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 AlbumIn the business of selling stuff, there’s a lot of managing. Sales reps usually have a boss they check in with on the status of deals in the pipeline, maybe to get some advice on how to close a deal when there’s stiff competition from another company, or to go over how an important customer was reeled in, so that others can learn from it.

These check-ins are sometimes referred to as coaching, and there is data to show that coaching can boost sales performance. A study by the Sales Executive Council suggests that reps who received three or more hours of coaching per month outsold those who received two hours or less of coaching per month, by as much as 17 percent.

Getting that coaching done can be kind of a hassle. But it’s the sort of hassle that Salesforce.com has often sought to understand intimately, and then create products within its suite of cloud software tools.

Today is one of those days. The company is announcing a trial of a new feature that closely ties its traditional Sales Cloud with its Work.com product. The point is to do a few things: Speed up the review portion that has always tended to be a big consumer of time and attention in pretty much any organization, and also to make it easier for sales managers to find ways to motivate their teams to, you know, sell more stuff, which is basically the point of sales in the first place.

Through a combination of Salesforce services including the Sales Cloud, its social enterprise platform Chatter and Work.com, an HR software outfit that includes the Rypple acquisition it made last year, sales teams will see each other’s goals, will learn about big deals coming in, and know about each other’s expertise.

The new tools will also give managers a way to provide instant feedback and public recognition to those sales people who are doing well. Remember “gamification”? It’s not my favorite word, but apparently it works to some extent, especially with sales people who have monthly, quarterly and annual targets to make.

There is research to back up the assertion that when people leave sales jobs they do so in part because they don’t think they’re getting enough recognition from above. Now, on those occasions when a rep lands a big customer in a competitive deal, the manager can publicly pat them on the back with a “thanks in Chatter” feature, and give them a “sales Ninja” badge, or something like it, that everyone can see in their Chatter feeds.

Think it all sounds hokey? Maybe it is, but there’s a lot of evidence that these things have a way to making sales people happier on the job. And happy sales reps are sales reps who close deals, or least that’s the theory. We’ve come a long way since Alec Baldwin’s memorable (and profanity-laced) monologue in “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

The new features are coming in early 2013, and are available for certain Salesforce customers on a pilot basis starting today.

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Ideeli's CEO Paul Hurley

America's fastest-growing company started with 15 people working out of a New York City apartment. 

"If you see my apartment, having that many people in it is not right," Ideeli's CEO Paul Hurley told us.

Since its early days in 2007, the flash-sale site for luxury goods has risen to the top of Inc.'s 500 list of fastest-growing companies, with revenue of $77.7 million last year and 40,882 percent growth since its launch. 

In 2011, the New York-based company raised $41 million in its series C round of funding to focus on hiring employees and developing new categories. 

When Hurley started the company, the economy was moving into a recession and fashion-conscious people were looking for a way to satisfy their luxury goods appetite at an affordable price.

"Most people in America still don't know what a flash sale is," Hurley says, referring to the model where deals are astronomical — up to 80 percent in many cases — but only available to members. 

With 5.5 million users and 3,000 suppliers, Ideeli became a behemoth player in the retail market almost by accident. Its original business model didn't focus on retail, but rather served as a marketing platform where brands were able to connect with consumers through giveaways and some limited-time sales. 

Ideeli

When Ideeli's data illustrated that consumers were more interested in sales than the marketing side, the company pivoted its position in 2009 to satisfy this need and focused on truly becoming a flash sale model by running multiple sales and operating as a retailer.

"[Our idea] was a good idea, but it was actually someone else's idea that was better," he says.

The "someone else" is the Parisian private shopping club Vente-Privee.

"One of the things I've learned throughout my career is to always try new stuff," says Hurley, who launched seven businesses before Ideeli. "You have to have a good understanding of what's going on and aim high. If you're just surviving, that sucks. Who wants to do this? We want to be incredible and incredible for our customers."

Hurley believes his Internet retailer is a multi-billion dollar opportunity, but he's not focused on profits. Instead, he's focused on scaling. 

"The key is that all the horses have to be running at the same speed, so if you're an adrenaline junkie, you need to watch out. Scaling is about putting the right infrastructure and foundations down to win, and we're laying down the foundations to be a much larger business.

"People underestimate how hard it is to make money, to actually make a profit. I'm not even thinking about the people who build a company and then sell it right away. I'm talking about building something where millions of consumers are actually happy you exist."

Ideeli

For competition, Hurley keeps a close eye on stores like H&M and J. Crew as well as e-commerce competitors Gilt Groupe, Rue La La and HauteLook.

"The retail business alone is $350 billion per year. We're thinking about how the consumers shop. They have a lot of choices here. E-commerce is not some new unicorn. It's retail. But this business is super unforgiving if you're not good at operations."

Since its launch, Ideeli moved into a downtown building in May 2008, but within a year, the company packed up again and moved into its current Chinatown location in the same building as Dolce & Gabbana. After taking over two additional floors in the same building, the company's space is "packed tight" again with around 250 employees. 

"The fun thing is, whenever you move into a new place, you think it's giant and wonder how you'll ever fill it up," Hurley says. "Then 20 minutes later, you've got people sitting on each other's laps. It's a joke here that as you get a promotion, you also get smaller desks."

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If you work in any kind of service industry you’ve undoubtedly come across the Request For Proposal, or “RFP.” The RFP process has become a standard by which organizations solicit competitive bids. It attempts to level the playing field and minimize bias by holding everyone to the same requirements—no special treatment, no rule bending. In return, the organization issuing the RFP is able to select a vendor by comparing apples to apples. Alas, in practice, RFPs are the least creative way to hire creative people. The rigidity of the process, and the lack of meaningful dialogue makes this little more than a game of roulette. How can we successfully navigate the heartburn-inducing RFP process? And what can we as an industry do to turn RFPs into the exception rather than the default means of hiring an agency?

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