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Setting Goals: How to Use a Scorecard to Hold Yourself (And Your Team) accountable.

What is a Scorecard?

A scorecard is simply a way to document the work you’ll do over the course of the year. The concept of a Balanced Scorecard was introduced in the Harvard Business Review back in 1992. Think of it as a corporate vision board. What are the big goals your company or department has? How will you reach them? Where do you want to be by the end of the year? 

Why does my department need one? 

If you work in a center of excellence, lead a team or your company is in a transition phase, a scorecard will keep everyone on the same page about what the big goals are and how you will achieve them. A good scorecard can prevent shiny object syndrome. There are so many great things you and your team COULD do, but what SHOULD you do to keep moving things forward? When you create a scorecard and your leadership team and stakeholders sign off on it, you’re agreeing to the big priorities for the year. While priorities could change due to some external factors out of your control, the scorecard should not be edited. If there is a major shift in the business (a competitor comes out of nowhere to crush you, you lose funding, the CEO leaves in the middle of a scandal) you should meet with your leadership team to review the scorecard and re-align initiatives and priorities. 

What should we include in a scorecard?

Your scorecard should reflect all major initiatives, who is responsible for the execution, how much progress you intend to make each quarter and where you need to be by the end of the year.  Within your team, you’ll then be able to drill down further. If you know what needs to be done each quarter you can then plan out how you’ll accomplish these goals at a monthly and then weekly level. This detail may be in the form of individual project plans for each initiative, but does not need to be part of the scorecard process. 

How do we create our scorecard?

You can start with the four questions that the HBR team poses:

  • How do customers see us? (customer perspective)
  • What must we excel at? (internal perspective)
  • Can we continue to improve and create value? (innovation and learning perspective)
  • How do we look to shareholders? (financial perspective)

If these aren’t exactly right for you and your team, think about a few areas you need to focus on to achieve your department goals and support the overall company goals.  

Other things to consider:

  1. What is the company goal for the year? How much revenue does the company need to bring in and how does my department impact revenue? 
  2. What can we accomplish with the resources we currently have? Do we need to ask for or allocate additional resources? 
  3. How do we work with other departments? What interdependencies exist and how do we collaborate most effectively? 
  4. Who are our stakeholders? What do we need to do to support them? How do we communicate with stakeholders and when? 
  5. Who is going to determine if we are successful? How do we show our progress and successes? 

How Becoming a Project Manager Made Me a Better Sales Professional

Computer monitor on desk

This is the first post of a two-part series. Next time, I will share how I use my sales experience to make myself a better project manager.

A few years ago, right after I got my PMP, a recruiter told me that sales was the only career path she knew that wouldn’t benefit from having that credential. I personally thought that was the biggest load of bulls*&! I had ever heard. I didn’t end up working with that recruiter but I do hope she reads this before continuing to preach that gospel.

What is a project?

So, lets start at the beginning – A project is defined by Project Management Institute (PMI) as a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. And what is a sale? A sale is the process in which a person or company persuades another person or company to exchange their resources (money) for another product or service.

In project management, we follow 5 distinct phases, Initiation, Planning, Executing, Monitoring and Controlling, and Closing. A good project manager has a process for guiding his or her projects through each phase, documenting milestones, logging risks and issues, and reporting to stakeholders throughout.

This process is not unlike sales, where we guide a buyer through a funnel that begins with awareness, moves to interest, then the decision and ultimately the action. Along the way a sales professional will share content, communicate with the buyer via email, on the phone or in person and will document milestones and update stakeholders (the buyer, their sales VP, product team etc) along the way. The salesperson will also close the sale and provide resources to make sure the transaction is successful and invite the buyer to make additional purchases in the future.

How are sales and project management skills related?

So how are these two processes related and what skills does a project manager possess that if mastered can help make you a good sales person?

Alignment

A good project manager will make sure that their team is a aligned to a project charter and a project plan. The project manager make sure that everyone understands the goals of the project and how the work they’re doing supports the overarching goals. No matter how large or small of a role a team member plays in the project, he or she needs to understand why they are doing what they are doing and get the work done on time within scope.

In sales, a salesperson has to coordinate resources both inside their organization as well as in the potential buyers organization. From ensuring that they buyer understands how the product or service works to ensuring that the internal resources are aligned or operationalize what was sold and provide support. That means communicating with a lot of people and planning next steps as deals move quickly through the sales process. If a deal gets stuck somewhere, the salesperson needs to quickly figure out what happened and how to fix it. Not unlike a project that has gotten off schedule or is running over budget!

Trusted Advisor

In many cases, members of a project team don’t report to the project manager. This means the project manager needs to find a way to inspire (hopefully) or compel (if inspiration doesn’t work) each member of the project team to complete their work on time and within scope.

As a salesperson, you are also a trusted advisor. Just like project resources don’t always report directly to the project manager, internal resources don’t report to the salesperson. Additionally, a good salesperson has a deep understanding of their clients roles, challenges and industry and can help guide a client through the buying process. By bringing industry insight and experience to their customers, a salesperson is often viewed as a trusted advisor.

Superior listening skills

As a project manager you are always listening to ensure the ‘health’ of the project. A good project runs within scope and budget and project team members have the time and tools to do their jobs. Creating an environment where this is possible requires a lot of listening. The project manager is listening as the team reviews the scope and charter to ensure it is realistic. They are listening as the client explains their vision to ensure the project will deliver. They are also listening as the team discusses the work – looking for any tension or risk to the project. And finally they are listening as issues arise, to get ahead of them and remove any blockers.

A great salesperson is also always listening and learning. They are listening to their clients describe challenges they have, they are listening to objections so that they can overcome them. They are also listening for alignment – a good salesperson makes sure everyone understands what they are buying and how it works to avoid buyers remorse or mismanaging expectations in the future.

Root Cause Analysis

When something goes wrong in a project (and it happens in almost every project) the project manager performs what is known as a root cause analysis. Root cause analysis goes beyond just “putting out a fire”. It involves getting to the root of the problem to understand what really happened, why it happened and how it happened so it won’t happen again. For example, I was project managing some HTML5 banner builds for a client. One set of projects in particular kept being sent back with errors in contrast and sizing in the animation. My developer would fix the issue but every time we did, the client came back with more issues. Finally, the developer was able to explain to me that there was an issue in the design file he had gotten from the client’s designer that was causing the problems my client was reporting. We were able to sit with the designer and explain how to fix the files. This solved the problem for the foreseeable future and saved my developer many hours of fixing issues.

The same techniques apply in sales. When a client says no, the salesperson can also perform a root cause analysis to understand why. For example, when selling CRM’s to small or medium local business a client says no because they don’t have the budget to implement the system, train their sales team and keep up with technology. As a salesperson, you can understand the root cause of their no is that they feel they don’t have the budget or the resources to implement the system and have it be adopted by the sales team. Since you understand why they’re saying no, you can ask them if it is okay to bring your implementation manager in to meet them before they officially pass on your product. Your implementation manager takes your client through your company’s robust implementation, training and adoption resources and plan. Your client asks you to review the budget and timeline one more time and then decides to sign! This is because you understood the cause of their NO and you were able to show them a better way forward that they did not see before.

Time Management

Project managers are tasked with completing a project in a designated time frame. A project could last a day, a week or even several years depending on the scope. In digital marketing, a project manager may work with the same client for years on a retainer. This means the project manager will be responsible for working with the client to execute many projects that help them advance their business goals. The project manager will then need to communicate timelines and scope with the client consistently. If the project manager doesn’t complete either enough work or the right work in the designated time frame, he or she will not help the client achieve their goals and hit milestone’s for growth on time.

Additionally, the project manager needs to be a great estimator. He or she needs to understand how long it takes a project team member to do their job. This means leaving some cushion for when life happens – someone gets sick, someone goes on vacation or needs to take the afternoon away from project work to attend a doctor’s appointment or school function. If a task will take my developer 8 hours (a typical business day) to complete a task, I will always try to allow about 2.5 business days. This is because in an agency setting a developer will usually work with a few clients at a time and he or she can’t always get an 8 hour time block that isn’t interrupted by an urgent need, meeting or other business. By allowing 2.5 days or business hours (assuming again an 8 hour day) my developer has time to complete the task and perform a solid QA and testing on what they’ve built. Usually we’re able to turn things around faster but the extra day and a half helps ensure we’re able to underpromise and overdeliver.

A salesperson needs to also be an excellent time manager. He or she will usually have an annual sales goal and other key performance indicators that they need to meet to achieve their quota and attain all of the commissions and bonuses that are part of their compensation plans.

For example, let’s you need to sell $120,000 in advertising this year and have at least 6 in-person meetings each week, attend 4-6 networking events per month, and join one professional association. How do you do this? Let’s start with the sales volume. $120,000 is $10,000 per month. To keep it really simple if your average sale is a $5,000 package, you need to sell two packages per month. If you only sell one package in a month, the next month you’ll need to sell three. This sounds less intimidating, right? Obviously, if you sell smaller packages, you will need to sell a few more and larger packages a few less!

Now for the KPIs. If you need to meet with 4-6 prospects every week in person you can work to schedule these meetings a week or two in advance. Each week you’ll add more meetings to the calendar so that you always have enough. Shoot to schedule 7 or 8 meetings per week with the understanding that on occasion an emergency, rescheduling, or other cancellation will pop up. This way, even if that happens you should still achieve this KPI more often than not. If you are able to take at least two of these meetings per month and turn them into sales – you’re very well on your way to achieving your sales goals too!

So that you aren’t wasting your time, ask prospects in these meetings about the networking events they attend and see if you can join them. This way you are able to continue to build your relationship with your prospect outside of your meeting and potentially meet others who have similar interests and needs. If you do this right, at the networking event you will meet new people to set up meetings with. See? No time is wasted!

Finally, in addition to all of this meeting and networking, a salesperson needs to create proposals, follow up on them, prepare contracts for signature, document their efforts in a CRM, provide reports to company leaders, forecast and budget, and participate in feedback sessions to refine product or service offerings. Is your head spinning yet? A good salesperson’s isn’t because they know how to manage their time and get it all done!

This was a very long winded way to say that while sales and project management seem like wildly different disciplines there are some skills both use. There are a lot of lessons from my project management training and experience that I use when working in business development. Stay tuned for part two of this series where I will talk about the skills I have learned as a salesperson that make me a stronger project manager!

Water, Water Everywhere and Not a Drop to Drink

For today’s post I want to look at cold LinkedIn pitches. I have run several client’s LinkedIn profiles for them and some of the messaging I have seen is beyond ridiculous. Other messages look fine but don’t elicit a response from my clients. (Sorry if you thought you were actually talking to one of my clients and it was actually me.)

I am not going to use this post to go over the basics of profile building or connecting since there are plenty of articles on this. If you want to learn the ins and outs I am happy to connect you to some additional resources.

I am going to share three examples of pitches that from the surface look okay and why they’re not ideal. I see many variations of these same themes over and over – obviously there is some bad information out there that had been spread around.

Note names have been changed to protect all parties, companies are redacted and links are changed to a generic link type so that there are no identifying company details. (Don’t @ me for putting people on blast — that is not the point of this post)

Example 1:

Hey Sally ,

I saw your profile and like what you’re doing. Pretty impressive.

I am the Founder of Blah Blah Marketing Company , we help consultants (whatever industry) like you bring in a steady flow of clients consistently. The best part, we are completely free if we are not able to bring in your leads.

We guarantee at least 20 leads in 30 days and I honestly think that your business will be able to take advantage of those leads and grow immensely. Grab an available time in my calendar and let’s discuss further. Say, this coming week? Here’s my calendar link: https://calendly.com/vanitylink 

Thanks, Jim

Why this approach is less than ideal:  While the pitch starts with a complement it could be much more specific. If Jim had actually done any research on Sally or her company he could have opened with a congratulations on a milestone, a comment on a recent article or podcast episode or something more specific to her business. Sally is also not a consultant, while she is in a business that relies on clients, she does not provide consulting services. Again, shows me that Jim hasn’t done any research and is copying and pasting his business pitch. Third, without knowing Sally’s industry, audience, pricing and goals how can Jim guarantee her 20 leads in 30 days? Now I am just skeptical and not planning to engage with Jim further. Personally, I hate when people I don’t know drop me an unsolicited Calendly link to book a call with them. If you disagree with me feel free to let me know in the comments!

Example 2:

Hi Vanessa,

I’ve passed by your profile a few times and I’m curious to see if I could help you grow your business by getting published on major online sites such as Entrepreneur.com or Inc.com? I’d love to schedule a quick call if you’re open to it. I have some openings next week.

Thanks,

Jen

Why this approach is less than ideal: While this message doesn’t necessarily look bad, my client Vanessa has been published on many leading sites and is a contributor to Forbes. The message shows me very quickly that Jen did zero research on my client and knows nothing about her needs or goals.

Example 3:

Hi Jon!

Thank you for the connect. After reviewing your profile – impressive by the way – we reached out because we are interested in speaking about your background. You may preview the opportunity and description of who we are seeking at http://www.companycareer.com If you believe you meet these requirements and foresee potential alignment, feel free to schedule an initial 5-min call to discuss potential synergies and candidate selection process. In scheduling a call, please use my personal scheduler for ease of synchronization at https://calendly.com/fakeperson.

Hope you have a great day. –

Dan

Why this is less than ideal:  Again, Dan has not done and research on Jon. Jon is an executive leadership coach. Second, the message is full of buzz words and jargon – potential alignment? synergies? I still don’t understand why Jon should book a call with Dan – and I have made certain he won’t. I see this a lot with clients who own small businesses. The other variation is recruiters looking to fill roles. Do your research! My clients have their own businesses and will not come work onsite full time for your client. It says so right in their profile.

The moral of this story is – tailor your pitch to your prospect. Ask about their goals and needs, do your research, and use plain English!

In the comments feel free to share some of the best (or worst!) you’ve ever seen!

It’s Nice to Meet You (But You Haven’t Met Me)

“It’s nice to meet you” the words smacked me in the face about twelve seconds after accepting a LinkedIn connection request.

There are many philosophies about sending requests to people you don’t actually know — or accepting requests from people you don’t actually know.

My personal philosophy is it’s a judgement call. For me I automatically say yes to people who fit my client profile, work for a former employer and/or are in a similar industry. It’s always good to see their content and you never know when a great collaboration will come from it.

Usually after connecting with someone outside of my usual network I will send (or receive) a quick note to say thanks for the connection and a little bit about why it’s great to be connected.

Catch my eye and I will be happy to grab a coffee or jump on a quick call so we can learn more about each other’s careers and what we’re looking for on LinkedIn.

I have even had some of the most fun and informational knowledge sharing calls come from random LinkedIn connections. Not to mention the number of clients I have met just by being active on the platform. It’s true what they say, your network is your net worth and if you use LinkedIn the right ways both can expand dramatically.

But this time, it felt different. There was no explanation of why the person had reached out. Just intrusive conversation. I don’t know you. I’ve never met you. Jumping in with both feet felt as awkward as a stranger walking up to me on the street and starting in the middle of a conversation .

Next time you connect with someone new, think about what it would be like in person – say thank you, explain why you want to connect and you’ll make a much better first impression. If you make a good impression and start the relationship off on a positive note, you have a better chance of getting what you want from the connection.

The Art of Tidying Up… My Business and My Life

Well, It’s January and it seems like everywhere I look someone is cleaning out a closet, watching the Marie Kondo Nextflix episodes or talking about cleansing, changing or removing something from their life or business practices.

I was curious to see if this would influence my life or business and when. Over the summer I had found myself in a situation where I needed to empty my closets for some work being done on my home.

It was an amazing opportunity to clean out, throw away and remove items that were no longer serving a purpose – or sparking joy as Marie would say.

Now, 6 months later – I don’t feel like that was final and as I look around my cozy little home office I am finding so many things that are cluttering up my space and my mind.

On the homepage of this website (my internet home). I talk about how many clients call me because they are overwhelmed by noise. The noise of tools, resources, coaches, consultants and the internet telling them how they should run their business.

What happens when I find myself getting sucked into the noise? Last week that is exactly what happened. I looked at something online that made me the subject of every email marketer, business guru, 6 figure rainmaker and everyone in between’s remarketing campaign.

I was literally bombarded with ads including case studies of 6 figure coaches (Who wanted me to pay $10K for a mastermind!) Email marketing gurus who made a million dollars with smoke, mirrors and a 6 email drip sequence, and everyone in between.

So, instead of getting sucked into the rabbit hole of every digital marketing trick or MLM scheme I hid ads, unfollowed the creators and did what I coach all of my clients to do. I put my head down, I refined my plan and I feel ready to take on 2019 as a business owner creating content and marketing in a way that sparks joy.

On 2018: Reflections of a New Business Owner

2018 has been one of the busiest years of my life and career.

In 12 short months I have started a new job, been through a significant reduction in force, two mergers, losing a job, unemployment and finishing the year with a profitable first quarter as a business owner. During this time, I also expanded my family and adopted my partner in all things including my business, my dog, Charlie.

In the most cliche manner ever, I am now going to tell you the most valuable lessons I learned through all of it.

Fake it till you make it (everyone else does).

When I first started working for the Digital Marketing agency I was overwhelmed to say the least. At a big enterprise, when you do a project you spend a LOT of time planning and checking in on progress. Managing digital projects is like changing a tire while the car is moving by comparison. A big change in technique for a Project Manager. Now add about 25 projects, 20 people and the merging of three teams at once — I was in uncharted territory. My CEO reminded me that Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg all at one point felt the way I did . – they had never done it before either. And now, even though there are millions of business owners all over the world and they all started somewhere, no one is running the same business as I am. All I can do is take all of the experience I have and bring it to clients who need it. I have tools, training and experience enough to carry me forward. And if that fails, I can always look at some of the mistakes I made along the way and just do the opposite of what I did before!

You will fall flat on your face (probably multiple times) and it will not be a big deal.

I got fired in 2018. Even writing this makes my stomach knot up again. But it shouldn’t. Almost everyone I know has been fired once in their life and nobody died, everyone has come back from it and either learned some important lessons, or found a role that was a better fit for them. I always thought getting fired was the absolute worst thing that could happen to a person. I thought it only happened to people who “deserved it”. But now that I’ve been through it, I can honestly say it was one of the best things that ever happened. I was in a job that wasn’t a good fit, working more hours then were good for my health and most importantly, I hadn’t smiled at work in months. Once the bruises on my ego faded and I’d had some time to clear my head getting fired felt like a blessing. I spent the summer bonding with my new puppy, and shaping a future that would give me financial stability and a life and career I loved. The old cliche is true, failure is neither fatal or final (but with the right perspective it can lead to some fun).

You have more power and control than you think you do.

My whole career I felt like I had to do all the right things, climb the ladder, navigate the politics and wait for the promotion or new opportunity. My salary, benefits and promotional opportunities were at the mercy of my employer. I learned the benefit of having multiple revenue streams, not putting all my eggs in one basket and using every talent I had (while discovering new ones). This year was really about stepping into my own power and being clear when something wasn’t working for me while asking for more of the things that were working well.

The hustle is important but other things are more important.

Adopting a puppy changes your world in ways you can’t even begin to imagine if you’ve never owned a dog. Charlie demanded tons of playtime, loves being outdoors (when it’s 75 degrees and sunny), and watching him experience new things brings me joy like I’ve never experienced. One of my fondest memories was the last warm day this year. We closed the office – put on every auto responder we have and just enjoyed an afternoon out and about in our neighborhood. I never would have been able to do this if I still had a traditional 9 to 5.

You don’t have to be the best at anything you just have to do it.

In a similar vein to done is better than perfect, you don’t have to wait until you’ve won all the awards or gotten all of the certifications to make a change. Skills transfer, mentors are always available and going back to lesson number one, sometimes it’s okay to fake it until you make it. (As long as you’re taking calculated and strategic risks and have some manner of safety net).

I ended 2018 on a very high note, a full client roster heading into the new year, a great relationship with my new puppy and a plan to hit aggressive personal, professional and financial goals in 2019. I am looking forward to working with new clients and partners as I continue to learn and grow my business.

You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there will always be someone who hates peaches. – Dita Von Teese

In sales, a lot of times you’ll hear businesses who are new technology or industry “disruptors” say they have no competition. 

This is a sentiment I wholeheartedly disagree with. In many cases companies have pretty direct competition. Even if a product or service out there can’t get the same results as you can, you are still competing with everything else your prospect can do with his or her dollar. 

In 2008 Kyra Johannsen and Lian Tal opened Body and Pole. One of the first pole dancing fitness studios in the heart of New York City. They essentially started the pole fitness trend on the east coast. The next 10 years saw their studio grow from one 750 square foot classroom with 1 class running at a time to over 10,000 square feet. They have added aerial classes on silks, hoop, and hammock and run hundreds of classes a week. Students come from all over the world to train with them. 

While Body and Pole is considered the gold standard for this type of training on the east coast, and perhaps around the world, instructors there work hard to constantly raise the bar. In their ElevatED education program, where they train teachers, Johannsen and her colleagues constantly remind new instructors who their competition is. They say you aren’t just competing with other instructors but you are competing with everything else your students could be doing with their time or money. 

Now, I am sure you are saying to yourself what does that have to do with ME and MY business? I’m not planning to open a pole dancing studio (or maybe you are, but that’s another blog post for another day). What if you adopted the same mindset for your business? 

How would you market yourself if you knew you were competing with ANYTHING else your customers could do with those dollars? You might be thinking but I am a B2B business and my customers can’t live without me! 

Let’s say you’ve been providing marketing strategy to a law firm for 10 years. Your strategies have a clear ROI and the firm is happy. What happens when the CMO retires and the new guy comes in and decides the firm is only going to focus on SEO and brings in a new agency? You didn’t lost your contract to another marketer – you lost to company leadership reallocating the budget. 

Try it this week – ask yourself what else could your clients do with the money they spend on your product or service. Let me know in the comments how it goes. Will you change your strategy or communication going forward?