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!

Create A Living Brand

By Julia Capeloto

Do your employees know what their company stands for and what makes the brand different from competitors? Ask them. If the answer is no, you have some work to do.

Brand is more than just your company name and logo. Brand is what people think about when they think of your company — this includes customers and employees. Put simply, brand is how people talk about your company when you’re not in the room.

Brand is more than just marketing. We know that a strong brand leads to business growth and customer loyalty, but a strong brand also gives employees a sense of purpose and inspiration, and guides their behavior on the job.

Your sales team, for example, is a representation of your brand. The first time a customer may interact with your brand is when talking to a member of your sales team. But how is your sales team expected to hit their numbers if they don’t understand what the company stands for and how to properly represent it? Modeling the right behavior and developing customer experiences that create an emotional bond and connection with your brand is going to help your sales force hit and exceed their quotas.

How to Deploy a Living Brand

1) When clarifying or re-booting your brand, start by clearly defining your company’s culture, values, and beliefs, and how it comes together to manifest into the external brand expression, from marketing language to the visual impact of your logo.

2) Once you’ve done that hard work, you must communicate it clearly and explicitly to your employees. Start with training sessions to get everyone on board — what your company stands for, what you believe in, what’s the company’s personality is and how to represent the brand during customer interactions. New hires should receive materials on culture and brand in your onboarding materials.

3) Evaluate existing employee programs, incentives, and internal communications to determine if they on brand. Does your treatment of your employees reflect your company values? If they are not, change them. From top to bottom, your employee experience must empower your team to deliver on the brand promise and to bind everyone together as one company.

4) With clear values and beliefs that everyone understands, you can start evaluating people against them as part of your performance management process. You can also start including the values as criteria for recruiting to make sure that the new people you bring into the company are good cultural fits. And the best part — when your company brand is infused with purpose, employees are more likely to find meaning and fulfillment in their jobs, which leads to higher engagement and retention levels.

Your people are your most powerful assets. When your employees are happy, they are your best brand ambassadors. The business success of Zappos is proof that in order to build a strong external brand, you first need engaged and committed employees acting as your best brand ambassadors.

So go ahead — inspire your employees to be something great and build a brand that they can connect to and live.

Designing Your Document: Making Sense & Looking Awesome

This guest post from Inqune’s Senior Design Consultant Janine Eckhart explains why informational designers do a lot more than make your content “look pretty.”

We’ve got designer clothes. And designer fragrances, designer paint colors, and designer cars. “Designer” is so ubiquitous that doesn’t feel special anymore. Meant to indicate a level of luxury, “designer” often feels put on.

Amid all of this noise, design services may seem over-the-top, silly, or egotistical, but intentional, good design works in service of the message, putting it out in front, supporting it, and clarifying it with the lightest touch possible.

Making Sense

A designer for your presentation, your company’s brochure, or your new-hire onboarding paperwork is a second set of eyes. We catch errors you can’t see anymore because you are so familiar with the content; we make sure your message really is what you think it is. I love (I actually love) realizing that a client has sent me a table that should be bullet points, or the information in a paragraph is better suited to a table. Last, your great designer will make sure your project can be built on time and within your budget, because we exist in the real world.

Looking Awesome

The visual components —  the fonts and graphic assets, the shape and form of the paper, the file format, the aspect ratio — become the structural, nonverbal part of your message and a good designer is careful that everything on the page is in service of the message. To that end, it’s best if it all looks totally awesome. “Awesome” looks different for every project, and it’s our job to ask thoughtful questions to determine what awesome means to you and to align those preferences with the specific needs of the project.

Design Kickoff Questions 

  • Who is the audience? What do they know about your message already?
  • What format does this project need to take? Paper, digital, or both, for starters.
  • What assets do we have already? Are there branding guides, logos, colors, or images?
  • What’s the mood? Are we having any fun? We don’t have to have fun, but I sure like it when we do.

You are an expert in your field and in your message. Enlisting design services to make your message as clear and shiny as it can be will boost your signal above the noise.

8 Tips for Effective Communication of Employee Expectations

by Julia Capeloto

Startup Stock Photos

Do you know what’s expected of you at work?

According to a recent Gallup poll, about 50% of people know what’s expected of them at work, across all job levels, including management roles.

When I first read that stat, the number seemed really low to me, so I took an informal poll of 20 people in my professional network across different levels and industries. And of the 20 people I spoke to, 65% know what’s expected of them at work. That number certainly feels better, but is still not great.

One quote from someone I spoke to really stuck out to me:
“I was hired for a specific role, but what I do has expanded so much, that I am not exactly sure anymore.”

This is a key theme I found from talking to people when expectations aren’t clear, which often has to do with either receiving a promotion at work, or with the company going through growth, a reorg or other transitional period.

When I think about my personal experience at previous jobs, I can certainly relate to feeling confused at times — either when my job description was poorly defined, or when my role organically changed due to business changes at the company but never had a conversation with my manager at the time about how my role was changing and why.

Unclear expectations can lead to frustration for all parties involved and affects entire team dynamics. It can increase conflict, decrease morale and damage company culture. As a result, time and money is often spent wasted on work, and employee engagement levels drop. Once engagement levels drop, performance and company loyalty are likely to drop as well. Nobody wants this.

So how can we be more clear on setting expectations?

Taking a look at job descriptions is a good place to start. It’s important to make sure that job descriptions match the work that employees are actually doing, and that they fit with the organizational structure set at the company. But job descriptions can only go so far in describing a role — the rest requires ongoing conversations and awareness between a manager and her employees.

Moving beyond the job description, here are some points to keep in mind as we work to set clear expectations and create a positive work environment.

  1. It’s a two way street. Both the employee and manager need to be proactive. Managers should tell employees directly what is expected of them, but if that isn’t happening, employees need to take destiny into their own hands, speak up and ask questions.
  2. Clear as crystal. Communicate expectations clearly so there is a shared understanding at the end of meetings with employees.
  3. A nod is not enough. Receive a verbal commitment from an employee at the end of a meeting to ensure she understands what is expected of her.
  4. Go beyond what IS expected. In addition to clearly communicating what is expected of employees, great managers also explain why the work is important to the team and company at large, and how the work should be done (e.g., standards to uphold).
  5. It’s ok to ask for help. Create an environment where people know it’s ok to raise their hand and speak up — whether they aren’t happy with their role, or feel confused, or have questions about what they are working on.
  6. Know what’s happening. It’s important for managers to know exactly what their employees are working on, so any adjustments can be made in real time.
  7. Spell out behaviors. For example, if it’s important for employees to be team players, define what “being a team player” means, provide examples and include the behavior in performance reviews.
  8. Don’t wait until formal performance review meetings. Engaged employees want frequent check-ins and want to hear ongoing feedback. Create a schedule that works for both the employee and manager — could be daily, weekly or monthly, depending upon the job. And in those meetings, great managers help set work priorities and performance goals.

The workplace is fluid and ever changing based on evolving business needs. The key to success is a high degree of alignment between the company, managers and employees.
Getting expectations right through ongoing conversations, makes your team more effective and helps people pivot in times of change. Setting clear expectations is a commitment — it takes time and requires planning. But the time you invest will have a big pay off in the end. Being clear on expectations, leads to happier employees, increased productivity and increased retention.



Fixing the First Day

by Kelly Ceynowa

Man adjusting tie in mirror

Last week the man who heads up the co-working space I use in my neighborhood asked me what I was working on. “I am building an onboarding program to help an experienced salesperson ramp up quickly.” Without hesitation he asked, “What does that mean?” We laughed. I tried again: “Can I have another chance? What was the first day of your previous job like?“ “Terrible!” he said. “I didn’t last long.” “Well,” I said, “I am working on making that day better.”

Inqune’s programs are designed to help your business by ramping new sales and services hires to get them to full quota or performance levels quickly. But they also send a message to your highly talented new hire: you are glad they are here. You are paying attention. You aren’t going to let them get lost in the shuffle: you need their best work, and you will help them to do it.

Being intentional about how someone starts, including how they are trained, matters. It also challenges you, the employer, to decide how you want to be perceived and what you can do to make that perception real. Learning programs are integrated into your new hire’s initial experience with your company.

Odds are your new hire learns more about your company and culture than you could tell them in that first week they come aboard. If they are as talented and accomplished as you think they are, they chose you. And they will decide whether to stay during their first two weeks on the job.

Take the time to ensure your new hire is getting up to speed in a manner that shows you value their learning and development, and increased revenue and growth will follow.