Why Data Is the New Currency for Sales and Marketing Organizations

By Paul D’Souza

On this blog, we’ll occasionally feature insights from peak performance mindset experts. Today’s expert, Paul D’Souza, believes sales teams must have 1) the right sales strategy and 2) the right sales process before salespeople can achieve peak performance mindset. Learn more at www.DeliveringPeakPerformance.com. – Sales 3.0 Conference Editors

Data and cognitive computing have completely altered how we sell in today’s competitive marketplace.

Courtesy: www.cappius.com

Here is an example of what I am talking about. I have been working with a client that has a database of more than 55,000 customers – and their transaction history over time. They also have 30+ sales reps who take orders from these customers on a daily basis. Currently, though, most of these salespeople are only taking inbound calls. It is the job of their marketing department to spur their existing customers to action with various outreach campaigns that get the phone to ring.

This business model produced $23,000,000 in 2016. Based on what is possible now, I have set a revenue goal of $30,000,000 for 2017. How are we going to get there? Data.  

We are going to ask data scientists to work with the data they currently have and run it through complex predictive and correlational analytic algorithms to produce actionable insights. This would give salespeople the following:

  1. The most ideal customers on whom to call (i.e., the customers most likely to make a purchase in the next month from the 55,000 in their database).
  2. Specify the “next-best” product to offer those customers.
  3. A win/loss analysis report, which will allow them to make better presentations.

Why Data Is Our New Currency

I have been talking about managing by the numbers for years, but the time has really come for us to manage by the data you can access – because, in a sense, data is our new currency.

The biggest challenge we have as sales and business leaders is designing sales practices that can leverage the information we can glean from the data we can access. In the case of my above-mentioned client, if they ran these data solutions and got actionable insights, they would have to change their business model and sales practices. Plus, they would need to retrain a subset of their sales team to be proactive: it takes a different set of skills to do outbound sales calls.

As you can appreciate, that is a true cost of business. It takes a lot of effort to restructure a sales team’s activity and the way they do business. They will have to reassess who among their existing team have the mental and emotional skills needed to be outbound salespeople. Then they will have to train them, restructure their compensation plan, and help them manage their new career path.

If they embraced all that and made the needed changes, a data scientist could help them run specific reports and give them the information they need to focus their new outbound activity and help them get to $30,000,000 in the next 12 months. This is with absolutely no additional marketing dollars spent. Yes, there will be a small investment for the data scientists, but I believe it will be much less than one might expect to spend to attract an additional $7,000,000 in revenue.

Four Hallmarks of Data-Driven Sales and Marketing Organizations

Business organizations that get it and see data as a friend are doing things like:

  1. Mobile loyalty” programs: mobile applications with predictive analytics that can make recommendations for the next-best offer for mobile users to help them make better purchase decisions.

  2. Offer management” programs. Sales teams that use predictive analytics and correlational analytics must be managed differently so customers don’t feel confused or oversold to this is a unique issue for Sales 3.0-savvy sales orgs.

  3. Personalized customer journeys” (dynamic personalized targeting in marketing and ad campaigns, so customers feel they are on a unique journey designed for them and them alone).

  4. Business intelligence-driven sales process” that uses insights from predictive analytics and business intelligence reporting to help focus sales activity, producing higher returns.

All this is possible because there is data about and from your markets, customers, partners, and other related sources that can be sliced and diced to give you insights and meaning into what is possible.

In most cases, the data that impacts each of your given market segments is just too big for us to ignore. We cannot and must not rely only on past experience any longer. When you view your data as a resource, you take advantage of it to learn more about what is going on with your clients, prospects, and the marketplace. If done right, data can show you new possibilities for revenue growth and increasing market share.

Marketing and sales do have an element of art. But knowing your data reduces the reliance on art and increases the predictability of science. Doing this right can give you useful information to make better choices and changes to your sales process – helping you design new offers your customers accept.

Happy customers = more profit. To get there, repeat after me: “Data is my friend.”

Founder of the D’Souza Group’s Delivering Peak Performance and author of the award-winning book, The Market Has Changed: Have You?, Paul helps business leaders take themselves and their teams to peak performance levels of activity by improving their sales strategy, sales process, and mindset.

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Why Sales Needs to Be about More than Just Revenue

By Jim Cathcart

One pillar of Sales 3.0 is about cultivating a peak performance mindset by leveraging mindset science. What is the quality of your personal mindset? Moreover, how is your mindset blocking you from achieving success? At Sales 3.0 events and on this blog, we’ll feature insights from peak performance mindset experts about mindset science and how you can harness the power of your brain to clear blockages and set yourself up for greater achievement. This post is by Jim Cathcart, a certified peak performance mindset trainer. — Sales 3.0 Conference Team

Some people are all about what works (pragmatists) and others are all about what feels like the right idea (emotional idealists). The best path usually runs somewhere between them.

In times of abundance the emotional idealists can thrive because they won’t be inhibited by doing only what works. They can test their concepts in relative safety and not be immediately held accountable for outcomes. They have room to experiment with their good intentions independent of proof of viability.

In times of scarcity the pragmatists are sought out because they can still produce results despite the limitations that inhibit growth.

Our society sees this every election season. The idealists get elected in times of abundance and the pragmatists get elected in times of scarcity. When the economy is good, spending explodes and, when it’s bad, spending has to stop.

This pendulum effect was built into the system created by America’s Founding Fathers. They knew there would always be pragmatists and idealists competing for limited resources and leadership positions. So they designed a system of checks and balances that prevented either side from always dominating. You and I need to do the same in approaching our own life and business or career.

Should you be planting trees this year or stockpiling more lumber for building? There are times and seasons for each. If you only cut and build, then you’ll run out of wood someday. If you only plant, then you’ll be overgrown and under-sheltered someday. Farmers get it because they see it daily – but the rest of us often need reminding.

It is my belief (and my actual experience) that What is Good and Right should drive our focus on What Works. In other words, our visions (ideals) of what is possible and what matters most need to shape our plans and actions.

When I conduct sales training I often begin by talking about the purpose of selling – why sales matter. If you see selling as a way of helping people and making the world a better place one sale at a time, then you’ll be more motivated to stay the course and continually improve the way you sell. It helps you be of value to more people. But if selling is seen only as revenue generation, then it’s a mechanical and tedious activity.

Pragmatists say sales are just for producing revenue – and the main purpose of business is to generate revenue. They see the human factor and higher purposes of serving people as necessary distractions from the “real world” of getting the money. They also alienate a lot of potential customers and lose business to more caring competitors.

Idealists say that sales is a necessary evil and they’d rather not have to deal with it. They want to help people and make the world a better place by just directly providing services and products regardless of the revenue produced. Most idealists seek work in public agencies and non-profits because they aren’t personally accountable for revenue generation there. They are often interested in marketing (promoting concepts) but not in selling (face-to-face calls).

Neither of these mindsets alone can perpetuate a business or organization. They must coexist and take turns being first in line. The pendulum must swing or the entity will die. Think of it as the heartbeat of the organization.

So let’s become visionary pragmatists. Remember why it matters to help your customers. See the visions of what is possible and dream of better ways to truly make a difference for your constituents and customers. At the same time, require yourself to conserve resources and invest your energies wisely so you can perpetually produce practical outcomes. Get true, measurable results that prove the value of your ideals and goals.

If you think something is a great idea or vitally important to do, then prove it. If you can’t yet prove it, do some low-cost experimentation to validate your hopes – and only then expand your expenditures. No more borrowing from tomorrow to make today more comfortable. Send some of today’s money ahead to the person you’ll be in the future; fund your retirement long before you retire. Plant trees under whose shade you will never sit. Build bridges that work right now and also allow for even more traffic in the future. Instead of going into debt, borrow comfort from today to make tomorrow more abundant. It’s the right thing to do. You’ll be really glad you did.

Jim Cathcart has received virtually every award that is available to speakers: The Golden Gavel, Speaker Hall of Fame, The Cavett Award, and Legends Award – and he’s also been inducted into the Sales & Marketing Hall of Fame. He has been helping people succeed since the 1970s and has authored 17 books. He is featured daily on the Thrive15.com TV channel, with 110 programs recorded. His students include some of the top achievers in the world. His TEDx talk has received more than 910,000 views. He is a certified peak performance mindset trainer. To book him for a training in mindset science for your team, visit this page: http://www.mindsetscience.com/trainers/.

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A Quick Guide to Understanding Virtual and Augmented Reality for Sales

By Kieran Wong

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are poised to change the way B2B sales and marketing organizations look at and interact with the world – literally.

Last year was considered “Year Zero” of the virtual and augmented reality landscape. This year we’ll go from crawling to walking – more content will produced, hardware technology will become faster, and both advancements will become more accessible to the consumer.

Describing VR and AR to friends, family, and colleagues can be difficult – these are complex concepts, after all – but a couple of examples can help us paint a clear portrait.

Example #1: Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go is a great example of AR technology that people quickly understand. It’s AR technology that overlays imagery (a created reality) on top of the actual reality (what’s around you) to create an experience with which the user interacts.

Example #2: Scuba Diving

Virtual reality, on the other hand, is a totally immersive experience. Imagine being a scuba diver, swimming around a beautiful Caribbean Sea floor. In this example, you’re viewing the ocean through a mask and are able to move through this reality at your own pleasure – looking in whatever direction you wish while enjoying a totally immersive experience. That’s VR. Currently, content is actively being created for VR – primarily for the gaming and entertainment market.

How Will VR and AR Impact B2B Selling?

So, what potential do VR and AR hold for B2B sales and marketing organizations? And how will these technologies affect your salespeople?

In short order, these two technologies will be as ubiquitous in the business environment as email or texting. Presenting your product or service will be done with VR and AR as a means to drive customer value through a better and more realistic experience.

This means digital marketing and customer engagement as we know it will change.

As a VR example, imagine you’re a farmer who’s about to purchase a quarter-million-dollar tractor – a major capital purchase. Your friendly neighborhood tractor dealer comes out to your farm and puts a VR headset on you and situates you in a virtual tractor. Not only can you experience what it’s like to drive the tractor from the comfort of your couch, but you’re also able to view and experiment with all available options on the fly – both inside and out. Just like that, you’re one step closer to making your purchase decision.

For AR, imagine you’re with your real estate broker looking at a raw, unbuilt office space to lease for your business expansion. He hands you a mobile phone and you point it around the space and look at the display. Instantly you see a fully-designed suite including furniture, carpet, lighting fixtures, and paint colors – all overlaid on the real empty space. You’re now inspired by the final vision. Again, you’re able to more quickly evaluate your purchase and make an informed decision.

As you start to think about it, the possibilities are endless. That premise alone leads to a massive market potential. An October 2016 article in Forbes quoted Tim Merel, managing director at Digi Capital, as saying, “The AR and VR market will hit $150 billion in revenue by 2020, bringing in about $120 billion and $30 billion, respectively.”

Businesses that aren’t working on employing a VR and AR strategy for business will be hit by a wave of innovation their competitors will be riding. Think about how your sales and marketing teams currently engage with your customers and then rethink it based upon employing these new technologies. That paradigm shift alone will change your business.

I challenge you to think about how you present your product/service to your customers. Could VR or AR bring value to your customer’s experience? The businesses that leverage these new technologies beyond gaming and entertainment will set the pace.

Kieran Wong is the director of sales for Status Not Quo: brilliant digital design; flawless Web and mobile software; innovative strategy. Not the usual status quo.

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How to Get a Face-to-Face Meeting with Prospects

By Danny Wong

A salesperson has to be the type who never takes “no” for an answer from prospects, but even the most hard-working and diligent professionals can get discouraged after hearing it so often.

Sales calls have a tendency to drain the person who makes them – and, what’s worse, the caller often doesn’t realize the pressure and stress until it’s too late. If you or your team is having a difficult time pinning down face-to-face meetings in favor of these repetitive calls, you’re not alone. People have more reasons than ever to decline meetings, especially when they’re used to feeling afterwards like they only wasted their time.  

Establishing Credibility

This is one of the key ways to get a meeting with prospects, but the sales rep has precious little time to establish it. Salespeople need to come off as having done their homework either on what they’re selling or what the client needs (preferably on both).

It may not always be practical to do one of these tasks, especially because delving deep into a company’s particular problems before even making the call will take a lot of time. However, without saying at least a few things of substance that hit home with the potential client, there will be little chance of getting a “yes” to an in-person meeting.

Letting the Other Person Talk

A sales call doesn’t have to be all about showing off for prospects. In fact, the time to establish knowledge is right at the beginning of the call. At that point, the salesperson should be inviting the other party to fill in the gaps of that knowledge as quickly as possible so it can be determined if the next steps should be taken.

While there is no handbook (and shouldn’t be anyway) as to exactly how many words should be said or listened to by the salesperson, it is possible to practice the skills of knowing when to speed up, slow down, or drop particular topics out of a conversation. This is a matter of thinking through the problem while on the sales call, and then following through with a certain amount of confidence.

Speaking to Their Business

Social cues absolutely need to be a big part of sales calls, but observing them can be difficult when there’s no extra benefit of body language. That may be why 47 percent of people say they’ve lost a client due to a lack of face time with them.

For example, clients who can’t stop thinking about how ill prepared they are for their next meeting will be unable to concentrate on anything a sales rep has to say. Or, if a customer gets on a rambling train of thought, he or she may have a negative impression of the call (even if the salesperson was able to stay on topic). There needs to be a way to speak the other person’s language and control the call in a natural and organic manner. Much easier said than done, but the more work is done on this end, the easier it will become.

It’s Hard until It’s Not

Many of these tactics will be difficult, and there will be no one who doesn’t stumble at least a little. However, the more people practice making each sales call fresh and new, the easier it will get to actually make each sales call more fluid and more likely to lead to an in-person meeting.

There’s no doubt it’s worth it, though: 81 percent of businesses believe face-to-face meetings are pivotal ways of establishing real trust that lasts.

Asking Nicely

When it comes to the big ask at the end of the call, reps have to be assertive and confident – but not aggressive.

If the rep can read the situation with prospects correctly, he or she should be able to accurately predict the answer. If a call clearly isn’t going well, there may not be a need for a last-ditch effort to salvage the relationship by asking for a meeting. While there’s nothing wrong with persistence, if a client is clearly annoyed, unhappy, or bored, it may end up backfiring and closing down all communication entirely.

The Importance of the Follow-up

Once people get the meeting, sale, or major deal, they have a tendency to start devoting their efforts to other matters. This is not the time to start ignoring those who actually have said “yes” to further correspondence.

Sales is the thrill of the chase, but it’s also about maintaining relationships as much as trying to garner new ones. Sales reps may need to be coached a bit more on how to balance and use their face time wisely for best results.

Danny Wong is a marketing consultant, sales strategist, and writer. He supports marketing at Tenfold, a seamless click-to-dial solution for high-performance sales teams. Connect with him on Twitter @dannywong1190.

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Sell More: Social Proof Your Sales Team


By Jim Regan

We’ve all seen the statistics about social proof. Namely, 63 percent of consumers indicate they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews; people are more likely to leave a negative review than a positive review, etc. However, a lot of us think of social proof as applicable solely to B2C marketing.

It goes without saying social proof for a B2C product or service won’t work the same way in a B2B environment. Perhaps it’s because businesses buy in teams (on average, 5.4 decision makers are involved in a B2B purchase), which means product reviews and testimonials on Facebook simply aren’t enough to help salespeople close more deals.

Still, social proof is important in the B2B sphere. Why? People trust public opinion when they’re making a purchasing decision in any industry. The 2015 Buyer’s Survey Report, for example, found that the top three resources on which B2B buyers rely when searching for vendors are 1) industry experts/analysts, 2) peers and colleagues, and 3) Web search.

If you want to take advantage of social proof, apply it to your sales team. Your salespeople are your best option to influence the buying decisions of your B2B prospects. If you market your salespeople as industry experts and position them as collegial professionals you can, to a degree, engage with and persuade prospects who are conducting online research about your company and your team.  

So, where to begin? Here are five steps to social proof your sales team.

Step #1: Replicate winning tactics from other marketing campaigns.

When you create social proof for your organization, you directly create or facilitate the creation of information that proves 1) people trust your organization or offerings and 2) you are engaged with the current goings-on of your industry. For your salespeople, the idea is the same: you want to prove that others trust you, usually by showing that they seek out your opinion, and that you are connected to your industry. There are many ways a salesperson can (and should) do this:

  • Maintain social media profiles that are frequently updated and have numerous followers
  • Attend and speak at high-profile events to demonstrate expertise or gain information from others
  • Blog/Vlog
  • Host a Webinar
  • Stay top-of-mind by sending an e-mail newsletter containing a mix of articles that feature them and articles important to the current industry
  • Curate industry-related resource collections

Generating social proof for salespeople and your organization concurrently is no small feat. Now is the time to take cues from any existing social proof strategies you might already be using for your organization and use them to develop that strategy for your sales team. If you’re using predictive analytics to track prospect behavior for your company’s awareness campaign, for example, or are seeing success in your company’s social media strategy, you need to apply that to your efforts to social proof your salespeople as well.

Step #2: Identify an area of focus for each salesperson.

How do you want to position each salesperson? Is one person the guru on using your service in the healthcare industry, while another has a long history working in IT? If you’re marketing your sales team, you need to decide where to take their personal brands – there needs to be focus. At Market Resource Partners, for example, we have a transplant from Latin America who moved to work in our Philadelphia office. She is our expert in helping organizations who are looking to expand their geos into LATAM – she has personal experience with the tech landscape in that region, and it’s very easy for her to help our big clients expand. It’s more business for both of us.

Step #3: Allocate resources.

Social proofing is a full-time job. Luckily, lots of organizations hire junior-level content creators who are experts at what they do. If you have an existing staff of employees who own the content realm, find out who has the bandwidth to take on this new responsibility. If not, you might want to consider hiring reinforcements or even outsourcing certain tasks.

Step #4: Restructure your hierarchy.

No traditional sales team hierarchy has room for a marketing person – but that’s about to change. After you’ve completed the step of finding the resources to create content for your salespeople, it’s time to consider marketers who are social proofing the sales team as actual members of the sales team, nested below the salespeople they’re responsible for marketing. The marketer will get the benefit of working closely with the salesperson he or she is branding, the organization will benefit from the department overlap, and it takes you one step closer to sales-marketing alignment.

jimreganJim Regan founded MRP with Kevin Cunningham in 2002 and oversees LATAM for the company. As the CMO, Jim is responsible for keeping MRP on the cutting edge of marketing services and works on the architecture and execution of MRP’s internal marketing efforts. Jim also oversees the management of MRP’s growing team of internal marketing managers, marketing coordinators, and account executives – coaching, training, and constantly challenging the team to excel.

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A Millennial Goes to the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia


By Chelsea Lovelace

How did I end up at my first-ever Sales 2.0 Conference this week in Philadelphia? Twitter.

I’m just starting my career in sales, and I use Twitter all the time to network with industry experts and learn as much as I can. One person whose writing and ideas I like and admire is Anthony Iannarino, who publishes fantastic content on The Sales Blog. We connected a few times online and discussed some of the insightful concepts from his book. About a month ago, he sent a tweet inviting people to hear him speak as part of a panel discussion at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on November 14. I reached out right away and said it would be an honor to join. Soon after, I was excited to see a reply from him saying, “You’re in!”  

I had never been to an event like the Sales 2.0 Conference before, and the agenda looked impressive. I was excited to be in the company of some amazing people, including Anthony. I was also looking forward to hearing and maybe meeting Alice Heiman (formerly of Miller Heiman and now a sales coach and author), Gerhard Gschwandtner (founder of Selling Power magazine), and Kevin Higgins (CEO of Fusion Learning, Inc.).

My goal in coming to the event was to develop myself personally and professionally. Right now I work as a corporate product educator for a merchant processing company (the largest independently-operated acquirer in North America). One day I want to be a sales leader and sales coach. In my current role, I’m responsible for educating our sales force on our product – what it does, how it can be a good fit with customers, and how they can best sell the product. I really want our salespeople to be successful and I develop material (video, podcast, live Webinars, individual training sessions, in-person training, etc.) to help them 1) learn and 2) present our products to customers effectively.

What did I learn on Monday in Philadelphia? Here are key quotes and insights from five presentations.

Insight #1: “Driving a sales organization by focusing on results is like driving a car by looking in the rearview mirror.” Kevin Higgins, Fusion Learning (“New and Advanced Approaches to Developing Sales Culture and Leadership”)

It’s clear that many sales leaders get so caught up in results that they forget to look at how they arrived at those results. If you focus only on the outcomes, you lack the information you need to guide a coherent strategy for long-term success.

So much of the time, we don’t really see our customer as the customer. It’s transactional. Don’t focus on what you can do for your deal count, your paycheck, your bottom line.

Insight #2: “Customer experience is the new battleground, and it’s personal.” Nicholas Kontopoulos, Global VP of Fast Growth Markets Marketing, SAP Hybris (“The Measure of Customer Experience”)  

Salespeople need to show prospects that they care about their success. That is part of the customer’s buying experience. To be truly effective, salespeople need to think about what the customer’s customer needs. That is a great way to differentiate yourself and add value as a salesperson.

Insight #3: “In buyer relationships, the salesperson does not convert the buyer; the buyer converts the salesperson.” Adrian Davis, President, Whetstone Inc. (“Outside In: Where Sales and Strategy Meet”)

In a relationship with a prospect, the salesperson starts off as a stranger. This is where the relationship between the salesperson and the buyer is transactional. Gradually (if you can), you move to build a foundation of trust so you can become a “desired supplier,” (where you create an emotional connection with the buyer). From there, you can move on to “trusted advisor,” and, eventually, “strategic ally.” This is the highest level, where you as a salesperson are actually helping shape the decisions of the customer’s company.

Insight #4: “Always be connecting.” Rob Jeppsen, CEO, Xvoyant (“Call Your Shot: Predicting Sales Performance through Coaching”)

It’s not always about asking for the close or delivering your product pitch. Success in sales is about who you can develop relationships with. Who can you connect with? Even if you might not be able to help someone today, you might be able to help him or her in the future. This principle holds true for sales managers as well. When it comes to motivating salespeople during coaching, managers need to uncover what drives the salesperson’s desire to change. It’s focusing on that intrinsic motivator.

Insight #5: “The key to sparking a new purchase is that person-to-person interaction.” Jennifer Stanley, Partner, McKinsey & Company (“B2B Digital Sales: Separating the Myths from Reality”)

It has been said that, by 2030, the salesperson in the field will become obsolete. It was reassuring to see Jennifer Stanley present stats showing that buyers prefer human interactions with sellers for many types of purchase decisions. (According to her presentation, based on McKinsey research, 76 percent of buyers said they want a human interaction when they’re initially making a purchase.) My takeaway was that the human element and digital element are equally important. Sales teams can’t rely too heavily on either one alone. In fact, they must be integrated to be effective.

Overall, the thing that was most wonderful about the event (and what made it worth the drive from Cleveland), was that everyone I met was so happy and positive and grateful. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I still thought of sales as a “Glengarry Glen Ross” environment, with an angry sales manager cracking the whip and negativity dominating the sales organization. After this week at the Sales 2.0 Conference, I see it really doesn’t have to be like that. Sales can be – and is – positive and uplifting for many, many people in the profession. I left feeling that I’m on the right career track, and I look forward to growing my career by helping others become successful.

aaeaaqaaaaaaaaugaaaajdiyndg1n2jiltrmmzmtngy0nc04nzkyltblmjlhotayy2i5oaChelsea Lovelace is Corporate Product Trainer at Electronic Merchant Systems (EMS). Find her on Twitter at @LovelaceladyCLE.

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Win Customer Advocates with a Community that Matters


By Andrew Field

In the age of mobile technology – where we’re always on, always connected – customers are much more than customers. They aren’t looking at your marketing message. They certainly aren’t interested in your sales pitch. But they are interested in you.

They want to talk about you and, if you deliver memorable experiences, they will. But why are you memorable? Did you engage with them through an omni-channel experience? Or did they have to wait on the phone for half an hour before they got through to a call center?

Tapping into the power of customer communities builds customer loyalty and naturally drives lifetime value. It also gives you amazing insights into their behavior so you can identify leads, find moments where you can offer a better solution, and inform your sales message.

Here’s how you can reach your customers by empowering their voice, harnessing their collective wisdom, and rewarding their efforts to build a better experience.

Build a Customer Community

At the center of your strategy to grow long-term engagement and loyalty must be a plan for creating a customer community. A customer community is more than a forum, message board, or a few FAQ pages. It is a cohesive, measured, executable strategy elevating and empowering the people who choose to do business with you.

Your journey to a customer community begins with one person – a single customer. Build a portal where customers can search a database of answers, content, and tips. Make it easy to use; make it a pleasure to navigate. This builds a basic foundation for customer self-help, allowing a mobile customer to engage when they want, how they want. Self-service allows you to monitor your customers and get to know them. What are they interested in? What makes them unhappy with your solution? Where can you teach them – and sell them – on the right solution?

Next, populate your community with real people. Make it easy for them to share their stories and solve problems. For many of your customers, a well-populated, active community is their first and last line of customer support. If they can find an answer to their specific question or concern right away, you’ve created a usable community. Jumpstart participation by seeding the community with usable content, then – when customers have concerns – point them to the community as part of your customer care process. Soon, the community will begin to grow itself and you can promote community managers from the users on your site. These managers will be the backbone of your advocacy program, they serve as your voice within your own community.

Finally, close the loop with your community strategy by creating ways to bridge the chasm between self-service and directed (or assisted) service. This is where most companies fail. For example, imagine someone has been searching for answers in your portal, reaching out to other customers, but can’t find any answers. There should be a system in place that automatically routes their concern to a help desk while maintaining their research history so the rep who picks up the phone knows exactly where to start problem solving.

Reward Your Advocates

You have to offer a reward system for your customer advocates and community managers. Send them something they’ll actually use – branded swag, free trials of new products, or a chance to win a substantial prize like a getaway or special behind-the-scenes tour of your offices.

Sending a real, tangible reward drives home how important they are to your growth. Think of your managers as employees – and, in some cases, they may actually justify a job offer. Consider rewarding participation by other members as well: a low-cost send like clothing, a gift card attached to a postcard, or even special invites to online events. Keep the rewards flowing and your advocates will promote your brand with a fresh voice and authenticity you can’t match.

Customer Loyalty Means More Sales

Building a platform for customer community is really about exposing the details of your customer service, your customer experience, and your product details to the world. Make it public – let everyone see how deep your dedication goes.

As you draw more users to the site, invest in tools to capture and monitor their behavior. Build profiles that show when and how they’ll purchase next. Don’t be afraid to use your community as a lead-generation engine, and don’t be afraid to use it as a petri dish for use during testing and exposing new opportunities to challenge prospects and offer a solution.

If you’re exploring customer loyalty programs, want to grow lifetime value, or want to create customer advocates, building a customer community is a win-win. Customers can find the answers they need and get the service they demand – and you get a wealth of knowledge and insight into your customers. There are lots of great solutions to help you build your customer community – from stand-alone apps to tight integrations with your CRM platform.

AndrewFieldAndrew Field is founder and president of Printing for Less (PFL), a marketing technology company providing printing, mailing, and fulfillment services, as well as software solutions that improve marketing effectiveness. Join him at the next Sales 2.0 Conference for his panel discussion,Innovative Ways to Help Reps Reach Peak Performance Levels.”

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What Sales Organizations Need to Be the Best


By Kevin Higgins

First, the bad news. On average, sales organizations are not improving. Four separate Fusion Learning surveys from 2008 to 2016 reveal that, across everything from selling skills to management, the average sales organization remains just that: average.

Now, the good news. Some sales organizations are thriving. These organizations are not altering what they’re doing, but rather how they’re doing it – and how frequently. They’ve evolved in response to the changing marketplace.

What has changed since our last survey in 2013? For starters, selling is just plain tougher now. In North America, the shine is wearing off of the economic recovery. With skittish U.S. markets and consecutive quarterly drops in Canadian GDP, buyers are more conservative and short-term focused. Buyers have also begun to tune out sales and marketing messages after years of bombardment. Indeed, B2B buyers now prefer to research and buy via a self-service Website. In fact, Forrester forecasts this trend will cost a million U.S. B2B salespeople their jobs by the year 2020.

But not all technological advances are bad for salespeople. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is now the most popular management tool, according to Bain’s 2015 Management Tools & Trends Report. In fact, with the dizzying array of technologies now supporting sales force performance, TechCrunch declared 2016 to be the “Year of the Sales Stack.”

So, how have the best sales organizations changed? Let’s first define “best.” To qualify as best in our research, sales organizations must have attained more than 110 percent of revenue plan with more than 70 percent of salespeople at or above plan. Eleven organizations (6 percent) of the 183 responses to our 2016 survey qualified as “best.” Several key differences have emerged between the best and average sales organizations:

  • Frequency. The best sales organizations act with a sense of urgency. This urgency manifests itself in the frequency and consistency with which sales leaders spend direct time with their salespeople. For reference, 60 percent of the best sales organizations hold weekly team meetings; this is compared with the average of 44 percent. Likewise, 60 percent of best sales organizations’ managers hold weekly one-on-one meetings with sales reps, as compared with 25.5 percent of average organizations. These frequent meetings drive accountability and results.
  • Pipeline drives productivity… Interestingly, although more frequent, the best sales organizations’ meetings were rated as only marginally more effective than average. But the impact of the frequent meetings jumps off the page in one category: “Pipeline helps drive productivity.” Here, the best score a whopping 8.6 out of 10, as compared with a pedestrian 6.3 out of 10 on average. Clearly, the best now use pipeline reports more effectively and more frequently. (It’s not that CRM didn’t exist in 2013. It did. But, in 2016, people are actually using it!) These leaders don’t wait for monthly reports. They access instant data on activity. They build these data into their weekly meetings to boost prospecting efforts and have different conversations.

  • … and prospecting. The best scored higher than average in selling skills. Prospecting, in particular, stood out. When asked whether each member of the sales force has the skills to effectively prospect for new business, the best scored 6.4 on a scale of 1-10. This is compared with 5.6 on average, and up from the best’s 5.7 score in 2013. Likewise, in response to a question about whether each member of the sales force makes time to prospect for new business, the best organizations scored 6.8 out of 10. This compared favorably with a 5.5 score in average organizations.

The last point I’ll leave you with is perhaps the most telling. When asked whether the phrase, “We currently have a high performing sales culture” applies to them, the best, by and large, recognized that they did. But, when they were asked whether they were happy with the current state of their culture, they scored themselves lower. They know they’ve got to keep pushing ahead.

The main message here is not that you can’t change your sales culture. Quite the opposite. You can improve through training and proper management. Even in a challenging economy. But saying you want that change won’t cut it. Building a great culture – like a solid pipeline – takes relentless, consistent, and urgent focus on behavior change.

kevinhigginsKevin Higgins is CEO of Fusion Learning, a world-class sales training organization. He takes pride in his great team and the sales performance improvements they help make in their clients’ organizations. Over the past two decades, Kevin has trained thousands of sales managers from Fortune 500 companies, including American Express, BlackRock, BMO, Disney, Expedia, Honda, HSBC, iShares, JTI, Manulife, Pfizer, SAS, Sun Life, Scotiabank, TD Bank, and 3M. An internationally recognized consultant and public speaker on selling, sales management, and learning effectiveness, his passion for lifelong learning is well known and he is respected in the training industry as a “business person working in training – not a training person trying to figure out business.”

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How to Achieve Peak Performance in Sales


By Jamie Crosbie

Peak performance is not reserved exclusively for world-class athletes, brilliant trauma surgeons, or steely-eyed Top Gun fighter pilots. The truth is that anyone can learn to achieve peak mental performance. It is a completely learnable skill for salespeople.

The first step is deceptively simple: embrace your mistakes and see them as growth opportunities.

That’s based on pioneering research conducted by author Carol Dweck, who studies motivation and cognitive performance. Dweck believes we cannot run from failure or stress. Rather, we must develop what she terms a “growth mindset.” The secret to this mindset is to see everything as a progression toward a solution instead of a stopping point.

Learn to See Obstacles as Building Blocks

For instance, in a TED Talk she delivered in 2014, she noted that kindergartners – many of whom had lacked the focus to hold a pencil when they arrived at a Harlem inner-city school – were able to score in the 95th percentile on the National Achievement Test when they were taught that obstacles are not failures, but, rather, natural building blocks to success.

Simply reframing the circumstances strengthened neural connections even when students grappled with difficult concepts. For instance, when students in one high school were faced with passing a certain number of tests in order to graduate, teachers gave them grades of “Not Yet” instead of failing grades. This encouraged students and challenged them to move forward. Instead of fearing failure, they focused more naturally on the challenge.

The children were taught that even failing a test or not understanding a lesson had value because it was part of a larger process. They learned, in essence, that a given situation is not bad or good until you label it so. As with the seniors who needed to pass a class, failure is only failure when we slap a label on it. This is more than a glass-half-empty or glass-half-full mindset; it is a realization that the glass is, and always will be, refillable.

Except for death (and possibly taxes), nothing is static in life. There is no stop sign because everything in life runs on a continuum; one moment flows into the next. What seems to be destruction in one situation can be the turning point in another.

As a sales professional, you understand that perseverance is key to success. There is, however, a bit more involved than simply getting up when life knocks you down. To be a top performer in sales, you have to respond to what looks like abject failure, in a completely different way than most people.

Six Tips to Achieve Peak Performance

Here are six tips to achieve peak performance as a salesperson.

  1. Don’t protect your ego. Embrace mistakes as part of the process of learning. Be unafraid in seeking out the root causes of a given failure.
  2. Remember that most things do not have an end point. Almost anything can be changed into a launch pad if you change the label it carries.
  3. Create a mental safe space and environment. Encourage off-the-wall ideas and creative solutions.  
  4. Practice letting go of treasured processes that continually fail. Be willing to tweak – or even abandon – what does not work by trying many different paths to solutions. In other words, find what works; let go of what does not.
  5. Understand that most things are not inherently good or bad. It is simply our viewpoint that determines how we feel and what we do.
  6. The best way to move forward is not to lament what a situation should be. Rather, embrace what the situation is so you can make it into something even better.

Like any good bodybuilder will tell you, you have to put some time in at the gym if you want to get stronger. In the case of peak mental performance, the best workout space is located between your ears. Remember: Failures are not permanent. They’re simply a “not yet.”  

jamiecrosbieJamie Crosbie is CEO and founder of ProActivate, LLC, and has 20 years of experience in sales leadership and the talent acquisition industry. Previously, she served as vice president of sales at CareerBuilder, where she successfully led a team of 80+ people and exceeded her revenue goals on a quarterly and annual basis. Her sales business experienced 50-85 percent revenue growths annually. Join her at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on November 14, where she will participate in a panel discussion, “Innovative Ways to Help Reps Reach Peak Performance Levels.”

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Three Ways to Empower Your Sales Reps in a Digital World

By Jennifer Stanley

You could forgive the sales rep for feeling a little anxious these days. Artificial intelligence, digital advances, and radical new business models have all promised to fundamentally change the job of the sales rep or even eliminate certain tasks altogether.

But, when it comes to digital, the most recent work and research we’ve done with top digital players and sales organizations reveals that the B2B sales rep remains, in fact, highly relevant to customers.

85 Percent of Buyers Prefer Digital Channels – Except for New Purchases

What’s changed is when and how that relevance occurs as a result of the digital revolution.

This year, McKinsey surveyed 1,200 buyers across the U.S. and Europe, and almost 85 percent of buyers prefer “digital-only” channels for actions like repurchasing the same or similar offers. But, it’s almost the reverse when considering a new product or service. At that point, 75 percent of buyers prefer to engage directly with sales reps. And when they use digital channels to connect, their expectations are high when it comes to speed and accuracy of response.

This shift has profound implications for what companies should do with their digital assets to drive growth and increase the relevance of individual sales reps. Specifically, we see three steps companies can take to better enable their sales force in a digital world.

1. Raise the organization’s digital quotient. Companies that invest in a targeted set of digital capabilities can improve their financial performance – and not just by a percentage point or two. In fact, the B2B companies that master these areas are generating 8 percent more shareholder returns and a revenue growth rate 5x the rest of the field. These digital capabilities include tools, insights, and processes geared especially for sales reps. Since customers place a premium on getting new product insights directly from salespeople, putting “customer-ready” digital content (such as interactive product demos, tailored surveys that can be viewed on tablets, etc.) in the hands of reps anywhere, anytime is now a must-do, not a nice-to-have.

2. Provide customers with more self-serve tools. It sounds counter-intuitive to say that customers will need sales reps more when they can access information on their own via digital channels. But here’s the truth: Customers are hungry to self-discover information about suppliers but still want human connections.

Our 2016 study showed that buyers consistently preferred self-serve, digital access to information and comparison engines. But we also found that customers inevitably hit a wall researching on their own and need detailed answers. When that happens, their preferred method of connection remains well-informed salespeople.

By that point in the customer’s journey, the conversations tend to be more substantive and closer to an actual purchase. This makes the use of self-serve tools ultimately a better use of both the customer’s and sales rep’s time.

3. Help reps move fast, simply. Encourage sales reps to make more use of the simplest digital tools. Embracing a digital workflow can free up more of their time to focus on revenue-generating activities. For example, many CRM applications have mechanisms to standardize or automate common email language, proposal templates or – in the spirit of self-serve – allow customers to schedule meetings directly into sales reps’ calendars.

The digital experience is not, as many suggest, a wholesale replacement for professional sales forces. The leaders won’t be the companies that figure out how to replace sales reps with digital; they’ll be the ones that figure out how to use digital to boost their sales reps.

To hear more about how digital is changing customer needs – and about its impact on today’s sales forces – hear Jennifer Stanley speak at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on November 14.

Jennifer Stanley is expert partner (marketing and sales practice) at McKinsey & Company. Find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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