keep doing in addition to what needs to change.

Documenting The Sales Process (Part 4)

Investing in a sales methodology, like Sandler, TAS, or Challenger is always a good idea as your sales organization grows because it provides a common vernacular across the organization and establishes a base for how selling should work across the organization, including what is acceptable and not acceptable. Before you do that, know your sales process & write it down step-by-step. 

If you aren’t ready to invest in a sales methodology or can’t find one that fits your organization’s culture, make sure to create your own. You can build a presentation or document that outlines how you expect reps to run sales cycles, what information they need to capture about deals, and how to forecast and negotiate.

Need help selecting or building out your methodology? What you sell and how you sell it will naturally lend itself to different sales methodologies.

Protip: If you are investing in a sales methodology, make sure that you don’t underinvest. After getting comfortable with the program, work with the organization to create a rollout plan that will work. Without enough training, they may deploy it poorly and provide a bad selling experience.

We can’t cover them all here, so please contact our team for guidance on selecting your sales methodology.

Before you even select a methodology, it’s important to document the steps in the sales cycle, as they are laid out in your CRM system. Why?

  1. When you do select a methodology you can apply the right elements to different phases of your process.
  2. You might also find when you document your process that you need to make some changes. 
  3. New hires will ramp more quickly if they know the expected sales process they need to execute.

Include in the documentation:

  1. How do you enter this stage? What has to happen for the deal to be at this step?
  2. Who is involved in the stage?

Also, create a visual of your ‘typical’ sales cycle for new people to understand what the steps usually are and how they flow together. Here’s a sample below.

Generic Sales Process

Your task: Document your sale process and create a visual of a typical sales cycle. Make sure to validate it with the sales team.

3 Ways to Structure Your Sales Playbook (Part 3)

There are several ways to structure your sales playbook. The question is, what will make most sense for your team? First, think about what type of organization you are part of.

If you organization has is more product-focused, then you should principally organize content around your products or solutions.

Our general preference is to organize content around the sales process, so that reps find the content they need based on the part of the sales process they are in at the time. This can be challenging if you sell multiple products — in that case, we always recommend a tool that can present content to you based both on where you are in the deal and what solutions you are presenting to the client.

1. Product or Solution-centric Structure

Product-Centric diagram

2. Process-centric Structure

Process-centric structure

3. Persona-centric Structure


Note: If you are using a product or persona-based approach, you will have an operations only section in a different part of your playbook that deals with information to enter in CRM, which roles are involved in each part of the process and criteria for forecasting and pipeline management.

Determine Your Structure

  • How do you determine which structure is right to you?
  • Shadow reps, see what information they access when.
  • Ask reps when they are looking for information.
  • What are they thinking about?
  • What usually prompts them to go look for information?
    • The next steps in the sales cycle?
    • Buyer-oriented information?
    • Product-specific information?
  • Where do they think to go look for something?
  • How does it makes the most sense to organize it? Ask the salespeople this question directly.
  • What do they like/not like about how things are organized today or at organizations they have worked for in the past?

Sales Playbook on a Shoestring: What to Build (Part 2)

In our last post, we asked you to pick out where you want your sales tools to live.

Now we’re moving onto who should create this content & prioritizing what content should be created:

This should be a partnership between sales and either product marketing, sales enablement or another trusted resource that the organization has empowered to create resources.

For sales tools to be most effective, the first part of the process is for the content creator to work with sales to determine:

How do you figure out what content is most needed? Talk to the stakeholders & identify the biggest challenges sales is facing. You can find this out by speaking with sales leadership, managers and individual contributors about the key challenges sales is facing. Also, you can analyze deal data that exists to determine where in the sales cycle reps are getting stuck and why deals are being lost or going cold.  You’ll probably hear a few trends, including, but not limited to:

    • Not enough pipeline → Prioritize creating prospecting tools
    • Low win rates against competition → Prioritize creating competitive playbooks
    • Deals that are stuck and taking too long to close & you are identifying the correct buyers who have the problem you solve → Prioritize creating evaluation plan tools reps can use to with customers

What already exists? Create an inventory of what sales people have created for themselves and do a quality analysis.

Likely, salespeople have taken it upon themselves to create content to help themselves and their team. Don’t recreate the wheel! Figure out what is out there & how it needs to be updated to be rolled out to the broader team. The more you can leverage existing content, the more buy-in you will  get from the sales team. These are great inputs for what the sales team needs, they have likely created a version of what they need the most.

CAUTION: You will probably find some inconsistencies and some inaccuracies. This is normal and part of moving from an oral culture, where everything is shared by word of mouth to a biblical culture, where you write down specific recommendations.

Once you have prioritized the content that you need, identify your subject matter experts. For each type of content this course reviews, we have suggested who you should work with, but once content has been created, you should have a plan for the sales leadership to validate and sign-off on what is created.  

    • Make sure you include leaders of each sales team. This can be the manager or top performer(s) that the manager appoints.
    • The head of sales should review all of the content before it is launched, and ideally throughout the process, he or se should review a draft of each asset, if time allows.
    • It is also great to have a representative from product marketing to help. Although they may not have bandwidth to produce the content, it is ideal to engage them in the review process so that they also have ownership and can provide additional insight that aligns the assets with the overall marketing strategy.

Once the sign-off process is in place, it is also important to create a roll-out plan. The rollout plan will be covered in detail in the final post in this series, but we’ll give you a sneak peek tomorrow. Make sure you have agreement on the review process and sign-off before you start creating content so that you agree with the executive sponsors (the sales leadership in this case) at the outset of the project.

Your task: Before the next post, gather your team and talk about what is most needed and who will be on the team to contribute to, create, evaluate and approve the content.

Sales Playbook on a Shoestring: Introduction (Part 1)

Many small companies struggle to create tools for sales because sales are focused on closing deals and marketing leaders on setting the overall message, promoting the brand and generating leads.

Creating sales tools doesn’t need to be held up by lack of design or headcount dedicated to sales tools. It is important to gather information from the sellers themselves and make sure that it is shared across the team and continues to help in future cycles.

Don’t make your sales team wait for what they need or spend their time reinventing the wheel by asking the same question other reps have already answered. Increase rep productivity by putting the information they need at their fingertips.

In this blog series, we’ll provide step-by-step tips for documenting your sales process, creating buyer personas, discovery guides, demo scripts, competitive intelligence, proof of concept guides, proposal and business case templates. We’ve used this methodology with companies that have 10 customers and companies that have over 10,000 customers.

Where should this content live?

This content should live where your reps do. Within our customer base, some clients use sales playbook tools like Veelo, Seesmic or Qvidian – many of which are built into Salesforce.com and others use content management tools like Atlassian’s Confluence or Google Sites.

Overall, our recommendation is that you but the information where your team is – if they live in Salesforce, put it there, if they live in another internal tool, put it there.

Playbook tools are great because they can present the information to the reps based on what type of opportunity, where they are in the cycle and who they are competing against.  If you have budget, someone to guide the implementation and manage it, pick one! But this series is about doing things on a shoestring, so we’ll assume you’ll be using a basic content management tool.
Your task: Before our next post is up tomorrow: pick out where your content will live!

Role Play Prompt Patisserie, or, The Art of Learning with Your Food

90056835I hate working lunches. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy typing one handed while scarfing down a salad at my desk, but when I’m planning a training program with a client and they suggest that we “work through lunch,” I cringe. I like to let my mind wander during lunch. I like to surf the internet, walk around the block or, if I’m facilitating a program, get to know some of the training participants.

And it’s not just me – everyone needs a break. Our minds need a chance to press pause, to shift their focus and to do something different. Culturally, outside of the U.S., a working lunch is not acceptable. Eating is considered a crucial time to pause and take a break. Worse yet, working while eating may cause us to overeat because we aren’t paying attention to our food.

But, clients want to fit it all in. So how do I make everyone happy? My solution is to play with food. It’s an easy way to make people laugh and prompt a serious discussion.

Here are a few ways you can keep the learning going through lunchtime:

  1. Progressive table talk. Select key topics you want to cover during lunch. This is great for breakouts, where participants can select which topics they are interested in. Assign table hosts for each topic who will facilitate a discussion and make key points. Each course is 20 minutes and participants choose a new table for salad, entrees and dessert. Similarly, you can use the World Cafe exercise.
  2. It’s a Wrap. Prepare/order boxed lunches, create pairs of cards that connect to your topic. When participants open their boxes, they need to find the person (or people) with the card that matches theirs.  For example, if the cards are printed with the names of your competitors, ask participants to talk about how they position against that competitor, case studies they utilize, and what traps to watch out for.
  3. Custom Fortune Cookies. Want to start a discussion without any instructions? Drop off a few fortune cookies on each table, custom-filled with different statements or questions. Participants will open them up and start talking about their “fortunes.”
  4. Takeaway Cake. Help your participants really digest a few key points. Have a cake iced with the points you want to make. Invite the participants over for a discussion, then enjoy!
  5. Monopoly, without McDonalds. McDonalds is famous for having cups with monopoly pieces that peel off the cups with the potential to win big prizes! You can order similar promotional materials and print them with questions, contests or steps in a process. For one client, whose methodology was involved, participants had steps printed on their cups and had to put the steps in order before time was up!
  6. Cocktail napkins. It’s happy hour and you still want more? Print an executive caricature and tips from that exec on napkins for reps to pick up while they are drinking. If you number them, reps will surely try and collect them all.

Keeping the Peace

Peace has been on my mind lately. Typically, at this point in the summer, I would write about keeping your team motivated in the summer to build pipeline, execute on projects and get ready for the approaching year-end push, but given all that is happening in the world, I can’t muster it.

More than one client has mentioned that the current violent conflicts have had an impact on their ability to focus. Indeed, research shows that conflict makes it difficult to focus on the task at hand, increases negative attitudes, suspicion, reduces confidence, and as the conflict grows, it can become less about the underlying issue and more about power and being “right” (Deutsch, 2006).

Although global violent conflict is much more serious than the conflict between two or more organizational groups, in my mind some of their causes are shared. This conflict is commonly associated with sales and marketing, but we’ve seen it between sales and services, services and finance and more. Internal organizational conflict can have a significant impact on your team’s productivity and the ability to be productive. Often times, clients engage us to help them navigate internal relationships and maximize the resources from each team.

Since I can’t do much about global violence, I’m thinking about keeping the peace at work instead. Below are three tips to creating peace among groups at your organization.

1. Identify common goals with underlying objectives.

Each team has different goals and objectives, but need each other to get work done. In sales and marketing, sales needs marketing to create a stellar brand, materials for presentations and distribution and generate leads. Marketing needs sales to follow-up on and close the leads, using the marketing materials, in order for the business to thrive.
Different teams must come together to come together to identify their common goals as an overall organization and the individual team objectives that serve those goals. Returning to this common goal can help create clarity when individuals or teams blame others for situations that arise. Some organizations create goals and objectives each year, others leave it to the individual teams.

If your organization doesn’t already create goals, ask yourselves:
What are we trying to achieve? (Next 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, 24 months)
What needs to be done to achieve these goals?

2. Define roles and responsibilities.

After you have defined your goal and objectives, create a path to achieve those objectives with individuals strategies and tasks. Then, assign the appropriate person from each team to be responsible for each component. Start by simply answering the question: Who is going to do what?

Ask yourselves:
What is my teams’ role in achieving our organizational goals?
What can we contribute in service to these goals?

With mutual agreement, conflict will still come up, but when it does, you will have a foundation to return to and reset the relationship by reviewing what was agreed upon and assessing what updates need to be made as the organization changes.

2a. Regular check-ins.

Priorities change, your goals, objectives, roles and responsibilities will too. It is
important to treat them as such and set aside time to reaffirm expectations. Regularly checking-in and assessing your progress towards the agreed upon plans keeps everyone on the same team. If you have proactively set-up these meetings, it will hold the team accountable and you will be working from the same list. Without this, each team tends to create expectations individually that aren’t agreed to and aren’t met, causing additional conflict.

3. Determine the appropriate venues to discuss conflict.

It’s going to come up, and instead of hoping that it won’t, plan together for how you will deal with it. Too often, we see conflicts played out in front of the entire organization at a large gathering or in a board meeting. By setting aside time specifically to discuss dissatisfaction, realign goals, roles and expectations, you can prevent the conflict from spilling over into other venues and stalling work that needs to be completed.
This can be incorporated into your regular check-ins, or you can create a joint plan for when and how you will work as a team to bring up conflict and issues, before they boil over.

Deutsch, M. (2006). The Handbook of Conflict Resolution. M. Deutsch, P. Coleman, E. Marcus (Eds.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

But What Should I DO?

469845713Consultants sometimes gets a bad rap. We spend a lot of time talking, formulating plans, and presenting projects that, lets be honest, often don’t get implemented. We find ourselves pulled between telling the client what they want to hear and getting stuck with the broken status quo or telling them what we actually think– and getting fired.

Worse, still, is the parts of the process where it is important that we don’t say anything at all. We know that clients hire us for our expertise, and they can get frustrated when we don’t pony up the secrets to success early in the process. But these are the times when we find it is most effective to keep our ideas to ourselves, and listen instead.

This is most apparent when we conduct discovery — the interviews where we learn about the problems and processes that we have been called in to solve. Usually, we begin a conversation with a working hypothesis about what we might recommend… but we never, ever share it.

Why not? Couldn’t it cut down the time in the process? No. It can’t. For three reasons:

1) We don’t have enough data.

We might be wrong. (Full disclosure: We are wrong a lot.) We need to test our hypothesis by talking to a lot of people and getting a clear picture of what is currently going on. We might need to adjust our hypothesis. We find clients can identify with proposals when presented in the context of actual examples from their environment– if we introduce our thoughts too early, we won’t get a clean set of examples to structure our ideas around.

2) It doesn’t really matter what we think.

If we took one look at a client and decided what the issue was and recommended a solution, we might be right, but it wouldn’t matter. Individuals, couples, groups and organizations can only make changes if they buy in, and the best way for them to buy in is to come to a conclusion on their own. We can guide the conversation and point out trends and patterns that we see, but our recommendation will not take root if the client doesn’t agree with what we are solving for. It is important to let people talk through problems so that they develop their own awareness of them.

3) Symptoms are sexy, but solutions are sexier.

Our job is to help identify the root of the issue, where real change can start. Early on, we can only see the symptoms and can’t identify what ties them together. You might think the issue is how you are training team members on a process, but we need to learn about the process and find out how that is interacting with the training or description. We don’t know where the root of the issue is. We can put band-aid solutions on symptoms, but we need to understand how to create real and lasting change.

Our clients often remark that we are able to understand them & their business quickly.

Obsessing over getting a complete picture of who they are at the beginning, asking a lot of questions of many people, reviewing material, and picking up on what is unsaid in meetings (starting late, not contradicting each other, focusing on specific attributes) creates a strong foundation that allows us to get into our clients’ mindset and build solutions that they can have ownership over, sustain and grow.

SKO Season 2014: Lessons Learned

Alana Kadden Ballon, of Inqune, works with a team at one of our 2014 SKO events.
Alana Kadden Ballon, of Inqune, works with a team at one of our 2014 SKO events.

Whew! We’ve been cranking since company kickoff season ended last month. Our team is working non-stop as we make the development campaign promises of those kickoffs into reality. Here, we take a moment to reflect on what we learned from the four unique events we were lucky enough to participate in globally.

8. There is never enough time.

Everyone likes to revise their content until the very last minute, no matter how early you start, how clear your objectives, or when your printing deadline for materials. We set this expectation upfront and try to be as flexible as possible, but limit last minute changes to minor content adjustments.

7. Preparation is key.

Even if you think you know your content, you need to practice. It always sounds different in your head compared to coming out of your mouth. Test it out. Out loud. A few times.

6. It is going to run late.

When you run late and cut sessions, it tells people certain topics aren’t important, so be respectful of your objectives and give each session equal time. You need a sergeant in arms to work with the presenters to keep them on track, dry-run to make sure people understand how fast the time goes, pad time in the schedule and be flexible. Pro tip: Put the speakers who tend to run the longest at the end of the day.

5. Create dialogue.

Make time for questions, on all topics. Create group discussion forums and have them report back. End the day with an executive panel Q&A and allow people to ask questions, speak their mind and learn what is important to the entire team. Create a culture of discussion.

4. What you do afterwards matters.

If you say you are going to do follow-up DO IT! Without reinforcement, additional programming and resources, the impact of a kickoff is very limited.

3. Having fun can be more important than anything else you do.

So much learning, team formation and understanding can come out of the activities that challenge the reps during and after the sessions. Let them show off their talents and get them thinking and working together.

2. Everyone is nervous.

Sometimes participants are worried about change, new leaders are worried about taking on the mantle, managers are worried about results. Do everything you can to make everyone feel comfortable.

1. People are there to hear the leaders.

The question I get asked most frequently about kickoffs is: why do people have them? Usually these events are meant to celebrate accomplishments, align to future goals, learn new information including messaging or market approaches, and bond as a team. But really, truly, people are there to listen to the leaders. People are programmed to tune into what their leaders say as a way of identifying what is  important. So really, they are there to hear from you. Make it good.