Are Your Beliefs About Success Holding You Back?

Sandler training leadership

By Jim Marshall

One of the biggest obstacles to success for any sales executive is the “negative self-talk” that often results from the day-to-day realities of the profession: prospecting for new clients and customers, dealing with stalls and objections, inability to reach decision makers, increased competition in the marketplace, etc.

The most difficult to overcome, however, just may be the frustration of constantly hearing “no” or “I’m not interested.” Many sellers struggle with the fear of rejection without understanding or appreciating the fact that hearing “no” is natural and just part of the game. The best hitters in Major League Baseball fail seven out of ten times. NBA legend Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Some of the greatest business leaders throughout history were also some of the biggest failures; they simply didn’t let those failures affect them like others did.

The results can be devastating if sellers allow fear of failure and rejection to adversely affect their performance. Admittedly, easier said than done, but how does one combat the seemingly inevitable? Here’s what worked for one of our clients:

Andrew was still relatively new to his company and industry, and had been on the job only about a year. He learned the business quickly and his performance was a credit to the team.  Having originally been hired in a customer service role, he was promoted to an inside sales position – although he had never previously been in sales or business development. A very likable guy, Andrew was ill prepared for the large volume of nos, voicemails, hang-ups and downright rude “suspects” he often encountered. Consequently, his attitude suffered, his confidence waned, he became rather withdrawn, and his passion for his company and the industry was greatly diminished. In short, he didn’t believe he could succeed in his position.

In an offline conversation with Andrew, I learned that he was working hard to support his nine-year-old son. Andrew was divorced, and he himself came from a broken home. The difficult childhood he and his siblings had endured had torn his own family apart, and he was absolutely determined not to have history repeat itself with his son. As he related to me the countless hours he spent with his son on homework, on trips to the ball field and basketball court, and on weekend outings, he became quite animated. His voice rose, he began sobbing uncontrollably, and his passion for his life’s devotion to his son was unquestionable. A very moving discussion!

At that point, I asked Andrew two very simple and direct questions: “What do you suppose might happen if you could harness the same level of conviction in your job that you have in your son? What if you truly believed that rejection is normal and that some prospect out there actually does need your product/service – your job is to simply find them?”

Andrew’s perspective (and performance) turned around in a matter of days, and he is now one of the top performers at his company. He now takes pride in the fact that he can get a “no” from a prospect quicker than anyone else on his team, and he has come to the same realization that many sales professionals have long embraced: every “no” he gets from a prospect puts him one step closer to a “yes.”

How do you deal with your negative self-talk?

Jim Marshall SandlerJim Marshall is owner and president of Tampa Bay Sales Development, LLC, Sandler Training. Email him at jmarshall@sandler.com or call him at (727) 796-1500.

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Why Are B2B Buyers Leaving Your Website?

b2b buyers existing your website

By Dianna Huff

Whenever I’m considering a new business purchase, my standard operating procedure is to research alternative products or solutions online. In fact, I take months to make a decision because I spend the time to evaluate how the new application will fit into my existing processes and integrate with other business apps. I’ve also learned (the hard way) to read review sites for ratings and feedback before making a purchase.

B2B buyers operate in a very similar way. Marketing hype, however, would have us believe that people make spur-of-the-moment decisions. Vendors develop their websites with this expectation in mind – that buyers will come to the website, read a few pages, and presto, will immediately convert by calling, emailing, or signing up for a trial offer or demo.

Thinking through my own research process for the last three applications I’ve purchased – accounting, CRM, and application syncing – I can now see that the vendors I chose all had content-rich websites that supported my research process.

The findings from the annual B2B Web Usability Report – launched in conjunction with my colleagues at KoMarketing – support this thinking. For example, consider what we learned from our 2014 survey:

  • 37 percent of survey respondents indicated they’ll visit a website three to five times
  • 33 percent of respondents said they do so because they want to research third-party references.

Our 2015 report reflects responses from 262 people, including presidents and CEOs; COO, CFO, CTO, and CMO positions; managers and executives; directors and vice presidents; analysts and specialists; and consultants. Our questions were designed to uncover the factors that cause a buyer to leave a vendor website and perform further research.

What did we discover? The number-one reason B2B buyers leave your site is to evaluate competitive products or solutions.

As you can see in the chart, 87 percent of survey respondents indicated this is why they leave a vendor website and then come back – multiple times.

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Whether you’re offering a software app or you’re an industrial manufacturer, you need to create content assets that help buyers through this research process. Here are five elements you need to incorporate into your B2B website to keep buyers engaged.

1) Authentic testimonials – I do appreciate when a company provides extended testimonials that include the person’s name, company name, a photo, and the person’s words just as if he/she were speaking, as you can see in the following PieSync example. Testimonials like this are authentic, which helps build credibility and trust (one of the key research findings for our 2015 survey).

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PieSync testimonials

2) Features – Explain to buyers how your product or solution works. Give information about how it syncs with other apps or works on a smartphone. Use lots of screenshots so buyers can see how it works. Let people know the benefits of these features.

I like how Freshbooks uses whimsical graphics to explain the software features. The whimsy shows that Freshbooks is easy to use and built for small business owners rather than accountants.

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Freshbooks illustrated feature

3) Capabilities – If you’re a manufacturer or service provider, help people see the talents, skill sets, and expertise you bring to the table. Use graphs and short paragraphs to explain how these all tie together and how they benefit the prospective buyer. Help buyers understand what makes your company the right choice for them.

In this screenshot, you can see how Acme Wire Products used a graph and text to explain their turnkey wire forming capabilities.

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Acme Wire Products capabilities page

4) Ratings – If buyers can rate your product on third-party review sites, list the rating on your website – even if it’s not a 100 percent rating. Most people don’t expect perfection; what they really want to know is that you’re responsive and will help them if they run into a problem. By being honest about your product or service, you’ll build credibility and trust.

In fact, a WhichTestWon Monarch airlines case study proves this point. SPOILER ALERT! By adding the trust icon, Monarch improved landing page conversions. What I found interesting, however, is Anthony’s comment:

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Comment from WhichTestWon case study

5) FAQs – Before the Internet, prospective buyers would call a company and ask lots of questions to determine if the company could help solve specific challenges. (I know this for a fact because, in the old days, I used to answer four phone lines and had to answer these questions!) Help buyers educate themselves by providing this information on your website and include answers to everything – from how your product works and your business hours to how to receive free samples or move forward with an RFQ.

Here you can see that Kays Engineering, manufacturer of deep hole drilling machines, answers people’s general questions about machine build time, shipping internationally, and technical support.

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Kays Engineering FAQ page

These are a few examples of how to help buyers determine if your product or solution is right for them. You’ll find lots of other great research and takeaways from the 2015 B2B Web Usability Report, so be sure to check it out.


Dianna Huff is a marketing consultant for small, family-run industrial manufacturers. She’s also the co-author of 101 Ways to Market Your Website, a guide for small business owners, consultants, freelancers – anyone with a website.

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How to Lead by Listening

leaders listening

By Selling Power Editors

Have you ever heard the saying that humans “listen half, understand a quarter, think zero, and react double”?

In his book, Becoming Your Best: The 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders, Steven R. Shallenberger cites this as one of his favorite quotes. Why? He’s found that communication is one of the top concerns among the executives and leaders he’s worked with around the globe.

“Our clients are always looking for ways to improve their communication,” he writes. “But few of them realize that better communication begins not with speaking or expressing yourself, but with listening to others.”

Communication is the heart of business and a classic leadership skill. “Whether we’re talking about a personal relationship in the home or landing a $100,000 business deal, understanding the other person and being a highly effective communicator can make all the difference in the world,” writes Shallenberger.

Tip #1: Listen with empathy in mind.

When it comes to listening skills, you want to strive to listen in an empathetic way. That means you must do more than simply understand the content of what the person is saying.

Shallenberger says many leaders listen “with the goal of finding a solution or resolution rather than simply trying to understand the person’s feelings as well as his words.” But, if you want to capture the hearts and minds of the people you hope to influence, you must seek to connect with them on an emotional level.

Tip #2: Make eye contact.

When you’re talking face to face, don’t let your attention wander. The best way to do this is to make good eye contact.

True leaders understand how to hold someone’s gaze as they’re speaking. They do so in a way that makes the speaker feel he’s the most important person in the world. Maintaining steady eye contact conveys that you are fully present and receptive. When speakers sense this energy from you, they’ll be more open and feel that you’re someone they can trust.

Tip #3: Pause and repeat what you think you’ve heard the person say.

Providing feedback on what you’ve just heard is a critical component of active listening. Shallenberger suggests using such phrases as, “Just to make sure I understand, you’re saying that …” or, “I want to get this clear in my head: you feel that ….”

The mark of a great leader is the ability to pause and provide your understanding of what you’ve just heard. This is evidence that we’re truly listening. What if you missed something or misheard? Perfect – now you can work to create alignment. If you had not stopped to repeat what you heard, you wouldn’t have known there was a problem.

When practicing this skill, make sure your tone and manner aren’t hostile, defensive, or patronizing. “If it’s sincere, it shouldn’t feel like an interrogation,” Shallenberger writes.

When you listen openly, sincerely, and empathetically, you become the kind of leader that people want to follow.

As Shallenberger puts it: “Think about the people you value as mentors and guides in your life, and you’ll probably realize that one of the things you value most about them is that they are willing to listen to what you have to say.”

What are some of your best tips for leaders who want to become active and engaged listeners? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Learn How to Validate Your Salespeople in Four Easy Steps

Lee D'Angelo

By Lisa Gschwandtner 

After 25 years of interviewing thousands of people about every topic under the sun, what has billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey learned about human nature? Everyone wants to be validated.

In a fireside chat about leadership and career at Stanford University, she revealed that everyone she interviews asks her the same question at the end of the conversation. “Was that okay? How did I do?” This pattern holds true for the very famous and powerful as well as ordinary citizens. “Everybody says that, and now I just wait for it,” she says.

Winfrey says that we all share three basic concerns when we interact with others.

1. Did you see me?
2. Did you hear me?
3. Did what I said mean anything to you?

“That’s what everything’s about,” she says.

If you want to start becoming the kind of leader who validates others, you must first understand that validation is different from praise or positive feedback.

In psychological terms, validation is not about agreeing with others or approving of what they’ve said or done. Rather, it’s about accepting the person – no matter what the person is saying or doing. As Karyn Hall, Ph.D., author of The Emotionally Sensitive Person: Finding Peace When Your Emotions Overwhelm You, puts it, “Validation is a way of communicating that the relationship is important and solid even when you disagree on issues.”

Here are four ways you can lead salespeople by validating them.

1. Give the person your undivided attention.

The first rule of validation is to listen wholeheartedly to whoever is talking. In other words, show the salesperson that you’re not simply waiting for your turn to speak or keeping one eye on your email while he or she talks.

This can be a tough practice for leaders who are used to multitasking and juggling many priorities at once. If it helps, think of how disheartening it is when you talk with someone – whether a client or your own boss – who’s constantly texting or interrupting your discussion to take phone calls. Doesn’t feel great, does it? When a rep comes to you to discuss something, set aside all distractions and really tune in to what he or she is saying.

2. Pause to restate and reflect.

Sometimes sales leaders assume that reps want them to provide immediate answers and solutions. While it’s true that your role is to help and give direction, be aware that sometimes salespeople just need someone to listen to them so they can get some perspective on their issues.

A simple pause to restate what you’ve heard shows that you’ve been listening actively and helps the salesperson hear what he’s said. For example, you could say, “So what I’m hearing is that you’ve sent three emails to the prospect this week and received only one reply in return, which you found vague and confusing.” This simple restatement makes the salesperson feel validated.

3. Notice and remark on the person’s emotional state.

Sometimes people are unaware of the way they’re feeling. This can prolong their distress and make problems more complicated as they’re unable to separate facts from emotions. If you say something like, “What I’m hearing right now is that you’re feeling frustrated and anxious,” you help the person start to identify his or her emotions and gain clarity.

Notice that you are not necessarily saying it is right or wrong to feel frustrated and anxious; you are simply making an observation. This creates greater openness and trust. Because you’ve validated the salesperson, he or she now feels safe in communicating with you in an authentic fashion.

4. Commit to what you have in common.

Again, validation is about underscoring the importance of the person and of your relationship with the person. It is entirely possible for a leader to disagree with someone and still validate him or her.

For example, it might annoy you when a salesperson complains that entering information into CRM is a waste of time. You might be tempted to explode and say something like, “Quit being so lazy! This is something I told you to do, so you’d better start doing it!” However, this is not going to leave the salesperson feeling validated (and probably won’t get the behavior you want, either).

Instead, validate the person by focusing on a commitment the two of you share. In this case, your shared commitment is to the success of the salesperson and to the sales organization as a whole. Accordingly, you might choose to say something like, “I know how frustrating it can be to feel like you’re being asked to do something that wastes your time. Here are three ways you and I both benefit when you enter data into CRM, and here are three ways your actions then benefit the entire company.”

If the salesperson continues to repeat unacceptable behaviors, then you might eventually have to end the relationship. However, if it comes to that point, you’ll be able to do so with compassion – knowing you’ve always practiced the principles of validation.

For more insight about life and leadership from Oprah Winfrey, order her book, What I Know For Sure.

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Lisa GschwandtnerLisa Gschwandtner is Editorial Director at Selling Power and Media Manager of the Sales 2.0 Conference. Find her on Twitter @SellingPower20.

 

[Image via Flickr / Lee D’Angelo]
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How to Tell If Inside Sales is Right for Your Organization

inside sales call center

By Alison Brattle

The structure of most sales organizations hasn’t changed much in the past few decades. The average organization is made up of a number of sales reps working in the field, who meet face-to-face with current and prospective clients. Those field reps are supported by additional staff members and “inside reps” who complete the internal work associated with completing the transaction.

However, that’s slowly changing. Organizations are transitioning their sales staff members from working as external reps in the field, to internal office-based reps who work primarily via phone and email. The inside reps are no longer support staff who do the “back end” work – they’re now the people who are actually closing deals.

One study by Steve W. Martin surveyed over 100 vice presidents of sales at leading service providers and tech companies and found that 46 percent of sales teams had shifted from the external to the internal model. However, 21 percent had done the opposite, moving from an internal sales model to an external field model. So, while there is some shift either way, there was more than twice as much movement from external to internal – a clear indication of a trend.

The Advantages of an Internal Sales Team

There are some big advantages to be gained from shifting to an internal sales model. One of the biggest is that sales rep training becomes much more effective with an inside model. Under the external model, sales reps don’t necessarily come into contact with one another on a regular basis; but, with reps working internally in the same office space, it’s much easier to provide sales training for new reps, share “best practice” sales tips, and disseminate new information.

According to Steve W. Martin’s survey, 84 percent of respondents who shifted from an external to an internal sales model cited these and similar benefits, as well as this:

  • 79 percent said the internal model provided for more rapid growth of the organization
  • 76 percent said the internal model was more effective for reaching mid-markets and small businesses
  • 78 percent reported increased call activity and volume of sales

Is the Internal Sales Model Universally Superior?

These are some exciting statistics, which definitely point to the value of internal sales, but it’s important to note that this isn’t the best solution for all organizations.

For example, for a newly-established organization, it’s often more prudent to adopt an external model to more effectively build the personal relationships sales reps rely on. As the organization expands, switching to an internal model may become more fruitful, since it provides the ability to integrate new staff more effectively and allows for more rapid growth.

Another highly influential factor is the complexity of the organization’s sales cycle – how many individuals are involved, purchase size and value, and the complexity of the product itself. An enterprise sale cycle, for example, is a long cycle based on high-value purchases involving multiple individuals at various levels of the organization. In these cases, external sales are necessary – again, because selling extremely high-value products over a long period of time is something that relies on the development of more personal business relationships and networking.

On the other hand, a short and simple sales cycle is where the internal model really shines: high volumes of low-value sales, where the customer’s purchasing decisions are made by a single department or individual.

Choosing the right model is key to any business’s growth and future profits objectives. However, in many cases, a mixture of both models is needed at various periods of time in the organization’s cycle. The most important element to consider is timing – when to implement the model (or models) that fit with the company’s current goals and capacity.

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Alison BrattleAlison Brattle is a marketing manager at AchieveGlobal UK, a global sales training and leadership development firm based in London. It specializes in providing exceptional sales coaching and helps organizations develop business strategies to achieve sales success. Find her on LinkedIn.

[Image via Flickrplantronicsgermany]
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5 Things Sales Leaders Should Never Say

Sir Richard Branson

by Lisa Gschwandtner 

If there’s one thing Sir Richard Branson understands, it’s the pressure of conveying a clear message (either in meetings, public statements, or speeches) without sounding negative. According to his book, The Virgin Way: Everything I Know about Leadership, here are five words and phrases he tries to avoid in team meetings and speeches.

1) “That’s not a bad idea.”

If this is your response to an idea, your team won’t be clear on whether you love the idea or hate it. “Not bad” could mean you actually kind of like the idea. On the other hand, you didn’t specifically say you love the idea. Don’t leave your audience confused.

“Be definitive,” writes Branson. “If you approve or disapprove of something, be assertive and make your position absolutely clear, making sure you explain why.”

2) “You’re not going to like this, but …”

This phrase sets up your listeners to hear something negative. As a leader, it’s your job to inspire people and instill them with positive feelings – even if what you’re about to share might upset or frighten them. Branson suggests instead saying something like, “This may be a tough nut to crack, but I’m sure we’ll get it done.”

3) “We’ve had better years.”

Sales leaders are often asked to provide some kind of public commentary on results for the month, quarter, or year, but Branson views the above phrase as a cop out. “People want the truth, not some sugarcoated version of it,” he writes. Admit the reality of your situation and follow up with an honest assessment of how you plan to achieve better results in the future.

4) “That said…”

Branson considers this to be “possibly one of the most destructive phrases in the English language.” When people hear these words, you invalidate anything you said just a minute ago. This can create great resentment among your listeners. “As a verbal bridge from the pros to the cons, try using something like, ‘Of course, we shouldn’t overlook…’” writes Branson.

5) “No comment.”

Branson understands that sometimes leaders aren’t at liberty to discuss sensitive information, but he dislikes this classic approach to discretion. “A stark ‘no comment’ tends to come across like, ‘We’re guilty as hell and don’t want to talk about it until our lawyers have come up with a plausible alibi,’” writes Branson.

Instead, he suggests saying something like, ‘I’m really sorry, but until we gather all the facts, we are not in a position to issue a statement.’

What are some of the key phrases and words you’ve learned to avoid during speeches, meetings, and presentations? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

For more leadership insight from Richard Branson check out his book, The Virgin Way: Everything I Know about Leadership.

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Lisa GschwandtnerLisa Gschwandtner is Editorial Director at Selling Power and Media Manager of the Sales 2.0 Conference. Find her on Twitter @SellingPower20.

[Top image via Flickr / Jarle Naustvik]
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Three Things That Will Boost Your Brainstorming Meeting with Reps

brainstorming meetings

By Lisa Gschwandtner

As a sales leader, you want to welcome new ideas and innovation. Unfortunately, during meetings, many leaders can’t see past what Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen, coauthors of  Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well, call “behavioral blind spots.”

In their book, Stone and Heen discuss the case of “Zoe,” who prided herself on the way she nurtured her team’s creativity during weekly brainstorming meetings. She didn’t realize, however, that people called her Annie Oakley behind her back. “As in, ‘she shoots down every idea,’” write Stone and Heen.

Zoe might never have become aware of the problem had she not decided to have a team member record a few of their meetings using a smartphone. “Zoe was stunned when she listened to the recording,” they write. Here are some of the phrases she heard herself utter:

“Here’s why I doubt that can work.”

“Here’s what I’m worried about.”

During brainstorming meetings, you might think you’re setting high standards or providing constructive feedback when, in fact, others see you as hypercritical. Try these three tips for leading a terrific brainstorming session.

Tip #1: Don’t worry about controlling the meeting.

Zoe truly believed in the benefit of new ideas. The problem was that she was afraid of wasting time during the meetings. Remember, creative energy needs room to breathe. Allow the ideas to flow, and stop worrying that you need to keep the meeting on track.

Tip #2: Stay open, positive, and curious.

Negativity quickly stifles creativity. Even if you can tell that an idea is not going to work, avoid saying so right away. Instead, see if you can pick one aspect of the idea that you immediately like, and focus on that.

For example, if someone suggests a customer-loyalty initiative but you can tell the plan is going to be prohibitively expensive, you might respond by saying, “What I like about this idea so far is that it addresses our key accounts. Let’s see if we can build on that.”

Brainstorming sessions are not the time to challenge ideas. There will be plenty of time to apply critical thinking after you develop ideas more and decide if you want to pursue them.

Tip #3: Plan ahead to capture ideas.

Although it’s ideal to let ideas flow freely, the lack of structure can sometimes mean that ideas become lost once everyone goes back to their desks. If this happens more than once, your team members are likely to be left feeling as though you’ve wasted their time. As a result, they might invest less effort in volunteering ideas.

Ask a good note-taker who’s not a core part of the team to attend the meeting and devote his or her full attention to capturing the ideas. Before the meeting ends, review the notes aloud to make sure they’re accurate and reflect the spirit of the discussion.

If you’re a sales leader, remember that your tone, attitude, and behavior sets the tone for the rest of your team. Also bear in mind that the way you perceive yourself is not necessarily the way others perceive you. Even if you don’t have doubts about how you’re coming across, try recording a meeting or two the way Zoe did. That way, you’ll hear the evidence for yourself.

How do you encourage the free flow of ideas when brainstorming with your sales team? 

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Lisa Gschwandtner

Lisa Gschwandtner is Editorial Director at Selling Power and Media Manager of the Sales 2.0 Conference. Find her on Twitter @SellingPower20.

[Image via Flickr /nhuisman]
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How to Help Your Reps Stand Out on Sales Calls

sales calls

By Lisa Earle McLeod

Imagine two competing salespeople who are about to call on the same customer. Salesperson A is making his call at 10:00 a.m., and Salesperson B is making her call at 11:00 a.m.

Before they go into the call, they both do the exact same thing: they open their laptops to review the customer’s information. As they scroll past the customer’s contact information, the two salespeople see two different things.

Salesperson A sees the projected revenue for this customer and the anticipated close date that he promised his boss.

Salesperson B sees five boxes labeled

1) customer environment,
2) customer goals,
3) customer challenges,
4) what success looks like for this customer, and
5) what lack of success looks like for this customer.

Each box contains a succinct summary of the information Salesperson B has gathered on her previous sales calls.

Which salesperson is going to make the better sales call, Salesperson A, who goes into the call after being reminded about his quota, or Salesperson B, who was just reminded about the customer’s goals?

Who is better prepared to discuss the customer’s most pertinent business issues? Who is going to do a better job of aligning the solution with the customer’s key goals?

If you were the customer, which screen would you rather your salesperson look at before calling on you? Who would you rather do business with, Salesperson A, who shows up thinking about his quota, or Salesperson B, who is thinking about what matters to you, the customer?

Salesperson B is going to make a better call because she’s going to be more focused on the customer. Salesperson A might not be a bad rep, but his customer relationship management (CRM) system set him up for mediocrity.

Why Most CRM Systems Promote Sales Mediocrity

Sadly, Salesperson A, with his pipeline-oriented CRM system, isn’t the exception; he’s the norm. His system set him up to make a mediocre sales call because it focused him on information that’s important to his company (pipeline, revenue projections, close date, etc.), not what’s important to his customer. Without being prompted to focus on the customer’s goals and challenges, Salesperson A will do what most average-performing salespeople do: provide a generic description of his products and services and hope he closes the deal.

Salesperson B has a big advantage: her CRM system set her up to make a customer-focused sales call. By putting up front all the information about the customer’s environment, goals, challenges, and success factors, her system prepared her to connect the dots between the customer’s high-priority goals and her solution.

If the two salespeople’s products and pricing are about the same, the person with the customer-focused CRM system will win. Additionally, even if Salesperson B is selling a higher-priced product, she’ll still win the business, because while Salesperson A’s company has focused him on his quota, Salesperson B has a more noble purpose: to help the customer.

The Huge Mistake People Notice Only When They Start Losing Business

As a sales-leadership consultant, I’ve seen firsthand just how much CRM affects sales behavior. Several years ago, I was working with a major manufacturing firm that had recently implemented a new CRM system with all the bells and whistles. There was just one problem: the expensive new system hadn’t improved the close rate one bit. Company execs brought me in to figure out why. The answer was obvious to me after I spent a few hours in the field with the reps.

The CRM system captured the information that mattered to the company, but nowhere was there a space to record the information that mattered to the customer. There wasn’t a single screen or even a box to record the critical customer information that should be the centerpiece of every sales call. No wonder the reps were getting a reputation as product pushers. We fixed the problem, and not surprisingly, the close rate went up dramatically.

Here’s the big mistake most companies make: they tell salespeople to focus on the customer, but the CRM system is more focused on internal metrics and pipeline management. The result is mediocre sales behavior.

Look at your own CRM system and ask, where is the information about the customers’ goals? Is it buried, or is it right up front? What do your salespeople see when they open their screens? If the information is more company focused than customer focused, you have a big problem.

A good CRM tool delivers useful analytics and reports, but don’t make the mistake of letting the tail wag the dog. The ultimate purpose of capturing customer information is to drive more sales. The information you require your salespeople to gather about their customers influences their sales behavior. Capturing the right information about your customers and pulling it to the front and center of your CRM gives you a huge competitive advantage.

You can be a me-too sales force that says you want to make a difference to customers, or you can be the rare company that actually does. If you want to be mediocre, keep focusing on your pipeline. If you want to be outstanding, choose a more noble purpose; focus on your customer.

Lisa Earle McLeodLisa Earle McLeod is a sales-leadership consultant and the best-selling author of Selling with Noble Purpose: How to Drive Revenue and Do Work That Makes You ProudCompanies like Google, Hootsuite, and Roche hire her to help them create passionate, purpose-driven sales organizations. View her free sales-leadership tips and videos at www.McLeodandMore.com.

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How to Build a Great Relationship with a New Boss

new boss leader

Working with a new boss can be a tense experience. In his book, The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter, Michael D. Watkins outlines a comprehensive program for executives taking on a new role under a new boss. One of his tips is to negotiate terms of success with the new supervisor.

“It’s well worth investing time in this critical relationship up front, because your new boss sets your benchmarks, interprets your actions for other key players, and controls access to resources you need,” writes Watkins. “He will have more impact than any other individual on how quickly you reach the break-even point, and on your eventual success or failure.”

Watkins offers the following tips for establishing a productive relationship with your boss in the first 90 days of your tenure.

  1. Reach out proactively.

Your boss might be the type who sits behind a closed door and doesn’t make an effort to circulate with his or her direct reports. Sometimes executives take this as a good sign or breathe a sigh of relief that their new boss isn’t a micromanager. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Right?

On the contrary, Watkins warns that very little communication from your boss can lull you into a false sense of security. If you receive no overtures from your boss, Watkins recommends reaching out proactively.

“Otherwise, you risk potentially crippling communication gaps,” he writes. “Get on your boss’s calendar regularly. Be sure your boss is aware of the issues you face and that you are aware of her expectations, especially whether and how they’re shifting.”

  1. Bring solutions, not problems, to the table.

Although you want to make sure you give your boss plenty of warning if you see problems developing, you don’t want to become known for being the constant bearer of bad news. Whenever you need to discuss a problem, take time to see the issue from your boss’s perspective and think up some potential solutions. This way, you’ll be associated with positive rather than negative messaging.

Watkins also cautions, however, that you should not develop full-blown solutions to problems before discussing them with your boss.

“The outlay of time and effort to generate solutions can easily lure you down the rocky road to surprising your boss,” he writes. “The key here is to give some thought to how to address the problem – even if it is only gathering more information – and to your role and the help you will need.”

  1. Let your boss’s priorities, goals, and ideas guide your actions.

Caring about what your boss cares about can be an ideal way to establish a collaborative environment. If you’re working on developing a relationship with a new boss, Watkins advocates targeting some of your boss’s preferences and devoting your attention to those areas.

“One good way is to focus on three things that are important to your boss and discuss what you’re doing about them every time you interact. In that way, your boss will feel ownership of your success.”

  1. Don’t expect your boss to change.

It’s always nice when we work with people whose styles are similar to our own; however, you can’t rely on a common working style to build a great relationship with your boss. As Watkins points out, people frequently have different approaches to communication, motivation, and management. Remember that your role is to adapt the style your boss prefers and cater to his or her preferences.

In the book, Watkins describes the case of a man whose new boss had an aggressive, hard-driving approach that did not pair well with his own team-building style. Using the comprehensive 90-day method Watkins outlines, the man was able to take a proactive approach with his new boss and deliver strong results in the first 30 days. After a second month of great results, the man had built the credibility and capital to request that he be judged on his results and not on the manner in which he got them.

Your relationship with your boss is critical. A contentious relationship can spell disaster for all concerned. Use these tips to establish a great working relationship, and you’ll increase the chances that you’ll enjoy productive interactions, smoother communication, and mutual success.

Get more insight from Michael D. Watkins in his book The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter.

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3 Things You Need to Be a Predictive Sales Organization

predictive analytics Selling Power

Do you look into your revenue future and see uncertainty?

If so, that might be because you’re still looking at backward-focused data rather than making predictions based on future-focused insight.

Business Intelligence vs. Predictive Analytics

As early as 2013, experts at Gartner were saying that using business intelligence (which looks back at what happened in the past) was no longer enough to be competitive. Instead, they encouraged leaders to look at the potential of predictive capabilities.

This year, the mission of the Sales 2.0 Conference is to educate business-to-business sales leaders about the power of predictive analytics. The reason predictive tools are so powerful is that they help you answer two key questions:

  1. “What could happen?”
  2. “What should we do?”

What Questions Can Predictive Analytics Answer?

Predictive capabilities improve your ability to make informed, intelligent decisions about how to manage your team and generate revenue. In their book, The Power of Sales Analytics, experts at global sales and marketing consulting firm ZS Associates write that data and technology can be used to address the following common questions for sales leaders.

  • How can salespeople identify the right customer opportunities? What sales activities best seize those opportunities?
  • How can sales activities be organized into effective selling roles? How many people do we need in each role?
  • What is the profile of a successful salesperson? Does our recruiting program acquire the best talent? Are we training and developing the right competencies?
  • What information and tools does the sales force need to create value for customers?
  • Are incentive programs, goals, and performance-management processes aligned to motivate high achievement and drive results?

Three Ways Sales Teams Can Become Predictive

If you want to adapt to a predictive future, you need to take the following three steps.

#1: Embrace your organizational data.

Analytics run on data. The good news: you don’t need any extra data to become predictive. Predictive applications use data you already have to make useful predictions about future events.

#2: Don’t play the waiting game.

Many sales organizations are still behind the data curve. In this month’s Selling Power magazine cover story, Jenny Dearborn, senior vice president and chief learning officer at SAP and a past presenter at Sales 2.0 Conference events, said that very few sales leaders know how to leverage data in a comprehensive way that impacts the sales cycle “from start to finish.”

She observes that, by contrast, leaders who are using data and predictive analytics are driving “breakthrough results.”

To hear specific examples of how these tools are helping sales leaders, join Mike Moorman, managing principal of sales solutions at ZS Associates, at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco in April. His presentation, “Sales Analytics Truths, Myths & Realities: Insight from 30 Years of Sales Analytics Leadership,” will show

  • how leading companies have, are, and will use sales analytics to increase profitable revenue growth;
  • the sales analytics business case;
  • how to achieve world-class sales analytics capabilities.

It can be intimidating to tackle mounds of expanding information about your customers, sales transactions, market potential, competitors, sales activity, and salespeople, but the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to start turning data into predictive insight.

#3: Use your CRM system diligently.

Most sales organizations today rely to varying degrees on a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Ideally, it holds important, useful data related to prospects, pipeline coverage, sales opportunities, and customers; however, salespeople aren’t always using this tool consistently or diligently. As a result, data is often inaccurate, incomplete, or just plain missing.

Becoming a predictive organization will require a culture change, starting with the consistent use of the CRM system. Once salespeople see the results and what predictive tools can do for them, they’ll be ready and willing to do so.

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Lisa Gschwandtner Lisa Gschwandtner is editorial director at Selling Power and manages the Sales 2.0 Conference media team. Find her on Twitter @SellingPower20.

 

[Image via Flickr / Mark Weaver]

 

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