3 Ways to Match Q4 Sales with Prospect Fiscal Year End

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Guess what? It is already a day from Q4, the time when your prospects are also nearing the most important time in their accounting: fiscal year end (FYE). Fiscal Year End refers to the date when a company closes off its current year of budgeting, finances, and programs and shifts into the next year-long period of operation.

While mainly used for accounting and reporting purposes, fiscal years dramatically impact how and when a company does business. These dates determine when the budget is allocated, whether spending can be increased, and ultimately decides how receptive prospects will be to your pitch. Even though supplemental and discretionary funding can sometimes be provided off schedule, the fiscal year controls the bulk of any prospect’s budget.

December 31st is closer than you think! Keeping these dates in mind is critical for your sales team. Align your Q4 playbook with prospect FYE to reach higher close numbers when it matters most to you! Here are three tips that can help your team keep FYE in mind when selling in Q4.

  1. Research prospect FYE dates. While many companies close their financial year on December 31st, there is no requirement for the actual close of the year to also close the fiscal year. To take advantage of more popular seasons or for accounting purposes, firms will often have widely varying FYE dates that you need to be aware of. Thankfully, many resources exist for tracking this data. Publicly traded companies are obligated to share basic fiscal data with shareholders, making it easy for your sales team to identify important dates in filings. Private companies require more work, but tools such as AdDataExpress or Salesforce’s Data.com resource allow your team to tap into a database of company information, including fiscal year dates. Most importantly, your team needs to track this information internally: use Salesforce’s standard fiscal year or custom fiscal year fields to keep your data sanitary.
  2. Use budgets to your advantage. Often times, teams will head toward the end of the year with leftover budget and a strong desire to spend it. Leftover money at FYE often disappears from budgets for the following year, making it critical for teams to spend zero. Strategically leveraging this pressure can increase closed won rates, giving teams a valuable, viable means of spending excess budgeting without simply wasting it. Rather than simply selling more aggressively in Q4, focus on companies also nearing FYE, train reps to shift tactics with these companies, and cater to their need to spend.
  3. Use your sales team’s tribal knowledge to train reps. Aligning FYE sales tactics with your team’s greater goals and techniques in Q4 can be a chaotic, ineffective process. Even excellent techniques are often forgotten – 70% of reps forget most standard training within a week. While a social learning platform like CommercialTribe is a great solution for sharing best practices and strategies, well-planned traditional training can absolutely be made more effective for Q4. Focus on actionable lessons, such as pitch scripts and email copy, give sales managers and enablers clear guidelines and strategic goals for Q4, learn how to navigate the nuances of a closing budget, and clearly demonstrate the need to understand prospect FYE. Combined, your team will be more able to cater to prospect needs at the end of the year and ultimately close more.

Use Social Selling to Amplify Results in Q4

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As the world becomes more digital and enriched with new and better ways to communicate, it can become difficult to match what we want to demonstrate with the actual use of the tools at hand. Relatively simple applications, like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, are now very robust ecosystems, with their own unique voicing and content. Put simply, you have to learn how you speak to all of these audiences differently to be effective. In Q4, where sales pressures and end-of-year budgets make it critical to hit number and leads aggressively, social can be the trump card.

Selling, largely, has been the slowest part of the business in adapting to how customers and prospects communicate today. Social media, in any form, is generally looked at by sales as a “marketing only” effort, and in the worst cases, is seen as a gimmick with little ROI. Yet, our goal as marketers and sales executives is alignment, reaching prospects in as many ways as possible during the sales process. There has to be better cohesion, a “command of the space” on all levels that Hubspot prompts.

Enter social selling. When a prospect (of any size) is interested in your product, they no longer just read your blog, visit your website, or perhaps download an ebook. Instead, they dig deeper, seeing how you communicate and interact with customers or leads, how your team positions itself online, and ultimately how much you are embracing the digital front as a company and as individuals. The gist is that all members of your company and organization need to have clearly defined social presences, sharing content on profiles that all speak to the same story. While enforcing cohesion may not work, sharing the benefits and goals of social selling will encourage team members to join in.

Social selling is not hard, but it does take alignment and work.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn, believe it or not, is the most important network for business – this is where prospects evaluate your team and it serves almost as a secondary website. Your sales team already uses it for prospecting, but if you focus on it only as a tool to find information, then you are missing out on leads. Focus on how you describe the company and product not only on the company page (that you should be updating!) but also on individual team member profiles.

social selling linkedin profile
The mix of role-specific information and a summary of the company helps show strong cohesion.

  1. Use the same concise, effective copy you use on your website to describe your company on your LinkedIn company page.
  2. Create a core, one paragraph message to describe your company and product. Have every team member not only update their LinkedIn profile with their current role and functions but also include this paragraph within the actual role. This way, a prospect inspecting your CEO’s credentials, for example, sees strong cohesion, legitimacy, and purpose. All of this adds up to the creation of a strong impression.
  3. Pictures are vital. Keep headshots up to date and make your profile inviting and complete. The details truly matter!

Twitter

Much of the short, constant flow of business-related conversation happens on Twitter. The medium offers companies and team members a perfect chance to share constantly and warm leads, and should already be a large part of your marketing strategy. Yet, as with LinkedIn, the same methodology of social selling can be used to do much more on the platform.

social selling twitter profile
A well-designed team member bio, from CommercialTribe cofounder, Jonathan Palay.

  • Include a company Twitter handle and possibly website link in employee bios. That way, their contacts or a prospect can easily get to the company feed.
  • Prompt employees to share company updates, new content, or pictures occasionally on their own feeds. Not only does this increase the reach and buzz of the company, but can also boost hiring efforts, warm more leads, or attract new sectors of attention.
  • Interact with your prospects. The sales team, in particular, can benefit from lightly sharing and interacting with key prospects on Twitter. While the strategy is not likely to truly convert a lead, it will humanize the selling experience and keep your company’s name firmly in a prospect’s mind.

Facebook

Facebook is often overlooked for B2B efforts, and for good reason: it tends to be more personal and blocked in many corporate environments! However, it does play a role in culture and content. Rather than interacting with prospects, the goal here is to push out the best content through your employees. Find the content that is accessible, high quality, and useful for both companies and employees, and encourage your team to share it. A great example is the type of content shared by Hubspot – inviting, multi-functional, and designed to be browsed easily.

Flip Sales Training and Convert 13% More Leads

In the same way that our traditional education system often prevents students from reaching their full potential, I believe standard sales training also hinders the growth of your reps. It leaves them unable to learn and adapt, and ultimately holds them back from hitting their number. The problem is that reps—like students—do the bulk of trial and error learning on their own, missing out on valuable collaboration, coaching, and peer feedback.

One emerging concept breaks this mold, focusing on individual growth and coaching rather than standard lessons and busy work. Called the “flipped classroom,” the concept stresses that teachers do what they do best in their time with students: teach. Students take the “lesson” home, review it—read, watch, or listen— in a comfortable environment, and come to class to work through problems and scenarios with live teacher feedback. The “flip” reverses the normal routine—hard work alone and guided reading or lectures in class—and dramatically increasing interaction and learning retention. Flipped classrooms, tap into social learning theory, which are the foundation of “MOOCs,” Massively Open Online Courses, like Khan Academy, and are gaining popularity in real classrooms.

The flipped classroom relates to sales training

The Flipped Classroom, via University of Washington

The results from the flipped classroom are short of miraculous. In the first classroom that used the method, overall student failure rate for the entire school dropped from 30% to under 10%! Students were not only performing better in class, but were actually learning and engaging with lessons.

70% of sales reps forget all lessons within one week of training, wasting billions of dollars a year.

How does this relate to sales training? The scenario is exactly the same: 70% of sales reps forget all lessons within one week of training, wasting billions of dollars a year. Like the struggling classrooms, the problem is not with the reps or teachers, but with the methodology itself. For Sales Kickoff, most companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to fly their sales team to a central location, just to spend 2-4 days sitting quietly side-by-side and watching presentations. Assuming, optimistically, that these reps retain 10-20% of what they heard in the presentations, the return on investment of this sort of event is wildly punishing.

What if we were to flip the Sales Kickoff event? What if you were to have sales associates watch and digest the presentation material in advance of the kickoff and then use the precious, and costly, time spent at the kickoff event doing critical thinking, message alignment, and collaborative skill development?

Flipping the sales training process is exactly what CommercialTribe succeeds in doing with an online development platform that uses multiple video modalities—video practice, role play, screen recording—to practice and develop the tribal knowledge lessons home with them, training and practicing in a safe, comfortable environment. Later, working with managers and peers, reps are able to gain valuable feedback from the experts—your sales enablement “teachers” —giving them the opportunity to master new sales and marketing knowledge. Reps ultimately “train before the training,” absorbing knowledge and constructs before testing and adapting them with one another.

To learn how one customer implemented this solution and boosted overall lead conversions by 13%, contact us at info@commercialtribe.com or simply register for a demo below.

 

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Sales 2.0 Las Vegas Takeaways: Three Age-old Problems That We Need to Solve

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Sales is changing – fast. At the Sales 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas, sales and marketing leaders talked about how sales is changing at a faster pace and intensity than we’ve ever witnessed before.

Yet, for all the change, some things stay the same. Whether it was selling with insights, tying learning to business results, or Sales and Marketing alignment, these long-standing problems were the core of Sales 2.0 discussion, because they are very much still problems.

There is no reason why we cannot catch up and find real solutions, with the help of the latest thinking, processes, and technology.

1. The Risk of Selling Without Insights

David DiStefano, CEO of Richardson, led a conversation on Why Insight-Based Sales Approaches Win More Deals. While that may not come as a big surprise, the implications of not selling with insights is much more alarming. Take each of these statistics:

  • 1 in 10 executives get value from meetings with salespeople – If your reps cannot create value in every interaction, they are essentially order takers. The best products still win, but reps need to do more than talk about features and benefits.
  • 17% of reps get a second meeting – Why would an executive be meeting with you after already seeing the product? If you don’t have a good answer, you’ve got some work to do.
  • #1 reason reps miss quota is inability to articulate value – We’d all love for our reps to engage customers in a dialogue to understand their needs and offer a solution. But absent a message, I fear we may be asking too much.

An insight was defined as “teaching your customer something that makes them think about their business differently.” These insights can come from research, experience, expertise, or innovation. Once uncovered, the best sales organizations know how to package and deliver them into the market to counteract the above statistics.

2. How to Tie Learning to Business Results

Jenny Dearborn, Chief Learning Officer at SAP, discussed a topic so obvious that the fact it was the subject of her presentation felt like cause for concern. Of course we want to tie learning objectives to business results. Yet, when talking to most heads of sales enablement and training, it’s not clear that this is taking place.

There is still a disconnect between training and sales. Training has a tendency to look first at hours of learning or volume based metrics because they are easy to measure. Jenny reminded us that the only reason to spend money on a learning solution is to tie to a specific business KPI. If your enablement team cannot make this connection, she explained, it may be time to find a new enablement team.

Through SAP’s Six-Step Results Focused Evaluation Process, we learned that you can’t optimize what you don’t measure. High performing sales training teams are meticulous about defining objectives, mapping back a solution, and continually measuring the right data that leads to optimization.

3. Sales and Marketing Convergence

What was Scott Broomfield, CMO at Xactly, doing at a Sales 2.0 event? Apparently, Sales and Marketing still have some work to do to play well together. If Sales is the Army, out in the field and on the ground, then Marketing is the Air Force – very specific in its targeting.

But for Marketing to work with Sales, Scott explained that it needs the right mindset, skillset, and toolset. One of the symptoms is Marketing’s lack of visibility on what’s happening in the field. The mindset that Marketing’s job is over when the lead hits the sales person’s desk is exactly the mentality that gets the entire organization into trouble. Is that lead qualified? How does Sales go about selling to that lead? Is the message aligned? Marketing should try and understand these questions, and Sales must be sure to clearly collaborate and align.

Let’s look at toolset for a moment. Marketing has relied on tools to get closer to Sales over the years. First, it was CRM, then Marketing Automation, and now Predictive Lead Scoring.

At one point in time, these tools were nice to have. Now, they are vital to any organization. What comes next? Tools that help the Air Force see what the Army is doing, and vice versa, will bring the functions closer together: collaboration between Sales and Marketing is critical. Knowing that Marketing cannot be on every Sales call and that Sales cannot profile every Marketing effort means that you need to think critically about these workflows sooner than later.

CommercialTribe September 2014 Product Updates

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CommercialTribe is constantly updating and building upon our social sales learning platform.

In September [2014], we worked toward one major goal: make CommercialTribe better, faster, and stronger! As part of the upgrade, we’re proud to announce CommercialTribe 2.0!

The backend of the system is now powered by a more robust stack that can handle many users, roles, and operations. We’ve achieved a 99.2% overall uptime by continually optimizing and adapting our stack. On our servers, rather than focusing on a single-source approach, CommercialTribe spread its video and recording servers across the globe, offering strong capabilities worldwide. No matter where your team trains, CommercialTribe can reliably process and deliver your content, 24/7.

commercialtribe global coverage sept 2014Global Video and Recording Coverage, September 2014

CommercialTribe now has a more clean and functional UI, focused around helping reps and managers better create and share. The 2.0 version increases the functionality of scenario and practice features, with a better layout and a new CMS toolset that more naturally and easily pairs slideshow content with recording. Reps practice in a space that feels like a live pitch, increasing retention and focus.

commercialtribe 2.0 2014CommercialTribe 2.0!

Organization is not overlooked in 2.0. In fact, CommercialTribe’s new platform introduces total control of your integration, through the Admin role. Admins can set up scenarios, manage users, work with content and all videos, and serve as the overall manager for your CommercialTribe solution. Most importantly, Admins can create and edit Activities, offering an easy way to control the details of your play.

Coming soon in CommercialTribe are tools to help increase interactivity and rep time in training. Currently, 2.0 includes the beginning elements of our achievement and gamification platform. Reps completing certifications and scenarios have the chance to earn badges or other rewards, encouraging more practice and time spent learning. All roles will soon see the relaunched notification system, adding helpful updates and alerts on content and users. Matching the added Admin roles will be a robust and adaptive reporting system, giving you access to user metrics and content statistics.

CommercialTribe is constantly improving. Schedule a demo to see what’s new!

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How to Track Form Abandonment Using Google Universal Analytics Events

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Form abandonment measurement is an excellent tool for monitoring how and why your visitors navigate and interact with your form-based interactions. Since testing and data are your only means to knowing user behavior on a live site, it is crucial to back iterate only with firm information, drawn from user analysis. Whether using metrics to track visitors or interaction with your sales training solution, the numbers matter! Thankfully, Google provides the best toolset on the market, for free, to enable you to granularly monitor your content: Google Analytics.

Building the CommercialTribe website, we ran into a problem with forms and tracking. Forms, in particular, pose an interesting challenge for measurement since user interactions are not limited to clicks. Ideally, you need to know the fields that users most often ignore or give up on, adjusting to best capture information without irritating users. Google Analytics provides tools to monitor most general interactions, but custom work is needed to track text input and cursor-based data.

The solution relies on Universal Analytics’ event tracking language (the original version of Analytics can also be used, but the upgraded code is worth it for demographic tracking). Event tracking uses Javascript to push information to the Analytics suite, generally working best for button and click elements. In general, the event toolset makes use of standard handlers, operators that define the type of event being tracked – the most common is “onClick,” used to push user click data.

A lesser-known handler helps solve the form abandonment tracking problem: onChange. Used to push an event when a user changes a value on a form or field, either from a blank value to anything or from one dataset to another, onChange allows you to monitor things like a user filling in a field on a contact page or email subscription form.

form abandonment google analytics

To utilize onChange for form abandonment tracking, we use Google’s standard event format: Category, Action, and Label. With Universal Analytics, you also need to use “send” and “event” to properly parse the data. To begin to track field interactions, modify the below code with your own Category, Action, and Label strings for each field call and place the code within the class tag itself.

onChange=”ga(‘send’, ‘event’, ‘Category’, ‘Action’, ‘Label’);”

On the Analytics dashboard, simply navigate to Behavior > Events >Overview to see any interactions. To see it in live and test, you can also look at Real-Time > Events, after turning off internal traffic filters. Success!

50% of New Sales Hires Won’t Meet Expectations This Year. We Can Do Better.

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It’s time to rethink how we train our reps

“Education has been preparing our students for an economy that no longer exists. Technology and globalization have transformed our society.”
Dr. Yong Zhao
Director of the Institute for Global and Online Education

Our Industrial Education System

I recently attended a conference and was spell-bound by a keynote speaker, Dr. Yong Zhao. A native of China, he left that country to get an advanced degree in the U.S. and has since become an international expert on education. At the conference, he postulated a startling theory:

With all the emphasis on Common Core and Leave No Child Behind here in the U.S., we have focused our efforts on readiness for college and career. But in spite of heroic efforts, we keep hearing statistics that make us all depressed: Over 50% of recent college graduates in the US are unemployed or under-employed. Our kids consistently rank behind students in other parts of the world on tests in the key STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). How behind? According to Teach for America, the United States ranks 25th in math and 17th in science among developed nations. Ouch.

But what Dr. Zhao said next made me sit up in my chair and take note, as I thought about the thousands of sales execs I’ve had a hand in hiring or training over my career. He pointed out that teaching that STEM curricula—or any curricula for that matter—in the way we do today in classroom settings, books and tests, is actually preparing our kids for an economy that no longer exists. Just like the industrial age transformed us from an agrarian economy to world where factories were king, we’re now going through a similar transformation as we move into the age of entrepreneurialism and what I sometimes call ‘digital everything.’ The problem is, our educational system—and the way we typically train our sales teams—are still back training kids for the industrial age.

Our kids, and our sales teams, aren’t poorly educated. But as Dr. Zhao calls it, they’re ‘mis-educated.’

“They were prepared to look for jobs, but not to create jobs. They were prepared to solve problems, but not to identify problems or ask questions. They were prepared to follow instructions, but machines can follow instructions more precisely and more important, with less cost.”

The evidence? Can you name a great, innovative company coming out of the countries that are besting our kids at the rote curricula? Alibaba you say? OK. It’s an Amazon knock-off. Huawei? It got its playbook from GE. Samsung? It’s trying to copy Apple. That’s right. In spite of lagging behind in the core curriculum standards, we have some of the most entrepreneurial and creative business people in the world today. Many of our best leaders didn’t even finish college.

Preparing Our Reps for The New Age of Selling

That got my attention. And then I began thinking of how we typically train our reps.

Here’s how most of us do it. See if you agree:

  1. Bring reps together in a classroom or auditorium setting for a multi-day training on our new products or solutions
  2. Have multiple presenters (usually product or marketing types) talk about the latest ‘thing’
  3. Certify or role play to test their knowledge
  4. Send them forth to sell

Sound a lot like how we teach in school today? It did to me. It’s no wonder that typically one out of 3 new reps fail.

But how did our best reps really learn? They learned from their mentors. They observed, and stalked the best and imitated them until they got it right.

That observational/practice learning style has been proven to be the most effective in teaching new sales skills. But our training systems today are woefully behind. Not only do they not encourage that kind of mimicry and practice, most of our best reps don’t have the time, or the inclination, to teach and mentor. They’re busy selling.

It does not have to be this way.

Observational Learning At Scale

Solving the sales training dilemma takes two basic solutions:

1. Make it easy for our best reps to share what they know

  • Record one time, share it with many
  • Capture what they know when it’s convenient for them
  • Give them status/rewards for being the most sought after

2. Make it easy for our training reps to learn

  • Browse for the best/most relevant training content
  • Practice and self-critique until happy with the result, then up-load for review
  • Certify and or give status/rewards for completing the curriculum

The Sales Learning Cycle

sales learning cycle

At CommercialTribe, we took this challenge to heart. We created an online platform that makes it easy for the best reps to contribute what they know—and get rewarded for it. And even more critically, we created a platform that enables younger tenured reps to upload and practice bite-size pieces of a training curriculum. Watch. Practice. Record. Re-record until happy with the result. Then Post for Review and comment and sharing. Just like a social media forum, but for our reps.

Think it won’t work? We’ve found that reps using the system practice and record an average of almost 7 times before posting for review. Yeah. That’s seven times more often than they’re practicing now.

It’s also what I call observational learning at scale. It’s sales training for the Digital Everything Age: By Reps, For Reps.

 

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