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.

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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.

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The Five Things You Need to Digitally Transform Your Business

By Keith Krach

As DocuSign chairman, I know a little something about how to conduct a digital transformation. With our digital transaction management platform, DocuSign has helped more than 300,000 companies in 188 countries around the world launch their own digital transformations.

In the spirit of helping other business leaders on this path, I spoke onstage with Selling Power magazine founder Gerhard Gschwandtner at the 2018 Sales 3.0 Conference in San Francisco last week. I focused on the five digital transformation imperatives and how they can help companies avoid what I call “Failed Transformation Traumatic Syndrome,” or FTTS.

#1: Leadership

The business community has traditionally valued leadership qualities like integrity, strategic thinking, and the ability to engage employees, but a business leader who navigates digital transformation requires additional talents.

Leadership in the context of the first transformation imperative means a willingness to openly communicate with employees, colleagues, and shareholders – not just about victories, but about challenges. In addition to being open about obstacles the company faces, leaders must also act boldly and forgo the status quo when necessary. In turn, the very best leaders inspire the same boldness in their employees by skillfully communicating a shared vision.

#2: Technology

No company can complete a digital transformation without embracing technology. As the second transformation imperative, leaders must approach technology as the catalyst that will push their company to become an industry trailblazer and create a new path that competitors will follow.

Technology demands that leaders not wait for a technology to become mainstream before implementing it, but to adopt early and model the way for others – aligning with strategic technology partners as a way to stay ahead of competitors and capture more of the market.

#3: Mindset

The third transformation imperative relates to a leader’s mindset – the perspective they take when charting a company’s course.

Digital transformation leaders place a high value on three core actions: simplifying processes, building momentum through quick wins, and learning. Focusing on simplifying processes leads to greater efficiency and adaptability and gives the company the ability to zero in on the quick wins that keep the forward motion going. Streamlining operations and netting quick wins promote acceleration and prevent stagnancy, keeping the company from being left behind as the tide of digital transformation continues to flow.

The mindset imperative also requires a leader to remain open-minded about new ideas – as well as open to learning from as many people as possible.

#4: Trust

Trust is no less crucial to business in the digital age than it has ever been – and it may be even more important now as companies expand to global markets.

Customers must be able to trust the businesses with which they interact – and know that the products or services they purchase will work as promised. DocuSign customers are pursuing their own digital transformations and trying to stay ahead. The fourth transformation imperative also emphasizes trust between leaders and their staff members, partners, and shareholders. Mutual trust and respect are absolutely necessary if a leader is to guide a company or a B2B sales team through a digital transformation.

#5: Speed

The number one currency in business today is speed – the primary differentiator between competitors. It’s also the backbone of any digital transformation.

Leadership teams committed to avoiding FTTS and succeeding in the digital age know that the best way to do so is to provide a better quality product faster than the competition can. As I noted in my DocuSign MOMENTUM 16 keynote, it is no longer the big who eat the small in today’s market, but the fast who eat the slow.

Krach has served as the chairman of the board of DocuSign for eight years and previously served as the CEO for six years. Under his leadership, DocuSign experienced 60x growth by building the DocuSign Global Trust Network, made up of more than 300,000 companies, including strategic partnerships with many of the world’s most powerful technology companies. He drove DocuSign’s global expansion from 75 employees to more than 2,000 employees, including four acquisitions. Krach co-founded Ariba (ARBA on Nasdaq) in 1996, serving as chairman and CEO for seven years. Krach took Ariba public in 2000, ultimately achieving a market capitalization of $34 billion and becoming one of the fastest growing software companies in history.

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Quick Insights from the Sales 3.0 Conference in San Francisco

This week in San Francisco we hosted hundreds of B2B sales leaders at the Sales 3.0 Conference. We learned a lot about how to balance technology with the human element of selling to help both customers and sales teams thrive. Here are some quick highlights.

In his presentation, “Leading is Learning, Joshua Camden of Sales Performance International argued that true leaders must continually learn and develop the disciplines crucial to their professions while institutionalizing learning across their teams. By instilling learning, true leaders become facilitators to help team members grow professionally through new knowledge, better understanding, and better coaching.

Does your sales training fall on deaf ears? Shari Levitin, who presented “The Four Pillars of an Effective Training and Coaching Program,” said research confirms 87 percent of traditional sales training doesn’t stick. She shared how to reduce the time and effort it takes to develop your training program, while increasing its effectiveness through the use of facilitated learning.

Scott Collins pointed out in his presentation, “An Inescapable Evolution: Sales and Marketing in the World of Digital Buying,” that successful sales leaders think of their reps as just one of many channels. To sell effectively, today’s B2B suppliers must understand how customers move easily and frequently between digital and in-person buying channels in a far more fluid and continuous process than most organizations are currently designed to support.

In his breakout session, “Going Above and Beyond: Better Coaching, Better Performance,” Ed Ross tackled a subject many leaders struggle with: change. To master change, focus on change itself — not results, said Ross. As he said, high-performing companies ensure sales managers are proficient in three key areas: 1) identifying gaps in performance and/or development; 2) understanding “how,” “when,” “where,” and “why” to coach based on “right time, right tools” protocols; and 3) applying analytics to reinforce, drive, and reward coaching behaviors.

Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder of Selling Power magazine, said that a digital era requires sales leaders to examine their mental habits and daily mindset. He encouraged sales leaders to ask themselves how they can keep improving on a continuous basis.

Sales leaders should remember that kindness empowers your salespeople and creates a strong culture. Jim Hooker, CEO of Televerde, who presented “Relationship Status: It’s Complicated …” shared that his company makes a point to employ and give opportunities to women in prison (both during and after they serve their time). According to Hooker, sales teams are unique because they need to be likable and provide value and guidance to customers. No matter what your culture or sales methodology, the ultimate goal of a sales leader is to help your team build a trusted relationship with your clients.

Sales leaders can’t afford to fall behind the technology curve. In his presentation, “Delivering Accurate Forecasts – How Companies Like Dell, Splunk, Zuora, and MongoDB Went from Complicated and Inaccurate Spreadsheets to an AI/Machine Learning Platform,” Stephen D’Angelo of Aviso said every sales leader should take steps now to embed artificial intelligence (AI) into their sales processes. Waiting could hurt your team’s competitive edge. 


In a conversation onstage with Selling Power magazine founder Gerhard Gschwandtner, DocuSign chairman Keith Krach shared several leadership lessons, including the importance of getting buy in from the people you lead. “People support what they help to create,” Krach said. He also said that a diversity of people leads to a “diversity of thought,” which is a lesson he learned from his mother. “That is the catalyst for genius … [and] the secret sauce for authentic leadership.”

Thanks to all our attendees, speakers, sponsors, and staff for a terrific two days in San Francisco. You can register now to join the Sales 3.0 Conference in Philadelphia in June, or sign up to receive alerts when the agenda is announced for the Sales 3.0 Conference in Las Vegas this October.

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Here’s Why Social Media Is Not a Time Suck for Sales

By Alice Heiman

You probably think you don’t have an hour every day for social media. You may see time on social media as a time suck.

Instead, I encourage you to think about it as a necessary business activity. Staying active on social media is an ideal way to learn about the people and brands you need to know.

For now, I know you can start with 15 minutes a day. Here are a few things you can do in just 15 minutes. Choose one or two of these things to do daily.

  • Post an activity: Share an upcoming event, a quote, a photo, or a link to an article. The content can be from your company, one of your clients, or industry related.

  • Click like, comment, or share: Look through the activity feed and see what others are up to and click like, comment, or share. Have your list of customers and prospects handy and be sure to check what their companies have posted. See what individuals you follow have posted so you can interact. You can probably do 20or so a day. This works on every platform. Some have a like feature; some have a heart. It’s just a quick way to keep in touch.

  • Check LinkedIn and Facebook groups: If you are in groups with your customers and prospects, check those groups to see what activity is important. Find people to connect with there. Share an interesting article, video, or idea.

  • Check messages: Respond to messages from customers and prospects and leave the rest for another day if you run out of time. If they are spammy sales messages, delete them and maybe disconnect from that person.

  • Accept invites: Look to see who wants to connect – and research them before you reject. If you don’t know the person, read their profile, see what they post, and check their Website. If they could be a prospect or referral source, accept the connection. Then send them a message to get a conversation started. Connect only to people with whom you are willing to develop a business relationship; otherwise, there is no point. (There are some who will disagree with me on this.) It’s quality, not quantity, that matters.

  • Send connection requests or follow: Be sure you are connected to or following your coworkers, former coworkers, clients, colleagues, and classmates. If you meet people at events, find them online and follow or connect with them.

  • Send a private message: Find key people with whom you want to interact and send them a quick note, a link to an article, or an event they will find interesting. You can do this on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Snapchat. The private message is for people with whom you are already connected.

Those are some things you can do in 15 minutes – and all of them are easy to do from a mobile device.

We all have the same 24 hours to prioritize, plan, schedule, and get the important things done. In person, at a networking event, I can only effectively connect and have conversations with about five new people. In an hour on the phone, I might be able to have a meaningful conversation with two to four people. For me, networking online can be so much more efficient and just as effective. That’s where LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat work best. In one hour, I can connect with at least 20 people in a variety of ways.

A version of this post originally appeared on Alice Heiman’s blog as “How an Hour a Day on Social Media Can Grow Your Sales.”

Alice Heiman is founder and CSO at Alice Heiman, LLC. Alice works with business owners to get consistent and sustainable sales growth – and has been helping companies increase sales for more than 20 years. She regularly emcees the Sales 3.0 Conference and is a certified Peak Performance Mindset trainer. Join her at the Sales 3.0 Conference in San Francisco on March 12-13.

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The Art of Storytelling in Enterprise Sales

By Sharon Gillenwater

The art of storytelling is suddenly everywhere. Recently, within the space of two weeks, I attended three different sold-out storytelling events. One was produced by The Moth and another was produced by Pop-Up Magazine, both of which are setting up shows all over the country. (By the way, if you get a chance to attend a Pop-Up Magazine event, do it – it was fantastic!)

Anyway, these events got me thinking about why storytelling is so powerful – and how it can be used in B2B sales.

There has been a fair amount written about using storytelling in business, including this from a 2014 HBR article:

“Life happens in the narratives we tell one another. A story can go where quantitative analysis is denied admission: our hearts. Data can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire them to act; to do that, you need to wrap your vision in a story that fires the imagination and stirs the soul.”

“Wait a minute,” you might be thinking. “I sell cloud-based social graphing software designed to activate influencers and optimize conversion through the sales funnel. How could I possibly come up with a story that stirs the soul?”

Did I just make my point?

In an era of unrelenting jargon – that seems to change weekly – being able to tell your customers a simple and relevant story is more important than ever. If you can bring your value proposition to life in a way that captures the imagination of your customer, you’ve just gained a valuable edge over the competition.

Why Is Storytelling So Powerful in Sales?

At Boardroom Insiders, I spend my days talking to customers – who are primarily technology sales and marketing leaders – about why they should be focused on engaging C-level customers.

A short time ago, I came across one of the most compelling stories I have ever found about the difference C-level engagement can make. Regular readers of this blog are probably familiar with this story, but, at its most basic, it goes like this:

Once upon a time, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff had a vision. He believed he could grow his company faster if he could only get his sales team to sell directly to CEOs. One day he got the chance to hire “the best sales executive in enterprise software history.” His name was Keith Block. Benioff shared his vision with Block and told him to make it happen. Block set to work and, before too long, Benioff and Block were flying all over the world – meeting with CEOs and helping their sales teams close eight- and nine-figure deals. The company’s sales soared. Analysts and investors fawned over their success and demanded to know their secret. Benioff and Block said it was simple: they were selling directly to CEOs.

You can read a lot more about this particular story in a recent post. I share it as an example because – whether it is on our blog, shared informally with a customer, or presented as part of a formal speaking engagement – this story never fails to capture our customers’ attention and generate a lot of questions. In other words, it engages our audience probably more than any other story we tell.

It also helps us in that it provides an incontrovertible proof point for doing exactly what we preach at Boardroom Insiders. And, by the way, Salesforce is a Boardroom Insiders customer, which helps make a strong case for partnering with our company.

Notice, in this particular story, we spend zero time talking about ourselves; the customer is the hero, not Boardroom Insiders.

Put the Customer at the Center

Effective B2B sales stories should put the customer at the center,  says Cathy Salit, the CEO of Performance of a Lifetime. The vendor’s role, she says, is to be the supporting character who is there to help the hero/client achieve his or her goal.

So far, we have been talking about pretty high-level stories that bring a general value proposition to life, but there are also opportunities to craft more customized stories that tie directly to a particular customer’s world – their role, their objectives, and even their pain points.

For example, Bill Rhodes, chairman, president, and CEO of AutoZone, said on a recent earnings call, “We understand we have to be able to share information and process seamlessly between our stores, commercial shops, phone, and online experiences in order to meet all of our customers’ needs. We realize, as customers have become much more tech and mobile savvy, we have to have a sales proposition that touches all the ways they desire to interact with us. Our current and future technology investments will lead to sales growth across all of our businesses. The focus is on making sure AutoZoners can see inventory availability across the entire organization – not just their store – swiftly and accurately.” Rhodes even went on to detail the company’s inventory availability initiatives.

Now, you could build a story for Rhodes around data and quantitative proof points such as “Customers who implement our solution see X percent improvement in blah blah blah…” but remember the quote we shared above:

“Data can persuade people, but it doesn’t inspire them to act.”

How could you build a story for Rhodes that has a more relatable human focus – and then support it with data? Have you worked with other customers who needed to accomplish something similar around customer data and/or inventory management? Can you draw from your experiences with these customers to craft a story with a real human hero who had similar challenges to overcome?

If you do this correctly, your customers will be leaning forward, eager to hear more. You’ll have found a relevant and non-self-serving way to educate them about what your company does. You’ll have given them an idea about how another company solved a problem they have; you can bet they will give it some thought – and, while they are thinking about it, you and your company will also be top of mind.

Which is why “tell them a story” should be a mantra for salespeople and marketers.

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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The Biggest Highlights of the Sales 2.0 Era

This blog post is excerpted from “How to Help Your Sales Team Achieve Breakthrough Results in the Sales 3.0 Era.”

Sales 2.0 was the beginning of selling in an era of advanced technology, and it taught sales and marketing professionals to trust in the “science” of selling.

Perhaps the standout statistic of the Sales 2.0 era came from SiriusDecisions, which reported that “67 percent of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally.” In some cases, customers were now bypassing salespeople almost entirely, particularly in the early stages of their buying journey. This was an entirely new world for salespeople who were accustomed to educating prospects as part of the “engagement” stage of the traditional sales funnel.

Selling Power magazine founder and Sales 3.0 Conference host Gerhard Gschwandtner defined Sales 2.0 using the following three categories: 1) people, 2) process, and 3) technology. Specifically, this included new opportunities to:

  • Collaborate effectively with marketing teams
  • Motivate and incentivize salespeople
  • Manage the sales pipeline
  • Help salespeople find new customers
  • Target new markets
  • Maintain customer relationships

The Sales 2.0 era trends were driven largely by technological developments and shifts in customer buying behavior. Here are just some of the highlights.

The “hybrid” sales rep. The term “hybrid rep” emerged in the Sales 2.0 era to describe the shifting state of field sellers, who, thanks to advances in sales enablement tools (including virtual reality tools and video chat services), no longer had to travel to 1) prospect or 2) move the sale to the next stage.  

Content captures customers. Because salespeople and buyers were now spending lots of time online, B2B companies scrambled to create a Web presence that could be leveraged for lead-generation efforts. They found the best way to attract customers was to create content that was useful and actionable. By using the right keywords, companies could leverage powerful search-engine algorithms to “attract” customers to their Websites.

The rise of inside sales teams. Enterprise companies began making concerted investments in inside sales teams, shifting headcount from field sellers to inside sellers.

Managing millennials. As Boomers moved into executive roles, millennials began to move into entry-level sales and marketing positions. These digital natives brought a whole new perspective to the world of sales. They understood that, to succeed in sales, a personal online presence was as vital as a Rolodex had been to sales reps in past years.

Flip your sales funnel. B2B buyers used to follow a fairly linear path to purchase, starting with “awareness” and ending in “action” (aka, a purchase decision). In 2006, Seth Godin released an e-book, Flipping the Funnel, which advocated that marketers take a traditional funnel and “turn it on its side,” thereby creating a “megaphone” to attract a dedicated and loyal base of customers. In 2010, Joseph Jaffe released Flip the Funnel: How to Use Existing Customers to Gain New Ones, which built on Godin’s original ideas: namely, that so-called “interruption marketing” was becoming less and less effective in an age where buyers could simply go online to get information (including specs and pricing) about offerings, as opposed to connecting with sales reps during the initial phases of the purchasing journey.

Social selling. When platforms like Facebook and Twitter first emerged, few people in the sales profession could have guessed that one day they would be valuable resources for prospecting, nurturing customer relationships, and even closing deals. Again, rather than “interrupting” customers with unwanted messages, social selling developed as a collegial way to gather information about customer needs and preferences, as well as to broadcast both “one-to-many” and “many-to-many” messages.

What will the Sales 3.0 era hold for sales teams? Register now to join us at a Sales 3.0 Conference in 2018 and learn from our expert speakers, or download our latest report, “How to Help Your Sales Team Achieve Breakthrough Results in the Sales 3.0 Era.”

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New LinkedIn Sales Navigator Features You Should Know About

By Doug Camplejohn

Today, more than 80 percent of the Forbes Cloud 100 use Sales Navigator to meet their revenue goals. The first ever Sales Navigator Q1 Release contains some compelling new features and updates, including:

  1. New Integrations with Oracle Sales Cloud, InsideSales.com, and More

The recent launch of the Sales Navigator Application Platform (SNAP) marked a new era of Sales Navigator as an open platform. Our goal was to provide key Sales Navigator insights directly within the applications salespeople use daily – in categories like CRM, marketing automation, business intelligence, sales acceleration, Web conferencing, and eSignature.

At launch, we announced our first wave of more than two dozen partners, including Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, and Marketo. More than half of those planned integrations are live, and we’re announcing four more that are joining the ranks and are available today: Demandbase, InsideSales.com, SugarCRM, and Oracle Sales Cloud.

  1. A Redesigned Account Page

Building your book of business can be a painful experience.

Our redesigned account page experience streamlines the process of landing new accounts – or building relationships within existing accounts – by giving you the information you need, when you need it. Now you can better understand whether the account is a good match, who you should be targeting, and how you can get a warm introduction.

Account Pages features three new updates, including:

  • Company Summary: Determine if an account is relevant by getting insight into employee count, industry, revenue, and contact information – making it faster and easier to identify the companies you want to do business with.
  • New People Tab: Organize account contacts into three important groups: saved leads, recommended leads, and connections into the account.
  • News and Insights Tab: Get updates when your prospect or account is mentioned in the news, posts on LinkedIn, or has meaningful headcount or personnel changes.
  1. Auto-saved Search Preferences

You know your target – you want to find companies in specific locations, industries, and sizes and you want to find people in specific functions and of sufficient seniority. Now, Sales Navigator will not only save those sales preferences to provide customized lead recommendations; it will also give you the opportunity to apply those as filters to any advanced search with a single click. You can easily hone or modify your searches to focus on the targeted people you care about most.

For instance, if you have saved sales preferences to locate Chicago-based marketing VPs in advertising companies with more than 500 employees – and want to see who at the CXO level fits the same location, function, industry, and company size criteria – you can simply press the toggle in the advanced search box to apply your sales preferences, then swap in “CXO” for “VP” in that filter. This makes it easy to find the right people for your next deal.

  1. Custom Sales Alerts

For salespeople, relevant and timely signals matter – and can make the difference between a missed opportunity and a closed won deal. You can now get email alerts when saved leads view your profile, so you know when they show interest and may be more inclined to buy.

  1. Seat Transfer

Starting today, we will release Sales Navigator product updates on a quarterly cycle to provide advanced communications and training for administrators and users so they have adequate time to familiarize themselves with new features and take advantage of them properly.  

If you’re a sales professional who just got hired at a company with its own Sales Navigator team or Enterprise Edition corporate contract, we’ve made it easy for you to bring your Sales Navigator data with you without needing to contact LinkedIn customer support.

To learn more about the updates in today’s announcement, visit our page here.

Doug Camplejohn is head of products for LinkedIn Sales Solutions. He is formerly the founder and CEO of three startup companies: 1) myplay (digital music locker, acquired by Bertelsmann), 2) Mi5 Networks (web security gateway, acquired by Symantec) and 3) Fliptop (predictive analytics software for B2B sales & marketing, acquired by LinkedIn).

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