How to Really Get Full ROI from Sales Training

By Robert Kear

Other than the costs associated with hiring top sales talent, a sales leader’s most significant investment will be training his or her team.

According to data from the 2016 State of Sales Training report, published by ATD Research, (which reflects responses from 227 talent development professionals responsible for sales enablement), the average annual total expenditure on sales training is $954,070. Unfortunately, many sales training investments aren’t providing the top-line impact sales leaders and management are looking for.

But there is a solution to this. My organization, Sales Performance International (SPI), recently released a white paper, Beyond Sales Training: Six Essentials for a True Sales Performance System, that argues sales organizations must move beyond traditional sales development approaches and focus instead on what we identify as performance development. This will ensure real returns on sales-improvement investments.

“Performance development” will automatically address many of the challenges associated with traditional approaches to sales training. A focus on performance development includes the following characteristics.

#1: Clearly defined business outcomes. Despite the hefty cost of training initiatives, many companies commit to a plan without a clear view of how that training will connect to their strategic goals. Performance development includes a systematic view of how new knowledge and behaviors will impact and contribute to business outcomes and revenue attainment.

#2: A highly focused scope for training. Many companies engage in what might be called a blanket approach to training, which includes a scope that is both broad and programmatic. This is often too vague to be helpful. Performance development demands an agile mindset and a “timeboxed” approach to scope. Timeboxing helps the team identify areas for improvement; it also assigns specific parameters to individual tasks or deliverables, which keeps solutions focused and expedient.

#3: A customized “path to mastery.” Mass-produced learning and development content just won’t cut it given the way customers buy today. Trainees need a customized “path to mastery” that helps them develop the knowledge and behavior they need to succeed in a wide variety of sales situations.

#4: Field application of new skills. Most sales training initiatives focus primarily on learning objectives without necessarily addressing the skills salespeople will need in their particular field, with their particular market segment. Any performance-development-driven approach will take into account how salespeople will actually apply their new skills when they go out into the field to sell.

To learn more, download our white paper: Beyond Sales Training: Six Essentials for a True Sales Performance System.

Robert Kear is chief technology officer of Sales Performance International (SPI). Get started on a high-performance journey today; contact SPI to schedule your free consultative review.

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The Crucial Power of Visualization in CRM

By Nikolaus Kimla

Sales and marketing professionals are so bombarded with data and information today we need technology to help us sort it all out. One powerful aid to that mission is visualization – simply because the mind processes visual data many times faster than written or verbal data.

This makes sense. Going all the way back in humankind’s evolution, before written words, we communicated with pictures and symbols. All the recorded history we have of our earliest civilizations  – Egypt is a prime example – is in pictures and symbols. (When one thinks of ancient Egyptian symbols, one of the first that comes to mind is surely the eye symbol we see everywhere.)

We are now coming to the point when visual communication is once again of prime importance. In the technology space, there are now even graphical databases containing visual data. At Pipeliner CRM, everything we do falls under the tagline of “Instant Dynamic Visualization.” Why do we feel this is important? Because, in management – or even as a user – you don’t have a lot of time. When data is represented visually, you can absorb it much faster. The more information we can make easier to understand quickly, the better for sales and marketing teams to function effectively and efficiently.

Impact on Use of Data

Visualization brings a tremendous impact to technology. We are doing everything possible for technology users to obtain the right information at the right time and in the fight form, so it can be immediately understood.

The human being – the user – must make a decision from that visualized information. As an example from CRM, the information might mean there aren’t enough opportunities in the user’s pipeline for them to meet their sales quota. The user can then do something about it. The faster they have the data, the faster they can make a decision – and, perhaps, even be proactive about making positive changes.

Visualization runs deep in the user experience. Proper visualization brings, as we’ve already covered, rapid and thorough understanding. Beyond that, our unified visual navigation – used throughout the Pipeliner CRM system – means a user only has to learn something once, and it can be applied everywhere.

Importance of User Experience

User experience is crucial, and has a direct bearing on CRM adoption. Given the sometimes considerable expenditure from a company for a CRM application, the ROI for that expenditure cannot be recovered if users won’t utilize CRM.

According to a recent report from Forrester, “Riding the Next Wave of SaaS CRM,” 49 percent of buyers are satisfied with their SaaS solution – compared with only 34 percent of users.

We’ve known since the very beginning of our product’s life  –as a result of our initial research – that user satisfaction and adoption were key to the success of any CRM. Hence we’ve made user experience, through Instant Dynamic Visualization, the top priority for our development.

Setup and Administration

Another key finding from the Forrester report was that CRM users are most frustrated by their complicated CRM, and nearly half find training on the system insufficient. Pipeliner’s powerful visual simplicity also means Pipeliner can be deployed and trained in a fraction of the time of other CRM applications – user training is often completed in several hours (not days or weeks as in the case of traditional CRMs).

As for administration, the powerful simplicity of our system has rendered a full-time administrator unnecessary. Just as the cloud has meant companies no longer need to employ a full, expensive IT department to service the company’s computing needs, so it happens that Pipeliner has eliminated the need for a full-time CRM administrator. This greatly reduces a company’s risk, just as the cloud has eliminated the risk of relying on in-house IT personnel.

CRM administrator training has also been slashed, and can now be done in about five hours on anyone with a bit of computer literacy. Once completed, administration is a very part-time job.

But today, and into the future, the administrator – as well as the sales manager and salesperson – will rely on visualization to help them learn faster and better. This is one reason we produce the most visual CRM solution in the world. But the other (and far more important) reason is that the future is entirely visual.

Nikolaus Kimla is the CEO of Pipelinersales Inc., and the mastermind behind the development of Pipeliner, a revolutionary sales CRM software.

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How to Be the Very Best Kind of B2B Salesperson

Most B2B sales professionals cringe at the thought of the stereotypical image of the sleazy salesperson who will do or say anything to close the sale. But there are salespeople out there who attempt to badger, coerce, or lie their way to a sale.  

In his keynote presentation, “How to Succeed with Sales 3.0 – Lessons from History for Winning in 2019,” at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Las Vegas, Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder of Selling Power magazine, discussed integrity in selling. He said behaviors like cheating and lying in sales are actually manifestations of a negative mindset. Here are the two main mindset traps he outlined.

Mindset Trap #1: A ruthless desire to win at all costs

Many salespeople have a strong drive to win. The problem is, some people want to win at any cost. This kind of attitude can have complex roots, but a simple shortcut is to look for feelings of anger and insecurity. “When you have anger, you always lose in the long run,” said Gschwandtner. “Anger is a negative emotion. The burning rage is like a fire in the mindset of sellers who want to win at all costs.”

When anger and the drive to win combine, the result can be cheating, lying, and even criminal fraud. Gschwandtner reminded the audience of what happened at Enron, an energy trading company that collapsed after a massive accounting fraud scheme was revealed. He also cited research showing at least two conditions need to be in place for fraud to occur.

  1. Pressure – A large amount of pressure to deliver great results, without proper support, can give some people the motivation to do something outside the bounds of integrity.
  2. Rationalization – The idea that you can “get away” with fraud can sometimes make it easier to choose to engage in fraud.

In sales, a desire to win is absolutely necessary – but a ruthless desire to win can lead to a massive downfall. Enron’s 2001 bankruptcy filing was the largest in American history at the time (estimated losses totaled $74 billion). Many people participated in fraud at Enron because the business culture was steeped in a lack of integrity. People figured: If everyone is acting this way, it must be okay.

Gschwandtner also discussed the example of Lance Armstrong and his doping scandal. Psychologists have called Armstrong an example of “duping delight”: Armstrong actually got pleasure from misleading people and getting away with it (at least for a time). As Gschwandtner put it, “Armstrong knew people liked to see him win, but they wouldn’t have liked him if they knew he was cheating. And they wouldn’t have let him compete anymore. His attitude was, ‘I loved winning – and audiences loved it when I won, too.’”

Gschwandtner urged sales leaders to be a moral compass at their companies. “If you see this kind of behavior at your company, stand up and be counted. Say, ‘This is not right.’”

Salespeople who drive sales to a close and have a winning-at-all-cost attitude tend to get lots of sales…but they also tend to create a lot of cancellations and even chaos in an organization. The reason many people end up drifting toward tactics like coercion and lying is because they feel inferior. Such salespeople equate money with their own value. They see sales as a literal representation of how much they’re worth. In these cases, sales leaders need to teach salespeople their value is inherent and not negotiable.

Mindset Trap #2: Wanting to be liked at all costs

The second mindset trap Gschwandtner outlined was salespeople who have a deep need to be liked. When salespeople want to be liked too much, they tend to

  • Schmooze with prospects and customers without ever networking effectively.
  • Avoid customers they perceive as too challenging to talk to.
  • Avoid prospecting and closing.

Gschwandtner shared a video from Dave Kurlan, showing that a full 53 percent of salespeople simply make a lot of friends and never sell anything to them. Among elite salespeople (top performers), only 11 percent say they feel a deep need to be liked. By contrast, 86 percent of the weakest salespeople feel a deep need to be liked.

If you have salespeople who suffer from this challenge, ask them the following questions:

  1. In your mind, what are the advantages of being liked?
  2. What are the disadvantages of being liked?
  3. Is being liked by prospects and customers helping you reach your sales goal?
  4. How do you think you can balance your need to be liked with the need to close the sale?

As a leader you can help salespeople change their mindset. As Gschwandtner said, you want to help them increase their productivity and not be sabotaged by their need to be liked.

Download the PowerUp Sales App to Get a Mindset Lift

As a practical tip, Gschwandtner encouraged the Sales 3.0 audience to download the PowerUp Sales app in the Apple Store (developed by Precise Wellness LLC – the same makers of ThinkUp, which was named the best motivational app of 2017). The app allows you to record affirmations specific to your needs, in your own voice. Simply listen to these affirmations daily to improve your levels of happiness and success.

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How to Engage More Strategic Accounts as a Sales Development Team

By Ian Sullivan

When I hear people refer to account-based marketing as the latest B2B trend, I can’t help but laugh. Sales teams have been targeting and selling to strategic accounts since day one.

But what has changed in recent years is the technology that makes it easy to identify, prioritize, and engage your best-fit accounts. Finally, with the help of data and software, sales and marketing are working together to achieve the same goals.

Sales development – or business development, account qualification and prospecting, whatever you want to call it – serves as a bridge between marketing and sales. Use these three tips to empower smarter, more effective sales development with ABM.

1. Rely on data, not your gut.

How do you prioritize your target accounts? If you’re like a lot of reps, you might scan your list and cherry-pick the companies that sound most promising – but where’s the science in that?

When you’re doing ABM, data is critical. It’s your marketing team’s job to deliver a list of target accounts, but it’s your responsibility to prioritize them and build relationships with the right people. Fortunately, modern tech has all the data you need to surface your hottest accounts.

To do this, you’ll need to look at both intent and engagement insights. Intent data uses online signals to uncover which accounts are in an active buying cycle.

Engagement data alerts you to accounts that are engaging with your most valuable Web content. By using ABM tools that aggregate this data at an account level, you can see engagement from accounts and individuals that have never filled out a form on your Website. This all but eliminates the need to generate leads. When you know which accounts are engaging with your content anonymously, you can reach out earlier with more relevant messaging.

Prioritizing accounts actively searching for your solution, engaging with your Website and content, or even looking into your competition is exponentially more effective than volume outreach for building high-quality pipeline.

2. Scrap your templated emails and get personal.

Buyers are being inundated with sales outreach – sometimes receiving upwards of 20 emails a day from companies asking for their time (and, ultimately, their money). Most SDRs will take the time to personalize the subject and first line or so of an email; but, to really stand out, you need to go the extra mile.

Start by using data enrichment tools and good old-fashioned research to identify your ideal buyers at each target account. Make sure your team is aligned with marketing on the buyer personas you need to engage. Use this information to develop authentic messages that speak to your buyers’ needs. I won’t pretend this is quick and easy – real personalization never is – but it’s worth it.

While sales development can be perceived as a numbers game (e.g., how much outreach does it take to generate a quality meeting?), a lower-volume, highly-targeted approach is what it takes to be successful with ABM. I suggest a reasonable activity quota to incentivize the right behavior and manage expectations.

3. Never become complacent.

While an SDR’s job is paramount to the success of a company, the repetitive nature of the role can prove challenging for even the most enthusiastic reps. To be successful, you need to challenge yourself and grow your skill set every day.

A channel that may drive success one month may run dry the next. Phone conversations may take unscripted turns as the market evolves and new objections come into play. SDRs need to allocate time every day to stay up to date on the market and constantly try new tactics – for example, making personalized outreach videos, changing a call script around, and continuously familiarizing themselves with their product and their competitors.

In Conclusion: Win More with ABM

Account-based marketing is here to stay, and the companies that are able to successfully align sales and marketing will find the most success. As an SDR who went through the transition from a lead-based marketing model to an account-based model, I can speak first-hand of the success I’ve enjoyed from a data-driven, personalized approach to ABM.

Ian Sullivan is an enterprise sales development representative at Terminus. You can find him on Twitter at @Marketing_Sully.

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How Could You Celebrate the Outcomes You Seek?

By Jim Cathcart

Things that are acknowledged tend to repeat. People crave feedback. They want to know they are seen or heard. They want to feel their opinions count and that, if they do well, someone will acknowledge them for it. If you praise a behavior, people will seek to repeat it. However, if you criticize an act, you will tend to build resentment. Not fair, is it? Besides, some things need to be corrected or stopped. So, what’s a leader to do?

The Value of Celebrations

How about building some celebrations into your plan? I recently participated in a big awards ceremony in Hollywood where more than 60 people received trophies for their work and were interviewed on camera on the “red carpet.” It was elegant and fun, and it felt really important. Families and friends were there to add to the joy and preserve every moment on their smartphones. The recipients definitely left that event with a strong desire to “do it again” and earn yet another celebration.

In martial arts training, there are belts – white, red, black, etc. – to acknowledge each level of skill improvement. In Toastmasters International, there is a celebration of sorts at every level of advancement in public speaking. In Scouting there are merit badges. People are motivated to earn the next certificate, badge, patch, or pin. This is not trivial. It is symbolic and meaningful. And…it works!

Reward the Outcomes You Want

How can you use this concept to stimulate higher performance, deeper learning, better discipline, and personal initiative? I say, structure your awards and celebrations around the outcomes you want and the behaviors that lead to those outcomes. Don’t reward meaningless actions; wait till someone does something that has been proven to produce the results you’re seeking. Then celebrate that!  

You don’t wait to praise your infant only after they can walk and run. You celebrate every attempt to stand or walk – at least at first. But, once they can navigate on two feet, you shift your praise to the next level of skill development. The same should be true in sales training.

At first, you can celebrate learning the sales presentation, knowing the products well, or making enough new calls on good prospects. Then, as folks progress, you can celebrate improved call-to-interview ratios, presentations-to-purchases percentages, and innovative sales techniques that pay off.

The Smart Way to Celebrate

The key is to first list the outcomes you want; then, find appropriate ways to acknowledge, reward, or celebrate each new step.

Be wary of celebrating too early. Our office once had a big bell that could be rung with every new sale. One day an agent rang the bell and three of us nearby came out to praise the salesperson. But we learned the application didn’t have a check to go with it. The sale was probable, but it was not official. We then withdrew our praise and almost scolded the agent for premature bell-ringing. It became an embarrassment for the agent instead of a win. After that, nobody in the agency ever rang the bell without a check in hand.

Start today. List the outcomes you want and the many little and large ways you could make them moments of magic for the participants. Business can be much more fun when you look for ways to, as Ken Blanchard once said, “Catch people doing something right!”

Jim Cathcart is a long-time contributor to Selling Power and one of the world’s leading professional speakers. He is the original author of Relationship Selling plus 18 other books. Cathcart.com helps organizations increase sales engagement and self-motivation. Contact him at info@cathcart.com.

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The Amazing Benefits of Conversation Intelligence

By Parth Mukherjee

If you care about improving your sales cycle, you’ll want to look into conversation intelligence (CI) quickly. (On October 26th at the Sales 3.0 Conference, Roy Raanani, CEO of Chorus.ai, will present  “The Future of Sales Meetings.”)

Why exactly do sales teams need CI? If you think of all the steps involved in your sales cycle – demand generation, lead qualification, meetings, deal life cycle – you’re probably capturing key metrics at each stage in order to optimize the activities in that stage. For example, you probably closely follow things like MQL-to-SQL or opportunity conversion rates, sales cycle time, and forecast accuracy to drive improvements through all those stages.

But sales reps spend more than a third of their time in direct selling activities with customers and prospects. At a time when around 57 percent of reps missed their quota, can we really afford to not know what they are conveying to customers?

Without automatically collecting and analyzing conversation data, you are depending on your managers to be on every call a rep does. And that’s never going to happen.

Four Ways Your Sales Cycle Can Benefit from CI

Once you collect conversation data, you can start optimizing the content that reps deliver verbally during their meetings. Some of the top benefits include:

  • Faster sales rep ramp time because you are training them based on real conversations
  • More deals won through analyzing and improving talk tracks used by reps
  • More deals won against competitors since you know what works and what doesn’t
  • More reps hit quota because they learn what the top performing reps are doing right
  • Greatly improved team morale because they are now continuously coached and enabled  

The Chorus Science team has put together some sample insights from the millions of calls we’ve recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using the Chorus AI-based platform.

Insight #1: Increase the number of qualified conversations your sales reps have with prospects.

One of the major areas of improvement is the number of qualified conversations your reps actually have each week. Often reps complain, “I do not have enough meetings” or, “Most of my prospects do not show up.” CI data easily helps you capture no-shows and measure the amount of time your team wasted on waiting on these meetings. This can help tighten up your lead qualification process and improve rep productivity. Data from Chorus Science shows about 21 percent of all first meetings are no-shows and the rep spends an average of 11 minutes waiting on the call.

If we add 10 minutes for meeting preparation and time sunk before next available slot, we easily reach 30 minutes of wasted time per no-show. Assuming a rep has 40 weekly meetings, this would amount to between two and six hours a week entirely wasted on no-shows. If you can identify how much time your team is wasting, you can go about reducing it.

Insight #2: Get your sales reps to ask between two and five engaging questions on initial sales calls.

It is not just about how many questions a rep asks – in fact, Chorus Science data suggests no verifiable pattern in the number of questions a rep should ask in order to win more deals. As always, quality trumps quantity.

So how many engaging questions do your reps ask prospects? Engaging questions are open ended and framed so prospects are encouraged to talk for an extended period of time compared to questions that only have a yes/no answer. Our data shows calls with two to five engaging questions are 60 percent more likely to advance.

Our analysis also revealed that open questions like the following help break the ice and generate high prospect engagement:

  • What do your top performers do during sales calls that contribute to their high win rates?
  • How do you currently ramp up new hires?
  • How would you evaluate a solution like ours?
  • What else is on your priority list for 2018?

Insight #3: Help your sales reps understand how to handle competitive threats during sales calls.

Many, if not all of us, are always up against one or more competitors in the sales cycle. But in how many instances do we really think a deal is competitive? We looked at more than 10,000 calls that were longer than 10 minutes and had names of competitors pop up more than once during the call. However, only 8.5 percent of the CRM records for those deals had competitive information in them.

Which means your CRM could be under-reporting the competitive nature of your calls by about 10x. This is akin to flying blind if you use the CRM information to build the competitive risk in your forecasting model. Chorus Science also gave us some insights into when best to bring up the name of the competitor and how to bring it up. Roy will be covering some of this in his keynote.

Insight #4: Get sales reps on a single call with multiple stakeholders.

In 2017, HBR reported that “the number of people involved in B2B solutions purchases has climbed from an average of 5.4 two years ago to 6.8 today.” So, do you try to do one-to-ones with as many people as you can? Or should you get more people on the same call? Chorus Science insights from across 18,000 opportunities showed that won deals have an average of 50 percent more prospects on calls as compared to lost deals.

The inability to get every stakeholder onto the calls can be a limiting factor in your deals. Do you know how many people you have on calls and how many of your critical deals still rely on one person on the call with your rep?

Parth Mukherjee is the head of product marketing at Chorus.ai, the conversation intelligence platform used by the fastest growing B2B businesses. Chorus.ai is a conversation intelligence platform that records, transcribes, and analyzes business conversations in real time to coach reps on how to become top performers. Come meet Chorus at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Las Vegas on October 25-26.

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How to Eliminate Chronic Negative Thoughts

By Christine Harrington

You’re about to learn a different perspective when it comes to attitude.

Stay with me. This isn’t another blog post about positive attitude. This is information based on real neuroscience research.

The fact is, attitude is not developed by a single thought. It’s developed by a cluster of thoughts glued together through repetition. This persistent repetition forms an attitude habit.

Your Attitude is Nothing More than a Habit

Thoughts are the communication of the mind. Feelings are the communication of the body. How you think and how you feel generate your current state. Every thought you have signals the body to produce a chemical with a corresponding feeling. So, if you get up in the morning dreading the day, your body will respond with a chemical to make you feel anxious.

Every day you repeat this (wake up, feel dread; wake up, feel dread) you’re reliving the past; and you stay stuck in the past.

If you get up in the morning feeling happy and grateful for another day, your body will produce a corresponding chemical so you’ll feel joy and gratitude for the opportunities that await you in this new day you’ve been given.

Every day you repeat this (wake up, feel joyful and grateful; wake up, feel joyful and grateful) you’re creating a present and a future of possibilities and unlimited thinking. You’re free to be in the present moment and create a bright and successful future.

It’s this cycle that your body begins to memorize better than your mind…your conscious mind. The constant repetition of this cycle (positive or negative thoughts) forms an attitude habit and, before you know it, your body takes over your mind.

Have you ever driven to the grocery store or any familiar location and, as your pull into the parking space, you don’t recall driving there? This is an example of your body taking over your mind.

Here’s another example. You awaken from a bad dream and you can’t stop thinking about it. All day long, you’re in a sour mood because the bad dream keeps haunting you.

Why Positive Thinking Might Not Be the Fix

You can declare that you want to be healthy – or you want to have your best month in sales – but, up until this point, you have conditioned your body for the exact opposite.

When your mind and body work in opposition, there will never be change. You can’t just repeat a positive affirmation over and over again and expect it to work, while you feel depressed or unhappy. Try smiling while having a negative thought! (Hard to do!)

Therefore, you must think at a higher level than you feel in your body.

How to Shift Your Mindset

The process replaces the habit of your chronic thoughts with better and more positive thoughts. When this is repeated over and over again, your body begins to memorize the new feeling.

This is why a morning ritual is so vital – it sets up you and your day for success.

Neuroscience refers to this process as pruning synaptic connections and creating new ones. Think of a flower garden. The flowers represent your memories of success, love, joy, and relationships. The weeds represent shame, guilt, and failure. And the rocks represent barriers to new growth and opportunities.

When you prune your synaptic connections, you’re removing the past negative memories – the weeds and rocks in your mind – and replacing them with new growth of flowers: which creates new synaptic connections.

Most people are hostage to their past thoughts. But you can break free from the bondage of automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) and restore your free will by changing your attitude habit.

This is an example of many mindset shifts I teach in Developing a Peak Performance Mindset, and it’s why Peak Performance Mindset is the missing link for you as a salesperson and for your sales team or business.  

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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Four Fundamentals for Retaining Your Best Customers

By Alice Heiman

At any given company, roughly 20 percent of customers are the source of 80 percent of the company’s profits.

That means losing even one account from the 20 percent can really hurt.  

And what if you want to recruit new customers to make up for the ones you’ve lost? Bringing on new customers actually costs companies five times more than simply retaining existing customers.

Yet, despite the importance of customer retention, “less than a third of business executives consider it a priority.” (Statistics courtesy of Annex Cloud.)

Examining Customer Loyalty

We all know customer retention is important. We also know most companies are not doing a great job of it. Losing customers out the back door faster than you can bring new ones in the front doesn’t do anyone any good.

We need to retain our customers and, to do that today, it’s more than just satisfaction. We need to do the work to earn their loyalty.

Whose Job Is Customer Loyalty and Retention?

Today, most organizations have separated the jobs – having salespeople look for new business while account managers work with existing accounts to grow them. Some companies also have customer support people assist customers. More recently, companies have started to have customer success departments. With all these people concerned about the customers, we should be able to retain them.

With this in mind, here are my four fundamentals for keeping your best customers.

  1. Wow them at onboarding.
  • Assign someone to onboard new customers.
  • Make sure all the people involved in making the decision are thanked properly.
  • Send them an email introducing everyone at your company they need to know and give them the contact information. Maybe even send a video of your team welcoming them.
  • Oversee the implementation or delivery and be proactive – stay in touch through the process.
  • Assist with user adoption and company-wide rollout – and do whatever is needed to make the customer successful.
  • Keep in touch with all the key players and develop relationships with new players.
  • Be proactive in sharing information that will be helpful.
  • Get others in your company involved and building relationships.
  1. Love them and don’t leave them.  
  • Continue to build relationships with key players.
  • Introduce the others in your organization and help them develop relationships.
  • Add value to your contacts. They are happy to hear from you.
  • Follow them on social media and interact. I love it when people share my posts – and you do too. So will they!
  • Facilitate introductions to position senior executives from your company with theirs.
  • Go on-site with members of your team to meet with their team.
  • Send them a surprise every once in a while – like a great book or a tasty treat. Just don’t do it between Thanksgiving and New Year because it will get buried.
  1. Get repeat business and up-sell.
  • Listen for their needs and find out how you can fill them.
  • Plan ahead with them by asking about future needs and what they anticipate.
  • Share videos with product tips and shortcuts.
  • Share information about new products that will be coming out.
  • Watch for trigger events on social media that will inform a conversation you can have with them.
  • Ask them for testimonials. It reminds them how much they love your solution.
  1. Turn them into a referral source.
  • Earn the right to ask for referrals. Make sure you do the work to earn a proper introduction. (Remember to develop relationships before you sell. Social media is a great help in finding commonalities.)
  • Thank them for the referrals at the time they are given.
  • Let them know the result of the referral. Did you win business? Either way, let them know and thank them again.
  • Continue to ask for referrals at a reasonable pace and give them a referral if possible. You can use LinkedIn to identify who they know that you would like to meet.

A version of this post, “Customers for Life: The Art of Keeping Your Best Clients,” appeared originally on Alice Heiman’s blog.

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 over 20 years. She regularly emcees the Sales 3.0 Conference and is a certified Peak Performance Mindset trainer.

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Why Augmented Intelligence Is a Salesperson’s Best Friend

By Swati Sinha

Ginni Rometty, the CEO of IBM, once said: “Some people call this ‘artificial intelligence,’ but the reality is this technology will enhance us. So, instead of artificial intelligence, I think we’ll augment our intelligence.”

The era of augmented intelligence (AI) has been a gift for sales teams. And, if you’re not currently leveraging the vast amounts of data generated every minute from multiple sources and platforms for enhanced customer engagement, you are losing to your competitors: Gartner has predicted that global business value derived from AI will reach $3.9 trillion in 2022. And a study published in MIT Sloan Management Review reveals that 76 percent of early adopters are targeting higher sales growth with machine learning.

Augmented Intelligence Makes Sales Smarter

Early adopters are using AI to complement – not replace – their sales teams. There are many fantastic benefits of running a sales organization enhanced by augmented intelligence, including the following.

Benefit #1: More time selling. A recent article by McKinsey Global Institute states that 45 percent of time spent on sales-related activities can be cut down using AI. So, sales reps can spend more time selling and closing instead of completing routine, time-consuming jobs.

Benefit #2: Creating synergies. A major point of contention between sales and marketing is seamless continuation in customer engagement and lack of lead conversion. With the help of AI, marketing and sales won’t miss on strong leads and opportunities.

Benefit #3: Customer loyalty. By having better customer intelligence, sales reps can build long-lasting relationships with customers.

Benefit #4: Lower costs. By automating routine tasks and intelligent forecasting, organizations can optimize resource allocation, lower costs, and shorten the sales cycle.

Transform Your Sales Organization

Your sales organization directly impacts revenue and profit, and machine learning will help transform a sales organization from being reactive to proactive – and from intuitive to prescriptive. It can guide the sales journey from identification to customer retention.

Four Key Areas Where AI Can Be a Big Boost

How does this work? Let’s look at the four key areas where AI can make a significant impact for sales teams.

Area #1: Prospecting and Sales Leads

First, massive digital and social data on customers provides collective insights that can be used to identify prospects and strong leads. AI can also provide insights for upcoming customer meetings – and schedule them, too. Following up with cold leads can be discouraging and a waste of time for a sales rep, and this process can be customized and automated with AI.

Area #2: Customer Cultivation and Acquisition

Marketing has already seen the success of personalized messaging versus generic. Similarly, conversations between sales reps and prospects will improve if focused on areas that are most likely to be relevant to them.

Most sales conversations take place via email or phone. Natural Language Processing (NLP) can guide sales rep conversations based on customer information and honest signals. Over time, machine learning can assess, via feedback loops, what is working and what is not and can accordingly guide the rep further. Machines can also generate training plans based on the activities of other star sales reps. 

Timely deal offers are key to the success of any deal, and an AI-guided sales rep will have all the information needed to close sales. Based on past sales data, custom pricing can be recommended to help win deals. Machine learning can provide guidance regarding discounts and commissions by analyzing the success of previous discounts that worked. All this information can then be used to generate proposals and contracts (with confidence rating) and systems can initially ask sales rep to review the proposal/contract – which can improve and be automated over time, based on feedback.

Machine learning can also recognize the signals of what a converted lead or opportunity looks like and flag it for the sales to focus on them and not spend time spent on deals that would likely never convert.

Area #3: Customer Retention

Depending on the industry, the cost of acquiring a customer can be 5-25 percent higher than retaining them – and increasing competition will further increase the cost. Identifying signals from customers before they churn – and taking proactive steps to retain them – will increase the lifetime value of customers.

Area #4: Sales Operations

Machine learning can help sales operations improve in the following ways.

  • Sales training – Machine learning can guide managers with sales coaching, a key to building strong teams. At the same time, AI can generate a personalized training plan by analyzing all the actions taken by sales reps (such as written and phone communication follow-ups) and compare them with the processes followed by star performers. It can then provide guidance on corrective measures.
  • Sales reporting – Sales managers can view team performance (such as deals missed or quota met) in real time and take prescriptive actions to keep reps on track.
  • Sales forecasting – AI can forecast revenue at a macro level for sales managers by providing insights into sales trends, segmented by sales organizations, sales reps, etc. This can help optimize resource allocation to build healthy pipeline, analyze team performance, and be cost-effective.

Conclusion: Why Sales and AI Are Best Friends

AI can’t replace the value of human interaction when it comes to building relationships with customers, but it can make them smarter and more productive through guided selling and automating the operational job, allowing sales reps to focus on their primary job: delivering value to customers and building loyalty that leads to organic revenue growth.

Swati Sinha is a senior director of global solution marketing at SAP for Sales Cloud. A seasoned enterprise software professional with varied experience in product marketing, product management, and engineering, she has worked with organizations both large and small. She is a technologist at heart and empathetic by nature, which gives her the ability to understand customer needs and tell a story about how technology can solve their business problem. She has an MBA and a master’s degree in computer applications. In her free time she likes to connect with her community and support charities.   

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How to Stage an Effective Sales Discovery Call

By Chris Orlob

To move any deal through the sales process, you first need to have an effective sales discovery call, during which you uncover your prospect’s pain points. 

Uncovering pain points right off the bat allows you to immediately set up you and your potential customer for success. So, how do you get started? The data team at Gong.io recently analyzed 519,291 sales conversations to discover what makes for a great discovery call, and how top reps determine whether or not the buyer on the other end is a good fit. These sales calls were recorded, transcribed from speech to text, and analyzed with AI. Check out the following tips, backed by this proprietary data.

Tip #1: Start with pre-strategizing and role-playing.

Think about your favorite sports team. Without practicing, they will have no means of improving or preparing in the right way. The best teams in the world have coaches, and they practice and train every day.  Why should sales be any different?

Before your sales discovery call, work with your own coach (aka your manager) and run through all the questions you aim to ask. You can then practice responses you are likely to give based on assumed objections.

Next, discuss the outcomes you desire for the call, and what information you hope to gain from the conversation. This is just like doing your stretches in the warm-up to the main event, which is the equivalent to getting on the phone.

Tip #2: Know how many problems to address.

As we mentioned above, the problems you address are the core of your sales discovery call. You’ll want to dive deeply into 3-4 customer problems, then wrap up with next steps.

Why zero in on 3-4 problems? Looking at more than that makes all the problems seem less urgent. You also risk spreading your prospect’s focus too thin. As you can see from our research, discussing 3-4 problems has the highest likelihood of moving the deal to the next step:

Tip #3: Ask the right number of questions during the sales process.

When you’re unpacking those problems with the prospect, ask around 11-14 questions total. If you ask more questions than that, you’ll see a diminishing rate of return. Ask fewer than that, however, and you won’t go deep enough to uncover useful information.

The types of questions you ask matter. Start with problem-related questions. Those look at the prospect’s business issues, challenges, goals, and areas of concern. They’re strongly tied to your chances of closing a deal.

Tip #4: Don’t just ask questions – talk about problems, too.

Remember: You don’t want to bombard your prospect with endless questions. You should aim to create a natural ebb and flow with the right number of targeted questions.

Top performers intersperse their questions naturally throughout the conversation. Meanwhile, their average-performing peers load questions at the beginning of the conversation.

Frontloading questions makes you sound like you’re going through a checklist. And it feels like an interrogation rather than a natural conversation. Be sure to listen and ask genuine and relevant questions while creating a two-way conversation – not an interrogation.

Tip #5: Know your prospect’s personal goals.

Once you have the background information on your prospect, the next part of the discovery call is learning about your buyer’s goals. Identify which personas are part of the buying committee, and know the ins and outs of their individual goals.

For instance, if you’re selling to marketing leaders, most are concerned about MQLs – not items directly tied to revenue metrics. In this case, you can influence that decision maker in the buying process by showcasing how your solution relates to them (e.g. helps them generate high-quality leads).

During this part of the discovery, you should also be on the lookout for short-term versus long-term goals. Are they trying to reach their goals this quarter, or this year? From there, you can ensure your solution fits their needs in a timely manner.

Chris Orlob is senior director of product marketing at Gong.io., the number one conversation intelligence platform for B2B sales teams. Gong helps you convert more of your pipeline into revenue by shining the light on your sales conversations. It records, transcribes, and analyzes every sales call so you can drive sales effectiveness, figure out what’s working and what’s not, and ramp new hires faster. Join Gong at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Las Vegas on October 25-26.

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