We are all insanely busy these days. In our day-to-day jobs, we are so focused on execution that it’s difficult to think about how to improve performance and productivity. Here’s an idea: talk to people outside your company, compare experiences and share ideas. I’ve been interviewing Sales 2.0 leaders for my new book project and they all have one thing in common: they find time to call their peers doing similar work in other organizations, attend conferences and networking events and read about how others are improving results in sales. These Sales 2.0 practitioners seek out and are open to outside perspectives.
Last week I traveled to Atlanta to deliver several Sales 2.0 workshops, thanks to the invitation of Mark Barry of OpenView Partners, Marge Beiler of RareAgent, the AA-ISP (American Association of Inside Sales Professionals) and others who sponsored the events. I call these events workshops rather than presentations for a reason. I am not the only person contributing information: participants share their successes and challenges and everyone learns from each other. In order to be a credible and current Sales 2.0 “expert”, I feel I need to be continually learning from my clients and those that come to hear me speak.
In my Sales 2.0 workshops, I start by presenting the key concepts of Sales 2.0, what is driving it, and how companies are producing better results by practicing it. Then I get to my favorite part: facilitating a conversation with the audience. In two days in Atlanta, I got to hear from Venture Capitalists and investment partners, business executives running venture-funded start-ups, sales professionals, inside sales managers, inside sales reps, recruiters, trainers, and several other service providers, all of whom were eager to learn – from me as well as from other participants – what is working in the new world of selling and buying. Here are some of the things I learned:
1. In order to engage prospects, stand out from the crowd.
- At one company, e-mails that include a humorous video are getting a 20% better response than those without
- Prospects appreciate a personal touch: hand-written note cards and physical mailings are being well-received
2. Companies are experimenting with allowing inside sales reps to work from home.
- Most managers agree that this works well as special recognition for senior reps who are performing (but not recommended for new hires)
- Bringing the sales group together (face to face) is still important for team-building
- One company found a loss in productivity with remote reps
3. Large, established companies are learning from smaller companies.
- Much of what start-ups (and we in the Sales 2.0 community) take for granted is new learning for the Fortune 500
- There is huge potential to expand the role of inside sales within large companies (and improve their margin and customer satisfaction)
4. Sales teams are using social media but don’t yet know how to evaluate the results.
- Most managers buy in to using LinkedIn in the sales process; many are skeptical about Facebook and Twitter
- Connecting to customers and prospects is a good idea
Read also Mark Barry’s excellent blog post about these events, Sales 2.0: Succeeding in the New World of High Productivity.
What have you learned by looking outside your company for new ideas? And where do you find them?