Reflecting On 2017: Lessons Learned And Growth Realized

January 9, 2018 7:30:18 AM | By Matt Benati

Reflecting on 2017

As we say goodbye to 2017 and welcome the New Year, I believe we all benefit from reflection. Exploring lessons we’ve learned over the past year and how they’ll impact our businesses in the months to come is critical for fostering future success. Some lessons are small, like a new app you love or a new discovery that streamlines your process. And some lessons are big, like recognizing failures that shape us into better leaders.

For this post, I reached out to a select group of sales and marketing leaders, asking what business lessons they learned in 2017. I received some fantastic responses that I can’t wait to share, because I believe these lessons transcend industry lines and are useful for all business leaders.

The Devil’s In The Details

I would be remiss if I didn’t share one of my own business lessons from this year at LeadGnome, so I’ll get the ball rolling!

Matt BenatiOn all accounts, 2017 was a stellar year. My son continues to thrive at Purdue University, my daughter is doing well in high school, and my company is growing nicely.

I learned a lot during the year and my most important lesson comes from the world of record keeping — document everything — details matter. As a CEO of a startup, I handle many diverse tasks. And one task I need to do a better job at is keeping track of the important details. This includes finances, policies, and customer interactions. I perform well “in the moment”, but recording everything for later reference is becoming more and more important as the company matures. I will double down in 2018, commit less to memory and more to documentation.

Without further ado, here’s what some of the brightest minds in our industry had to say about the business lessons they learned in 2017.

I will double down in 2018, commit less to memory and more to documentation. - Matt Benati (@MattBenati) #sales #marketing Click To Tweet

Making Time For What Matters Most

After seeing the year flash by once again, President of Heinz MarketingMatt Heinz committed to being more intentional in 2018. In a recent blog post titled, “The longest shortest time,” Matt describes his struggle with finding an agreeable work-life balance.

Matt Heinz“As I wrap up this year and start to set goals and resolutions for the New Year, my objective is to be more intentional. To be more intentional about getting work done and moving on. More intentional about doing what’s urgent and important, and not what’s simply urgent.To be more intentional about the things I care about outside of work – family, faith, football and lots more. Even a random Monday night with a “take your brain off and lose yourself for 90 minutes movie” is time well spent.” – Matt Heinz

As I wrap up this year and start to set goals and resolutions for the New Year, my objective is to be more intentional. - Matt Heinz (@HeinzMarketing) #sales Click To Tweet

And here’s proof that proper time management pays off in a big way. International Speaker & Author of More Sales Less TimeJill Konrath, told me that 2017 was her best year ever — even though she worked half the hours she’d put in the previous year.

Jill Konrath“I believe that less is always more. Stop and think how you can make your numbers with less effort, then pursue this new direction with a vengeance.” – Jill Konrath

Stop and think how you can make your numbers with less effort, then pursue this new direction with a vengeance. - Jill Konrath (@jillkonrath) #sales Click To Tweet

Keep Your Eye On The Prize

CMO and Co-Founder of TerminusSangram Vajre followed along a similar vein, telling me that the two biggest lessons he learned in 2017 were the importance of staying focused and always playing the long game.

Sangram Vajre“There are too many distractions in every sense of the world, and we are wired to not be still. When we are focused we can do less and have more impact. It’s something that I am still learning to do. Impact is what matters more than number of activities — and that requires focus.

Playing the long game means every decision you make or not make is a decision. So if we hire wrong today to fix an immediate problem then we will have long term damage to our culture. If we make small term partnership that’s not deep rooted in strong relationships, then we will lose in the long run. The punch line is that every time you play the long game, you win in the end!” – Sangram Vajre

Impact is what matters more than number of activities -- and that requires focus. - Sangram Vajre (@sangramvajre) #marketing #sales Click To Tweet

Founder and President of Smart Selling ToolsNancy Nardin, described her personal struggle with focus, and provided some practical advice for how she prioritizes ideas so that she is able to focus on a set of core objectives.

Nancy Nardin“2017 has shown me more than ever, the importance of focus. I think most entrepreneurs are creative types who are prone to shiny object syndrome – I know I am anyway. I have a lot of ideas. I try to track them all and continue to prioritize them. I certainly can’t execute on all of them. So the list grows longer. The lesson I’ve learned is the importance of a master list of objectives. Keep the list short (5 things at most). All other ideas need to fit within the items on the short list. With that done, it will be easier to prioritize and stay focused in 2018.” – Nancy Nardin

The lesson I’ve learned is the importance of a master list of objectives. Keep the list short, prioritize and stay focused. - Nancy Nardin (@sellingtools) #sales Click To Tweet

Katie Bullard, Chief Growth Officer of Discover.org, shared the importance of staying focused on priorities, stating we all have a tendency to over complicate things in an era of too much information and too many “must-dos.” To keep focused, she suggested reading The One Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan.

Katie BullardIn 2017, our team made a concerted effort to identify that #1 priority for each quarter, and when new ideas and programs popped up, we evaluated them against that priority. Sometimes, they still were important enough to do, and other times, they just weren’t. In 2018, we can get even better at executing against that “one thing” that makes everything else easier and more successful.”

While we all believe we are amazing multi-taskers, it is too easy to lose focus on what's most important, or even worse, forget to identify what's most important. (@Katie_E_Bullard) #sales #marketing Click To Tweet

Scaling & Planning For The Future

For small businesses, growing pains can be a good problem to have — as long as they’re solved. Maneeza Aminy, CEO of Marvel Marketers, a company that experienced rapid growth in 2017, learned some valuable lessons about planing and scaling that can be applied to any growing business.

Maneeza Aminy“Hire for your future company not your present one. Marvel Marketers is a fast growing company. Throughout the year every time we hired someone we asked ourselves “Will this person be a good fit for the MM of the future?” This has become very important to us as we know we continue to grow and expand and our consultants must be skilled enough to grow and develop with us.  

“Scaling is very hard work. Simply expecting processes and foundational components to organically develop to meet your scale needs, is not a thing.Take every process, develop the framework for scale, socialize, socialize and socialize again.” – Maneeza Aminy

Hire for your future company not your present one. - Maneeza Aminy (@maneezajaan) #sales #biztips Click To Tweet

Nationally recognized sales expert, Alice Heiman knows a thing or two about laying the groundwork for growth. 2017 marked the 20th anniversary of her sales coaching and training firm, and it was a year of incredible growth due to applying lessons learned.

Alice Heiman“Setting goals, being very focused on them and having a plan that includes daily activity towards those goals is essential. We grew 80% this year by applying that and getting the right help. When you don’t know something, google it. If you can’t find an easy answer, don’t struggle, find a coach or mentor to help you.” – Alice Heiman

Setting goals, being very focused on them and having a plan that includes daily activity towards those goals is essential. - Alice Heiman (@aliceheiman) #sales Click To Tweet

Charlie Liang, Director of Marketing for Engagio, shared similar sentiments about planning for future growth by scaling existing strategies that are proven effective.

Charlie Liang“2017 was a big year for marketing trends. We saw ABM continue to be hot, and AI to gain some traction in the space, but one thing to note going into 2018 is that while exploring new trends is important, it’s also important to continue to evolve & tweak existing strategies. 2018 is about doubling down on the campaigns that work and figuring out how to scale them at the same time.” – Charlie Liang

2018 is about doubling down on the campaigns that work and figuring out how to scale them at the same time. - Charlie Liang (@CharlieCLiang) #marketing Click To Tweet

Trust Your Gut

This is really two-fold: figuring out how to get prospects/leads/customers/consumers to trust you as a brand; and, figuring out how to trust your own instinct, often even your subconscious, to provide the answers your clients depend on you for.

True to her unofficial title as the “unapologetic marketing truth-teller,” CMO and entrepreneurKatie Martell gives it to us straight when it comes to brands overcoming the challenge of being seen as trustworthy

Katie Martell“2017 was truly a year in which trust in media, trust in institutions, and trust in businesses eroded further than ever before. This presents an opportunity for marketers who can confidently position their brands as a trusted resource – that means doing what you say you’re doing to do, backing up all claims with true evidence, showing empathy to your customers’ reality (not hyperbole) and leading with helpful original thought, not exaggeration. That applied to my personal brand as much as it did that of my clients. I write a bit more about this, Who Will We Trust in 2018?” – Katie Martell

2017 was truly a year in which trust in media, trust in institutions, and trust in businesses eroded further than ever before. - Katie Martell (@KatieMartell) #sales Click To Tweet

President of RevEngine MarketingJeff Coveney, told me that this past year he realized the value of the subconscious for major business decisions. (As a side note, he’ll be sure to let us know when he figures out a way to charge for the value of unconscious thinking!)

Jeff CoveneyLeading a growing consulting agency, I’m pulled in a million directions. Many clients want immediate answers for complex challenges — answering these immediately doesn’t always produce the best answers. This past year, I recognized the value of using the subconscious mind to help make decisions. Rather than try to solve complex strategic and technology problems immediately, I like to sleep on those thoughts and put my subconscious to work.  Honestly, my best thinking is done in the shower, exercising and doing non-work stuff. Many times, the answers are there when I wake up….and our clients are better for it.” – Jeff Coveney

This past year, I recognized the value of using the subconscious mind to help make decisions. - Jeff Coveney (@RevEngineMarket) #sales #marketing Click To Tweet

Get In The Trenches

Chief Revenue Officer for ExecVisionSteve Richard, has spent his fair share of time in the trenches with sales people. He argues that this lesson is one of the most important when it comes to effective sales coaching that drives measurable results.  

Steve Richard“If you are a sales leader and haven’t spent time in the seat of one of your reps selling, then you’re seeing only part of the picture. How can you make the best decisions for your sales organization without knowing what it’s like to be in their shoes? Make prospecting calls, follow up on web leads, take 1st scheduled discovery calls. GET IN THE TRENCHES. Listen to the voice of your clients unfiltered. You’ll be surprised what you learn.” – Steve Richard

How can you make the best decisions for your sales organization without knowing what it’s like to be in their shoes? - Steve Richard (@srichardv) #sales Click To Tweet

Foster Partnerships & Mentors

Revenue Catalyst, Author, Founder & CMO, Samantha Stone of The Marketing Advisory Network has taken the old saying, “two minds are better than one” to the next level after her revelations of 2017. After six years running a successful consulting practice and loving every minute, she realized she missed working with like-minded professionals.

Samantha Stone“Although I worked with really talented clients and partners on client-specific projects, I rarely had the opportunity to team up with others for things that caught my fancy but weren’t driven by a paid engagement. That is until 2017. This year I made a concerted effort to explore partnerships in a new way. I joined a really active LinkedIn engagement group, participated in Tamsen Webster’s transformation Red Thread retreat, founded the Boston FlipMyFunnel ABM Meet Up group and teamed up with a research partner to study employee advocacy. I’m going into 2018 confident that I can fit this type of learning and collaboration into my schedule. I couldn’t be more energized.” – Samantha Stone

This year I made a concerted effort to explore partnerships in a new way. - Samantha Stone (@samanthastone) #sales #marketing Click To Tweet

Bringing it home is President and Chief Strategist of The Bridge GroupTrish Bertuzzi, with her story of how she learned a hard lesson about herself last year. It was a big lesson, but instead of it getting her down, she chose to use it as an opportunity to shape her into a better sales leader for herself, and her clients.

Trish Bertuzzi“I discovered that what I tell others to do, “focus on self development,” I was not doing for myself. Yes, I am an avid reader of all things sales — but there is reading, and there is doing. I had an opportunity to receive coaching on a recorded sales call by some of the members of the Women Sales Pros. It was a 30 minute call and in 45 minutes we only got through 1/2 of it, and I had 3 pages of notes. Wow! I have been selling for a very long time and I have to tell you… I thought I was “all that”. Not so much.

My lesson will do nothing but impact 2018 in a very positive way. I hired a sales coach. I made the investment in self development that I have been talking to sales professionals about forever. Sometimes you have to practice what you preach.” – Trish Bertuzzi

Sometimes you have to practice what you preach. - Trish Bertuzzi (@bridgegroupinc) #sales #motivation Click To Tweet

Want to share your own reflections? Join the discussion in the comments section below – I’d love to hear from you!

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