The Easiest Way to Meet or Beat Your B2B Sales Goals

by Tom Cates

If you’re a salesperson, you probably focus mainly on finding new clients, but if you work in a mature business-to-business (B2B) industry, that isn’t always so simple. Let’s face it: these days, most B2B industries are mature! The only way you can land a new client is to steal one from someone else. That can be very hard to do.

When new accounts are few and far between, your best source of new business is likely to be your existing customer base. Rather than chase new accounts, it makes sense to invest more time working to up-sell and cross-sell the clients you already have.

This means you have to have a strong relationship with each of your clients – what I call trusted-advisor status. These relationships can be a huge source of added revenue. Here’s why:

Suppose you have a 50 percent client-retention rate. This means half your clients leave you every year. This rapid turnover makes it difficult for you to grow your business, because each year you have to market to new clients, beat out competition, and become established as an approved vendor. If your client retention improves to 75 percent, however, you double your average tenure, and at 95 percent you have a staggering 20-year average client-retention rate.

The Value of Sticking Around

What does this mean for you as a salesperson? By getting your customers to stick around, you will begin to have

  • more cross-selling and up-selling opportunities,
  • more and better referrals,
  • better pricing (due to less need to win customers through discounts),

… all with less time, effort, and expense.

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You gain a lot of advantages when your clients perceive you as a trusted advisor.

The longer you retain clients, the greater these benefits will be. Keeping customers loyal to you over time makes the difference, as loyal customers will have greater incentive to give you more share of wallet.

How to Achieve Trusted Advisor Status

In the B2B world, building great relationships is often the fastest and easiest way to meet or beat your sales goals. To achieve these kinds of relationships, you need to make a determined effort to understand your clients’ needs and desires and consistently exceed their expectations. I call this building “sales equity” – an expression to describe all the advantages you gain when you build trusted-advisor relationships with clients.

During the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston on Monday, July 14, I’ll be presenting “Sales Equity: What It Is and Why You Need It.” During this address, I’ll delve into how stronger sales equity can lead directly to better results for B2B salespeople and other customer-relationship owners. I hope you’ll join me there!

The bottom line is this: strong client relationships matter, and keeping your customers around longer will lead to more and faster sales, lower costs, and greater growth for your company.

What are your thoughts on the relationship between client retention and higher sales? I’d love to hear them.

Hear Tom Cates speak live during the upcoming Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston on July 14, 2014.

As president of The Brookeside group, Tom Cates has established a research-based approach to uncovering the true value of a client relationship. As counsel to a wide array of industries and organizations, he helps companies tackle issues such as market research, customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty, process improvement, and change management. Cates is the author of three books and a recognized speaker at many events each year, known for his natural storytelling that also inspires audiences to achieve better client relationships.

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The End of Self-Centered Selling

by Mark Roberge

MeIn 2007, I was tasked with building a sales team from the ground up at HubSpot. One of the first things I did was set up coffee meetings with dozens of VPs of sales at software companies, to network and find out how they were running their teams.

What did I discover? They mostly followed a basic, three-step process that probably everyone in sales or marketing will find familiar:

Step 1: The company purchases lists of prospects that look like a good fit for them.

Step 2: Sales reps call high into those prospects and deliver their elevator pitch.

Step 3: Sales reps jam whoever picks up the phone through their company’s sales process.

In short, the sales process was all about the seller, not the buyer.

To me, this suggested a fundamental misalignment with the way prospects wanted to buy. The Internet had empowered the B2B buyer to conduct research online before making a purchase, so the buyer no longer needed to talk with salespeople to learn about features and benefits, and buyers had less patience for cold calls and conversations that were centered around the salesperson’s agenda. I regarded the task of building from scratch a sales team for HubSpot as an opportunity to put this knowledge into practice.

We leaned heavily on technology to empower salespeople to follow a new kind of sales process centered around the buyer’s journey. Here are the three steps we developed and still follow today.

Step 1: We listen to buying signals.

Instead of finding prospects by purchasing lists, we leverage technology to listen to the market and monitor buying signals. A buying signal could be a click on one of our marketing emails, a visit to our Website, or a download of one of our content assets. It could also be a mention on social media about phrases or keywords that are relevant to the problems we solve. (This is one of the most valuable aspects of social selling and something I’ll be talking about at the upcoming Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston.) These buying signals are happening hundreds and sometimes thousands of times a day, and salespeople at most companies have no idea.

Step 2: We lead with the right information, not the generic elevator pitch.

Using technology, our salespeople understand what information the prospective buyers have already consumed and engage with the best next piece of information applicable to the buyer’s context.

Step 3: We assist the prospect through his or her buying journey.

Rather than obsess over our sales process and force prospects through a set of qualification questions to help us understand if the prospect is worth our time, our salespeople obsess over prospects’ buying processes and how we can support them.

In summary, we avoid the “me-focused” sales process. Today’s empowered buyer just does not have the patience for self-centered sales teams. Instead, we leverage technology and buyer context to create a better buying experience for customers and a faster sales process for our salespeople. Everybody wins!

All of these practices and the supporting technological tools we’ve created have helped the HubSpot sales team achieve rapid growth in just six years. [Editor’s note: According to the Wall Street Journal, HubSpot has achieved a $100 million revenue run rate.] I’ll be sharing more about HubSpot’s rapid growth strategy and how sales leaders can leverage these tactics at the Boston Sales 2.0 Conference, including role plays and scripts from the HubSpot playbook. Register now to join me.

How well is your sales process aligned with the buyer’s journey? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

MarkRoberge_75x100Mark Roberge is chief revenue officer at HubSpot.

 

 

[Image: Flickr / Kat]

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Sell Smarter: The Future of Sales

We’re counting down to the next Sales 2.0 Conference, which will be in Boston on July 14. One of our returning speakers will be Chuck Penfield, Regional Vice President of Sales, Cloud CRM Applications at Oracle. In Boston he will present, “Sell Smarter: The Future of Sales” (see the full conference agenda here).

Today’s sales organizations are rapidly changing, and they’ll continue to face challenges and unprecedented competition to achieve increased performance and higher levels of effectiveness. In this session, Chuck will share:

  • how to build a modern sales organization that leverages the power of analytics and forecasting to help win more deals,
  • ways to maximize revenue potential and improve cross-sell and up-sell opportunities,
  • strategies to optimize sales performance and productivity by adopting an effective mobile deal management approach, and
  • how to improve sales alignment and effectively manage incentive-compensation plans.

Join us on July 14! Go here to register — you can also watch this brief video from conference host Gerhard Gschwandtner to grab a $300 discount code.

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An Inside Look at the Sales 2.0 Conference

We saw a lot of familiar faces in this video from Gerhard Gschwandtner of Selling Power, who spoke with many attendees at our May event in San Francisco about what they value most about the Sales 2.0 Conference. If you have ever wondered what B2B sales leaders learn at our events, check it out!

(Bonus: if you watch the video, you’ll see a discount code for registration at the very end for $300 off the price of admission to our Boston event on July 14.)

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Four Trends that are Shaping B2B Customer Expectations

How many sales and marketing teams spend their days trying to capture customers?

LaVon Koerner Sales 2.0 Conference

LaVon Koerner addresses the audience at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, May 2014

At the recent Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, speaker LaVon Koerner asserted that demand capture is no longer a relevant approach. Instead, B2B sales and marketing organizations need to focus on demand creation.

Koerner, who is president and chief revenue officer of Revenue Storm, said this shift is due to four major disruptions in sales today.

1) Alternative sources of information. Koerner asked audience members if they remember the days of putting account plans together in huge binders. “Those huge binders are gone. Now there are so many ways for customers to get that information,” he said. “Sales teams must accept that there are simply better ways of getting information than talking with salespeople.”

2) Increased commoditization. “The time it takes to bring a new product to market is collapsing,” Koerner said. “The amount of time it takes to lifecycle a product is collapsing. Meanwhile the number of competitors who can emulate you is increasing. That giant sucking sound you hear is lost profitability.”

3) Economic conditions. Koerner pointed out that the American economy grew by just 2.6 percent in the final quarter of 2013. “That’s not enough growth to keep your sales organization healthy and for all your hungry competitors to hit their numbers,” said Koerner.

4) The next generation of tech users. It’s not just new technology that poses a challenge, it’s the way the new generation uses technology. As Koerner said, those currently coming up the career ladder communicate and make decisions by using technology in ways with which the older generations are unfamiliar. “This new generation of buyers will also buy differently,” said Koerner.

When trends are large enough, they cause disruption. Here’s a list of the old expectations customers demanded of sales teams:

“Fulfill my order or RFP.”
“Provide me with the best offering/price.”
“Don’t talk so much and just listen to me.”

Meanwhile, here are the new customer expectations:

“Challenge my thinking about my business challenges.”
“Proactively bring me innovative ideas.”
“Provide thought leadership that can guide my ability to make decisions.”

Koerner stressed that we have to move away from the world of demand capture into the world of demand creation. While sales teams in the past focused on beating the competition and devoted weekends to putting together a world-class proposal, those tactics will no longer give you an edge. “It’s not a product-centric world anymore,” he said. “It’s an opportunity-centric world. Your job is to alert, educate, and get ahead of the proposal.”

Ultimately, Koerner encouraged the hundreds of sales leaders in attendance to focus on doing something different, rather than doing something old in a better way. “The glory days of selling will not return. It’s over. It’s best to take a breath and accept that things will never be the same. It’s time to start working on something new. Don’t go out and find clients. Make clients.”

Join us at the Boston Sales 2.0 Conference on July 14. Register before June 18 and save $130

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What’s the Value of Getting a Second Chance at Life?

by Parker Trewin 

AIDS/LifeCycleIn sales, and sometimes in life, it comes down to the ask.

The casino event that raised $1,600 at the Sales 2.0 Conference a few weeks ago was a direct result of such an ask. [Update: The current total raised is $2,303.50. To contribute in Parker's name, please visit http://tofighthiv.org/goto/parkertrewin. -- Ed.]

Seven years ago I made the simple request of Gerhard and Larissa Gschwandtner. It was to join me for dinner. I wanted to Gerhard to speak at our first Sales 2.0 Conference. After a bottle of wine, and talking about almost everything but business, he agreed. He also agreed to take over the helm of the conference when the company I was working for decided that it was not in the event business.

Last June, I asked a question of myself.

Being HIV positive for 10 years I knew that I wanted to give back to the organizations that have been helping me live a fuller life. The question I asked was this: What’s the value of getting a second chance at life?

That’s when I decided to do two things: ride 545 miles from SF to LA in the AIDS/LifeCycle and along the way raise $1K for every year of my life in support the SF AIDS Foundation.

To help me get to $54K I asked Gerhard and Larissa if they would support me and tonight’s event was the result. I closed today’s Sales 2.0 Conference by doing something I’d never done before — come out as positive to a mostly straight and completely unfamiliar room. I had pushed beyond my comfort zone. I felt exposed.

You could hear a pin drop. I could feel their empathy towards me. While nothing was uttered, a lot was said. It was quite a moving moment that I quickly passed through. I closed the session recounting to the audience much of what I have just retold you about how the conference got started and how that led me to being on stage before them. I asked attendees to help me close the final gap saying “every dollar that the house takes in goes directly towards my efforts. All I ask of you is that you have fun, network, have a drink or two on the house, and gamble relentlessly.”

Today, I ventured outside again.

Aria, the new company I work for, is launching a social good program; AIDS/LifeCycle is their first beneficiary. Together, with the help of the Aria team, we have decided to tell my story. In so doing this also makes me their first employee to be publicly out as either Gay or HIV positive. It’s a leap of faith for both parties. I am grateful for the support of my boss, Jon Gettinger, and Aria’s CEO, Tom Dibble who like my father, have backed me “100%”.

I am thankful to have people like Gerhard, Larissa and so many others in my corner. I literally could not do this without them.

Parker Trewin Parker Trewin is Senior Director of Content and Communications at Aria Systems. This post appeared originally on the AIDS/LifeCycle website and is used here with permission. From June 1-7, 2014, he will be bicycling in AIDS/LifeCycle, a 7-day, 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles to make a world of difference in the fight to end HIV and AIDS. To learn more and/or to make a charitable contribution in Parker’s name, please visit his donation page http://tofighthiv.org/goto/parkertrewin

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Selfies and Networking Tips from Sales 2.0

Alice Heiman has been called the ultimate extrovert and a networking queen, and this week at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco we were happy to welcome her as our Chief Networking Officer.

Alice (and yes, you can see from her LinkedIn profile that she is indeed related to that Heiman, of Miller Heiman fame) was everywhere at Sales 2.0 this week. If she wasn’t onstage making seamless introductions from one speaker to the next, she was mingling with our hundreds of attendees, and snapping selfies on the hashtag #blend and #s20c.

Because one of our big initiatives at Sales 2.0 Events is to encourage networking, we found Alice’s focus on “blending” a great fit. Here are some of the things she asked the audience to do.

Sit with people you don’t know. For some reason, colleagues often come to a conference and then stick to each other like glue. That includes sitting together for all presentations and lunches. Next time, try pulling up a chair next to someone you don’t know. You can always connect with colleagues later in the day (and maybe you’ll have found someone interesting to introduce them to).

Talk to new people. The fear here is that you’re at a sales event — so everyone will want to pitch to you, right? Not necessarily so. Try leading the conversation using simple questions like these:

  • What did you think of the last presenter?
  • What’s been your favorite presentation so far and why?
  • What did you come here to learn?

Part of the value of the event is meeting other sales leaders. Many people at our events end up running into folks they already know who they rarely see. It’s natural to hang out with people you know and like, but remember to go out of your way to make new connections. You can also always feel free to talk with speakers, many of whom stick around just for the purpose of talking with our attendees.

Spread the word with pictures and video. We loved Alice’s request for the audience to snap and tweet selfies throughout the day on Monday and Tuesday whenever they met someone new. (Like any good sales guru, she actually gave everyone an individual quota.) Not only was it fun to see so many photos pop up on the hashtags #s20c and #blend, it gave everyone a sense of connection. Our speakers even got in on the act — during his fantastic presentation, David Meerman Scott took a moment to take a selfie of himself with the audience in the background. (We must also give him props for taking the first selfie Vine video during one of the breaks.)

Thanks to everyone who came out this week and stayed engaged and curious. A very special thank you as well to our hotel hosts, the Four Seasons. We got a lot of compliments on the service, food, and overall hospitality of the staff.

Our next two events will be in Boston (in July) and Las Vegas (in September). Come join us!

Do you often attend business conferences? What are some of your best networking tips? Share your thoughts in the comments section or tweet on the hashtag #s20c. 

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Tomorrow at Sales 2.0: The Greatest Threat to Profitable Sales Results

value propositionThanks to all the great speakers who shared their insights yesterday at the first day of the Sales 2.0 Conference! Let’s keep the momentum going. Tomorrow morning here’s one presentation you don’t want to miss if any of the following describe you:

  • You are investing heavily in creating and selling high-value solutions.
  • Your organization is finding it increasingly difficult to defend your solution’s value to customers,
  • The lack of value clarity is preventing profitable sales results.

If these are issues for you, you need to hear Jeff Thull, President and CEO of Prime Resource Group Inc. during his presentation, “Unquantified Value: The Greatest Threat to Profitable Sales Results.” According to Thull, your solution has no value until your customers understand its financial impact on their business, invest in it, and can measure the results – their net profit. Absence of value clarity leads to more proposals ending in no decision, losses to competitors with less value, or sales with painful discounts.

Today’s buyers require professional guidance in order to make quality, business-level decisions. Sellers require the next level of comprehensive tools and diagnostic skills to carry them out. Can you meet the challenges of today’s turbulent business world with leadership strategies that will take you and your organization beyond sales process hype and into the reality of your customer’s business?

From strategy to process to execution of complex sales, Jeff will show leaders how to turn this difficult situation into a powerful competitive advantage. Be in the Veranda Ballroom at 9:55 a.m. to hear Jeff’s insights.

[Image: Flickr

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Sell Smarter: The Future of Sales

leadership
What do you think the future holds for the sales profession?

That’s the question we’ll be addressing on Monday and Tuesday at the Sales 2.0 Conference at The Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco. Expect to hear predictions and trends about how sales organizations are leveraging real-time insights to produce faster, leaner, and more successful sales teams.

One presentation we’re looking forward to on Monday is from Oracle’s Chuck Penfield, Regional Vice President of Sales, Cloud CRM Applications. He’ll share proven strategies that Oracle’s top sales executives are using to increase performance and effectiveness. Attendees will learn

  • how to build a modern sales organization that leverages the power of analytics and forecasting to help win more deals,
  • ways to maximize revenue potential and improve cross-sell and up-sell opportunities,
  • strategies to optimize sales performance and productivity by adopting an effective mobile deal-management approach,
  • how to improve sales alignment and effectively manage incentive-compensation plans.

Join us in the Veranda Ballroom at 10:25 a.m. on Monday, May 5 to hear Chuck’s presentation. You can also follow @Sales20Conf and track #s20c on Twitter for more reports and real-time updates from the event.

[Photo: Flickr

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What Can Sales Leaders Learn from Fitbit?

fitbit for salesHere’s one presentation we’re looking forward to hearing next week in San Francisco: “Three Things Fitbit Taught Me About Sales,” by Justin Shriber.

Shriber, who is the Vice President of Products at revenue-performance company C9, will look at the goal of revenue growth through the lens of the strategies Fitbit has used to transform the personal fitness industry. The Fitbit philosophy can be summed up in three points:

  • Everyday steps add up to a big impact.
  • Stay connected, stay motivated.
  • Make health a habit one day at a time.

We’re intrigued to hear the connections Shriber will make between these points and what sales leaders can do to improve performance. (Hint: Attendees will learn how to harness the power of “real time” pipeline vitals to get reps focused on winning.)

For the past two decades, Justin has focused on helping companies accelerate growth and profitability by building and executing strategies that align marketing, sales and service with the needs of the customer. While at Oracle, he headed the company’s CRM OnDemand organization, and at Siebel, he was one of the early pioneers of the cloud — leading product teams responsible for delivering the first generation of SaaS applications.

The presentation is scheduled for Monday, May 5 from 3:35 pm – 4:05 pm in the Veranda Ball room at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco. Join us there!

Are you a Fitbit user? What metrics do you use to track your sales or personal performance goals? Share your thoughts in the comments section. 

[Image: Flickr

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