Are Analytics for Sales a Technology Overkill?

Sales 2.0 technology

by Joanne Black

Oh, how I hate paperwork. Most salespeople feel the same way. We just want to spend time with our clients and close deals. It has been tough enough for organizations to get salespeople to use CRM and provide data. Now sales teams are also being asked to review data and trust analytics.

This sounded like technology overkill to me, until I heard Mike Moorman, managing principal of ZS Associates, speak at the Sales 2.0 Conference. By the end of his presentation, I understood that predictive and prescriptive analytics can enable salespeople to do their job with precision. The ability to predict a buyer’s behavior? What salesperson wouldn’t like that?

Mike had my attention. If a tool can help me identify and close more deals, then I’m willing to keep an open mind.  But analytics aren’t my forte, so I sat down for a lengthy conversation with Mike, who set me straight on the different types of analytics and the power to predict customer behavior.

Here’s what I learned…

The Future of Sales Beckons

Traditional diagnostics report what has already happened – increases in market share, sales, productivity, or lead generation and conversion. This paints a picture of past performance, and companies try to tease out possible reasons some sales teams or individual reps have performed better than others. They try to infer why they’re seeing a specific trend. This is useful information for diagnosing problems, but it doesn’t always tell us how to correct those problems in the future.

By contrast, predictive and prescriptive analytics provide insights about what we should do going forward. This data helps sales leaders answer questions such as:

  • What’s the optimal size of my sales force?
  • What’s the best way to deploy my people?
  • What are the optimal territories for us to target?
  • What are the best accounts to target?
  • What is each prospect’s propensity to buy?

But that’s not all, folks…

Predictive and prescriptive analytics also sort through decisions we could make and highlight the best solution. This doesn’t just help sales leaders make optimal decisions. It also enables individual sales reps to optimize their performance by answering such questions as:

  • Which accounts should I call on first?
  • What are my priorities?
  • What is my message or value proposition with a specific account?
  • Should I engage face to face or on other channels?
  • What should I send to each unique buyer – an email, research report, video?

“Buyers today are more complex, and salespeople are trying to find the way through complexity,” Mike told me. “Analytics pave the way.”

Getting Started on Your Analytics Journey

This all sounds great in theory, but what does it look like in practice?

“The analytics journey can be intimidating,” says Mike. “Many companies aren’t rooted in an analytics orientation toward decision making. They’ve relied on past experience and intuition. Now they may need to transform their processes, people, and systems to capitalize on analytics.”

Here are Mike’s recommendations for how to get started.

  1. Start small but strategically. The key is to keep analytics simple and focused. As Mike puts it, “Start by determining the most important problems you’re trying to solve and then decide on your analytics priorities – rather than going on a fishing expedition.”Identify a handful of priorities where analytics can make a significant impact. Begin with analytics for leadership decisions – sizing, territories, who to hire. Also use analytics for targeting – helping sales reps determine which accounts to visit and with what message.
  2. Get the team on board. Salespeople will require change management. “The company suddenly gives them analytics they’re supposed to use, which sounds like a lot of work,” says Mike. “The key is to drive adoption. Salespeople need guidance and must believe that using the analytics will improve their own performance.”Be sure to validate analytics tools before you roll them out to the sales team. Get peers talking about how they successfully used the data to close deals. Help everyone understand that analytics will get them to their goals, not just create paperwork and slow down sales productivity.
  3. Bring marketing into the mix. Align sales and marketing using analytics. “Historically, sales and marketing activities weren’t tightly integrated,” says Mike. “Analytics bridge the gap between digital marketing and sales activities.”Any company’s goal is to provide a cohesive customer experience, which means the teams in charge of communicating with customers – marketing and sales – need to be on the same page. Analytics provide that common operating picture that ensures each customer experiences coordinated communications across all sales and marketing channels.

Strike a Balance Between Data and Selling Skills

The problem with big data is that it’s big. The more information you collect, the less useful it becomes – because someone has to make sense of it all.

Analytics can bolster the sales process, provide insights into buyers, and help organizations better engage customers. And, since most organizations are moving towards predictive analytics – or will be soon – sales leaders and their teams will need to make more fact-based decisions just to stay competitive. But analytics are not the be-all, end-all for sales. It’s still people who drive the sales process, not technology. This means selling skills and relationship-building still matter as much as ever.

Analytics help us get to our buyers earlier in the sales cycle, but then it’s up to smart, strategic sales pros to interpret and use that data. We have incredible tools today for research, and it would be foolish not to use them. But don’t forget that people still seal the deal.

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. Learn more at www.NoMoreColdCalling.com, or follow Joanne on Twitter @ReferralSales, LinkedIn, Google+, and Facebook.

About Sales 2.0
The Sales 2.0 Conference is the number-one industry event devoted to excellence in leveraging Sales 2.0 technology solutions. The Sales 2.0 Conference focuses on the challenges and concerns of B2B sales and marketing executives.

[Top image via Flickr / Neil]
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3 Case Studies from the Sales 2.0 Conference: ClearSlide, DemoChimp, and DivTECH

three case sudies Sales 2.0 Conference

By Cassie Rosengren

Why do some sales executives take action while others stick with the status quo?

That question was on my mind a few weeks ago when I attended the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. The event drew an international crowd of B2B sales leaders searching for ways to modernize their sales and marketing efforts. The sessions delivered solid, actionable insights for attendees. But I wondered how many of them would actually implement these insights when they returned to the office.

Implementers, as we’ll call them, have three certain characteristics in common.

  1. They’re aligned with other departments about how they solve top challenges the company faces.
  2. They have a vetting process for potential solutions worth exploring (technology, strategy, staffing, etc.).
  3. They have an idea of how much a solution would be worth – in terms of both time and money.

Being an implementer is easier said than done. As a co-founder of Digital Knack, a boutique recruiting firm founded by myself and my incredible mom (shout out: Marcia Needels!), I get to watch implementers on the daily. Our clients tend to be well-established startups competing in the digital ecosystem, which demands agility, differentiators in market and, of course, top talent to be successful. Innovative companies tend to be implementers.

Why True Leaders Challenge the Status Quo

Companies with leaders who challenge the status quo and establish processes and budgets for adopting new technologies are implementers. I learn from my clients every day and, as a result, we too have become implementers. Leveraging technology allows us to assess employment brands and candidates in a proactive and efficient manner. This keeps us relevant in our communications and client partnerships.

In an effort to shed light on what kind of results implementers get in their sales organizations by taking action, I spoke with a few specific sponsors at the event and compiled the case studies below.

Implementer #1: DivTech

Applied Concepts is a phone skills training and development company for the auto industry. They partnered with DivTech, a company driving commerce through technology.

Applied Concepts’ Problem & DivTech’s Solution

Telemarketing sales efforts were not reaching full potential. Outreach efforts were being done without digital insights into their prospect pool. DivTech’s solution modernized their efforts with greater lead intelligence and increased the quality of leads generated. The company also had an internal prospect list with poor data integrity that DivTech was able to improve.

Application of Solution

DivTech’s Web visitor tracking dashboard uncovered new, primed leads by showing prospects who visited Applied Concepts’ website. This shortened the company’s sales cycle and increased sales efficiency. DivTech pushed new prospects to Applied Concepts’ website, further increasing the generation of primed leads. DivTech increased the data integrity of their prospect lists by increasing their contact pool with 20,000 good records that had been social media validated and email validated.

Key to Successful Implementation of DivTech Solution

DivTech’s solutions didn’t disrupt their current sales strategy, which was already working for them; it simply enhanced it. The DivTech software is user friendly and empowers less-tech-centered sales pros to adopt the solution with ease and minimal frustration. The solution’s value was visible and nearly immediate, which made sales adoption of the technology highly motivating.

Implementer #2: DemoChimp

An enterprise software company that sells practice management solutions into doctor’s offices. They partnered with DemoChimp, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company that automates personalized product demos to accelerate sales.

Software Company’s Problem and DemoChimp’s Solution

This company struggled to land live demo appointments with all the busy stakeholders involved in the purchase decision (the buying panel). In addition, the company’s traditional one-size-fits-all demos didn’t address the individual purchasing requirements of each buyer, delaying purchase decision times.

DemoChimp personalized the way prospects experienced the company’s pitch. Their intelligent demo automation platform converted the company’s best live demo into a bank of interactive video modules that automatically adapt to the unique interests of each stakeholder – and that buyers could view at their own convenience. DemoChimp’s Demolytics™ (demo analytics) revealed the buyers who were involved in the purchase and what was most important to them.

Application of Solution

The company now uses its DemoChimp demo as the first point of engagement for new prospects – and again as prospects dive deeper into its sales funnel. This two-touch strategy allows the enterprise software company to automatically discover its stakeholders while giving them personalized, relevant pitch experiences. The result is a 44 percent higher close rate and a 68 percent shorter sales cycle.

Key to Successful Implementation of the DemoChimp Solution

Adoption of DemoChimp started with the company’s top 10 sales reps because they carry peer clout. The adoption was simple: include demo links in emails, then discover all stakeholders automatically. DemoChimp enhanced the prospect experience without requiring the company’s sales reps to change their behavior, which helped drive sales and motivate further adoption of DemoChimp across the sales team.

Key to Successful Implementation of the DemoChimp Solution

Adoption of DemoChimp started with the company’s top 10 sales reps because they carry peer clout. The adoption was simple: include demo links in emails, then discover all stakeholders automatically. DemoChimp enhanced the prospect experience without requiring the company’s sales reps to change their behavior, which helped to drive sales and motivate further adoption of DemoChimp across the sales team.

Implementer #3: ClearSlide

Comcast Spotlight, a company that delivers multi-screen marketing solutions, partnered with ClearSlide, a sales engagement platform.

Comcast Spotlight’s Problem and ClearSlide’s Solution

Comcast Spotlight lacked visibility in their sales process, managers lacked insight into the activities of the sales force, the marketing team was unaware what collateral was being used, and reps had no visibility of the needs of their prospects. With ClearSlide, Comcast Spotlight could manage sales people, content, and customer needs via a shared, intelligent, and user-friendly platform.

Application of Solution

ClearSlide was applied within sales and marketing. Managers were able to monitor sales activity, analytics provided feedback to the marketing team on what content was being used, and reps better understood the needs of potential customers because insights were now shared cross-functionally and automatically. The sales team could assemble and use materials more quickly and get them to clients more efficiently. As a result, their sales cycle was reduced by 65 percent.

Key to Successful Implementation of the ClearSlide Solution

The platform is designed with a modern sales force in mind. It is cross-platform for ease of use during travel. With a shared platform for marketing and sales, these departments could collaborate more effectively and increase relevancy for prospects as a result.

These were just some of the stories I was able to gather at the event about what happens when companies successfully adopt and implement new solutions to help their salespeople. What are you doing to drive efficiency and effectiveness in your sales organization? Do you have a road map for implementation? Please share your thoughts in the comments section or tweet @Sales20Conf using the hashtag #s20c.

Cassie Rosengren Digital Knack Sales 2.0 ConferenceCassie Rosengren is director, talent acquisition, at Digital Knack, a boutique recruiting agency that specializes in the digital media industry. Email her at cassie@digitalknack.com.

[Top image via FlickrUlrik Hasemann]
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5 Things Data Cannot Do for Salespeople

Sales 2.0 data salespeople

By Joanne Black

Confession: When I heard the theme of the April 27-28 Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco – “Creating a Predictive Sales Organization” – my heart sank a little. As a firm believer that people, not technologies, drive the sales process, I was afraid I would hear all about how data finally trumps people – that analytics are now the be-all, end-all for sales and that selling skills no longer matter.

Boy, was I wrong! Many speakers made great points about how analytics can bolster the sales process, provide insights into buyers, and help organizations better engage customers. But there was just as much talk about the role of people.

My greatest takeaway from the event: Analytics alone are useless. Sales success requires smart, sophisticated people who know what to do with that data.

Why? Here are five reasons I picked up from Sales 2.0 speakers:

  1. Data Doesn’t Drive Innovation

Majula Talreja, vice president of Cisco Consulting Services, said, “Analytics are done by machines. Then you must take the data and drive innovation.” Aha! That sounds like people to me.

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. Innovation requires a lot more than memorizing and regurgitating facts. While technology is great for storing, aggregating, and – to some degree – interpreting information, it can’t have conversations, ask insightful questions, or draw wisdom from experience… at least not yet.

  1. Data Doesn’t Know Which Problems You’re Trying to Solve

The problem with Big Data is that it’s big. The more information you collect, the less useful it becomes, because someone has to make sense of it all.

Mike Moorman, managing principal of ZS Associates, offered a solution: “Start with the problem you’re trying to solve and then find the analytics – rather than going on a fishing expedition.”

Who can help you identify your pain points? Sales managers, marketers, sales reps who spend their time on the front lines, and customers who have experience with your product. In other words, people.

  1. Data Doesn’t Tell You What to Do Next

Suresh Balasubramanian, CEO of LiveHive, Inc., pointed out that analytics aren’t actionable until they are turned into insights that can be used to build a repeatable process. “It’s not one and done,” he said. “The buyer is not on a linear journey, and we can’t be either.”

Analytics are essential, but how the data is used by real people drives sales.

  1. Data Doesn’t Have Conversations

According to Yon Nuta, CEO of Accuvit, taking the time to have a conversation increases your chance of closing by three-fold.

Selling is about having robust conversations, exchanging ideas, providing insights, and sharing expertise with clients and prospects. In doing so, we become trusted resources. Put simply: By giving to our customers, we give them reasons to buy from us.

  1. Data Doesn’t Make an Emotional Connection

There’s an old saying in sales: People buy with emotion and justify with fact. Data can help you provide those facts, but the emotional part is up to people.

Business communications expert Patricia Fripp put this another way: “Logic makes you think. Emotion makes you act.” In other words, to get people to act, you’ll need more than data. You’ll need a relationship.

What’s the best way to start a relationship with a new client? Get introduced! Receive referrals, and you’ll make contact before your prospects know they have a need. You’ll be building relationships and earning trust while your competitors are still tapping away on their keyboards.

Analytics help us get to our buyers earlier in the sales cycle. Yes, we can predict buyer behavior. But then it’s up to salespeople and sales leaders to interpret the information and reach out. We have incredible tools today for research. But people still seal the deal.

Joanne Black cold calling Sales 2.0 Joanne 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. Learn more at www.NoMoreColdCalling.com, or follow Joanne on Twitter @ReferralSales, LinkedIn, Google+, and Facebook.

Sales 2.0 ConferenceThe Sales 2.0 Conference is the number-one industry event devoted to excellence in leveraging Sales 2.0 technology solutions. The Sales 2.0 Conference focuses on the challenges and concerns of B2B sales and marketing executives.

[Top image via Flickr / visitBerlin]
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The Right Mindset: Sales 2.0 Takeaways

By John W. Fitzpatrick

As I returned to Atlanta after two days spent at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, I did a lot of thinking about mindset. With a five-hour flight ahead of me, I had plenty of time to think.

Mindset – the right one, the best one, the most effective one – was my biggest takeaway from a conference that brings together some of the brightest minds spanning many different industries. Here are a few thoughts from the Sales 2.0 Conference that stuck with me on the plane ride home.

Untitled1

  • Have the right mindset.

Gerhard Gschwandtner, CEO of Selling Power, delivered the first keynote, and it nicely set up those that came afterward. He spoke of three things that every businessperson or salesperson must have to succeed: the right skill set, the right tool set, and the right mindset. We all have skills we’ve honed over time, particularly in the sales business, and we have acquired innovative tools that help us do our jobs more efficiently and effectively. But those can get you only so far. Without the right mindset, one that’s positive and confident, your potential is limited. With the right mindset, though, there is no limit to what you can achieve.

Untitled2

  • Have a rejection-proof mindset.

Jia Jiang is an impressive guy. He’s written a book called Rejection Proof: How I Beat Fear and Became Invincible through 100 Days of Rejection, and that’s what he spoke about at the conference – cultivating a mindset that is free of the fear of rejection. As he elaborated on his philosophy, he showed a slide that simply read, “Just Ask.”

You’re going to hear a no sometimes, no matter what, he remarked. What’s important is how you position the conversation afterward. Why not ask, “Why not?” Find out why you didn’t get a yes. Maybe you’ll get a referral instead. Maybe you’ll learn something you can tweak about yourself or your company. Maybe you’ll pave the way for a future sale. But you can’t do any of those things if you let the no be the end of the conversation.

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  • Have a customer-first mindset.

All too often in today’s fast-paced business world, we put ourselves and our companies first, said Gartner’s Tiffani Bova in her Sales 2.0 presentation. When business becomes about us and not them, our customers, no one benefits. Bova’s presentation stood out to me because her point holds true for all types of companies. We can’t get caught up in thinking about ourselves and worrying about our own business moves. If we work our hardest to help our clients succeed, then our own success will follow.

Untitled4

  • Have a mindset specific to your business.

The right mindset isn’t about only customers, though. It’s also about your company and knowing it inside and out. Joanna Weidenmiller, CEO of 1-Page, gave an outstanding presentation. Among other important points, she noted that you know within minutes of an interview whether a candidate fits the needs and style of your organization. Why struggle to make people into who they’re not just because you like their personality or experience? Building a business is about choosing the right people, and being selective pays dividends.

My plane landed safely in Atlanta, and I disembarked armed with my carry-on bag, an extra pack of peanuts, and a fresh, new mindset that I intend to share with my colleagues. I hope these takeaways stick with you as much as they stuck with me.

John Fitzpatrick is President/CEO of Force Marketing, an innovative automotive multi-channel marketing company headquartered in Atlanta, Ga. Force Marketing offers marketing services to an expansive client base throughout the U.S. and Canada and was named as one of Inc. magazine’s 500|5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. in 2014 for the sixth consecutive year.

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Five Ways to Make the Most of a Trade Show or Event

industry events trade shows networking
By Nick Woog

There are hundreds of people in the room, and nobody knows you. Here’s how to make the most of it.

1) Study the speaker and sponsor lists.

Before you attend an industry event, take time to study the sponsors and speakers. These people and companies fall into three possible categories: customers, suppliers, and competitors. Do some legwork on their history, experience, and speaking topics in order to find out who might be a good connection for you, and be ready to talk with them about their interests, goals, and intentions for the event. Also, prior to the event, try connecting with people you don’t know. Ask for a sneak peek of their presentations, and set a time to interview them for your newsletter/blog/vlog. Be genuinely interested, and people are likely to oblige.

2) Make connections for other people.

People usually go to an event with the intention of making connections for themselves, but connecting people with others can yield positive results for you. Try to connect a vendor with a fellow attendee, or connect two attendees with similar problems so they can brainstorm solutions. The time you spend understanding people pays off when you make connections for them; this is a favor that isn’t quickly forgotten and can have substantial long-term value. The universe will repay you tenfold for deeds like these.

3) Take care of yourself.

Industry events, trade shows, and especially sales conferences can be physically demanding and knock you off your self-care routine. Get adequate rest and nourishment so you can focus and make a great impression on everyone you meet. Avoid overindulging in anything that might ruin your other efforts. I play the following game: I set a goal to make a certain number of new connections in a given day. If I make the number, I enjoy a beer while I write down notes and plan my next steps. If I don’t reach my goal, it’s a Sprite while I work on my plan to make the next day’s goal.

4) Be interesting.

Develop three preset questions to ask people before you talk about yourself (nothing about weather or sports). In case someone engages you first, hone your 30-second “commercial” (email me for help) and end it with a question for him or her to answer. People want to talk with people they find interesting, who are well-versed in the ways of the world, and have knowledge that extends beyond the industry event. Be knowledgeable about positive community news and the greater world around you; you’ll be seen as smart, conversational, and fun!

5) Follow up.

Follow up or be forgotten. Within three days of the event, set a phone call with those you find interesting. To gauge how memorable you are, ask people to connect with you on LinkedIn – no better report card exists. Write details on the back of the business cards you collected, and review them with a smile while you enjoy your beverage.

Jeffrey Gitomer says, “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.” I’ll add, “It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you and believes you can help.”

Be memorable by being prepared, dedicated to the event, clearheaded, and interesting so that, when you make the follow-up, people are happy to take your call. If you’d like a list of my 10 go-to opening questions, send an email to nick@buywoog.com.

Nick Woog, Chef of Sales, offers sales and professional development courses from the King of Sales, Jeffrey Gitomer. Contact Nick today at nick@buywoog.com to see if the classroom and virtual offerings are a fit for you.

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7 Insights You Need to Know from the Sales 2.0 Conference

by Liz Heiman

What did 400 B2B sales leaders learn on the first day of the Sales 2.0 Conference here in San Francisco? Here are seven key insights.

Insight #1: Have the right mindset. Gerhard Gschwandtner, Founder & CEO, Selling Power asked attendees, “What is your mindset about yourself, your company, and your customers right now?” We all have a “mindset” that is implanted within us by the environment we’re born into and the people who raise us. But that mindset doesn’t always serve us well. A mindset is composed of ideas; we should nurture the right ideas and distance ourselves from ideas that aren’t serving us.

Insight #2: Learn how to lead and sell in the digital economy. Manjula Talreja, Vice President, Cisco Consulting Services told us that salespeople need to be hyper aware, predictive, and agile. Online, people, process, and data all come together. When the connections are combined we solve higher order business problems. “Listening is key,” she said.

Insight #3: Take control of your data. Mike Moorman, Managing Principal, ZS Associates, was to first speaker of the day to talk to us about the value of data in sales management. Most sales leaders buy into a myth that they have too little data. Not true. “The problem is too much data,” he said. He defined sales analytics as making decisions to get the right resources against the right opportunities at the right time.” Sales analytics can

  1. be used as a tool to 1) uncover the financial potential of a clients, 2) identify which activities will have the biggest impact, and 3) identify the optimal time to act.
  2. help us identify gaps in sales-force effectiveness and show us the ideal structure of the sales force.
  3. show us how to allocate resources across the territory to achieve the greatest potential.
  4. help us set realistic sales goals.

Insight #4: Don’t leave revenue growth to chance. Keith Eades, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Sales Performance International, Inc talked about the importance of organizational and operational alignment. To succeed, we need to align strategy and sales. What is strategy? It’s the journey from where you are, to where you need to go. When sales is disconnected from strategy, “even good training can have a perverse effect.” We need to train sales reps to get better at knowing what customers need. Sales leaders can leverage data and predictive sales analytics to accomplish three things.

  1. Uncover what competencies your team has.
  2. See what resources they most need.
  3. Identify the changes that will have the greatest impact.

Insight #5: Realize the customer is in control of the sales process. Tiffani Bova, Vice President & Distinguished Analyst, Research, Gartner says, “The most disruptive thing in the market today is not the technology, it is actually the customer.”  They customer does their own research. They talk to providers directly. They reach out independently to a trusted network. They are further down the buying process when they engage, and are often overwhelmed with information, so their perception of your company and what you offer may be off the mark. What can sales reps do to address this situation? When it comes to engagement, take your cues from where the customer is in the buying journey. For example, some customers are very close to a decision by the time they talk with you; that’s not the time to take them back to the “discovery” stage of the buying cycle. Sales managers, don’t force reps to follow a step-by-step process that fits your needs instead of the customer’s needs. Don’t manage against old processes that don’t represent the journey our sales reps are taking with the customer.

Insight #6: Cold calling is not dead. Craig Rosenberg, Chief Analyst of Topo and Funnelholic blogger led a breakout session that challenged the theory that cold calling is dead. These inside sales managers talked about their success using ConnectandSell dialing technologies to reach senior decision makers and make sales that averaged between $20,000 a sale to $200,000.

Insight #7: Don’t count on “random acts of social” to leverage social effectively.  David DiStefano, Chief Revenue Officer, PeopleLinx, explained that 84% of senior execs are using social to influence buying decisions. The problem is that fewer than 26% of sales reps know how to use social media for selling. As Dave said, you can’t count on “random acts of social.” You need a social selling strategy, training on social tools and integration of social into the selling process. David shared a real-life example of a seller who successfully followed a “social cadence” shortened the lead time to secure a meeting with a prospect he didn’t know. The cadence helped him build the credibility to ask for the meeting. Here’s how it worked.

  1. The seller saw a tweet from the prospect.
  2. The seller commented on that tweet.
  3. The seller then sent a tweet sharing the resource the prospect had tweeted. In his tweet, he used the prospect’s Twitter handle, which ensured the prospect would see the tweet in his personal mentions in Twitter.
  4. The seller saw that the prospect “favorited” his tweet.
  5. The seller followed the prospect on Twitter.
  6. The seller reached out to the prospect with an email requesting a meeting.
  7. The prospect responded immediately and invited three colleagues to the meeting.

Alice Heiman, the event’s MC and Chief Networking Officer, reminded us that the world around sellers is changing rapidly. It’s important to take time out to attend events like this to examine how those changes affect our profession and our industry. Although she challenged the idea that salespeople are becoming obsolete, she warned that salespeople need to be aware that there are probably areas in which they should drastically change.

What skills or best practices are you hoping to adopt to help you become a better seller? Share your thoughts in the comments or mention @Sales20Conf in a tweet with the hashtag #s20c!

Liz HeimanLiz Heiman is a sales and marketing strategist and founder and president of re: Sales & Marketing Inc. Find her on LinkedIn and Twitter

 

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3 Steps to Make Better Sales Hiring and Training Investments

sales hiring and training Sales leaders are always under pressure to improve performance. In many organizations, that starts with hiring the right people.

However, according to experts at Sales Performance International (SPI), many sales leaders are making hiring decisions based solely on gut instinct. As Dave Christofaro points out in his blog post about aligning sales talent with business goals, sales leaders go astray when they

  • Use the subjective feedback from interviewers to inform hiring decisions, and
  • Use a previous track record of success to predict success at your company.

Neither of these metrics account for the unique way your company operates. As Christofaro says, there are “many cause-and-effect elements that impact success in your company, in your markets, for your products, and for your customers.” When you base your decisions on your best guess for who will perform best at your company, you leave performance improvement to chance and open yourself up to slow ramp up periods and potentially high turnover rates.

What’s the alternative? SPI CEO Keith Eades, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of SPI, who will be speaking at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on April 27, says a useful question is, “What do your salespeople actually need to be good at?”

“Until you’re able to answer this question with a valid response, most of the investments in performance improvement are largely educated guesswork,” Eades writes in his session description.

To improve your hiring and professional development decisions, take the following three steps.

  1. Define your sales competencies.

Examine the traits of the salespeople who consistently meet or exceed quota each month in your organization. What are the characteristics your salespeople need to generate leads, prospect, and close deals? What does “good” look like in your organization?

  1. Apply advanced analytics to customize those competencies.

Today, sales leaders can leverage data to match competencies to organizational goals. For example, SPI’s Structural Equations Modeling (SEM) approach identifies the cause-effect relationships between certain skill sets and a company’s quantitative business objectives. As Dave Christofaro writes, this approach “can statistically identify the knowledge and behavior that set top-performers apart from the rest of their team.”

  1. Focus learning and development on critical sales competencies.

This overall approach has significant benefits beyond the hiring process. Organizations can also use the same data-driven model (on an ongoing basis) to align sales training much more precisely with goals of the business. The result is more focused training and development with much faster ROI.

The results are often extremely effective. According to Aberdeen Group, best-in-class sales teams that leverage data and analytics were able to increase team quota attainment by 12.3 percent year-over-year (compared to one percent for an average company) and increase average deal size by eight percent year-over-year (compared to 0.8 percent).

To learn more, join SPI at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on April 27-28. Keith Eades’ session will take place at 10:50 a.m. on Monday, April 27.

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Strengthen Customer Relationships with Digital Listening

digital listening

By Suresh Balasubramanian

According to a SiriusDecisions study, 65 percent of organizations say that sales reps spend too much time on nonselling activities. Here are some of the most common ways salespeople lose core selling time:

  •      trying to figure out who all the decision makers are in an account,
  •      selling armed with incomplete customer profiles,
  •      chasing down poorly qualified leads,
  •      manually updating multiple, unsynchronized systems.

These activities eat up valuable time and take salespeople away from the critical tasks that help your organization accelerate sales and drive revenue.

Some of these time wasters can be blamed on a changed selling environment. Because today’s buyers don’t reach out to sales teams until they’re significantly through the purchasing process, salespeople don’t have the ability to engage prospects in the same way – and that’s not the only problem: outdated sales processes and a lack of coordination between marketing and sales have also created huge roadblocks for customer engagement.

How Digital Listening Strengthens Customer Relationships

By using advanced technology to improve engagement, you can focus the rep’s attention on strengthening the customer relationship, thereby enhancing value and building trust.

“Digital listening” tools can capture significant customer behaviors that show at a deep, granular level when and how prospects engage content. Harnessing a scientific approach, these tools can give you unprecedented insight into

  •      a prospect’s interests,
  •      all stakeholders within an account,
  •      the qualifications of warm and cold prospects.

Digital listening tools showing customer-to-content engagement provide a depth and breadth of insight that goes far beyond tracking email opens. When delivered as part of a complete platform, you gain even higher value, with tangible metrics to measure a prospect’s interest level and urgency, as well as area of interest. Imagine working a complex deal and immediately spotting key decision makers – even across different departments!

How Integrated Systems Increase Your Productivity

If you’ve ever lost a sales opportunity because you had an incomplete customer profile, you know this frustration. Maybe you’ve spent way too much time on prospects but would have known earlier that they simply weren’t qualified if only you’d had a complete profile.

Unfortunately, systems between marketing and sales are not always synchronized, so you may not have easy access to information residing with the marketing team; thus, you can sometimes miss big chunks of critical data. If you try to track down this data, you can also spend a lot of time going back and forth across disparate systems – and all of this takes away from your core selling activities.

Systems should be seamlessly and automatically updated throughout the organization so that the entire business has access to the most comprehensive customer profiles possible. Similarly, sales teams can benefit from some of the same automation capabilities currently being used by marketing. By offloading or automating these types of routine sales tasks, you can focus on making more calls and driving more revenue for the business.

To learn more, join Suresh Balasubramanian at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, April 27–28, where he will speak about how digital listening can strengthen customer relationships.

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Suresh Balasubramanian LiveHiveSuresh Balasubramanian is CEO of LiveHive Inc., whose comprehensive sales-engagement platform provides the deepest insight into a prospect’s interest level based on the prospect’s real-time engagement with digital sales content. Suresh is a seasoned software-industry executive with more than 20 years of operations and senior-management experience. Before LiveHive, Suresh served as CEO of Armor5 and general manager of Adobe Software.

[Image via Flickr / Alper Tecer]
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Five Steps to Sales-Training Sustainment

sales training 5 steps

By Gregg Kober

Companies spend a lot of money on corporate training and talent development, so it’s critical that learning be sustained over time.

A recent survey from Training Industry, however, showed that only 32 percent of respondents believe their organizations are good at sustaining behavior change after training. To help individuals embed newly learned behaviors into daily operations, we recommend the following five-step process.

Step 1: Set expectations.

Most organizations have strong and competing interests for people’s time and attention. These competing forces can make it very difficult for new behaviors to gain traction, especially since there will be a dip in post-training performance as individuals transition from old modes of behavior to new ones.

At every level of the sales organization, managers need to help people focus their time and attention on applying the new knowledge and skills. Officially, management should set expectations for what should (and should not) occur as individuals work to master their new skills on the job.

Step 2: Retain knowledge.

New knowledge is quickly lost without consistent reinforcement; however, you can diminish the likelihood that all will be forgotten by using bite-size activities that help salespeople recall critical information quickly and consistently.

Step 3: Apply skills.

This sustainment step is at the heart of helping people retain knowledge and apply their skills to everyday situations and challenges. Successful application includes

1) identifying when to use the new knowledge and skills,

2) using the new knowledge and skills,

3) receiving constructive feedback on how well the new knowledge and skills were applied,

4) persisting in the use of the new knowledge and skills in appropriate situations.

The emphasis should be on incremental change, individual persistence, and continuous improvement.

Step 4: Align systems.

This sustainment step is to assure the team that the required behavior changes are real and necessary and not a “flavor of the month.” If people go through sales training but their work environment and group norms have not noticeably changed to support the new behaviors, people will think that the new behaviors are optional or, worse, that management is not serious about behavior change.

Conversely, if people go through sales training and return to a work environment that is significantly different and better aligned to support the new behaviors, people will know that management is serious about the change.

Step 5: Prevent relapse.

Change takes time, and most of us are impatient. If people don’t feel like they are making progress with the new behaviors, they are much more likely to return to their pretraining behaviors.

It is important to break behavior change into incremental steps so that people feel they are making progress. In addition, success, even partial success, is important so that people feel the benefit of putting in the effort to master the new knowledge and skills.

Finally, holding people accountable for their behavior change through verification dialogue helps them take personal ownership of the need to continue using the new knowledge and skills, rather than stick to the old way of doing things.

Too many companies put their talented salespeople and sales managers through training programs and simply hope for the best. This is an unsophisticated and ultimately harmful approach because it does not create behavior change and wastes precious resources.

Training is necessary but not sufficient for behavior change. If you are going to do sales training right, invest in behavior change by leveraging these five steps to sustainment and dedicating approximately 20 percent of your total project budget to driving the post-training employee experience.

Interested in learning more? Join Richardson in San Francisco at the Sales 2.0 Conference, April 27-28.

GreggKober_300Gregg Kober is a change management consultant with a decade of experience designing and delivering global workplace learning and performance-improvement programs for Fortune 1,000 firms.

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How to Create Perfect Quotes and Proposals

sales proposals and quotes

By Madelyn Newman

If you’re in sales, you know how important quotes and proposals can be to the sales process; it’s one of the last chances you’ll have to make an impression before the client makes a decision.

Creating the perfect quote or proposal is not easy. There are so many things to consider. Of course you need accurate content with zero errors, but you also need a compelling design that represents your company’s core values and ideals. Quotes that are easy to read and comprehend make the decision to say yes simple for your clients and prospects. In today’s fast-moving, mobile world, plain and boring Excel spreadsheets no longer make the cut.

Here are our three best practices for creating the perfect quote or proposal. With more than 8 years (and counting) in the industry, we know a thing or two about closing the sale.

  1. Use approved templates to ensure consistent quality.

You want every single quote and proposal you send to represent your company well, from your brand’s specific tone to core values. If quote-development standards aren’t acknowledged and upheld, you risk creating a sloppy and confusing proposal.

It’s important to give your reps a path to follow when quoting. To ensure professional branding, create approved templates for all of your sales reps to use when creating quotes and proposals. We also suggest a designated checklist to track the steps in the sales cycle, so you can ensure success every single time. By keeping formatting and processes clean and consistent, you’ll be putting your best foot forward with clients.

  1. Customize your proposal with personalized options.

People don’t buy from companies, they buy from people; therefore, it’s important to remember to personalize your quoting templates.

Most customers crave customization. Here are just a few of the ways you can appeal to each client specifically:

  • Interactive quotes – What if I decide I need more? Or maybe less? By sending quotes with interactive drop-down menus, you can let customers select quantities and options they need.
  • Anticipating the customer’s needs – By understanding what inspired a simple request, you can create more opportunities for add-on sales. Anticipate your customers’ needs before they arise, and help them make wise choices without doing a lot of additional work. This will take your quotes from good to better to best.
  • Mobile-friendly quoting – Ever been on-site with a client and your stellar selling skills convinced him or her that more product was needed than what was quoted? By being mobile friendly, you can update the proposal without a lot of extra work.
  1. Deliver on time.

Keeping deadlines equals professionalism. Remember, your clients might be receiving competitive bids. If you aren’t delivering quotes and proposals on time, they might be more likely to consider those other options.

This is where quote and proposal automation can save you. Not only can Quosal help you create templates, it will also deliver updates to you throughout the sales cycle as your prospect interacts with the proposal. This will help you respond more quickly to customer needs. By automating all of these otherwise manually updated quoting tasks, you’ll never miss another deadline again!

A lot of people struggle to deliver a great sales experience, but by creating a more intuitive quoting process based on these best practices, you’ll create a great competitive advantage for your company.

Madelyn-Newman_jpgMadelyn Newman is community specialist at QuosalJoin Quosal at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on March 16.

 

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