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The 11 Most Common & How to Find Your Style [Quiz]

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The 11 Most Common & How to Find Your Style [Quiz]

Imagine the leaders that inspire you. Each leader is unique, with different leadership styles that they use to meet goals, motivate, and inspire.

To help you understand the impact each type of leader has on a company, this post will explain what a leadership style is. We’ll cover the most common types of leadership and how they can impact the business and the team.

Then you’ll get some tools to help you figure out what styles are best for you. Start reading, or jump to the section you’re looking for:

Why It’s Important to Know Your Leadership Style

Knowing your leadership style is critical because it can help you determine how you affect those who are under your direct influence. How do your direct reports see you? Do they feel you’re an effective leader?

It’s always important to ask for feedback to understand how you’re doing, but knowing your leadership style prior to asking for feedback can be a helpful starting point. That way, when you receive junior employees’ thoughts, you can automatically decide which leadership style would be best and adopt the style’s characteristics in your day-to-day management duties.

Knowing your leadership styles may help you improve with limited feedback. Each leadership style has its pitfalls, allowing you to proactively address areas of improvement. This is critical because some employees might hesitate to speak up, even in an anonymous survey.

Ready to find out your leadership styles? Check out the most common styles below.

Types of leadership styles infographic

1. Democratic Leadership

Also called: Participative or Facilitative Leadership

Democratic leadership is exactly what it sounds like — the leader makes decisions based on the input of each team member. Although the leader makes the final call, each employee has an equal say in a project’s direction.

Why this leadership style works for businesses:

It resembles how leaders often make decisions in company board meetings.

For example, a democratic leader might give the team a few decision-related options in a company board meeting. They could then open a discussion about each option. After a discussion, this leader might take the board’s thoughts and feedback into consideration, or they might open this decision up to a vote.

Why this leadership style is good for the team:

Democratic leadership is one of the most effective leadership styles. This is because it allows lower-level employees to exercise the authority they’ll need to use wisely in future positions.

Potential challenges for leaders with a Democratic style:

The process of reaching a consensus takes considerable time, resources, and communication. It can also impact decision-making because some team members may not have the right expertise to make critical decisions.

Featured resources:

2. Autocratic Leadership

Also called: Authoritarian, Coercive, or Commanding Leadership

Autocratic leadership is the inverse of democratic leadership. In this leadership style, the leader makes decisions without taking input from anyone who reports to them.

This style is most useful when a business needs to control specific situations, not as a standalone leadership style.

Why this leadership style works for businesses:

Autocratic leaders carry out strategies and directives with absolute focus. This drive and clarity can lead to better performance.

It’s efficient because employees aren’t consulted before a change in direction. Instead, they’re expected to adhere to the decision at a time and pace stipulated by the leader.

Why this leadership style is good for the team:

This type of leadership is most effective when a company is making difficult decisions. This leadership style gives employees a clear sense of direction. It can also make up for a lack of experience on a team.

Potential challenges for leaders with an Autocratic style:

Most organizations today can’t sustain such a hegemonic culture without losing employees. It can lower morale and creative problem-solving.

An example of this could be when a manager changes the hours of work shifts for employees without consulting anyone.

Other challenges with autocratic leaders include:

  • Intimidation
  • Micromanagement
  • Over-reliance on a single leader

Different leadership styles favor different traits, with the most popular shown in this employee survey graphic.

3. Laissez-Faire Leadership

Also called: Delegative or Hands-off Leadership

If you remember your high-school French, you’ll accurately assume that laissez-faire leadership is the least intrusive form of leadership. The French term “laissez-faire” literally translates to “let them do.” Leaders who embrace it give nearly all authority to their employees.

Why this leadership style works for businesses:

Laissez-faire leaders make employees accountable for their work. This gives many employees an incentive to do their best work.

This type of leader often creates a more relaxed company culture. This makes it a good model for creative businesses like ad agencies or product design. It’s also a good fit for a business with a highly-skilled team.

Why this leadership style is good for the team:

In a young startup, for example, you might see a laissez-faire company founder who makes no major office policies around work hours or deadlines. They might put full trust into their employees while they focus on the overall workings of running the company.

Because of this high level of trust, employees working for laissez-faire leaders feel valued. They get the information they need and use their resources and experience to meet business goals.

Potential challenges for leaders with a Laissez-Faire style:

Although laissez-faire leadership can empower employees by trusting them to work however they’d like, there are downsides. This style of leadership can limit team development. It can also be an issue if employees are new or inexperienced.

This can lead to overlooking critical company growth opportunities. So, it’s important to keep this leadership style in check.

Featured resources:

4. Strategic Leadership

Strategic leaders sit between a company’s main operations and its growth opportunities. This form of leadership requires vision, competitive awareness, and adaptability.

They accept the burden of executive interests. At the same time, they make sure that current working conditions are stable for everyone else.

Why this leadership style works for businesses:

Strategic leaders tie plans for growth and strategy to the way they manage a team. They ask questions, develop and execute strategies, and consider future growth. This approach supports popular business goals like:

  • Accountability
  • Productivity
  • Collaboration
  • Transparency

Why this leadership style is good for the team:

This is a desirable leadership style in many companies because strategic thinking supports many types of employees at once.

It encourages visualization, planning, and making the most of existing resources. This approach can be motivating for employees.

Potential challenges for leaders with a strategic leadership style:

Leaders who work strategically can sometimes take on too much. They also risk thinking too far into the future while missing critical present-day issues.

Learning how to delegate is essential, as well as sharing the weight of decision-making. Compromise, communication skills, and consistent outreach are also important.

Featured resources:

5. Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is always “transforming” and improving upon the company’s conventions. Employees might have a basic set of tasks and goals that they complete every week or month, but the leader is constantly pushing them outside of their comfort zone.

Why this leadership style works for businesses:

Transformational leaders can inspire their teams to think in new ways. This can help companies update business processes to improve productivity and profitability. It can also help with employee satisfaction, morale, and motivation.

Why this leadership style is good for the team:

When starting a job with this type of leader, all employees might get a list of goals to reach, as well as deadlines for reaching them.

The goals might seem simple at first. But this manager might pick up the pace of deadlines or give you more challenging goals as you grow with the company.

This is a highly encouraged form of leadership among growth-minded companies. It motivates employees to see what they’re capable of.

Potential challenges for leaders with a Transformational style:

Transformational leaders can risk losing sight of everyone’s individual learning curves. It’s important to make sure that direct reports get the right coaching to guide them through new responsibilities. Employee burnout can also be an issue, so it’s important to work with your team to update benchmarks.

Featured resources:

6. Transactional Leadership

Transactional leaders are fairly common today. These managers reward their employees for the work they do.

For example, a marketing team receives a scheduled bonus for helping generate a certain number of leads per quarter.

This leadership style also assumes that teams need structure and monitoring to meet business goals.

Why this leadership style works for businesses:

This style is popular in enterprise companies. It focuses on results, existing structures, and set systems of rewards or penalties. This leadership style also recognizes and rewards commitment.

Why this leadership style is good for the team:

Transactional leaders offer clarity and structure. Employees feel safe because they clearly understand their expectations. They also understand what they will get in return for meeting business goals.

Potential challenges for leaders with a transactional style:

This leadership style is less about relationships and more about using rewards to motivate. This makes it hard to keep a diverse team engaged. Using only this leadership style can lead to low creativity and fear of punishment.

7. Coaching Leadership

Also called: Conscious Leadership

Like a sports team’s coach, this leader focuses on identifying and nurturing the individual strengths of each member of the team. They also focus on strategies that will enable their team to work better together. This style offers strong similarities to strategic and democratic leadership. But it puts more emphasis on the growth and success of individual employees.

A manager with this leadership style might help employees improve on their strengths by:

  • Giving them new tasks to try
  • Offering guidance
  • Meeting to discuss constructive feedback

They might also encourage one or more team members to expand on their strengths by learning new skills from other teammates.

Why this leadership style works for businesses:

Coaching leaders actively support skill development and independent problem-solving. They meet ambitious business goals by creating a strong company culture. They add to the long-term vision of a business as valuable mentors, often even after leaving a company.

Why this leadership style is good for the team:

This style recognizes that each employee is unique. They build diverse and exciting teams where each employee offers something different.

This leader focuses on high performance, with employees that can communicate well and embrace unique skill sets to get work done.

Potential challenges for leaders with a coaching style:

It can take a lot of time to develop employees with a coaching style, and mentoring isn’t effective for every kind of employee. This leadership style takes time and patience, and it doesn’t work with every company culture.

Featured resources:

8. Bureaucratic Leadership

Bureaucratic leaders follow the rules. This style of leadership might listen and consider the input of employees — unlike autocratic leadership. But the leader tends to reject an employee’s input if it conflicts with company policy or past practices.

Why this leadership style works for businesses:

You may run into a bureaucratic leader at a larger, older, or traditional company. They might reject ideas that seem new or non-traditional to maintain existing business models and processes.

Their resistance might be because the company is successful with current processes. It could also be because trying something new could waste time or resources if it doesn’t work.

Why this leadership style is good for the team:

This style of leadership can be challenging for some, but it also has many benefits. It lowers the risk of favoritism and replaces it with central duties, job security, and predictability.

This leadership style is clear and efficient, and can also lead to high levels of creativity for some employees.

Potential challenges for leaders with a bureaucratic leadership style:

Employees under this leadership style might not feel as controlled as they would under autocratic leadership. There is sometimes a lack of freedom in how much people are able to do in their roles.

This approach to leadership can quickly shut down innovation. It may not be a right fit for companies that are chasing ambitious goals and quick growth.

Featured resources:

9. Visionary Leadership

Also called: Affiliative Leadership

Visionary leadership focuses on the future. This type of leader encourages collaboration, emotional intelligence, and teamwork.

Why this leadership style works for businesses:

Visionary leaders create a clear plan for inspired employees to follow and execute. They are also powerful and persuasive communicators. This gives them the ability to energize teams toward impactful business growth.

Why this leadership style is good for the team:

Teams can do more and enjoy their work more if they have a vision to work toward. This type of leader offers vision statements and other tools to inspire and motivate teams to engage at work.

Potential challenges for leaders with a visionary style:

Inspiration can be difficult to structure, so this type of leader might miss crucial details. They can also skip over day-to-day issues to focus on long-term ideas. Another common challenge is hyper-focus on a single goal, when other goals may be just as valuable to the business.

Featured resources:

10. Pacesetting Leadership

Pacesetting leaders set ambitious standards. They are often perfectionists, and this leader may also expect employees to exceed goals with limited guidance.

Why this leadership style works for businesses:

This type of leader motivates by working alongside their team and pushing performance. They expect to exceed expectations and often achieve ambitious goals with clear and focused effort.

For example, pacesetting sales leaders set and exceed ambitious quarterly sales cadences.

Why this leadership style is good for the team:

Skilled and experienced teams often thrive under this kind of leader. They use the abilities of motivated and competent team members and make meeting goals feel urgent and exciting.

It can also be gratifying for team members to see their leader working hard alongside them.

Potential challenges for leaders with a pacesetting style:

Pacesetting leaders can sometimes create a high-stress workplace environment. If goals are not realistic it can overwhelm and demotivate the team. This combination can impact engagement and lead to burnout.

Featured resources:

11. Situational Leadership

Situational leaders change their management style to meet the needs of the situation or team. This leadership style is proactive and recognizes that change is the only constant.

Why this leadership style works for businesses:

This approach to leadership can motivate employees. It helps them to be more proactive — anticipating business issues before they happen.

It’s also useful in startups or other businesses that make frequent changes and need flexible talent and support.

Why this leadership style is good for the team:

This type of leader is a great communicator and uses constant team feedback to make decisions. They quickly evaluate and update processes to enable success. It also creates strong relationships and helps employees see and feel their value to the business.

Potential challenges for leaders with a situational style:

Leaders need a high level of expertise in all business processes and functions to make decisions. It can also be confusing and stressful for teams if a leader’s approach changes too often. It’s important to remember long-term goals as well as meet immediate needs, and not every leader can do this effectively.

Featured resources:

Deciding Between Different Leadership Styles

There’s no single “best” style of leadership. So, if you plan to lead, you’ll need to figure out what leadership styles are best for you and your environment.

How to Understand Your Instinctive Leadership Style

Leaders need good instincts, and many leaders focus on their own experiences and habits as they develop a leadership style. As you start your path toward leadership, you may want to start keeping notes. Write down how you would handle specific situations or problems.

This approach can help you be a confident and capable leader. But if you notice some interactions aren’t going the way you expect, you may want to reconsider your approach.

Your instincts and habits will always impact the way you lead. But if you find yourself in situations that you’re not sure how to respond to, you may want to look at other leadership styles.

For example, if you’re an extrovert with a shy member on your team, you may want to work on active listening. If you’re an introvert leading a team of outgoing people, you may need to learn new ways to nurture, support, and inspire your team.

Can you change your leadership style?

You can change or expand your leadership style. It may take some time and effort, but anyone can make changes that can improve their leadership.

The first step is seeing the need for change. Next, you need to prepare yourself for that change.

For example, your leadership style may be effective with your team, but you might have a harder time connecting with stakeholders.

In this situation, you wouldn’t want to throw out your current leadership style. Instead, you’ll want to give yourself time to identify what is and isn’t working. Think about how this change might affect your ability to grow in your organization and other parts of your life. Then, get curious, and begin the work of adjusting the way you lead.

How to Choose the Right Leadership Style for You

There are many different ways that you can find the right leadership style for you. Because of this, it can be tough to know where to begin. If you’re not sure what leadership styles will work for you, these steps can help.

1. Get to know yourself.

Different personalities need unique paths to self-discovery. For some, it’s a process of taking risks and trying new things. For others, quiet time, writing exercises, and listing strengths and weaknesses.

Another path to learning about yourself is through physical activity and spending time with other people. However you go about it, getting to know yourself is an important first step toward being a leader.

2. Outline your values and challenges.

As you get to know yourself, the process may help you better understand what’s important to you and where you struggle. Being a leader often means working at a fast pace and making decisions quickly. In these situations, it’s helpful to have your values mapped out.

As you write out your values, look at pivotal moments in your life to date. Then, look for trends, people you’re drawn to, and common themes.

You might have a long list, so you’ll want to group similar ideas. This outline can help you see how you react, your strengths and weaknesses, and a base for your core values.

3. Watch leaders you respect.

Observing leaders you respect can also help you with leadership styles. As you watch these leaders in meetings, client conversations, and presentations, you may want to take notes.

Another approach is to view their actions with a specific leadership style in mind. This makes it easier to figure out their leadership style and whether it would work for you.

4. Try different leadership styles.

Another way to decide if a leadership style is right for you is to try it out. You might want to create an outline of each leadership style that interests you. Then, review your notes before your next meeting and see how you might incorporate this style into your interactions.

5. Find a business coach or mentor.

You can also hone your leadership style by working with a business coach. There are a few places to start your business coach search.

First, look around your workplace and see if there is someone at your company who’d like to mentor you. If there’s not a right fit, your colleagues can be great resources for respected business mentors.

If that doesn’t bring you the coaching you need, check out this list of places to find a business coach.

6. Ask colleagues and leaders for feedback.

Another way that your team can help you find the best leadership styles is by asking them for feedback.

It’s smart to take some time with this strategy. Before you reach out, plan what you want to ask and why. Think about how your team member might respond and set clear guidelines and expectations.

When your colleagues are ready to share their insights with you, make a point to listen carefully. These sessions can be emotionally-charged, so you might want to take notes so that you can sit with the feedback before responding.

If you decide to share your action plan with your colleagues, be sure to commit and follow up. This process can build trust and engage your team, but it can also create issues if you don’t make good on your intentions.

7. Complete a leadership style assessment.

Leadership assessments are useful tools for leaders, both as individuals and to assess their teams.

A leadership quiz can make it easier to understand your strengths and skills. It can surface habits and qualities you might not be aware of and can give you a clear direction for growth.

If this is something you want to try, the leadership assessment below is a great place to start.

Leadership Style Assessment

Leaders can carry a mix of the above leadership styles depending on their industry and the obstacles they face. At the root of these styles, according to leadership experts Bill Torbert and David Rooke, are what are called “action logics.”

These action logics assess “how [leaders] interpret their surroundings and react when their power or safety is challenged.”

That’s the idea behind a popular management survey tool called the Leadership Development Profile. Created by professor Torbert and psychologist Susanne Cook-Greuter — and featured in the book, Personal and Organizational Transformations — the survey relies on a set of 36 open-ended sentence completion tasks to help researchers better understand how leaders develop and grow.

Below, we’ve outlined six action logics using open-ended sentences that help describe each one. See how much you agree with each sentence and, at the bottom, find out which leadership style you uphold based on the action logics you most align with.

1. Individualist

The individualist, according to Rooke and Tolbert, is self-aware, creative, and primarily focused on their own actions and development as opposed to overall organizational performance. This action logic is exceptionally driven by the desire to exceed personal goals and constantly improve their skills.

Here are some things an individualist might say:

Individualist 1: “A good leader should always trust their own intuition over established organizational processes.”

Individualist 2: “It’s important to be able to relate to others so I can easily communicate complex ideas to them.”

Individualist 3: “I’m more comfortable with progress than sustained success.”

2. Strategist

Strategists are acutely aware of the environments in which they operate. They have a deep understanding of the structures and processes that make their businesses tick, but they’re also able to consider these frameworks critically and evaluate what could be improved.

Here are some things a strategist might say:

Strategist 1: “A good leader should always be able to build a consensus in divided groups.”

Strategist 2: “It’s important to help develop the organization as a whole, as well as the growth and individual achievements of my direct reports.”

Strategist 3: “Conflict is inevitable, but I’m knowledgeable enough about my team’s personal and professional relationships to handle the friction.”

3. Alchemist

Rooke and Tolbert describe this charismatic action logic as the most highly evolved and effective at managing organizational change. What distinguishes alchemists from other action logics is their unique ability to see the big picture in everything, but also fully understand the need to take details seriously. Under an alchemist leader, no department or employee is overlooked.

Here are some things an alchemist might say:

Alchemist 1: “A good leader helps their employees reach their highest potential, and possesses the necessary empathy and moral awareness to get there.”

Alchemist 2: “It’s important to make a profound and positive impact on whatever I’m working on.”

Alchemist 3: “I have a unique ability to balance short-term needs and long-term goals.”

4. Opportunist

Opportunists are guided by a certain level of mistrust of others, relying on a facade of control to keep their employees in line. “Opportunists tend to regard their bad behavior as legitimate in the cut and thrust of an eye-for-an-eye world,” Rooke and Tolbert write.

Here are some things an opportunist might say:

Opportunist 1: “A good leader should always view others as potential competition to be bested, even if it’s at the expense of their professional development.”

Opportunist 2: “I reserve the right to reject the input of those who question or criticize my ideas.”

5. Diplomat

Unlike the opportunist, the diplomat isn’t concerned with competition or assuming control over situations. Instead, this action logic seeks to cause minimal impact on their organization by conforming to existing norms and completing their daily tasks with as little friction as possible.

Here are some things a diplomat might say:

Diplomat 1: “A good leader should always resist change since it risks causing instability among their direct reports.”

Diplomat 2: “It’s important to provide the ‘social glue’ in team situations, safely away from conflict.”

Diplomat 3: “I tend to thrive in more team-oriented or supporting leadership roles.”

6. Expert

The expert is a pro in their given field, constantly striving to perfect their knowledge of a subject and perform to meet their own high expectations. Rooke and Tolbert describe the expert as a talented individual contributor and a source of knowledge for the team. But this action logic does lack something central to many good leaders: emotional intelligence.

Here are some things a diplomat might say:

Expert 1: “A good leader should prioritize their own pursuit of knowledge over the needs of the organization and their direct reports.”

Expert 2: “When problem-solving with others in the company, my opinion tends to be the correct one.”

Which Leader Are You?

So, which action logics above felt like you? Think about each sentence for a moment.

Now, check out which of the seven leadership styles you embrace on the right based on the sentences you resonated with on the left.If you’re wondering “what are leadership styles?” or “what are different styles of leadership?” these assessment results can help.

The more action logics you agree with, the more likely you are to practice a mix of leadership styles.

For example, if you agreed with everything the strategist said, this would make you a 66% strategic leader and 33% democratic leader. If you agreed with just the third statement, but also everything the alchemist said, this would make you a 50% transformational, 25% strategic, and 25% democratic leader.

Keep in mind that these action logics are considered developmental stages, not fixed attributes — most leaders will progress through multiple types of leadership throughout their careers.

Learn Your Leadership Style to Become a Better Leader

Choosing leadership styles that work for you can make you a more effective leader. Whether you manage a big or small team, your style heavily impacts how your direct reports see you. It decides how effectively your team works together to achieve your company’s goals.

If you want to be a leader that makes a difference, you’ll need to keep growing and embrace change. Are you ready to get started?

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in August 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Why We Are Always ‘Clicking to Buy’, According to Psychologists

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Why We Are Always 'Clicking to Buy', According to Psychologists

Amazon pillows.

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

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A deeper dive into data, personalization and Copilots

Salesforce launched a collection of new, generative AI-related products at Connections in Chicago this week. They included new Einstein Copilots for marketers and merchants and Einstein Personalization.

To better understand, not only the potential impact of the new products, but the evolving Salesforce architecture, we sat down with Bobby Jania, CMO, Marketing Cloud.

Dig deeper: Salesforce piles on the Einstein Copilots

Salesforce’s evolving architecture

It’s hard to deny that Salesforce likes coming up with new names for platforms and products (what happened to Customer 360?) and this can sometimes make the observer wonder if something is brand new, or old but with a brand new name. In particular, what exactly is Einstein 1 and how is it related to Salesforce Data Cloud?

“Data Cloud is built on the Einstein 1 platform,” Jania explained. “The Einstein 1 platform is our entire Salesforce platform and that includes products like Sales Cloud, Service Cloud — that it includes the original idea of Salesforce not just being in the cloud, but being multi-tenancy.”

Data Cloud — not an acquisition, of course — was built natively on that platform. It was the first product built on Hyperforce, Salesforce’s new cloud infrastructure architecture. “Since Data Cloud was on what we now call the Einstein 1 platform from Day One, it has always natively connected to, and been able to read anything in Sales Cloud, Service Cloud [and so on]. On top of that, we can now bring in, not only structured but unstructured data.”

That’s a significant progression from the position, several years ago, when Salesforce had stitched together a platform around various acquisitions (ExactTarget, for example) that didn’t necessarily talk to each other.

“At times, what we would do is have a kind of behind-the-scenes flow where data from one product could be moved into another product,” said Jania, “but in many of those cases the data would then be in both, whereas now the data is in Data Cloud. Tableau will run natively off Data Cloud; Commerce Cloud, Service Cloud, Marketing Cloud — they’re all going to the same operational customer profile.” They’re not copying the data from Data Cloud, Jania confirmed.

Another thing to know is tit’s possible for Salesforce customers to import their own datasets into Data Cloud. “We wanted to create a federated data model,” said Jania. “If you’re using Snowflake, for example, we more or less virtually sit on your data lake. The value we add is that we will look at all your data and help you form these operational customer profiles.”

Let’s learn more about Einstein Copilot

“Copilot means that I have an assistant with me in the tool where I need to be working that contextually knows what I am trying to do and helps me at every step of the process,” Jania said.

For marketers, this might begin with a campaign brief developed with Copilot’s assistance, the identification of an audience based on the brief, and then the development of email or other content. “What’s really cool is the idea of Einstein Studio where our customers will create actions [for Copilot] that we hadn’t even thought about.”

Here’s a key insight (back to nomenclature). We reported on Copilot for markets, Copilot for merchants, Copilot for shoppers. It turns out, however, that there is just one Copilot, Einstein Copilot, and these are use cases. “There’s just one Copilot, we just add these for a little clarity; we’re going to talk about marketing use cases, about shoppers’ use cases. These are actions for the marketing use cases we built out of the box; you can build your own.”

It’s surely going to take a little time for marketers to learn to work easily with Copilot. “There’s always time for adoption,” Jania agreed. “What is directly connected with this is, this is my ninth Connections and this one has the most hands-on training that I’ve seen since 2014 — and a lot of that is getting people using Data Cloud, using these tools rather than just being given a demo.”

What’s new about Einstein Personalization

Salesforce Einstein has been around since 2016 and many of the use cases seem to have involved personalization in various forms. What’s new?

“Einstein Personalization is a real-time decision engine and it’s going to choose next-best-action, next-best-offer. What is new is that it’s a service now that runs natively on top of Data Cloud.” A lot of real-time decision engines need their own set of data that might actually be a subset of data. “Einstein Personalization is going to look holistically at a customer and recommend a next-best-action that could be natively surfaced in Service Cloud, Sales Cloud or Marketing Cloud.”

Finally, trust

One feature of the presentations at Connections was the reassurance that, although public LLMs like ChatGPT could be selected for application to customer data, none of that data would be retained by the LLMs. Is this just a matter of written agreements? No, not just that, said Jania.

“In the Einstein Trust Layer, all of the data, when it connects to an LLM, runs through our gateway. If there was a prompt that had personally identifiable information — a credit card number, an email address — at a mimum, all that is stripped out. The LLMs do not store the output; we store the output for auditing back in Salesforce. Any output that comes back through our gateway is logged in our system; it runs through a toxicity model; and only at the end do we put PII data back into the answer. There are real pieces beyond a handshake that this data is safe.”

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

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Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads (And How To Fix It)

Why The Sales Team Hates Your Leads And How To

You ask the head of marketing how the team is doing and get a giant thumbs up. 👍

“Our MQLs are up!”

“Website conversion rates are at an all-time high!”

“Email click rates have never been this good!”

But when you ask the head of sales the same question, you get the response that echoes across sales desks worldwide — the leads from marketing suck. 

If you’re in this boat, you’re not alone. The issue of “leads from marketing suck” is a common situation in most organizations. In a HubSpot survey, only 9.1% of salespeople said leads they received from marketing were of very high quality.

Why do sales teams hate marketing-generated leads? And how can marketers help their sales peers fall in love with their leads? 

Let’s dive into the answers to these questions. Then, I’ll give you my secret lead gen kung-fu to ensure your sales team loves their marketing leads. 

Marketers Must Take Ownership

“I’ve hit the lead goal. If sales can’t close them, it’s their problem.”

How many times have you heard one of your marketers say something like this? When your teams are heavily siloed, it’s not hard to see how they get to this mindset — after all, if your marketing metrics look strong, they’ve done their part, right?

Not necessarily. 

The job of a marketer is not to drive traffic or even leads. The job of the marketer is to create messaging and offers that lead to revenue. Marketing is not a 100-meter sprint — it’s a relay race. The marketing team runs the first leg and hands the baton to sales to sprint to the finish.

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via GIPHY

To make leads valuable beyond the vanity metric of watching your MQLs tick up, you need to segment and nurture them. Screen the leads to see if they meet the parameters of your ideal customer profile. If yes, nurture them to find out how close their intent is to a sale. Only then should you pass the leads to sales. 

Lead Quality Control is a Bitter Pill that Works

Tighter quality control might reduce your overall MQLs. Still, it will ensure only the relevant leads go to sales, which is a win for your team and your organization.

This shift will require a mindset shift for your marketing team: instead of living and dying by the sheer number of MQLs, you need to create a collaborative culture between sales and marketing. Reinforce that “strong” marketing metrics that result in poor leads going to sales aren’t really strong at all.  

When you foster this culture of collaboration and accountability, it will be easier for the marketing team to receive feedback from sales about lead quality without getting defensive. 

Remember, the sales team is only holding marketing accountable so the entire organization can achieve the right results. It’s not sales vs marketing — it’s sales and marketing working together to get a great result. Nothing more, nothing less. 

We’ve identified the problem and where we need to go. So, how you do you get there?

Fix #1: Focus On High ROI Marketing Activities First

What is more valuable to you:

  • One more blog post for a few more views? 
  • One great review that prospective buyers strongly relate to?

Hopefully, you’ll choose the latter. After all, talking to customers and getting a solid testimonial can help your sales team close leads today.  Current customers talking about their previous issues, the other solutions they tried, why they chose you, and the results you helped them achieve is marketing gold.

On the other hand, even the best blog content will take months to gain enough traction to impact your revenue.

Still, many marketers who say they want to prioritize customer reviews focus all their efforts on blog content and other “top of the funnel” (Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation) efforts. 

The bottom half of the growth marketing funnel (Retention, Reputation, and Revenue) often gets ignored, even though it’s where you’ll find some of the highest ROI activities.

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Most marketers know retaining a customer is easier than acquiring a new one. But knowing this and working with sales on retention and account expansion are two different things. 

When you start focusing on retention, upselling, and expansion, your entire organization will feel it, from sales to customer success. These happier customers will increase your average account value and drive awareness through strong word of mouth, giving you one heck of a win/win.

Winning the Retention, Reputation, and Referral game also helps feed your Awareness, Acquisition, and Activation activities:

  • Increasing customer retention means more dollars stay within your organization to help achieve revenue goals and fund lead gen initiatives.
  • A fully functioning referral system lowers your customer acquisition cost (CAC) because these leads are already warm coming in the door.
  • Case studies and reviews are powerful marketing assets for lead gen and nurture activities as they demonstrate how you’ve solved identical issues for other companies.

Remember that the bottom half of your marketing and sales funnel is just as important as the top half. After all, there’s no point pouring leads into a leaky funnel. Instead, you want to build a frictionless, powerful growth engine that brings in the right leads, nurtures them into customers, and then delights those customers to the point that they can’t help but rave about you.

So, build a strong foundation and start from the bottom up. You’ll find a better return on your investment. 

Fix #2: Join Sales Calls to Better Understand Your Target Audience

You can’t market well what you don’t know how to sell.

Your sales team speaks directly to customers, understands their pain points, and knows the language they use to talk about those pains. Your marketing team needs this information to craft the perfect marketing messaging your target audience will identify with.

When marketers join sales calls or speak to existing customers, they get firsthand introductions to these pain points. Often, marketers realize that customers’ pain points and reservations are very different from those they address in their messaging. 

Once you understand your ideal customers’ objections, anxieties, and pressing questions, you can create content and messaging to remove some of these reservations before the sales call. This effort removes a barrier for your sales team, resulting in more SQLs.

Fix #3: Create Collateral That Closes Deals

One-pagers, landing pages, PDFs, decks — sales collateral could be anything that helps increase the chance of closing a deal. Let me share an example from Lean Labs. 

Our webinar page has a CTA form that allows visitors to talk to our team. Instead of a simple “get in touch” form, we created a drop-down segmentation based on the user’s challenge and need. This step helps the reader feel seen, gives them hope that they’ll receive real value from the interaction, and provides unique content to users based on their selection.

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So, if they select I need help with crushing it on HubSpot, they’ll get a landing page with HubSpot-specific content (including a video) and a meeting scheduler. 

Speaking directly to your audience’s needs and pain points through these steps dramatically increases the chances of them booking a call. Why? Because instead of trusting that a generic “expert” will be able to help them with their highly specific problem, they can see through our content and our form design that Lean Labs can solve their most pressing pain point. 

Fix #4: Focus On Reviews and Create an Impact Loop

A lot of people think good marketing is expensive. You know what’s even more expensive? Bad marketing

To get the best ROI on your marketing efforts, you need to create a marketing machine that pays for itself. When you create this machine, you need to think about two loops: the growth loop and the impact loop.

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  • Growth loop — Awareness ➡ Acquisition ➡ Activation ➡ Revenue ➡ Awareness: This is where most marketers start. 
  • Impact loop — Results ➡ Reviews ➡ Retention ➡ Referrals ➡ Results: This is where great marketers start. 

Most marketers start with their growth loop and then hope that traction feeds into their impact loop. However, the reality is that starting with your impact loop is going to be far more likely to set your marketing engine up for success

Let me share a client story to show you what this looks like in real life.

Client Story: 4X Website Leads In A Single Quarter

We partnered with a health tech startup looking to grow their website leads. One way to grow website leads is to boost organic traffic, of course, but any organic play is going to take time. If you’re playing the SEO game alone, quadrupling conversions can take up to a year or longer.

But we did it in a single quarter. Here’s how.

We realized that the startup’s demos were converting lower than industry standards. A little more digging showed us why: our client was new enough to the market that the average person didn’t trust them enough yet to want to invest in checking out a demo. So, what did we do?

We prioritized the last part of the funnel: reputation.

We ran a 5-star reputation campaign to collect reviews. Once we had the reviews we needed, we showcased them at critical parts of the website and then made sure those same reviews were posted and shown on other third-party review platforms. 

Remember that reputation plays are vital, and they’re one of the plays startups often neglect at best and ignore at worst. What others say about your business is ten times more important than what you say about yourself

By providing customer validation at critical points in the buyer journey, we were able to 4X the website leads in a single quarter!

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So, when you talk to customers, always look for opportunities to drive review/referral conversations and use them in marketing collateral throughout the buyer journey. 

Fix #5: Launch Phantom Offers for Higher Quality Leads 

You may be reading this post thinking, okay, my lead magnets and offers might be way off the mark, but how will I get the budget to create a new one that might not even work?

It’s an age-old issue: marketing teams invest way too much time and resources into creating lead magnets that fail to generate quality leads

One way to improve your chances of success, remain nimble, and stay aligned with your audience without breaking the bank is to create phantom offers, i.e., gauge the audience interest in your lead magnet before you create them.

For example, if you want to create a “World Security Report” for Chief Security Officers, don’t do all the research and complete the report as Step One. Instead, tease the offer to your audience before you spend time making it. Put an offer on your site asking visitors to join the waitlist for this report. Then wait and see how that phantom offer converts. 

This is precisely what we did for a report by Allied Universal that ended up generating 80 conversions before its release.

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The best thing about a phantom offer is that it’s a win/win scenario: 

  • Best case: You get conversions even before you create your lead magnet.
  • Worst case: You save resources by not creating a lead magnet no one wants.  

Remember, You’re On The Same Team 

We’ve talked a lot about the reasons your marketing leads might suck. However, remember that it’s not all on marketers, either. At the end of the day, marketing and sales professionals are on the same team. They are not in competition with each other. They are allies working together toward a common goal. 

Smaller companies — or anyone under $10M in net new revenue — shouldn’t even separate sales and marketing into different departments. These teams need to be so in sync with one another that your best bet is to align them into a single growth team, one cohesive front with a single goal: profitable customer acquisition.

Interested in learning more about the growth marketing mindset? Check out the Lean Labs Growth Playbook that’s helped 25+ B2B SaaS marketing teams plan, budget, and accelerate growth.


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