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Successfully Hiring Sales Leader by Next Step |   posted: 01/13/2016

The most impactful company mistake occurs when hiring a sales leader. While selecting the best talent for all roles is challenging; identifying and on boarding a sales leader position is more fraught with error because:

  1. Most executives or entrepreneurs who are responsible for hiring a sales leader do not have a sales background. Without knowing the challenges, needs, skills needed for success in a role it is difficult to judge one candidate versus another.
  2. Different types of services, products and companies require specific sales approaches. Many times a sales person or manager is good at one type of sales but his / her skills and style may not be a match for the type of sales required by another company.
  3. A hungry sales person seeking his / her next job may be good at selling themselves – but this does not mean they really the right sales person or manager for your company.
  4. Specific expectations for the first months’ sales results are not agreed upon and/ or the sales compensation does not align with company goals.

These issues can have a significant impact on company executives and investors as illustrated by the real world case of Teckno.

Avoid the impact of these mistakes through:

  1. Deep knowledge of the sales process and the skills, experience and style required to successfully drive sales for your company.
  2. A multi-faceted candidate assessment process that leads to joint understanding of requirements, expectations and fit of the selected candidate’s skills and style with the company.
  3. Compensation, on boarding and support aligned with company and candidate’s expectations.

Learn more about Hiring a Sales Leader.


Take the Next Step to Avoid Hiring Mistakes

Call Next Step on (650) 361-1902 for a complementary consultation before you embark hiring a sales leader to your business.

Now is the Time to Take out the Buts – Learning from Silicon Valley by Next Step |   posted: 12/02/2015

Innovators in Silicon Valley and other areas known for entrepreneurship such as Israel, bring a strong passion, willingness to take a risk and strong commitment to execution. This ‘hunger to succeed’ – professionally and personally can be driven by need, competition or sheer personal desire to make a difference.

Comparatively in Norway,  the culture has not historically embraced risk taking and ‘thinking outside the box’. Common phrases from Norwegian ‘would be entrepreneurs’  are “I would like to do something on my own but….if I fail….” Or “I have an idea but .. need funding… “ or “It would be great to commercialize this solution … but I don’t have resources’.

Now, ‘post oil’, bringing rising Norwegian unemployment rates and economic impact, is the time for innovators in companies and on their own to ‘Take out the Buts’.  By focusing on the passion and opportunities ahead for your innovation, you can take the Silicon Valley approach to action and execution.

In Silicon Valley when an idea comes to an entrepreneur, the first question is what can I do to build it and get customer / market support . The focus is on the opportunity –  not the obstacles or reasons not to move forward ie the ‘buts’ .  The passion to bring a new idea into the world overshadows the fear of potentially negative consequences.

Whats the worst that can happen?

Consider this – If you start out on your own… “what is the worst thing that can happen?”. If you are healthy and have some financial savings or foundation, the very worst outcome would be that you spend a few months or year learning what does and doesn’t work. You can then choose to return to the corporate world or start out on your next new venture.

The risk of missing an opportunity to make a difference by bringing your great idea / product into the market can be a lot worse than the ‘simply’ missing out of a year or two of a comfortable corporate lifestyle even in Norway.

In Silicon Valley – the only ‘but’ is ‘why didn’t I do this sooner’. Risk leads to reward – through success or learning (from failure).  By taking action, removing the ‘but’ and moving forward, entrepreneurs worldwide  avoid the ‘worst that can happen’  – regret from not having made a difference through great innovations.

Provided by Jennifer Vessels, 3in Silicon Valley Correspondent and Next Step CEO – for more info

Attracting and Recruiting Success Team in Hot Economy by Next Step |   posted: 11/11/2015

Great companies are built from talented people working together for a common goal. In a strong economy with VC funded startups providing high levels of compensation and perks, competition for these great people can be fierce.  However it is possible using tips below (from recent Silicon Valley panel):

Lead in the Purpose Economy:

Top talent, especially the younger ‘millennial’ generation want to work with and for companies that have a real purpose and positively impacts people, environment and society. This is through their mission, products or go to market approach – all team members share and live for a common purpose. To recruit top talent, start with defining the real purpose and value of your company – more than making money.

Get to know Ideal Target Employees:

Long before you need to fill a job or role, define and validate the required experience, skills and aptitudes of the ideal person to succeed in the role. Use social media and your network to begin a ‘get to know you’ dialogue with people that fit those characteristics. Through this, gain greater awareness of their needs and interests, adjusting the value proposition accordingly while building a pipeline of candidates.

Communicate with Top Talent on Their Terms:

Confucius’ words, “Fish in the pond that the fish love – not where you like to hang out” applies to the art of talent recruitment. When you are seeking candidates, look at the social media channels, organizations, meetups / hangouts in which your target audience participates.  On those networks or channels, post compelling information, news testimonials of current employees’ happiness to build awareness with future candidates.

Communications with candidates should then be using he media they prefer ie text or chat for younger generation workers versus email.

Build a Success Team Culture and Reputation

Recruitment of today’s top talent is the beginning of the journey – leading to a strong team of highly engaged employees which then attract and refer future employees.  Top companies of all sizes in Silicon Valley and globally are recognized as providing employees with a purpose they believe in, a supportive, team environment, benefits that show leadership understands employees needed and a management team that demonstrates the company’s values on a daily basis.

By Jennifer Vessels CEO, Next Step ( a global consulting firm based in Silicon Valley, providing top talent, sales and market approaches.


Achieving the Dream – Three Cs to Success by Next Step |   posted: 10/21/2015

Great things come from small groups of dedicated people as demonstrated by leading water filtration solutions from Israel, oil and gas technologies from Norway and life changing innovations from Silicon Valley.

During the past week, Next Step has sponsored and CEO Jennifer Vessels has led many discussions, roundtables and speeches during Internationalization Program in TelAviv Israel and Oslo Innovation Week 2015. While very different environments, in both Israel, the “StartUp Nation” and the ‘post oil Norway 6.0’, brilliant entrepreneurs are  dedicated to having a lasting impact on society.

Ultimately to Achieve the Dream, one needs to focus on the Three C’s of Success:

Commitment – know yourself and put a stake in the ground that you WILL dedicate the time, focus and personal resources (often requiring sacrifice in other areas) to achieving your dream.

Make a plan as hope is not a strategy… note the steps needed to succeed in your commitment.

Creativity – Building a new solution, path, service and way forward can be challenging. Use your creative problem solving skills and adaptability to overcome obstacles and move forward.

Take action – if you start moving forward and creatively adapt to what comes in front of you, success will follow.

Collaboration – We all bring different skills and perspectives into the world – leverage others with complementary competencies and works styles.

Grow through sharing your passion and dream with others and allowing them to join in the commitment to jointly Achieve the Dream.

Silicon Valley, where Next Step is based is a Pay it Forward culture – we each give back to one another to bring new ideas into the world. By supporting many great Oslo Innovation Week initiatives and international collaboration across Europe, Israel and America, we are committed to achieving our dream of helping great business leaders and entrepreneurs reach their potential through business growth.

Sales Improvements Can Come Easy by Next Step |   posted: 06/27/2015

Sales Improvements

Economic growth, as many regions are currently experiencing, brings increased revenue and sales productivity expectations. The good news is that sales improvements can be more easily achieved today through online customer education and digital / social selling.

Recent studies have shown that over 90% of business buyers are more likely to respond to online education than to a sales person. Through a sales process and team designed to leverage content marketing and social selling for awareness, qualification and development of the sale, Next Step’s clients have experienced up to 40% greater revenues per sales person.

Considerations for Sales Productivity Improvement

If your organization is not experiencing an increase in sales productivity, consider the following:

  • Close rates – by leveraging marketing and digital selling for the initial stages of the sales process, the number of meetings and calls required for successful closure can be reduced by 50% with average time to close of 3 months or less.
  • Sales process consistently utilized – by uniformly following a structured sales methodology, market leading companies have experienced 20-35% improvement in revenue per representative.
  • Sales time – Average sales reps can spend 50 – 65% of their time on non-sales activities. How can technology, compensation, management provide additional focus and productivity by your sales team?

With the right sales team, marketing tools and management process, you can achieve improvements in sales productivity and company value.

Since 1997, Next Step’s team has maximized revenue and sales productivity through implementation of effective digital marketing and sales campaigns, enhanced sales processes, compensation, enablement, management and skill development.

If your company is not achieving sales productivity increases of 10 – 40% today, let’s talk. I am happy to share more of our best practices and explore ways that some small adjustments to your sales process can pay off quickly.

Just Jump In to Achieve Success by Next Step |   posted: 03/25/2015

“When changes are too big, they may be too overwhelming,” said registered dietitian Ellie Krieger, author of “Small Changes, Big Results: A 12-Week Action Plan to a Better Life.” “People don’t want to start, or they don’t know where to begin so they don’t at all.”

Small lifestyle changes are easier to achieve and maintain. When successful, they are more likely to become habits and can lead to increased self-confidence.
“Most successful goals or changes are things you can literally check off and say, ‘I did this,'” Krieger said. “If you say, ‘I am going to eat better,’ you can’t track or net that goal. But when you set and accomplish small, tangible changes, you get an immediate sense of gratification, and that is self-motivating.”

So whether you’re looking to improve your finances, health, fitness or relationships, focusing on frequent, achievable little goals will lead you to success.

Start now by taking a moment to answer the following questions:

  • Think of 3 team members or peers.
  • What will you START doing in order to most effectively achieve your goals?
  • What will you STOP doing to give more time and space for success?
  • How can you adapt your management style to gain greater motivation and success with your team?

What really drives commitment? by Next Step |   posted: 03/11/2015

For successful productivity growth, employees need motivation, confidence and willingness to succeed. A critical factor to achieving each of these is clear communications from the leadership team.

In order to lead effectively and maintain a positive environment, the leaders’ communications need to provide the appropriate level of Guidance and Encouragement:

  • Guidance
    Refers to providing information about the task, assigning responsibilities, indicating deadlines, instructions about how to do the task, etc.
  • Encouragement
    Refers to traits such as encouraging, expressing confidence, dealing with conflict within

Leaders know when and how to apply both of these traits appropriately to gain employee motivation, confidence and willingness to grow into a success.

What kind of a leader are you? by Next Step |   posted: 02/25/2015

Autocratic Leader:

  • An autocratic leader (boss-centered) is one who tends to centralize authority and derives power from position, control of rewards and coercion. The autocratic leadership style is considered the classical approach where much power and decision making authority remains with the manager. Employees are neither consulted nor allowed to give any input but are expected to obey instructions without any explanations. This type of leadership is used in situations where the task is relatively simple or decisions have to be made quickly. This leadership style can result in low staff morale and has been greatly criticized during the past 30 years. Some studies say that organizations with many autocratic leaders have higher turnover and absenteeism than other organizations.
  • Autocratic leadership is best applied to situations where there is little time for group decision-making or where the leader is the most knowledgeable member of the group. Normally this style should only be used on rare occasions. To gain more commitment and motivation from employees, you would best adapt to a more participative leadership style.

Democratic Leader:

  • Contrary to the autocratic leader, a democratic leader is one who delegates authority to others, encourages participation, relies on subordinates’ knowledge for completion of tasks and depends on subordinate respect for influence. Democratic leadership is participatory with authority often delegated to others. The democratic leader keeps his or her employees informed about everything that affects their work and shares decision making and problem solving responsibilities. This sort of leadership can produce high quality and high quantity work for long periods of time. This is because employees enjoy the trust they receive and respond with cooperation, team spirit and high morale.
  • While democratic leadership has been described as the most effective leadership style, it does have some potential downsides. In situations where roles are unclear or time is of the essence, democratic leadership can lead to communication failures and uncompleted projects. In some cases, group members may not have the necessary knowledge or expertise to make quality contributions to the decision-making process.

What is Your Management Style? by Next Step |   posted: 02/11/2015

Whether you are a ‘people manager’, project / program manager or simply a manager of your own destiny, you probably demonstrate one of the following four “Situational Management” styles:

  1. “Directing” – This hands-on style is appropriate for leading novice employees, who need specific directions and constant oversight.
  2. “Coaching” – A team coach is useful for the advanced beginner, who has learned a few basics, but who may feel “disillusioned” about real opportunities for making personal progress. The coach provides firm direction and grants the employee a limited amount of autonomy in low-stake scenarios.
  3. “Supporting” – The seasoned, but cautious, employee is a capable performer who lacks confidence. In this scenario, the manager is a cheerleader who provides feedback and encouragement. This role is also effective in dealing with burnt-out, disengaged or “de-committed” workers.
  4. “Delegating” – Office superstars, like employees who are good rainmakers, are “self-reliant” and confident in their excellence. Delegate authority to them and encourage their independence.

The highest performing managers recognize their own styles and are able to adapt their approach when working with others who might respond and perform best under a different leadership style. This can be termed ‘situational leadership’.

By applying a ‘Situational Leadership’ approach, they drive successful business outcomes through a flexible approach that is custom-fit for each situation and for individual employees. This leads to higher level employee motivation and organizational results.

Do I Lead or Manage by Next Step |   posted: 01/28/2015

“Are Managers Always Leaders?” being a manager is often a part of the Leader’s role but the Leader’s role goes far beyond the role of the manager. In a high performing organization, both roles are critical but it is important to distinguish the difference between those chartered to manage and the organization’s leaders.

Some of the guidelines include:


  • Set clear goals, provide clear directions, support people as they need it, delegate and empower followers, give feedback on performance, have a flexible leadership style.
  • Recognize the need to motivate, inspire, and empower their teams to achieve organizational goals
  • Leaders inspire loyalty and are able to energize an organization
  • Drive and impact strategy and vision – gaining commitment to it from others


  • Know how each layer of the system works and guide others to follow the direction of the leader.
  • Focus on accomplishing their organization’s tasks and capturing metrics/milestones/ while documenting and communicating progress
  • Lead an effort and implement the strategy

While they each fulfill different roles, ultimately both are critically important to an organization’s success!