How to Use Smart Sales Automation to Increase Customer Engagement

By Parth Thaker

I read a terrifying stat that up to 63 percent of a sales rep’s time is spent on non-selling activities, like updating records in their CRMs. Couple that with needing 7-13 touchpoints before a prospect becomes a sales qualified lead, and there simply isn’t enough time in the day for reps to do everything needed to hit their quota with human touch alone.

Enter sales automation, which helps reps scale their efforts by sending out hundreds of scheduled messages while all that activity is being logged into the CRM automatically. This has been a godsend for today’s tools-inundated, time-crunched sales professional but, sometimes, it can negatively impact your customer’s experience.

We’ve all been frustrated by receiving an automated email that was clearly more appropriate for a person in a different job function. You don’t like fielding misdirected communications – and neither does your customer.

The good news is, there are real ways to balance one-on-one personalization with sales automation. Here are some insights to consider.

Personalization at Scale Starts with Process

Just know that every email you send  competes with about 125 other business emails per day in your prospects’ inboxes. It’s the reason most outreach campaigns experience open rates lower than 30 percent and reply rates around 5 percent. But, instead of fixing the root problem of low engagement, we typically just add more leads to our campaigns in hopes the numbers will work out in the end.

It’s not to say batch-and-blast doesn’t work, but you’re often hurting your brand and the prospect or customer relationship more than you’re helping it. Instead, really spend time thinking about your audience segment first, then the messaging and technology second.

Start with Audience Segmentation

When refining your audiences, consider the following:

  1. Industry
  2. Employee size
  3. Revenue
  4. Territory
  5. Function
  6. Role
  7. Technology used
  8. Predictive lead score

Going through the exercise of identifying an ideal customer profile for each sales team is invaluable. I highly recommend using TOPO’s ICP framework to get started.

First, you want to identify the right companies (accounts) to target, segmented based on your sales team structure, size as revenue, company size, and/or territory.

Then, break out outbound tracks deeper by function: such as sales, customer success, marketing…you get the picture. And, finally, separate your audience by decision makers and doers.

These data points can help you with overall email/message theme and can be added as possible personalization tags. When thinking about your next sales outreach campaign it’s important to weigh the merits of using automation versus adding a completely manual touch. Let’s explore some help guidelines.

Choose Your Sales Automation Level Based on Annual Contract Value (ACV)

As much as we’d love to hand-write letters and fully customized emails for every single prospect, there simply isn’t enough time in the day. Instead, I use a rubric to help determine the level of personalization and time investment based on the ACV.

TYPEDESCRIPTIONCUSTOMIZATIONWHEN TO USE
TemplatedA boilerplate message based on your persona0 percent additional customization, just applying a template– SMB outbound – General inbound– Lower ACV
Semi-customFollow the structure of a template message, but customize the context and offer~20 percent customization of a template– Midmarket (inbound, outbound)– Mid-level ACV
CustomHighly targeted, customized messages written for one person or account75-100 percent customized– Higher Midmarket, Enterprise– High ACV

Now that we have nailed down the campaign audience and framework, it’s time to start working through the draft messaging.

Tips to Increase Engagement with Your Outbound Campaigns

1. The first touch should always be personalized.

Whether you’re running a fully automated campaign to SMBs or a custom-tailored approach to enterprise, it’s very important your first message is individually personalized.

The secret is to take the data inputs when establishing an ideal customer profile and add them as custom variables in your sales template copy. For highly personalized campaigns, these can act as placeholders you fill in with deeper research on the prospect.

2. Add social touches (but go long).

As mentioned, it takes 7-13+ touches before a lead becomes sales qualified, so it’s likely you won’t get there with email alone. Vary your touchpoints across multiple mediums, including phone calls and social media.

That said, it almost never fares well to directly sell over LinkedIn or Twitter. Instead, keep these tips in mind:

Keep your LinkedIn Connection requests short and casual.

Your only goal is to have your prospect add you to their network. This does two things: 1) puts a face to a name and 2) often reminds the prospect to follow up with your emails.

If you’ve never had a chat with the person, take advantage of the one-click add via mobile and skip the intro.

If you’ve had a great phone, email, or in-person conversation, briefly reference it in your invite, but resist any urge to sell.

On Twitter, a simple retweet or like of any content your prospect has written goes a long way.

Authors often spend hours crafting posts, and they appreciate those who help them get the word out.

3. Experiment with adding rich media.

Many people forget that emails are rendered in HTML – just like a Web page. Yet the vast majority of emails are text based and start to all look the same.

Sure, text-only emails sometimes convert just fine, but it’s important to test adding rich media, which can help skyrocket engagement and meeting RSVP rates.


*actual response from a prospect.

4. Use a conversational tone.

In sales, you’re trying to start a conversation and establish a genuine connection rather than speak technically – so write like you talk. There’s a reason newspapers write at the level of 5th grade comprehension; it’s easy to understand. So, next time you draft an email, cut the jargon (especially when writing to someone outside of tech bubbles like New York and San Francisco).

5. Have one goal and CTA per email.

It’s easy to overcomplicate your email message. Your company may have multiple product lines or service offerings, and all are valuable – but those are better revealed during phone or in-person conversations.

Your email, instead, should be hyper-focused and have simple goals:

Subject line: The only goal here is to get someone to open the message.

Body copy: Keep it to one simple action. Do you want the prospect to reply, click on a resource link, or book a meeting?

Having multiple goals for your email can confuse the reader and dilute your message. Make sure to home in on one major point – one ask. Not only will it be easier to test, but you should see your goal conversion increase because the next step is clear.

6. Vary your send times.

Data can be a very powerful ally when used correctly. However, blanket benchmarks should sometimes be taken with a grain of salt. If everyone reads the same report that reveals the best times to send an email are in the early-morning hours on Tuesday and Thursday, guess what happens? Every rep starts scheduling their emails for that time – and it becomes a lot less effective.

There are amazing new technologies being developed that identify the best time to send emails based on peak activity from the individual prospect’s inbox. So, instead of adding a blanket time for everyone in your sales campaign/sequence, they will be sent based on the individual’s taste, which we’ve seen provide a huge lift in open rates.

Balance Technology with the Human Touch

To quote Daniel Pink,“To sell is human.” Remember to keep your buyer at the forefront and make sure each outreach is thoughtful, helpful, and aimed at building a relationship. Let technology take care of the heavy lifting of sending out hundreds of emails and tracking everything in your CRM, but the messaging should be authentically yours.

Join me at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Chicago on June 18 and 19 as I discuss these tips and reveal other in-depth insights on how to increase engagement with your prospects and customers.

Parth Thaker is director of sales at Mixmax with a proven track record of driving revenue growth and profitability at multinational companies like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, and Indeed. He possesses an obsessive focus on cultivating long-term client relationships and providing “in-the-trenches” mentorship. Specializing in working cross-functionally to motivate, collaborate, and bridge gaps between product development, operations, and marketing departments to impact overall year-over-year sales success.

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How Sales Enablement Drives Hyper Growth

By Elay Cohen

The early Salesforce days were some of the best in my career. As Salesforce’s senior vice president, sales productivity, I saw us come together as a company under strong leadership and with a vision of creating and dominating the market.

Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and the leadership team decided to invest heavily in enablement as a go-to-market priority. As a result, we doubled down on enabling our sales, customer success, and partner teams with training, onboarding, coaching, certifications, and content.

We also did everything possible to get our teams productive faster and closing bigger deals. We built a world-class enablement program to energize and educate our teams. We knew we had to grab market share and we believed the right strategy was increasing the competence and confidence of our teams.

Looking back, it’s easy to see how this targeted focus on adopting sales enablement initiatives spurred Salesforce’s incredible growth and success.

A Winning SaaS Go-to-market Strategy

Beyond Salesforce, look at companies like DocuSign, RingCentral, and Yext to see how they too embrace enablement as a winning growth strategy. Recent IPO DocuSign prioritizes enablement initiatives thanks to sponsorship by company leaders. Social learning fuels global training and certification. RingCentral has seen tremendous growth over the past 18 months – with their stock price increasing more than five times. Yext, another recent IPO, is seeing great growth quarter over quarter and is instituting an enablement-focused business strategy, thanks in part to its hiring of Jim Steele – former president worldwide sales at Salesforce – as president and chief revenue officer.

What Exactly Is Sales Enablement?

I recently finished writing my second book, Enablement Mastery. In it, I cover the people and process of enablement, starting with this definition: “Enablement is the alignment of people, processes, and programs with relevant learning, coaching, and communications delivered at the right time.”

Sales enablement is more than just training and onboarding. Done right, it yields organizational excellence and hyper-growth business results. To make an impact, it needs to be executed with scale and discipline in mind. It needs to be a company-wide initiative sponsored by a CEO and executive team with a vision and passion for sales excellence.

Here are seven must-have enablement strategies for realizing dramatic and predictable business growth:

  1. Align sales and marketing teams on messaging, motions, and metrics. Get everyone saying the same thing and aligned on the right winning activities. Be clear that your enablement program solves problems and is tied back to the company’s top priorities.
  2. Train and certify your teams on the latest messaging, product releases, and sales plays – at least biannually. Some companies do quarterly and monthly tracks too. Create a learning and coaching culture and your people will be more productive. Attrition will also drop, protecting your people investments. Build a high-performing culture by having your managers lead by example and complete training and certification first. When you roll out enablement programs, train your managers first so they can reinforce.  
  3. Onboard your teams with structured and team-based paths for your new hires, with coaching, assessments, mentorship, and personalization by role. Create new-hire journeys that span 30/60/90 days. As companies mature beyond IPOs, the one-size-fits-all approach to enablement doesn’t work well. Role-based plans are key to improving productivity and reducing time-to-ramp.
  4. Coach your teams. Start by enabling your frontline managers to be better equipped to develop their teams. Give them the tools to coach their teams. Hold them accountable for coaching their teams on skills, deals, and performance. Measure achievement and correlate the distribution of quota attainment to manager coaching effectiveness.
  5. Communicate with your teams using messages based on carrots, not sticks. The old way of compliance-based learning and enablement is not effective for engaging your employees and teams. Make learning a benefit with clear outcomes. Answer the question “What’s in it for me?” (WIFM) with your teams when asking them to invest time to improve by practicing their skills and learning.
  6. Share content that’s bite-size, compelling, and relevant to your team’s performance and success. Make content easily discoverable and have the right mix of proven marketing content and best-practice user-generated content. Make playbooks and sales-process content available just in time to increase time selling and reduce time spent searching.
  7. Celebrate successes and learn from losses. Capture success stories and share them broadly and often. Make sharing successes become a leadership imperative and cultural norm.

Enablement serves as one of the most important levers providing repeatable and scalable business outcomes across all teams in all regions. The seven enablement best practices above are the proven way to embrace enablement as a strategy for predictable revenue growth.

Elay Cohen is the CEO and co-founder of SalesHood, formerly the SVP Sales Productivity Salesforce. He is also the author of SalesHood: How Winning Sales Managers Inspire Sales Teams to Succeed and Enablement Mastery, released January 2019.

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What Happens When Salespeople Struggle with the Big Questions?

By Ben Schemper

It’s no secret top salespeople are driven by the need to perform at high levels. They have a target number to hit, and their job is to achieve it. Working to overcome challenges keeps them excited and motivated to learn new skills, strategies, and tactics.

Sales leaders also understand high achievers are celebrated when they hit their goals. They win trips and trophies, get recognition from peers, and are paid handsomely. Then they set off to achieve a new goal. Wash, rinse, repeat. Over and over…until they wake up one day and feel like something is missing.

Finding Meaning beyond Material Achievements

At a certain point, many high-achieving sales professionals ask themselves some existential questions.

  • “Is this all there is?”
  • “Beyond the money, what’s the purpose of what I do every day?”
  • “Why do I feel empty inside if everyone around me is celebrating my success?”
  • “Do my achievements matter?”

If you have ever heard salespeople struggle with those thoughts (or struggled with them yourself), you’re not alone. If left unaddressed, these questions can cause top performers and sales leaders to stop achieving, question their roles, or even change careers in the search for meaning.

The problem is, we tend to look for the answers outside of ourselves, when the true answers to those questions lie within. After we become skilled in our craft and accumulate accolades, what we are truly looking for is the connection between our work and its greater impact.

This is the missing ingredient for most professionals. They don’t see how their work makes a meaningful impact. As sales leaders, we need to pay attention not just to sales targets, but also to the essential question of meaning.

The number still matters, and the goals are still important, but sales leaders and sales professionals must understand a deeper reason we are going after those targets. As Simon Sinek has said, we must start with the question of why.

Consider Big Possibilities

Are you creating a culture in your organization that starts with why? What would it look like to cultivate an environment that both allows salespeople to hit their numbers and allow them to find inner meaning? What would be possible if everyone in your organization followed an inspiring vision that compelled them forward each day to develop themselves as individuals as they helped the company achieve its goals?

Take time today to consider these questions for yourself and for your organization. Take time to dream and imagine what could be possible. As the beloved Dr. Seuss told us, “Sometimes the questions are complicated, but the answers are simple.”  

Ben Schemper is cofounder of Abundant. Hear him present “Leading Is the New Selling” at the Sales 3.0 Conference in San Francisco on April 1-2.

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Top Four Trends B2B Sales Leaders Must Address in 2019

By Scott Collins

Do you want to capture more market share than your competitors? Then you need to stay on top of the ongoing, evolving, and emerging trends in not only sales, but also in customer buying. Here are four critical trends that have the potential to bring you more opportunities in 2019.

Trend #1: The ongoing increase in customer buying complexity shifts the role of sellers

Customers have reached a tipping point – B2B buying has become nearly unnavigable for stakeholders today. Not only do customers report that the number of people involved in buying continues to increase, but so does the amount of information. In our research, buyers reported reviewing an average of four and a half information sources on their own. This leaves buyers to organize, align, and even resolve conflicting information as they learn and begin to work together to create consensus. In fact, Gartner research shows that customers spend, on average, 15 percent of their total buying time just de-conflicting all that information. They spend another 22 percent building and maintaining consensus.

Customers also reported that only 17 percent of buying time is spent engaging suppliers. This leads to a huge access problem our sellers have today (each supplier rep is only getting a sliver of that 17 percent!). In this world, customers value the right information that helps them advance in completing a purchase. Successful sellers provide customers the right information at the right time. This requires sellers to be much more curators or brokers of information versus knowing all the information themselves.

Trend #2: Enabling buyers becomes a critical commercial strategy

The information that buyers want – that will help ease the buying process – is what we call “buyer enablement.” At Gartner, we define this as the provision of information that helps customers complete their critical buying jobs.

Creating and delivering this type of information requires a shift in the commercial engine most organizations have built. It’s no longer enough to focus on a serial commercial engine – where marketing engages in the beginning and then, once there’s a defined MQL, sales takes it over and pursues the opportunity “through the pipeline.”

Customers don’t buy like this today. In fact, our data tells us that customers engage with both sellers and a supplier’s Website as they complete all their buying jobs. Instead, we need to shift to a parallel commercial strategy where sales and marketing align to help customers complete their critical buying jobs. Organizations that can better align sales and marketing to aid customers in completion of their jobs will be better positioned to win.

Trend #3: Leaders will struggle to close sales capability gaps and grow their business through talent solutions alone

The majority of sales leaders tell us that, on average, only 26 percent of their sales force is currently capable of dealing with customer buying challenges today. That leaves a significant skill gap across sales organizations.

Additionally, organizations will need to replace, on average, 27 percent of their current sales force within a year due to churn (e.g., performing them out, external departures, internal promotions, or lateral moves) and to keep up with capturing market growth opportunities. All the while, according to our data, sales positions sit open for about 70 days before being filled.

In today’s talent market, it’s increasingly difficult to find the talent required to grow. Sales leaders can’t just hire to increase capability. Investing in talent through training can lead to improvements (if you also ensure sales managers coach that talent), but the best path for leaders is an enablement strategy. How can we better equip the current talent to deliver customers the right information at the right time? How can we then support and train them to be curators and brokers of information? Sales organizations that optimize to this approach can potentially shift their existing talent to be more effective in their markets.

Trend #4: Gender diversity will be a competitive advantage

The sales function has the second-biggest gender equity gap of all corporate functions. Women are underrepresented, holding just 19 percent of leadership positions in sales. In such a challenging talent environment, organizations that accelerate gender diversity will not only expand the potential talent pool, but also bring other business benefits to the sales organization.

In this talent war, women are typically more engaged in their roles and with their organizations than men. Women-led teams are also more diverse – creating a more diverse workforce. Organizations composed of 45 percent or more women have above-average market share and profitability. These sales organizations also close significantly more revenue at the deal level. They deliver more than double the revenue of a sales organization made up of 20-44 percent women. Sales organizations that develop strategies to address gender bias, actively manage gender diversity, and leverage existing diversity will find competitive advantage in the market.

These four trends will be critical for sales leaders to address in 2019. As it continues to be increasingly difficult to differentiate in a competitive marketplace, while maintaining profitability, sales organizations that take action on these opportunities will position themselves to retain customers and take market share. They will be able to achieve the above-market growth rates so many sales leaders are tasked with by their CEOs and boards.

Scott Collins is vice president, advisory, at Gartner.

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The Best Areas to Focus Your Sales Coaching Efforts

By Gabrielle Hughes

The purpose of sales coaching is to get the absolute best performance from your salespeople – but coaching is a demanding job, and can overwhelm many sales managers. To help you stay focused, here are the key areas you should focus your coaching efforts.

Area #1: Onboarding

As we make clear in our Sales Onboarding and Ramp Guide, great sales coaches do seven key things during the onboarding process.

  1. Let reps view a full sales cycle
  2. Show them what good looks like
  3. Let reps learn on demand
  4. Crowdsource training content
  5. Continually measure
  6. Let reps demo sooner
  7. Use a consistent framework

The message is clear: Sales coaching starts with a strong core onboarding strategy. Create your system, then work toward the next step. Use this slide deck to maximize your sales onboarding process.

Area #2: Sales Calls

Sales-call coaching involves two steps: pre-call planning and post-call debriefs.

Pre-call Planning

Prepping for routine sales calls should include a review of basic selling skills, including cold calling, objection-handling techniques, and discovery calls.

Here is a short list of pre-call planning topics salespeople often find helpful during coaching sessions:

  • Deal Status/Pipeline Stage
  • Key Pain Points
  • Key Strengths
  • Core Vulnerabilities
  • Competitors Involved
  • Desired Call Outcomes

Post-call Debriefs

Great sales managers will perform call review and analysis to get a real sense of how salespeople are performing in front of prospects and customers.

To assist your call reviews, use this 12-step sales process to spotlight common mistakes and proactively coach reps on best practices.

In the interest of saving time, we recommend using call recording and analytics software to perform your post-call debrief and to critique rep performance. This approach works much faster than call shadowing or anecdotal Q&As with reps; it also gives sales managers more flexibility for how and when they conduct their reviews. Compare call debriefs to professional sports, where breaking down game film is much more effective than coaching from memory.

Area #3: Sales Pipeline Review

The goals of a full pipeline review are to get a macro picture of a sales rep’s deals, plus deliver to the rep actionable, tactical advice for moving deals through the sales pipeline. Here are four key components of a pipeline review:

  1. Review deal progress and stage changes
  2. Identify any new leads in the pipeline
  3. Assess the viability of existing opportunities
  4. Strategize about how to pursue the warmest opportunities

Sales coaching also requires coaches to analyze pipeline trends. Lean on your sales operations and analytics team to analyze opportunity movement, speed, and conversion rates among the various stages in your pipeline.

Whenever you find weak spots in the pipeline, formulate a hypothesis about the root cause behind poor performance, test it with data and anecdotal conversations with reps, and then implement specific coaching tactics to fix the issue.

Area #4: Weekly One-on-ones

Consistent, recurring, actionable one-one-ones are a vital part of the sales coaching process. To ensure your weekly one-on-ones are effective, focus on the most valuable blocking-and-tackling aspects of the sales process. For example, we recommend focusing sales training and one-on-one discussions on these seven areas:

  1. Discovery Calls
  2. Prospecting
  3. Presenting
  4. Objection Handling
  5. Selling Against Competitors
  6. Customer Storytelling
  7. Selling to C-Suite Executives (if applicable)

A great sales coach will drill into the areas of weakness for his or her reps and coach reps on how to improve. Moreover, he or she will build trust and rapport with reps, set and track KPIs, and map business objectives to the personal and professional objectives of the sales rep. You can draw from this list of top sales books to help highly motivated reps in areas of need.

Gabrielle Hughes is senior content marketing manager at Gong.io, a conversation intelligence platform for sales. Gong helps sales leaders close the performance gap between their top reps and everyone else by giving them visibility into their sales conversations.

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Who Are the Top 2019 CPQ Influencers?

By Gideon Thomas

As the sales tech industry continues to evolve, so does the CPQ marketplace. Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) software is no longer considered a “nice-to-have,” but is now a “need-to-have” for businesses seeking every opportunity to increase revenue through more effective and efficient sales processes.

As the sales tech industry continues to evolve, so does the CPQ marketplace. Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) software is no longer considered a “nice-to-have,” but is now a “need-to-have” for businesses seeking every opportunity to increase revenue through more effective and efficient sales processes.

The minds behind the CPQ software revolution have led the charge, resulting in the exponential growth of the CPQ market.

Market Adoption

Although CPQ has come a long way in the past decade, only 51.1 percent of enterprise companies have a CPQ in place according to a report from Miller Heiman.

CPQ Market Movements

Within the past 10 years we have seen a number of CPQ acquisitions by market-leading CRMs:

Big Machines > Oracle: $400 million

Steelbrick > Salesforce: $360 million

CallidusCloud > SAP: $2.4 billion

In the attempt to broaden and connect their product suite offering, these CRMs decided to bring the CPQ software in-house. In terms of market share, of course, this gave them greater revenue generation opportunity for cross-selling from their core competency.

From a user point of view, this news is mixed. In some cases, these legacy CRM systems have grandfathered in software architecture from the previous decade, which can sometimes be characterized in simple terms as being slower to implement, slower to make changes, and with a higher price point.

This is unavoidable for two reasons: These CRMs need to recover their cost of acquisition, so keeping the price high helps. In addition, the C-level leaders who built and grew the original product moved onto new pastures post-acquisition. Many companies experience significant changes in product roadmap and leadership post acquisition, and this changes the nature of the company.

A New Breed of CPQ Has Arrived

Given everything we have already addressed, it’s encouraging to know that a new breed of CPQ has arrived that addresses the pains of legacy systems:

  • Native integration to CRMs
  • Dynamic product architecture
  • Lower price
  • Ease of use

You can see the majority of these new-breed software platforms on the G2 Crowd Grid for CPQ.

Meet 10 CPQ Thought Leaders for 2019

  1. The “Godfather” of CPQ, Godard Abel, is now the CEO and co-founder of G2 Crowd, but previously held two significant CPQ roles: first, as co-founder and CEO of Big Machines (now Oracle CPQ), and then, later, as CEO of Steelbrick (now Salesforce CPQ). Two significant acquisitions for the CPQ marketplace.

  2. Apttus CEO and Chairman Kirk Krappe deserves respect for being one of the first significant ISV partners to move out of Salesforce to also work with Microsoft. There is a great quote in this Diginomica article that sums up this shift: “There’s a saying in the tech industry that, when a small vendor partners with one of the giants, it’s akin to dancing with an elephant – you should always be careful of getting trodden on. Dancing with two elephants at the same time is unprecedented.”

  3. DealHub’s CEO and co-founder Eyal Elbahary is regarded as a leader in the “New Breed of CPQ” solutions. He has successfully created a new mindset of how CPQ solutions are implemented and tailored for fast-growth sales teams.

  4. CallidusCloud’s thought leader is their VP of CPQ and CLM Service Delivery, Tarkan Dolen.

  5. PandaDoc CEO Mikita Mikado has more recently added “CPQ light” to their software offering.

  6. Joe Morgan is the director of CPQ at DXC Technology. DXC is now ranked as one of the leading professional service partners for Microsoft Dynamics 365 users.

  7. Frank Sohn is the president and CEO of Novus Consulting, a company that prides itself on sharing new CPQ content amongst its community as well as providing related services.

  8. Yossi Haimov is the CEO of Prodware, the largest Microsoft Dynamics implementer in Europe and a key thinker in evaluating which sales tools are essential in this stack.

  9. Gartner’s Mark Lewis and Melissa Hilbert are the creative minds behind Gartner’s CPQ Magic Quadrant.

  10. Louis Columbus is a contributing writer at Forbes on CPQ; and, although he is not from a dedicated CPQ background, his technical experience and somewhat unbiased thinking gives a fresh take on the CPQ industry at a time where evolution is as needed as honesty.

While there are, no doubt, other important voices within CPQ that may not have made it onto this list, you now have a good starting point to continue your research and discovery.

Moving CPQ Forward

You can’t help but feel that, for such an important market, the list of active thought leaders is highly focused. We need great content that helps move our thinking forward from what used to be a technically challenging area of sales software to something that is now much more accessible and ready to use.

How do you see the CPQ marketplace advancing and growing? Businesses are hungry for resources that empower them to use the right tools to improve sales operations and increase revenue. Share your knowledge with us. We want to help you be the next CPQ thought leader.

As vice president of growth at DealHub.io, Gideon Thomas is extremely passionate about helping companies gain a more informed and actionable understanding of the changing landscape within sales engagement. He is a regular content contributor in this area of expertise and draws inspiration from the latest trends and statistics influencing sales engagement.

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How to Really Get Full ROI from Sales Training

By Robert Kear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Crucial Power of Visualization in CRM

By Nikolaus Kimla

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

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

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

Impact on Use of Data

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

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

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

Importance of User Experience

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

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

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

Setup and Administration

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Be the Very Best Kind of B2B Salesperson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Download the PowerUp Sales App to Get a Mindset Lift

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

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How to Engage More Strategic Accounts as a Sales Development Team

By Ian Sullivan

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

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

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

1. Rely on data, not your gut.

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

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

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

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

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

2. Scrap your templated emails and get personal.

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

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

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

3. Never become complacent.

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

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

In Conclusion: Win More with ABM

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

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

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