That’s What Friends Do: Thoughts on Customer Loyalty

By Jim Cathcart

There seems to be a prevailing mindset regarding customer loyalty: supposedly, it is something to seek. Sounds logical, but I disagree with that point of view. 

We can never control whether customers are loyal to us – or for how long they will be loyal. But we can control how loyal we are to them! 

If the entire business community were to reverse its polarity on this issue, I think we’d see a revolution in customer relations. 

How Do You Really Treat Customer?

Imagine, for a moment, how you’d feel if every business you dealt with suddenly became committed to finding ways to be loyal to you. As your provider, if they were to constantly seek new and better ways to show you how much they valued your business, don’t you think you’d be more likely to do business with them again? 

Many years ago, in Tulsa, OK, my local McDonald’s manager, Marilyn – whose nickname was “Grandma” – took the time to remember my name and my most frequent order, an Egg McMuffin® and coffee. When I came into the restaurant on about my fourth visit, she said, “Good morning, Mr. Cathcart! Will you be having your usual order?” I was stunned on both counts: the use of my name and the recollection of my orders. This went on for weeks and I abandoned other breakfast places in favor of the pleasant experience of seeing “Grandma” yet again. She made me feel welcomed and valued. 

One day, there were two empty buses in the parking lot. I almost opted for a different restaurant, but, upon recalling how “Grandma” made me feel, I fought the crowd anyway. When I entered the restaurant and found the shortest queue, I heard her call out my name! She said, “Mr. Cathcart, your breakfast is ready.” I went to the front of the line, where she did, indeed, have my egg sandwich and coffee. She winked at me and said, “It’s on the house!” 

How to Really Make an Impression on Customers

A free breakfast for me while 100 others waited in line? Wow! But she didn’t short-change any of them. They got their orders efficiently. But the 15 seconds she spent setting aside an order for me sure made an impression. Years later, when I reflected on my time there, it occurred to me that I had become a loyal customer to her for the entire six years I was in Tulsa. Six years of customer business from spending one free breakfast and less than a minute of time and effort! I’d say that is a great ROI, wouldn’t you? 

What are some ways you could offer more to customers without incurring any notable expense or time loss? There are probably dozens of ways you and your team could enhance your customers’ experience when dealing with you or using your products. Take some time really soon to identify how you might “Up-Serve” your customers on a more regular basis. It may be by adding a personal note or comment, making just one extra direct phone call, including a tip or tool in the next package you send out, or just being a better, more caring listener. There are people in your current customer base who would eagerly give you all their business and their continuing loyalty…if they were sure you were already committed to being loyal to them. 

Give customer loyalty today! Your customers are (and should be) your business friends. 

Jim Cathcart is a long-time contributor to Selling Power and one of the world’s leading professional speakers. He is the original author of Relationship Selling plus 17 other books. Cathcart.com helps organizations increase sales engagement and self-motivation. Contact him at info@cathcart.com.

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Transform Your Digital Era Sales with an Intelligent Lead-to-Cash Solution

By Swati Sinha

Does your company suffer from siloed teams? Disconnected applications? Information scattered across business processes? All these problems can obstruct your ability to respond to ever-changing customer and market needs.

Today’s buyers are sophisticated and in control, and they want a combination of products and services customized to meet their individual needs, available on their preferred channel, and on perceived price point.

Lead-to-cash: Transform Your Buyers’ Journey

To deliver an exceptional customer experience in this new landscape, all customer-focused business units – from marketing to sales to fulfillment to billing – must join forces. To achieve this, you need a solution that fully integrates internal and external data and processes, and that becomes the one source of truth across the organization.

Lead-to-cash is arguably the most important customer-centric process in an organization – starting with the customer’s intention to buy and ending with revenue recognition. Utilizing artificial intelligence and in-depth integration of data, you can make your processes inherently intelligent, thus guiding sales to be proactive, rather than reactive, to changing customer needs.     

AI and Integration Can Transform Sales Leads

With an integrated solution, marketing can effectively hand off lead information to sales. Research by the Aberdeen Group suggests that companies optimizing the sales and marketing relationship see 32 percent faster growth in revenue, 90 percent higher growth in brand awareness, and a huge increase in average deal size, sales acceptance of marketing-generated leads, attainment of team quota, and percent of sales-forecasted pipeline generated by marketing.

Opportunity Knocks: Is This What Your Customer Wants? 

Deals and opportunities are the foundation of your sales cycle. To pursue an opportunity, salespeople spend extensive time searching for customer information. Unfortunately, this information is typically spread throughout a disparate system – so they instead end up going with their “gut feel” or personal network to pursue it. This can result in fragmented conversations and even loss of deal.

With the help of artificial intelligence and real-time access to holistic internal and external customer information, sales professionals can engage effectively – focusing their time on the best deals and taking recommended actions to convert prospects to customers.

This intelligent approach eliminates clutter from the pipeline and increases forecast accuracy.

Proposal: Trusted Advisor

A report by Forrester suggests that 79 percent of B2B buyers say it’s critical for them to interact with a sales rep who can be a trusted advisor – which means not only meeting expressed needs, but having the ability to foresee and support future customer goals. For this, sales reps need to listen and surface customer pain, identify needs, and proactively recommend an ideal solution.

Products are constantly changing to match customer expectation of customization and options – generating thousands of SKUs. As catalogs grow, sales reps are placed in a difficult spot: They have to be trusted advisors with in-depth knowledge about their products; however, with the complexity of products, they don’t have a grasp on the entire product line and possible customizations.

Lacking intelligent solutions, the rep sells based on limited knowledge – which may or may not be the best choice for the customer, or the most profitable for the organization. Guided selling simplifies this process by recommending products based on various attributes such as the type of sale, past customer behavior of similar customers, etc.   

Intelligent Pricing Generates Revenue

Correct pricing is critical in determining the revenue of an organization. Pricing influences the behavior of not only the customer, but the sales rep.

Sales reps want to price a solution that is lucrative to customers, and might end up applying discounts that cut into the overall margin – especially in complex, bundled sales. Intelligent pricing helps sales reps price the solution that is competitive, and optimizes their commission without impacting the profitability of the deal.

It allows them to build in rules to prevent discounts that dip below a certain level of margin, contingent on the products included in the deal. It also helps in identifying up/cross sell of add-ons, options, and special promotions to increase deal size.

Putting It together: Effective Quotes Are Crucial to Sales

Effective quoting requires both speed and accuracy, and is an integral part of the sales cycle. While an accurate quote can help close a deal fast, a delayed and error-filled quote can frustrate the customer – and may even cause the loss of the deal.

Automated and streamlined approval processes help protect margin throughout any negotiations, introducing quality control. Triggers can be set for an approval of special quotes, such as exceeding discount or gross margin thresholds, or non-standard terms.

Since sales reps have real-time visibility into margins, delays in non-standard discounts and negotiations are minimized. Quotes with no special terms are automatically approved to speed up quote delivery.

Deliver on Your Promises

After the contract is signed, the fulfillment center ensures that the right products – including add-on items, etc. – are delivered to the customer on time.

An integrated and streamlined process provides the visibility needed to stay attuned should any “change in order” arise – thus avoiding any surprises upon deal closure. Sales solutions should also be able to move order details from the quote to the contract to ERP, and, on the other hand, have the ability to add details to the CRM to enable fast and intelligent renewals.

Integrated Billing Solutions: Flexible and Insightful

Monetization strategies continue to evolve as companies look for new ways to sell their products. Billing solutions should be flexible enough to customize subscription models for various levels of services, allowing for upgrades or one-time charges.

Integrated billing solutions should be able to consolidate even complicated B2B products and service packages into a single bill, and personalize it before sending to the customer. With integrated billing solutions, sales has visibility into purchase and transaction history, and can create personalized offers for existing customer bases – thereby increasing revenue by lowering the cost of customer acquisition.

So, with an integrated and intelligent lead-to-cash solution, organizations can accelerate sales velocity and time to revenue, have margin-protecting guardrails and price optimization, increase cross and upsell opportunities, avoid revenue leakage at various points, and help an organization transform its customer buying journey.

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

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Here Is the Incredible Sales Enablement Plan Worth Billions

By Gerhard Gschwandtner

After Elay Cohen was named Senior Vice President of Sales Productivity at Salesforce, he pulled off an amazing feat: He accelerated growth and turned a $500 million enterprise into a $3+ billion enterprise.

That’s why we invited Cohen to speak at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Philadelphia on June 19. In his session, “Crack the Code to Sales Growth with a Winning Sales Enablement Strategy,” he will reveal the hyper-growth sales strategies that made Salesforce the global industry leader.

If you register now to attend the conference, you’ll learn how Elay’s sales enablement best practices and adaptive processes create an unstoppable sales force. As Elay has revealed to me in an interview, a success mantra was part of his proven blueprint to successful sales enablement.

Here’s a summary of Elay’s success mantra:

S – “Seed and grow.” They ultimately believed that, if they could win a customer, a division, or a team, they would be able to seed the success of Salesforce into that business.

U – “Users sell for you.” They believed that, if they could get their customers to share their stories, the customers would do the selling for them.

C – “Customize the demos.” They always tailored the demo to the customer’s business and used the customer’s vernacular.

C – “Connect the dots.” They figured the chances were high that they already knew someone with a connection in the prospect’s company. To use those relationships, they connected the dots.

E – “Experience events.” Think about Dreamforce. Each year, thousands of customers come to the event, get energized, and get connected to other customers. This creates value.

S – “Show them the money.” They used a classic value-based selling approach to build political maps and understand the customer’s business processes.

Elay firmly believes one of the most critical elements of success was the tight partnership between him, the enablement organization, and the frontline sales managers. (His book, SalesHood: How Winning Sales Managers Inspire Sales Teams to Succeed, takes the best of enablement and teaches managers how to bring it to their teams.) And Salesforce founder Marc Benioff agreed: He told Elay he wanted every single salesperson on message, sharing the same stories, and selling the same way. Elay’s team knew their corporate pitches and the playbooks. As Elay told me: “We always had support and expectations that we were going to deliver excellent sales enablement.”

You can hear more from Elay in the video above, and you can also register now to join us at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Philadelphia on June 19.

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5 Important Topics for All Sales Leaders This Summer

On June 19, hundreds of B2B sales leaders will gather at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Philadelphia to hear from top sales experts like Gerhard Gschwandtner, Elay Cohen, Lisa Peskin, and Janet Logan. Here’s a preview of the hot topics that will be discussed:

Topic #1: Artificial Intelligence (AI)

As a sales leader, are you up to speed on the AI-powered revolution? Because AI is smart and adaptive, it is far easier to implement than traditional sales-enablement systems. And did you know a salesperson using AI can produce what it takes three salespeople without AI to accomplish? Attendees can learn more about AI in the following session at the Sales 3.0 Conference:

  • “Sales ex Machina: How AI Is Changing the World of Selling” (presented by Victor Antonio, Keynote Speaker, Sales & Motivation and Sales Trainer, Sellinger Group)

Topic #2: Selling in a Digital Age

The twin forces of technology and psychology are the major change drivers that are transforming our world and how we conduct business. How will digital transformation continue to impact the future for B2B sellers? You can learn more from these two presenters on June 19 in Philadelphia:

  • “The Power of Mindset in the Age of Digital Transformation” (presented by Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder of Selling Power magazine)  
  • “An Inescapable Evolution: Sales and Marketing in the World of Digital Buying” (presented by Scott Collins, Principal Executive Advisor, Gartner)

Topic #3: Culture Change

Without a strong sales culture, sales teams won’t thrive. Sales training company DoubleDigit Sales interviewed key clients across North America about large cultural transformations they experienced over the past year. The result was three culture changes that can create professional shifts, build confidence around new business paradigms, and provide new capabilities to sustain and embed sticky change. Find out all you need to know in the following presentation:

  • “Driving Change That Sticks” (presented by Janet Logan, Vice President of Client Solutions, DoubleDigit Sales)

Topic #4: Sales Methodology

Triage is a methodology, developed by Business Development University (BDU), to help individuals, sales teams, and sales forces uncover the three areas that, if improved upon, will have the biggest impact on sales performance. Once these three areas are identified, a developmental program can be put together to start closing the gaps. Want to learn more? Don’t miss this presentation:

  • “Sales Triage: Improving Three Key Areas to Take Sales Performance to the Next Level” (presented by BDU’s CEO Lisa Peskin)

Topic #5: Hiring the Right Salespeople

Do you follow a coherent strategy for building your sales team? Ideally, sales leaders take a proactive stance to getting talent on board when new salespeople are needed; and they should find the best ways to partner with both internal and external recruiters to hire the best sales talent. To find out more, don’t miss this fireside chat:

  • “Building the Right Sales Organization,” a fireside chat with Gerhard Gschwandtner, Founder and CEO of Selling Power, and Carolyn Betts, Founder and CEO of Betts Recruiting

See the full agenda for the Sales 3.0 Conference or register now.

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How to Become a High Priority to Your Prospect

By Christine Harrington

During my prospecting calls this week, I examined all the different touchpoints necessary to stay a priority in the prospect’s mind. I encourage you to do the same.

If you’re in sales, you have gaps. These gaps are the spaces and times between the initial prospecting call all the way to closing the sale. In these gaps you could be losing sales because you haven’t developed a clear strategy for becoming a high priority to the prospect.

These gaps are where trust and credibility are built – and where sales are won.

Say you’ve made the first contact with the prospect and she’s agreed to an appointment. The time between setting the appointment and going on the appointment is a gap.

When I ask my coaching clients what they’re doing during that gap, most say they do nothing! They just wait for the appointment. This is a wasted opportunity.

Think about your sales process. There are many gaps between the next steps – especially if you have a long sales cycle.

When you’re in these gaps – waiting for the next step, the next appointment, or to present, etc. – if you’re doing nothing, you are losing sales.

So what can you do to fill in the gap and remain a high priority to your prospect?

Here are a few ideas to start with.

#1: Send a handwritten note.

This morning, during a prospect phone call, he shared with me that he was in the process of sending out handwritten notes to his prospects!

Music to my ears! I told him I do the same thing. Instant rapport was built – we shared a common belief and the phone call ended by us taking the next natural step.

Handwritten notes are so rare these days that receiving one feels important, special. People remember the way you make them feel.

#2: Find a YouTube video or a podcast that will benefit the prospect. Send it to the prospect through a short email.

“I saw this and thought of you!”

Then give two short bullet points on how the podcast can benefit the prospect’s business.

#3: Make your own video on an idea you’d like to share that can help your prospect.

You have a video component on your smartphone…use it to deliver compelling information to help your prospect! It’s different and will capture your prospect’s attention.

Now, I’m not suggesting you bombard the prospect during the gaps…but don’t let it go longer than a week without a touchpoint.

Have a strategy to fill in the gaps with value-driven activity. It will position you as a valuable asset to your prospect. Instead of becoming a low priority, you’ll move up to a high priority – turning you into someone whose calls and emails the prospect will make a point to answer.

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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Building Consensus with Buying Committees: How to Avoid a No-Decision Deal

By Sharon Gillenwater

According to Harvard Business Review, the number of people involved in B2B solutions purchases grew from an average of 5.4 in 2015 to 6.8 in 2017.

HBR also found that a typical solutions purchase is taking much longer than customers expect; 65 percent of buyers surveyed said they are spending as much time just getting ready to speak with a sales rep as they had expected to complete the entire purchase process.

These buying committees, HBR says, are composed of individuals from a variety of roles, functions, and geographies. As groups, they tend to be risk averse and often fail to reach consensus.

No decision. Which means no sale for you.

From what customers tell us – as well as our own first-hand experience – this is extremely frustrating. It can also ding financial results: On quarterly earnings calls, CEOs routinely cite delayed deals as excuses for lower-than-expected quarterly revenue numbers.

Can “no decision” scenarios be avoided?

Not always. Sometimes buying committees fail to buy due to factors completely beyond your control.

This means we need to turn our attention to what we CAN control – and there are two main factors.

  1. Build Consensus

The first is your ability to persistently remind the buying committee of its company’s strategy and objectives. After all, the committee members might come from different roles, departments, and functions, but they all work for the same company and should be working for the same outcome, right?

The operative word here is should.

It is not uncommon for individual players to lose sight of the greater corporate vision and strategy. At large enterprises, it is easy to become so wrapped up in departmental issues that people fail to see the forest for the trees.

As a salesperson, you can help them stay focused on the big picture in terms of what the company is trying to achieve. Through clear and persistent communication, get them to validate – and agree on – what they should all have in common, which is rallying around the company’s stated strategy and objectives.

How do you do this? First, do some research on the company’s strategy, key initiatives, and what its top executives are saying. Reading corporate earnings calls is key for public companies. Also, look for interviews with the CEO and other top executives.

Here are some questions you want to be able to answer:

  • What is the company’s strategic focus for the coming year? If your buyers all roll up to one functional leader (e.g., CMO, CIO, CFO), research their objectives and priorities, as well. 
  • What challenges are they up against? Are they being asked to cut spending? Are they facing a disruptive competitor? 
  • What technology investments are they planning on making this year? 
  • Are they in growth mode or cost-cutting mode?

Next, validate what you’ve learned with the buying committee. Whenever possible, use the words of their top leaders. You can say things like:

“Last month, your CEO told analysts that X is a big priority for the company. Is it correct to assume you are trying to drive X with this project?”

Or…

“I just finished reading an interview with your CIO and she said she was going to spend most of her budget this year on solutions that drive Y. Is it correct to assume this project falls under those priority investments?”

Of course, you want the answers to these questions to always be “yes.” Most of the time they will be, because no one wants to admit to being out of alignment with their own corporate leaders.

  1. Connect the Dots

OK, so you’ve done your homework and you’ve got the buying committee to agree on the greater goals. Now it’s time to prove that your solution will drive the business outcomes the company is seeking. This involves connecting the dots back to your offer and packaging it and positioning it in a way that shows 100 percent alignment with what you have learned about your customer – and have validated with the committee. Three prescriptions for this stage are:

  1. Stay focused on what counts. Don’t oversell them on solutions that do not directly drive their desired business outcomes. Stick with the ones you know will have an impact. 
  2. Demonstrate prior success. Share customer case studies that track closely to what you are proposing. They need to know you have done this before. 
  3. Prove value. Include data and proof points that show how your solution drove success in a similar scenario. For example, if they are in growth mode, demonstrate how your solution has driven growth with other companies. If cost cutting is the priority, demonstrate how your solution will save them money. This is all about “speaking their language” and positioning your offer in a way that will best resonate with your audience.      

Success in a Nutshell

So, let’s review:

  • Step 1: Remind the buying committee of what their company is trying to accomplish at a high level.
  • Step 2: Show the buying committee how you can help them play a part in achieving the company’s goals.

When you break it down into these two components, it seems easy, logical, and doable.

No Decision Persistence: No, You Can’t Control Everything

Now, none of this takes into account the less logical parts of the equation, such as politics, personalities, and hidden or competing agendas. If we knew how to solve these problems, we would probably be lying on a beach somewhere instead of writing this article.

That, alas, is a topic for another day.

Sharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, the only business intelligence tool designed exclusively for C-suite sales, marketing, and recruiters who need to reach, engage, and build relationships with C-level executives. Gillenwater is a long-time marketing consultant with expertise in marketing strategy, account-based marketing, and CXO engagement programs.

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16 Sales Prospecting Tips to Turn Your Quarter Around

By Scott Gilmore

“Sales prospecting is the lifeblood of a sales organization.” Our founder, Tim Magwood, often said this. In my 20 plus years of sales prospecting experience, I’ve seen this statement hold true.

Sales prospecting is key to replenishing your pipeline. As deals move through the funnel and opportunities close, salespeople must always be thinking about how they will replace those opportunities with new ones – whether from existing clients or new relationships.

As a salesperson who works with some of the largest sales organizations in North America, I have seen many challenges and successes with sales prospecting. Here are 16 sales prospecting tips that will help you turn your quarter or year around – whether you’re a salesperson or a sales leader.

Tip #1: Create a prospecting process.

Research suggests it can take up to 13 touchpoints to make a sale in today’s marketplace. Therefore, salespeople who don’t have a prospecting process will likely give up after the fifth or sixth try. Without a process, other priorities will get in the way.  

Sales managers play an important role in ensuring salespeople have structure and a proven process they can follow. Leadership involvement in prospecting activities keeps every salesperson accountable.

Tip #2: Get motivated to prospect.

Some days, you just may not feel like picking up the phone to prospect. So how can you change your mindset and allow yourself to get motivated to find new business?

One way is to remember that there is a formula to generating sales results. If you don’t make enough calls, have enough conversations, or get enough face time with clients, you aren’t going to be closing enough business. Let your fear of not closing enough new business motivate you to prospect.

Tip #3: Take a team approach.

Instead of meeting with salespeople one on one to discuss their prospecting styles and efforts, hold regular sales prospecting meetings with your entire team instead. Two or three times per week, you can kick off prospecting as a team in the morning and set goals and debrief at the end of the day. This creates positive energy and consistency, and holds everyone accountable. (It also makes less work for you, as the manager, since you can meet with the group rather than following up with everyone individually.)

Tip #4: Involve marketing.

With the increase in customer touchpoints, alignment between sales and marketing has never been so important. What better way to keep the teams aligned than for marketing to play an active role in sales prospecting?

Enabling the sales team with compelling messages, relevant collateral, and engaging content is one way to create energy and excitement for sales prospecting.

Tip #5: Do the right amount of research.

Salespeople who don’t spend enough time researching prospects (using tools like Google or LinkedIn Navigator) won’t understand the organization, make connections, or find points of commonality.

Remember, however: Though some salespeople don’t feel comfortable making a call unless they’ve done 30 minutes of research, too much time spent researching can result in analysis paralysis and low call activity.

The thing is, most of the time you won’t get the prospect live on the phone anyway. This excessive research slows the process considerably. It’s about striking a balance between being prepared and making calls.

Tip #6: Craft the right prospecting message.

When communicating with prospects, get to the point quickly and make sure you clearly articulate value for the prospect.

There’s also power in uncovering the six degrees of separation to make a personal connection with the person you are reaching out to. If, within the first 10-15 seconds, you refer to someone you both know, you can build trust right away.

Tip #7: Leave a good voicemail message.

Nine times out of ten, you’re going to leave a voicemail. Often salespeople forget the impact that practicing can make on how you come across over voicemail. Call yourself and leave a voicemail message four to six times until it rolls off your tongue. Once you sound confident, you’re prepared to make the call and leave a voicemail.

Record your message and play it back. Does this message resonate? Be mindful of your tone and be concise. Share what the prospect will gain by speaking with you. Seek feedback from your peers or have your manager observe. Watch out for buzzwords, consultant-speak, and stiff language. Use plain language and try to be as personable, professional, and genuine as possible.

Tip #8: Create efficiencies.

Finding ways to be productive with prospecting is important in reaching your activity targets. However, quality activity is equally important.

Try taking a compelling message and find a way to thematically group your focus for the time you are prospecting. Stick to an industry, solution, or message type and send 20 emails at once.

Be careful not to be generic. Take 80 percent of the message and find a way to personalize it to the industry, for example, to save time while preserving quality.

Tip #9: Shift your mindset.

Adopt a “give to get” mentality when prospecting. You’re asking for someone’s time, so find ways to provide something of value to demonstrate what you have to offer. For example, send a white paper, article, or case study when you email prospects.

Tip #10: Try to secure a meeting instead of going for the close.

There is a common misconception that prospecting is selling over the phone. Many sales reps spend most of the call on the “script” or sales pitch versus trying to set up a meeting. The real objective of a prospecting call is to engage the other person and articulate the value you represent for them, which will give them a good reason to set up time to meet with you.

Tip #11: Take a “one-two-punch” approach.

Sending an email and following up by phone 10 to 30 minutes after has proven to be very effective in sales prospecting. The email sets the tone with a compelling reason for reaching out and highlights a personal or industry connection. The call to action on the email is that you are going to follow up by phone. This gives your prospect a reason to be interested in taking your call.

Tip #12: Don’t put off prospecting.

Don’t procrastinate or let other priorities get in the way. Depending on the length of your sales cycle, you may not see a lack of prospecting show up immediately in your results. There is a time lag between low prospecting activity and paying the piper down the road. In my case, my prospecting activity (or lack thereof) is going to show up three or four months after I start putting in my initial effort. Don’t wait: Once you have a thin sales pipeline, it is much more challenging to “fix.”

Be proactive in asking for referrals, too. You’ll be surprised how many referrals you get when you ask for them – and how positively they can impact your sales results.

Tip #13: Listen more than you speak.

Most salespeople talk too much and don’t listen enough. Ask better questions to uncover what challenges prospects have. The more quickly you can get the other person on the other end of the phone to talk and share, the higher the likelihood you’re going to get a meeting.

Tip #14: Get to the point.

This may seem like common sense, yet it’s still worth mentioning, because concision is not a common practice. Keeping messages short and concise applies to emails, calls, and voicemails.

If you send a long voicemail, for example, the prospect will likely delete it within 10 seconds of listening to it. The email, call, or voicemail must be just long enough to secure a meeting.

Tip #15: Be consistent.

As a salesperson, you don’t want your sales results looking like a rollercoaster. Not only is sales prospecting consistency important to maintain low stress levels, it also allows your organization to count on you and to resource properly. Consistent sales prospecting efforts significantly contribute to being able to create predictable sales performance.

Call blocking is critical. Blocking your calendar on a consistent basis – such as Tuesday and Thursday morning from 8-10 a.m. – is a great way to be consistent. Carving out the time and not overbooking are keys to success.

Tip #16: Overcome rejection.

Most salespeople would prefer not to pick up the phone and make a prospecting call. Not only will there always other priorities to get to, most salespeople prefer to avoid rejection – especially when, most of the time, the prospects aren’t interested, or the timing isn’t right.

Prospecting is a critical activity in which both sales managers and salespeople play a part. By implementing these ideas into your prospecting efforts, you will find an increase in the quality and quantity of your prospecting activity – which will, in turn, drive your sales results.

To overcome resistance to prospecting, consider investing in your team to improve its confidence and capabilities through our customized proactive prospecting training solution. Connect with us to learn more.

Scott Gilmore is the SVP of sales and marketing at DoubleDigit Sales. He is a seasoned business development professional who is passionate about helping people grow and reach their full potential.

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What Are You Really Paying Salespeople To Do?

By Jim Cathcart

What are you paid to do?

Everywhere you go, people will ask, “What do you do?” They want to know how to think about you. Are you a resource, a potential friend, a competitor, a threat?

But, what they seldom ask is the more important question: “What are you paid to do?”

What’s the difference?

What you do may be accounting, but what you’re paid to do is give people more awareness of their money so they can take appropriate actions and make better financial decisions. If you’re a sales trainer, you are paid to help others become better salespeople. The training you do is simply a process designed to achieve that. You’re not really being paid to conduct training. Instead you’re being paid to increase salespeople’s confidence and skill so they’ll make more sales to the right people in the right ways. Outcomes, not processes.

Some over-simplify and say, “No, I’m paid to produce profits.” That’s only partially correct. Profits are earned in many ways – and all workers are, at least indirectly, tasked with doing profitable things. But profit is the byproduct of what you are actually paid to do. Doctors may earn a wonderful income from their medical practices, but they aren’t paid to generate revenue. They are paid for keeping people healthy – and that’s worth paying for!

Teachers aren’t paid for teaching classes. They are paid for producing knowledgeable and capable students.

At Cathcart Institute, Inc., we have used a simple and effective tool to help all our personnel remember why they are working here. It is called a “role agreement.” Instead of a “job description” that simply lists the tasks and categories of their work, we use the following format.

Role agreement for: (name of person)

  1. What you are paid to do. This is a description of outcomes and effects we want from this person – not a mere list of functions they perform. For example: the CEO’s executive assistant is paid to “make our CEO more effective.” If he’s focused on the highest value activities and not distracted by easily-delegated tasks, then he is more valuable to our clients and our corporation. The job is not doing correspondence or handling low-complexity tasks. Instead it is ensuring the chief executive is doing the optimum amount of chief executive work.

  2. Areas of your responsibility. A salesperson might say, “Since I’m in charge of making sales , I want to be in on the marketing decisions, new product decisions, strategic alliances, etc., because all of these affect sales.” But that’s a much greater role – executive level, not salesperson. So, we define the areas in which the person does have some authority (for example: target marketing, sales promotions, account prioritization, development of sales tools, refinement of existing sales processes, making sales contacts, or confirming purchases).

  3. Agreements and Expectations. “What you can expect from Cathcart Institute and what we expect from you.” This is where the specifics get stated.

Under “Your Expectations from Us”:

We start the list for them and then ask them to edit and expand it as desired.

  • You can expect: that you will be paid on time and in the amounts agreed.
  • That we will tell you the truth 100 percent of the time.
  • That you’ll be provided with the tools to do your job well.
  • That you will have access to our leaders whenever you need information or assistance.
  • That we will provide a healthy and pleasing work environment.
  • That you’ll be treated with dignity and respect, as a friend and member of our business family.
  • That you’ll have access to training and guidance in order to improve.

Under “Our Expectations from You”:

We state the obvious and not-so-obvious, then allow them to offer edits or deletions.

  • We expect: that you’ll show up to work on time, sober, and well groomed for this business environment.
  • That you’ll tell us the truth 100 percent of the time.
  • That you will continually improve at what you do, on your own initiative.
  • That you will respect our company and the privacy of our information.
  • That you will NEVER treat a customer or coworker disrespectfully.
  • That you will do your work without requiring extra reminders or motivation from others.

Each list is expanded in dialogue with the person so the final agreement can be signed with

confidence. If any of the must-have items are not agreeable, then we terminate the discussion and thank the person for their time.

You are welcome to use this format in your own organization. The reason this works is because it clarifies what each person does while emphasizing why it matters. I see bureaucrats as people who are more committed to process than outcome. Nobody needs to be a bureaucrat. The more we all emphasize the Why in our work, the more meaning we will find in it – and the more dignity we will feel while doing it. Let’s work together to make the world a better place for everyone.

Jim Cathcart is a long-time contributor to Selling Power and one of the world’s leading professional speakers. He is the original author of Relationship Selling plus 17 other books. Cathcart.com helps organizations increase sales engagement and self-motivation. Contact him at info@cathcart.com.

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How to Create an Effective Sales Playbook Using AI

By Rob Käll

What is one truth about life that also applies to your sales playbook? Evolve or die. This may sound a little harsh, but your playbook is a living thing. If it doesn’t adapt to change, it won’t survive.

Too many sales leaders forget this. They recycle their sales processes and expect one approach to work for every prospect.

Markets change and buyers have a wider choice of providers than ever, so your pitch has to grab them in a way no other can. It has to offer them maximum value. Otherwise, why should they bother?

Knowing what doesn’t work is as vital as knowing what does – allowing you to trim the fat and get right to the good stuff.

AI Is Your Gateway to a New Sales Playbook

One of the most effective ways to update your sales playbook is by applying artificial intelligence (AI) to your CRM data. With AI, the burden of staying up on the evolution of sales is no longer left to you and that tiny corner of your schedule allocated for planning. AI spots opportunities and helps recommend adjustments that will make the most difference.

Before taking advantage of AI, however, map out both your sales process and your goals. What can you offer that competitors can’t? What problems are you fixing?

Think about these key points to make sure you are fully in touch with your sales process:

  • Building quality leads that offer real value.
  • Identifying the prospects’ needs – and those of their end users.
  • Understanding the exact benefits you can offer customers.
  • Making sure the reps assigned to a lead or opportunity know why the prospect absolutely cannot reach their own potential without your products or services.

After identifying these issues, it’s time for AI to step in. With AI, you can better understand where reps are succeeding or failing by capturing a fuller picture of how each agent is handling quality leads, what they’re doing with weak leads, how marketing plays into sales team success, and other aspects such as an agent’s overall sales effectiveness and morale.

Dig Deeper into Your CRM

AI can automatically sift through your CRM data, helping craft your new sales playbook. It creates accurate pipeline forecasts and booking estimates to show you what to expect and how best to grasp upcoming opportunities. You can see how these leads continually improve as you acquire higher-value prospects. It’s about streamlining your sales process for maximum reward – sorting the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.

If you aren’t mining your CRM for insights, you probably aren’t spotting all the adjustments that can make a difference.

AI Brings Other Perks, Too

Updating your sales playbook with AI has the potential to radically transform how you conduct business – not only giving you more efficiency, but improving training, creating more time to sell, and making sharing best practices easier.

Instead of training your teams on the same topics and then sending them out into the field, leverage AI to identify teaching moments, spot areas needing additional or specific training, discover where individual reps are lagging behind their peers, and come up with personalized suggestions on how to fix those weak spots.

AI performs the analysis, freeing your sales team for more selling. The AI we use in our company can spot the leads ready to close and provide next best action recommendations – leaving the sales team to sell, not hunt for the right leads to pursue. This cuts down on the time spent on team meetings, performance assessments, and generalized training.

Lastly, AI helps you rise to the top. High-quality leads practically sell themselves, leaving your sales team little to teach. A closer who knows how to handle the lower-quality leads, however, has much to teach those around him. By spotting the deeper dynamics, AI uncovers the actions making the real difference for your organization – actions other team members should be learning, too.

So, use AI to evolve or die – but evolve smartly.

Rob Käll is CEO of Cien, a new sales productivity app that gives sales leaders an immediate edge by using the power of artificial intelligence to increase the productivity of their teams. You can find him on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Posted in Sales Process, Sales Technology | Leave a comment

How Can You Predict If and When Customers Will Buy?

By Katie Bullard

Most businesses now rely on data-driven decision making, and almost all companies collect customer data in some form. But in this ocean of data, which individual data points actually predict a customer’s intention to make a purchase?

We asked 200+ sales and marketing professionals about 78 data points—as well as “secret sauce” combinations of data points— in a recent survey, with eye-opening results.

The survey uncovered these seven key findings:

  1. Buying likely happens at the confluence of three different types of predictive data: Fit, Intent, and Opportunity.
  2. 95% of all respondents find positive revenue gains when predictive indicators are present – and the most common benefit is higher conversion rates.
  3. Most companies are not leveraging Intent or Opportunity data, yet these data points top the “most predictive” leaderboard.
  4. These two specific data points are most predictive.
  5. Sales teams tend to value hiring and personnel signals more than marketing teams.
  6. Knowing your prospect’s tech stack tops the “secret sauce” predictive recipes.
  7. For all its buzz, only 20% of respondents use predictive data to fuel their Account-Based Marketing (ABM) efforts.

Our research reveals that behavioral information can only be predictive when it’s combined with well-defined firmographic and demographic criteria that align with a company’s Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). Further, the likelihood of purchase lies squarely in the middle of a Venn diagram made up of three criteria: Fit, Opportunity, and Intent.

Fit criteria

Fit criteria is a staple of both sales and marketing teams. It starts with a clearly identified best-fit company and customer profile as the primary requirement of any kind of scoring or predictive analysis.  If the company itself is not a great fit, all other information, no matter how accurate, will never result in a sale.

Fit data, used by 60% of survey respondents, includes basic demographic, firmographic, and technographic information at the account and contact level. These include data points such as:

  • Industry
  • Job function
  • Department budget
  • Technology stack
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Use of agencies or contract services

What’s the most predictive Fit data point at predicting a prospect’s likelihood to purchase, according to 85% of the survey respondents? Job title.

This one is simple: a person’s job title is a fundamental part of the Ideal Customer Profile. If the prospect is in the wrong department or doesn’t have purchasing authority, a sale will never happen.

Opportunity data

Opportunity insights are considered favorable conditions.

When layered on top of Fit data, Opportunity becomes a truly predictive piece of the purchasing puzzle. These data points indicate conditions are favorable for a purchase, including:

  • Leadership change
  • Funding
  • Pain point
  • Hiring plans, Promotions, Layoffs
  • Company events
  • Merger
  • FCC fine

What is the most effective Opportunity data point? Eighty-four percent of respondents said Requests for Proposal (RFPs) and Projects/purchase initiatives are effective or very effective at predicting a prospect’s likelihood to purchase. Sales teams that can get in front of decision makers when a company is issuing RFPs or during the project planning phase have a much better chance of their pitch being reviewed than teams not on the radar.

But surprisingly, only 29% of respondents use both Fit and Opportunity data.

Intent data

Intent data, in short, is information on implicit behavior.

With a foundation of Fit (the right person at the right company) and Opportunity (the right conditions), intent data is the lynchpin for predicting success. Intent data links target buyers and accounts to a solution based on their digital behavior. This includes:

  • Time on website
  • Form-fills / Downloaded your content
  • Comparing your product with a competitor’s
  • Lead source
  • Social media follows
  • Commented or Liked your content
  • Spikes in content on a given topic

So what’s the most effective Intent data point? It’s Companies comparing the products of other vendors in your category. In fact, seven of the top eight most effective Intent data points all involved competitor research and comparison. If a company is comparing vendors in your space – to each other or to your solution – they’re probably not far from making a purchase—and the choices have likely been narrowed to a handful.

Intent data offers something Fit data cannot: It implicitly signals interest, demand, or urgency related to a particular topic or need.

The most significant outcome of the survey? Learning that just 15% of respondents mesh Fit, Opportunity, and Intent data. Why? We think it’s because scoring these three factors in combination tends to be sequential and piecemeal—and not always well understood by sales and marketing teams.

As we unpack this “predictive black box,” the most surprising takeaway is not that any single data point is the magic bullet. There’s no single data point that can replace good selling skills. But what is surprising is that when all three types of data – Fit, Opportunity, and Intent – come together, they are tremendously effective at predicting a purchase.

Which Data Points are actually predictive? You can read the full study here.

Katie Bullard is chief growth officer at DiscoverOrg, where she is responsible for leading the global marketing, product management, and partnership functions at DiscoverOrg. She brings 15 years of marketing, product, and strategy experience in global, high-growth technology businesses to her role at the company.

Posted in Prospecting and Leads | Leave a comment