Three Steps to Foster Sustainable, Predictable Revenue Growth

By Kevin Higgins

When the sales team is on track to reach quota, many sales leaders feel they can relax. This is an all-too-common trap. In fact, being on track to reach your total sales target isn’t a license to rest on your laurels.

Why? Because, despite clear stability, you probably still have some salespeople who are failing to perform well. And that means you’re likely not creating an environment that fosters sustainable, predictable revenue growth.

If you want to create a reliable growth engine, you need a capable and results-producing team across the majority. Here are three steps you can take to make that happen.

Step 1: Calculate your sales participation rate.

In sales, one of the goals of ongoing management is participation rate (PR) – the percentage of sales team members who are at or above plan.

For a sales team, participation rate is easy to calculate. On a team of 10 people with four people at or above their target for the year, the participation rate is 40 percent. 

Participation rate is a statistic rarely scrutinized – and here’s why:

Sales managers are measured for making their quota. If the quota is $100 million, the sales manager’s goal is to get each salesperson to deliver an average of $10 million. However, the different approaches to get to $100 million are not equal. If only a few make it, the likelihood of sustaining performance is reduced.

Whether some sales reps produce $15 million and others $5 million, the sales manager only needs the total to add up to $100 million. This incentivizes the sales manager to keep average performers because salespeople who delivers only 50 percent of their quota are better for the sales manager than the 0 percent they would contribute if the sales manager let them go.

Yes, you can achieve a great year on the success of a few sales reps, but it’s not truly sustainable. If sales managers don’t understand this dynamic, they will be compelled to keep average performers and forgo the opportunity to create increased results.

Our research reveals that a participation rate of 60 percent or less will give sales managers a 10 percent chance of making their revenue plan. Sales managers must aim for a 70 percent participation rate to have a good chance of making plan, although it is not guaranteed.

Given this, why do sales managers tolerate poor performance? What stops them from having tough conversations?

Our belief is that they don’t understand the impact of participation rate.

Step 2: Assess and categorize your salespeople.  

A sales rep’s performance can be evaluated on two criteria – behavior and results. If your sales team is not performing to plan, assess whether a sales rep is or could be delivering results using the following framework.

There are four performer categories a sales manager works with:

1. High Performers = Deliver results + behave correctly
2. Coachable Performers = Behave correctly, but results are not 100 percent yet
3. Tough Performers = Deliver results + behave poorly
4. Poor Performers = Poor results + poor behavior

In an ideal world, a sales manager would have 100 percent High Performers. Great concept, but not likely to happen. What is the next best thing? 100 percent High Performers and Coachable Performers. This is attainable but it’s not the norm. 

Most leaders will have some Tough Performers and some Poor Performers. Imagine having 10 direct reports with two in these groups. Not bad… manageable. Now imagine four out of 10. Life is tougher – and tough moments happen on a daily basis. At six out of 10, it is probably tough to get out of bed in the morning. 

Step 3: Don’t delay the performance conversation.

Try to improve behavior and results with monthly one-on-ones (more frequently for Tough and Poor Performers), observational coaching with feedback, and regular connects to lean in and support.

If these sales management disciplines fail to work, that’s when it’s time for the performance conversation, which has five key steps:

1. Set a clear standard and set milestones of performance for sales rep
2. Inform the sales rep where they are not meeting the standard and set milestones
3. Give the sales rep the opportunity to meet the standard and set milestones
4. Offer assistance to help them meet the standard and set milestones
5. Outline the consequences of not meeting the standard and set milestones

Sales managers know how to do this – the issue is gaining the courage. Sales managers need to have the conversation as soon as needed – putting it off spares no one.

Sales reps who want to be with you will step it up and improve. Those who are not capable/not interested will show very quickly (in weeks, not months) after the performance conversation. If things still don’t improve, the sales manager can move to the final warning, consult with HR, and decide to part ways, if required.

If you need to strengthen your coaching skills or sales management disciplines, refer to our practical sales management sales training solutions. Coaching to the challenges will develop your people and enhance contribution and performance across your team.

Kevin Higgins is CEO of DoubleDigit Sales and author of Engage Me, a best-selling book on Sales Management.

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Four Tips to Help Salespeople Develop Their Selling Skills

By Alice Heiman

At the Sales 3.0 Conference, we talk a lot about how technology is impacting the sales profession. One major upheaval is the waning patience B2B buyers have for salespeople who don’t have much to offer beyond basic transactional assistance, or who can’t function at a level that holds the buyer’s interest.

To make sure your sales team stays relevant in a digital age, you need to help them develop their selling skills. This is going to be the number one way to increase your revenue potential, because salespeople with highly sophisticated skills are going to remain highly valuable – even as automation and artificial intelligence solutions make simple, transactional sales roles obsolete.

Creating and carrying out these development plans doesn’t have to take a six-figure budget. Of course, you can spend money on training, tools, coaching, and rewards. But no matter what you spend, it’s about providing your team with the resources they need to succeed. With that in mind, try these four simple tips to start developing your sales team today.

Tip #1: Develop your own management and leadership skills.

You know how, on an airplane, the flight attendants tell you to secure your own oxygen mask before you help another? Well, developing yourself follows the same strategy.

Once you’ve begun to develop yourself as a sales leader, you’re more able to help your sales team develop and reach their goals. When you invest the time and energy to develop your own leadership and management skills, you lead by example. That will reap dividends with your salespeople when you ask them to improve their selling skills.

Tip #2: Understand that training alone will not lead to skill development.

It’s your job to help your sales reps understand their part in the company’s success and to develop personalized success plans. Of course, this may mean they have to change their behaviors.

We all know that behavior change is hard. Training alone does not equal behavior change. However, coaching makes it easier to change, because it gives salespeople an accountability partner and some incentive or reward as they work on their selling skills.

Tip #3: Task each member of your sales team to create a personal development plan and then review it with them and make it actionable.

Ask questions, like: What do you want to learn to do better this year? How will you do that? What could prevent you from hitting your goals? When you know the answer to those questions, you can help develop a plan.

Tip #4: Start a book club with your sales reps.

One tactic I highly recommend is creating a book club. It’s easy, inexpensive, and not time-consuming. Just pick a book based on what you want your team to learn, or have them choose. Ask them to read a few chapters a week and then get together to discuss it. Thirty minutes a week away from their desks to meet and an hour or two of reading time is the cost. The result? Agile learners that are improving selling skills and changing to exceed their goals.

Want to increase your sales success in 2018? Join me at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Philadelphia on December 4!

Alice Heiman is founder and CSO at Alice Heiman, LLC. Alice works with business owners to get consistent and sustainable sales growth – and has been helping companies increase sales for more than 20 years. 

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The Top Threat to Your Sales Success

By David Bauders

Technology is growing faster, more powerful, and more embedded in our day-to-day lives – both personal and professional.

We see this acutely in the sales profession, where artificial intelligence (AI) technology is being increasingly leveraged in sales tasks such as account-based selling, prospecting and communication, pipeline management, forecasting, and coaching. This can leave sellers wondering about their role and skills relative to AI.

In the cognitive era, sellers need to move up the sales value pyramid by focusing development on core skills that are more uniquely human. This includes skills focused on consultation, negotiation, relationship building, advisory capacities, and being a strategic, creative partner to clients.

AI is quickly taking over skills at the bottom of the pyramid related to routine transactions, providing basic information and technical requirements. Yet sales reps are not elevating core skills. Consider these facts:

  • Sales reps spend less than 25 minutes per week on skills training.
  • Sales reps spend 4-8 work hours per week on social media.
  • Further, 50 percent of sales reps’ current training is focused on skills that will be automated by machines in the next five years (i.e. those at the bottom of the value pyramid).

The net result is too little training – and training not focused on the right core skills. This adds up to missed opportunities and sub-optimal training spend.  

The Achilles’ heel of many sales training programs is the lack of retention. Less than 5 percent of current sales training contains retention activities. The Forgetting Curve (which is the foe of the Learning Curve) says humans participating in programs without retention activities forget around 90 percent of what they’ve learned within 30 days. Do the math: sellers are learning and retaining less than 2.5 minutes per week of skills training.

To reinforce this point, we should ask ourselves whether Warren Buffett would invest in your training program. He once said:

“Over the years, a number of very smart people have learned the hard way that a long string of impressive numbers multiplied by a single zero always equals zero.”

The resources invested in creating and deploying a sales training program to sellers that lacks retentive qualities will ultimately undermine the majority of that investment. In short, the lack of retention can be the zero that nullifies the value from training programs.

To reinforce retention, training programs need to engage learners with daily content on their own terms. It should be entertaining, social, mobile, experiential, and require only a few minutes a day. This harnesses the same elements of social media that promote hours of engagement by the average user.

Until organizations and individuals adopt a culture of daily, lifelong learning focused on core skills, they will be at risk of displacement by automation. The goal is to harness technology to deliver training with retentive qualities to enable the same impressive performance gains in humans that it is inexorably driving in machines.

This is the great learning challenge of our times. Companies (and people) that embrace this challenge and master its demands will cross the evolutionary chasm; those who don’t will be left behind.

You can hear me talk live about Training 3.0 concepts at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Philadelphia, PA, on December 4. My company, SPA, is a Premier Sponsor. You can also follow me on LinkedIn, where I regularly publish posts related to training, negotiation, personality, and analytics.

David Bauders founded SPA (Strategic Pricing Associates, Inc.) in 1993 and its subsidiary, SPASIGMA, in 2015. SPA is the world’s first company to provide an integrated, holistic, profit-driving solution that integrates decision-support analytics and entertaining, high-performance virtual training. SPA helps market leaders’ teams drive greater financial performance by providing the skills training and analytical tools to master the critical daily decisions that drive profitability and enterprise value: negotiation (sell-side and buy-side), profitability acumen, and emotional intelligence. SPA’s holistic approach helps clients sustainably create and capture higher economic value. SPA’s typical client experiences increased profits equal to 2-4 percent of affected sales in less than 90 days. Mr. Bauders and SPA have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Inside Business, TED, CIO Review, and more.

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Learning How to Adapt to a Sales 3.0 World

How can you help your B2B sales team compete and win in an era of automation and artificial intelligence?

On December 4, B2B sales leaders and experts will gather in Philadelphia at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel for the final Sales 3.0 Conference of the year to learn the best strategies to do just that.

Here’s a sample of presentations and what you’ll learn. There is still time to register for this event! Visit to learn more.

What Salespeople 3.0 Want from You

In this session SalesFuel’s President and CEO C. Lee Smith will take you inside the mind of today’s salesperson to show

  • Why building a culture of development is required to attract and retain top sales talent – and how to build it
  • What motivates reps to do just a little bit more – or tackle the part of the job they like least
  • Four traits the most respected sales managers all have in common

Speaker: C. Lee Smith, President and CEO, SalesFuel | @cleesmith @salesfuel @sellsmarter

Stories – The Most Powerful Tool in Your Toolkit

This session will explore a big question: What’s more memorable for customers – facts and data or stories? The answer might seem surprising and almost counter-intuitive in today’s fast-paced, data-driven world.

Join Catherine Kerr, a highly engaging senior facilitator at DoubleDigit Sales, to learn effective communication approaches that leverage the true power of stories, how to craft a compelling story, and how to use stories effectively in various situations.

Speaker: Catherine Kerr, Senior Facilitator, DoubleDigit Sales | @ddstraining

Sales EQ: Sales-specific Emotional Intelligence and the Five Traits of Ultra-High Performers

In this session, bestselling author Jeb Blount will take attendees on an unprecedented journey into the mind of the ultra-high B2B sales performer – the rare outlier who performs in the top 1 or 2 percent of the sales population. He will outline the five traits of ultra-high performers (UHPs) and show how they leverage sales-specific emotional intelligence and influence frameworks to master the complex sale. Jeb pulls the veil off ultra-high performance and shows why the line between average rep and UHP is razor thin and can be taught, coached, and learned.

Speaker: Jeb Blount, CEO, Sales Gravy | @SalesGravy

Creating a Winning Sales Culture

With more than 10 years of professional sports experience, Jake Reynolds – Philadelphia 76ers Chief Revenue Officer and SVP of Ticket Sales and Service for the Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Devils, and Prudential Center Arena – is a renowned industry leader in sales management. Reynolds has been internationally recognized for his work in overcoming challenging product periods through the implementation of strategic and formulaic sales and culture-based initiatives; recently, he was honored as a “Leader under 40” by Leaders and Aspire Academy, which globally recognizes elite talent in the sports industry. In his keynote, “Creating a Winning Sales Culture,” Reynolds will share the secrets, strategies, and tactics for developing and maintaining a positive and highly productive sales team and culture. With an emphasis on personal development, access, and recognition – and under the pillars of people, teamwork, development, hustle, and fun – Reynolds will demonstrate how a highly personal, team goal-based, and collaborative approach to corporate culture directly correlates to sales success.

Speaker: Jake Reynolds, Senior Vice President of Ticket Sales and Service, Philadelphia 76ers, New Jersey Devils and Prudential Center | @sixers

Artificial Intelligence and Selling – the Future Is Already Here

Many executives are still under the impression that the AI-enhanced salesperson is years away. This onstage chat will examine the research and define what AI is and what it isn’t. Then the speakers will examine actual case studies to show how companies are quietly using AI to crush their competitors. They’ll show how looking at AI from a strategic standpoint creates long-term competitive advantage. Finally, they will outline three things sales leaders should start doing with AI right away.

Speakers: Chris Beall, CEO, ConnectAndSell | @chris8649
Bruce Lewolt, CEO and Co-founder, BrainX and | @BruceLewolt

Perpetual Sales Readiness: The New World of “Always On” Learning for Sales

Join Jim Ninivaggi, Chief Readiness Officer at Brainshark, for an inside look at how to deploy a sales readiness model that is “always on,” providing an environment for continuous improvement to help prepare your reps quickly – and keep them that way. This session will explore how to leverage video, AI, and machine learning to augment and guide the coaching efforts of your managers. Topics covered will include:

  • A model for perpetual sales readiness to drive individual and team-wide enablement
  • How to utilize video coaching/assessment tools to ensure readiness and socialize best practices
  • An exclusive look at how artificial intelligence will augment the human aspect of sales coaching

Speaker: Jim Ninivaggi, Chief Readiness Officer, Brainshark | @JNinivaggi

How Artificial Intelligence Aligns Sales with Marketing for More Revenue, Faster

Falon will present how sales and marketing leadership can leverage AI to identify and prioritize execution against their total addressable market. Her talk will include examples of how companies can leverage cutting-edge data intelligence technology to develop core sales plays that organize and align marketing, sales, and product resources, as well as identify the next prospects and market of opportunity that result in more revenue, faster.

Speaker: Falon Fatemi, CEO and Founder, Node | @falonfatemi

Register now for the Sales 3.0 Conference in Philadelphia on December 4.

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Increase Your Sales Revenue by 50 Percent or More

By Alice Heiman

At most companies I talk to, the leadership team wants enormous revenue growth. They don’t want to just grow by two percent, five percent, or even 10 percent. They want to increase by 25 percent, 30 percent, 50 percent or more. You have expectations for your team to deliver that growth. And that can be a heavy burden.

My philosophy behind helping teams capture market share and deliver the enormous growth needed to keep stakeholders happy comes down to mindset. Your mindset, not theirs. I believe you must develop yourself and grow your personal brand before you can expect your team to bring in the results. If you are emphasizing only training and development for your team then it’s probably not giving you the results you need. That’s because growth starts with you. Once you have the right mindset and a plan to improve yourself, you can move on to developing the team.

Here are some tips on how to improve yourself and your team to deliver exponential growth.

1. Develop Yourself and Your Personal Brand

How do you contribute to exponential growth as a sales leader? I know you want your sales teams out there, crushing their goals and making great sales. But, too often, sales leaders focus on how to develop their team and forget about improving themselves. True growth for your company and your team starts with you. To better yourself, you’ll need to examine and improve three key attributes: your mindset, skillset, and toolset.

You also need to develop your personal brand. You’re probably wondering what your personal brand has to do with your company’s growth. Well, everything! It matters internally and externally. Internally, are you the winning sales leader? Are you the one who can get it done? The one who everyone wants to work for, even though you are tough? Externally, do your customers know you as dependable? Are you the one they call to say thank you? Are you the one who receives compliments on your team? Your personal brand supports your team, brings in new business, and retains customers. To develop your brand, focus on these three big ideas:

Be Visible: Interact, Share

Set an example for your team by being visible online and in person – internally and externally. That means making sure your social profiles are up to date and useful. It means sharing your expertise by posting useful content. It means attending trade shows and networking events. Teach your team with your actions. Model the behavior you expect to see from them.

Be Available: Help, Converse

Being available doesn’t mean you must give up every minute of your life and have no boundaries. It means you need to be available – within certain given parameters – so your team can come to you when they need to. Your customers and prospects should also feel like you’re available to them.

Be a Connector: Introduce

Be a connector to the other people at your company. Help pave the path for your salespeople or smooth the way if needed. Be a connector to vendors. Be a connector to prospects and customers. When you know other individuals who have a lot of connections, you can help your salespeople become better connected. Developing your personal brand helps you connect.

2. Cultivate a Winning Mindset

Your mindset is the most important piece of this puzzle. While you will need to develop a strong skillset and toolset, those don’t matter if you don’t have the right mindset. To get in the right mindset, you need to take care of yourself and nurture a positive attitude. To do this, take some time for yourself every day to go for a walk, meditate, give out compliments freely, or unplug from your phone and devices. Maintaining a powerful and positive mindset is critical to get the exponential growth you need. You have to have a mindset that you can succeed before you can expect your team to think that way also.

3. Learn and Grow Your Skillset

Once you’ve got your mindset adjusted for success, you can learn and grow your skillset. To develop yourself as a leader, you need to ask yourself some questions. Do you have the skills you need? What are you doing to continue developing your leadership skills – especially your sales leadership skills?

According to my friend Mark Hunter, every great sales leader does these nine actions:

  • Demonstrates trust
  • Creates a motivating environment
  • Sets and communicates clear objectives and goals
  • Supports and empowers others
  • Commits to follow-through and completion
  • Listens attentively
  • Remains vision oriented
  • Fosters team environment
  • Focuses on people, not tasks

And I agree with him! Read each of these and ask yourself if you’re practicing them on a daily basis. Could you get better at it? How could you get better at it? Start to think about what you want to do to improve your skillset.

Alice Heiman is founder and CSO at Alice Heiman, LLC. Alice works with business owners to get consistent and sustainable sales growth – and has been helping companies increase sales for more than 20 years. She regularly emcees the Sales 3.0 Conference and is a certified Peak Performance Mindset trainer. Join her at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Philadelphia on December 4.

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Why Marketing Should Never Man Trade Show Booths Alone

By Peter Gillett

Conventional thinking says it’s marketing’s job to generate leads…so why have salespeople in the booth at a trade show?

Here’s why. Today, with digital media, social media, and Web meetings, prospects and customers can hide behind the Internet. The days of face-to-face meetings and power lunches are mostly gone. This makes trade shows a prime place where salespeople can press the flesh, see their customers, and talk with prospects for the first time.

When marketers alone are stationed at your trade-show booth, salespeople lose an opportunity for potentially valuable engagements. This is made worse by the fact that some marketers show little interest in doing the work of engaging with attendees or qualifying them as prospects.  

Here’s an example. Recently, we were invited by one of our clients, Cummins Diesel, to attend the Southampton Boat Show to salivate over their fabulous power boats and classic yachts. As an admirer of the brand and having worked with Sunseeker in the past, I thought this would be a fun and interesting experience.

In the morning, my first stop was to Sunseeker’s reception desk on the dock, where I asked for a mini-tour. However, even though no one else was present, we were advised by the marketing woman that it was too busy and to “go sling our hook” (a nautical term!). As it happened, I didn’t have a few million dollars in my back pocket at that particular moment, but she didn’t know that – nor did she make any attempt to find out. She simply turned us away.

Along the next dock was an unfamiliar brand, Prestige Yachts, a competitor to Sunseeker. This time, without hesitation, a reception crew member asked if I would like to have a tour, and asked if I’d like a salesperson to show me around or if I preferred to explore solo.

The reception team at Prestige was clearly in marketing, but was also there to generate leads for the sales team. Contrast this to Sunseeker, whose team was there to flaunt their wares and entertain existing customers.

Takeaway: Only employ marketing personnel at events if they are going to team up with sales and facilitate the buying process – not work against it.

Unfortunately, marketing often spends more time worrying about what’s going to be written on the T-shirt than creating an intelligent event strategy. And, if there is an event strategy, salespeople are rarely involved in creating it. Instead, salespeople are required to attend a trade show because marketing needs someone to man the booth. But this approach can be a waste of time for salespeople, who end up having to talk with a lot of unqualified prospects.

It’s time salespeople begin to see the real value in being at a trade show. They should say: “Hey, marketing, I want to invite these hot prospects and customers to this event so I can engage with them.” Ensure your booth is designed to both entertain and encourage meaningful discussions. 

Both sales and marketing need to agree on a strategy before they invest in trade shows. With that in mind, here are four reasons it makes sense to exhibit at an event:

#1: Grow the brand.

You want to get your company name out there to boost awareness. 

#2: Collect leads.

If it’s collecting leads, you need a really efficient lead scanning process so you can scan people and do some early qualification. Ensure no one walks past the booth who is not scanned.

#3: Have qualified sales conversations.

It’s true that many people walking around trade shows are doing research and kicking tires. While some people want to spend money, it’s usually a waste of time for highly paid salespeople to stand in a booth trying to pick those people out. When salespeople attend a trade show, they don’t want to stand around giving out swag and capturing unqualified leads. They want to speak with folks who have genuine need and budget. Marketing should help connect salespeople only to potential buyers. Lead generation software scans the badge or business card, and a history comes up. Pre-set questions can guide the salesperson through a conversation and suggest appropriate collateral to give the attendee. It’s a mini sales meeting in the booth. 

#4: Host pre-planned meetings with prospects.

Your priority is not collecting leads – it’s connecting with customers and prospects who are attending the show. The trade show becomes the catalyst for setting up meetings. The trade show and booth become secondary.

I see this scenario often at Dreamforce, with big consultants such as Accenture, Deloitte, and PWC. If you walk into their booth to collect swag, they politely ask you to leave. Their booths are very clearly set up for pre-planned meeting spaces.

Trade shows and other events serve as a bookmark in a series of planned activities that could start six or nine months beforehand and may continue six to nine months after all the leads have been followed up. It’s the gathering in the middle that brings people together. 

The days of sales and marketing teams working in isolation are over. They must be working hand in glove months before a show, during the show, and months after the show. During the event, marketing and sales must assume their defined roles to enhance the buyer experience and optimize sales performance.

Peter Gillett is CEO of Zuant, where he’s responsible for driving product development and client roll-outs of the company’s award-winning Mobile Lead Capture app across U.S. corporations. “Zuant” is a French word meaning “fast and light.” An entrepreneur and innovator, Peter created the world’s first Web-based CRM system funded by Lucent Technologies in the 1990s. CRM, lead generation, and follow-up are still the focus for Zuant and its network of NACCENT call centers around the globe. Contact Peter via email at

Posted in Sales and Marketing Alignment | Leave a comment

Six Mistakes You Should Always Avoid When Cold Calling

By Christine Harrington

Today I want to help you avoid the mistakes I’ve made in cold calling.

Mistake #1: Inconsistent Cold Calling

When you’re inconsistent making cold calls, you’ll never become exceptional at it. It’s just like exercising – if you work out only once a month for an hour, you’ll never progress.

I used to hate cold calling so much, I had to psych myself up just to pick up the phone! On top of that, I only cold called once a month.

And, I might add, I was so bad at it I had to face the truth: if I was ever going to become exceptional at cold calling, I had to do it frequently. So I changed my strategy and began cold calling every day.  

My goal was 100 cold calls in a week. So I divided it into five days, with 20 cold calls a day. I could tolerate 20 cold calls a day. After I began feeling more comfortable, I started making 100 cold calls at one time.

Mistake #2: A Poor Script

Sales professionals should always use scripts with cold calling. However, my particular problem with scripts was twofold.

  1. I read the script like a robot – and I was frequently hung up on because it was painfully obvious to the caller I was just another pesky, inexperienced salesperson. At that point, I had no idea how to develop rapport through tone and words.

  2. My scripts, written by me, were all about me and my product. I hadn’t learned yet how to have a conversation with the buyer led by an exceptional script.

I learned to write killer scripts and to split test scripts – preparing two scripts and doing half your calls with one script, the other half with the second script. I do this to see which scripts produces the best results.

Mistake #3: Lack of Practice

Before making calls, I might read through the script only a few times. Then, when placing the calls, I’d stumble through the script.

I learned early on to practice – not a couple times by reading it silently, but by recording it over and over again so I could play it back and hear how the buyer would hear me.

I discovered I needed to change the tone and depth of my voice – I sounded too nasal. And, because I was anxious about calling, I was rushing and needed to slow my pace.

Mistake #4: Product Dumping

This is the major mistake I made: I was product dumping instead of only setting a discovery appointment. As a result I’d get the abrupt, “I’m not interested” – and then a dial tone. To be honest, I would have hung up on me too!

Mistake #5: Expecting Too Much

When I first started cold calling, I expected way too much and easily became discouraged. Instead of seeing cold calling as a learned skill, I thought, if I made 20 calls, I should reap 15 appointments. How naive!

I hadn’t developed mental toughness and I let discouragement take hold of me. As a result, I convinced myself that cold calling didn’t work. Be realistic when cold calling.

Final Mistake: Failure to Track and Analyze

If you don’t track, you won’t recognize your improvement. Always track your numbers. I’m so obsessed with it I have my numbers on an Excel sheet going back 10 years! And it’s proof to me how my numbers have improved year after year because I’ve dedicated myself to studying and cultivating a cold calling mindset.

I wish I had my numbers going back 30 years ago – although I do remember a time when I made more than 500 cold calls and didn’t set one appointment! I still remember what that felt like: not great. And that never happened again! Today, I can make 100 cold calls, get through to 20 or so business owners, and secure 10-12 appointments. When I leave a voice message, around 21 percent return my calls!

Just like sales, cold calling is a numbers game. After studying, practicing, and consistently placing cold calls, my numbers have greatly improved…and so will yours.

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

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Critical Insights You Need to Save Your Sales Organization

Sales 3.0 ConferenceWhat did we learn from the Monday morning keynote presentations at the Sales 3.0 Conference? If you’re not making major moves to adapt to the digital era of selling, your sales organization is in danger of becoming extinct in the next five to 10 years.

Three of this morning’s keynote speakers shared how sales leaders can make sure their sales organizations survive and thrive. Here are three key insights to consider.

Insight #1: It’s time for sales managers to cut headcount while dramatically increasing revenue.

One fact sales leaders must confront is that Sales 3.0-era technologies are shrinking the size of sales forces, while also increasing your capacity to generate revenue.

If you want proof of this trend, consider what’s happening among the 500 largest service organizations in the United States. In his morning keynote, Selling Power founder Gerhard Gschwandtner revealed some interesting takeaways based on the past 15 years of data about service companies, culled from the Selling Power 500:

  • Sales are up by 122%
  • Total aggregate sales volume went up from $1.4 trillion to $3.4 trillion
  • The size of the sales force shrank from 900,000 to 600,000 — a 30% contraction
  • Sales-per-rep increased by 233%

What does this tell us? Companies are leveraging technology tools to pull in more revenue, while also decreasing headcount. Gschwandtner predicts about three million sales jobs will disappear in the next 10 years as companies continue to adopt new technologies (for example, automation, AI, and cognitive computing) to accomplish simple and routine tasks currently being performed by humans.

Gschwandtner’s advice for sales leaders? The survival imperative is for sales managers to increase sales by 200% and cut headcount by at least 20% over the next five years. If you’re not doing those two things, you’ll have a tough time staying in business.

According to Gschwandtner, very few sales executives believe that digital transformation is a matter of survival, and only 7% of companies surveyed by Capgemini’s Digital Transformation Institute feel that their organization can test new ideas and deploy them quickly.

As Gschwandtner said, we need to face the reality that the world is changing as we speak. We don’t want to be disrupted. We want to own the disruption.

Insight #2: It’s time to enable your sales team in a new way.

In her presentation, Judy Buchholz, general manager, sales strategy and solutions (global markets) for IBM, presented some interesting statistics from a survey conducted by The IBM Institute for Business Value. The full report contains insights based on responses from more than 6,000 executives globally (from 18 different countries). For her Sales 3.0 presentation, Judy pulled data from responses given by CMOs and heads of sales (about 1,000 respondents, total). Here are some takeaways: 

  • 61% say cognitive computing will be a disruptive force in their industries
  • Only 24% say they have a cognitive computing strategy today
  • Fewer than half say they have a Chief Data Officer

Buccholz said it is not enough for sales leaders to reduce headcount by 20% (as Gschwandtner advised). It’s critical that sales leaders take steps now to enable their sales forces in a different way. As she said, sales is a “business-to-individual” endeavor. Your salespeople are selling to humans, and you need to make sure reps have the right information or data to make that interaction — whether virtual or in person — as productive as possible.

Here are three questions Buchholz says sales leaders must bear in mind to embark on a new approach to sales enablement:

  1. How are you currently harnessing the power of structured and instructed data to improve your customer experience?
  2. Can you access relevant insights to make real-time sales decisions, or are you unable to respond quickly because you have to analyze multiple info sources? (As she pointed out: many buyers today want instant answers.)
  3. What are you doing to get started on incorporating cognitive computing in your organization?

Insight #3: It’s time to train your sales team in ways they find engaging.

David Bauders, Founder and CEO of SPA, agreed that simple sales jobs (including routine transactions and informational transactions) will be taken over by technology. This makes it imperative for sales leaders to invest in sales training programs that will actually engage sales reps and help them retain information.

Currently, the stats about the state of sales training in the Sales 3.0 era are dismal. According to Bauders, who quoted a joint survey produced by SPA and Selling Power magazine:

  • 44-66% of sales reps are getting zero sales training.
  • 68% of reps are dissatisfied with their sales training (saying it’s low impact or not engaging).
  • 96% of reps spend less than five minutes per day on any type of retentive learning.

Bauders said sales leaders need to pay attention to four clear metrics when it comes to sales training: 1) participation rate, 2) learning rate, 3) retention rate, and 4) sustainability rate. To appeal to sales reps, sales leaders must make sure that training is fun, engaging, social, and experiential. In a Sales 3.0 world, it is also imperative to empower reps on how to sell value. Specifically, sales reps need to understand how value is created so they can negotiate and leverage their assets accordingly.

Thanks to all our speakers and sponsors for a terrific morning here in Vegas! If you’d like to join us for another event in 2017, save the date now for the Sales 3.0 Conference in Philadelphia on December 4.

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Two Tips to Make Your Sales Force Amazing

By Gerhard Gschwandtner

The advancement of technology is forcing the redefinition of the sales professional’s role in B2B selling. Recently I’ve read a variety of reports and articles detailing how technology – from artificial intelligence (AI) to automation – is threatening to take over the traditional job functions of humans.

In fact, I began writing about this issue as early as 2010 (“Are You at Risk of Being Replaced by Technology?”). At the time, I cited the following shifts:

Innovative technology can also displace jobs. Over the years, ATM machines have replaced bank tellers and telephone operators have been replaced by automated answering technology. Travel agents were replaced by travel Websites. Video store clerks were replaced by Netflix.

As my team and I prepare for the upcoming Sales 3.0 Conference in Las Vegas later this month, we’re asking speakers to explain how sales leaders can create an amazing sales force in this rapidly-changing environment. In particular, I’m looking forward to hearing a presentation from LaVon Koerner, chief revenue officer and co-founder of global consulting and sales revenue acceleration firm Revenue Storm. The Sales 3.0 Conference team recently published a new report, “Four Leadership Insights You Need to Create an Amazing Sales Force,” in which LaVon offers some interesting insights. As he says, sales leaders need to stop depending on salespeople to just sell better and, instead, lead them to sell differently.

Here are two critical highlights from the report:

Tip #1: Shift your strategic sales approach to “demand creation.”

The most successful sales professionals understand that individual human beings – not companies – make decisions to buy. Relationship development is an intentional process that requires salespeople to invest time doing careful research before walking through the door to determine the potential value they can offer. Additionally, it requires continued nurturing. Salespeople need to continually ask: “What have I done for my customers lately?”  

The Internet provides product and pricing access and ease. What it doesn’t provide is innovative judgment and the ability to alert a customer to unknown areas of gain. The sales professional of the future will need to excel in this area – working with the prospect, sifting through and distilling data to help achieve a solution for advancing his or her company in new and creative ways. This is the heart of demand creation.

Tip #2: Encourage reps to leave their customer-relationship comfort zones.

A new type of sales professional is needed to navigate customer relationships in a digital age. The fact is, many simplistic sales jobs will disappear in the next decade. And, although rarely discussed, most of today’s sales professionals have a tendency to hide behind the caliber of their product offerings, their pricing, or their company. Instead of “safe” discussions around products, features, price, and company, your salespeople have to be savvy and brave enough to earn the right to have discussions around personal agendas.

To learn more, you can download the full report and register to join us in Las Vegas on September 18-19 at the next Sales 3.0 Conference, where LaVon Koerner will present, “Not Another Class: Make Your Sales Force Amazing.”

Gerhard Gschwandtner is founder and publisher of Selling Power magazine and host of the Sales 3.0 Conference. Watch his most recent videos on YouTube or find him on Twitter.

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The Vital Sales Performance Metric Nobody Is Measuring

By Bill Eckstrom

There is a lack of resources in the sales world, and we at the EcSell Institute witness this daily as individuals and teams do their best to grow revenue.

Research and technology continue to challenge our perception of accepted and applied best practice; but, in spite of it all, in the sales world the producers are the only ones provided all the cards. The sales leaders, keeping true to form, are handed an incomplete deck with cards unknowingly strewn on the floor.

The challenge is that, historically, all the research, data, studies, etc., have been done on salespeople. Not until the 90s did research make clear to what degree a manager impacts the performance of any team in business. However, in sales, it still wasn’t made clear what specific coaching activities and behaviors correlated closest to “motivation to sell.” And, if nobody had identified the high-payoff coaching activities and effective behaviors, they certainly couldn’t be measured for quantity or quality. This means sales leaders don’t have the right sales performance metrics to measure success.

This may be hard to comprehend given the volume of reports reviewed by any sales leader on a given day, but much is missing. Prudent decisions in business are usually made as a result of having data, and data is only produced as a result of inputs. Today, the only inputs and resulting data available to sales departments are based on what salespeople do. The gap is this: no one has provided the opportunity for coaching inputs, so there is no data on how a sales coach is impacting performance.

Or consider this: odds are that 50 percent of your sales coaching team is preventing your sales reps from selling more. So, without objectively measuring coaching performance, you are simply guessing as to the effectiveness of your entire sales leadership team. Guessing is what leads to a high turnover rate in our profession (19 months was the average tenure of a sales leader in 2013.) You can’t win the game without having all the cards in your deck! That means you need to measure the right sales performance metric.

Think about it: What coaching metrics does anyone review?

Here are some that should be reviewed by the executive sales leader or through self-analysis by the sales coach:

  • One-on-one coaching meetings completed
  • Number of joint sales calls worked with reps
  • Coach’s role in the joint call (observer, participant, lead)
  • Sales stage in which coach helped the rep (e.g., needs analysis, presentation, closing)
  • Percent of coaching time with top 20 percent of reps, versus middle 60 percent, versus bottom 20 percent
  • Coaching score (an objective measurement of coaching acumen)

Because nobody measures, nobody knows. Sales departments are famous for providing salespeople all the success disciplines, measurements, and methodologies; but, until these same structures are brought to the sales coaching role, sales growth will be minimized.

Here are some ways to get started:

  1. Define expectations around the high-payoff coaching activities – how often and with whom
  2. Provide coaches the tools and training on how to use them effectively
  3. Use a tracking method so inputs and outcomes can be gathered

Regardless of company size, management tenure, technology, learning and development teams, sales effectiveness departments, or strength of leadership, they have all had a card (or more) under their chair. They were all missing critical data that limited their ability to maximize sales. So, before you play another game, stop and look under your chair. Don’t make another move – certainly no strategic moves – without first holding all the cards.

Coaching not measured is a soft skill. Coaching objectively measured becomes a vital sales performance metric.

Hear Bill Eckstrom of the EcSell Institute speak live at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Las Vegas on September 18.

Bill Eckstrom is a business owner, executive, entrepreneur, outdoorsman, Husker fan, cyclist, student, husband, and father. He is founder of the EcSell Institute, a research-based organization that works with leaders in sales departments to help them understand, elevate, and measure coaching’s impact on team performance. EcSell’s science and programming on the role of the leader as a coach has been changing the behaviors, activities, and performance of organizational teams around the world. Follow Bill on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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