It all starts with sales. No matter what industry you’re in, or what your growth strategy looks like, you’re going to need customers. And even if your product is a free app or an online community, eventually, you’ll need a particular kind of customer: the kind who brings in the revenue that drives your business and enables you to grow: Here are SalesForce’s Top 20 Tips taken from their latest e-book – Growing Your Business 2016.
1: Plan for Growth:
This might sound obvious, but many small businesses are so focused on ensuring growth actually happens that they fail to adequately plan for it. Maria Frantz is Vice President of Operations at AchieveIt, a results-management platform designed to help business leaders successfully execute their plans and initiatives. “The goal is to grow and scale over time, so what tools are going to get you in the right spot from the beginning?” Frantz explains. “The challenges at the beginning are all about identifying the steps you need to take and then figuring out which tools support those steps in order to scale over time.”
2: The 5 Commandments of Closing the Deal:
Know thy customer • Know thy numbers • Know thy pipeline • Know thy resources • Know thyself
3: To Expand Your Pipeline, Narrow It First:
Sales Force talked with Michael Boyette, Executive Editor at the Rapid Learning Institute, about a sales best practice that seems counterintuitive: to sell more, keep your pipeline lean. “You’d think that a healthy sales pipeline is one that’s full of leads. Research suggests otherwise: lean pipelines generated 48% more revenue than fat ones,” Boyette explains. “The key to a healthy pipeline: disqualify bad leads early, freeing up time to dig deeper with good leads.”
4: Know When You Need CRM:
When you’re just starting out, investing in CRM can feel like a big step. Ethan Senturia is co-founder and CEO of Dealstruck, a financial technology startup that provides loans to other small businesses. According to Senturia, you might need CRM sooner than you think — and here are two key signs you’re at that point. “If you’re unable to keep up with lead flow or customer demand,” Senturia says, it’s an early sign you need a better system. “If you find yourself being slow to respond to people, or you’re getting lots of inbound follow-up like ‘Hey, I’ve been waiting to hear back from you,’ then you probably need a CRM.” Second, he says, “if you have real trouble measuring the value of your sales funnel,” CRM can help you figure out which leads are more likely to become actual revenue — and, based on that, where your sales team should invest time and energy. “If you find yourself unable to forecast or understand the value of what your ultimate output is before the output is generated, because you have to make decisions that impact it along the way, then you probably need a CRM,” Senturia explains.
5: Live in Your CRM:
Getting the right tools is only the first step. If you’re not using your CRM — living in it, in fact — you’re not getting maximum value out of your technology. Dave Kurlan, the founder and CEO of Objective Management Group, Inc., says salespeople should get cozy with their CRM systems. “Live in your CRM,” Kurlan advises. “Begin each day in your CRM, identify your pipeline gap and fill it, update your conversations in real time, jumpstart stalled opportunities, follow your sales process. Use email and calendar to support your life in CRM. Live in your CRM.”
6: Be Kind:
Bret Peters is the Chief Marketing Officer for Fig Leaf Software, a fullservice digital agency and solutions integration firm — and in his view, kindness is just good business. “The world needs more kindness, and oftentimes, busy business people get wrapped up in problems which are largely the result of poor communication,” Peters says. For his business, using a CRM system like Salesforce has helped make clear, effective communication the norm. “Everything about Salesforce supports transparency and measurement,” he explains. “The knowledge and insight a business can gain from the use of Salesforce and Data.com helps everyone in a business stay on the same page.”
How Sales Teams Can Kill It in 2016
It’s time to fine-tune your workflow and sales environment so that you can land more deals in the coming year. Here are some tips on how to revamp your strategy in 2016. Turn your sales organisation and yourself into a learner. “The ability to constantly be learning is crucial,” says Jill Konrath, a small business expert and the bestselling author of Agile Selling, Selling to Big Companies and SNAP Selling. “If I were running a sales organisation today, I’d have my team reading books, subscribing to newsletters and getting a steady dose of what’s new and what’s going on. Simplify your sales process. Find out where people get stuck in making the decisions. If you’re losing people because they’re not deciding to change from the status quo, then you need to look at what you can do to make it easier for them. Dump distractions. It’s a good time to really analyse your work day and see where you can strip away mindless emailing. Revamp your workflow so that you’re no longer wasting valuable selling time.
Customer Service Customers are more connected than they’ve ever been. Across mobile and social and even non-digital channels, connected customers are changing the way every company does business. Service professionals are seeing and experiencing these changes every day, and are unanimous in their observations: we need to do a better job of delivering customer experience in this new connected world. Here are some tips to get you started.
7: Don’t Wait for Customer Feedback to Come to You:
The best customer service teams know a simple truth: people don’t always like to talk about their feelings. “Businesses tend to self-rationalise that most good customers actually do complain when they’re unhappy,” says John Goodman, Vice Chairman of Customer Care Measurement & Consulting (CCMC). “That’s just not true. If you think otherwise, you could be losing out of millions of dollars—regardless of what kind of business you’re running.” Mark Kushinsky, founder and CEO of MaidPro, a home-cleaning company that successfully expanded from one market into a franchise with 180+ locations, agrees. “You need to be constantly in touch with your customers, actively soliciting their feedback, because unhappy customers don’t always tell you they’re dissatisfied,” Kushinsky says. “They tell others, or they simply walk away. The converse is also true. Happy customers tell their friends and relatives, and that’s a big key to how we continue to grow.”
8: Hire for the Right Skills:
To successfully deliver amazing customer service, Marie Rosecrans, VP of Customer Service at Desk.com says, companies need to hire the right people — and that means people who are truly invested in making your customers successful. “Early in my career, I learned that the best subject matter expert doesn’t always make the best customer service specialist,” Rosecrans explains. “Supporting and serving customers requires a passion and a special DNA — these individuals get a special sense of gratification from working with and satisfying customers. You can hire someone who learns quickly, but you can’t necessarily teach someone to care about customers — that’s intrinsic to who they are.”
9: Know Which Channels Your Customers Care About Today’s consumers are channel omnivores:
In a single day, the same customer may interact with your company on social media, through your website, over the phone, via live chat, and within your mobile app. So while great customer service must be omni-channel, for small businesses, sometimes it’s hard to know where to focus. Sebastian Dedering, Head of Customer Success at the fastgrowing mobile payments company iZettle, says knowing which customers the company planned to target helped inform their decision to invest in Desk.com as a customer support tool.
“These days, good customer service is table stakes—it’s expected. Customers today rightfully expect to be delighted and WOW’d.” Marie Rosecrans VP of Customer Experience Desk.com
“We knew that our customer support team would be growing very rapidly as we were about to launch in three new markets,” Dedering says. “We needed a tool we could grow with and would provide the kind of multi-lingual support that we needed for European expansion. It was also really important that we found a tool that supported all of the main channels we offer to our users—email, Facebook, and Twitter.”
10: Help Customers Help Themselves:
We talked to Sam Franklin, the founder and CEO of Greenvelope, fast-growing electronic invitation, ticketing, and event management company, about how customer service figured into his company’s growth strategy. “I have a really strong belief that our growth is directly tied to the experiences that we create for customers and the positive word of mouth growth that results,” Franklin told us. One of those experiences is a knowledge base that Franklin says “makes it really fast and easy for customers to find their own answers.” For Greenvelope, it’s a win-win. “Today’s customers like to help themselves and they really appreciate the clear articles for instant answers,” Franklin explains. “Additionally, we get a lot of data through our customer service system that helps us continually optimise our business processes.”
How Service Teams Can Kill It in 2016
It’s time to fine-tune your workflow and sales environment so that you can land more deals in the coming year. Here are some tips on how to revamp your strategy in 2016. Look to create faster service to drive repeat business. We know that 85% of customers have been put on hold because the agent didn’t know what to say and needed to check, according to Dr Nicola J. Millard, SuperAgent 2020: The evolution of the 2020 contact centre. Strategise ways to connect your service agents in a whole new way. Tap powerful insights to identify high-value customers. It’s time to get smarter and predict more about your own customers. It’s also a good idea to use those insights to sell support packages to drive recurring business.
Marketing: Modern marketing is all about the customer — from getting the right insights about your customers to delivering the right message on the right channel, at the right time. For small businesses, defining your brand and values is a key starting point. Then, it’s about building a smart strategy around those values — and measuring success so you can optimise along the way.
11: Define Your Brand and Values:
Now As luxury sports-apparel startup PlayerLayer knows from competing with some of the biggest names in retail (think Nike and Adidas), building a new brand is no easy feat. But social media has done a lot to level the playing field (pun intended!) for brands like PlayerLayer. “When you’re social, you don’t need a $100 million advertising budget,” PlayerLayer CEO Joe Middleton says. “You just need good ideas.” With a defined brand should come a defined set of values and priorities, so your entire company stays united around a single set of goals that help define the culture. “Small businesses need to define brand and values early on to compete,” notes Jonathan Hunt, COO of Desk.com. “If you are doing everything, you’re not doing anything meaningful.”
12: Know When Less Is More:
As you’re building out your marketing strategy and hiring your team, it can be tempting to move in every direction at once. Marketing is a rapidly evolving field, with a host of competing technologies designed to help you keep up. Yet according to Dustin Tattoli, a Digital Marketing Specialist at Integrated Project Management Company Inc., it’s important not to get carried away. “Regardless of the sophistication of your marketing team’s capabilities, start with what makes sense for your business and don’t make the all-too-common mistake of trying to do too much,” Tattoli says. “Remember that less is sometimes more, and a diluted message doesn’t foster organic growth. It’s better to plan fewer, well-thought-out marketing campaigns for a short period than attempting 15 and falling short due to lack of process or resources.
13: Know the “Why” Behind Your Marketing:
In a recent episode of the Marketing Cloudcast, Kyle Lacy, Head of Marketing Strategy at OpenView Venture Partners, highlighted the importance of the “why” in marketing: “A marketer’s job…is not to sit in a room and think of the next creative billboard we should create,” Lacy told podcast co-hosts Heike Young and Joel Book. “It’s understanding why people are driving by that billboard and creating content around that, using data.” There’s another “why” at stake, too. Marketing isn’t just about understanding your customers’ or prospects’ motivations— it’s also about having a clear view of your own. What, exactly, do you want to achieve in each campaign, and how do you prioritise these goals? Without knowing why people are absorbing our marketing, and why we want them to absorb it in the first place, how will you know when you succeed?
14: Use Predictive Intelligence to Align Your Organisation Around the Customer:
Most small businesses are all too familiar with blurring the lines between sales, marketing, customer service, and product development. In some cases, a single person wears all of those hats at once — yet as your business grows, many companies lose that natural alignment. To Alison Murdock, Vice President of Marketing for the predictive intelligence platform 6sense, predictive intelligence gives small businesses a chance to get it back — in a way more efficient way. “As prospective customers evaluate solutions, they use a vast array of digital resources—some you control (website) and others you don’t (search)—and are leaving traces and time-sensitive interactions that tell us where they are in the sales cycle and the products of interest,” Murdock explains. Integrating with CRM systems of record like Salesforce, 6sense pulls all of those data points together into insights that help sales teams and marketers make truly data driven decisions.
How Marketing Teams Can Kill It in 2016-2017
Attract and convert customers using a combination of free content and content gated behind a form. Your buyers are spending their time online. According to Forrester, 74% of business buyers conduct more than half of their research online before making an offline purchase. So how do you make sure you are a part of this research process? By becoming a trusted resource. Create a diverse portfolio of shareable content that will speak to a variety of buyers in different stages of the sales cycle. We’re talking about blog posts, infographics and slideshare presentations that contain personalised and actionable lessons for your target buyer. Have systems in place to identify your best leads, and respond quickly. We know that when the time is right speed counts. Research has shown that as many as 50% of buyers choose the vendor that responds first. Know which customer actions (downloading demos, e-books, etc) trigger the sales funnel, and be ready to respond quickly.
Everything Else Starting and growing a company is hard work for everyone involved. On any given day, you may need to move faster, be more productive, solve more problems, and adapt to more unique circumstances than ever before. Here are some of our favourite insights from successful business leaders at growing businesses. Their advice ranges from personal productivity tips to visionary inspiration — and some of it may surprise you.
15: Work Smarter — And Harder:
“My VP of Sales at my first college job asked our entire sales team what’s more important: working smarter or harder?” recalls Kevin Chiu, Manager of Sales Development at Greenhouse Recruiting, a recruiting optimisation platform that helps companies build and scale their recruiting processes. “Most of us said working smarter, and he told us we were all fools. ‘It’s about working smarter AND harder.’ In this day and age, when you surround yourself in a room with people that are all smarter than you, that’s the only way to keep up and strive to be the best.”
16: Think Big:
“Embrace the potential of leveraging solutions available to you especially as you grow—that will ensure you grow to scale and your growth is sustainable. I think a lot of folks are cost-conscious early on and they don’t think big picture. These services seem expensive, but I always think of these services as employees on my team.”
—Brandon Staton, Marketing and Public Relations Manager, Transportation Impact
17: Be Adaptable:
“Growth should happen quickly and you need a team and a product that can adapt just as quickly.” Jon Oberheide CTO and Co-founder Duo Security
18: Know Something Before You Do Something:
“I believe everything should be grounded in an insight. You should know something before you do something. You start with a question: How can we grow, or why is that happening, or why isn’t this happening? Then you try to gain the insight. You should be able to rapidly move to the data and see if the data supports your hypothesis, and then you should test your assumption to see how it works. And all of that should be done without having to bring in a bunch of IT guys to pull different data from different places.” —Mark Hope, CEO, Pegasus Sustainability
19: Fight for the User:
“We believe in fighting for the user; that phrase is painted on our office wall. We exist for young people. By providing them with something valuable—accessible, free, and meaningful ways to take action on issues they care about—we’ve continued to grow. We also meet young people where they are, from Snapchat to text messaging, to make it easy for them to find action opportunities. It shouldn’t compete with their everyday life.” —Naomi Hirabayashi, CMO, DoSomething.org
20: Eat Your Oatmeal:
Your mother probably used to tell you that breakfast was the most important meal of the day. In various interviews with successful entrepreneurs and small-business leaders, we noticed a common thread: oatmeal for breakfast. We don’t know why, but just in case it’s oatmeal that’s the key to their success, we recommend you try it. Read more:
FINALLY: Stay Focused on the Product
“Staying focused on building a superior product at scale is the key to our success.”Alison Murdock Vice President of Marketing 6sense