The Three Sales Accountability Traps and How to Avoid Them

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By Alyson Brandt

Is your sales organization one of the top performers in your industry? If not, here’s your blueprint for success.  

Our sales research identified a culture of accountability and results as a critical differentiator between top and average performers.   

In our client work, we see several common barriers, or traps, that prevent sales leaders from creating an optimal sales culture. Below are three traps with tips on how to overcome them:  

Accountability Trap #1: Focusing Exclusively on Results

Arnold Palmer once said, “It’s a funny thing – the more I practice, the luckier I get.” Palmer meant that, when he pulled off amazing shots – what others might call lucky shots – it wasn’t due to luck at all.  Great shots are the result of putting in the work. Like in the game of golf, the more work salespeople put into prospecting, the “luckier” they get. Salespeople who put in the work will “happen to meet” people who know someone with whom they should speak. Or, they’ll get in touch with someone who is “coincidentally” ready to make a purchase. Sales results are no coincidence. They are the result of activity, focus, and pipeline management.  

Activity is a leading indicator of pipeline. The sheer volume of prospecting activities – prospecting calls, proposals, networking, social selling, and client meetings – is important. But quality is equally important.  Through enhanced observational coaching, one-on-one meetings, and pipeline reviews, sales leaders can ensure that both quantity and quality increase.  

Focus is concentrated attention on the right accounts and priorities. This can be tricky to measure.  Consider the activity-to-revenue ratio. For example, a rep could schedule 13 meetings with a tiny account within six months. In that same time span, the same rep might have three meetings with one of their key accounts. Leaders must help salespeople understand activity isn’t the only metric. You need smart activity with the right strategic focus to yield better results. Smart activity results in time better leveraged and focused.

Pipeline Management should be viewed as an opportunity to gain insights and increase activity. It needs to move from a compliance “check the box” activity to one that helps create focus and momentum while developing team members.

Accountability Trap #2: Failing to Accentuate the Positive

I remember the good old days. When I closed a deal, I’d hang up my phone and strut through the office.  Heads turned. I proudly wrote my deal on the big board. Loud high fives rang out across the office. Everyone – including me  – felt a huge boost.  

Today, there seem to be fewer chances to celebrate. Teams are remote. Opportunities and wins are captured and tracked (trapped?) in a CRM. With a lack of practice, managers may be losing the “muscle memory” to recognize and reward their people. In fact, according to Fast Company, nearly 20 percent of managers struggle with praise. This is a foreboding sign for sales cultures everywhere. Healthy doses of recognition are the antidote to hard accountability conversations and rejections.  

As it turns out, there is something managers dislike even more than giving positive feedback: giving negative feedback. This leads us to our final trap.

Accountability Trap #3: Allowing Exceptions  

Exceptions are lethal to any sales culture – including those involving the “star performer.”

You know the one. There’s that high performer who deviates from process and guidelines. This behavior erodes sales culture and performance. But, because this one salesperson delivers results, he or she’s treated with kid gloves.  When it’s time to take off those gloves, you’ll need the VITAL conversation framework to ensure a productive conversation:

V – Verify the need. Have you jumped to conclusions? Is this conversation warranted? Or do you just need to cool down?

I – Identify the issue. Do your research. Talk with others. Get to the root of the issue. Gather examples, details, and facts. The person will see that it’s not just your opinion. It is reality.  

T – Talk track. Outline your conversation in advance. Follow these eight steps for an optimal talk track.   

A Advice. Pause. Get some advice. Sleep on it. Let your thoughts incubate.  

L  Logistics. Set up the conversation well, taking into consideration the environment and tone.

The VITAL conversation framework can be used to let your sales team know you are serious about both results and behavior change. Accountability is more than just a focus on results. It’s also about mindset and actions for leaders and team members. Ideally, team members are taking proactive ownership for their decisions and activities while leaders are clarifying expectations as well as managing and measuring leading and lagging indicators – activities and results.

So, to strengthen your sales culture, remember: You need to look through the windshield while also looking in your rearview mirror.  

  • Measure more than just results. Top organizations hold salespeople accountable for results by defining and measuring Activity, Focus, and Pipeline Management.  
  • Take advantage of every opportunity to reward and recognize your team.  
  • Hold everyone accountable for results and standards – even rogue star performers.

The best companies in our sales research combine these practices with a clear strategy to crush their quotas. Join them, won’t you?  

Picture2As president of Fusion Learning USA, Alyson Brandt is responsible for growing the U.S. business. For more than 25 years, Alyson has advised Global 1000 executives and senior leaders on best practices in global sales force development, sales leadership and management, and leadership initiatives. Alyson has worked with Fortune 500 companies across numerous industries – from financial services to hospitality – including BlackRock, Chubb, American Express, Chobani, Air New Zealand, and Nucor to name a few.

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Predictive Sales Analytics

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By Kevin Brooks

Predictive analytics is a major topic at industry conferences, but it is poorly understood by most sales leaders. In truth, it is poorly understood by most people, but – as the market for predictive sales analytics continues to grow at a rapid rate – today’s sales teams are in the midst of a steep learning curve about the potential benefits of this powerful technology.

Sales has always been an information game. The more you know about your prospect, the market, your product, etc., the more likely you are to close the deal. This is as true today as it was back in the days of Willie Loman. But the advent of Salesforce.com, the rise of digitally-connected buyers, and a steady increase in computing power have brought about an age of data unlike anything poor old Willie could have imagined.

With great data comes great responsibility. Having access to the full archive of a customer’s history, competitors, org chart, stock performance, demographics, and compelling business events is tremendous. Knowing how to put all that information to use – and to do so quickly and strategically – is a different kind of challenge requiring different skills and tools. An explosion of marketing automation tools and solutions has evolved to fill this gap, most of them focused toward the early stages of the demand generation pipeline. By some estimates, the market has grown from 150 to more than 3,500 solutions in the past five years.

There is a difference between marketing analytics and sales analytics, and confusing the two can create problems. For example:

  • Highly scored leads may be unrelated to those likely to close.
  • Creating demand requires different activities than creating revenue.
  • MQLs are the end of one process; SQLs are the beginning of the next.

When you talk about predictive analytics, many people picture the classic “laboratory” approach with white-coated data scientists and complex equations on a whiteboard. Because sales is often consumed with immediate quarter-closing priorities, any discussion about data and analytics is often relegated to the finance or marketing teams that have time and resources to engage in laboratory analytics. Sales needs something different: a new kind of “operational” analytics, fully integrated with their daily workflow and constantly adapting to new conditions and situations.

Consider today’s sales rep, logging into his or her CRM system and viewing a list of leads to pursue or qualify. Even if the leads have been targeted and drip-marketed and screened and filtered by marketing, a sales rep still must assess data and organize his or her time effectively. Time spent pursuing business that is unlikely to close loses both the opportunity and the time itself, and setting an incorrect close date or amount can demoralize a rep and screw up a pipeline forecast for the entire company.

This is why predictive sales analytics is making such a strong impression. Knowing which leads are most likely to turn into revenue – and prioritizing actions that can make a borderline opportunity tilt toward a closed deal – is an intoxicating power. Being able to do this consistently, quarter after quarter, for all levels of a sales organization is nothing short of miraculous when compared with previous approaches. The impact can be eye-opening:

  • 200 percent increase in opportunity close rates
  • More than 25 percent lift in overall booked revenue
  • 50 percent faster ramp time to productivity with new sales reps
  • More accurate and consistent pipeline forecasting

The good news is that sales-focused solutions are out there, and we’re finally starting to bring analytics out of the laboratory and into the operations of the business to help everyone win, win faster, and win far more frequently. The challenge is to stop looking to marketing solutions to tackle sales challenges.

To learn more about this subject, join DxContinuum for a session at the upcoming Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston where speaker Sam Capra, RVP of Sales, will present “Sales Technology Overload: How to Select the Right Tools for Your Sales Organization.” He will lead a candid conversation about steps you can take to eliminate some of the noise around identifying and selecting the right technologies for your sales team. You will walk away with a clear strategy on how to identify and select the right sales technology partner(s) for your company based on your goals, industry, and budget.

KevinBrooksAs Vice President of Marketing, Kevin Brooks (kevin@dxcontinuum.com) is responsible for all marketing at DxContinuum, Inc., a leading solution provider in the field of predictive analytics for sales teams. He is a marketing innovator with more than 20 years of leadership experience in both startup and Fortune 100 software companies. His most recent role was Chief Marketing Officer at Ivalua, Inc. Prior roles include Senior Vice President of Marketing at iTradeNetwork, Inc., and Chief Marketing Officer positions at FoodLink Holdings, Inc., IQNavigator, and TrueDemand Software. He is also known for cofounding the procurement industry media site Spend Matters as well as for his marketing leadership at Ariba and ADP. Kevin is also chair of the board of directors at the Santa Clara Vanguard, a national nonprofit youth music and arts organization, and he holds a bachelor of arts degree from Macalester College.

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How to Build a Successful Sales Development Model

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By Trish Bertuzzi

I’m excited to be speaking at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston on May 2 on the topic of “The Six Elements of Sales Development: What It Takes to Lead a World-Class Team.” In this blog post, I’ll share more details on one of the six elements: crafting a winning sales development model.

Much like Goldilocks and her porridge, your sales development model needs to be “just right” for your organization. Figuring this out early will save you from account executives’ complaints such as, “Those leads weren’t qualified enough. They aren’t worth my time” or “My SDR isn’t passing enough meetings. What are they doing all day?”

  • Setting Introductory Meetings: Let’s be clear on the realities here. The meetings being set here are introductory – from the Latin introda, meaning not ready to buy yet. (Kidding!) This can include face-to-face meetings or a discovery phone call. With introductory meetings, prospects have a sense of your overall value proposition but haven’t been qualified as to their readiness or ability to move forward.

  • Generating Qualified Opportunities: Qualified opportunities differ in that they are, well, qualified. The rep is still closing on a meeting or call but has: a) moved the prospect from curiosity into interest and b) vetted that the prospect meets or exceeds a minimum threshold of “sales-worthiness.”

Introductory Meetings: How to Select Metrics that Work for You

One of the biggest mistakes I see companies make is setting internal expectations using introductory meeting metrics (quantity) and then requiring opportunity-level qualification (quality). This seemingly innocuous misstep often ends in total disaster.

“Qualified introductory meetings” is an oxymoron. If your sales development process and expectations are at cross purposes, account executives will lose faith in the team, your SDRs will burn out, your culture will sour, and your group will fail to deliver.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t consider one model universally better – or more effective – than the other. I do believe that, in certain situations, one is likely more appropriate than the other. Here’s my rule of thumb.

Deploy an introductory meeting model when the market for your product is immature and/or when your account executives need more at-bats.

Let me give you an example. Today, customer relationship management (CRM) software is a mature market. Most (if not all) technology-enabled companies already have a solution in place. Those companies have existing contracts with future renewal dates, and the thought of changing providers sounds like a major hassle. In this instance, if your SDRs are setting introductory meetings for the AEs, you’re just wasting everyone’s time. This instance would require the qualified opportunity model.

Compare that to the market for a predictive lead scoring solution. That market is still immature, as the concept itself is new. Vendors are faced with doing the work of educating the market on the problem they solve. Rather than qualify themselves out of a meeting, sales development reps should be closing on meetings at full speed in this category.

In terms of qualification for introductory meetings, you can’t get much beyond right profile, right person, and right high-level pain.

If your SDRs are booking meetings with the right types of companies, the right people within them, and the prospects are at least curious about addressing a potential pain point, then the reps have done their jobs well.

In an immature market, the number one challenge your SDRs face is to arouse curiosity around a business issue that potentially hasn’t even been recognized yet. Sales development should be teeing up introductory meetings so the account executive can do the work of educating the prospect and developing that curiosity into interest.

Overcoming “Empty-Calendar Syndrome”

The second case for the introductory meeting model is when account executives are suffering from empty calendar syndrome. This one is easy. If your sales team is screaming for more “at-bats,” then break glass and set meetings. Conversion rates, qualification criteria, and cost per meeting all go out the window when your account executives’ calendars are anemic. Setting introductory meetings in this scenario is your go-to.

There are pros and cons to each sales development model, but you really need to think through the dynamics of your buyer and market to determine which is right for you. I’ve never met a sales organization that quibbled over degree of qualification when AEs were starving to have more conversations with prospects.

I look forward to continuing the conversation at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston!

TrishBertuzziTrish Bertuzzi is the Best Selling Author of The Sales Development Playbook: Build Repeatable Pipeline and Accelerate Growth with Inside Sales and founder of The Bridge Group, Inc. Her team at The Bridge Group works with B2B technology companies, helping them unleash the power of inside sales. They are on a mission to help technology companies build highly successful inside sales teams. To date they have worked with 240+ companies ranging from global to high-growth SaaS.

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Four Basic Tips to Optimize Sales Performance

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By Solomon Thimothy

Sales, especially B2B sales, is a difficult job. Whether you’re cold calling, emailing, or trying to convert inbound leads, every salesperson hears dozens of “nos” before every “yes.” As a sales manager, your job is to coach and guide your sales team toward overcoming the dreaded “nos” in an efficient and strategic manner.

An efficient and optimized sales department is key to increasing sales and scaling the company, regardless of industry or size. That’s why optimizing your sales process and operations is vital to increasing revenue and the success of the company.  

As a sales manager, there are four basic steps to keeping you grounded and focused on increasing sales efficiency and revenue goals.  

Create the Big Picture

Everyone needs something to aim for. Making more money or closing more deals isn’t enough, though. A sales manager needs to create the Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) for the entire sales team. Everyone on the sales team has to be aware of your BHAG. Whether that’s closing $5 million in new revenue in a given year or reaching a quarterly revenue goal, it has to be specific. Your BHAG also has to be audacious enough that it motivates everyone to work just a bit harder while understanding the big payoff for doing so.

Optimize for One Metric

After you set the big picture, it’s time to get down to business. Before you can start making any real changes, it’s important to select one metric on which to focus. What is the one thing that will help you get closer to the big picture? Is it more calls? More appointments? Whatever that metric is, optimize for it and don’t stop until you’ve gotten there. Once you’re happy with that one metric, you can move on to optimize another metric. This focused approach will allow you to continuously make your sales operation more efficient without keeping track or trying to take on too many things at once.

Track and Analyze

Once you’ve chosen that one metric for optimization, it’s time to start tracking and analyzing. Gather sales numbers, call data, appointment numbers, or whatever other metrics you typically review, and start charting your progress for that one metric. Analyze how that metric differs from day to day, month to month, or even from salesperson to salesperson. Review these numbers with your sales team so everyone is on the same page.

Incentivize the Right Behaviors

As a sales manager, it’s easy to fall into the “performance trap.” In highly stressful and competitive companies, the sales manager usually defaults to a mindset of “perform or you’re out.” While it’s true that salespeople are paid to sell, they also benefit from the traditional incentives and mentorship other employees get. Incentivizing your sales team beyond meeting their quota numbers can go a long way. After all, you need a committed army of salespeople if you’re going to make your big picture happen. Incentivizing and energizing your sales team creates a sense of “we’re all in this together.”

Always Be Learning

Today’s sales tactics are vastly different from those of 10 years ago. Technology and the availability of information on the Internet have changed the way most people make buying decisions. While fundamental sales tactics may not have changed, there are many new things that can be learned. As a sales manager, you are expected to be the best at what you do, so make sure you’re on top of the latest tactics by attending sales-focused workshops or conferences – like Sales 2.0. You never know what new trick you’ll learn. Even better, you will find yourself surrounded by other salespeople who might have just the solution to your current problem.

Being in charge of improving sales is no easy task. Viewing sales as a broader goal – not just an individual’s performance – and optimizing will make it easier to achieve that one huge goal you’ve set. Making iterations to processes or tactics, measuring and tracking, incentivizing your team, and continuing to learn will make that once Big Hairy Audacious Goal a lot more attainable than you first thought!  

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 1.32.13 PMAs the founder and CEO of OneIMS and Clickx, Solomon Thimothy has built his career around his passion for helping other businesses grow an online presence and thrive in the digital world. Solomon works with clients big and small to develop uniquely customized and highly effective marketing strategies that meet every company’s individual goals. Follow him on twitter @sthimothy.

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Tips to Double Your Productivity and Active Selling Time

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By Matt Heinz

Most sales teams – and sales professionals – waste an astounding amount of time. Some is due to lack of discipline; some is due to poor corporate policies, processes, and requirements.

At the Sales 2.0 Conference on May 2, I’ll discuss the most frequent and heinous culprits reducing the productivity of sales team, and will introduce numerous strategic and tactical best practices to increase selling productivity – without breaking the bank. Here’s a quick preview of some of the tips I’ll share.

Make your CRM available online: Contacts, accounts, and notes – the more of this is available anywhere, the more likely you have whatever data you need at your fingertips.

Use voice controls: Control CRM by voice? It’s possible. Check out Nuiku.

Organize your apps better: Which do you use most often? Which do you use in succession? Sort them more effectively on your phone and/or tablet so you spend less time fumbling and more time doing.

Use Dial2Do: For $2.49/month, leave yourselves a voicemail and it’ll translate that message into text and email it to you. Huge time saver – not to mention master capturer of far more ideas, tasks, etc.

Prepare in advance for your day: The night before, make your to-do list. Keep it handy so you can quickly switch to priority tasks when you have time between meetings. Do research on your next day’s meetings via LinkedIn, Charlie, and others. Do the math on where you need to be first, when, how long it’ll take you to get there, and when you need to leave your hotel, office, or home. Life savers.

Avoid distractions as best as possible: Your email will be there for you when you get back to the office. Voicemails, too. You’re on the road for a reason – focus there and get the job done.

Carry paper: Seriously, as awesome as note-capturing apps can be, sometimes what you really need is to write something down! Depending on the circumstance, writing a note on pen and paper may be better etiquette than pulling out your smartphone or tablet.

Capture and triage to-dos before day’s end: Don’t stop working until you’ve captured your next steps somewhere in a trusted system. Pull them out of your notes and brain before they get lost.

Set up Evercontact back at the office: It’ll automatically capture updated contact information from emails in your inbox, keeping your contact list up to date. That way, when you need that updated phone number on the road, it’s right there for you.

MattHeinzMatt Heinz is a prolific author and nationally-recognized, award-winning blogger, and president and founder of Heinz Marketing, with more than 15 years of marketing, business development, and sales experience in a variety of organizations and industries. He has helped organizations such as Amazon, Seagate, Morgan Stanley, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and many others create predictable, repeatable sales and marketing engines to fuel growth. Matt has repeatedly been named one of the Top 50 Most Influential People in Sales Lead Management and Top 50 Sales & Marketing Influencers. Hear him speak on May 2 in Boston at the Sales 2.0 Conference.

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Why Your Salespeople Should Spend Less Time with Customers

Sales 2.0 Conference spend less time with customers Jennifer Stanley

As we plan for our next Sales 2.0 Conference on May 2 in Boston, we’re hearing some interesting solutions to emerging selling challenges.

Last week, Sales 2.0 speaker Jennifer Stanley, expert partner (Marketing and Sales Practice) at McKinsey & Company, published a post on the Selling Power Blog, “An Unexpected Way to Improve Your Sales Pipeline Conversions by 50%,” about an interesting paradox for B2B sellers these days. As she said: 

Today, salespeople have more ways than ever to find and connect with prospects. In fact, they’re drowning in data and interaction opportunities across the customer’s many digital touchpoints. But these many insights and channels often overwhelm the typical B2B rep.

Stanley has found some very basic and simple time-management practices that can help salespeople cut through the avalanche of data and customer touchpoints. The secret, she says, is to actually make fewer and shorter sales calls.

Stanley says she’s seen this approach work wonders for a sales professional who works in the industrial sector and has a complex sales cycle. His prospecting approach is disciplined and strategic, and has consistently landed him a top spot on his team’s leaderboard. Here are the steps he follows.

Step #1: Blocking shorter segments of time (between 15 and 30 minutes) for in-person meetings with prospects.

Why this approach works: Stanley points out that B2B customers today conduct intense amounts of research on their own, online. They visit websites of competitors, download research and reports, and make use of online tools. By the time they talk with a salesperson, they’re deep into the sales cycle and ready to talk brass tacks. Sometimes they even know more than the salesperson does. Consequently, it’s a mistake for B2B salespeople to assume that the complex sales cycle requires hours’ worth of meetings to move the sale forward. Instead, you’ll get more traction if you set up a process that respects the prospect’s time (and your own).

Step #2: Reserving dedicated time to research/study a prospect with relentless focus.

Why this approach works: Again, today’s B2B customer is highly educated. No matter how good your marketing team is and how much information they give you, it’s still in your best interest to invest your own time in researching the prospect and studying their business challenges. According to Stanley, a recent McKinsey survey showed that lack of preparedness is a huge turn-off for prospects and can endanger your deal.

Step #3: Building “time buffers” into his planned meeting times with customers.

Why this approach works: Thanks to his preparation techniques, this sales professional finds that customers often want extra face time with him to discuss their business challenges and potential solutions more in depth. Again, this ends up saving time, since he can take advantage of the initial customer meeting to move the sale forward.

Step #4: Entering “debriefing” notes into his CRM and planning next steps (he allots 30 minutes for this, per customer).

Why this approach works: The Sales 2.0 team has observed that many successful sales teams run on automated platforms and advanced software. Tracking the pipeline and forecast in Excel spreadsheets isn’t going to cut for much longer. Without a functional CRM system that everyone uses in a disciplined and routine fashion, sales and marketing teams won’t be able to gain access to advanced tools like predictive analytics.

At the Sales 2.0 Conference on May 2 in Boston, Stanley will share more details about how B2B salespeople can create a similar process with their own customers and potentially improve early pipeline qualification conversion rates by up to 50 percent.

See the agenda for the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston or register now — discounted rates end March 17.

 

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Fresh Insight to Dramatically Improve Sales Performance

Sales 2.0 Conference David Meerman Scott

This year, Sales 2.0 is all about the DNA of a high-performance sales team. In Boston on May 2, sales leaders and experts will take the stage to provide you with fresh new insight so you can dramatically improve your team’s ability to bring in more revenue, faster. Here are just a few of the sessions we’re excited to share with you!

Why Your Reps Should Spend Less Time with Customers

Today’s purchase decision journey for B2B customers is upending many sales organizations. Not only are customers increasingly turning to digital channels, their expectation for more “consumerized” experiences is also increasing.

These trends are putting enormous pressure on sales leaders and their teams to re-examine how they can most effectively sell. Those who can manage the change and embrace “Sales 2.0” – such as understanding that face-to-face time is not necessarily the best way to sell – can turn the changes to their advantage and be even more effective than ever before.

McKinsey & Company’s Jennifer Stanley, a partner in their Marketing and Sales practice, will share insights about why it may be better to spend LESS time with customers, what customers really want, and what the value of sales reps is.

Sales Technology Overload: How to Select the Right Tools for Your Sales Organization

There are thousands of sales technology tools to consider, and all of them are jockeying for your time – and, more importantly, your budget. Most of these tools sound the same or promise very similar benefits. Many promise to deliver a huge ROI, as well as ease of use and implementation.

In this session, Sam Capra, RVP of Sales, East Coast, DxContinuum, Inc., will lead a candid conversation about steps you can take to eliminate some of the noise around identifying and selecting the right technologies for your sales team. You will walk away with a clear strategy on how to identify and select the right sales technology partner(s) for your company based on your goals, industry, and budget.

Bring your questions, as this will be a candid and interactive dialogue.

Coach by the Numbers: Using Call Outcomes to Drive Efficient and Effective Improvement (with Real Live Call Recordings!)

We all want to coach more, and more effectively, but how can we efficiently focus on having the most effective coaching conversations with those reps who need the most help? And how can we measure improvement immediately and reliably without waiting for whole sales cycles to play out?

Chris Beall, CEO of ConnectAndSell, will use real CRM call disposition data plus recordings of actual sales conversations to share a practical method of using dispositions to drive (and measure) coaching efficiency and effectiveness. Come prepared to “be the coach” as we get real about improving rep performance one step at a time.

Bring your questions, as this will be a candid and interactive dialogue.

The Lies We Tell Ourselves about Our Sales Performance – and Why We Believe Us!

Join J. Steven Osborne, Owner and CEO, Top Gun Sales Performance, for a (slightly) humorous view of the world of sales, sales leadership, and sales performance. We’ll explore why, as leaders, we don’t always get the results we want (and need) from our sales teams, and how the lies we have been told (and still believe) might be contributing to our disappointment. In the end, we think, you’ll see the sales world in a new light. And, you’ll be armed with a new and improved approach to how you build and lead your sales team.

Register now to join us in May at the Westin Boston Waterfront; early-bird registration rates expire March 17! For questions about this event, please contact events@salesdottwoinc.com.

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How to Get Past Gatekeepers

One of the least appealing aspects of cold calling is getting stonewalled by gatekeepers. Here are some expert tips the authors of SOAR Selling. For more insight on this topic, download our latest report, Prospecting: How to Help Salespeople Get Past Gatekeepers.

Tip #1: Realize that gatekeepers are just doing their jobs.

When they screen calls and take messages, gatekeepers are just doing what they’ve been hired to do. They’re not the enemy. They’re just responding to you the way they’ve been trained to. Their goal is just to make life easier for their bosses.

However, many salespeople believe that gatekeepers are actively trying to hold them back. This is a negative and dangerous way to think, say David and Marhnelle Hibbard, Sales 2.0 Conference speakers and coauthors of SOAR Selling: How to Get Through to Almost Anyone (The Proven Method for Reaching Decision Makers). As they write in their book: “When salespeople believe that the receptionist is out to block them, they end up creating that result.”

If you want to get past gatekeepers, hold in your mind the belief that they’re simply doing a job. Yes, their questions or trained responses might pose challenges for you; however, it’s important to have faith that, with the right technique, you can get through gatekeepers and gain access to the executives you’re trying to reach.

Tip #2: Don’t give up so fast.

According to the Hibbards, many salespeople make the mistake of giving up too soon. The moment they hear some version of “no” from a gatekeeper, they simply hang up and dial the next number on the list. Know that a simple willingness to explore the situation on your part is often the key to unlocking access to the decision maker.

Tip #3: Hang up and call back.

The Hibbards say that gatekeepers sometime use certain keywords that indicate that it might be possible to get through to the decision maker — even if what you seem to be hearing is “no.” For example, “He’s not available right now,” is usually met with successful results if you pause and ask the receptionist to qualify what “available” means.

As the Hibbards point out, “not available” doesn’t mean the decision maker isn’t in the office. It could mean that the gatekeeper simply hasn’t yet seen the decision maker that morning, or that the decision maker is out getting coffee. If you hear the word available, try to gain clarity on what that means. If the executive you’re trying to reach is simply roaming the office, then ask if it’s possible to page him or her rather than being sent to voicemail.

Tip #4: Don’t give more information than necessary. 

One of the questions gatekeepers ask most frequently is: “What is this regarding?”

Based on conducting thousands of cold calls using the SOAR Selling technique, the Hibbards say the key to moving forward is to 1) decline to give more information, 2) restate your name and desire to speak to the decision-maker, 3) echo the gatekeeper’s language.

In other words, for a salesperson whose name is Joe Smith, the correct response is, “Please let her know the call is regarding Joe Smith.” (Note: the salesperson should be sure to mirror the word “regarding,” as that’s the word the gatekeeper used initially.) Even if the gatekeeper pushes back (for example, by saying, “And she’ll know who Joe Smith is?”), you can simply repeat your name and express confidence (for example, “I’m sure if you mention Joe Smith, it will be fine.”) Almost one hundred percent of the time, say the Hibbards, this approach prompts the gatekeeper to pass the salesperson through to the executive.

There’s nothing magical about getting past gatekeepers. Just approach the experience believing that these techniques and phrases will work — and you’ll soon find yourself enjoying far better response rates.

For more specific advice on getting past gatekeepers using keywords, download our newest Sales 2.0 Conference report, Prospecting: How to Help Salespeople Get Past Gatekeepers.

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Using Video to Improve Sales Success

 

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By Mark Magnacca

 

The most common challenge I hear from national sales managers is that they spend a fortune on live training events such as national sales meetings, yet their reps’ retention of new corporate and product information is almost nonexistent just weeks later. Sound familiar?  

Traditional sales training methods – online certifications, boot camps, and event-based training programs – are fundamentally broken because sales reps don’t absorb and retain the key information and skills that will enable them to be competitive in today’s buyer-driven discussions. In the digital era, sales teams simply can’t maximize their learning and retention of information when they’re flown into an annual sales conference in Florida or Las Vegas, filed into a conference room, and pumped full of content they won’t use right away. Additionally, sales teams are finding it difficult to collaborate and access crucial information when and where they need it – whether that’s on the road; in an airport, hotel, conference room; or at home base in the office.

Allego provides an easier, more effective way to train reps and allow them to share best practices with one another in the field at the exact time they need it most. Our just-in-time sales learning platform leverages the power of mobile devices – which most sales reps rely on every day at work and for personal use – to allow teams to collaborate and share short videos just as easily as sending a text or email.   

If you made it to Philadelphia for the Sales 2.0 Leadership Conference last month, you may have heard my presentation, “Using Video to Completely Transform Sales Enablement and Training,” with Allego customer Kate Santoriello, global sales training manager from Medtronic. Kate gave an overview of how approximately 300 users throughout her organization are using video to share and learn from one another’s best ideas.  

At Medtronic, the team was faced with the challenge of how to capture the best practices in the field and how to accelerate sharing of those best practices. They also wanted to further enable skill development and remote coaching in a just-in-time fashion. And finally, they wanted to ensure consistent and effective messages are delivered in a timely manner.

Several teams at Medtronic – global field sales, sales support, HR, marketing, compliance, and management – have embraced video to help them meet their goals. Medtronic even introduced a healthy dose of competition, encouraging reps to share videos showcasing their most creative pitches – which were informative, entertaining, and certainly memorable.

While the national sales meeting isn’t going away anytime soon, what we’ve learned from examples like Medtronic’s use of Allego is that video is a powerful tool to leverage the investment in live meetings and provide ongoing best practices while reinforcing key messages in a just-in-time fashion.

MarkMagnaccaMark Magnacca is president and co-founder of Allego. To learn more about how Allego can help your sales team capture their best ideas, master their pitch, and accelerate their performance, contact salesinquiry@allego.com or call 781.400.5671.

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Sales 2.0 Conference Recap: The Power of Mindset

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The Sales 2.0 Conference on Monday had a significant focus on the power of mindset to achieve success in life and sales.

This was not unexpected, given that several keynoters had baked the topic of mindset into their presentations. It gave a new and impactful flavor to an event that, in the past, has put the dominant focus on technology tools, process, and team culture.

Here are just a few of the ideas that the “mindset” keynoters shared with the audience.

Tips and Insight about Mindset

Dan Waldenschmidt, who had the drive, courage, and tenacity to complete a 100-mile marathon, told the hundreds of sales leaders assembled that part of success is how you start your day. Personally, he drinks a ton of water right when he wakes up and then reads for at least a few minutes to intentionally fill his mind with ideas and concepts that will carry him through the day. Dan revealed he is planning to run the Vol State 500K (315 miles across Tennessee) starting on the July 14th. This is normally a 10-day race; his goal is to finish in 3.25 days and set a new world record.

Matthew Pollard, the “Rapid Growth Guy,” told the audience about his struggles to succeed in a profession where your appearance can be crucial to setting a good impression and winning business. They key, he said, is not to let your outer looks define you. You can gain more confidence from what’s on the inside than the outside.

Dave Hibbard, who has developed (with his business partner and wife, Mahrnelle) a highly effective methodology called SOAR Selling for getting through to decision-makers and having successful conversations with them, opened up to the audience about his experience of “dying emotionally” four years ago, despite being highly successful professionally. He warned the audience that the top performers on your team could very well be feeling the very same hollowness inside. He said it’s important to check in with your top performers in meaningful ways (by spending quality time with them) to assess their mindset routinely.

Dr. Michael E. Bernard, who has made breakthrough findings about the mindset of top performers based on his intensive academic study, supplied audience members with a skills questionnaire to evaluate their current mindset in various key areas. He said that one of the keys to succeeding is to make a mental shift about your emotions. Many people believe their feelings are caused by events and experiences. On the contrary, Dr. Bernard said that you can change the way you feel by changing the way you think about the situations you’re in. By making a simple mental shift, for example, you can actually associate positive feelings with an activity like cold calling, which might otherwise be felt as a painful and difficult experience.

Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder of Selling Power magazine, revealed that we all have an “inner CEO” that we can tap for amazing and powerful results. This potential lives in the capacities of the prefrontal cortext of the brain, which is where neural connections form based on our experiences, emotions, and ideas. However, many people never examine their preconceived notions and feelings, despite the fact that they inform their every interaction and overall perspective on life. This can have a significant impact on your productivity and success. For example, just believing negative ideas about the process of aging can actually decrease your life expectancy by 7.6 years. This means that people with a positive mindset actually live longer! Gschwandtner is currently conducting mindset workshops with select teams around the U.S. (contact him directly for more details).

Thanks to all our fantastic attendees for tweeting and being actively engaged during a jam-packed day of learning and networking. Special gratitude goes out to Alice Heiman for being an amazing Chief Networking Officer and facilitating many wonderful connections throughout the day.

To learn more about how to be a successful B2B sales leader, plan to join us at our events in 2016. We will be in Boston on May 2 and San Francisco on July 18-19. To receive an update when agendas are announced, email events@salesdottwoinc.com.

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