Friday, March 10, 2023

How to be happy - countries, companies, employees & people

I grew up around some wealthy and successful people. However, not all of them were happy. My uncle
, a Managing director of a cosmetics company, suffered from depression and committed suicide in his mid-forties, leaving a wife and two twin children, aged three. 

One of my closest and oldest friends, an award-winning journalist and newscaster (ABC News, BBC, Sky) died due to complications from depression and substance abuse two years ago. 

One in six employees are suffering from mental health problems.

Wealth and outward success do not guarantee happiness. Hence my interest, both at an academic & personal level, in this subject. The event was centred around Professor Lord Richard Layard, of the LSE and Jan-Emmanuel de neve of Oxford University's new book 'Wellbeing: Science & Policy'.

Professor Layard began with Thomas Jefferson's quote that 'The care of human life and happiness is the only legitimate object of good government' - Professor Layard also said that the UK's opposition (Labour) leader has committed to making wellbeing, not GDP alone, one of his key drivers of policy. 

How do Professors De Neve and Layard measure happiness? It's simple yet brilliant. The survey-takers just ask this:

It's a powerful question - more predictive of your longevity than running a battery of medical tests with your doctor (the famous 'medical'). I urge you to ask that about your own life, your work, your relationships and your home. 

Professor Layard said he could think of no more important question for the government. I can think of no more important question to ask yourself. 

Professor De Neve has researched tracking companies' share price performance that rated happiest versus a range of other key indices. As you can see from the chart above, happier companies outperformed all other indices and were exceptionally resilient during downturns. 

His research at Oxford's Said School of business also shows that happy employees are 13% more productive. This holds obvious implications for CEOs, CFO's and heads of Human resources.

What causes happiness? Is it income? Education? Physical health? No, actually, the most significant correlation is with Mental health, as you can see by this chart. The only correlation that the speakers did not cover was that of friendship. I'd like to explore friendship since it profoundly affects happiness.

At the end of the talk, we had the opportunity to ask questions. So I asked 'bearing in mind that Sir Keir Starmer has said that he would pursue policies of wellbeing in his next government; assuming that his government wins the next election, and that you have a 'one shot' chance to implement the most impactful 'wellbeing policy', what would it be?'

Unsurprisingly the speakers said that they would tackle mental health, which they have already been working on - helping over 700,000 people so far with their initiatives. However, they said they would focus specifically on addiction (substance abuse, alongside other addictions like eating disorders and gambling).

Later that evening, having dinner with a friend, we discussed that response. My friend told me he was surprised since he thought this would affect a small number of people in society. 

Yet around 8 per cent of the population are addicts; 6 per cent are addicted to alcohol. Less than 10 per cent of them have received any help. Even a highly educated Oxford graduate had no idea the extent of this mental health crisis and the misery it's causing.

On a lighter note, I support a charity called 'Action for happiness' founded by Professor Lord Richard Layard. Here's a typical happiness 'action plan' for this month! 😉👌

Thursday, December 01, 2022

How to drive more quality traffic to your B2B Website

During my career, I've worked with many businesses that have had a variety of marketing challenges:

  • How to drive more traffic to their Website.
  • How to reach more of their target accounts (with the highest customer lifetime value).
  • Ensure their marketing efforts get all the right contacts at those target accounts.
  • How to guarantee that they hit target accounts at the proper stages in the marketing and sales cycle (Awareness, decision, Purchase).

I've faced many hindrances– from poor web design and uninspiringly written 'insights'; to misunderstood web analytics or siloed marketing teams that don't communicate.

Events are often an essential component of the B2B marketing mix. But they can never replace high-quality multi-channel digital campaigns. 

You may think, 'hey, Events are driving leads. What does it matter if our Website is bad?'

But get this: 80% of a buying decision in B2B Software will soon be made independently of the salesperson. 

That means that if your Website is lacklustre, your sales team will lose 80% of their ability to close sales.

I've also worked for large tech companies with no real demand generation engine to create leads for the sales team. In that scenario, it can be hard to convince a board of directors with little or no knowledge of or interest in marketing to spend $100,000 or more on a CRM and Marketing Automation tool.

But doing so is vital if you want to scale your business.

The Digital Marketing 'Flywheel'

I'm a firm believer in Hubspots inbound marketing methodology to drive sales. I read Brian Halligan's book when it came out in 2009. I also couldn't agree with Brian more that it's time to retire 'the sales funnel', which is so 1990s.

We need a fast-moving, dynamic sales/marketing flywheel in the digital age. In my next post, I will describe how to generate leads through such a flywheel (Search Engine Optimisation, Search Engine Marketing, Email Marketing, Content Marketing and so on)............

Marketing continually tries to define 'success' and find the perfect metrics to measure it. Is it the number of leads? Is it conversion rates? Is it sales meetings, pipeline, or event sales revenue generated by Marketing (Notoriously hard to attribute in b-2-b SaaS businesses)?

Ultimately the best marketing tends to have a flywheel of content that includes every channel - email, paid digital, organic and events - all working in harmony. Account-based marketing tools like Demandbase or 6Sense can help you identify if you are reaching your target accounts at every level. But I'd only rely on one channel if I had overwhelming evidence to support it.

Saturday, October 01, 2022

The Future of Software Innovation: IDC DevOps '22 event in London

IDC DevOps UK 2022 is one of the first face-to-face events that I've attended for a while. Since the pandemic, I feel like I've been working in a digital bubble. I've had fewer conversations than ever with Tech professionals outside my marketing technology field. So I find these events immensely valuable, like the experience (for me) of going into the office 2-3 days a week. 

Just a few weeks ago, I was talking to a CIO at a major insurance company about the challenges of bringing together 17 different companies that his company had acquired, each with its legacy systems and ways to run IT and Security teams. I would never have gotten that insight, sitting in a room with a bunch of marketers, working on 'buyer personas'

Jen Thompson, is the lead IDC analyst in Europe for 'accelerated app delivery' and an expert on 'The future of software innovation'. She delivered the keynote at around 9.30 am, just after our breakfast and networking session at 9 am. She talked about being fortunate to have so much survey-driven data about her industry, some of which she wanted to share with us. 

One challenge in DevOps is putting rules into place to enable innovation at scale. The demand for new applications is so intense and growing so fast that a competitive company must have an airtight system to deliver quality software quickly.

Jen also talked about how IDC has noticed companies moving from 'Digital transformation' into a digital-first strategy. For 81% of European organisations, digital innovation is the 2023 priority. Jen gave a few examples:

  • Vodafone – putting software development at the centre of the business, and they plan to triple their number of software engineers by 2025 (adding 7000 hires).
  • Lego plans to triple its software engineers in the next three years.

Organisations that can scale their software development and innovation will be the winners in the next five years. Then Jen mentioned three questions that have come up repeatedly, not only during this event but at another two-day CIO event I attended a few weeks earlier – CIO Connect at Sopwell House:

  • What tools do they have to help them?
  •  Do they have enough skilled technical workers?
  •  Do they have the right culture to meet rapidly growing demands?

There will be a 2x increase in organisations with an innovation-led approach. I couldn't help thinking of how these insights will play out in the UK; We are currently the 'stagnation nation' with flatlining productivity, employee shortages, and lack of investment (both private and public).

We need to think about how we design for speed and scale since 40% of organisations are telling IDC that they want to deliver more and faster than they have over the last two years.

The market delivers features in 4-5 weeks. However, 'Disruptors' (under 12%) release in 6 days or under – by 2023, it will be 20%. But those are the numbers for Europe. On the one hand, Germany and France are famously 30% more productive than the UK. However, on the other hand, the UK is ahead as a more innovative country. It made me think, how many of these 'disruptors' are operating out of the UK?  It'd be good to get those numbers for the UK.

After Jen's presentation, our very own Bernhard Klemm, Partner Solution Architect EMEA at Tricentis, started with a strong statement: 'The faster you can deliver applications, the more likely you can beat your competition and win retain those valuable customers.'

The majority of applications still take three months or more to be delivered. The reason for such long delays?

Bernhard told us that the top three challenges stated that complicate or delay the delivery of applications are:

• Integration with legacy systems

• Fuzzy and changing requirements

• The time necessary for testing and QA

To overcome those challenges and speed up application delivery, organisations have mainly invested in customer-centric practices like Agile Methodologies.

According to Gartner, by 2025, 70% of applications will be powered by low-code or no-code technologies.

The low-code technology promises to help developers save time by eliminating time-consuming, repetitive codes, freeing them up to ideate and create more intuitive applications.

As the barrier of "code" disappears, the benefits of test automation positively impact their daily life. Developers and Test Automation Engineers are more likely to engage with Low-Code test automation – where they can still use their coding expertise significantly – and retain their core skillset. In contrast, Test and Business analysts are likely to be more motivated to use no-code solutions.

The manager's role is to ensure that the team delivers the business value – fast and high quality. He doesn't care how their team accomplishes that goal. Does that seem familiar?

Bernhard explained that with Tricentis Tosca, you could Build No-Code, resilient automated tests through a unique approach that separates the automation model from the underlying application. This approach has proven to reduce the maintenance effort required for adapting test automation to frequent changes. Using Tosca, you can create a complete coverage of your value stream by supporting more than 160+ technologies and enterprise applications.

Bernhard ran through other products companies can use to deliver no code, low code automated and AI testing. But one that stood out in the presentation for me was Testim. Companies use Testim to automate web applications. Whether you are a manual tester, developer, or automation engineer, all users can use Testim to accomplish their goals. It's SaaS-based, Low-code and AI-powered to help you create tests fast, minimising test maintenance to keep releases on time.

We finished the day with a roundtable in which we asked a selection of senior DevOps professionals and application leaders this question:

Application leaders: Are speed and quality the key to achieving top business goals?

I manned the white screen and started writing out our table's answers. Early on, an application leader at BT said that quality would always be his priority. He said that quality must be guaranteed to ensure the functioning of his company's highly complex network technology. And the group agreed with this point, so we moved on to our table's question. 

-How do you build teams where quality is the entire team's responsibility?

Our table agreed that the solution to this was two-fold:

> Product-based teams

Ensuring that a team is working towards delivering a specific product makes sure that each member is fully invested in completing that product, whether an application, a new release, or even a newly developed piece of software.

> Culture

From culture, we talked about the theme of the day – the war for talent, and how all companies need more software developers, testers, DevOps analysts, engineers, and automation engineers. But as many commented, the talent pool did not seem to grow whilst the demand was.

We talked about the possibility of training. But the consensus seemed to be – if I train one of my team to develop the skills needed, such as to become an automation engineer, his skills become even more marketable. He is even more likely to be poached by a recruiter and leave my company after I've invested much time and money into him.

Tricentis Sales Executive Cillian Golden presenting Airpod Pros to an IT Director at an Enterprise Company.

This conundrum highlighted the issue of trust in the organisation. It seems to have broken down quite a bit. And managers and their teams are often at loggerheads. For example, recently, Microsoft commissioned a survey on working from home. 80% of managers thought their employees worked more effectively in the office. But for employees, it was the exact opposite. 80% of employees said that they worked more productively from home.

Under the question of 'Culture' we also discussed siloed organisations being a blocker to quality. That quality requires cooperation (altruism even), and inter-team coordination. And we agreed that innovation also needs those conditions to thrive. Our table decided on the following as our final point before the end of the afternoon:

>Negative – siloed approach, limited collaboration, low trust, not sharing information or resources

>Positive – Product-led, common goals, end-to-end ownership of app delivery value streams

I had no idea the moderator would ask 'the spokesperson' from each of the eight tables to outline what we'd discussed. I was selected to go through the critical points on the microphone, which gave me quite a kick of adrenaline at 4 pm – even better than a double espresso!

Saturday, April 02, 2022

What high performing sales & marketing teams do differently (and what you can learn from them)

Running out of ideas on how to create more sales at your company? Do you think you know everything about B2B Sales & Marketing already?

Ever heard of BANT?

Budget Authority Timing Need – OK, fair enough, you got it! it's how your Inside Sales Team will qualify a lead before passing it to the Sales team to continue its journey, hopefully, to close.

But how about MEDDIC?

Focusing on MEDDIC is what turned a million-dollar business into a billion-dollar business, according to Brian Halligan, founder, and CEO of Hubspot

"From $0 to $100 million, [PTC was] successful because we sold a better widget," HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan said. "From $100 million to $1 billion, we sold a shift in technology. MEDDIC became important because it's not just any old purchase — it's a transformation of the business."

You should consider using MEDDIC as a qualification framework if your company sells a product that requires a transformation in behavior or the average sales price is incredibly high, as understanding exactly how a prospect buys, why they would buy, and who's championing you internally is crucial to maintaining an accurate pipeline.

How about 'Sales & Marketing alignment'? - Did you know that because of the massive changes in how B2B sales work, some companies are no longer separating sales from marketing? Yes, that's right  They work together in the same unit/department.

Two companies I've worked at in the past that absolutely 'nailed' Sales and marketing were: Zscaler, founded in 2008 and now a $50 Billion company: And Visual IQ, which was founded in 2006 and is now part of Nielsen.

Both companies had a sales team and process that came from bigger organizations.

At Visual IQ, our entire sales team came from Adobe and used Adobe's lead development methodology. We were closing many million dollars a year annual subscription deals with companies like Target, Crate & Barrel, Honda, Amex and Bank of America.

At Zscaler, our sales team came from big companies like Fortinet, Paolo Alto, VM Ware and Cisco. Our sales bible, coming from our CEO Jay Chaudhri was 'The Challenger Sale'. At Zscaler our team closed deals at Barclays Bank, Wonga and Coats while I was there.

Back in the 00s, everyone said that successful sales were about great relationship management – you' wine and dine' the prospect, make them feel special, and listen to their every whim.

But then came 'The Challenger Sale

It revolutionized the way we look at sales 

– a book based on hundreds of thousands of data points from hundreds of companies. The Team over at Corporate Executive Board made a breakthrough – 'Relationship managers' did not close the most sales. In fact, it was 'Sales Challengers.' What do Sales challengers do that's so effective and different?

As a Challenger, you offer a new perspective to your prospect and don't shy away from conversations about money. You understand what brings them value and leverage that information to deliver an irresistible pitch — and to pressure them tactfully. Remember the three T's: You teach them something valuable, tailor the sales pitch, and take control of the conversation.

Here are the stats

  • 40% of high sales performers primarily used a Challenger style.
  • High performers were more than 2x likely to use a Challenger approach than any other approach.
  • More than 50% of all-star performers fit the challenger profile in complex sales.
  • Only 7% of top performers took a relationship-building approach — the worst-performing profile.

Another book that profoundly influenced me was 'Inbound Marketing' by Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan, founders of Hubspot.

The first key point in the book is the importance of creating a marketing flywheel of resources that not only hit every channel but also hit each sales stage, as well as utilize every type of content out there, from ebooks to videos.

The second key point I took is the importance of almost zen-like communication between the marketing and sales teams.

You can do all the lead scoring, ABM campaigning, and predictive analytics you like but if your Sales & Marketing teams are not communicating effectively, these strategies will have limited effects.

By 'communicating' I suggest having real conversations about how you are working together - the pros and cons; Don't be afraid to get down & dirty about what's going wrong!

These exchanges require having trust, being honest, and sharing vulnerabilities and mistakes on both sides. This requires psychological safety across the company. Even more importantly, this trust is built up over time. So if you have a bad culture and/or high turnover, that could be a problem.

At Zscaler, I met with our sales team & each salesperson once a week. Based on those conversations, we went through their target accounts and figured out approaches and campaigns.

At Visual IQ, not a week went past that I hadn't talked to at least three VPs of Sales at some length about their targets and how to accomplish them.

Why is it important to hold Your Teams Accountable With a Service-Level Agreement?

The Sales and Marketing SLA

An SLA agreement between a service provider and its customer guarantees a specific output. When it comes to sales and marketing, this is a two-way agreement, with marketing promising a certain number of leads to sales and sales promising to contact those leads within a defined timeframe. 

In this activity, you'll need your sales data for an entire year divided into quarters. You'll need to know the following:

● How many qualified leads did you generate? 

● How many of them became sales opportunities? 

● How many of those opportunities are closed to create new customers? 

● What was the value of each sale? 

A typical SLA: 

Every month, marketing will deliver ______ qualified leads to sales, and sales will contact each of those leads within _____ hours of receiving it. 

An SLA like that puts you in the top 5% of companies. But you can be even better than that.

The Judicial Branch

Sales and Marketing often jostle on almost every issue that crosses both functions. A typical conversation may sound something like this:

Salesperson: the leads this quarter were weak. That's why I missed my target

Marketer: What are you talking about? The leads this quarter are better than ever!

Now, this is a very simplistic way of demonstrating the problem. It may be similar to what I experienced at an Enterprise software company a few years ago.

Marketing had generated a lead through an event, which we then marketed to, mainly through email and some google ad retargeting. Finally, about nine months after this event, the lead broke through and eventually became a sale – one of almost $5 million (annual license). 

While attributing the lead, the salesperson claimed that this was a contact he had been networking with during this time; the lead was, in fact, a friend of his of over five years standing. This situation can be quite commonplace in industries like Telecommunications, or Insurance, which are amazingly incestuous; everyone seems to know everyone.

How did we solve this conflict? The Chief Commercial Officer split the lead source between sales and marketing generated. 

However, ideally, I recommend having a person outside sales and marketing make these decisions. For the judicial branch to be effective, it's paramount that its members are unbiased and focused on what's best for the company.

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