Uptime is primetime

At PipelineDeals, we are product engineers. We work on a 12 year old codebase that powers a SaaS product that tens of thousands of our customers spend a large portion of their day using, and rely upon to drive and maintain their relationships with their customers. We have all sorts of metrics to track how we’re doing as an engineering team. Reigning supreme above all others, is uptime.

What’s my uptime?

In the early days of the web, uptime was pretty straight-forward. Everyone was publishing monolithic apps that either let you log in and do your thing or it didn’t. The URL either resolved correctly and presented a working application, or it didn’t. If it failed, it would show a 500 page, browser DNS error page or it spun indefinitely and never did anything. 

These days, large and complex apps are typically delivered as a set of networked but independent services, each performing their task and communicating with others. At PipelineDeals, we began with a monolithic application from which we extracted several services, each with their own persistent storage and responsibilities.

From a systems engineering perspective, this approach gives us new tools to help us provide a higher guarantee of availability than is possible under a monolithic delivery model.



Circuit Breakers

The boundaries between services, where one part of the application is depending on data or functionality provided by another, can be hardened against cascading failure using a circuit breaker. This is a piece of logic that will be invoked if there is a network error, internal server error, etc. that prevents a service from responding in a timely manner. This code will return a default value to the client service, allowing execution of the user’s web request to continue (albeit with a degraded or eventually-consistent state).

For example, one of the core services that powers PipelineDeals is responsible for billing and subscriptions. When the main app needs to know which features a particular user or account has access to, it must make an internal API call to this billing service. What if the database server this billing service talks to has a hardware failure? 

Well, since we have a circuit breaker installed in the code that handles this communication, the main app will detect that requests to the billing API are currently timing out or failing. Noticing this, it will substitute a standard set of features instead of the realtime set that would be returned from the billing service, and continue with serving the user’s request.

Without the circuit breaker, a failure in the billing service would have cascaded into failures in all services dependent on it. In this naive case, the app’s uptime is only as good as the uptime of the least reliable service in the request’s critical path through the system. 

Yellow WARNING Barrier Tape Background Isolated on White


Early Warning System

Service-based apps have some failure modes that you don’t see in monolithic apps. Chief among these is the cascading failure. One component will start receiving more load than it can handle, causing requests to it from other components to fail or hang around waiting for a response. These delays or failed requests will pile up in these client components, causing retries and degraded service to their clients, and so forth. Before you know it, the whole web of interdependent services will seize up and start refusing or failing requests from the web app and customer API calls and cause a downtime event.

There’s an opportunity here, as well. Well-designed services have well-defined boundaries, and it’s at these boundaries that we can look for trouble (any good monitoring service will make this easy to set up) and alert early. Data points that we’ve found helpful to monitor include queue job count, error rates and API request 95th percentile response times.

Responding to these alerts early enough will allow a team to avoid a full-blown downtime by, at worst, shutting down services not critical to the core product during an emergency. Happy days!

Panorama of medieval town walls. Avila, Spain


Defence in Depth

We can also look at the monitoring and alerting infrastructure in a top-down way. Failures can occur not only across components but also at different layers within a single component. Imagine you suddenly start seeing elevated 5xxresponses to user-facing web transactions. What’s the cause? Depending on your infrastructure and setup, this could point to a problem with your DNS setup, load balancers, application host, web server, routing layer, database, in-memory object storage, etc.

In an emergency situation, the less probing in the dark we have to do, the better. Setting up monitoring at every level of the stack is an excellent way to cut down this search space. For example, our ping tests report everything is fine but application error monitoring is showing elevated error responses, its reasonable to conclude that everything upstream of your app servers is functioning correctly and that the likely culprit is a recent code change.



Cost / Benefit

So, what are all these handy dashboards and fancy infrastructure going to cost you? It’s a sliding scale. There are engineering teams working at all points on the spectrum between a single monolithic app and a constellation of microservices. Having said that, there is no question that there are additional fixed and marginal costs of delivering your app as a set of networked services.

Most easily measurable are the direct costs of extra servers and hosting infrastructure. We usually want redundancy at the level of the hardware that the service is running on, so most production setups will deploy one service per server instance. The extra database hardware to isolate storage per service is another significant cost, as is the data transferred between service APIs.

The cost incurred for your engineering team’s time is much harder to quantify. Even assuming everyone on the team has the DevOps chops to isolate and debug production issues, the resolution of those issues will necessarily be more complex as they involve more moving parts than under the original monolithic approach.

Do I need it?

Distributed application architectures are not a silver bullet for all that ails your application. In fact, shoehorned into a deployment that doesn’t make sense, it will multiply your problems. Best practice is to begin your app with a simple, monolithic deployment model that’s quick to iterate and develop new features for. As your app acquires paying customers, you’re building a business case for investing the time and money required to improve the resiliency of the infrastructure the business relies on. Even at this point, that may not mean a fully distributed service model as we’ve discussed above – it’s an art as much as it is a science.

A-Z Sales Glossary

If you’re new to the sales world or want to understand it better, you’ll need to arm yourself with all the latest sales jargon. Sales, like most industries, has a specialized language those in the know are familiar with. While you wouldn’t use much sales terminology with a customer, you will use it when talking to other sales reps or managers.

Sales jargon helps salespeople communicate quickly and effectively with each other, while also signaling their confidence  and competence — with the tricks of their trade. As such, it’s crucial to have a working knowledge of sales terminology.

Our A-to-Z sales glossary will make sure you walk into your next meeting prepared to talk shop and impress your sales team.

A-Z Sales Terminology

To help organize sales and marketing terminology, we’ve put some common sales lingo in alphabetical order for your convenience.

A/B Testing

In sales, A/B testing, otherwise known as split testing, refers to an experiment that compares two or more variants. Generally, the tests rely on market response to each option. For example, you might conduct an A/B test to see which version of a landing page converts more sales, on average.

Sales A/B Testing

Account

Regardless of whether it is an individual or corporate customer, an account refers to the primary and background information on a client. These details could range from their contact information to their purchasing history and their preferences.

Account-Based Everything

Account-based everything (ABE), also known as account-based revenue (ABR), is the framework a company uses to target a similar set of accounts. With ABE, you would make sure to personalize your marketing, customer success and sales strategies to a set of customer accounts. This structure will guide you through the customer lifecycle and help increase your conversion rate, along with customer satisfaction.

Account-Based Marketing (ABM)

ABM is a business marketing strategy where you focus on marketing and sales resources on a specific set of accounts within a market. You’ll personalize these marketing efforts for the needs of a segment of the market, increasing consumer engagement.

Account-Based Selling (ABS)

B2B companies primarily use this sales framework as an alternative to a contact-based or lead-based approach. ABS treats high-value accounts with incredible care, and will devote teams across your whole company to try to earn sales from these large accounts. Your organization will make sure their marketing and sales efforts are highly personal and will engage with the client through many different teams in your company.

Account Based Selling

Account Development Representative (ADR)

An ADR is a sales specialist who focuses on generating new leads for account executives.

Account Executive

An account executive is a business executive who manages a customer’s account. They will pay close attention to the interests and goals of existing clients to be of best service to them. To the clients they manage, the account executive is the face of the company.

B2B

Business-to-business, more commonly called B2B, is a model for building relationships with and selling to other businesses. A B2B company will have other companies as clients.

B2C

B2C stands for business-to-consumer, and is a model for engaging with and selling to consumers. A B2C company will have consumers as their clients.

BANT

Standing for budget, authority, need and timeline, BANT is a sales qualification methodology that evaluates whether a lead is worth pursuing. If a prospect does not have at least one of these four factors in place, it’s unlikely it will be worth pursuing them.

Bant Sales Qualification

Bluebird

You can only hope a bluebird happens to you. The term describes a high-paying sales opportunity that comes to you without much, if any, effort on your part.

Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU)

BOFU is the zone of the sales funnel where the prospect is almost ready to close on a purchase.

Brag Book

As an essential tool for many companies, a brag book is a collection of evidence that demonstrates your company’s successes. This evidence can come in the form of testimonials, pictures, case studies and many others. A brag book is helpful for sales team members who are trying to get a potential customer to trust they can deliver on their promise.

Buying Signals

These signals are verbal or nonverbal cues from a potential customer that they are ready to close the deal and purchase a service or product.

Call for Proposal

This phrase refers to when an organization or individual calls for various companies to try to sell something to them. This organization or individual may be looking for a new product or service, and wants to get the best deal from a vendor. In these situations, companies will compete against each other to try to win the client’s business.

Closed Question

A closed question is one that usually only necessitates a short yes-or-no answer. Examples of ways sales professionals can use these questions are as follows.

  • To push a customer to make a decision: “Are you ready to sign our contract?”
  • To encourage them to take a position: “Do you like your current service?”

Cold Call

When a salesperson tries to speak with a prospect on the phone or in person without any prior contact with them, they are engaging in a cold call.

Cold Email

Similar to a cold call, a cold email is when a salesperson emails a prospect who has no knowledge of, or prior contact with, them.

Cold Email Sales

Cross-Selling

When you cross-sell, you are selling complementary or similar products to existing customers. Many companies will attempt to cross-sell by marketing related products to previous customers.

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

CAC is the amount of resources and costs required to acquire a new customer. To calculate CAC, all you need to do is divide the money and time spent on acquiring new customers in a given period by the number of new customers. This metric is valuable when you want to evaluate how much money you are spending while scaling up your business.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System

A CRM system is a sales pipeline management software that aims to help companies create deeper relationships. In a CRM system, you can manage contacts, keep track of the sales process and add insight into your client base.

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)

Otherwise known as user lifetime value (ULV), CLV is a crucial stat to measure a customer’s value over the lifetime of their relationship with your company. To measure CLV, use a simple formula: customer revenue minus the cost it took to acquire and serve the customer.

Deal Flow

Your deal flow relates to how fast your sales team receives new leads and sales opportunities.

Sales Deal Flow

Decision-Maker

A decision-maker is the person who has the final say-so on a sale or purchase.

Demand Generation

When your marketing team attempts to create excitement or perceived need over a company’s service or product, they are engaging in a practice called demand generation. Sales professionals often use this style of marketing to promote new products, tap into fresh markets, increase customer loyalty and generate a buzz among consumers.

Draw

The amount of money given to a sales rep in advance is a draw. Companies that offer this type of advance base it on a salesperson’s future earning potential, and they will usually expect the salesperson to repay it. Companies tend to offer draws to help compensate sales reps while they are starting.

Sales Draw

Emotional Sale

An emotional sale occurs when you try to appeal to a buyer’s emotions to get them to purchase a product. These tactics might play to a customer’s fears or anger about their experience, but they can also tap into more positive emotions, like their excitement or potential for more happiness with a new service.

FAB

FAB stands for featuresadvantages and benefits. It is a three-part structure sales reps can use to showcase the value of a product or service to a prospect. In this structure, you explain the features of the product or service, show the positives of said features and then relate those positives to specific benefits that would improve the prospect’s life.

Field Sales Rep

A salesperson who travels to meet prospects in person to pitch products and services is a field sales rep. More often than other sales reps, a field sales rep will handle high-end accounts.

Gatekeeper

A person who is in charge of filtering information to the decision-maker is in a gatekeeper role. A gatekeeper can be a receptionist or personal assistant who is the first point of contact before someone speaks to a decision-maker. Having someone in this position helps businesses filter out irrelevant information at the front line.

Inbound

Any material coming into your company that shows interest in a service or product is an inbound lead. These can come in the form of cold emails, your website’s contact page and press inquiries, among others.

Inside Sales Rep

Unlike the field sales rep, an inside sales rep does their business on a computer and over the phone. Typically, these sales reps handle smaller accounts than other sales reps and are a common position in many companies.

Intellectual Sale

The opposite of an emotional sale is an intellectual sale. These types of sales play to a prospect’s logical side. You will walk the potential client through how your product or service can solve their problems or add value to their life.

Land and Expand

This phrase refers to closing your first sale with a new customer, aka the landing, then generating more sales and revenue from the account through upselling or increasing what they buy from your company, or the expansion. Land and expand is a common tactic sales reps use to increase revenue from prospects.

Lead Generation

When you engage in lead generation, your company will be attempting to create interest in a product or service you offer. Companies will typically generate leads through content marketing, advertising, referrals, outbound marketing and partnerships.

Sales Lead Generation

Mirroring

A sales rep can build rapport with prospects by imitating, or “mirroring,” their body language and speech patterns to subtly create a connection with them.

Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR)

MRR refers to the total revenue generated from subscriptions. Businesses tend to use MRR to understand their business’ trajectory better.

MQLs

MQL stands for marketing qualified leads, or potential customers. For a prospect to be considered an MQL, they will need to have shown sufficient interest or engagement in your product or service. Your marketing department will identify your MQLs and then give them to your sales team who will try to convert them to SQLs.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Companies use this 10-point rating system to measure customer happiness and loyalty, as well as their odds of referring new customers. Businesses typically measure an NPS score by one core question: “On a scale of one to 10, how likely are you to recommend [company name/product/service] to a friend or colleague?” If a customer’s score is high, ask them to refer your company’s services to others. If they score low, you can learn how to improve your service by asking them to explain why they are dissatisfied.

NSA

NSA is an acronym for non-sales-related activities, which refers to the responsibilities sales reps undertake that aren’t directly related to sales. These responsibilities might include paperwork, administrative tasks, sales meetings or training.

Objections

A response from a customer indicating their questions or concerns are preventing them from buying your product or service is called an objection. Common objections may include need, urgency, trust and money. Closing a sale comes down to anticipating and answering objections.

Puppy-Dog Close

Companies using this strategy allow customers to try a product with no strings or obligations attached. The idea is if you let the customer sample the product for free, they will enjoy it so much that they don’t want to give it up and will end up buying it. Just like most people wouldn’t return a puppy after having it at home for a couple of days, most people aren’t going to return a product you let them take home, so they will end up buying it.

Sales Development Rep

This sales rep operates at the top of the sales funnel. Those in this position are often the first to contact a prospect, trying to decide if they should move down the sales funnel to a different sales rep. They do not try to close deals, as their goal is to set up the rest of their team for success.

Sales Engineer

As a mixture of a sales rep and an engineer, sales engineers specialize in selling technical, high-tech products to customers. They must have extensive familiarity with the product, knowing almost everything about it. Additionally, they must know how to communicate the benefits of the product in layman’s terms, answering any questions or objections the customer might have.

Sales Pipeline

As a way to visualize the sales process, the sales pipeline shows how close a lead is to buying a product or service. Many businesses use it to visualize their current sales opportunities.

Sales Pipeline

Sales Pipeline Coverage (SPC)

SPC is a way for sales managers to track the performance of their reps and ensure they are hitting quotas. It does this by comparing how full your pipeline is to the quota you need to meet in a given time. To calculate it, use the following formula: Pipeline Forecast / Sales Forecast = (Average Sales Days / 90 Days) * (1 / Close Rate).

Using this formula, if it takes your sales reps an average of 90 days to close, and their close rate is at 20%, your sales pipeline coverage ratio is five to one. If you want to hit your sales quota, the opportunities in your pipeline should be worth five times the quarterly sales forecast.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

An SQL is a potential customer who has shown sufficient interest in purchasing a product or service. Your sales and marketing teams should have already researched and vetted an SQL. Quota-carrying sales reps will handle SQLs.

Sandbagging

This phrase refers to a practice where a salesperson delays closing deals because they have already met their quota for a set period. After the period ends, they will close the deal to meet their quotas for the new period more easily. Sandbagging can also refer to setting low expectations for a company or individual, so even small successes have more substantial weight.

Signup Conversion Rate

This rate is based on how many website visitors sign up or register as users. You can calculate it by dividing landing page visitors by those who ended up registering for a service or product.

Signup-to-Paying Conversion Rate

This metric shows how many registered users become paying customers. You can calculate this rate by dividing your registered users by users who began paying for a product or service during a given period.

Smile and Dial

Though a customer can’t see your smile over the phone, they will be able to sense it. As a result, it’s a practice for cold-callers to make sure they have a positive tone paired with a smile while they speak with a prospect. Going in with a warm and trustworthy demeanor will keep prospects on the phone longer and cause them to not hang up on you.

Tire-Kicker

A tire-kicker refers to a prospect who either does not have the intention or means to buy. Tire-kickers may not have the budget or authority to purchase your product. Ultimately, a tire-ticker is a time-waster, and you should cut them loose.

Top of the Funnel (TOFU)

TOFU represents the beginning of the sales process. A TOFU lead will have shown some interest in your product and service and will be looking for more information. Sales development reps typically nurture these leads before moving them down the funnel.

Upselling

Upselling occurs when you convince a customer to buy a more expensive product than they originally intended, causing the sale to increase in value. Another way to upsell is to sell complementary services or products along with the original product the customer decided to buy.

Weighted Sales Pipeline

Companies that use a weighted pipeline recognize not all opportunities and prospects are going to end in a sale. In each stage of the pipeline, an opportunity gets assigned a value based on how likely they are to end up purchasing your product or service. The probability will continue to rise as an opportunity moves further down the pipeline. Many businesses use a weighted sales pipeline to predict their future revenue better.

Whale (or White Whale)

Named after the elusive white whale in Moby-Dick, a whale is a prospect that could bring in a considerable amount of sales revenue for your organization. These prospects are rare, and sales teams will put all their effort into landing one.

Zeroed Out

After receiving a draw as a salesperson, you will usually need to pay it back. Once you’ve brought your draw balance back to zero, you will have zeroed out your account. Zeroing out is especially important to do, since you will not be able to earn commissions until you’ve done so.

Interested in a CRM Software You’ll Actually Use?

If you’re in the market for a new CRM software system, we have you covered at PipelineDeals. Our software features account management, sales pipeline management, easy integration into other programs, seamless data migration and much more.

On top of all of these features, our award-winning CRM software is extremely affordable, only costing $1.10 per salesperson per day. Even better? We offer a 14-day free trial to see if you love the software as much as we think you will.

And, if you’re interested in learning more about the sales industry, our blog contains lots of useful information to help you feel even more confident in your sales knowledge.

If you have any questions, drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you.

CRM Software

PipelineDeals Awarded 2019 CRM Excellence Award

One of our core values is being customer obsessed. That’s why we are honored that we received the 2019 CRM Excellence Award for helping clients improve the customer experience.

CUSTOMER Magazine and TMC: 2019 CRM Excellence Award

It’s official. We’re the recipient of a 2019 CRM Excellence Award, presented by CUSTOMER magazine. The award also involves TMC, a global, integrated media company, and the criteria of the award is based on a company’s focus on expanding and improving customer relationships.

The CRM Excellence Awards rely on facts and statistics demonstrating the improvements that we have made in a customer’s business. Winners are chosen on the basis of their product or service’s ability to help extend and expand the customer relationship to become all encompassing, covering the entire enterprise and the entire lifetime of the customer. 

As the head of customer teams at PipelineDeals, I believe that this industry recognition shows the importance of the power of a sales CRM in the customer journey.  A sales CRM not only improves sales efficiency, sales team productivity and the bottom line — but also improves the customer experience 

What is Customer Centric About PipelineDeals

Here’s what we do and what we have a passion about.  We help businesses build game changing relationships. To do that means we need to build the tools that help sales leaders sell smarter. We do this by focusing on sales pipeline, lead, contact, and sales team management features. Above all, we’re the most adopted CRM among SMBs.  Our high adoption rate is impressive when you consider the low adoption rates in the industry. The highly trusted online software solutions platform called G2 rates products and vendors on reviews and we scored number one across its Summer 2019 Mid-Market Index Reports for CRM for all three Indexes that rate usability, implementation and relationship management. 

You can check out the G2 reports here.

Customers Choose PipelineDeals

That adoptabiity factor is crucial for CRM users. We accomplish this through and easy-to-use and customizable experience, sales focused features, and leading customer support and service. The end result? Our customers can close deals faster while building game changing relationships.

In our Customer Success Stories page on our website you can find exactly why our customers find value in PipelineDeals. It’s pretty inspiring.

I’ll end this post with a point of view directly from our those great customer success stories. We spoke to Jeff Vaughn, the VP of Sales at Trailer Bridge recently about how he’s doing with PipelineDeals. He’s in a great position as he is set up for success to keep up with his company’s growth. 

In summary, Trailer Bridge increased productivity by 100 percent and expanded its transportation and logistics operations by streamlining its sales process with PipelineDeals. The company will open a total of eight new branches within the next year. He sums it up best with his quote: 

“The larger we get, the more we need PipelineDeals. We call it ‘living in PipelineDeals.'”

— Jeff Vaughn, Vice President of Sales at Trailer Bridge

You can read more about the award criteria in the following article:

CUSTOMER Magazine Announces Winners of the 2019 CRM Excellence Award

Try PipelineDeals today. Get started with a 14-day free trial by clicking here.

PipelineDeals Sweeps G2’s Mid-Market Index Reports for CRM

PipelineDeals is the number one ranked mid-market CRM in G2’s newly released Mid-Market Index Reports for CRM.

Best CRM Software for Mid-Market Companies

After being named one of the top CRMs in G2’s Top 50 Products for Sales – Best Software Awards earlier this year, PipelineDeals has yet another top recognition to proudly call out.


G2 just released its Summer 2019 Mid-Market Index Reports for CRM and PipelineDeals ranks number one. Not just one of the reports but all three Index Reports.


G2 Index Reports are released on a quarterly basis. They rank products based on reviews gathered from the extensive G2 user community, as well as data aggregated from online sources and social networks. Reports are created for any categories that meet the data-ready criteria outlined by G2 Scoring Methodologies.

PipelineDeals is the Number One CRM for Mid-Market

PipelineDeals swept the following G2 Index Reports for CRM, earning the top position in each Index.

 


Mid-Market Relationship Index for CRM | Summer 2019

The chart highlights some of the factors which contribute to a product’s overall Relationship score. Ease of doing business with, quality of support, and likelihood to recommend data is shown in the table below.

“Great Business Tool”

All contact information, notes, To Do List are all in one place for each client. I can set up templates and use them regularly to ensure I don’t miss anything in the process of client relationship over the duration of an agreement.

— Stacey K, G2 Review

Mid-Market Implementation Index for CRM | Summer 2019

The chart highlights some of the factors which contribute to a product’s overall Implementation score. Deployment and implementation data is shown in the table below.

“I Love PipelineDeals!!!!”

We needed a system that was quick to implement, comprehensive, and cost effective. PipelineDeals is all of that for us. We are able to track and share activities so we can help each other with our deals.

— Janice D., G2 Review

Mid-Market Usability Index for CRM | Summer 2019

Some of the factors which contribute to a product’s overall Usability score. Ease of use, administration, and adoption data is shown in the table below.

“Easy to use and intuitive”

PipelineDeals is great for people, like myself, who have never really interacted with a CRM before. It’s intuitive, easy to use, clean, organized, and has a section for each relevant piece of customer information.

— Lara S., G2 Review

What is the Best Mid-Market CRM?

What makes the recognition so great is that G2 Mid-Market Index reports are based on data provided by users which represents the voice of the customer. G2 rates products and vendors on reviews that are offered on its robust and trusted online platform.  PipelineDeals achieved its leading rankings by receiving positive reviews from verified users compared to similar products in the CRM category on G2.
For more on this news you can read our press release.

You can also download the G2 Mid-Market Index reports for free right now by visiting our website.


Looking for a CRM? Check out this infographic:

PipelineDeals CRM Infographic

Click here to download the infographic.

Try PipelineDeals today. Get started with a 14-day free trial by clicking here.

EOS Makes an Engineering Team Stronger

We started out skeptical about whether the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) could have an impact on our engineering team. Today we work stronger than ever.

One Year: Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS)

All it took was some time, a few simple concepts, and practical tools. That’s the easy way to summarize EOS. Haven’t heard of this strange acronym? It stands for Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS) which one of the many organized systems out there you can choose to run a business.  For our software company, the EOS way of doing things certainly has had an impact and I’m here to tell you about EOS from a unique perspective: an engineering team’s perspective.


EOS and Engineers. Could it work?

I can say with full confidence that engineers are unique. If you know any engineers or if are an engineer yourself, you can understand what I mean. We tend to be skeptical about higher business processes because, well, we’ve got so many of our own we all already follow. So, when PipelineDeals decided to adopt EOS we all raised a brow. Sure, it could work for the other departments but our department? We’re engineers! We do things differently. We think differently.

Our first impressions about EOS changed soon enough.

Engineering Challenges EOS

Here’s a bit of company background. PipelineDeals rolled out this new way of doing things  to set a new course for all teams to run the subfunctions of our software-as-a-service business including Product, Marketing, Sales and Customer Teams. Our team was included, of course, and if you are familiar with how engineering teams run, you can imagine the challenges.

Like I mentioned earlier, engineering teams often find it difficult to adopt higher business level processes as their processes are already well defined and very different, such as Agile (Scrum, Kanban, Lean, etc).  

When EOS was presented to us, we wondered how we could adopt a business process given we had one that worked great for us already? And why should a process for running an entire business apply to software engineering?

With a team of skeptical engineering minds behind me, we looked forward with concern hardly expecting EOS would in fact make our engineering team stronger.

EOS Background

I’ll get more into what I mean by stronger. Who doesn’t want to run a strong engineering team, after all.  First, let me briefly describe the EOS so you’ve got a good background of it.

EOS is a set of six concepts and a set of tools that come together to form a unified process for operating your business top to bottom.  The six components are:

  • Vision. Getting everyone in the organization 100 percent on the same page with where you’re going and how you’re going to get there.
  • People. Simply put, we can’t do it without great people.  This means surrounding yourself with great people, top to bottom, because you can’t achieve a great vision without a great team.
  • Data. This means cutting through all the feelings, personalities, opinions and egos and boiling your organization down to a handful of objective numbers that give you an absolute pulse on where things are.
  • Issues. Strengthening this component means becoming great at solving problems throughout the organization – setting them up, knocking them down and making them go away forever.
  • Process. This is the secret ingredient in your organization. This means “systemizing” your business by identifying and documenting the core processes that define the way to run your business. You’ll need to get everyone on the same page with what the essential procedural steps are, and then get everyone to follow them to create consistency and scalability in your organization.
  • Traction®. This means bringing discipline and accountability into the organization – becoming great at execution – taking the vision down to the ground and making it real.

The PipelineDeals Engineering Team adopted each of those components. It was a journey. Let’s delve deeper.

Vision/Traction

These two components are very tightly coupled, so much so that EOS provides a tool called the Vision / Traction Organizer (V/TO) which is the primary tool we use to run the business and our teams.  The core of the EOS process focuses on setting quarterly, yearly, three-year (or greater) goals.

First, the company sets its goals for each timeframe, then each department does the same, then each individual.  The goals need to match the vision and align with the upper tier goals. This is where it gets hard for engineering teams to figure out how they fit into the company goals. Business goals, including at the company and individual level, in EOS speak are called Rocks.

We asked ourselves:

  • How can we set these quarterly Rocks (business goals) when we work off of bi-weekly sprints that are planned on the fly?
  • Or we work using Kanban, working from the top of the queue and never know what that may be?  
  • How does the React javascript dashboard component I am writing (because that’s what the product owners need me to work on) have anything to do with the company Rock of growing revenue?
  • If I set my own Rocks, how do I find time to work on them if I am committed to the work of a project or sprint?

In our V/TO, we have a revenue growth goal in three years of a certain percentage.  We also have company goals or Rocks (long and short term) around ARPA (Annual Revenue Per Account). But the V/TO asks not just what the number is, but what it looks like to the company.  

Here is one of the items on a Scorecard:

“Modernized cloud infrastructure including a serverless architecture via AWS Lambda, Containers and Kubernetes, autoscaling, and re-architecting our app into more microservices”

So, even though the company Rock is a revenue goal, what the company looks like to achieve that Rock has a broad engineering vision associated with it.  

Engineering Vision with EOS

We have taken this vision and used it as the basis of many of our department and individual Rocks.

Later, I’m going to talk about a tool called the Scorecard, which is another EOS process tool that is meant to measure the health of a company or team.  

We also formulate engineering Rocks on items we find that need improvement based on the Scorecard.

First, let’s take a look at some highlights from our engineering Rocks that we’ve accomplished over the last year and categorize them:

Platform modernization and improvement:

  • Deliver a significant platform upgrade (Infrastructure or Architecture).
    • We upgraded all of our EC2 instance types
    • We upgraded our Ubuntu version across the platform from 14.04 to 18.04
    • And we completed a POC to move from EC2/Galera/MariaDB to Aurora

Support our customers:

  • Resolve a majority of Tier 2 service work in less than three days.
  • Record five technical debugging videos for Customer Care

Enhance Security:

  • Complete an application penetration test
  • Disaster Recovery drill

Improve personal skills:

  • Take courses on Native Android Dev, Native iOS Dev, and ML
  • Take Machine Learning courses

Throughput and refactoring:

  • Remove jQueryUI from PLD
  • Rewrite Backend to React

EOS and Engineering Team Goals

How do these Rocks relate to revenue and ARPA goals?  Well, higher revenue means more customers, stronger retention, and a larger worldwide footprint.  

Engineering affects all of these through the performance of our applications and infrastructure, as well as the capabilities we offer technically.  We must handle more load quickly. We need to beat our competitors with innovation and feature offerings and do things like invest in Machine Learning and AI knowledge.  

Also, we need 99.99 percent uptime so we look to better reliability and scalability database solutions like AWS Aurora. We need to be fast to address our customers needs quickly, which is why refactoring Rocks are important. Along with it, we have always had strong attention to security, and larger accounts have more strict security policies and requirements, so engineering Rocks that continually improve our security bar are good.  

We retain and keep our current customers by delivering great technical service, resolving support bugs quickly, and helping our Customer Care team however we can.

The Biggest Engineering EOS Managerial Challenge

The biggest challenge that engineers and engineering managers tend to ask or push back on when it comes to business management platforms merging down into engineering practices is this: How does time get allocated for it?

Legit question! After three quarters of EOS, we have found our own groove for this. It’s really not just a single way. It’s a combination of using slack time or downtime within projects, choosing manageable Rocks that don’t jeopardize project work, use time that we give all engineers, as well as incorporating it into our Kanban pull process of regular project work.

The PipelineDeals Engineering Team is also a very senior, highly responsible and dedicated group. They are committed to improving engineering, improving their personal skills, and advancing our tech platform.

Ultimately, the team is motivated and not burdened by the EOS process.

EOS Meetings and Engineers

Who likes work meetings? I don’t think anyone does! They’ve got a bad reputation for being pointless and unproductive.  Well, imagine if they are productive. Unheard of? Well, not with EOS. Let me explain.

Another big part of Traction is a regular cadence of meetings.  Across the company, there are weekly meetings called Level 10’s (L10) to cover Scorecard, Rocks, and most to discuss important issues.  The name comes from the fact that in the end, everyone rates the meeting on a scale of 1 to 10 for productivity and effectiveness. Let’s move on to those.  

Issues: The Issues List and IDS

EOS creates a process for formalizing and solving issues as they arise at both the company and department level.  At the heart of this is a process called IDS and it is performed at the weekly leadership and team meetings as the bulk percentage of time allocated to the L10 meeting.

I – Identify. Truly identify the root cause of the issue.

D – Discuss. Openly discuss the issue with everyone sharing their opinion.

S – Solve. Come to an agreement on the next steps to make the issue go away forever.

Let’s Solve This

The “Solve” is critical to a good meeting.  It’s a waste to have a long conversation with no outcome.  We walk into these meetings with a list of issues that everybody contributes to during the week prior.  We start from the top and give every issue the time it needs. The whole team is aware of the ranking of the issues before they walk into the meeting giving them time to reflect and prepare prior to the meeting.

If one issue takes all meeting, then the rest wait. But there are some rules in the conversation around going down rabbit holes, and not staying on topic, etc.  This process was super easy to take on at the business level. But again, at first, it felt hard to map to an engineering team. Especially since engineers tend to hate meetings, especially recurring ones that fall outside the scope of their daily work.

Remote Engineering Teams Collaborate EOS Style

After a few of these we started to get in a groove and the team feels the benefit of the meetings and the positive outcomes on our team and processes.  For one, we are a remote-only engineering team. Everybody is in different locations, so the weekly cadence was good for our team communication in general.  But what do we cover?

Here are some examples:

  • App load time increase: support chat software – what can we do?
  • How do we test the Ubuntu upgrade?
  • Why do sidekiq jobs get stuck for many hours?
  • MySQL monitoring tool trial – Should we buy?
  • Google oAuth API security requirements – how does this affect us?

Of course the list goes on, but hopefully, you get the idea.  We discuss a lot of DevOps that aren’t covered in project type meetings.  We also cover team processes that also aren’t project based. Some weeks we don’t get through our list.  Other weeks, the list is light and we adjourn early giving the time back.

Data: Scorecard and Measurables

All companies should run their business based on data and make decisions based on what the data is telling them.  Most companies use some form of Key Performance Indicators or OKRs to do this.

With EOS, the KPI comes in the form of a company Scorecard, as well as a Scorecard for each department.  The Scorecard is a one page set of data values that provide a quick look at the health of your company or team. Once again, this felt easy at the business level, especially in SaaS where we have a hundred acronyms in which to measure our business:  MRR, CAC, ARPA, LTV, ARR, etc. Our team wondered, how do we measure the health of engineering?

The Engineering Scorecard

Let’s take a closer look to answer this. Why does a software engineering team even exist?  It provides the business with some kind of service. That service is software development and in our case includes the operations of running and serving that software to all of our customers.  We look at quality, throughput, production reliability, and performance.

Estimates:  We have a duty to provide the business with an estimate of the cost of work to be done, as well as to help understand delivery projections.

Rollbacks in production:  We are a continuous delivery and deployment shop. We release to production multiple times per day. We have a simple Slack enabled deployment command capability, it’s pretty awesome. So deploys are safe. However, a rollback means something went wrong and it could have affected customers. We don’t want that.  Our goal is zero rollbacks, with 1 being warning level.

Net Outstanding Bugs:  These are bugs in production as reported by our thousands of users.  Our Customer Care team fields these through support tickets, and we have processes to address them. Obviously, we want this number to track downward.

App Speed (Page Load Speed):  This metric is controversial. Our measurement is an average of all pages in our application from every user in the world, including places with extremely slow internet. We use the average for the whole world and come up with a single number (4.3s) for non-cached page load time, and it includes all javascript and assets that do not affect page render. But as long as we use the exact same measurement week over week, we get to see a trend and fluctuations in performance. We’ve caught several problems by watching this number.

System Uptime:  Our goal is 99.99 percent.  Each week we report what it was for the week, mostly 100 percent. That’s pretty great.

Pull request time to review:  Our goal in engineering is that a Pull Request (online code review in Github) is completed as quickly as possible.  Waiting on pull requests is a delay in our workflow, so let’s measure how fast reviews are getting done.

People:  The right people in the right seats

Our CEO, JP Werlin, is famous around here for saying, “There are only so many seats on this bus, make sure yours are filled with your best person for the job.”  

This is very much the same as the EOS concept of “the right people in the right seats.” The EOS way simplifies performance reviews and uses a simple one-page chart to determine if you have the right people in the right seats.  

Get It and Want It!

It’s called the People Analyzer and It looks like this:

Get it! Want it! Capacity to do it!
Get it! Want it! Capacity to do it!

This allows the company core values to be pushed down into the engineering team and really clarifies the role they play in daily performance.  

+ Means they live the core value 90% of the time

–  Means they don’t live the core value most of the time

+- Or means they live it some of the time.

The second piece to the People Analyzer is called the GWC – Get it. Want it. Capacity to do it.

Get it – means they truly understand their role, the culture, systems and processes, and how the job comes together.

Want it – means they are motivated to take the responsibility and do the job, based on fair compensation.

Capacity – means they have the time and the mental, physical and emotional capacity to do the job well.

This is where we can take a look at an engineer’s tech skills, but also, and more importantly, their motivation to do their job and do it well.  This is a super easy but effective way to get a full spectrum view of a person’s performance and fit.

We have just started this at the team level (we started by applying this process to leadership first) so I can’t yet give feedback on how it is working for engineering, but I’ve participated and helped lead many performance management systems over the years and this seems to work well so far.

We are Better with EOS. Could You Be?

EOS has helped PipelineDeals focus on our mission, our core values, and has given us a way to sharpen our business in a predictable, repeatable way.  

Upon first glance, it didn’t seem like it was possible to merge a business process into an engineering process. But we did it, and we are better for it.  

We are improving our technology platform, our development process and skills, and our personal development through our adoption of EOS.  We feel more connected to the operation of the business itself. It has been good for all.

If you have questions about our EOS adoption journey here at PipelineDeals, drop me an email at jeff@pipelinedeals.com or Tweet me at anytime.

How to Improve Your Sales Calls and Emails

How To Improve Your Sales Calls And Emails

Our technology has changed and evolved dramatically over the last few decades — and as the tech changes, so do our sales strategies. Even so, surveys show that emails and phone calls are still two of the most effective sales strategies. More than one-third of the world’s population will have an email address by the end of 2019, but 86% of buyers still want to ask their questions in-person or over the phone before making a purchase. Not surprisingly, more than 40% of salespeople say their phone is still their most effective sales tool, even amid all these technological innovations.

So how can your sales team optimize your phone and email platforms to help you meet your goals?

Sales Call Tips

People are tired of cold calls. It takes the average salesperson 209 cold calls to generate a single lead. That’s 7.5 hours on the phone for one potential sale. How do you ensure you’re not wasting all that time and your hard work has the best shot at resulting in a deal?

Be careful with how you respond to customer questions. Interrupting them and saying “But” can sound argumentative and discourage buyers. Instead, use “And.” Tack it onto your statement like, “That’s a good point, and…” to let the customer know you’re listening, but you still have more to say.

The most effective cold calls happen between 10 am and 2 pm, local time. The least-effective cold calls happen after 5pm, when people are home from work making dinner and don’t want to be bothered.

Email Tips

Most people spend more than three hours a day checking their work email. They can send and receive as many as 620 emails per week, but only spend 1.1 minutes on each message they receive. You need to update your emails to deliver as much information as possible in the eight-second attention span of the average web user.

Avoid jargon, and write your emails with this shorter attention span in mind. And make sure you spell check — you can slash your sales in half with just one typo in your email.

Finally, make sure you’re showcasing your credibility. Include links to your LinkedIn profile or your company website where you can show off reviews or projects that you’re proud of. This makes your emails look more professional.

There are some phrases you can avoid in your sales email. Things like, “Not sure if you saw my last email” or “per our conversation” tend to annoy potential customers and will leave your company behind. Adding things like “Re:” and “Urgent” to the subject line makes your emails look like spam and they’ll probably end up in the client’s spam folder.

Phrases to Avoid in Calls and Emails

What phrases should you avoid in sales calls and emails?

  • “Touch Base” — This phrase lacks confidence. You don’t want to sound wishy-washy when you’re trying to promote your product or company.
  • “Great Deal” — This phrase is both vague and overused. It does not inspire confidence.
  • “Honestly” — This makes your customer feel like you haven’t been honest about anything else.
  • “Problem” — You should avoid negative terms at all costs. Rephrase them with a more positive context to inspire confidence in your customers.
  • “Obviously” or “Does That Make Sense?” — Try to avoid anything that sounds condescending in your emails.
  • “Competitor” — Don’t talk about your competitors. Mentioning them makes your clients think about your competitors instead of your product.
  • “You Need To” — People hate it when you tell them what to do. Don’t do it in your emails or sales calls.
  • “How Are You?” — Don’t rely on generic greetings when you’re talking to your clients.

Strategies That Work Well in Calls and Emails

How can you improve your sales calls and emails?

Start by using active voice instead of passive voice when you’re writing scripts or emails. It’s subtle, but it conveys more confidence. If you’re not sure, try adding the words “by zombies” after your sentence. If it fits, your statement is in the passive voice.

Personalize your emails. Don’t address them to “User” or use other generic addresses. Personalized emails that address the user by name have a 29% higher open rate and a 41% higher click-through rate.

Use persuasive language wherever possible. Words like “you” and “because” are two of the five most persuasive words in the English language. Also, always focus on the value of your product or service, rather than the price.

Always follow up with your emails and sales calls. Wait at least 48 hours between follow-ups, but unless you get a definite “no,” keep following up.

Finally, consider investing in a customer relationship management system. A company that spends more than three hours a month managing their sales pipelines can improve their revenue by 11% or more. CRMs uses technology to streamline this process. A properly integrated CRM can provide a return on investment of more than 245%. Sales calls and emails are the foundation of any company that sells products or services. Improving your calls and email scripts can improve your overall sales and reduce the amount of time you waste on cold calls that don’t lead anywhere.

To try PipelineDeals today, get started with a 14-day free trial by clicking here.