Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Seven Sales Challenges

With the complexity of today’s business solutions and their organization-wide impact, many senior level executives are actively involved in the sales process. Many companies are finding that their sales professionals are not connecting effectively in the coverage models to sell successfully.

Gaining access to executive decision makers can mean the difference between winning and losing sales. Here are seven common challenges that sales professionals must overcome to effectively engage those in the executive suite:

1. The salesperson doesn’t connect to the executive’s critical business issues and gets delegated to a lower-level person.

Brilliant ideas and valuable products and services elicit indifference if you can’t immediately establish credibility about and connect to the executive’s most pressing issues. Your credibility comes via the relevancy you establish in your introduction by connecting your solutions or capabilities to the business drivers. If you reference challenges the industry is facing or the company’s objectives in a substantive way, executives will recognize that they couldn’t have this conversation with anyone else.

2. Your strongest contact in the client’s organization no longer holds the power to make the buying decision.

In today’s highly competitive and volatile marketplace, globalization, consolidation, and centralization are some of the reasons that decisions move to higher levels of power and influence. This movement is forcing even the most experienced sales professionals to expand their expertise and compete at new levels in organizations.

Expecting that a single contact in your client’s organization can and will carry your message effectively is hanging on to thin threads of hope. It is critical that we translate the value we can create at the technical, operational, or clinical level to the impact it has on the client’s business. That’s a conversation most executives want to have.

3. Your competition is in the executive suite and you aren’t.

Can the competition get into the executive suite and take your account while you believe your relationship is strong at the operations level? Absolutely! Salespeople typically spend more time preparing for a prospect visit than for a current client visit. Don’t let over-familiarity lull you into understanding less about your client than your competitor does. Gain advantage and pull ahead of competitive threats by establishing a broad base of relationships that will preempt and neutralize competitive moves.

4. You have bought into, “I make the final decision,” when, in fact, you are hung up with someone who barely influences the decision.

Understand how your solution affects each level of responsibility within your client’s organization. It is only natural that you will interact at all levels to understand the full potential of your solution, and after the sale to assure that the full value of your solution is being achieved. Building these relationships as you gather information will ensure you are firmly grounded with those who are both impacted and influenced by the decision.

5. You reach the person who holds the checkbook, but you can’t build the financial case that person needs to make the buying decision.

The financial executive plays an increasingly central role in setting the strategy of the organization and how to fund the implementation of that strategy. Do not place the burden on your clients to translate your technical advantages into the financial impact of your solution. Involve them in your calculations; have them collaborate, and then adjust your assumptions. In the end, the client must “own” the justification. Be an advisor, not a sales rep. Position your solution as a strategic asset.

6. Third-party consultants are forcing you to compete on price when you know that the information on the value you would create for the client is not reaching the executive level in the client’s organization.

Recognize that you and the third-party consultants have the same client. Build the case for mutual gains with them by asking the questions they have not thought of asking. They will recognize the value you add to their position and invite you into the executive suite. Help third-party consultants manage a quality buying process that builds successful outcomes for them, for you, and for your clients.

7. Your convincing proposal wins the first round of approvals, but you find that the executive buy-in never happens. The executive had criteria on the table that you never tapped into, or even knew existed.

Engage executives early in the decision process to establish the criteria that create senior-level ownership. Build winning proposals that connect the business drivers at all levels of influence and decision. Ask the in-depth questions that have not occurred to your client. You should ask the questions that expose the risks inherent in a successful implementation of your solution.

Executives are concerned about working with suppliers who truly understand their business, their customers’ demands, and their competitive landscape, as well as the challenges associated with the implementation. If you cannot speak to these issues, your time in the executive suite will be brief.

To help you get started in gaining access and communicating with credibility, here are three suggestions:

  • Understand the executive mindset.
    Gain insight into how they think, what they expect, what makes them move forward, and how they drive management support. They are looking for ideas and resources to execute their strategy, and how to reduce risk and increase the probability of success.

  • Create compelling relevancy.
    Build a value assumption that will connect your capabilities to the executive agenda and ensure you have strong executive-level sponsorship to prove or disprove the hypothesis.

  • Establish exceptional credibility.
    Expected credibility is what you know about your solution. Exceptional credibility is what you know about your client’s business. Look at your words and your documents. Are they about you and your solution, or are they about your clients and their businesses?

When you understand the mindset of executives, connect to their agenda, and establish exceptional credibility, you will have meaningful conversations that often result in long-term and mutually beneficial relationships.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011



Finally our new publication is out on Social Knowledge: Using Social Media to Know What you Know, a book project that John and Joanne Girard pulled together and we edited with over 20 other leading researchers, academics and practioners. I was priviledged to be able to contribute both on core content and also be on the editorial advisory board with:

1.) Alex Bennet of Mountain Quest Institute
2.) Nick Bowersox, TUI University, USA
3.) Kamiz Dalkir, McGill University
4.) Parissa Haghirian, Sophia University, Japan
5.) Harris Papoutasakis, Technological Education Institute of Crete University
6.) Suzanne Roff-Wexler, Compass Point Consulting
7.) Michael Sutton, Westminster College
8.) Jerry Westfall Liberty University

The book addresses perspectives that for the past two decades, executives have struggled to develop effective ways of sharing what their organizations know. Organizational leaders are now seeking ways to share knowledge with both internal and external stakeholders, driven by concerns such as: downsizing, the impending retirement of baby boomers, terrorism and a host of other organizational challenges.

Our new book provides relevant and current theoretical frameworks, latest empirical research findings, and practitioner's best practices in the area. The book is multi-disciplinary in nature and considers a wide range of topics, each of which is related to social knowledge. It is written for professionals who want to improve their understanding of the strategic role of social knowledge in business, government and in not for profit sectors.

The Content includes:

Chapter 1 - Social Learning from the Inside Out: The Creation and Sharing of Knowledge from the Mind and Brain Perspective

Chapter 2 - Measuring the Impact of Social Media, Connection, Communication and Collaboration

Chapter 3 - Challenging Our Assumptions: Making Sense of the Sharing of Social Knowledge

Chapter 4 - Social Knowledge Case Study: Innovation Linked to the Collaborative Socialization of Knowledge written by Dr. Cindy Gordon, author of this blog.

Chapter 5 - Social Knowledge in the Japanese Firm

Chapter 6 - Cultural Barriers to Organizational Social Media Adoption

Chapter 7 - Organizational Culture: A Pillar for Knowledge Management

Chapter 8 - Social Leadership: Exploring Social Media and the Military - A New Leadership Tool

Chapter 9 - Foundations of Cross Cultural Knowledge Management

Chapter 10 - Becoming a Blogger: A Social Knowledge Experiment

Chapter 11 - Encouraging Participation in Virtual Communities of Practices within the United States Air Force

Chapter 12 - Social Knowledge Workplace

Chapter 13 - Sharing Scientific and Social Knowledge in a Performance Oriented Industry: An Evaluation Model

Chapter 14 - Social Knowledge: The Technology Behind

Chapter 15 - Empowering Social Knowledge with Information Technology: Technological and Cultural Issues Convergence

For the next few months, I will comment on sections from this book to help share insights from our collective research in hopes we can inspire you to take leadership action and drive more social knowledge practices into your organizations work practices.

Results are already showing sales representatives that leverage social selling practice outperform their colleagues and drive an increase of over 10% greater revenue outcomes.

This is all my firm at Helix Commerce does with my partner, Alex Blom - we are helping to transform business practices, and we work primarily with large mutinationals, major banks, com and high tech companies, etc... so much work to do and every day we realize we know so little.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Measuring Innovation Successfully

How do you measure innovation?

One of the reasons that only about one third of all Fortune 1000 companies have formal innovation metrics is because this simple question does not have a readily apparent simple answer.

Metrics can be important levers of innovation - for driving behavior, as well as evaluating the results of specific initiatives. Companies like 3M have had innovation metrics for years - the most noteworthy that 15% of employees' time can be used for experimentation with new opportunities and that 35% of the corporations' revenues should come from products introduced within the past four years.

But defining the right metrics for your business can be tricky. There's generally no one right answer and determining what, exactly, to measure can feel like more of an art than a science.

The Heart of the Problem

The heart of the problem is that today's competitive environment is radically different from the industrial environment in which traditional innovation metrics were born. Because most discussions of metrics begin with benchmarks of industries leaders (like 3M), innovation metrics tend to revert back to traditional measures of research and development investment and effectiveness. Across the Fortune 1000 that do possess innovation metrics, for example, the most prevalent metrics include :

  • Annual RandD budget as a percentage of annual sales
  • Number of patents filed in the past year
  • Total RandD headcount or budget as a percentage of sales
  • Number of active projects
  • Number of ideas submitted by employees
  • Percentage of sales from products introduced in the past X year(s)

While some of these metrics can be valuable for driving investment in innovation and evaluating results, they provide a limited view.

In today's environment in which "open innovation" (sourcing ideas and technology from outside the company) can create differentiation and competitive advantage, for example, some of these metrics actually inhibit strategic innovation. And in an environment in which disruptive innovation and business cannibalization must be wholeheartedly embraced as a core strategy, fundamentally new types of behaviors are required, and subsequently new structures and related metrics to drive these behaviors.

Another challenge experienced by business leaders interested in defining metrics is "metrics overload". A Business Week article recently noted that "many companies have too many metrics and try to measure everything with different criteria". This overload causes executives to view their metrics as missing "the heart of the matter" and are dissatisfied with their existing approach to measuring innovation. What gets measured drives behavior. Too many metrics leads to excessive activities that provide little value and often drive behavior in cross-purposes.

The Metrics Imperative

Because innovation is now a widely recognized critical requirement for virtually all companies across all industries, the metrics imperative is here. Leaders must establish a new breed of metrics that move beyond conventional measures and that:

  • Create an organizational environment that supports and drives strategic innovation
  • Establish critical capabilities tuned to the evolving competitive business landscape
  • Evaluate innovation efforts to ensure both return on investment and support feedback loops of learning and improvement

A Framework for Innovation Metrics

Our framework for innovation metrics attempts to create a simple solution to a complex challenge. With the assumption that successful innovation is the result of the synergies between a number of complementary success factors, our model incorporates two core principles:

  • Creating a "family of metrics" is essential for ensuring a well-rounded portfolio of measures
  • Including both "input metrics" and "output metrics" is essential for ensuring measures that drive resource allocation and capability building as well as return on investment assessment

Creating a "family of metrics" ensures a well-rounded portfolio of measures that cover the most important innovation drivers for your specific organization.

The following are the three categories that should be considered for any metrics portfolio:

Return on Investment Metrics
ROI metrics address two measures: resource investments and financial returns. ROI metrics give innovation management fiscal discipline and help justify and recognize the value of strategic initiatives, programs and the overall investment in innovation.

Organizational Capability Metrics
Organizational capability metrics focus on the infrastructure and process of innovation. Capability measures provide focus for initiatives geared toward building repeatable and sustainable approaches to invention and re-invention.

Leadership Metrics
Leadership metrics address the behaviors that senior managers and leaders must exhibit to support a culture of innovation within the organization, including the support of specific growth initiatives.

Within each of these categories, there are "input metrics" and "output metrics". Input metrics are the investments, resources and behaviors that are necessary to drive results. Output metrics represent the desired results for the metric category.

Procter & Gamble, for example, uses an organizational capability input metric focused on "the percentage of external sourcing of ideas and technology" as a way to drive its Connect and Develop strategy for open innovation. In 2000, 10% of the company's R&D was outsourced - in 2010, over 60% of all ideas and technology came from the outside.

Key Input & Output Metrics

The following are the key input and output metrics for each category. These illustrations are not meant to be exhaustive but rather provide an initial list of options for those looking to instill metrics within their own organizations.

Return on Investment Metrics
Input Metrics Output Metrics
  • % of capital invested in innovation activities such as submitting and reviewing ideas for new products and services and developing ideas through an innovation pipeline
  • Percentage of "outside" vs. "inside" inputs to the innovation process (open innovation)
  • Number of new products, services, and businesses launched in new markets in the past year
  • Actual vs. targeted breakeven time (BET)
  • % of revenue/profit from products or services introduced in the past X years
  • Royalty and licensing income from patents/intellectual property

Organizational Capability Metrics
Input Metrics Output Metrics
  • % of employees who have received training and tools for innovation - e.g., instruction in estimating market potential of an idea
  • Existence of formal structures & processes that support innovation
  • Number of new competencies (distinctive skills and knowledge domains that spawn innovation)
  • Number of innovations that significantly advance existing businesses
  • Number of new-to-company opportunities in new markets

Leadership Metrics
Input Metrics Output Metrics
  • % of executives' time spent on strategic innovation versus day-to-day operations
  • % of managers with training in the concepts and tools of innovation
  • % of product/service or strategic innovation projects with assigned executive sponsors
  • Number of managers that become leaders of new category businesses

Driving Innovation Metrics

Creating and driving the effective use of innovation metrics goes beyond simply defining and communicating new measures. Creating innovation metrics requires a strategic and disciplined approach that starts with the enterprise growth strategy and cascades throughout each business unit, division and group structure. By establishing a "family of metrics" that support the collective innovation imperatives of firm, business leaders can drive return on investment, organizational capability and leadership behavior at multiple levels of the organization.

Using metrics to drive and assess growth is more than a one time exercise. As an ongoing tool for innovation management, the approach involves:

Planning: Involving key stakeholders in the identification of metrics to insure the assumptions about the sources of value are explicit and clear, and metrics align to the firm's strategy.

Monitoring: A structured activity of monitoring metrics against goals as a means to gauge progress and define necessary adjustments to measures & strategies.

Learning: A continuous feedback loop that assesses progress, engages key stakeholders in identifying implications and new opportunities to support the firm's metrics-driven goals.

One potential approach to establishing innovation includes the following steps:

1. Clarify enterprise strategic business objectives

2. Define innovation goals to support growth objectives

3. Identify required innovation capabilities for the future

4. Identify desired innovation-related leadership behaviors

5. Identify organizational processes and models required to drive incremental and strategic innovation

6. Create a family of metrics that support the enterprise innovation strategy of the company

7. Create cascading metrics that align business units, divisions, groups and lateral process capabilities

8. Revisit and recalibrate strategies and metrics on an ongoing basis

Whatever the process, it is critical to engage key stakeholders in defining your metrics that will guide the organization into the future. Learning loops that capture insights gleaned from successes and failures must be integrated into the process and valued as a ongoing capability. And finally, metrics shouldn't be viewed as an end in themselves but rather an indicator of the types of strategic capabilities and behavior required of each and every employee to ensure long term success and business growth.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Emerson Electrics Innovation Metrics

Emerson Electric's Innovation Metrics

Large companies, where data-driven decision-making rules the roost, have long sought ways to measure innovation. Emerson Electric thinks it has the answer
Emerson Electric (EMR) is a company that embraces numbers. If something can be measured, the fast-growing industrial conglomerate doesn't hesitate to do so. On a wall at its St. Louis headquarters, photos of 2,000 Emerson managers hang in ranked order—from Chief Executive David Farr on down.

So as the company has sought to improve its innovation efforts, it has turned to—what else?—a new metric. With 140,000 employees and 52% of its $22.5 billion in sales coming from outside the U.S., the company, like many others its size, had set an arbitrary goal for its 60 far-flung business units: make a third of sales from products released in the past five years. Now Emerson is taking a different approach to tracking new-product sales—one it considers more insightful, revealing, and effective.

In this system, which began last year, managers divide new-product sales into one of four categories: minor improvements, major improvements, products that are new lines for the business, and ones that are completely new to the world. This rubric offers a more accurate guidepost, says Charlie Peters, Emerson Electric's chief innovation officer.

Managers can spend more time and money promoting breakthroughs rather than creating incremental tweaks. "It really shows just how innovative—or, better yet, not innovative—people actually are," says Peters, an Emerson veteran whose post was created last year.

Large companies, where data-driven decision-making rules the roost, have long sought ways to measure innovation, though none have found a magic set of measures.

The "new-to-the-world" framework dates at least to an early '80s study by consultants Booz Allen Hamilton. Emerson, which makes a dizzying array of industrial and electrical components, from telecom wires to dishwasher parts, has explicitly linked the metric with a broader innovation push. Despite healthy growth—sales have risen nearly 13% a year since 2003—Emerson engineers had spent too much time chasing the 33% new-product-sales target.

Now company divisions can free up manpower and money to go after groundbreaking projects rather than iterations of existing products. Thomas Bettcher, CEO of Emerson Climate Technologies, uses the quadrant in strategic planning. "It just gives us better data about where our resources are going," he says. Last year, for example, a third of all the new-product sales in his unit were classified as "minor improvements."

Seeing that analysis led Bettcher to increase investment in projects that will yield new-to-market or new-to-the-world results.He's doubled funding for projects that would embed electronics in air-conditioner compressors, making them more efficient and easier to operate. The metric "has given us a tool," says Bettcher, "to go after projects that are a little more difficult, a little riskier."

Skeptics wonder whether Emerson has any business aiming for products that are new to the world. Plenty of digital music players, after all, preceded the iPod; what made Apple's (AAPL) gadget great wasn't its novelty but the way it tied together a user's experience.

Brian Uzzi, a professor at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University who has studied innovation metrics, also notes that truly novel products have a very high failure rate. At companies like Emerson, with intense, make-the-quarter focus, he says, "reaching for more than you should could be detrimental."


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Social Media in the Workplace - Distractive or Productive

Social Media in the Workplace – Distractive or Productive?

guest author: Bobbie Walker

Officially, the jury is still out on this one, but the answer to this question is actually pretty simple if you stop to think of it – some people find it productive while others consider it distractive. Ok, so if the solution is so damn straightforward, why are there heated debates on this topic raging all over the Internet? Perhaps this is because the world of social media wants to be taken seriously and considered as more than just tools to while away the time or give vent to our narcissistic and voyeuristic tendencies.

I have nothing against Facebook and Twitter or any other social media tool – in fact, I use one quite regularly to keep in touch with friends as most people seem to have moved to this social media from regular email. However, I do find social media to be more distractive than productive; but that’s just because the nature of my work does not allow me to use social media to augment my profession and boost productivity. Perhaps the only professional advantage I gain is that I am able to touch base on a regular basis with others in the industry, thus keeping my options open in case I need to look for a new job.

For others however, social media adds to their professional edge because they use it as a marketing tool, to advertise and sell their products. They create fan pages and use them to drive traffic to their network. And they use Twitter to keep their customers informed about the latest news and offers from their organization. To them, social media is perhaps the cheapest and most effective way to get out the news to the largest number of existing and potential customers, and with the viral nature of news on Facebook and Twitter, these tools are extremely beneficial for marketing and promotional endeavors.

However, for the rest of us who don’t use social media for professional reasons, they are definitely a waste of time if they’re allowed to intrude on our work day. They’re addictive by nature, and for those who’re not too disciplined or work-oriented, they offer more interesting and subtle ways to while away the time than spending time around the water cooler or taking infinite number of coffee or bathroom breaks.

But then, at the end of the day, the truth is that productivity is a personal characteristic, one that has to come from within irrespective of the distractions that exist on the outside. So if you’re a conscientious worker, you do get things done, irrespective of the existence or absence of social media.


This guest post is contributed by Bobbie Walker, she writes on the topic of Online BSN Degrees . She welcomes your comments at her email id: bobbiew862[@]gmail[.]com.

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