Company Culture Sustainable in Any Market

This is a Guest blog post from CONNECTpreneur partner and Coach Ines LeBow, CEO of Enterprise transformation Solutions, which specializes in helping early stage companies raise capital.

Company Culture Sustainable in Any Market

Herodotus, the ancient Greek intellectual who became known as “The Father of History” coined the phrase “Culture is King”. Companies rise and fall based on their culture, and challenging situations like we’ve faced here in 2020 test company culture to determine if it’s real or just a façade. In a recent article, I gave advice on how to “Pandemic-Proof Your Funding Pitch Deck”, but as an entrepreneur, are you really able to pandemic-proof your company culture? The answer is a resounding “yes”! In fact, you can create a culture that thrives in any market situation, including Covid and beyond.

Leadership-Driven Culture

How you, the entrepreneur, and the executive team lead at the outset of your business and through “normal” times sets the tone for your culture that will carry you through times that are trying. As Frances Hesselbein so succinctly put it, “Culture does not change because we desire to change it. Culture changes when the organization is transformed; the culture reflects the realities of people working together every day.”

For the leadership team that truly prioritizes the culture of their organization, there are a few core values that will be emphasized down the management ranks to the front-line employees and a call to have the actions of all personnel align with these values. The top core values include:

  • Two-Way Communication – Consistent and ongoing opportunities for the executive team to interact with staff (both speaking and listening) and for all team members to interact with customers (again, both speaking and listening)
  • Engagement – Fostering a sense of ownership and a common purpose throughout the organization to energize all employees and get them working toward a uniting vision
  • Organization Model – What is the composition of your workforce? Do you require staff to be on premises? Are you dependent on contractors or outsourced partners?
  • Wellness and Balance – Setting policies that value employees’ work-life balance, mental and physical health, and general wellness
  • Programs and Tools – Enacting programs and implementing tools that allow employees to thrive in personal and professional development, workplace collaboration, idea innovation, mobile and remote work setups, knowledge sharing, and more

The combination of forced and voluntary business shutdowns that occurred nearly overnight as a result of the Coronavirus response quickly led to 88% of companies that either required or encouraged their employees to work from home, according to a Gartner survey. Some companies were ill-prepared for this rapid shift. Many of the companies with the technical capabilities for hosting a truly remote workforce, however, lacked the type of culture that would keep employees engaged, communicating, and thriving when not in an in-person environment.

Having a great framework in place is essential and must include employees who come to a physical office location as well as employees who work from home, in the field, or from a remote office. As companies return to work, executives and board members are going to re-imaging how the company operates. The old approach of leasing large office spaces may alter significantly, causing companies to adopt a more aggressive mobile and remote work model. Re-thinking how these core values that contribute to the corporate culture can be dealt with is just as important to strategize over.

To learn more about creating an engaging culture or how to create an epic fundraising story for digital presentations to investors, contact me for a complimentary consultation by phone at 314-578-0958 or by email at ilebow@transformationsolutions.pro.

About the Author: Ines LeBow

Ines LeBow

Ines LeBow is the CEO, Transformation Executive for ETS. She is a known catalyst for business operations, bringing 30+ years of hands-on experience. Ines has a long history of being recruited into senior executive roles to improve the execution of business operations and to drive revenue growth. You can see her LinkedIn Profile at www.linkedin.com/in/ineslebow, view the ETS website at www.transformationsolutions.pro, or email her directly at ilebow@transformationsolutions.pro.

Make Your Sales Team Thrive: The Importance of Adapting to Virtual Selling

SX_CMPGN_Virtual_13-01

This is a Guest blog post from sales and sales management expert Chris Tully.

Did you know virtual selling has been in the making for 94-years with the first video call dating back to 1927? Talk about it taking a while for technology to catch on! Learn more about the interesting start to video calls below.

The video call has come a long way to become a regular part of consumer mainstream technology over the last few years. But, over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the corporate world much faster into using video conference calls as a virtual selling platform and for day-to-day customer interaction. This idea brings to mind the old phrase, “It’s nice to put a face with the name.” There is a lot of psychology that goes into how a relationship develops because of the connection in seeing and “knowing” someone’s face and being able to read and react to their body language. There is a certain rapport and trust that is built. Today, the video call is a differentiator attributed to sales success. 

Now that sellers and buyers have embraced the benefits of virtual interaction, there is no going back. Sure, buyers and sellers will begin to meet again in the office, but a full return to in-person selling seems highly unlikely. Owners and Sales Leaders committed to their growth plans need to teach and equip their sales teams to perform at a high level in the virtual-driven business world.

Why is it that buyers continually express that sellers are falling short in how they engage in the virtual selling landscape? It’s due to buyers and sellers experiencing different benefits and challenges from this type of engagement. The internet is alive with online content on this topic, but the primary obstacle sellers face is failing to understand how virtual selling translates in to the three most important areas of sales:

  1. CONNECT – Gaining the buyer’s attention
  2. EARN – Developing trust
  3. SHARE – Presenting solutions

Sellers must understand how different their impact is to their buyer and transform their customer engagement and sales processes from direct human selling. Learning the gaps of virtual selling will create the path to bridging them. Sellers that effectively make the pivot will enjoy many more sales opportunities and create a larger pipeline with a faster sales cycle.

SX-13_Gains-and-Pains-Graphic

Successful virtual selling begins with learning to make connections without direct contact. This idea is directly related to Emotional Contagion, which is the phenomenon of having one person’s emotions and related behaviors directly trigger similar emotions and behaviors in other people. Back in the 90’s a group of scientists measured emotional contagion in the most effective salespeople nationwide. *This is because 50% of the information in a conversation is non-verbal. This means that we lose a large amount of data intake when we shift from in-person meetings (in 3-D) to video conferencing (in 2-D) due to a dramatically smaller view of the customer and their surroundings. This challenge grows tenfold when the salesperson utilizes solely phone communication (1-D). Although it plays a part, sales success is not because of great products or services. It is the result of an expert understanding of emotions and the ability to navigate them. When a salesperson is face-to-face with a buyer, it is easier for them to understand objection cues, minimize communication issues, ask for the next step, and gain commitment to close the sale.

Emotional-Contagion

Here are ten practical tips to help Owners and Sales Leaders guide their salespeople to more success in the 2-D virtual selling world: Five counter-productive virtual selling behaviors to avoid:

  • Jumping on a call on time but failing to check your audio and video in advance.
  • Wearing clothes that you would not normally wear during a face-to-face meeting.
  • Having poor internet connection that regularly freezes.
  • Failing to prepare in advance to learn the buyer’s interests and needs.
  • Talking too much and not allowing the customer to consistently engage.

Five things that positively influence video calls:

  • Allow ample time between virtual meetings to give yourself the time to mentally prepare.
  • Prep for the meeting by finding ways to connect with buyers to gain and maintain their attention.
  • Learn to manage the sales process with fewer cues (less Emotional Contagion).
  • Continually gain verbal validation from the buyer before moving onto the next topic.
  • Prevent the buyer from taking control and cutting the sales process short.

While the virtual selling world is new, it’s going to stay around quite a while longer and maybe become a permanent part of the sales process. Properly guiding your salespeople through this transformation will ensure that virtual selling is an effective way to grow your sales and business for years to come.

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

Back to Basics: Tips to Help Struggling Sales Reps

SX_CMPGN_STRUGGLE_BANNER

 

This is a Guest blog post from Sales and Sales Management expert Chris Tully.

It’s common for sales professionals – both new and seasoned veterans – to run into bumps in the road from time to time that results in a struggle to achieve sales goals. Changing market conditions, taking on a new territory, loss of “that big deal” they invested lots of time into, and a variety of other causes can all be contributing factors to missed sales goals. Whatever the reason, Owners and Sales Leaders need to find ways to positively support their struggling sales reps to help them get them back on the right track.

A starting point to isolating skill gaps is to go back to basics by utilizing a proven sales call planning methodology. The Sales Leader will benefit by leveraging the model as a diagnostic tool. The salesperson will find it to be a helpful guide that enables them to produce stronger, more consistent customer engagement results.

SX-Campaign-15_V3_Pre-Call-Planning-Reasons

Every sales interaction should be intentional.  Sales reps must always keep in mind that the customer being called on typically has limited time and budget, and a plethora of other options to choose from. Effective call planning relates to all sales interactions, at all stages of the customer lifecycle. Investing time in call planning is a best practice for any salesperson who is looking for better control of their sales process and customer relationships, not just a struggling sales rep. When a call is made with clear direction and purpose, it provides the salesperson with more confidence and the customer with a better experience, which will lead to greater success.

Below, I have an outline of my Sales Call Planning Methodology that has proven successful:

  • Pre-Call Planning
    • Call Objectives
    • Discovery Questions
    • Value Proposition / Points of Differentiation
    • Desired Next Steps
  • In-Call Action
    • Key Information Gathered During Call
    • Resulting Action Items – Sales Rep and Customer assignments
    • Next Step Agreement
  • Post-Call Review
    • Was the Call Objective achieved?
    • What could have been done differently?
    • Key Take-aways

As you can see, an effective approach to sales call planning involves action items for the salesperson before, during, and after the call. With planning, sales reps will gain a clear view of what they want to get out of the interaction, and the ability to envision what the end result will be. Remember: Every sales interaction should be intentional. When a call is made with purpose, it’s going to have a greater impact. 

In addition to equipping your salespeople with a sales call planning method, sales coaching involvement is critical, especially for a struggling sales rep. The most effective involvement is when the Owner or Sales Leader participates in sales calls (in-person, or video calls). Be sure to spend time before entering the call by asking the salesperson about their pre-call plan. Just as important, spend time immediately after by talking through post-call review elements. This is when the most powerful learning can occur. Another effective coaching method is to utilize the sales call planning model as a diagnostic tool during the Sales Leader’s routine one-on-one meetings with each salesperson. After the sales team has had proper training on sales call planning, this can be a productive method to keep a pulse on how well the salesperson is able to independently approach their sales calls to achieve desired outcomes. 

Both coaching methods will enable Owners and Sales Leaders to quickly identify areas a salesperson may need help to improve their sales competency. Listen closely for these coaching opportunities as your sales rep shares how they navigated the sales call:

  • Based on who their calls are with, are they clear on target market and who they should be meeting with (i.e. the appropriate buyer persona)?
  • Have they set their call objectives and desired next steps to align with your proven sales process?
  • How well are they differentiating their product/service? Do they have a clear understanding of the company’s full value proposition and the ability to effectively articulate it?
  • Do they have a succinct and agreed upon next step established?

Implementing a “back to basics” methodology, like sales call planning is a step in the right direction to help your struggling sales rep but it is commonly not the full solution. For long term success, it’s critical to evaluate the current sales infrastructure in which your salesperson operates. Without a best practices platform that effectively integrates people, process and systems, Owners and Sales Leaders will continually find themselves chasing symptoms instead of fixing root cause problems.

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

Before setting 2021 priorities, ask “What’s my ‘WHY’?”



This is a Guest blog post from Sales expert Chris Tully.

Before setting 2021 priorities, ask “What’s my ‘WHY’?”

Before you go all-in on finalizing the 2021 business plan, maybe it’s worth a review of what drove you to start your own company in the first place.

Simon Sinek, author of Start with Why, believes that true success comes from a core belief that inspires others and infuses every achievement.

When I’ve asked people “Why did you start your business?” over the years, I’ve heard as many unique answers as people I asked, many of which do relate to pursuing a passion or core belief. The Wright brothers did that. They believed that they could make a flying machine – and without financing, higher education, or even much help, they succeeded and changed the world. 

In my experience, a business doesn’t have to have such a grandiose goal to succeed – and there are surely multiple definitions of success. So, what’s yours? Make sure you can articulate why you started, and what you are trying to accomplish – as specifically as possible.

Take a little time to reflect

Examining where you started and where you are now can shed some light on where to go next.

Is the original reason for starting your business still what drives you every day? Is everyone who works with you on board with that? Do your colleagues share your values and core beliefs? Do they share your vision and mission or could conflicting priorities be draining some of your momentum?

If your motivation has changed, has that motivation been carefully communicated and incorporated in how you run your business? Or is confusion over the goal causing some unexpected consequences?

What did you originally hope to achieve? Are you still on track to achieve that? If not, why not? Getting back on track (or adjusting course) should be part of your business plan.

Move forward with confidence

Only when you can articulate the above concepts with clarity and certainty should you start working on your business plan for 2021. For the coming year you’ll need:

SMART goals (for a quick primer on goal setting, check this out).

The right people in the right seats on your bus – especially at the leadership level

A repeatable sales process  that anyone with the right skills and motivation can follow

Simple, easy to understand key performance indicators (KPIs)

A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system to monitor progress

A reliable sales management process

If any of these are missing, or if you are wondering how to make what’s in place more effective, perhaps we should talk.

With everything 2020 has brought (wrought), now is a good time for introspection. If you begin with why you were inspired to start your business in the first place, then I believe you can work out the “what” and “how” steps for a successful 2021.


Are you satisfied with your company’s sales effectiveness? If you feel like you need to do a better job attracting and winning the right prospective clients, give me a call.


Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

How to Use CRM to Add Value to Your Sales Team

This is a Guest Blog Post by Chris Tully.

Your customer relationship management (CRM) software system is filled with details about the people and companies most important to your business. But are you using CRM to add value to your sales team?

If you haven’t set up a CRM system to actively monitor and effectively track the steps your sales team takes with business opportunities, then you’re both walking around with your eyes closed. You can’t see what the sales team is doing – and neither can they.

If It’s Not in CRM It Didn’t Happen

About one-third of small to mid-sized businesses I encounter don’t have a CRM system. They are still managing the business on email and spreadsheets. About half of the remaining businesses have purchased CRM software but haven’t fully implemented it. Still others use their CRM for marketing or customer service, but not sales – missing the value of integrating the functions.

In my opinion, if sales activities are not visible in CRM they didn’t actually happen. I’d go so far as to say that if your sales team closed a deal that was not in CRM, hold back the commission. That may sound draconian, but I believe you’d only have to do that once to make the point.

Sales CRM is highly effective for the money. You and your team have the ability to see leads as they are captured, follow the progression of contact and communication through your sales stages, and easily record results. This allows the sales leader to be a more effective coach, gives immediate visibility to results, and provides some insurance if one of your salespeople leaves.

In the bigger picture, capturing all stages of the sales cycle allows you and the team to analyze what works best and recreate the most successful steps – continually refining and improving your sales effectiveness and growing your business.

CRM Guides the Sales Path

Clearly defining sales stages is valuable for your team. For example, Salesforce CRM software allows you to customize the objectives of each stage, enabling a sort of “guided path” to follow. Within the software, there are a series of questions that have to be answered positively before someone can progress. Seeing the hurdles that have to be cleared to reach those objectives can only help your sales force improve.

A good CRM helps the team better quantify sales leads. They can build a qualification score to see how strong each lead is (or becomes) by assigning points as the deal progresses. For example, is a compelling event driving the customer’s decision on the deal? Is an economic ROI stated or implied? Has the decision maker gotten involved in the evaluation of your proposal? All of this allows you as a leader to monitor progress and assess effectiveness.

The more disciplined your sales team is in following an effective, repeatable process and quantifying deals against the rubric you set up, the better they will be as salespeople and the more you’ll increase your company’s sales.

CRM Engagement Is Key to Adding Value

In order for your sales team to embrace CRM, the system has to:

  • Be easy to use
  • Add value by supporting and guiding the sales process
  • Be the “ground truth” of all sales reporting to and by company leadership

Promote engagement by taking two giant steps to successful CRM implementation: get used to asking questions of your sales team that can only be answered by referring back to the CRM, and make your CRM the source for all sales reporting in the company.

You’ll be able to quickly customize reports to illustrate specific sales performance indicators, and visually represent the team’s up-to-the-moment performance in the key metrics you choose to display on your dashboard.

Choosing a CRM System

There are at least 10 good cloud-based CRM systems out there that can meet the needs of most sales teams. There are also sites to help you decide which system to choose. Final choice will be your personal preference, but from my perspective you can’t go wrong with SalesforceHubSpot, or Pipedrive.

Selection and implementation are important. However, engagement is what will make or break CRM effectiveness. The single most important quality of a CRM system is that it adds value to your sales team – it should make their work easier, and help them be more successful.

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

How to Make the Move to a Virtual Sales Force

This is a Guest blog post from Chris Tully

Tips for Hiring a Virtual Sales Team | Lucidchart Blog

 

As we start our sixth month of quarantine across America, it is time to come to grips with the fact that some version of “virtual selling” is here to stay. What this means for leadership is that just adapting in-person techniques to digital/virtual sales will no longer get the job done.
Instead, teach your team how to make the move to a virtual sales force.

Leaders are preparing for a greater virtual sales presence than anticipated earlier in the pandemic. A recently released Gartner study reports that in June, “a remarkable 23% of CSOs reported plans to permanently shift field sales to virtual sales roles” with another 36% unsure whether or not to do the same.

The study provides a framework for leadership to enable virtual selling. Here are key skills and tools to help your team effectively sell from remote settings.

Provide Virtual Sales Force Tools

High-speed Internet – This is mandatory for smooth virtual communications and presentations. You should consider funding team members’ Internet access upgrades since they are working from home by necessity. Salespeople represent your company – do you want potential clients to equate poor quality audio/video with the quality of your products or services? Spend the money, and upgrade those plans to gigabit internet, where possible.

High-end wired or wireless headsets
 – Salespeople are keen observers of body language. Without the advantage of being in the room with clients, it’s even more important for them to be able to hear the nuances of everything that’s said.

A reliable meeting platform
 – Zoom, MSFT Teams, Mitel MiCollab, GoToMeeting, Cisco Enable, Google Meet, and more: these are what companies are using and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Standardize the best solution for your company based on your existing technology stack. Be prepared to train your sales people on several platforms – they’ll need to be nimble enough to navigate clients’ preferred platforms, too.

Get your CFO onboard that these are all essential purchases right now and for the foreseeable future.

Tightly Integrate Sales and Marketing

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital B2B buying and selling. A McKinsey & Company survey report and infographic highlight the shift from in-person to digital, and what B2B sellers need to do to adapt.

Integrate sales and marketing processes
 – You need a demand generation strategy across platforms. The strategy should have well thought out social media, email, and outbound telesales support, and well-defined sales processes once a lead arrives. Make sure all your sales channels are incentivized to collaborate.

Optimize your e-commerce channel
 – For buyers’ ease and convenience, re-design to address top buyer frustrations with company websites. These are difficulty finding products, a long ordering process, hard-to-find contact information, and technical glitches.

Utilize online sales-enablement functions that intersect with buyers
 – AI-based conversational analytics help manage the full sales pipeline. Solutions such as sales chat bots, which reach back into your product database and answer questions, are becoming quite popular. These tools exist to improve customer experience and aid client problem-solving. They also improve the leads you capture from site visitors and help build your knowledge about their buying preferences.

Provide a robust CRM solution – 
Make sure both sales and marketing can access the same data. Customer relationship management (CRM) software should give your teams access to a full sales and marketing mix such as contacts, accounts, opportunity management, and campaigns, so both teams can work seamlessly toward increasing your revenue.

Provide Virtual Sales Force Training and Readiness

Sales people have limited attention spans (just like clients). So here are some hints for re-thinking sales training.

Deliver virtual training in tight 60-minute sessions
 – Break each session down into two parts: 50% presentation and 50% interaction (case studies, conversation, and questions). Limit training content to only the most valuable information, with a focus on understanding the client’s perspective.

Record and digitally archive sessions
 so they’re accessible to the team – This will be valuable for those who miss a session, need a refresher, and for future team members.

Role-play behaviors
 – How you talk with clients and how they respond is different virtually than in person. Role play across all stages of a sale, from first introduction to close. Have team members take turns being the sales person and the client; their calls will be more effective as a result.

Practice using presentation tools
 – Because everyone will be training from different remote locations, practice using multiple presentational tools and platforms with each other. This also helps people find the tools that are the most comfortable for them, which will support their ease and confidence in front of clients.

Changing to a virtual sales force also changes the way you think about and manage your sales team. Be prepared to reallocate your investments, and rethink sales strategies and performance metrics.

 

 

 

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com

“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.
I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.
Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

How to Hire a Stellar Sales Team to Accelerate Your Recovery

This is a Guest blog post by sales and sales management expert Chris Tully.

 

 

How to Hire a Stellar Sales Team to Accelerate Your Recovery 

If there is a silver lining to the pandemic-related economic shut down, it is that a lot of excellent salespeople are now available and hungry to contribute to your business. The opportunity here is to rehire your best performers and then build a stronger team than before.

To hire a stellar sales team to accelerate your recovery, you need a plan. Here are some things to consider that will help you create an excellent hiring plan.

 

1. Are your business goals different than before the shut down? 

In the past few months, you’ve had time to really think about your company. You may have revised your strategic business plan and reprioritized your goals. If so, take a look at your new focus and figure out, “what sort of sales power will get me there?”

As an exercise, picture your previous sales team. Imagine how they would – or would not – achieve your new goals, and what sort of salespeople you need going forward.

 

2. Are you clear about the sales role?

What is it that you really want your ideal salesperson to do day to day, and accomplish overall? What specific skills would that person need? Most importantly, be clear about the personal attributes of the ideal person to represent your business.

3. Are you willing to invest in a professional recruiter? 

Sure, LinkedIn JobsIndeed, and other free job posts or low-cost ads will get responses. But you and your HR people will spend an inordinate amount of time sifting through a lot of junk to get to the few gems. Unless you’re adding entry-level people, don’t cheap out – invest in a professional recruiter, particularly if you’re looking for experienced sales professionals with a proven track record.

Talent recruiters screen against your hiring profile, verifycandidates’ work history, and validate their self-stated strengths and accomplishments. Recruiters also help you find employed candidates who are not looking for a job but who may be perfect for your business.

 

4. Do you have your sales incentive structure worked out?

Although it isn’t a jobseeker’s market right now, people are still going to ask how they get paid. That’s completely reasonable. As the job market strengthens, candidates who know their worth are going to hold out for appropriate compensation. In addition to your hiring plan, you’re going to need an incentive plan to attract and retain the caliber of salespeople you expect.

 

5. What third-party tool are you using to assess candidates?

Third-party assessment tools are a must with hiring decisions. Let’s face it – salespeople are often chameleons. They are trained to probe for needs, listen actively, and position their products (themselves, in this case) in the best possible light to solve your problem.

You need some objectivity to balance those impressions, especially if you don’t hire that many people each year. There has been a lot written about the cost of a bad hire, which I won’t repeat here. Get some help!

These are three salesperson assessment tools that I recommend: 

6. Do you have an effective on-boarding process?

It’s important to have a well thought-out plan to get new sales hires acclimated to their role in your company. For that, you need to a road map that new hires can follow (as well as trainers) so nobody gets lost.

 

7. Can you “hire slow”?

This last question is a trick one: the answer has to be “Yes.” You’ll want to take your time and think about the answers to all of the questions I’ve laid out, in order to hire superb salespeople. It’ll be so worth the time and effort when the right team propels you to reach – and exceed – your goals.

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com

“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.
I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.
Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

The (Not So) New Game in Private Equity

This is a Guest blog post by Kerry Moynihan, Partner at Boyden.

Top Private Equity Firms Investing in Education Businesses ...

 

WHY LEADERSHIP MATTERS MORE THAN EVER

A Very Brief History of Private Equity

The origins of today’s private equity industry (which I would define as including both venture capital and leveraged buyouts) date to 1946 with the foundations of American Research & Development Corp. (ARDC) & J. H. Whitney.  Prior, risk capital had almost exclusively been the domain of wealthy families.  Venture capital pioneers Mayfield and Kleiner Perkins were founded in 1969 and 1972, respectively.  In the buyout realm, the origins of LBO pioneers KKR began at Bear Stearns with “bootstrap” investments in the early 1970s, forming the foundation of the firm as we know it today.  TH Lee; Forstmann Little; Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe; and GTCR were all in operation by 1980 and became major players.  The modern private equity business continued to emerge in the 1980s with the realization that there were major discrepancies between public company management interests, the age old “agency problem” and the values that could be unleashed were business units to be decoupled from large public companies.  The year 1980 saw some $2.5 billion raised dedicated to the emerging alternative asset class and in the decade that followed nearly $22 billion was raised by venture and buyout funds.

The wide availability of junk bond financing fueled a boom during the 1980s, followed by a crash as the stock market tanked in October 1987.  High yield financing, or “junk bonds,” dried up for a time, and Drexel Burnham, the leading purveyor of these instruments, later went down.  However, institutional investors had certainly picked up on the higher returns available to PE than in the public markets.

Key to these were the availability of debt financing, the disparity between management that were merely salaried and those that were incentivized by equity, and the discrepancy between public and private market information.  For much of the next two decades private equity vastly outperformed the public markets.  Clearly, the emergence of technological innovation in software, semiconductors, and telecom fueled the venture side, while widespread industry consolidation and globalization largely propelled the LBO market.

As ever more money flowed into pensions and other institutional investor funds, the demand for higher yields accelerated.  This put more capital into the financial markets seeking higher returns and the boom continued.  Of course  there were blips and shocks, including the Foreign Debt crisis of 1997/98, the bursting of the dotcom bubble around 2000, the cessation of normal market activity following the 9/11 attacks, and perhaps most seriously, the major Financial Crisis after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns in 2008.

However, markets rebounded, time and time again.  Institutional capital, which seems to have a short collective memory, always seeks ever higher levels of Alpha (relative return) and will accommodate Beta (risk), often in unison, seemingly without independent, objective decision-making.

Institutionalization & Growth of the PE Industry

Funds were usually (relatively) small and privately held, and made individualized, partner-driven investment decisions.  Yet as their size has increased, and in many cases the larger funds went out to the public markets, the industry has fundamentally changed.  Now publicly traded, firms like Apollo, Blackstone The Carlyle Group, and others are, as the co-founder of one confessed to me “No longer in the business of making extraordinary, outsized returns on unique investments.  We are now in the asset management business. If we can beat the S&P by 150 basis points and put huge sums to work from institutional investors, we are happy and the investors are happy.“  With the traditional model of a 2% management fee on assets under management (AUM) and 20% capture of the return on investment, the carried interest, who would not be?

Where a billion dollar fund was once considered a large player, there were over 350 by 2018 and even more today.  There has been a veritable explosion in investment in the sector, as uninvested cash, or “dry powder“ at PE firms exceeded $1.5 trillion by the end of 2019.  Blackstone alone, the Wall Street Journal reported, had $150 billion in cash to invest at the end of last year.  Institutional Investor reported in July 2019 that 4000 funds were seeking to raise an additional $980 billion, up from 1385 funds seeking to raise $417 billion just four years earlier.

Yet in the 2010s the number of publicly traded companies stayed roughly the same while global AUM for PE firms and the number of PE-backed companies doubled, according to McKinsey & Co.  It comes down to simple economics as more money is chasing fewer good assets, hence driving up prices, and reducing returns.  S&P reported in November 2019 that the average pro forma EBITDA multiple was 12.9, up over 30% from pre-Financial Crisis pricing.  The massive leverage, low prices, and eye-popping returns of the 1980s are but a memory.  What is a simple fund to do?

Operations Management Software from Integrify

Adding Operating Expertise

Importantly, funds have changed their own internal structures over the last several decades. Almost no funds had seriously tenured operating executives as part of their investment teams in the 1980s, being almost exclusively comprised of “recovering investment bankers.”  The 1990s saw a bit of a change, but now almost every major fund has hired people who have more than an investment banking/finance background and have been senior operating executives who have actually run P&Ls.  In many cases these are actual full partners in the funds, as the Silicon Valley venture capital community was quicker to adopt this model, typically by adding tech CEOs to their rosters, than the Wall Street LBO community.  Many are termed Operating Partners or Management Associates, but whatever the nomenclature, there has been a collective recognition that strictly financial engineering and financing skills are necessary, but not sufficient, to create outsized shareholder returns.

Most of my clients and many of my good friends are private equity professionals.  Without naming names, an informal survey confirms the general thesis that by training they are not prepared to run the businesses that they buy.  Increasingly they recognize these facts, despite being “the smartest person in the room“ on virtually any topic (sic), in the not so distant past.

Where Are We and Where Are We Going

Fast forward to today, the late 2010s and early 2020s. The game has changed significantly, to say the least.  Not surprisingly, many of the factors that led to the tremendous success of the industry in years past have changed dramatically.  There is a changing reality and investment firms have, with varying degrees of success, made adjustments.  For example:

Financial engineering is no longer adequate.

Given the low interest rate environment of recent years, and explosion of alternative lenders such as credit funds, beyond the traditional large banks, a giant fund enjoys little advantage over a smaller one on the availability of financing or borrowing terms.  And, let’s face it, even if KKR or TPG can borrow at 25 basis points lower and with slightly less restrictive covenants than XYZ Capital Partners can, that factor alone is unlikely to be the deciding factor between the success or failure of an investment.

Globalization of the industry

Where venture capital and leveraged buyouts were virtually exclusively a US phenomenon just a few decades ago, today according to various studies, only about 55% of global private equity activity is in North America today.  While Africa and Latin America are somewhat underrepresented, Europe and Asia are booming in this respect and the former may well catch up over time.  It has become, as in so many industries, a much more competitive, truly international playing field.

Ubiquity of information has changed the game

The asymmetry of information that led to smart buyers and uninformed sellers is simply no longer the case.  The incredible proliferation of information and ease of access on a global basis means that sellers, even of relatively small and unsophisticated businesses, have a much better handle on the overall market than in the past.  An investment banker friend and I have a running joke that Old Uncle Burt, selling his cornfield in Iowa, knows that he can command 7.8 to 9.3 times EBITDA these days and will have five buyers lined up!  In short, because of this the market is much more ruthlessly efficient, further evidenced by the dramatic expansion in the number of deals done and in the ever higher multiples paid for them.

The Model Still Works

The increased volatility of public markets, however, continues to make private equity attractive.  What was once termed an alternative investment is certainly now very much in the mainstream for most sophisticated investors.  However, the delta in returns between public markets and private markets have flagged in the last several years.  As Bain & Co. noted in its 2020 Private Equity Report, “10-year public market returns match PE returns for the first time.”

Yet the current crisis, at the same time akin to the ones we seem to have every five or 10 years, and on the other hand of unprecedented scope, has obviously put an enormous dent in the wealth accumulated in the stock market.  The ability to be patient and not have to respond to quarter-by-quarter earnings can allow private equity investors to take a more strategic, long-term view and ride out much of the fickle fluctuations of the financial markets.

This may seem a bit ironic, since most PE funds would love to be in and out of investments in a 3 to 5 year timeframe if possible.  But with the public markets bouncing as violently as they are, private equity will remain a very attractive industry, both for Limited Partners as institutional investors and General Partners, the PE funds, as the custodians and direct investors of those funds.

Stanford Senior Executive Leadership Program | Stanford Online

 

Executive Leadership Matters, Now More Than Ever

Over time, more and more funds have gone to a model of backing individual executives or executive teams in what I call the “Back-able, Bankable Leadership“ model, or BBL.  Both venture and buyout funds have increasingly backed executive leadership that has had prior success and will continue to do so.  The proverbial “Holy Grail“ for investment funds is to find management teams that are proven and have as close to a proprietary idea as possible.  By this I mean either a specific target company(ies) for acquisition or a well-developed investment thesis with demonstrable potential acquisition targets.

How much better to create a situation where you have an organic genesis of an investment, rather than competing in a broad auction scenario against many other funds.  In the latter case, the “winner” of an auction may be successful in acquiring a business, but a loser as an investor, having paid too high a price at the outset.

An old saw in investing circles is that “You are more likely to win by backing an ‘A’ management team with a ‘B’ plan over a ‘B’ management team with an ‘A’ quality plan.“  At no time has this been more true than today, as many firms actually have to reinvent their business models on the fly.  As we face unparalleled turbulence in the markets, especially given the latest crisis, never has leadership, true leadership, been at more of a premium.  Operational excellence, coupled with the genuine ability to inspire, will always be valued.  In short, today it is more critical than ever to actually run businesses better.

Effective executive leadership makes all the difference.  It certainly makes me quite sanguine about the prospects for the executive search industry in partnering with private equity clients to create value.  Successful investors invest in superior management and leadership, especially when competition is greater than ever and times are uncertain, to say the least!

 

Kerry Moynihan is a Partner at Boyden. He has had a distinguished career of more than 30 years in executive search, making a significant impact on client organizations through strategic talent acquisition and development. Working across a range of industries, he specializes in partnering with boards of directors as well as private equity firms and the C-suite executives of their portfolio companies to deliver for investors. He can be reached at kmoynihan@boyden.com.

Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Spring Forum, March 7, Tysons Corner, VA

LORE SYSTEMS is pleased to host one of the most exciting angel and entrepreneurship networking forums in the DC Region on March 7, 2011 at the Tower Club in Tysons Corner, VA.

Please come out!  Here’s the Eventbrite link:  http://connectpreneur1.eventbrite.com

The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Spring Forum is a 1/2 day “NETWORKING MASHUP” of the DC Region’s TOP Entrepreneurs, Business Leaders, CXOs, Angels, and VCs.

Come see what happens when you put a group of “A List” business leaders and entrepreneurs in one room for a few hours!

This UNIQUE EVENT is like NONE OTHER in our region, due to the high quality of our attendees and participants, as well as our programming and unprecedented networking.

The Big Idea CONNECTpreneur Forum is an exclusive “mashup” of 170+ of the DC Region’s top entrepreneurs, business leaders, CXOs, angels and VCs.
Most of the attendees are “INVITATION ONLY,” and we are limiting service provider participation in order to maximize the experience for our Attendees and Sponsors.
Program Highlights:
  • “Hypergrowth – Zero to $500 million in 8 years” discussion
  • “Entrepreneurs with a Higher Purpose” panel
  • 8 Emerging companies seeking funding will briefly tell their stories
  • “Disruption, Disintermediation, and Destruction” luncheon discussion
  • Networking sessions before, during, and after the event
The venue is the Tower Club in Tyson’s Corner, Northern Virginia’s premier private business club.  A plated brealkfast and plated lunch are included.
AGENDA7:00–8:00 am – ARRIVAL / BREAKFAST / NETWORKING

8:00 – 8:05 am – WELCOME

8:05 – 8:45 am –  “HYPERGROWTH – ZERO TO $500 MILLION IN 8 YEARS!” – a conversation with Tony Jimenez, Founder and CEO of MicroTech
8:45 – 9:30 am  –  “ENTREPRENEURSHIP WITH A HIGHER PURPOSE”
Jim Cheng, Secretary of Commerce, Commonwealth of VA; Founder and CEO, Computer Hi-Tech Mgt, “Entrepreneur Turned Public Servant”
Dr. John Holaday, CEO, QRx Pharma, an ex-Army officer, Professor, and serial entrepreneur who has founded and taken 3 companies public, “Entrepreneur Seeking a Cure for Cancer”
Seth Goldman, Founder and TeaEO, Honest Tea, beverage industry innovator, “Entrepreneur  leading the Green Movement”
9:30 – 9:45 am – NETWORKING BREAK
9:45 – 11:30 am – COMPANY PRESENTATIONS
Fresh Tax
Pixspan
11:30 – 11:45 am – NETWORKING BREAK
11:45 – 1:15 pm – LUNCHEON DISCUSSION – “DISRUPTION, DISINTERMEDIATION, AND DESTRUCTION”
Duke Chung, Founder of Parature, CRM industry pioneer
Mark Walsh, Founder and CEO, GeniusRocket;  Chairman, DIngman Center for Entrepreneurship;  Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Union College;  Founder and CEO, VerticalNet
John Backus, Managing Partner of New Atlantic Ventures, Founder of Draper Atlantic Venture Fund, former CEO, InteliData
1:15 pm – MORE NETWORKING AND DEALMAKING
CONFIRMED PARTICIPANTS (partial list):
Over 110 Entrepreneurs and CXOs, plus another 40+ angels and VCs including Core Capital, Novak Biddle, New Atlantic Ventures, CIT, Capital Source, NEA, Maryland Venture Fund, MAVA, MTECH Ventures, Maryland DBED, Ruxton Ventures, Opus8, VentureCross Partners, McLean Capital, National Capital, Starise Ventures, Dingman Center Angels, Blu Venture Partners, Blue Heron, Washingon DC Archangels, Fortify.vc, Endeavor DC, Private Capital Network, APPTEL, Stanford Venture Advisors, MD Center for Entrepreneurship, SunWalker Group, Skada Capital, Keiretsu Forum, CADRE.
EVENT SPONSORS:  


Tien Wong’s 2012 Predictions as Published in WashingtonExec

Happy New Year!  I’d like to say a special Thank You to JD Kathuria and my friends at WashingtonExec for publishing my look into the crystal ball for 2012.  Here is the Post:

Tien Wong, Chairman and CEO of Opus8

2012 is here, and with it comes big changes for the Federal IT industry.  WashingtonExec gave local executives the opportunity to share their thoughts on where they see the government contracting industry headed.

Tien Wong, Chairman and CEO of Lore Systems and Opus8, gave WashingtonExec six factors that he believes will affect the 2012 Washington, D.C. entrepreneur and government contracting communities.

1.  IT SPENDING and THE ECONOMY – IT spending will increase both in commercial and government sectors, particularly in infrastructure, cloud, and mobility.  We have seen an uptick in business at Lore in the last quarter particularly from our commercial clients.  In conversations with many clients, I believe that overall confidence in the economy is improving a lot!

2.  PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION – Obama will be re-elected.  If the economy is improving, that favors Obama.

3.  STARTUPS – Startups in the DC region will continue to blossom.  The ecosystem is as active and sanguine as it has been in the past 10 years.  You are seeing groups like Startup America, Startup Maryland, Startup VirginiaFounderCorps, and established and new incubators take a keen interest in our region.  Angels are investing, and groups like Virginia’s CIT and Maryland’s DBED will be investing new allocations of seed money.

4.  CLOUD COMPUTING – Cloud adoption in the federal government will accelerate both internally via virtual private clouds, and via commercial providers with new FedRAMP guidelines and the award of commercial Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) contracts (GSA’s IaaS and the Army’s APC2, for example).  The economic and performance benefits are far too great for cloud not to be aggressively adopted well into the future.

5.  DATACENTER CONSOLIDATION – Regarding the federal government’s datacenter consolidation efforts, the government will successfully close many datacenters.  However, I doubt they will hit their goals in 2012  because many individual application owners and datacenter operators are not as cooperative in providing information and complying.  Further, there’s a cost to consolidating and there are limited funds to achieve this, so you’ll likely see a lot of funding come out of O&M budgets.

6.  SMALL BUSINESS – Because of drastically reduced budgets, the government will rely on small business and entrepreneurs for creative ideas to cut costs, drive productivity, and improve performance. The DoD customer has been very open to the commercial best practices Lore is bringing to the table re: datacenter consolidation and application migration.  In addition, small business is more nimble and unencumbered by the fixed costs of the “Bigs,” so we can offer creative pricing structures, and ways for the government to buy from us.  We will see more firm fixed price offers, and shared-risk pricing, which inevitably will save the taxpayers money.

Please let me know what you think about these predictions. Thanks for reading, and please subscribe to my Blog!  All the best for an awesome 2012!

Featured image courtesy of Mike Licht, notionscapital.com, licensed via creative commons.