How to Engage More Strategic Accounts as a Sales Development Team

By Ian Sullivan

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

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

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

1. Rely on data, not your gut.

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

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

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

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

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

2. Scrap your templated emails and get personal.

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

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

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

3. Never become complacent.

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

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

In Conclusion: Win More with ABM

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

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

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How Could You Celebrate the Outcomes You Seek?

By Jim Cathcart

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

The Value of Celebrations

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

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

Reward the Outcomes You Want

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

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

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

The Smart Way to Celebrate

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

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

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

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

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The Amazing Benefits of Conversation Intelligence

By Parth Mukherjee

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

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

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

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

Four Ways Your Sales Cycle Can Benefit from CI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Eliminate Chronic Negative Thoughts

By Christine Harrington

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

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

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

Your Attitude is Nothing More than a Habit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why Positive Thinking Might Not Be the Fix

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

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

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

How to Shift Your Mindset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Four Fundamentals for Retaining Your Best Customers

By Alice Heiman

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

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

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

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

Examining Customer Loyalty

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

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

Whose Job Is Customer Loyalty and Retention?

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

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

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

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

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

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Why Augmented Intelligence Is a Salesperson’s Best Friend

By Swati Sinha

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

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

Augmented Intelligence Makes Sales Smarter

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

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

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

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

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

Transform Your Sales Organization

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

Four Key Areas Where AI Can Be a Big Boost

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

Area #1: Prospecting and Sales Leads

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

Area #2: Customer Cultivation and Acquisition

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

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

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

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

Area #3: Customer Retention

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

Area #4: Sales Operations

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

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

Conclusion: Why Sales and AI Are Best Friends

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

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

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How to Stage an Effective Sales Discovery Call

By Chris Orlob

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tip #2: Know how many problems to address.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Build Your Sales Operations Strategy

By Carolyn Betts Fleming

With the right sales operations strategy in place, sales teams can perform their jobs at the highest level, work efficiently, close more deals, and generate as much revenue as possible. This involves leveraging the right data and insights, streamlining and prioritizing leads effectively, and, of course, utilizing the appropriate technology to keep things running smoothly.

But that’s just a broad overview. In reality, developing a sales operations strategy isn’t always this straightforward. In fact, it can be downright challenging. Often the best approach to such an initiative is to learn from others who have “been there, done that.”

There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Below are five tips that should help you get your ducks in a row.

#1: Identify your main objective.

At the end of the day, the most critical role of sales operations is ensuring sales reps have the resources, tools, and processes they need to be productive. Accordingly, all tasks performed by sales operations should support and feed into this objective – whether directly or indirectly. Refocusing on what’s most important may mean re-evaluating time-consuming tasks or saying no from time to time – whatever it takes to make sure sales operations’ main priority is consistently being met.

#2: Align sales and marketing.

Misalignment between sales and marketing is certainly nothing new, but effective communication and collaboration between the two is essential to your company’s success. That’s why the first step in creating a sales operations strategy is to get these two teams on the same page. Technology can help make this easier. For instance, contract lifecycle management platforms can cut down on negotiation time, thereby improving efficiency.

#3: Facilitate easy access to content.

One of the sales team’s most precious resources is time. That’s why a significant component of your sales operations strategy should be identifying and implementing time-saving processes, workflows, and tools. One key focus should be content. Finding relevant content to share with prospects is a time-consuming but critical task. Sales operations can make a huge impact by organizing and maintaining a comprehensive, centralized database of content that makes it fast and easy for sales reps to get the information they need when they need it.

#4: Enable efficient qualification of leads.

The next essential component of a sales operations strategy is developing an effective lead qualification process. Poorly qualified leads are a huge waste of time and energy for sales reps and can directly impact the company’s bottom line. It’s up to sales operations to foster a process that evaluates and prioritizes leads based on certain criteria. When only top-quality leads make it through the pipeline to sales reps, they’ll be able to close more deals faster and generate more revenue as a result.

#5: Implement and maintain CRM and other systems.

Last, but certainly not least, a sales operations strategy should involve the implementation and maintenance of CRM and whatever other systems, tools, and technologies help optimize the sales team’s efforts. This involves making sure all data entered into these systems is accurate. It may also involve evaluating and adopting time-saving tools such as automation.

At the end of the day, the sales team will look to operations to help them perform at their very best. Developing and implementing a sales operations strategy that includes the above key components will help sales reps optimize their time, maximize efficiency, and consistently crush their revenue goals.

Carolyn Betts Fleming is founder and CEO of Betts Recruiting, a leading recruitment firm for revenue-generating, marketing, and people operations roles.

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How to Find Your Customers and Own Your Market

By Jim Cathcart

Today, you plan to make sales – but to whom? Who are your targeted prospects? Where are your most likely buyers? Which among them will be your best customers? And, by the way, where will you start?

For almost every product or service there are buyers who hope to find them. Your buyers are out there – and many of them are hoping you, or someone like you, will show up with the solution to their needs or wants.

How to Define Your Market

A market is a group of people with enough in common that you can establish a reputation among them.

When seeking your ideal buyers, there are three ways to look: from the outside, from the inside, and from your own point of view.

The outside view is looking for markets that share enough common characteristics that you can easily communicate with them. There are

  • Industry markets: automotive, financial services, real estate, construction, publishing, etc.

  • Professions: medicine, dentistry, chiropractic, accounting, law, architecture, education, and so forth.

  • Social markets and hobbies: country club members, golfers, bicyclists, motorcyclists, runners, bird watchers, do-it-yourselfers, yoga enthusiasts, and more.

  • Language or cultural markets: Speakers of English (especially in non-English countries), Mandarin, Vietnamese, German, French, etc.

  • Fans: sports, celebrities, and music genres. There are also Star Trek fans (Trekkies), comic book collectors, Notre Dame fans, Lakers fans, Tom Cruise fans, James Bond fans, Dead Heads, heavy metal fans, Beatles fans, fans of reggae, blues, folk music, and more.

  • There are collectors of almost everything you can imagine: wooden dolls, Superman memorabilia, Coca-Cola signs, toy soldiers, marionettes, frog figurines, ivory carvings, books, watches, and…need I go on?

  • Geographic markets: New Yorkers, Chicagoans, people from the South, Californians, Central Americans, Australians, and Europeans. This is also true of neighborhoods: townies, country folks, people within four miles of your dealerships, or who live in “the Heights” or “the Meadows,” homeowners in an HOA or gated community.

From the inside view (seeing through the buyer’s eyes) there are people who want luxury, economy, quantities, quality, durability, flexibility, and more. If you sell inexpensive watches, you can probably skip the luxury watch collectors as prospects; then again, an interest in watches might lead to some new sales with a creative approach. Look for what the buyers are seeking and group them by their interests and desires. Then find ways to reach out to them.

From your own point of view, you could look at what you are trying to achieve. Are you seeking to sell out of old inventory, build a reputation for a new product, permeate a market and reach all the buyers in one category, generate revenue for a new venture, improve your margins with new sales methods, build your book of clients for the future, or what?

The steps in getting new business involve

  1. Finding a market you want to serve
  2. Surrounding the market with messages from you
  3. Penetrating that market so you get at least one customer within it
  4. Permeating the market with as many sales as you can so you “own” it for the next phase of your marketing

Let’s say you’ve chosen automotive rebuilders and collectors as your market. Those are people who love finding old and rare vehicles, restoring or customizing them, and driving them. They go to car shows and tune into TV and radio shows and channels that cater to car enthusiasts. They go to races, parades, museums, and parts and accessories stores. They attend rallies and join Facebook groups that cater to their craft. To “surround” this market, you would probably do some of the following (note: this applies to other markets as well):

  • Attend their events
  • Exhibit at their expos
  • Advertise in their magazines and podcasts
  • Sponsor people in their field
  • Learn their insider language
  • Show how you are “one of them”
  • Offer them something that relates to their field and leads them back to you
  • Participate in their events (volunteer, host, or serve as the emcee; interview their leaders; appear as a guest on their podcasts; or become one of them in whatever ways make sense)

By doing these things you will surely find your first customers there and will have a foothold in that market. Treat the first customers as honored clients and serve them the best you can. Then get referrals and use them as examples of what you can do for others. Before long you’ll “own” that market due to the large number of customers there and your growing good reputation among them.

Now apply this same thinking to whatever market you have chosen. Happy selling!

Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAE, is one of the most award-winning professional speakers in the world and the original author and champion of Relationship Selling™. He helps organizations and individuals find their best customers and grow their business in ways that are a natural fit for their talents and value offers. Contact Jim at info@cathcart.com

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How to Increase Your Chances of Sales Success

By Jamie Crosbie

It’s always there, isn’t it?

That little monologue in your head plays all day, every day.

Like an eternal recording, it plays and plays as you run through your day – commenting on this, musing on that. For many, though, an awful lot of those thoughts tend to be slanted toward self-criticism, worry, or fear.

Like a hungry grub munching down at the root of your mind, those negative thoughts tend to erode your happiness, increase your stress, and maybe even cost you the sale.

In a way, that is good news. After all, if your self-talk and mood can sink a sale, a happier mindset can improve your sales digits. Or, as motivational coach Billy Cox once said, “You can’t win physically if you’re losing mentally.”

Inspirational quotes aside, science seems to bear out the fact that happiness and a positive mental attitude and self-talk really do increase your chances of sales success. Studies have shown that self-talk can literally improve or hamper your performance. In one study, tennis players using motivational self-talk dramatically improved their performance, while the control group who did not use self-talk did not. This same type of study has been done with cyclists, competitive swimmers, and other professional athletes.

If You Think You Can, You Can

A recent Stanford study went even deeper, using an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance) machine to track how attitude and outlook affect elementary age students’ abilities to solve problems. They discovered, among other things, that, when a student was feeling good and had a positive outlook, they performed better.

Moreover, children who felt more positive showed significantly more activity in the area of the brain linked to learning and memory than those who were less positive. This might not seem surprising, but it does give credence to the fact that your mindset and outlook may be just as important as IQ.

Your Body and Brain Respond to Self-Talk

What happens in your head happens in your body. If your thoughts run to the negative, your body will become more stressed. Any inner dialogue you have with yourself inevitably affects not only how you feel, but how you act. From body language to facial expressions, how you feel impacts how you perform.

Happiness Sells

This goes hand in hand with a study published in Statistics in Medicine, which demonstrated that happiness (for want of a better word) is contagious. Happy salespeople create more pleasant encounters (which increases sales success) than those who are not happy. Harvard professor and author of the study, Nicholas Christakis, explained: “Everyday interactions we have with other people are definitely contagious, in terms of happiness.”

How to Use Self-Talk to Improve Your Sales Numbers

Like rabbits running on familiar ground, your thoughts like to haunt familiar, well-trodden mental paths. Habitual thinking can easily slip into negative patterns if you let it. Negative self-talk can range from anger and frustration to telling yourself that you are not good enough. When, for example, you tell yourself over and over that you are a failure, you become more likely to create that reality.  

Your inner critic can leave you feeling depressed and stressed – and even make you physically sick (negative self-talk has been linked to a lowered immune system).

To stop its rampage, call it on the carpet. When you hear your inner Negative Nelly sounding off, start talking back. Simply confronting it can immediately improve your mindset and help you achieve sales success. Try shifting your perspective and even speak out loud to yourself, if necessary. Maybe you can’t stop your thought train, but you can shift it to another track. In doing so, you not only become happier, but you might find yourself selling more than ever.

Jamie Crosbie is an accomplished senior executive with a proven record of sales leadership success. Contact Jamie today and find out how to take your business to the next level. Call 214/720-9922 or jcrosbie@proactivate.net

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