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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Three Ways to Build a Successful Sales Team through Content Intelligence

By David Keane

Sales reps today face a harsh reality: they spend 13 hours each week either looking for the right content for a prospect or creating marketing collateral for an upcoming meeting (EMI Industry Intelligence Report) – and as little as 36 percent of their time on actually selling (CSO Insights).

No salesperson wants to be stuck in the minutiae of marketing; they want to be interacting with customers, talking to prospects, and doing what they do best – selling your company’s product.   

Sales-driven organizations understand that, much like you need to cut through the information overload to reach your clients, you also need to help your sales team cut through your content to reach the materials that will help them when and where they need it.

Content intelligence is a growing market that can help organizations ensure their sales teams are focused on selling – not content creation. By tracking and analyzing how your team is using sales content, marketing can create better collateral in the most helpful formats and deliver it directly to reps so they can close more deals and replicate success across the entire organization.

Here’s a closer look at three ways to use content intelligence to build a successful sales team.

Bridge the Marketing-Sales Gap

One of the biggest challenges reps face is that they are not equipped with the right information at the right time to be successful with their customers. If marketing knew which content was used by the top sales performers, how frequently they used it, and at what stage in the sales cycle it was most effective, content producers could revise or remove unused materials and prioritize specific development topics and formats.

For example, content intelligence could identify the three top pieces of content used by the sales teams in the last stage of the sales cycle (the content that closes deals) allowing similar content to be created to further support sales’ efforts.

Similarly, content intelligence may reveal content gaps. Perhaps your team does not have sufficient marketing-produced content for initial customer engagements and creates their own. By empowering marketing properly, you reduce the countless hours your reps spend on ineffective or useless content production.

Push Content Directly to Your Sales Reps

Forcing reps to navigate through multiple silos and content repositories, searching for relevant information from their device, is counterproductive.

Instead, content intelligence can tell you exactly how and through which channels reps are accessing sales content so you can then deliver the most up-to-date tools to them via the channel that works best – increasing their productivity and active selling time.

This also enables organizations to push content based on a particular sales situation. For example, if the marketing team knows a rep is having a second meeting with a prospect on Tuesday, it can push content that directly correlates with that company for that stage in the sales cycle to the rep’s preferred device on Friday so they can use it to prepare.  

Replicate Success

We all know that, in any organization, there are reps who are habitually successful – they always achieve their sales quota, close the biggest deals, and beat the competition. There are also many others we would like to be able to replicate that success, but getting there has been difficult. By tracking and sharing how top performers use, engage with, share, and annotate content – and at what frequency – other members of the team can learn how to incorporate the most helpful content and usage strategies to make them more successful.

Using content intelligence as a training and development mechanism helps organizations move the needle on improving overall team performance, which has a meaningful impact on the bottom line.

At the end of the day, sales reps are the lifeblood of almost every business. Empowering them to be successful is a complex task; however, by zeroing in on the content metrics that matter, you’re not only optimizing productivity – you’re optimizing your team’s ability to close more deals thanks to the right information at the right time via the right channel.

David Keane is the cofounder and CEO of Bigtincan, a leading mobile, AI-powered sales enablement platform. David combines his experience in enterprise and deep mobility knowledge to drive a company that is powering the mobile productivity revolution. Prior to Bigtincan, David started and sold his own businesses – Quadtel Asia in Singapore and Veritel Wireless in Australia – and had previously run international operations for Web startup Kgrind.com, growing and managing their business over three continents.

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Seven Conditions to Create a High-Performance Sales Environment

By Bob Junke

A vice president of sales recently said to me, “Creating a high-performance sales environment is what sales leaders dream about, but most have no idea how to do it.” But the dream is not as elusive as it might seem.

A high-performance sales environment is one where the conditions conducive to a successful sales culture have been put in place – resulting in predictable, continuous, metric-based performance improvement. There are seven conditions, or building blocks, and they primarily impact salespeople, frontline sales managers, and perhaps most importantly the sales executive.

  1. Effective Sales Process. Only about 15 percent of sellers are natural, intuitive “sales eagles.” Most, therefore, need the systematic approach afforded to them by a sales process. That systematic approach should provide them with the ability to execute the 10 skills necessary for success (ranging from prospecting and need development to negotiating and closing), enabling them to effectively qualify, manage, and control sales cycles and it must be repeatable.

    The next conditions are specific to frontline sales managers. They are the linchpins of the sales organization, because they must provide salespeople with the consistent support and coaching necessary to ensure their long-term metric-based performance improvement. Here the sales process functions as a bridge between sellers and their managers. It sets the stage for the next four conditions, collectively called the Sales Operations Review, which must be consistently performed by frontline sales managers.

  2. Opportunity Assessment. There are six key opportunity qualifiers against which managers should assess opportunities (for more information, see Opportunity Qualifiers). This will allow them to identify gaps and problems early in the life of an opportunity and work with sellers to overcome them. And, if they cannot be overcome, the manager should likely make the “tough love” decision to disqualify the opportunity.

  3. Pipeline Balance and Management. A key to achieving predictable objectives is to have a continuously balanced pipeline. By managing sellers to a pipeline balance algorithm, managers not only maximize the potential for sellers to make quota, but do so by making sure that, when a period ends (be it a month, quarter, or year), the seller goes into the next period with a balanced, fully loaded pipeline.

  4. Management to Predictive Metrics. Predictive metrics enable sales managers to pinpoint specific seller performance challenges today that will impact their ability to achieve objectives tomorrow. Managers are then able to put in place the necessary proactive actions that address the challenges that might have prevented the seller from achieving their objectives.

  5. Seller Skill Development. The combination of opportunity assessment, pipeline balance, and predictive metrics gives a manager a crystal-clear view of a seller’s skill deficiencies. Then, using the sales process, the manager is able to provide the seller with a surgical development plan resulting in long-term metric-based performance improvement. In so doing, the sales manager will unlock a seller’s potential and create a sales eagle! In fact, here’s a great success story.

  6. The Sales Executive Must Drive a Successful Sales Culture. Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, said, “Culture is simply a shared way of doing something with passion.” Simply put, the sales executive defines that shared way of doing something, thereby setting the sales culture. If he or she is “hands-off” or inconsistent, then individual managers will set that culture for everyone who reports to them be it good or bad. This means overall suboptimal performance, and frequently leads to a “wild west” sales culture. So, to define and drive a successful sales culture from the top down, sales executives must conduct their own higher-level sales operations review with their sales managers. This will set the tone and level of expectation for sales managers, who will in turn set that tone and level of expectation for their sales team, thus defining the sales culture throughout the organization. Therefore, of all the conditions, this is the most important because it makes the others “stick.”

  7. Technology Enablement. The CRM should be the “icing on the cake” that automates the first six conditions. It should benefit sellers by helping them win more business. This can be accomplished through easy and rapid generation of custom buyer-facing deliverables (which, for example, summarize buyer needs and agreed-upon steps leading to a buy decision). This, in turn, should help them better define, manage, and control their opportunities. It should also facilitate those key sales management and sales executive conditions by enabling opportunity assessment, pipeline balance, skill development, and the provision of predictive metrics.

So the dream of achieving a high-performance sales environment is very doable. We’ve seen companies achieve a whopping 647 percent increase in product sales, 975 percent improvement in key performance metrics, and 575 percent increase in their pipelines. It is well worth the effort!

Bob Junke is founder and CEO of Adventace®. He is also the author of the bestselling book, Create the High Performance Sales Environment® and creator of the Adventace Sales Management System™, a Salesforce-based application that enables a high-performance sales environment.

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Your Complete Digital Marketing Audit Guide

By Alexander Kesler

No digital strategy is perfect; and, all too often, there are issues that can go unnoticed for long stretches of time. Decreased traffic, drops in rankings or conversions, and low sales and ROI are all problems signaling that you need to audit your digital strategies.

An audit can encompass your whole digital strategy or only fragments of it, depending on your focus and budget. However, any audit you perform must begin with examining your business strategy and its objectives:

  • Are your business objectives clearly defined?
  • Are long-term and short-term goals clear?
  • Are they mirrored in your digital strategy and digital marketing initiatives?

Answering these questions will help you determine which parts of your digital strategy need to be revised.

A successful audit will result in insights concerning the status of your digital strategy as well as actionable steps for improvement. Here are the major areas you should look at – along with resources on how to perform an audit of any of them.

Technical and SEO Audit

The technical and SEO audit is mostly about analyzing how the technical aspects of your Website are performing and determining which elements can be optimized to improve search engine rankings. Even Websites with high-quality content can experience poor search engine rankings due to technical issues such as slow site speed and lack of mobile or on-page optimization.

Elements of your Website you should audit include

  • Site crawlability and indexability
  • Site architecture
  • Site speed
  • Internal linking
  • HTTPS
  • Mobile optimization and AMP configuration
  • Redirects, 404s, and other response codes
  • On-page optimization
  • Duplicate content

Getting started with a technical audit can be intimidating – use a checklist to cover all important aspects and make sure you have all the tools you need. To take this a step further, consider these five must-do technical SEO audit items in 2017.

Keyword Analysis and AdWords Audit

Keyword optimization and management of AdWords campaigns is a difficult craft to master. Without a proper keyword strategy you’re not likely to reach your target audience. When performing a keyword analysis and an AdWords audit, inspect the following components and all their sub-elements:

  • Account structure
  • Campaign settings and themes
  • Networks (search network and display network settings)
  • Location settings (proper targeting, excluding irrelevant locations, bid adjustments for locations)
  • Device and language targeting
  • Ad schedules and delivery method
  • PPC ads (copy, URLs, ad rank, disapproved ads, etc.)
  • Keywords (bids, quality score, average position, etc.)
  • Ad extensions (sitelinks, location extensions, review and call extensions, and others)

An AdWords audit can be overwhelming due to the sheer number of elements you need to pay attention to. Start with these four critical areas to consider when performing AdWords audits.

Landing Page Analysis

Your landing pages are where conversions occur. If your conversion rates are low or falling, you should stop and examine what’s causing this suboptimal performance. Maybe your landing pages are not properly designed and optimized. Questions you should ask yourself when looking at your landing pages and their performance are:

  • Are all key elements of the landing page present? This includes compelling copy, a valuable offer, a strong CTA, smooth design, brand-aligned imagery, and a simple and effective lead capture form.
  • If so, do your landing pages convert? How much, and under what circumstances? Answering this will require you to perform tests to find which elements might be getting in the way of higher conversion rates.

Begin by scoring your landing page using this 15-point landing page audit checklist. Even well-performing landing pages can benefit from an audit. Have a look at Hubspot’s recent landing page tests that increased their contacts by 69 percent.

Link Analysis

Strong backlinks are one of the top Google ranking factors. However, unnatural or problematic backlinks and outbound links can be the cause of significant drops in search engine rankings – or even penalties. Performing a link audit will allow you to analyze all backlinks on your site and take the necessary actions to disavow any bad links associated with your domain.

In addition to auditing site links, you should audit your link strategy to see how you can get even more high-quality Websites to link to your site. Growing your Website’s link profile is fundamental for SEO success. There are many ways to create an effective link strategy. In fact, The SEO Project has more than 180 tried-and-tested link building strategies you can use to improve both the amount and type of links to your site.

Content Analysis

Excellent content converts long after it has been created. To make sure it continues to serve its purpose, you need to periodically review your content assets and strategy. Ideally, your content audit will help you determine whether you should remove, keep, improve, or consolidate your content.

Before you begin this audit, you need to have a clear understanding as to why you are conducting it. Is it to spot optimization possibilities (e.g., with an SEO focus) or to assess the quality and depth of the content? When you are ready, perform your audit using this handy step-by-step guide or this free content audit template.

Social Media Analysis

Analyzing the performance of your social media strategy should help you provide answers to the following questions:

  • Are you using social media channels in an optimal way?
  • Are you getting new followers? Are followers engaging with you? How?
  • Are your social media efforts aligned with your objectives and goals?
  • Are your channels effective in promoting your content and bringing in traffic and leads?

To answer these and other questions, use this guide for conducting a social media audit in conjunction with this social media audit template.  

UX Analysis

Investing in UX yields significant returns, so you should always be looking to improve the experience users are having with your digital properties. A UX audit can show you how your users are interacting with your Website or app, and what elements are needed to enhance their experiences.

This UX Audit Guide will provide you with all the basics and tools you need to get started with your audit. Once you’re done with that, have a look at the The State of UX in 2017 for additional inspiration and good insights into how UX is evolving.

Auditing Should Be an Essential Piece of Your Digital Workflow

Auditing is a fundamental digital marketing practice that seeks to yield as much data as possible about the current state of your strategies.

Whether you perform one or all of the above audits, the goal is to get a better sense of your opportunity areas. Beyond that, if you turn auditing into a habit, you will drastically reduce the issues you have to fix and raise the bar of your digital strategies.

Alexander Kesler is founder and president of inSegment, Inc.

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What You Need to Know about Your Prospect’s Mindset

By Christine Harrington

Many times the ill-prepared salesperson will dump all the features and benefits during the sales pitch. Why? Because he has no idea which benefit will interest the buyer.

Successful salespeople understand the fundamental principles about why a buyer buys. That’s why they will tailor their presentation around what the buyer is interested in.

If you’re not sure about whether you understand why your buyer buys, consider the following questions:

  • Do you treat every prospect the same?
  • Do you launch into the same canned pitch for every prospect?
  • Do you know the prospect’s needs, mood, personality, and prejudices?
  • Do you know what will motivate the buyer to buy?

If you want to close more deals, you need to reach the buyer on three levels: intellectually, emotionally, and personally. To do this, you need to go beyond the obvious to understand what really motivates your buyer. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are they, really?
  • What do they want?
  • How do they feel?
  • What are their biggest concerns and problems – and how can your product help solve them?

Though it is important to reach a buyer’s intellect – his or her logical side – reaching the buyer on an emotional level is more powerful, letting you tap into the emotions of pride, fear, greed, love, and even anger.

Buying out of anger may surprise you. Yet I’ve witnessed it. When I was selling preplanned funeral services, a distraught woman met with me. Her brother had just died at age 50. He had been suffering from an illness for years and she was so angry that he hadn’t “put his house in order” before he’d passed. She carried the weight of figuring out his finances, coupled with her guilt for feeling angry.   

When we met to arrange her brother’s funeral, I asked her one simple question…did she have children? She said yes, and she never wanted her children to be burdened by her own arrangements. We planned her funeral arrangements, too.

Because of her brother, she bought out of anger (an emotional reason)) and out of compassion for her children (a personal reason)

Granted, this example encompasses all strong emotions, which may not be the case for what you sell. Here’s another example.

For a little more than 15 years during my 40 years in selling, I sold group benefits. It’s a brutal world because it’s very competitive.

After six months of relentless pursuit, the benefits manager of a large hospital finally met with me. What got me in the door was some of my undercover work. I discovered the current carrier had denied a simple claim by a key employee – a claim my product covered – and the key employee was one of the VPs at the hospital.

All I did was tailor my sales presentation around the claim:

  1. Intellectual (made sense to listen to a carrier that covered a simple claim that had been denied by the current carrier)  
  2. Emotional (if they stayed with the current carrier, other employees would be denied the same simple claim)
  3. Personal (I used the VP as an example)

The word I used in describing the claim was “simple.” (Frankly, it shocked me the current carrier hadn’t covered the simple procedure.) Just adding the word “simple” to describe the denied claim was powerful. The benefit manager was still fuming about the denied claim, because the VP blamed him for not uncovering the “flaw” in the coverage.

Right or wrong, it was an emotional and personal pain point for the benefit manager. He bought, fueled by anger.

Keep in mind: The most powerful way you can reach the buyer is on a personal level.

To reach the buyer on all three levels – intellectual, emotional, and personal – you must understand the buyer’s core mindset. Their mindset will be made up of their beliefs, feelings, and desires.

Beliefs

  • What does your buyer believe?
  • What is their attitude toward your product?
  • What problems and issues does your product address?

Feelings

  • How does the buyer feel? Are they confident or low key? Nervous or fearful?
  • What do they feel about major issues in their lives, business, industries, or the world?

Desires

  • What do they want?
  • What are their goals?
  • What changes do they want in their lives that your product can help them achieve?

Once you understand your prospect’s mindset, you know how to sell. It makes closing the sale much easier when you tailor your sales pitch around the buyer’s mindset.

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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How to Be a Better Sales Leader and Crush Your Revenue Goals

By Alice Heiman

In my experience, the sales part of any strategic business plan tends to be the weakest for most companies.

That’s why my biggest tip is to clearly set your sales goals and then really dig deep into the action items necessary to meet those goals and the budget. (Be sure to pay adequate attention to lead generation. This work may be done separately from your strategic plan but must be done.)

Once you have a strategic plan in place, you can create a plan specifically for your sales team. The obvious goal of any sales plan is to grow sales. But, often, the harder question to answer is: by how much and – harder still – how?

Some companies apply percentages to the expected growth based on what returns investors and stakeholders want. Unfortunately, this method is like picking numbers out of thin air. Typically, there is little research behind this about what is possible in the marketplace, with the people, resources, and dollars available.

Some companies are looking for a percentage of the market. I’ve heard things like, “It’s a $6 billion market; we just want 1 percent of that.” Sounds reasonable, right?

You need a plan – and the plan needs to start with realistic goals. Instead of deciding you need 15 percent growth because that’s what the company leaders or investors expect, go to the sales team and figure out their capacity. Then decide what people and resources are needed to go beyond that and what that will cost.

Three questions to ask:

  • With the current sales team, how much of an increase is realistic?
  • With the tools and processes, do you provide what is possible?
  • What will be needed to get the increase desired?

Develop Yourself

Once you have a plan to grow sales, you need to turn your attention to yourself.

The fact is, success for your organization starts with you, your mindset, and your plan to develop yourself. You need a plan to advance your skills and capabilities so you can fully support your team, be a role model, and develop a winning team.

Start by making a list of what you’d like to improve on in the upcoming year and what resources you can use to get there. This list can act as a map for success.

For example, if you’d like to have better sales meetings, check out Alice Kemper’s site at salestrainingwerks.com. Her program can help you develop a year’s worth of impactful meetings.

Let’s say you want to get better at holding 1:1 meetings with your reps. Ask other sales managers what they do to hold their 1:1s, collect best practices, and then build your own process. Or, call me and I’ll help you build one.

Start reading! I am sure you do, but are you reading books that will help you change your behavior to become a superior sales manager and coach? Here’s a list of a few of my favorites.

Get Help!

Of course, the fastest way to develop yourself is to find a mentor or hire a coach who has the experience and expertise to accelerate your learning process. Behavior change is hard, but you can do it. If you want increased sales, watch this video interview with my Sales 3.0 Conference cohost, Gerhard Gschwandtner, and Sales 3.0 Conference speaker, Jeb Blount, to learn how powerful a mindset shift can be.

Plan now for sales success! Join me at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Las Vegas, September 18-19.

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

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Eight Steps to Skyrocket Your Sales Revenue Potential

By Robert O. Carr

Do you want to develop an extraordinarily successful sales organization? Based on my experience founding Heartland Payment Systems (acquired last year by Global Payments for more than $4.3 billion) and my newest company, Beyond, I can share eight innovative steps for catapulting sales revenue potential to new heights.

Step #1: Pay Residuals for Recurring Sales Revenue

When a company acquires another company, it will pay a certain multiple of “revenues” and it will pay more for “recurring revenues” than for “non-recurring revenue”. My company was acquired for five times revenue – 95 percent of which was recurring. Why is it a bad idea to pay the person who originated that revenue a percentage of that sales revenue in the form of recurring residuals?

Companies should think of the long-term value of the revenue generated by a salesperson instead of looking only at the current-year revenue. We all want recurring revenue. Why not share in that revenue with the person who created it?

Step #2: Allow Sales Pros to Monetize Residuals

Allow sales representatives to monetize their hard-earned residual income. We valued residuals at 30 times the monthly average for active clients. For example, if a sales professional earned $1,000 of monthly residuals,  we would “buy them back” for $30,000 in cash. Sales representatives should be able to create true wealth for themselves and their families while they are creating wealth for their company.

Step #3: Don’t Change the Compensation Plan

Experienced sales professionals have seen it all – they build up the revenues for the company and get punished next year with higher quotas and smaller territories. Changes in compensation models breed distrust and resentment. If a sales compensation model works for the company, why change it when the sales professionals succeed with it? Our model is called the “94 plan” because it was created in 1994 and has never been changed – because it has worked so well for all the constituents.

Step #4: Reward the All-Stars and Do It with Consistency

Consistent all-stars should be paid at a higher rate of compensation than the average salesperson. It costs less administratively to support a consistent all-star than it costs to support an average or below-average salesperson. We define an all-star as one who is performing at twice the company average of veterans – and we pay them 33 percent more if they maintain an all-star average for a rolling 90-day average.

Step #5: Never Cut Side Deals that Are Not Available to All

The best currency is trust in sales management – and the best way to destroy it is by giving different compensation for the same results to different sales professionals. Salespeople quit primarily because of their sales managers. A major reason is unequal treatment – or the perception of it.

Step #6: Eliminate Territories

Don’t listen to the sales experts. Do not establish fixed geographic territories unless you are a very major player and own the marketplace. One of the worst things you can do is limit the benefits of networking for your sales force. With today’s technology and communication capabilities, anyone should be given the chance to close a sale anywhere.

Step #7: Give Sales Reps a Chance to Manage – but Don’t Fire Those Who Fail

Groom the future sales leaders of your company by giving them a chance with a sales management role – early, on a small scale. By dividing sales reps into small 4- to 5-person teams, you provide a team-enhancing player-coach model while giving a sales rep a no-jeopardy opportunity to try out a management role. We all have heard the bromide that “a good salesperson doesn’t make a good sales manager.” Yawn. Oftentimes, a good salesperson does make a great sales manager – but how do you know if you don’t give them a chance? The key is to let the failed sales manager have his or her sales job back. They will be even better at sales when given the chance.

Step #8: Provide a Signing Bonus

Starting a purely commissioned role is no easy task. Residuals are great but they take time to build up. Give your teammates a leg up by paying up to six months of estimated margin with an upfront signing bonus for each merchant. You can true-up the initial check after 12 months of account history. This gives your reps a way to survive financially while they build up their residual income.

Note: We have proven that the above model works for commission-only salespeople. However, sales professionals on salary plus bonus should be paid substantially less of the benefit of recurring revenue than described. However, with the more risk taken by the sales professional by being full commission, the closer to the model they should be.

Robert O. Carr is the CEO of Beyond, a newly launched business services and financial technology company. He was the founder and CEO of Heartland Payment Systems, a Fortune 1000 payments processing company acquired last year by Global Payments for more than $4.3 billion. Carr is author of Through the Fires: An American Story of Turbulence, Business Triumph and Giving Back and Working Class to College: The Promise and Peril Facing Blue-Collar America.

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The Best Thing You Can Do to Onboard Your Sales Reps

By Eric Esfahanian

Everyone wants to be part of something bigger than themselves. Whether it’s in their personal life or professional, everyone wants to be part of a cause.

However, if you want to be part of something bigger than yourself the only way is to wholeheartedly believe in that cause. If you do not, chances are your enthusiasm will expire quickly and you will be unsuccessful at whatever you were setting out to accomplish.

This is the approach sales leaders must take to onboard sales reps successfully. Forget the tools, at first. Before memorizing pitch decks, CPQ training, and updates to CRM – and before account plans or sales stages become a priority – take time to create “true believers” of your company’s messaging.

On my new hires’ first day or even before we onboard, I tell them the primary objective for their first 90 days is for them to become true believers in the Gryphon value proposition. I need my new reps to entirely believe, with zero doubt, that our service can really help our clients and prospects in really meaningful ways. Their training regimen does not consist of simply boning up on our products, support, and competition – although that is important down the line – but the training doesn’t have context until new hires have become completely convinced that the right customers will find truly significant value in our offering.

If your new sales reps (first) create and (then) communicate a solution message that is deeply held, the conviction will be contagious and the message will resonate with your clients and your message will be something they care about too.

The “Big Why”

To make your new charges true believers during the onboard process, you must not only be one yourself, but be able to answer what I call the “big why” of your product. Specifically, “Why does this prospect need to care about our solution – and why now.”

This might take a bit of time to construct, but it’s an essential weapon in your arsenal. When building these true believers, your message must be simple and compelling enough to connect on an emotional level. The Big Why’s effectiveness is inversely proportional to the time it takes to explain it. So, keep it as simple as possible without losing the impact of the message.

The Three R’s

After training your team on the value proposition and the Big Why, give them the opportunity to ask a million questions about your product, poke holes in your messaging, and play as much devil’s advocate as they want. As a leader, this gives you the opportunity to restate the value, reinforce the proof, and relate the value to specific clients.

Be honest with your reps about all the strengths and weaknesses of the solution. Proactively tell them about objections they’ll likely get from customers. This will convey credibility to them in ways a white paper or data sheet never could and will transfer from you to them, if they are listening intently.

The Payoff

When you are hiring new people, the cause you are enlisting them for is your company’s mission – first and foremost. You have a responsibility to make that mission something exciting and something that focuses on more than features, benefits, and price.

If you successfully create employees who are completely committed and can communicate persuasively, their passion and enthusiasm will overshadow any lack of industry knowledge, product knowledge, a little higher price, or a few missing bells and whistles.

Your true believers will be your company’s evangelists – and the gospel they preach will have the potential to turn your prospects into client converts. Make sure their verses have meaning beyond the dollar and the deal.

For more than 20 years, Eric Esfahanian has been helping clients increase sales and marketing effectiveness with innovative business intelligence technology and processes. As chief revenue officer of Gryphon Networks, Eric is charged with driving growth of Gryphon’s Fortune 500 client base with cloud-based sales performance management solutions that increase revenue and client retention while reducing training/onboarding times for large, distributed sales organizations. Previously, Eric held sales leadership roles with MicroStrategy, Hewlett-Packard, and EMC Corp. He received his MBA in Entrepreneurship from Babson College and Bachelor’s degree from Boston College.

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