Why You Need to Know How to Sell to the C-Suite

By Sharon Gillenwater

I gave a talk at the Sales 3.0 Conference in May about best practices for selling to the C-suite. As recently as a couple of years ago, I would probably not have been invited to speak on this topic at a sales conference – mostly because C-suite selling has historically been a pretty niche endeavor.

But, wow, has that changed! McKinsey is now talking about how CEOs have become  de facto chief digital officers. Analysts and Fortune 500 CEOs are discussing the need to shift to C-suite selling on earnings calls.

What’s driving this is the reality that digitization is no longer a side project that can be confined to the margins of the business. Digital transformation is no longer something to be piloted by an innovation team or in an innovation lab. It’s just become too important to the survival of the enterprise. And that makes it the mandate of the C-suite team to oversee it and carefully scrutinize major technology purchases.

So, if you believe what these analysts and CXOs are saying, the rationale for C-suite selling clearly exists. But what do you need to succeed – and who is doing a good job…and how?

Getting Buy-in and Support from Your Own Executive Team

At Sales 3.0 I used the example of Salesforce and its CEO Marc Benioff to underline this idea. He’s been preaching the need to sell to CXOs for at least a decade. In his 2009 book, Behind the Cloud, he laid out three basic tenets essential to selling to CXOs:

  • People buy from people
  • Relationships matter
  • Sell business outcomes, not products

How well does this work? Well, back on a February 2016 earnings call, Benioff stated, “This is the absolute best quarter we have ever had…an all-time high in the number of large transactions.” With more than 600 seven-figure-plus transactions, Salesforce was hitting it out of the park. Not only were they closing a lot of new enterprise customers, they were increasing business with existing enterprise customers in a big way.

What was Salesforce doing to be so successful? Well, Benioff stated it very plainly: “Every single [large transaction] was done with the CEO.”

But it took more than just Benioff confabbing with C-suite executives to make these deals. It took a sales engine led by Benioff’s hard-driving lieutenant vice chairman, president, and COO Keith Block, who bought into this vision and made sure the sales force was geared up and accountable. This enterprise sales approach shifted gears to change the focus to business transformation and business outcomes – not transactions.

As Block himself said on that same earnings call, “In the past three weeks I’ve had more conversations with CEOs around transformation than in my entire career – over 30-plus years.”

This kind of discussion, of course, always leads to the topic of scale. And a good question is, how do you scale CXO selling efforts?

Recalibrate Your Definition of “Scale”

Earlier this month at SiriusDecisions 2017, Nick Panayi and Dorothea Gosling of DXC Technology told the story of how they shifted from an ABM focus to what they are now calling “pursuit marketing.”

Using “pursuit marketing” for a handful of large strategic deals, DXC Technology’s  marketing organization assembles and deploys a team of marketers to collaborate with sales to swarm an account with highly targeted content and messaging. Essential to the effort is developing a thorough understanding of the account at the center of the pursuit – and using this insight to engage the customer at all levels of the organization, including the C-suite.

The goal? Increase win rate and shorten deal times for large deals.

As Panayi put it, “We decided to focus where the money is [and] focus in on a market of one.”

One of the most common concerns we hear from our customers is how to scale CXO engagement programs – and ABM in general. What the DXC Technology case study teaches us is that sales and marketing can achieve big, game-changing wins by recalibrating their definition of scale and focusing on a much smaller number of accounts. In their ABM frameworks, Sirius Decisions calls this out specifically as “large account ABM,” a subset of ABM that requires deep insight on executive decision makers and the companies being pursued.

Make Measurement Easy

Sometimes we make things too complicated. A clear takeaway from Sirius Decisions Summit was that, when it comes to large account ABM, measurement is a pretty easy proposition. As Dorothea Gosling of DXC Technology put it, “The ROI of pursuit marketing is indisputable – you either win or you lose.” And, if you consider the Marc Benioff example above, 600 large deals closed in one quarter (all of which included CEO engagement in the mix) is pretty easy to measure – and a pretty compelling outcome.

Summing up CXO Selling

Is CXO selling the new frontier in enterprise sales? Given how integral technology is to the business of an organization, it would be foolish to stick with the same old same old and sell point products into enterprise silos. In 2017, analysts and executives alike are seeing the need to engage the decision makers at the top. And leaders like Benioff, Panayi, and Gosling are showing us how to build a foundation for success.

Sharon Gillenwater is founder of Boardroom Insiders, where she provides expertise in CXO engagement strategy as a value-add. Prior to founding the company, she operated her own consulting firm, San Francisco Group, serving clients such as Cisco Systems, VMware, Sun Microsystems, Adobe Systems, NetApp, Lockheed Martin, and more. Born and raised in San Diego, CA, Sharon earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of California, San Diego.

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Overcoming Barriers to Deploying Sales 3.0 Strategies

By Paul D’Souza

Have you leveraged Sales 3.0 technologies in your sales organization? Have you deployed any yet? Or have you found yourself having to rethink some of your projects because they were not going as planned?

Based on my experiences (and I typically work with companies that generate less than $50 million in annual revenue), every company has its own set of issues to deal with. Here are three potential problem areas to watch out for.

#1: Organizational Structure

The new breed of marketing and sales tools to which we have access today allow us to engage with clients in very different ways. Our ability to impact and improve the customer experience warrants that we revisit and redesign how we are structured.  Take a step back and review your organizational structures to determine if they support the new approaches you can take to engage and serve your customers. Are you engaging with your prospects and building relationships of trust during your marketing activity? Has the sales process begun?

Start with your go-to-market strategy and chart your new customer journey. Do this in a vacuum regarding your current organizational structure. Once you have charted your customer journey and have a good understanding of the tech-stack needed to engage them, review it against your current organizational structure. Does it map? You might need to redesign your organizational structure to map to the new Sales 3.0 go-to-market strategy.

Your Sales 3.0 strategies will lean heavily on your tech-stack, so make sure your people teams are structured to pick up from where they drop a customer off for you to interact with. Break down your traditional organizational silos and align your people teams. You might also want to compensate your staff differently so they show up to serve your clients who are engaging with your brand.

Remember: There are no sales cycles anymore – just buying cycles – and your sales strategies and sales processes need to map to them.

#2: Disconnected Tech-Stack

The best way to orchestrate an effective customer experience is to integrate all your data. Think continuity and compatibility. It is getting easier, but it still takes some effort to make sure you have continuity of data and information to ensure your customers have a good experience engaging with you and your brand. Your technical teams can figure this out, but ask them to integrate applications and give you access to the data so you can design effective customer journeys and monitor customer engagement.

Very often IT systems are focused on the needs of specific departments and they miss the big picture of focusing on the customer and their “experience.” So start linking your departments together structurally and then redesign how your technology systems will serve your new business model and your go-to-market strategy. It’s about having the right tool set.

#3: People Skills

This is a common problem area when embracing Sales 3.0 strategies. By definition, a Sales 3.0 strategy will be anchored in a technology solution that produces actionable data for someone on your team to act on powerfully. In most cases, the quality of this data will be higher than was previously available. The question is: Are your people trained to take the right action and leverage this information in a timely manner so you can move the needle on your revenue and profitability?

As an example, a common Sales 3.0 strategy will highlight a short list of customers who are ready to receive a phone call or your “next best offer” based on their activity and the activity of customers just like them. Are your salespeople trained to be respectful of the timelines or the “window of opportunity” to make these calls and engage with this subset of primed customers – and skilled enough to make them this special offer? Please don’t make assumptions here. Review the skills needed and the SOPs your people will follow to make the most of these accelerators a Sales 3.0 strategy could provide you. This is where having the right mindset and the right skill set comes into play.

For Sales 3.0 strategies to work, one must select the right tools and have them configured to serve your customers and your business. The key objective is customer engagement and the key outcome is accelerated, focused activity that should increase the effectiveness and efficiency of your people teams. Do this in phases – constantly iterate.

Founder of the D’Souza Group’s Delivering Peak Performance and author of the award-winning book, The Market Has Changed: Have You?, Paul helps business leaders take themselves and their teams to peak performance levels of activity by improving their sales strategy, sales process, and mindset.

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How to Build Genuine Connections with Your Prospects

By Greg Kelly

Salespeople today are looking for ways to build genuine connection with contacts and prospects. However, they frequently lack the right tools to do so in a meaningful way.

At the end of the day, salespeople can try to craft the perfect email, but no medium is really as engaging as video. In fact, a brief and personalized video can even enhance your face-to-face encounters. And, if salespeople have the proper software, video provides analytics that can be even more valuable (especially to today’s data-driven sales teams) than face-to-face encounters.

Here’s an example. Right before his onstage presentation at the Sales 3.0 Conference in San Francisco last month, Vidyard’s director of product marketing, Jeff Gadway, was speaking to Lisa Gschwandtner, editorial director at Selling Power, about the power of ViewedIt. He didn’t have his laptop handy (or a lot of time to chat). Rather than stop there, Jeff texted our sales team at our booth, asking them to record a quick ViewedIt and send it to Lisa before he jumped on stage.

Here is that video:

Here’s where a video, recorded using a tool like ViewedIt, gives salespeople an advantage over a handshake and a smile. After sending the video, we could see when Lisa viewed it and how much of it she watched. She was also offered a link to create her own video as a reply. Meanwhile, Jeff was easily able to follow up from the airport later that day, thanking her team for inviting him to speak at a great event – and for being so eager to start creating videos herself.

Here is Jeff’s video from the airport:

If you are excited about prospecting with video, but are curious about the success our clients have seen with the product so far, we’ve got you covered! Through the use of ViewedIt, sales teams are seeing the following results by using video throughout a sales cycle:

  • 5X higher response rate
  • 8X higher click-through rate
  • 80 percent longer engagement
  • 20 percent higher close rate
  • 30 percent larger deals

Ready to get started with ViewedIt and join us in bringing human connection back to business? Here are three basic kinds of videos you can record; plus, you can read more about using ViewedIt in this blog post: “Three Sales Emails Proven to Boost Reply Rates by 8x.”

Webcam Selfie Videos

Screen Capture Videos

Recap & Repurpose Videos

As a product marketer at Vidyard, Greg Kelly is passionate about the power of video and the roles it can play for every organization. From marketing to sales, support, and internal communications, Greg loves connecting the dots as to how video can help.    

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What Machine Learning and AI Mean for the Sales Profession

By Shalini Mitha

Machine learning is a hot buzzword now, but what could it actually mean for business and sales down the line? Will salespeople be replaced by Rosie from The Jetsons – or a more frightening HAL? Doubtful. But the ability to automate sales tasks could mean big changes on the horizon. It’s all about how you leverage it. With the right, high-quality data, machine learning could have an undeniable impact on how business is done.

Data is the key to designing successful, personalized engagements with customers. SAP recently commissioned a research report by Aberdeen, which discusses the importance of a “data-driven understanding” of our customers on a granular level. Many of us have already spent time and set up systems to collect and track customer data. And, with machine learning, we may finally be able to easily and effectively use that information in ways humans alone cannot.

Being able to sift through and analyze years of customer data to pinpoint trends and tailor actions is something we’ve been building toward for a long time. And now, it’s a task that tends to fall to our sales staff. But, with machine learning, your advanced cloud CRM solution can learn over time to forecast and score deals with greater accuracy – freeing up sales team members to focus on building and nurturing relationships that add value to the business. Sales reps will more easily reach their numbers, and managers will see teams meeting and exceeding revenue goals. Machine learning offers the ability to simplify your organization by leveraging all this data you’ve collected.

For example, imagine you could look at data behind a prospect – the company size, the number of stakeholders, the types of solutions they’re looking at – and compare it to data you’ve collected from hundreds of past deals (both won and lost) to determine just how likely it is to close. You could tailor how you approach the deal to prime it for the win. Or, if it’s not looking so hot anymore, you could then realign your team to focus them on deals more likely to close.

What if you could pair your new sales reps with a guided coach or assistant that could walk them through tasks one by one – reminding them when to reach out to a client or nurture a customer based on timelines that have worked in the past – without leaning on a second sales person, when they could be off working on their own deals?

And, as more deals close, the system will re-learn and evolve. Since the machine has no vested interests other than improving its own accuracy, it’s independent of management pressures, and removes sandbagging and gut feels from forecasts. Managers will have a more objective picture of the health of the pipeline, and will be able to adjust when needed.

All this automation requires a lot of setup, a lot of thought into how you’re going to use it, and absolutely accurate data. While machine learning may still be a ways away, you can start preparing now so you’re ready when the time comes. The research provided by Aberdeen shows us that best-in-class organizations “invest in data accuracy around their prospects’ and customers’ behavior.”

It’s about changing the business mindset – how you think about what you’re doing. Business is no longer about the company; it hasn’t been for a while now. It’s all about the customers. When we can be proactive and anticipate their issues, addressing them before they escalate, imagine how much better that relationship would be.

When thinking of automation, AI, and machine learning, it’s easy to get anxious at the thought of robots taking over business. But worry not, sales folks. People aren’t going anywhere. If anything, as machines start crunching numbers on these scales, it will be more important than ever to engage personally with our customers and prospects. Automating processes is a means to an end.

After all, there’s a personal side to selling that no technology can replace.

For more ideas on how your company can transform, read the full Aberdeen white paper, “Marketing/Sales Alignment 2016: Who is Agile Enough to Win?

Or, learn how SAP Hybris can help you streamline and automate your sales force now.

Shalini Mitha is global head of audience and solutions marketing at SAP Hybris. Connect with her on Twitter @shalinimitha or on LinkedIn. A version of this post appeared originally on The Future of Commerce blog.

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This is a Giant Problem for Salespeople

By Christine Harrington

Here’s a mind-blowing statistic: 44 percent of salespeople give up after the first “no” from a prospect!

If 44 percent of your sales team have an 80 percent probability of giving up after hearing “no,” you might be wondering if more training on sales process could fix the issue.

However, if  sales success hinged solely on sales process, then all your salespeople should be winning deals, because they all have access to the same process. Yet nearly all organizations have a slim tier of top performers – and all the rest are average or low performers.

The problem isn’t sales process training. The problem is the new frontier of selling: mindset. The proper selling mindset  has been the most overlooked and undervalued aspect that influences sales performance. Here are the two major mindset problems salespeople have:

  1. Too often the salesperson doesn’t understand how to stay in control of the sale. Frustration and discouragement set in.
  2. Many salespeople struggle with daily focus, structure, and activities that could otherwise help them produce a full prospect funnel.

The New Frontier of Selling

The new frontier of selling is, without a doubt, developing a peak performance mindset. Mindset development is commonplace in the world of sports, but it’s totally neglected in the world of selling. Why? Because, for the most part, the science on the mind has mostly been thought to be exclusively for the field of psychology. However, Olympic and professional athletes have been hiring psychologists for over a century to train on how to develop a peak performance mindset.

Why not explore this new frontier for selling too? If athletes use mindset to enhance their performance to win, shouldn’t salespeople?

You may be thinking, “What’s all the fuss? I can control my mind and thoughts.” OK. If that’s true, why do you win sales and lose sales when you follow the same sales process? The answer is found by developing the selling mindset…the key to increasing sales.

Taking the First Step

The first step to a selling mindset is awareness. Awareness has two components. Self-awareness is knowing how you think, feel, and act. Social awareness is knowing how you impact others. Self-motivation moves you toward your goals and dreams. However, to stay on the sales road to success, you need a mindset that expands in a positive direction when adversity inevitably happens. To win you need to master self-activation.

Self-activation enables you to be creative, use positive problem solving processes, and manage adversity. The result is an expanded self confidence. Since life is filled with obstacles and sales is hearing more “no” than “yes,” doesn’t it make sense to learn how to harness your mind to work for you instead of against you?   

Start with These Two Tips

Self-activation is when the cerebral cortex of the brain is stimulated into a general wakefulness or attention. And yes, you do activate this part of your brain merely by your thoughts…positive and negative. This is why monitoring your self talk is so important.

Tip #1: Positive Self Talk

Please don’t confuse this with positive affirmations. That’s another subject I don’t fully embrace. (Most positive affirmations are taught incorrectly.)

Positive self talk in the context of this article is in terms of how you’ll respond to adversity.

Scenario: Your sales team or you are behind on hitting monthly sales goals. There are 10 days left in the month to hit your goal. Which of these do you do?

  1. Cave and say, “I’ll make it up next month.”
  2. Give it the ’ol college try and say, “I’ll give it my best shot.”
  3. Harness your mindset in a positive direction by saying, “I’ve done it before. I know I can do it again. Here’s my plan over the 10 days. I WILL DO THIS.”

Remember, you cannot reach your peak performance without specific goals and the benefit of no-limit thinking.

Tip #2: Emotional Self Regulation

How do you regulate your emotions? The quick answer is to remain neutral when you feel yourself reacting to what someone said to you or you’re being drawn into drama. Easier said than done…I get it.

You have three choices:

  • React
  • Respond
  • Do and say nothing

Scenario: Your best client calls in a complaint. As you’re listening to her drone on and on about what went wrong, you may feel your emotions take over in a defensive mode because her tone and language are accusatory. In other words, she wants you to react…but in a positive manner. However, her communication style is evoking in you something much different. Your rational mind knows she’s not trying to make you angry, but your emotions get the best of you – so you react. Then she reacts…and back and forth it goes! You know how this ends. If you want to save the account, you eat some humble pie.

If you’ve done the work in emotional self regulation, the conversation and outcome are much different. As she’s complaining, you feel your emotions to defend rise. This time, you consciously shift to remain neutral so you can think clearly to defuse her anger and resolve the issue. The outcome? You’re the hero because she feels heard and understands you’ll fix the problem.

There’s much more on how to self-activate. For now, start with these tips and I’ll write more in upcoming articles about this. Let me know in the comment section below if this article is helpful. Do you have a story you can share?

Christine Harrington is The Savvy Sales Lady. She is a facilitator for Peak Performance Mindset workshops and a personal sales coach who helps sales professionals develop and improve their sales performance.

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Three Good Habits to Practice with Your Sales Data

By Nina Huang

You’ve all seen this pitch: Imagine a world where, with the swipe of a hand (à la Minority Report), a beautiful dashboard appears in full-color glory showing exactly where the business opportunity lies. You zoom in and there are the details, with just enough – but not too many – numbers. They tell you exactly what needs to be done to win more, win bigger, and sell more frequently.

These tools and the promises that come with them are real. They are powerful and motivating, and they can be game-changers. But how often do you buy a shiny new tool, plug it into the systems you have, eager to dive in with sales managers, and begin to hear the “buts”: “But some of my team hasn’t submitted their updates for last quarter,” “But the numbers are wrong for that region; the data is wrong,” “But we don’t really know if those inputs are real,” and on and on.

It’s like bringing home a shiny new sports car only to realize the only fuel you have is the single gallon of low-octane gasoline sitting in the corner of your garage to top off your lawn mower. It’s enough to get it started, but certainly not to drive at top performance – and you know that, pretty soon, it’ll come sputtering to a stop.

Now, more than ever, there is a need to collect real information, in real time, and organize it in a useful way for the resulting analytics to be meaningful. Technology will get us part of the way – with GPS, email tracking, and call logging to passively collect data – but many important details still rely on user input. Here are some ways to take steps toward overcoming the barriers:

  1. Make sure the data you’re collecting is “real. Sure, establish an expectation for number of calls, meetings, or opportunities, but also make sure there are sufficient details or verify against calendars. Review recent information on a regular basis with managers so it doesn’t get brushed off as “bad data” at the end of a quarter.

  2. Encourage users to set a routine time for entering data. Different routines will work for different people, but choosing a regular time – like in the parking lot immediately after a meeting, during the car ride between meetings, or at the end of the work day – will help establish the right habits. Daily activity entry ensures the data is thorough and allows for real-time analysis and follow-up that can lead to insight about your sales cycle.

  3. Have a process for keeping data clean. The messier the closet, the less important and more difficult it feels to hang things up in the right places. Make it easy for salespeople to keep records up to date. This may mean creating some barriers to entering records themselves to prevent duplicates or it may mean having a vetting process that ranks third-party sources.

Even if data analytics and predictive modeling are not on your radar, get the data habits formed now so, when you are ready, the shiny new sports car will have all the fuel it needs to drive sales forward.

Nina Huang is an account manager for Dial-A-Note, a service that helps on-the-road salespeople get notes into their CRM systems just by speaking. She works with sales enablement teams to define best practices and achieve user adoption within their sales organizations.

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Which Is Better for Sales: Artificial Intelligence or Augmented Intelligence?

By Donal Daly

Many sales leaders are hearing a lot about artificial intelligence and augmented intelligence. But how do you know which technology is the right choice to invest in for the long-term success of your sales organization?

Let me provide some insight about these emerging technologies. Machines are unlikely to succeed on their own

  • If they’re being asked to solve complex (or “textured”) workflows
  • If an enormous quantity of homogenous data is not available

In these scenarios the right approach is a combination of human and machine – and augmented intelligence is a better answer than artificial intelligence.

For example, when Google anticipates what you might be searching for, corrects the spelling of your search term, or suggests other questions you might want to ask, that’s a big-data problem being solved and we are seeing machine learning at work. The machine has learned from what millions of other users before you have asked.

Let’s deconstruct this example: “How old is Stephen Tyler?” For the sake of the example, I spelled Steven Tyler’s name incorrectly, using “Stephen” instead of “Steven.” What happened was:

  • Google figured that out, because most people type “Steven Tyler,” not “Stephen Tyler.”
  • Then Google decided that, if I was interested in knowing Steven Tyler’s age, then I might also be interested in the age of Mick Jagger and Axl Rose because it has learned this is a common search path.
  • Google also figured out that Liv Tyler is Steven Tyler’s daughter, so it displayed her age as well, just in case I cared.
  • It also prompted me with other questions that “People also ask.”

There’s a lot going on here – Google has a generic ML algorithm that is answering the question: “When someone types something into the search box, what do they really mean, and what else might they be interested in?” 

Like the other Internet giants, Amazon and Facebook, Google has one very significant advantage over the rest of us. It is dealing with enormous quantities of data. Approximately five billion searches every day. That’s a lot of data. Also, the workflows involved in Google search or Amazon’s recommendation engine are simple, though sophisticated in their application.

Artificial intelligence is very good at driving efficiencies but less so in driving effectiveness in scenarios where the workflows are complex. That’s where augmented intelligence takes over. In my book, Tomorrow | Today: How AI Impacts How We Work, Live and Think, I map competitive advantage and scope of impact against application of knowledge in the context of the application of AI.

As Tomasz Tunguz from Redpoint said in a recent blog post, “When Machine Learning Just Isn’t Enough”:

The challenge is always the same. How can software improve a current workflow to such an extent that a user is willing to stop their current workflow and learn a new one?…It’s the workflow that keeps the users coming back. 

This is particularly true in the context of tasks that knowledge workers like those in sales, marketing, and customer success teams in enterprise B2B face everyday. The success of a new technology is its ability to co-opt human behavior. As humans in business are trained by their experiences in consumer-land – instant access to information, always-on answers, micro-moment interactions, and too much choice – we are becoming increasingly impatient, have no tolerance of poor service, are frustrated and unforgiving of errors made by machine algorithms, and constantly interrupted by emails, texts, tweets, snaps, likes, and shares. 

The threshold for meaningful application of AI, in whichever mode artificial or augmented is high. I am betting on augmented intelligence, which has awareness of the context in which the workflow happens and responds accordingly.

For those of us focused on providing or using applications that support knowledge workers – like the exciting work going on at Altify – that’s the opportunity to leverage technologies like ML but to do so with an approach that heavily supports the technology with human-infused knowledge to augment the intelligence in the software. Operating in particular business niches as opposed to consumer domains, we can differentiate through applications that use unique training data specific to those niches, and enable business knowledge experts to pour their knowledge of the domain and the associated workflows into the application. This approach compensates for the absence of vast quantities of training data and enables much more accurate outcomes for knowledge-intensive applications and blends the best of human+machine.

Donal Daly is executive chairman of Altify, having founded the company in 2005. He is author of numerous books and ebooks, including the Amazon number one  bestsellers Account Planning in Salesforce and Tomorrow | Today: How AI Impacts How We Work, Live, and Think. Altify is Donal’s fifth global business enterprise.

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Augmented Intelligence and the Future of Selling

By Greg Kaplan

In today’s digital era, sales teams miss or beat their quotas by how they use their data. The problem with data, however, is that entering information into Salesforce has become a time drain for salespeople. As Bluewolf found in its fifth-annual The State of Salesforce report, 79 percent of salespeople regularly spend time during their work day inputting the same data into multiple systems.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, sales leaders can not only streamline data entry for salespeople, but also get more bang for their buck with the data housed in CRM.

That’s because Augmented Intelligence (AI) makes it possible for a sales team to access all kinds of data about the digital behavior of potential buyers – including habits, preferences, and purchase history – and put it to use at every stage of the sales cycle. With the combined AI capabilities of IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein, sales can instantly access actionable analytics from every channel – social, email, mobile, Web – to understand what prospects want and when they’re likely to buy.

The best part? Because of AI’s unique and far-reaching capabilities, the definition of a successful sales organization is changing. Reps no longer must spend hours entering data into Salesforce. We can think of AI as a type of digital assistant for sales that eliminates the daily tasks that burden sellers and selling organizations – searching, organizing, and interpreting data – to connect with prospects and customers.

For example, Augmented Intelligence enables salespeople to warm up cold calls with meaningful insights that personalize their conversations. IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein can work together to provide relevant insights for every individual customer or prospect. To do this, Watson analyzes all available external data, pulling out the right pieces of information to share with Einstein, which will then analyze them in the context of specific contacts to suggest the next best action and prioritize the pipeline.

As AI continues to improve how we sell, sales managers have an ever-increasing responsibility to change their sales culture. The ability to define and share best practices for analyzing customer data is a priority for 68 percent of salespeople – the highest of any function.

Integrating intelligent capabilities into your sales organization is a smart investment in your salespeople. The use of intelligent applications and better forecasting results in greater efficiency and achievement of higher revenue goals. Among companies whose core CRM applications are intelligent (able to anticipate and either take or suggest the next action), 66 percent say their forecasting accuracy has improved in the past 12 months. And that, in turn, fosters more confident salespeople, who are twice as likely to believe they’ll exceed their goals when their forecasting accuracy has improved in the past year (according to results of The State of Salesforce report).

With the recent media blitz of AI initiatives and growing news coverage of AI’s rapid adoption rates, it’s easy to feel intimidated by the next phase in cloud computing, but don’t be. IBM Watson and Salesforce Einstein APIs can be customized to fit the needs of sales organizations of any size and industry. Start with Bluewolf’s AI Blueprint to build the business case and roadmap for AI in your organization.

Greg Kaplan is global chief revenue officer for Bluewolf, an IBM Company. He single-handedly built and manages Bluewolf’s global sales organization, which sells strategic services into accounts of all shapes and sizes in the Salesforce market and is on the path to becoming a multibillion-dollar business.

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Eight Sales Coaching Questions to Improve Your Reps’ Sales Calls

A quick email or phone call with the right sales coaching questions can tell you exactly where the salesperson stands on each opportunity. You won’t be able to assess every sales call, but you should check in with each team member intermittently. Here are eight sales coaching questions you could ask.

Does this sales coaching dialogue sound familiar?

Manager: “How did that sales call go?”
Salesperson: “Great!”
Manager: “Did you close the deal?”
Salesperson: “No, but they love me and they want the product.”
Manager: “When will the deal close?”
Salesperson: “Um…probably this quarter.”

What does this sales manager know about the sales call his salesperson just finished? Not much.

Coaching sales reps when they complete sales calls is important and needs to be done routinely. Salespeople will approach their sales calls differently if they know they’ll be asked for very specific information afterward.

A quick email or phone call with the right sales coaching questions can tell you exactly where the salesperson stands on each opportunity. You won’t be able to assess every sales call, but you should check in with each team member intermittently.

Here are eight sales coaching questions you could ask:

  1. What did you do to prepare for the sales call?
  2. What was your objective for the sales call?
  3. What did you do to make good use of the prospect’s time?
  4. What questions did you get answered that helped you understand where the customer is in the sales process?
  5. What action did the customer commit to take?
  6. What action did you commit to take?
  7. Did the customer tell you when they would make a decision?
  8. What are the next steps?

These questions will help both you and the salesperson understand more about the status of the deal. Far too often, salespeople get way ahead of the prospect. As in the conversation at the beginning of this article, they predict a close date based on their quota instead of on the prospect’s needs. The only way to know when a deal will close is to ask the customer. Salespeople must learn to ask for the implementation date and a time by which a decision will be made in order to know the close date. Salespeople will be more inclined to get the needed information if they know you will be inquiring about it.

Another problem this process will help address is over-commitment on the part of the salesperson. Salespeople are quick to promise to do whatever they think will move the deal  along. By asking questions 5 and 6, you can determine if the commitment of the salesperson is comparable to that of the customer. If the commitment levels are out of whack, it could be a sign the salesperson doesn’t understand where the customer is in the sales process. A change of strategy might be in order.

Managers will have fewer surprises if they make these questions a part of their daily coaching routine. Benefits include a shorter sales cycle, more effective selling, better close ratios, and more accurate forecasting.

This post was originally published on Hubspot’s Sales blog.

If you need some coaching on how to get peak performance from your sales team, I’d be delighted to help. Give me a call at 775/852-5020 or email answers@aliceheiman.com.

Alice Heiman is founder and CSO at Alice Heiman, LLC. Alice works with business owners to get consistent and sustainable sales growth – and has been helping companies increase sales for more than 20 years. She regularly co-hosts the Sales 3.0 Conference and is a certified Peak Performance Mindset trainer.

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How to Sell and Win in the Era of Cognitive Computing

By Paul D’Souza

Being able to read the market is critical to success in sales. This is a skill that will help you stay in sync with the needs of your customers and create the space for you to be active – to engage with them and help them through their challenges.

What has shifted, you ask? It’s these moving pieces…

  1. Customer behavior
    They are involved but via multiple online channels. They want to engage and they care that you see them as unique individuals with unique needs.

  2. Technology
    It is changing rapidly. The trends are leaning towards increased connectivity and cognitive computing.

  3. New Assessment of Business Value
    What this means is that customers will buy ONLY if they see value. No more fancy talk with smoke and mirrors.

I am going to break these down further for you so you can begin to plan for and take appropriate steps to get in sync with these new trends in the marketplace.

Customer Behavior

Today’s customer is an engaged customer. They are either engaged with you and sharing their good experiences OR have moved on – trumpeting their bad experience with all their friends in social media. Their level of tolerance for incompetence has all but vanished. This is true simply because today’s customer has access to many other choices because the Internet makes things findable. Do not fear, though, as this is an amazingly double-edged sword. Since there are so many choices out there, customers realize that not all choices are good – so they are constantly trying to minimize their “cost of buying” like we used to calculate the cost of a sale. Knowing how to engage with a customer and keep their cost of buying low is a requirement in today’s business climate. Here are some guidelines:

  • No two customers are the same. Every customer wants you to notice the uniqueness of who they are. They want you to understand their unique needs. They want you to solve their specific problems. Cookie-cutter solutions are no longer relevant. Welcome to hyper personalization – all the way from R&D to marketing, sales, and service delivery. Are your business practices designed to address this new “Market of One”?

  • The need for responsiveness. Paying attention to your customer needs and their requests for help is critical. When they need help, they want you there. They want you to partner with them and have business practices that are designed to react to and respond to their calls for help. Not soon, not in a few hours, not tomorrow – but now! Be responsive and take care of your customers’ needs and you will be rewarded with a long-term relationship with them. Customers want you to be a business partner of theirs. It is just too costly for them to keep looking for the cheapest vendor.

Technology

The world of technology has entered a new era of hyper growth and connectivity. The Big Data era led to revolutionary change. With ever-increasing use of technology in the marketplace, we got into the space of hyper connectivity through the Internet. Virtually every device now sends out a beacon, a report, and a data log of activity that can be useful in business. The problem here is not the lack of data, but that we have not yet learned how to leverage the insight from data to help us grow our businesses. This is changing fast.

  • Connectivity: The Internet of Things, Big Data, and The Intelligence of Things have created the ability for us to monitor all customer behavior.  Yes, forgive me for making that sweeping statement. But you must hear me out on this. The technology is available.
    • Have you developed the ability to track customer behavior?
    • Can you chart your customer journey?
    • Do you know what your customer journey even looks like?

If you do this well, you can start dancing with your customers and give them the information they need when they need it so they can make informed decisions to address their needs and wants.

  • Cognitive Computing: With all this data that is now available, the leading technology companies in the world – like Microsoft, IBM, and SAP – have already developed platforms that allow even small businesses to use machine learning technologies to solve problems and take care of customer needs. It is time you did the research to determine how you could leverage these technical capabilities with your current technology stack. Ask the questions and learn what is possible with where you are today.

New Assessment of Business Value

I was once on a deal team selling software to the largest soft drink company in the world and we went back and forth, validating their need to spend $18,000. It was not the size of the deal and the money they were worried about – they obviously were a multibillion-dollar company – but it was their business ethic.

Every decision a business makes today is grounded in proving beyond doubt the business value that will be derived from the investment. Does your sales process address this new sense of value your customers are holding? With every opportunity you present to a prospect or existing customer, take the leadership to ask them how this decision will add value to their business or their life. Ground your presentations in a real business use-case that they specify for you. If it pencils and demonstrates value to them, you will have a deal that sticks. A good deal will produce another good deal. This is life. Use the new technologies to help you be responsive to their needs and predict customer behavior.

Peak Performance Mindset

The only way all this will come together for you is if you and everyone on your team realize that it is not business as usual anymore. All of you have to have a new sense of responsiveness and sensitivity to the way the market has moved. You have to be technology driven and build new practices and language to leverage the new communication channels and business applications needed to address your customer needs effectively.  Peak performance is not possible with one or the other, but with both – the latest in technology and a winning mindset.

Founder of the D’Souza Group’s Delivering Peak Performance and author of the award-winning book, The Market Has Changed: Have You?, Paul helps business leaders take themselves and their teams to peak performance levels of activity by improving their sales strategy, sales process, and mindset.

Posted in Peak Performance Mindset | Leave a comment