Mastering the Art and Science of the Sales Conversation

sales conversationAll great salespeople develop a talent for winning sales conversations. How can you tell when you’ve mastered this skill? To start, look at what you’ve gained (or lost) at the end of the exchange with the prospect or customer. The net result of a winning sales conversation should be at least one of three things.

  • The salesperson has establish rapport and/or a relationship with the prospect or customer.
  • The salesperson has advanced the sale.
  • The salesperson has closed the deal.

These very basic outcomes of sales conversations haven’t changed for decades. However, the environment in which those conversations are happening has changed drastically — and so have the tools we use to communicate with customers. So while your team might be focused on the right outcomes, they might not have the best tools to get the job done. Here are some of the most common obstacles to successful sales conversations in today’s selling environment.

Outdated or generic sales materials/demos. Customers are doing their own research online and they have less time and patience for materials that tell them what they already know. Also, they don’t want to hear information unless it’s relevant to them and their business — generic won’t cut it.

Lack of multiple communication modes (mobile, social, etc.). Customers want to communicate with your company when it’s convenient for them, in the mode that best suits their style. If that means they want to reach out via Twitter at 3 a.m., you’d better have a way to respond quickly. 

A stale and product-focused pitch. Again, customers no longer need salespeople for information about products and offerings. They have no need to hear all about you and your company. Instead, they want to hear about how you’ll deliver value to them in a way that addresses their unique challenges.

At the Sales 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas on September 18, many speakers will provide more detail about how you can help your salespeople avoid these missteps. In particular, these two breakout sessions below will be focused around insight related to the art and science of sales conversations.


Leon has been thinking differently about what mobile technology can do for sales and marketing. Learn from this disruptor who has developed some of the most forward-thinking mobile sales tools available. In this session, you will learn why the “pitch” no longer works; what to do differently to relate more effectively to your customers; and how mobile technology can support visual, interactive stories, providing a gateway to customer engagement.

FOUR HUNDRED PERCENT SALES PRODUCTIVITY INCREASE WITH ADVANCED SALES ACCELERATION — ARE YOU SERIOUS?!, a panel discussion moderated by Chad Burmeister, Vice President, Sales & Marketing at ConnectAndSell

Chad will be joined by panelists from Ceridian HCM and ClearSlide; they will share advanced sales-acceleration techniques that have helped them drive up sales-productivity improvements by an impressive 400 percent. Chad will also reveal what he’s learned based on personally delivering more than 15 million dials and 770,000 sales conversations in the past 12 months. (Note, this session will also feature $500 worth of giveaways  — in Vegas poker chips, of course!)

Register now for the September 18 Sales 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas at

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What Type of Networker Are You?

by Alice Heiman

“It’s who you know.” People want to do business with people they know, like, and trust. Building these bonds generates business and keeps you on the forefront of your industry. It takes time, but it is critical. One of the most effective ways to build these bonds is to attend networking events.

Attending is just the start. How you interact and conduct yourself is crucial if these are to be successful ventures for you. If you’ve been to these events, you know that some people have an approach that is more successful than others. We are drawn to some people and repelled by others. Let’s have some fun finding out how to network successfully. Which type of networker are you?

The_WallflowerThe Wallflowers: These are the quiet and shy people who tend to show up, stay in one place the entire time, and not interact with anyone new. They wait to be approached. While they are polite, because they aren’t outgoing, they will leave with no new connections or acquaintances. If you are a wallflower, take an extrovert with you to your networking event so that he or she can introduce you to people. If you don’t know one, call the organization conducting the event. Ask if you can arrange for someone to meet you and take you around to meet people. There is no shame in that!


The Clingers: These people are a bit more “out of the shell” than wallflowers, but they’re comfortable only with people they know. While friendly, they tend to stay in the same circle and leave networking events having only caught up with their friends. If this sounds familiar, set a small goal of meeting two or three new people at the event, and ask your friends to make these introductions. You can still hang out with your usual pals and benefit from the new connections you make. If you’re having trouble meeting the goal, have some fun and ask your friends if they want to split up and each bring back one person for everyone to meet.

The_PusherThe “Pushers”: These are the ones everyone is trying to avoid. Pushers show up to networking events intending to tell everyone about what they sell and close the deal on the spot. They pitch at every moment and hand out more business cards than they can count. To those who do this: STOP. It’s annoying and won’t get you anywhere. Instead, relax. Stop selling. Make friends and build relationships. Ask questions and listen. While you are doing this, people will ask you what you do, and you can briefly tell them in a way that is engaging and makes them want to know more. If they do, you can make arrangements to meet after the event and continue the conversation.

The_ListenerThe Listeners: Talkers love this type. Listeners are afraid to talk about themselves because they don’t know what to say, so instead they stay focused on the other person. It’s nice to listen to others and learn about them, but they want to learn about you, too. Relationships require give and take, but if you only listen, then how do you have a mutually beneficial relationship? If you’re a listener, the best thing to do before attending a networking event is to prepare. Think about the type of people you may meet and what you will have in common with them. Practice how you’ll answer the question “What do you do?” Make your response engaging so that people want to know more. Have a story or two ready so that those you meet will be able to relate to you, and be prepared to participate in the ensuing conversation so that it doesn’t turn into an interview.

The_JesterThe Jesters: The jesters are the life of the party! If this is you, then you already know how fun you are. This person warms up a room and is always surrounded by a crowd. Attracting others is easy, but making a lasting connection may be harder when you are the entertainer. Here’s the key: remember that it’s still business. They may remember you, but will they know what you do or who they can refer to you? The goal of networking is to build relationships that lead to results. Try having a few smaller, intimate conversations. Make a lasting impression that will benefit your business.

Recognizing what type of networker you are is the first step. Then decide what type of networker you will be to get the best results. Try the “new” networking you at the next event you attend.

Join Alice Heiman as she emcees the Sales 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas as chief networking officer. To attend, register at

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The Quest to Make Sales Training More Effective

sales training

Traditionally, the way we teach and train salespeople has looked a lot like the way we educate students in the public school system. As experts at CommercialTribe note, the approach is a simple combination of 1) teacher, 2) student, 3) curriculum. On their blog, they write:

“The students come through on the conveyor belt and they either understand, absorb, and apply that information to graduate to the next level, or they’re left behind.”

That model hasn’t changed much — but that’s not because it’s the best model out there. In fact, that model doesn’t account for a lot of factors. For example, some salespeople just don’t absorb information as well when they’re at the receiving end of a lecture as opposed to hands-on, experiential learning. Plus, we have all kinds of tools to communicate information that we lacked in the past, including interactive platforms that represent a far cry from the static lecture model.

According to experts at CommericalTribe, the application of sales training “hasn’t meaningfully changed since Dale Carnegie introduced his approach in 1937.” Lectures, classrooms, webinars, audio conferences — these are still the norm today, but they don’t have to be.

CommercialTribe is helping to bring sales training into the social age. In Las Vegas on September 18, CommercialTribe founder and CEO Paul Ironside will speak during a breakout session and share more about how interactive video and social tools are making sales training far more effective. If you’ve ever been frustrated by sales training, you’ll want to join us for this session. Attendees will learn the following.

  1. Why existing sales training consistently fails to stick.
  2. How new online video and social media tools can be leveraged to train in a whole new way that actually gets rep to practice.
  3. What results have been generated from this new approach.

Register now for the Sales 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas at

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Do You Embrace Change?

embrace changeWhat can sales leaders do to face the challenges that go along with change?

One theme that has carried throughout our events this year is the need to embrace change. Sales organizations are constantly facing unique challenges and unprecedented levels of competition. Many of our attendees report that achieving increased performance and higher levels of effectiveness is a struggle.

Scott Poore, Regional Manager, Customer Experience (CX) Applications at Oracle, will address this pressing question at the upcoming Sales 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas (see the full conference agenda here). On September 18, Scott will share:

  • how to build a modern sales organization that leverages the power of analytics and forecasting to help win more deals,
  • ways to maximize revenue potential and improve cross-sell and up-sell opportunities,
  • strategies to optimize sales performance and productivity by adopting an effective mobile deal management approach, and
  • how to improve sales alignment and effectively manage incentive-compensation plans.

Join us on September 18! Go here to register. (Want a discount code for $200 off? Use code ggv200 courtesy of Sales 2.0 Conference host and Selling Power magazine publisher Gerhard Gschwandtner.)

[Image via Flickr / kwanie]

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3 Unmissable Presentations for B2B Sales Leaders

We have assembled some terrific presenters for our September 18 event in Las Vegas. Here are some highlights we’re looking forward to. Haven’t registered yet? There’s still time. Book your spot by August 15 and save $130.

jenny dearbornJenny Dearborn, SVP & Chief Learning Officer at SAP will present “Driving Measurable Business Results with Strategic Sales Training: Intro to the Six-Step Process.” Sales-training results are among the easiest to measure. So why do some training organizations still miss the boat? Find out the answers with an action-packed 30 minutes of data and analytics, measurement approaches, and a straightforward six-step process that you can confidently take back to your sales leaders.

Register now to hear Jenny Dearborn in person on September 18 in Las Vegas. 

Amanda Kahlow Amanda Kahlow, CEO of 6Sense will present, “Using Big Data to Create a Sales-Marketing Handshake Relationship.” Traditionally, marketing has been viewed as a strictly “pre-sales” discipline—kept separate and silo-ed from the majority of the sales process. With today’s advances in big data and predictive modeling, companies can drive the critical “handshake relationship” between sales and marketing teams. Kahlow will discuss how B2B companies like Xactly, Blue Jeans, and Cisco are increasing lead conversions and surpassing revenue targets by leveraging big data and predictive intelligence. You’ll learn how to:

  • Understand where new revenues and customers are going to come from
  • Find and target net-new prospects as soon as they appear
  • Determine where prospects are in the sales cycle, what products are of interest, and the value of the opportunity
  • Focus marketing budgets on customers most interested
  • Deliver better-qualified leads to sales

Register now to hear Amanda Kahlow in person on September 18 in Las Vegas. 

Jon FerraraJon Ferrara, Founder & CEO of Nimble will present, “Growing Sales through Social Content, Conversations & Influence.” 

Buyer behavior has changed. Today’s buyers are Web and social-media savvy, informed about your offering – and your competitors’ – and starting the sales process without your salespeople and marketing messages. If you aren’t in the customer-influence discovery loop, you’ll find yourself locked out, and with multiple social channels available to engage prospects and their influencers, how do you determine who matters most, how to engage them, and how to manage it all?

During this engaging and informative session, you will learn

  • the power of influence,
  • how sales and marketing align with the buyer’s dynamic decision journey,
  • tips to amplify your social-selling story,
  • how to nurture relationships that lead to closed deals,
  • customer 2.0 expectations and engagement strategies,
  • the 5 E’s of social business.

Register now to hear Jon Ferrara in person on September 18 in Las Vegas.

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How to Measure the Strength of Your Customer Relationships

By Tom Cates

In the business-to-business (B2B) world, building great customer relationships is often the fastest and easiest way to meet or beat your sales numbers, as I discussed in my last post on this blog. I call this building “sales equity,” an expression for all the advantages you gain when you build trusted-advisor relationships with your clients.

I had the pleasure of delivering a presentation at the recent Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston, hosted by my friend and colleague Gerhard Gschwandtner. In the presentation, I showed how sales equity is crucial to rapid sales growth for B2B companies. For those of you who couldn’t attend, here’s a quick recap:

Customer Relationships: The Key to B2B Sales Success

Ultimately, companies don’t have relationships – individuals do. In my 30 years of research on this issue, I’ve found that a customer relationship is

a process, always changing, always moving;

a climate involving six distinct dimensions;

a perception based on logic, not emotion;

a value existing to meet professional and personal needs.

Essentially, a 1:1 relationship is a mutual investment, but what does it take to become invested in this kind of relationship?

Sales Equity As a Tool for Growth

Sales equity differs from product equity and brand equity. Product equity refers to the value of your product, while brand equity refers to the value of your corporate reputation. When you build these types of equity, you encourage people to buy things. In the B2B world, however, people don’t typically just buy things – they buy a relationship with you, and that makes sales equity a top priority.

product equity brand equity sales equity

Sales equity builds on product and brand equity to create an engine for sales growth.

My research and experience have revealed four levels to 1:1 B2B relationships:

Antagonistic: “I’m fuming!”

Transactional: “You’re fine.”

Predisposed: “You’re my favorite, but…”

Trusted Advisor: “You’re fantastic!”

The closer you come to being a trusted advisor to your clients, the greater your sales equity. As this occurs, you’ll benefit from reduced costs, more cross-sells and up-sells, longer average customer tenure, and a greater share of wallet.

Unfortunately, most company leaders don’t have a strong understanding of how their clients view them. That’s because they’ve never taken the time to measure these relationships on a 1:1 basis. I founded The Brookeside Group partly to address this problem.™ is a scientific and data-driven client feedback and coaching tool that has helped scores of clients boost revenue and cut marketing costs by strengthening 1:1 customer relationships.

Have you ever scientifically measured client relationships? If so, what were the results? I’d love to know.

As president of The Brookeside group, Tom Cates has established a research-based approach to uncovering the true value of a client relationship. As counsel to a wide array of industries and organizations, he helps companies tackle issues such as market research, customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty, process improvement, and change management. Cates has collaborated on three business books and is a recognized speaker at many events each year, known for his natural storytelling that inspires audiences to achieve better client relationships.

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The Easiest Way to Meet or Beat Your B2B Sales Goals

by Tom Cates

If you’re a salesperson, you probably focus mainly on finding new clients, but if you work in a mature business-to-business (B2B) industry, that isn’t always so simple. Let’s face it: these days, most B2B industries are mature! The only way you can land a new client is to steal one from someone else. That can be very hard to do.

When new accounts are few and far between, your best source of new business is likely to be your existing customer base. Rather than chase new accounts, it makes sense to invest more time working to up-sell and cross-sell the clients you already have.

This means you have to have a strong relationship with each of your clients – what I call trusted-advisor status. These relationships can be a huge source of added revenue. Here’s why:

Suppose you have a 50 percent client-retention rate. This means half your clients leave you every year. This rapid turnover makes it difficult for you to grow your business, because each year you have to market to new clients, beat out competition, and become established as an approved vendor. If your client retention improves to 75 percent, however, you double your average tenure, and at 95 percent you have a staggering 20-year average client-retention rate.

The Value of Sticking Around

What does this mean for you as a salesperson? By getting your customers to stick around, you will begin to have

  • more cross-selling and up-selling opportunities,
  • more and better referrals,
  • better pricing (due to less need to win customers through discounts),

… all with less time, effort, and expense.


You gain a lot of advantages when your clients perceive you as a trusted advisor.

The longer you retain clients, the greater these benefits will be. Keeping customers loyal to you over time makes the difference, as loyal customers will have greater incentive to give you more share of wallet.

How to Achieve Trusted Advisor Status

In the B2B world, building great relationships is often the fastest and easiest way to meet or beat your sales goals. To achieve these kinds of relationships, you need to make a determined effort to understand your clients’ needs and desires and consistently exceed their expectations. I call this building “sales equity” – an expression to describe all the advantages you gain when you build trusted-advisor relationships with clients.

During the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston on Monday, July 14, I’ll be presenting “Sales Equity: What It Is and Why You Need It.” During this address, I’ll delve into how stronger sales equity can lead directly to better results for B2B salespeople and other customer-relationship owners. I hope you’ll join me there!

The bottom line is this: strong client relationships matter, and keeping your customers around longer will lead to more and faster sales, lower costs, and greater growth for your company.

What are your thoughts on the relationship between client retention and higher sales? I’d love to hear them.

Hear Tom Cates speak live during the upcoming Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston on July 14, 2014.

As president of The Brookeside group, Tom Cates has established a research-based approach to uncovering the true value of a client relationship. As counsel to a wide array of industries and organizations, he helps companies tackle issues such as market research, customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty, process improvement, and change management. Cates is the author of three books and a recognized speaker at many events each year, known for his natural storytelling that also inspires audiences to achieve better client relationships.

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The End of Self-Centered Selling

by Mark Roberge

MeIn 2007, I was tasked with building a sales team from the ground up at HubSpot. One of the first things I did was set up coffee meetings with dozens of VPs of sales at software companies, to network and find out how they were running their teams.

What did I discover? They mostly followed a basic, three-step process that probably everyone in sales or marketing will find familiar:

Step 1: The company purchases lists of prospects that look like a good fit for them.

Step 2: Sales reps call high into those prospects and deliver their elevator pitch.

Step 3: Sales reps jam whoever picks up the phone through their company’s sales process.

In short, the sales process was all about the seller, not the buyer.

To me, this suggested a fundamental misalignment with the way prospects wanted to buy. The Internet had empowered the B2B buyer to conduct research online before making a purchase, so the buyer no longer needed to talk with salespeople to learn about features and benefits, and buyers had less patience for cold calls and conversations that were centered around the salesperson’s agenda. I regarded the task of building from scratch a sales team for HubSpot as an opportunity to put this knowledge into practice.

We leaned heavily on technology to empower salespeople to follow a new kind of sales process centered around the buyer’s journey. Here are the three steps we developed and still follow today.

Step 1: We listen to buying signals.

Instead of finding prospects by purchasing lists, we leverage technology to listen to the market and monitor buying signals. A buying signal could be a click on one of our marketing emails, a visit to our Website, or a download of one of our content assets. It could also be a mention on social media about phrases or keywords that are relevant to the problems we solve. (This is one of the most valuable aspects of social selling and something I’ll be talking about at the upcoming Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston.) These buying signals are happening hundreds and sometimes thousands of times a day, and salespeople at most companies have no idea.

Step 2: We lead with the right information, not the generic elevator pitch.

Using technology, our salespeople understand what information the prospective buyers have already consumed and engage with the best next piece of information applicable to the buyer’s context.

Step 3: We assist the prospect through his or her buying journey.

Rather than obsess over our sales process and force prospects through a set of qualification questions to help us understand if the prospect is worth our time, our salespeople obsess over prospects’ buying processes and how we can support them.

In summary, we avoid the “me-focused” sales process. Today’s empowered buyer just does not have the patience for self-centered sales teams. Instead, we leverage technology and buyer context to create a better buying experience for customers and a faster sales process for our salespeople. Everybody wins!

All of these practices and the supporting technological tools we’ve created have helped the HubSpot sales team achieve rapid growth in just six years. [Editor’s note: According to the Wall Street Journal, HubSpot has achieved a $100 million revenue run rate.] I’ll be sharing more about HubSpot’s rapid growth strategy and how sales leaders can leverage these tactics at the Boston Sales 2.0 Conference, including role plays and scripts from the HubSpot playbook. Register now to join me.

How well is your sales process aligned with the buyer’s journey? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

MarkRoberge_75x100Mark Roberge is chief revenue officer at HubSpot.



[Image: Flickr / Kat]

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Sell Smarter: The Future of Sales

We’re counting down to the next Sales 2.0 Conference, which will be in Boston on July 14. One of our returning speakers will be Chuck Penfield, Regional Vice President of Sales, Cloud CRM Applications at Oracle. In Boston he will present, “Sell Smarter: The Future of Sales” (see the full conference agenda here).

Today’s sales organizations are rapidly changing, and they’ll continue to face challenges and unprecedented competition to achieve increased performance and higher levels of effectiveness. In this session, Chuck will share:

  • how to build a modern sales organization that leverages the power of analytics and forecasting to help win more deals,
  • ways to maximize revenue potential and improve cross-sell and up-sell opportunities,
  • strategies to optimize sales performance and productivity by adopting an effective mobile deal management approach, and
  • how to improve sales alignment and effectively manage incentive-compensation plans.

Join us on July 14! Go here to register — you can also watch this brief video from conference host Gerhard Gschwandtner to grab a $300 discount code.

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An Inside Look at the Sales 2.0 Conference

We saw a lot of familiar faces in this video from Gerhard Gschwandtner of Selling Power, who spoke with many attendees at our May event in San Francisco about what they value most about the Sales 2.0 Conference. If you have ever wondered what B2B sales leaders learn at our events, check it out!

(Bonus: if you watch the video, you’ll see a discount code for registration at the very end for $300 off the price of admission to our Boston event on July 14.)

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