Sell More: Social Proof Your Sales Team

man-1527674_640

By Jim Regan

We’ve all seen the statistics about social proof. Namely, 63 percent of consumers indicate they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews; people are more likely to leave a negative review than a positive review, etc. However, a lot of us think of social proof as applicable solely to B2C marketing.

It goes without saying social proof for a B2C product or service won’t work the same way in a B2B environment. Perhaps it’s because businesses buy in teams (on average, 5.4 decision makers are involved in a B2B purchase), which means product reviews and testimonials on Facebook simply aren’t enough to help salespeople close more deals.

Still, social proof is important in the B2B sphere. Why? People trust public opinion when they’re making a purchasing decision in any industry. The 2015 Buyer’s Survey Report, for example, found that the top three resources on which B2B buyers rely when searching for vendors are 1) industry experts/analysts, 2) peers and colleagues, and 3) Web search.

If you want to take advantage of social proof, apply it to your sales team. Your salespeople are your best option to influence the buying decisions of your B2B prospects. If you market your salespeople as industry experts and position them as collegial professionals you can, to a degree, engage with and persuade prospects who are conducting online research about your company and your team.  

So, where to begin? Here are five steps to social proof your sales team.

Step #1: Replicate winning tactics from other marketing campaigns.

When you create social proof for your organization, you directly create or facilitate the creation of information that proves 1) people trust your organization or offerings and 2) you are engaged with the current goings-on of your industry. For your salespeople, the idea is the same: you want to prove that others trust you, usually by showing that they seek out your opinion, and that you are connected to your industry. There are many ways a salesperson can (and should) do this:

  • Maintain social media profiles that are frequently updated and have numerous followers
  • Attend and speak at high-profile events to demonstrate expertise or gain information from others
  • Blog/Vlog
  • Host a Webinar
  • Stay top-of-mind by sending an e-mail newsletter containing a mix of articles that feature them and articles important to the current industry
  • Curate industry-related resource collections

Generating social proof for salespeople and your organization concurrently is no small feat. Now is the time to take cues from any existing social proof strategies you might already be using for your organization and use them to develop that strategy for your sales team. If you’re using predictive analytics to track prospect behavior for your company’s awareness campaign, for example, or are seeing success in your company’s social media strategy, you need to apply that to your efforts to social proof your salespeople as well.

Step #2: Identify an area of focus for each salesperson.

How do you want to position each salesperson? Is one person the guru on using your service in the healthcare industry, while another has a long history working in IT? If you’re marketing your sales team, you need to decide where to take their personal brands – there needs to be focus. At Market Resource Partners, for example, we have a transplant from Latin America who moved to work in our Philadelphia office. She is our expert in helping organizations who are looking to expand their geos into LATAM – she has personal experience with the tech landscape in that region, and it’s very easy for her to help our big clients expand. It’s more business for both of us.

Step #3: Allocate resources.

Social proofing is a full-time job. Luckily, lots of organizations hire junior-level content creators who are experts at what they do. If you have an existing staff of employees who own the content realm, find out who has the bandwidth to take on this new responsibility. If not, you might want to consider hiring reinforcements or even outsourcing certain tasks.

Step #4: Restructure your hierarchy.

No traditional sales team hierarchy has room for a marketing person – but that’s about to change. After you’ve completed the step of finding the resources to create content for your salespeople, it’s time to consider marketers who are social proofing the sales team as actual members of the sales team, nested below the salespeople they’re responsible for marketing. The marketer will get the benefit of working closely with the salesperson he or she is branding, the organization will benefit from the department overlap, and it takes you one step closer to sales-marketing alignment.

jimreganJim Regan founded MRP with Kevin Cunningham in 2002 and oversees LATAM for the company. As the CMO, Jim is responsible for keeping MRP on the cutting edge of marketing services and works on the architecture and execution of MRP’s internal marketing efforts. Jim also oversees the management of MRP’s growing team of internal marketing managers, marketing coordinators, and account executives – coaching, training, and constantly challenging the team to excel.

Posted in Sales Leadership | Leave a comment

A Millennial Goes to the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia

screen-shot-2016-11-18-at-10-23-01-am

By Chelsea Lovelace

How did I end up at my first-ever Sales 2.0 Conference this week in Philadelphia? Twitter.

I’m just starting my career in sales, and I use Twitter all the time to network with industry experts and learn as much as I can. One person whose writing and ideas I like and admire is Anthony Iannarino, who publishes fantastic content on The Sales Blog. We connected a few times online and discussed some of the insightful concepts from his book. About a month ago, he sent a tweet inviting people to hear him speak as part of a panel discussion at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on November 14. I reached out right away and said it would be an honor to join. Soon after, I was excited to see a reply from him saying, “You’re in!”  

I had never been to an event like the Sales 2.0 Conference before, and the agenda looked impressive. I was excited to be in the company of some amazing people, including Anthony. I was also looking forward to hearing and maybe meeting Alice Heiman (formerly of Miller Heiman and now a sales coach and author), Gerhard Gschwandtner (founder of Selling Power magazine), and Kevin Higgins (CEO of Fusion Learning, Inc.).

My goal in coming to the event was to develop myself personally and professionally. Right now I work as a corporate product educator for a merchant processing company (the largest independently-operated acquirer in North America). One day I want to be a sales leader and sales coach. In my current role, I’m responsible for educating our sales force on our product – what it does, how it can be a good fit with customers, and how they can best sell the product. I really want our salespeople to be successful and I develop material (video, podcast, live Webinars, individual training sessions, in-person training, etc.) to help them 1) learn and 2) present our products to customers effectively.

What did I learn on Monday in Philadelphia? Here are key quotes and insights from five presentations.

Insight #1: “Driving a sales organization by focusing on results is like driving a car by looking in the rearview mirror.” Kevin Higgins, Fusion Learning (“New and Advanced Approaches to Developing Sales Culture and Leadership”)

It’s clear that many sales leaders get so caught up in results that they forget to look at how they arrived at those results. If you focus only on the outcomes, you lack the information you need to guide a coherent strategy for long-term success.

So much of the time, we don’t really see our customer as the customer. It’s transactional. Don’t focus on what you can do for your deal count, your paycheck, your bottom line.

Insight #2: “Customer experience is the new battleground, and it’s personal.” Nicholas Kontopoulos, Global VP of Fast Growth Markets Marketing, SAP Hybris (“The Measure of Customer Experience”)  

Salespeople need to show prospects that they care about their success. That is part of the customer’s buying experience. To be truly effective, salespeople need to think about what the customer’s customer needs. That is a great way to differentiate yourself and add value as a salesperson.

Insight #3: “In buyer relationships, the salesperson does not convert the buyer; the buyer converts the salesperson.” Adrian Davis, President, Whetstone Inc. (“Outside In: Where Sales and Strategy Meet”)

In a relationship with a prospect, the salesperson starts off as a stranger. This is where the relationship between the salesperson and the buyer is transactional. Gradually (if you can), you move to build a foundation of trust so you can become a “desired supplier,” (where you create an emotional connection with the buyer). From there, you can move on to “trusted advisor,” and, eventually, “strategic ally.” This is the highest level, where you as a salesperson are actually helping shape the decisions of the customer’s company.

Insight #4: “Always be connecting.” Rob Jeppsen, CEO, Xvoyant (“Call Your Shot: Predicting Sales Performance through Coaching”)

It’s not always about asking for the close or delivering your product pitch. Success in sales is about who you can develop relationships with. Who can you connect with? Even if you might not be able to help someone today, you might be able to help him or her in the future. This principle holds true for sales managers as well. When it comes to motivating salespeople during coaching, managers need to uncover what drives the salesperson’s desire to change. It’s focusing on that intrinsic motivator.

Insight #5: “The key to sparking a new purchase is that person-to-person interaction.” Jennifer Stanley, Partner, McKinsey & Company (“B2B Digital Sales: Separating the Myths from Reality”)

It has been said that, by 2030, the salesperson in the field will become obsolete. It was reassuring to see Jennifer Stanley present stats showing that buyers prefer human interactions with sellers for many types of purchase decisions. (According to her presentation, based on McKinsey research, 76 percent of buyers said they want a human interaction when they’re initially making a purchase.) My takeaway was that the human element and digital element are equally important. Sales teams can’t rely too heavily on either one alone. In fact, they must be integrated to be effective.

Overall, the thing that was most wonderful about the event (and what made it worth the drive from Cleveland), was that everyone I met was so happy and positive and grateful. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I still thought of sales as a “Glengarry Glen Ross” environment, with an angry sales manager cracking the whip and negativity dominating the sales organization. After this week at the Sales 2.0 Conference, I see it really doesn’t have to be like that. Sales can be – and is – positive and uplifting for many, many people in the profession. I left feeling that I’m on the right career track, and I look forward to growing my career by helping others become successful.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaaugaaaajdiyndg1n2jiltrmmzmtngy0nc04nzkyltblmjlhotayy2i5oaChelsea Lovelace is Corporate Product Trainer at Electronic Merchant Systems (EMS). Find her on Twitter at @LovelaceladyCLE.

Posted in Sales 2.0 Conference, Social Media | Leave a comment

Win Customer Advocates with a Community that Matters

people-690810_640

By Andrew Field

In the age of mobile technology – where we’re always on, always connected – customers are much more than customers. They aren’t looking at your marketing message. They certainly aren’t interested in your sales pitch. But they are interested in you.

They want to talk about you and, if you deliver memorable experiences, they will. But why are you memorable? Did you engage with them through an omni-channel experience? Or did they have to wait on the phone for half an hour before they got through to a call center?

Tapping into the power of customer communities builds customer loyalty and naturally drives lifetime value. It also gives you amazing insights into their behavior so you can identify leads, find moments where you can offer a better solution, and inform your sales message.

Here’s how you can reach your customers by empowering their voice, harnessing their collective wisdom, and rewarding their efforts to build a better experience.

Build a Customer Community

At the center of your strategy to grow long-term engagement and loyalty must be a plan for creating a customer community. A customer community is more than a forum, message board, or a few FAQ pages. It is a cohesive, measured, executable strategy elevating and empowering the people who choose to do business with you.

Your journey to a customer community begins with one person – a single customer. Build a portal where customers can search a database of answers, content, and tips. Make it easy to use; make it a pleasure to navigate. This builds a basic foundation for customer self-help, allowing a mobile customer to engage when they want, how they want. Self-service allows you to monitor your customers and get to know them. What are they interested in? What makes them unhappy with your solution? Where can you teach them – and sell them – on the right solution?

Next, populate your community with real people. Make it easy for them to share their stories and solve problems. For many of your customers, a well-populated, active community is their first and last line of customer support. If they can find an answer to their specific question or concern right away, you’ve created a usable community. Jumpstart participation by seeding the community with usable content, then – when customers have concerns – point them to the community as part of your customer care process. Soon, the community will begin to grow itself and you can promote community managers from the users on your site. These managers will be the backbone of your advocacy program, they serve as your voice within your own community.

Finally, close the loop with your community strategy by creating ways to bridge the chasm between self-service and directed (or assisted) service. This is where most companies fail. For example, imagine someone has been searching for answers in your portal, reaching out to other customers, but can’t find any answers. There should be a system in place that automatically routes their concern to a help desk while maintaining their research history so the rep who picks up the phone knows exactly where to start problem solving.

Reward Your Advocates

You have to offer a reward system for your customer advocates and community managers. Send them something they’ll actually use – branded swag, free trials of new products, or a chance to win a substantial prize like a getaway or special behind-the-scenes tour of your offices.

Sending a real, tangible reward drives home how important they are to your growth. Think of your managers as employees – and, in some cases, they may actually justify a job offer. Consider rewarding participation by other members as well: a low-cost send like clothing, a gift card attached to a postcard, or even special invites to online events. Keep the rewards flowing and your advocates will promote your brand with a fresh voice and authenticity you can’t match.

Customer Loyalty Means More Sales

Building a platform for customer community is really about exposing the details of your customer service, your customer experience, and your product details to the world. Make it public – let everyone see how deep your dedication goes.

As you draw more users to the site, invest in tools to capture and monitor their behavior. Build profiles that show when and how they’ll purchase next. Don’t be afraid to use your community as a lead-generation engine, and don’t be afraid to use it as a petri dish for use during testing and exposing new opportunities to challenge prospects and offer a solution.

If you’re exploring customer loyalty programs, want to grow lifetime value, or want to create customer advocates, building a customer community is a win-win. Customers can find the answers they need and get the service they demand – and you get a wealth of knowledge and insight into your customers. There are lots of great solutions to help you build your customer community – from stand-alone apps to tight integrations with your CRM platform.

AndrewFieldAndrew Field is founder and president of Printing for Less (PFL), a marketing technology company providing printing, mailing, and fulfillment services, as well as software solutions that improve marketing effectiveness. Join him at the next Sales 2.0 Conference for his panel discussion,Innovative Ways to Help Reps Reach Peak Performance Levels.”

Posted in Sales 2.0 Speakers | Leave a comment

What Sales Organizations Need to Be the Best

summer-1309712_640

By Kevin Higgins

First, the bad news. On average, sales organizations are not improving. Four separate Fusion Learning surveys from 2008 to 2016 reveal that, across everything from selling skills to management, the average sales organization remains just that: average.

Now, the good news. Some sales organizations are thriving. These organizations are not altering what they’re doing, but rather how they’re doing it – and how frequently. They’ve evolved in response to the changing marketplace.

What has changed since our last survey in 2013? For starters, selling is just plain tougher now. In North America, the shine is wearing off of the economic recovery. With skittish U.S. markets and consecutive quarterly drops in Canadian GDP, buyers are more conservative and short-term focused. Buyers have also begun to tune out sales and marketing messages after years of bombardment. Indeed, B2B buyers now prefer to research and buy via a self-service Website. In fact, Forrester forecasts this trend will cost a million U.S. B2B salespeople their jobs by the year 2020.

But not all technological advances are bad for salespeople. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is now the most popular management tool, according to Bain’s 2015 Management Tools & Trends Report. In fact, with the dizzying array of technologies now supporting sales force performance, TechCrunch declared 2016 to be the “Year of the Sales Stack.”

So, how have the best sales organizations changed? Let’s first define “best.” To qualify as best in our research, sales organizations must have attained more than 110 percent of revenue plan with more than 70 percent of salespeople at or above plan. Eleven organizations (6 percent) of the 183 responses to our 2016 survey qualified as “best.” Several key differences have emerged between the best and average sales organizations:

  • Frequency. The best sales organizations act with a sense of urgency. This urgency manifests itself in the frequency and consistency with which sales leaders spend direct time with their salespeople. For reference, 60 percent of the best sales organizations hold weekly team meetings; this is compared with the average of 44 percent. Likewise, 60 percent of best sales organizations’ managers hold weekly one-on-one meetings with sales reps, as compared with 25.5 percent of average organizations. These frequent meetings drive accountability and results.
  • Pipeline drives productivity… Interestingly, although more frequent, the best sales organizations’ meetings were rated as only marginally more effective than average. But the impact of the frequent meetings jumps off the page in one category: “Pipeline helps drive productivity.” Here, the best score a whopping 8.6 out of 10, as compared with a pedestrian 6.3 out of 10 on average. Clearly, the best now use pipeline reports more effectively and more frequently. (It’s not that CRM didn’t exist in 2013. It did. But, in 2016, people are actually using it!) These leaders don’t wait for monthly reports. They access instant data on activity. They build these data into their weekly meetings to boost prospecting efforts and have different conversations.

  • … and prospecting. The best scored higher than average in selling skills. Prospecting, in particular, stood out. When asked whether each member of the sales force has the skills to effectively prospect for new business, the best scored 6.4 on a scale of 1-10. This is compared with 5.6 on average, and up from the best’s 5.7 score in 2013. Likewise, in response to a question about whether each member of the sales force makes time to prospect for new business, the best organizations scored 6.8 out of 10. This compared favorably with a 5.5 score in average organizations.

The last point I’ll leave you with is perhaps the most telling. When asked whether the phrase, “We currently have a high performing sales culture” applies to them, the best, by and large, recognized that they did. But, when they were asked whether they were happy with the current state of their culture, they scored themselves lower. They know they’ve got to keep pushing ahead.

The main message here is not that you can’t change your sales culture. Quite the opposite. You can improve through training and proper management. Even in a challenging economy. But saying you want that change won’t cut it. Building a great culture – like a solid pipeline – takes relentless, consistent, and urgent focus on behavior change.

kevinhigginsKevin Higgins is CEO of Fusion Learning, a world-class sales training organization. He takes pride in his great team and the sales performance improvements they help make in their clients’ organizations. Over the past two decades, Kevin has trained thousands of sales managers from Fortune 500 companies, including American Express, BlackRock, BMO, Disney, Expedia, Honda, HSBC, iShares, JTI, Manulife, Pfizer, SAS, Sun Life, Scotiabank, TD Bank, and 3M. An internationally recognized consultant and public speaker on selling, sales management, and learning effectiveness, his passion for lifelong learning is well known and he is respected in the training industry as a “business person working in training – not a training person trying to figure out business.”

Posted in Sales 2.0 Conference | Leave a comment

How to Achieve Peak Performance in Sales

street-238458_640

By Jamie Crosbie

Peak performance is not reserved exclusively for world-class athletes, brilliant trauma surgeons, or steely-eyed Top Gun fighter pilots. The truth is that anyone can learn to achieve peak mental performance. It is a completely learnable skill for salespeople.

The first step is deceptively simple: embrace your mistakes and see them as growth opportunities.

That’s based on pioneering research conducted by author Carol Dweck, who studies motivation and cognitive performance. Dweck believes we cannot run from failure or stress. Rather, we must develop what she terms a “growth mindset.” The secret to this mindset is to see everything as a progression toward a solution instead of a stopping point.

Learn to See Obstacles as Building Blocks

For instance, in a TED Talk she delivered in 2014, she noted that kindergartners – many of whom had lacked the focus to hold a pencil when they arrived at a Harlem inner-city school – were able to score in the 95th percentile on the National Achievement Test when they were taught that obstacles are not failures, but, rather, natural building blocks to success.

Simply reframing the circumstances strengthened neural connections even when students grappled with difficult concepts. For instance, when students in one high school were faced with passing a certain number of tests in order to graduate, teachers gave them grades of “Not Yet” instead of failing grades. This encouraged students and challenged them to move forward. Instead of fearing failure, they focused more naturally on the challenge.

The children were taught that even failing a test or not understanding a lesson had value because it was part of a larger process. They learned, in essence, that a given situation is not bad or good until you label it so. As with the seniors who needed to pass a class, failure is only failure when we slap a label on it. This is more than a glass-half-empty or glass-half-full mindset; it is a realization that the glass is, and always will be, refillable.

Except for death (and possibly taxes), nothing is static in life. There is no stop sign because everything in life runs on a continuum; one moment flows into the next. What seems to be destruction in one situation can be the turning point in another.

As a sales professional, you understand that perseverance is key to success. There is, however, a bit more involved than simply getting up when life knocks you down. To be a top performer in sales, you have to respond to what looks like abject failure, in a completely different way than most people.

Six Tips to Achieve Peak Performance

Here are six tips to achieve peak performance as a salesperson.

  1. Don’t protect your ego. Embrace mistakes as part of the process of learning. Be unafraid in seeking out the root causes of a given failure.
  2. Remember that most things do not have an end point. Almost anything can be changed into a launch pad if you change the label it carries.
  3. Create a mental safe space and environment. Encourage off-the-wall ideas and creative solutions.  
  4. Practice letting go of treasured processes that continually fail. Be willing to tweak – or even abandon – what does not work by trying many different paths to solutions. In other words, find what works; let go of what does not.
  5. Understand that most things are not inherently good or bad. It is simply our viewpoint that determines how we feel and what we do.
  6. The best way to move forward is not to lament what a situation should be. Rather, embrace what the situation is so you can make it into something even better.

Like any good bodybuilder will tell you, you have to put some time in at the gym if you want to get stronger. In the case of peak mental performance, the best workout space is located between your ears. Remember: Failures are not permanent. They’re simply a “not yet.”  

jamiecrosbieJamie Crosbie is CEO and founder of ProActivate, LLC, and has 20 years of experience in sales leadership and the talent acquisition industry. Previously, she served as vice president of sales at CareerBuilder, where she successfully led a team of 80+ people and exceeded her revenue goals on a quarterly and annual basis. Her sales business experienced 50-85 percent revenue growths annually. Join her at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on November 14, where she will participate in a panel discussion, “Innovative Ways to Help Reps Reach Peak Performance Levels.”

Posted in Sales 2.0 Conference | Leave a comment

Three Ways to Empower Your Sales Reps in a Digital World

By Jennifer Stanley

You could forgive the sales rep for feeling a little anxious these days. Artificial intelligence, digital advances, and radical new business models have all promised to fundamentally change the job of the sales rep or even eliminate certain tasks altogether.

But, when it comes to digital, the most recent work and research we’ve done with top digital players and sales organizations reveals that the B2B sales rep remains, in fact, highly relevant to customers.

85 Percent of Buyers Prefer Digital Channels – Except for New Purchases

What’s changed is when and how that relevance occurs as a result of the digital revolution.

This year, McKinsey surveyed 1,200 buyers across the U.S. and Europe, and almost 85 percent of buyers prefer “digital-only” channels for actions like repurchasing the same or similar offers. But, it’s almost the reverse when considering a new product or service. At that point, 75 percent of buyers prefer to engage directly with sales reps. And when they use digital channels to connect, their expectations are high when it comes to speed and accuracy of response.

This shift has profound implications for what companies should do with their digital assets to drive growth and increase the relevance of individual sales reps. Specifically, we see three steps companies can take to better enable their sales force in a digital world.

1. Raise the organization’s digital quotient. Companies that invest in a targeted set of digital capabilities can improve their financial performance – and not just by a percentage point or two. In fact, the B2B companies that master these areas are generating 8 percent more shareholder returns and a revenue growth rate 5x the rest of the field. These digital capabilities include tools, insights, and processes geared especially for sales reps. Since customers place a premium on getting new product insights directly from salespeople, putting “customer-ready” digital content (such as interactive product demos, tailored surveys that can be viewed on tablets, etc.) in the hands of reps anywhere, anytime is now a must-do, not a nice-to-have.

2. Provide customers with more self-serve tools. It sounds counter-intuitive to say that customers will need sales reps more when they can access information on their own via digital channels. But here’s the truth: Customers are hungry to self-discover information about suppliers but still want human connections.

Our 2016 study showed that buyers consistently preferred self-serve, digital access to information and comparison engines. But we also found that customers inevitably hit a wall researching on their own and need detailed answers. When that happens, their preferred method of connection remains well-informed salespeople.

By that point in the customer’s journey, the conversations tend to be more substantive and closer to an actual purchase. This makes the use of self-serve tools ultimately a better use of both the customer’s and sales rep’s time.

3. Help reps move fast, simply. Encourage sales reps to make more use of the simplest digital tools. Embracing a digital workflow can free up more of their time to focus on revenue-generating activities. For example, many CRM applications have mechanisms to standardize or automate common email language, proposal templates or – in the spirit of self-serve – allow customers to schedule meetings directly into sales reps’ calendars.

The digital experience is not, as many suggest, a wholesale replacement for professional sales forces. The leaders won’t be the companies that figure out how to replace sales reps with digital; they’ll be the ones that figure out how to use digital to boost their sales reps.

To hear more about how digital is changing customer needs – and about its impact on today’s sales forces – hear Jennifer Stanley speak at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on November 14.

Jennifer Stanley is expert partner (marketing and sales practice) at McKinsey & Company. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Posted in Digital Sales | Leave a comment

Five Things We’ll Learn about the Evolution of Sales 3.0 in Philadelphia

screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-2-38-17-pm

On November 14, B2B sales leaders and experts will gather in Philadelphia for the Sales 2.0 Conference. This event will address “the evolution of Sales 3.0” and will provide managers, directors, and VPs of sales with sales operations strategies and insight that help accelerate sales growth and improve sales performance and results.

Here’s a sample of presentations and what you’ll learn. There is still time to register for this event – go to http://www.sales20conf.com/Philadelphia2016/register.html for more information on how to register.

The Measure of Customer Experience
Speaker: Nicholas Kontopoulos, Global VP of Fast Growth Markets Marketing, SAP Hybris

In order to remain relevant in today’s fast-paced business landscape, delivering a great customer experience is now simply table stakes. But how do you measure something qualitative like experience? Where does customer experience start and finish? And who owns customer experience – sales, marketing, or customer service? In this session, Nicholas Kontopoulos will explore these questions and share insights on how leading brands are answering these questions and staying a step ahead of their competition.

Four Key Insights to Driving Higher Sales Performance
Speaker: Byron Matthews, President and CEO, Miller Heiman Group

The world of business isn’t like it used to be. With more buyers involved in the buying process and customer expectations higher than ever, selling has never been more complex than it is today. We’ve uncovered four key areas crafted from years of proprietary data from CSO Insights that are critical to the higher performance of your sales team. These areas include

  • How to build an effective sales enablement strategy that impacts revenue year over year
  • The difference between talent and training
  • The competitive advantage of sales transformation and how to avoid common mistakes
  • The five executive personas and how to use them to close the deal.

We want to ensure you have the insights you need to elevate your game and close the gap between forecasted deals and wins – now and in the future.

Outside In: Where Sales and Strategy Meet
Speaker: Adrian Davis, President, Whetstone Inc.

Without sales, all company growth is crippled. Imagine what would happen to your sales and profits if your sales team could consistently develop strategic relationships with the right customers at the right level. In this session, Adrian will challenge you to rethink your customer relationships and provide a framework necessary to make the development of strategic customer relationships an integral part of your company’s culture. He brings in-depth, refreshing, and thought-provoking insights that can be put into action immediately. You will learn how to

  • Ensure your sales team adds strategic value to your clients.
  • Assess your company’s evolution and how to prepare for its next phase.
  • Categorize your customer accounts in such a way that the right amount of attention is paid to each account.
  • Put a plan in place to ensure you are optimizing the profit potential of each account.

B2B Digital Sales: Separating the Myths from Reality
Speaker: Jennifer Stanley, Partner, McKinsey & Company

We’ve heard the drumbeat for several years now sounding the demise of the professional B2B sales rep as “digital” takes over the customer buying journey. But, as Jennifer Stanley – a partner with McKinsey & Company’s marketing and sales practice – will share, the hype doesn’t live up to today’s reality. Recent research across industries and multiple countries reveals that, while buyers do prefer and desire improved digital interactions, they want them most in very specific spots during their buying journey. And they want them as a complement to, not a direct replacement of, a human connection to the supplier’s sales and service team. The trick for sales leaders is to know why, when, and where the “digital vs. human” interaction matters the most – and to shift their sales force’s activity accordingly. Jennifer will share insights from this 2016 research, along with some best practices to help sales leaders pinpoint what really matters with digital and to identify when changing course will make a meaningful difference to results.

Blue Coat’s Secret Weapon: The Ideal Sales Profile
Speaker: Todd Vancil, Vice President, Worldwide Sales Engineering, Blue Coat

Learn how the creation of an ideal sales profile helped Blue Coat Systems become a sales leader in its space – and how you can apply their unique Talent Management Framework to build the same level of sales talent at your company. With clear, documented guidelines for how to recruit, interview, and onboard new employees to the sales organization, Blue Coat was able to establish a clear culture that transformed employee retention and performance.

This presentation focuses on the specific steps, templates, and technology you can leverage to apply the same proven framework to your organization and create a sales profile that guarantees success and ensures your team is ready for a Sales 3.0 world.

Register now for the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on November 14.

Posted in Sales 2.0 Conference | Leave a comment

Seven Expert Tips to Improve Your Sales Presentation

office-1209640_640

By Alice Heiman

In sales, it’s common to confuse giving lots of presentations with success. If you spend lots of time presenting but aren’t getting enough deals closed, there are probably some very simple things you can do to correct course.

Here are seven of my best tips for sales presentation success.

Tip #1: Aim for an interactive presentation. Selling should always be more about asking and listening than about telling. That’s why presentations need to be prepared in a way that makes them interactive. Planning questions to ask throughout the presentation gets the prospects talking. This is what will move the sale forward.

Tip #2: Give your presentation at the right time in the sales cycle. Where does a presentation fit in your sales process? How early in the sales cycle and what information is required from the prospect before presenting? It’s great to be excited about your product and even greater to be fired up about your presentation. But remember that a great presentation is wasted if it’s delivered at the wrong time in the sales cycle.

Tip #3: Don’t present to the wrong people. Presentations need to be made when all of the decision makers can be present. This is another thing that speeds up the sales cycle. Making the best presentation in the world rarely leads to a sale when it’s presented to the wrong people. Make sure you’re talking with a decision maker before you go to the trouble of presenting.

It is best to make sure you have the information you need by talking to the decision makers in advance of a presentation. You get what you need and come back with a solution to fit their needs. (Much of the time preliminary questions can be asked over the phone – especially when people may need to be reached prior to a presentation and they are not available to meet in person or all at the same time.) Once you have the information, create a customized presentation pulling from whatever good general presentation your company already has prepared.

Tip #4: Tailor your presentation to each prospect. Steady, consistent sales come when you learn about your customers: their goals, their problems, and their vision for growth. After that, you can determine if there is a fit between that and your product and service. Who are they, what do you know about them, what do they need? Your presentation should be focused on that.

Remember, prospects want to hear about their company and know you understand their problems. They don’t want to hear a pitch – and the best way to avoid pitching is to listen. Information on your company may need to be shared at some point, but you don’t necessarily need to lead with this information.

Tip #5: Prepare to ask questions. Often I see salespeople spending hours and hours getting every word they are going to say onto a presentation deck. What they should be doing instead is practicing and preparing to ask questions.

A salesperson might react by saying, “Now wait a minute, I finally get a chance to present and you are telling me to ask more questions?” That’s right. When you present a solution, you need to check in with the prospect to determine if that works for them and if they have any questions about it. Often when people hear ideas fed back to them it helps them clarify even further and develop new thoughts and directions. This may happen during your presentation and you will learn even more about your potential customer. You can address these things as they arise even though they may not be in your presentation. And it’s a good thing you can – because that may be the decision point and you won’t need to go through the rest of your slides.

Tip #6: Take notes. Taking notes will help you give your full attention to the person speaking rather than sitting there thinking of what you’ll say next. Notes will also 1) prevent you from interrupting the speaker, 2) help you prepare follow-up questions, and 3) be invaluable at the end of the meeting when you need to sum up.

Tip #7: Go with the flow of the conversation. If the prospect starts talking during your presentation, interject only briefly and, if relevant, with a clarification question or benefit that fits something the speaker mentioned. Don’t worry about finishing your presentation or getting to all your points. If your prospects are talking, they’re engaged – and that’s a good sign. Most people love to talk about themselves and their company; allow them to do that and ask good questions to keep them on track so you get the information you need.

For examples of great presentation decks, go to www.duarte.com.

AliceHeiman_75x100Alice Heiman is founder and chief sales officer of Alice Heiman, LLC. She regularly co-hosts the Sales 2.0 Conference with Gerhard Gschwandtner, CEO of Selling Power. For more information on retaining, hiring, training, or managing salespeople, call Alice at 775/852-5020. You can also join her at the next Sales 2.0 Conference on November 14 in Philadelphia.

Posted in Selling Skills | Leave a comment

Six Tips for Choosing Customer Success

pedestrians-1209316_640

By Andrew Field

Customer success focuses on customers’ needs, goals, and challenges throughout the customer journey – instead of just rushing to close.

This approach puts customers first – building a great experience and turning them into advocates. At PFL we put customer success first and have been doing it for more than 20 years. The truth is, changing your culture to put customer success first isn’t something that happens overnight.

It has to be part of your corporate DNA. It has to be a priority in every department. It has to be your North Star. Our software solutions that put personalized, meaningful gifts into the sales process were internal tools long before we refined them to work in CRMs for everyone else as part of our software offerings.

The bottom line is this: You have to build customer success into every corner of your business. It takes a while, and it takes everyone. Here are some tips to get you started.

1. Know your customer.

Customer success hinges on acquiring the right types of customers – the ones you can actually help. Ideal customers are more likely to achieve their desired outcomes, stay with you, and become advocates. But do you only have a fuzzy idea about who the right customer is?

Identifying how you can help a customer will help you know who you can help. Now filter the “who” – can they afford you? Are they showing the signs of growth you need? Are they a path into a new industry? Be as specific as you can. By focusing on the kind of customers you want to attract, you avoid chasing leads that are unlikely to develop into strong ongoing relationships.

2. Understand your customers’ desired outcomes and create a step-by-step plan to get them there.  

To achieve customer success, you must help lead your customers to their desired outcomes. In the end, however, they must do the walking. Ask yourself what your client really needs instead of focusing on your sale. Remember, no one needs a drill: they need to make a hole in something. The drill is just the tool that gets them to that goal. Keeping this in mind will help you stay on track with prioritizing your customer at all times.

Depending on the complexity of your product, customers may need demos, support, training and follow-up to achieve their desired outcomes. Follow your plan and monitor your customers to make sure they are progressing toward their goals.

3. Show your customers that you understand them and the challenges they face.

The best way to look like you really care is to really care.

It’s easy to get caught up focusing on your next point while your customer is talking. But it is essential that you resist this urge and pay attention to what your prospects are telling you about themselves and the challenges they face. Great salespeople know they only have one shot to gather the information they need, and that prospects tire of telling them the same information twice. Demonstrate that you are a worthy business partner by listening and then follow up in a way that shows you understand them and care about their needs.

4. Make your customers’ experience exceptional.

Building a great experience with your customer starts on day one. This means treating prospects like they’re already customers while not forgetting to treat them like humans. If you’ll be meeting your client personally, consider bringing food or a small gift. Actively reach out to new clients to answer questions and help them with problems. Monitor your customers and continue encouraging and problem solving until they have achieved the outcome they wanted.

5. Use technology to ensure you stay in touch.

A core tenet of customer success is that you don’t forget your customers once they’ve made an initial purchase. Follow up with them periodically to find out whether you are still meeting their needs and if they have new challenges or goals. Set task reminders for these follow-ups in your CRM – or, even better, implement a team dedicated to ongoing customer success.

6. Turn your customers into ambassadors by exceeding expectations.

Research shows that reviews and testimonials by current customers are a deciding factor for today’s B2B buyer. Sharing on social media provides social proof that also boosts new sales. Build these ambassadors with a great customer experience.

Many companies confuse customer success with “customer service” and relegate it to a customer service department or a subset of the sales team. But the sales or customer service staff can’t ensure customer success alone. Other teams and departments also must play a role in getting customers to their desired outcomes.

You can start building a culture of customer success one step at a time. Sales and marketing are the teams most likely to make a quick impact, spreading to customer service (obviously). But, for the idea to take root and grow, everyone has to make it a guiding force.

AndrewFieldAndrew Field is founder and president of Printing for Less (PFL), a marketing technology company providing printing, mailing, and fulfillment services, as well as software solutions that improve marketing effectiveness.

Posted in Sales 2.0 Conference | Leave a comment

Your Sales Team Isn’t Digital: Report from the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 10.30.33 AM

By Joanne Black

Predictive analytics, social media, technology tools. All of these can be good productivity resources. But people do business with people – not with technology.

This was an overarching message from many of the speakers at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco this year. And I was glad to hear it. Even in the digital age, relationships still rule in sales.

As Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder and CEO of Selling Power, put it, “Technology is getting better. How will people get better?” He reminded sales reps that peak performance comes from creating value for others, and he encouraged business leaders to start by engaging their workforces and taking care of them.

The message was loud and clear: Sales is still all about people.

Gerhard and I aren’t the only ones who think so. Below are some key takeaways from other thought leaders who spoke at Sales 2.0 this year.

“The Building Doesn’t Write Checks, People Do”

That was my favorite quote from Matt Heinz, president of Heinz Marketing. He advised, “We are always selling to the people. Appeal to the people and sell to the account.”

It’s our job as salespeople to help buyers envision the outcome before they take action. That requires having conversations, which is one thing technology can’t do for us.

Matt reminded us to always start with the problem, not what your cool technology can do. No one cares about your technology. They only care how it can help their businesses.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 10.31.20 AM

Are Your Sales Reps Pitching?

Barbara Weaver Smith, founder and CEO of The Whale Hunters, shared alarming research. Enterprise-level buyers report that salespeople who come to see them are shallow. They only talk about what their products or services can do.

That’s not what these buyers want. They want to work with salespeople who can help them devise and achieve strategic outcomes – those who can talk to “Moby Dick” and have high-level conversations. Salespeople don’t have to have all the answers, Barbara said. But they need to ask very pertinent questions that show they know what is going on in the business world around them.

People Buy with Emotion and Justify with Fact

I thought that phrase was outdated now that so many people depend on technology. Not so, according to John Turner, SVP of sales for TriNet.

Making an emotional connection isn’t just a key way to reach prospects. It’s also important for sales leadership.

John pointed out that salespeople are free agents, and all of us have options. That’s why sales organizations need a strong mission and values. Everyone wants to be part of something meaningful. It’s hard to keep that focus and mindset in a growing organization. But, if sales teams know their leaders want to build a championship company, they will stay.

True Connections Matter, People Matter

Amanda Kahlow, founder and CEO of 6sense, brought along her dog, Calvin – not only because he’s the chief happiness officer, but also to illustrate a point. Anyone who’s owned a dog knows, if you give animals trust, they will respond and stay. If you set clear boundaries, they will live up to expectations. It’s exactly the same with people, said Amanda.

While it’s important to understand our markets, we must also understand our customers. Amanda underscored that empathy is essential to understanding where people are coming from, and that salespeople must truly care to make the important human connections that drive sales.

If You Want to Be a Trusted Advisor, You Need Two Things

“Trust and advice,” says Anthony Iannarino. Selling means caring enough to create value for other people, and helping them with business problems they couldn’t solve without you.

Level-4 salespeople are focused on value creation first, Anthony explained. They’re “other oriented” and never talk about themselves. They also have a future orientation. They collaborate with clients to build a vision of what the future looks like. He reminded us, “It’s not about the technology; it’s about the technology ‘up here.’”

Simply put: It’s all about the relationships.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 10.31.59 AM

My Two Cents

Computers do many things more effectively and efficiently than humans, but – outside of a few terrifying science-fiction movies – there’s still one thing they can’t do: think for themselves. Technology expedites many tasks, but, at the end of the day, people do business with people. In fact, the more technology-driven this world gets, the more we appreciate actually talking to and working with people.

The challenge, then, is to balance the high-tech innovation that drives today’s business world with personal, high-touch relationships. It’s not technology versus humanity, and it’s not either/or. We want both. We’re not changing the need for humanity – just some of the requirements.

Joanne Black cold calling Sales 2.0Joanne Black is America’s leading authority on referral selling – the only business-development strategy proven to convert prospects into clients more than 50 percent of the time. She is a member of the National Speakers Association and author of NO MORE COLD CALLING™: The Breakthrough System that Will Leave Your Competition in the Dust and Pick Up the Damn Phone!: How People, Not Technology, Seal the Deal. To learn more, visit www.NoMoreColdCalling.com. You can also follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Posted in Sales 2.0 Conference | Leave a comment