This One Crazy Trick Will Transform Your Sales Process

I have a lot of tips about Salesforce Dashboards. I got to talk about them at Dreamforce this year: check it out in the video below!

Here’s the crazy trick: Managing a sales team isn’t about sales metrics. It’s about, well, managing a team. Once you’ve picked the metrics you want to track, the only way to make them pay off for your team is by actually:

  1. Reviewing them with your team
  2. Discussing why they are moving in the ways that they are
  3. Make action plans to improve them, and
  4. Follow up the next week.

…And the next, and the next.

Let you team know that you care about a handful of meaningful metrics, and create constructive plans to move them in the directions that you want to go. And watch your numbers go up.

Watch your numbers.

Crazy, right?

What Garbage Teaches You About Information Design

Moscone Center RecyclingOne of the things we do at Inqune is design information for our clients. Often, they already know what it is that they want to say, but need help presenting it in a way that their team will notice, understand, and retain. That’s where we come in: we can turn around a client’s expert content into first-rate instructional materials in a handful of days, so that when they present their expert content, it will stick with their teams into the next quarter & beyond.

So when I am out in the world, I am attentive to everyday instructional materials: the things in our world that are designed to teach us something.

Like recycling bins.

At Dreamforce, there were elaborate trash, compost, and recycling stations to ensure that every bit of packaging, produce, and promotional schwag discarded by the 130,000 registrants was directed into the appropriate waste stream.

Two elements of the Dreamforce waste disposal stations stood out to me.

Context-Specific Design

For the most part, the Dreamforce plaza was a walled-garden of waste: especially at mealtimes, the food service stations offered a discrete number of selections, and everyone eating from those stations had the same pieces of waste to manage at the end of their meal. The waste stations were designed specifically for this event, and the images on the cans exactly matched the objects that event-goers were holding in their hands for disposal.

It is far easier to know where to throw a plastic bottle if you see an image of that very bottle on the can where it goes, rather than having to check the plastics number on the bottle’s bottom against a printed number range.

The Human Factor

Among the army of event staff, there was a team of green-shirted personnel whose job it was to stand near the bins and make sure that trash went in the right place. The presence of these staff members was two-fold. First, they made conference-goes pay attention, indicating that there was something happening at that moment that was unlike what they were used to. Second, they were there to answer questions and help make sense of the already-very-clear signage.

By conference’s end, I imagine most participants were experts in Moscone Center’s waste-sorting policies.

The next time you have information that you want your people to notice, understand, and remember, think about how you can best accommodate the context in which they are learning, and strategically use available personnel: in person, in video, or via chat tools, to get them to stop, pay attention, and ask the questions they need answered to create deep understanding.

Need help with that? Drop us a line, we’d love to help.

Dreamforce Recap 2013

Inqune founder Alana Kadden Ballon speaks at Dreamforce 2013.
Inqune founder Alana Kadden Ballon speaks at Dreamforce 2013.

We know, we took a little longer to recover from Dreamforce and get our post-Dreamforce blog post up. What can we say? It’s the holidays & we have been overwhelmed with amazing customer opportunities. Here’s hoping that continues in 2014! But, we didn’t forget you: we know some of you couldn’t make it to Dreamforce and are still wondering. What did you learn? What was it like? Who did you meet? This blog’s for you.

1. What did we learn?

There are lots of firms who are providing contextual content. What is contextual content you ask? Content that is provided to the user at the point in time which they need it. For example, if you move an opportunity to discovery, a guide to asking open-ended questions will pop up.

These tools can be great – if you have the content. We find that most of our clients struggle to create the right content & keep it fresh. With some of the great tools we’re creating this year for clients, we’re hoping to test out one of these apps.

2. What was it like?

Awesome! It was great to see so many of our clients in one place, meet so many new people and understand what challenges cloud start-ups are facing. Most of them said the following:

  • a. How do we give our reps the tools they need to be successful from Day 1?
  • b. How do we change/scale/merge company culture?
  • c. How do we get our reps to: Prospect more? Sell to existing clients?
  • d. How do we figure out which leads are the best & generate more of them?

3. Who did we meet?

  • Benj Kamm from Health Leads, an organization partnering with doctors who prescribe food, fuel assistance, housing or other resources & that connects low-income patients with the resources they need to be healthy.
  • Vidyard, which provides amazing analytics & embeds video assets so you can see what is working & what isn’t.
  • KnowledgeTree, embedding sales content where you need it so you can close deals faster.

We Don't Need No Stinking Badges. Or do we?

BadgesCertification. A knot builds in your stomach. Test taking, once a thing of the past, is back in your life.

Whether you are going through a messaging or technology certification for your employer or partner, certification can still produce a level of anxiety and definitely hours of extra work. Certification can also help us grow our careers:  keeping technology certifications current can increase the wage we can ask from future employers.

The truth is, those of us who build and administer certifications don’t like them either. They are seen as a necessary evil, like the prick before a blood draw, that keeps workforce messaging and implementation skills at a certain level.

You may think certification is only for big companies… and you are a startup! Think certification isn’t for you?

Ask yourself and your team:

    • Do we want our team to deliver the same message?
    • Do we want to ensure a certain level of competence in implementation?
    • What do we need to have our stamp of approval on outside of the organization?

So, how can you set your team up for success? There are ways to make certifications more effective and enriching for your team. Here’s how:

1) Measurement transparency

Tell employees how they will be assessed. Don’t make it a surprise. We share the exact categories and score rubric that are used during certification when we send out the initial materials.  If they know what you consider successful, they can make sure to prepare comprehensively and can’t say, “I didn’t know.”

2) Test on reasonable amounts of content

We recommend between 2-4 certifications per year. Estimate the time it will take to prepare for the certification based on the information that the audience already has. Understand the 3-5 things you want them to be able to say or do after certification is complete. Do you have extraneous content you are asking them to learn that isn’t key to what you are trying to accomplish? How else can they learn that content?

3) Learn from peers

The best certifications we’ve designed and administered allow team members to learn from each other. Whether you have a team in a room or a web meeting, letting each participant see a few examples and provide feedback let’s them take great tactics from their teammates and learn from stumbles collectively.

4) Trumpet success

People like rewards. For internal certifications, give badges through tools like Work.com, create certificates and give prizes to top performers. For partners, create certificates, logos they can put on their website, and highlight certified partners on your own site. Some companies even issue press releases for newly certified partners.

What is the Meaning of Love?

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There is no time in New York like the weeks of the U.S. Open. I’m not a big tennis fan, but I do love competition, dedication, and celebration. Something happens to the city in those weeks: it becomes electrified as the competition builds, like the national fervor of March Madness all packed into one city. Fans flood the city wearing tennis gear and trek to Queens to sit in the sun for hours. Often, the most exciting matches are found on the smaller outer courts, where up-and-coming stars duke it out for a chance to appear on the main stage.

At the same time, I’m uncomfortable with my love of the U.S. Open. Tennis is a sport that requires a lot of resources to play and to watch. It isn’t a game that easily crosses socioeconomic barriers. And understanding tennis has a code: scoring is counted in non-sequential increments – sometimes not with numbers but words, you must win by two, except in the cases when you can win by one, men and women’s games are scored differently, clothing is highly standardized, there are two sets of lines, and sometimes you get two chances, but other times you don’t. And that’s just playing; if you’re watching tennis, there are another set of rules. No cheering until the point is over, until recently that cheering was limited to polite applause, at certain events attendees dress up, but not at others. Even if you can cross the economic barrier to entry, how do you learn about the terms and rules for playing or watching tennis? It is exclusionary by its very nature.

The same thing happens when you join a company. Figuring out how to dress appropriately for your role in various settings: the office, client meetings, sponsored social events, can be overwhelming. Never mind the labyrinth of acronyms and special terms each company creates: they make work faster once you know them, but they can be a beast to learn. It’s easy to find yourself outside the social fence, an outsider, unable to concentrate on your actual work until you figure out the code going on around you.

Don’t leave your employees on the other side of the fence. Well-researched onboarding programs clue them into the code that is your organization has created. Creating a welcoming environment means more than lunch with the boss on your first day, although that is important too.  Give them the rulebook – and only put rules in it that are actually enforced. If you write down rules that don’t apply, it leads to worse confusion than no rules. Make the implicit explicit: tell them about unspoken rules or practices. Create a shared dictionary of your acronyms and terms.  Let them watch a few of your ‘matches,’ and tell them what to look for when they are observing. When they go to practice for the first time, provide them the support and feedback they need so they know what parts of their game they need to work on. All of these tactics can take your team to center court.  Inqune can partner with you to get you there.

Who is Your Royal Baby?

In the world of start-ups, we have all had a Royal Baby.

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You haven’t been able to escape it. The reporters camped out weeks in advance. Your twitter feed has been drenched in hashtags: #royalbaby, #royalbabywatch, #royalbabyboy. The Royal Baby is everywhere.

Some people followed it closely and overwhelmed all of our social media feeds with congratulations, commentary and criticisms. Others loudly proclaimed their disdain for the media hullabaloo, asking, “Why is this baby different from any other baby?”

I wonder about the 370,000 other babies who were born on July 22 this year. Or, more to the point: I wonder about their mothers. How do they feel about sharing their special day?

Your Royal Baby is the touted, flush-with-cash startup next-door, backed by big names. It’s the firm hosting a splashy, eye-grabbing launch while your hard-working team grumbles about vaporware and incomplete vision.

The Royal Baby in your space seems to constantly be in the blogs, generates thousands of tweets and is always asked to be on the conference panel. You ask yourself, “Why is that start-up different from my start-up?”

The reasons are similar to the Royal Baby:

Lineage

What did the founders start before their current firm? If they have cultivated relationships with investors who have seen their past work and have been impressed, those investors will often back anything that individual or team does in the future.

Looks

Do they have a sexy UI? Are they entering a glamorous space or marketing their tool in a novel way? Are they skilled at making themselves look larger than they are?

Storyline

What’s their story? Are they delivering their message in a compelling way? People love a good story of triumph over evil, hardship or pain.

What can you do to chase away the Royal Start-up Blues?

Just like all those other kids born July 22, 2013, you’re going to have to prove yourself.

Focus.

Make a great product, make sure it looks good, tell people about it in a compelling way.

Don’t forget: the small stuff is really big stuff.

In Cloud or Software-as-a-service, renewal rate is the fountain of youth. If you can’t keep customers happy, none of the other stuff matters.

Grow.

Put your money where your mouth is, and if you don’t have money, put your sweat equity where your mouth is. Invest in developing your people who are in turn driving your product, brand and sales. These days, Growth > Splash.

Dear Alina, We Make New College Graduates Employable

photo by Lewie Osborne

Dear Alina,

I recently read your NYT piece about your older son’s high school graduation, and your worries that follow him to college. (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/29/your-money/a-quest-to-make-college-graduates-employable.html?hpw)

First, congratulations! Getting your kid through high school (and maintaining your sanity) takes a lot of work.

Second, try not to worry about his job prospects. My clients will hire him.

When filling an opening, employers have choices. They can hire experienced entry-level employees at lower cost or they can hire experienced employees who got their entry-level training somewhere else. My consultancy, Inqune, and our clients believe that the first model is more profitable, although it requires investment up front.

In baseball, the best teams in the major leagues have strong farm teams where they develop high-potential players. Once developed, those players progress to the major leagues. When other teams hire away that talent through free agency, they pay a premium, often quite large.

Since its 1926 inception, IBM has prioritized talent development in its recruitment process: they hire thousands of interns each year, and 40% of their entry-level hires come out of this pool. Salesforce.com, and Accenture are well-known for recruiting at colleges and developing employees who stay for more than 5 or even 10 years. Employees value the training and investment the company makes, the opportunities to advance and the culture this learning and development environment promotes.

Inqune focuses on small technology firms who, like their larger counterparts, prioritize hiring employees who can learn content quickly, apply it, and learn something new as the environment and products change. Our clients know that recent college graduates have spent years studying, writing and taking tests. These grads are skilled consumers of knowledge. Our clients leverage our team to teach specialized skills for doing their job and basic skills, including:

  • Business Writing vs. University Writing
  • Presentation Skills
  • Client Meeting Etiquette
  • Company & Client Social Events
  • Travel & Expense
  • Relationships at Work

In my next post, I will explore 7 things that your son, and the young women and men like him who are about to start their college years, can do to prepare themselves for work at a company that will invest in him once his schooling is done.

Millennials as Raw Materials

Photo by Charline Tetiyevsky
Congratulations, Class of 2013!

You are a part of the Millennial generation, which has managed to either terrify or underwhelm current corporate management, depending on whom you ask. You were born in the decade between the early 80s and the early 90s: I am one of you, though our graduation dates lie a decade apart. And I bring both good and bad news.

First, the bad news. Millennials have the worst unemployment rate in the country, at over 11%. Worse, the deck is stacked against you in particular: 66% of hiring managers are not planning on hiring new graduates this year.

The good news is that, even amid these dire prospects, you’re being smart about the jobs you choose, seeking personal development and career growth. A recent study from UNC’s Keenan Flagger Business School called you “Maximizers,” noting that over half of Millennial respondents reported that career progression made an employer more attractive, while two-thirds said that personal development was the most influential factor in choosing their current job.

Mellennials, the third of employers who are hiring you, rather than those complaining that your educations haven’t prepared you to be the workers they need, are in on a crucial secret. They know that in our service economy, people are the raw materials. These companies have figured out that if they invest in you out of the gate, providing career paths and skill development, they can capitalize on your raw talent and get tremendous returns in employee loyalty, retention, satisfaction, and accompanying productivity. They will have fewer succession worries in decade or two, and they will see immediate benefits as they refuse to let hiring struggles block their growth.

Companies like Salesforce.com, Cisco, and Google get it right by hiring people for their potential and then building required skill sets for entry level jobs as well as providing development opportunities for career growth. While I was managing sales onboarding at Salesforce, the success of our sales engine was built on entry-level talent who could be molded into seasoned sales professionals over the course of a few years. Salesforce couldn’t hire experienced cloud sales professionals, because before Salesforce, those professionals did not exist. By necessity, we had to create professional cloud sales teams from scratch.

What do these tech giants have that smaller employers lack? What gives them the confidence to take a risk on Millennial hires even if your skills or experience might not be up to par? A big piece of the puzzle is robust, proven programs for onboarding, training, and mentorship, allowing a hiring culture trusting of the fact that with smart people onboard, anything is possible.

I was inspired to start my company, Inqune, because from the vantage of running onboarding at Salesforce, I saw the challenges smaller organizations face when investing in people development. Start-ups have a hard time competing with the employee investment Fortune 500 companies can make; this makes it hard for them to hire the people they need to grow, and it makes them risk-averse when they do hire.

Again and again, I have watched interesting people start amazing businesses, only to stall because they can’t clone themselves and they need people who already know their particular market niche and specialised skills. I realized that we have the skills and technology to create learning programs that are lean and take minimal resources but produce huge ROI for start-ups. And now, I create and deliver those programs as a consultant.

So here’s the deal, Class of 2013. You keep being ambitious, principled, career-focused. And, here at Inqune, I’ll keep working to give small and mid-sized tech companies the programs they need to hire you with confidence, develop your talent, and drive their revenue growth. It’s the least I can do, really: we Millennials have to stick together.


Related articles:
Millennial unemployment rate reported at over 10%, as high as 12% earlier this year.

66% of hiring managers are not planning on hiring new grads.

Cisco hiring milennials for user experience department.

Why you should be hiring Millennials