How Well Does Your Sales Team Know the Marketplace?

By Jose Palomino

Most sales teams have a reasonably good grasp of their competition. They’re able to rattle off the key differences between solutions and explain why their product is the best.

But top-performing sales teams take their knowledge further: They understand their industry’s ecosystem and recognize how outside forces can impact both their products and their customers.

Hallmarks of a Top-Performing Sales Team

Current trends play an essential role in shaping how consumers view products, and often dictate whether tomorrow’s customers will buy more or less of what your company has to offer. Thus, a keen sense of the marketplace gives your sales team a powerful advantage.

This “marketplace awareness mindset” is one of the seven hallmarks of top-performing sales teams. The others are negotiating, prospecting, product knowledge, sales acumen, account management, and business acumen. Taken together, they’re the drivers of your sales team’s success.  

Marketplace awareness is especially important because macro trends are often effective predictors. For example, think about Kodak in the late 1990s. Its salespeople were so focused on their main competitor, Fuji, they missed the rapid changes in technology that made digital cameras possible. As a result, the one-time giant was largely unprepared when its film business began to slide.

How to Evaluate Your Sales Team’s Awareness of Market Trends

You can evaluate your team’s understanding of macro trends and their impact simply by asking the right few questions and listening carefully to the answers. To facilitate the conversation, try these ideas:

  • Hold a postmortem to discuss recent sales losses and listen to the way your team describes each situation. If your salespeople can talk about the reasons for a loss in precise terms – and with an eye to what might be common among these situations – they likely have good marketplace awareness.
  • Similarly, a sales professional who understands that a loss resulted from either a competitor’s actions or a change in the customer’s situation is paying attention to events in the market.
  • Look for signs that the team is closely following industry events and global trends. Have they taken the time to prepare strategies for dealing with your competition in light of them?
  • Try asking these pointed questions: Can you name each of our competitors? How well can you articulate your company’s strengths and weaknesses versus each competing firm? Can you describe the market’s historical biases toward our products?

Tips to Help Your Sales Team Develop Awareness of Market Trends

If your team fails to demonstrate marketplace awareness, there are several ways to help them develop it.

  • Routinely challenge them to be sure they have a holistic view of both competitors and trends.
  • Make sure your people are asking customers meaningful questions. For example, which competitors are your customers considering, and why?
  • Help develop sharp answers to competitive threats. While sales teams at larger corporations often get reports from their marketing teams, those at smaller organizations will need to conduct their own competitive research.

Pursuing market and competitive research is something all salespeople should be able to do. To keep themselves informed, have your team  

  • Take advantage of information available on competitors’ websites.
  • Explain to customers and prospects that they’d like to better understand their organization and the marketplace. Have them probe to learn more about your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.
  • Create a Google news alert for each of your competitors, prospects, and customers – as well as for the top keywords about your industry. This is an easy, low-cost way to keep up with marketplace developments. 
  • Look for market research on your industry. Analysts such as Gartner and Forrester examine new products and technologies before they enter the marketplace, and can provide intelligence about what’s coming down the pipeline.
  • Regularly read both the general business and trade media. 

Simply put, it’s not enough to know who your direct competitors are. Sales professionals can effectively position your products and services only if they constantly monitor the marketplace for changes, disruptions, and competitive moves.

JosePalominoToday’s post is by Jose Palomino, CEO of Spyglass Selling.

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Five Tips for High-Quality Meetings with Executive-Level Decision Makers


By Sharon Gillenwater

Dell has one. So do Citrix, CA Technologies, Cisco, Juniper Networks, AT&T, and Extreme Networks, among many others. It’s called an “executive briefing center” (EBC), and it can be one of the best tools in your arsenal for engaging executive decision makers.

For many technology companies, the EBC has evolved into a sophisticated physical space that facilitates both discussion and demonstration. For example, Marnie Merriam – DocuSign’s senior manager for the EBC – describes DocuSign’s EBC as “a space that’s designed to showcase the best of a company. It provides access to executives, helps build customer relationships, and showcases our products –what we can do and how we can help companies move business forward.”

But just as important as the physical space is the quality of the discussion with your customer. This is particularly important from the perspective of busy executive-level customers. They don’t have time to visit your EBC for a product pitch, so you’d better make sure it is a relevant and worthwhile use of their time. 

For example, Citrix describes how it takes a “collaborative approach” to EBC meetings, allowing for “productive conversations that address your company’s unique objectives. Our methods promote goal alignment, technical expertise, and accelerated business success.”

The need for extensive preparation for these meetings cannot be overstated. Lack of insight into the customer and what is relevant to them could not only damage your relationship with the customer, it could permanently tarnish your reputation with your own leadership. Case in point: A Fortune 100 firm senior executive, in support of a regional sales team, flew cross-country to attend a regional EBC – and emphatically swore never to return to support this team as he witnessed an embarrassingly unprepared, unfocused team stumble its way through the meeting. 

Don’t let this happen to you! Read on for five tips that will help you avoid a bad meeting – and be more successful with engaging customers at EBCs.

  1. Outline and rehearse all aspects of your meeting.
    Define your goals for the meeting and the information you want to convey. Articulate each participant’s role and review what they’ll be saying – and to whom, if more than one representative from the customer is at the briefing. Focusing on only the top player can backfire. According to Ned Daubney of Last Mile Research, one sales director lamented that, at a briefing with a CIO, every speaker was focused solely on (and speaking directly only to) the CIO, when it was each of the CIO’s direct reports making all the decisions. The fawning in front of the CIO, he said, was offensively obvious. Preparation would have revealed the importance of the CIO’s direct reports while giving the team the confidence to be flexible if the conversation revealed new insights.
  1. Do thorough research on the customer and the individuals with whom you’ll be meeting.
    You must know the company’s strategy and priorities, who their competition is, what their industry is doing, what their pain points are, with whom they’ve worked in the past (including your company’s own history with them, if there is one), and any hiccups they’ve previously encountered. For the individuals, the more you know, the better you can connect person to person. Insight on the key players uncovers ice breakers that can facilitate personal connections as well as help you better understand their project, department, and organizational goals. As CIGNA Corporation CIO Mark Boxer said, “The companies that do the best with our team are the ones that understand our business, know the competitive landscape, can articulate our strategy, and then orient around those solutions that best help us advance our technology strategy and, more importantly, our business strategy.”
  1. Ask questions but make sure they reveal that you have done homework.
    Don’t ask about things your comprehensive research should have told you. Daubney recalls a state government CIO who was frustrated with IT vendors’ lack of preparation. She now insists that vendors understand her strategy and initiatives before they even walk in her door. “This is public information,” she says. “Find it.” As Mark Hunter of The Sales Hunter has written, this also demonstrates to the customer that asking questions is a key part of your culture, something that cultivates the sharing and learning of ideas – which could set you apart from the competition. 
  1. Demonstrate what you do and provide ROI information.
    Prepare a clear, concise presentation of your offering and the benefits specific to the customer, as well as proof points around what you’ve done for other similar customers. Also, be sure to address how your offering is different from the competition and how it supports the company’s strategy.
  1. Be ready to offer next steps.
    Be attuned to how the conversation and presentation are going and have options prepared for how to move the conversation to the next level.

SharonGillenwaterSharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor in chief of Boardroom Insiders, which maintains an extensive database of the most in-depth executive profiles on the market from Fortune 500 companies to independent nonprofits to help sales and marketing professionals build deeper relationships and close more deals with clients. Gillenwater is a long-time marketing consultant with expertise in marketing strategy, account-based marketing, and CXO engagement programs.

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Do You Have a Negative Mindset about Inside Sales?

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By Anneke Seley and Britton Manasco

It’s been almost eight years since the publication of Sales 2.0 and the first Sales 2.0 Conference. Back then, we – along with Selling Power and the first sales productivity software developers – were among the first to describe how technology, data, and science were changing everything for buyers and sellers.

Exciting changes continue to affect us sales leaders at an accelerating rate. It is time for those of us who led or have since joined the Sales 2.0 movement to share what is happening now in our world with our organizations and our customers.  

The Rising Value of Inside Sales Teams

Reimagined inside sales is one of the strategies driving the off-the-charts results of the fastest-growing startups (what we call “insurgents”) as well as established companies (aka “incumbents”) in the process of transforming themselves to stay nimble and relevant into the next decade. We call this the “Inside Upside.”

Yet, at an exclusive meeting among executive leaders in the inside sales profession, I heard one frustrated executive articulate a common frustration regarding his efforts to grow an inside sales team at his company. “I am surrounded by a bunch of people trying to figure out how to make inside sales acceptable or meaningful within their companies,” he said. “This inferiority complex around the whole thing is bizarre. [Inside sales] is the engine of growth; it’s not something to downplay or soft-pedal.”

The implication is that the inside sales profession has a self-confidence problem. And it’s an issue that’s rooted in the past, yet alive and observable in the present culture of many companies – particularly larger, more established ones.

Dealing with the Stigma of Inside Sales

There’s been a stigma – at least in the eyes of some sales leaders – associated with the “telemarketers in the cubicles.” Unfortunately, the leaders in the inside sales organization have, too often, bought into this mindset. Some compliantly act as the betas in a box as the alpha dogs roam freely and hungrily in the field.   

But something is changing – and has been for quite a few years. Indeed, the gravity of value creation in the selling profession is progressively and relentlessly shifting. Established enterprises in a growing number of industries are recognizing the true power of the inside sales organization – power that exceeds its reputation as a source of support for the field or even as a low-cost distribution channel.

Inside sales is increasingly seen as a driver of profitable growth – a force uniquely suited to new market exploration and, sometimes, deep account penetration.

Moreover, the inside sales organization is being recognized as a proving ground for future talent. It’s a means of accelerating skill development and performance attainment. For some, it’s a great place to start a career. For others, it’s also a great place to work as one advances deep into a career. This pattern may prove to be even more consequential going into the future.

In fact, venture-backed startups now recognize inside sales as the core model for selling. Venture capitalists support it and even demand it. “This model is a competitive differentiator that will give companies a two-year lead in terms of their growth rate versus the old sales model,” says Lars Leckie, a managing partner with Hummer Winblad. “Innovation isn’t just for products; companies need innovation in sales too.”

Why Your Buyers Want Inside Sellers

Guess who else is starting to demand it? That’s right – buyers.

They are embracing new options and offers that can be made profitably only through inside sales (or virtual selling) arrangements. The ongoing movement from high capital expenditures (capex) to offerings procured as operating expenses (opex) is further fueling this dramatic shift.

Buyers are simply becoming more comfortable with buying through virtual channels. Perhaps this pattern can be traced back to and pioneers in e-commerce. But it’s clear that buyers are increasingly content making large purchases without face-to-face meetings.

Consequently, the case for active inside sales investment has never been stronger.

Join Anneke Seley, Britton Manasco, and other B2B sales experts and practitioners on July 18-19 at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco. Seley and Manasco will present “Next Era Selling: Five Strategies to Make Your Business Unstoppable.”

This blog post includes an excerpt from the upcoming executive briefing book, Next Era Selling: 5 Strategies to Make Your Business Unstoppable (Next Era Media, 2016) by Anneke Seley and Britton Manasco. Next Era Selling is the first in a series of short books aimed at senior executives, sales and marketing strategists, investors, and board members. It is based on research and interviews as well as the authors’ experiences consulting for some of the most creative and successful sales, marketing, and customer services leaders working today.

AnnekeSeleyAnneke Seley (@annekeseley) is coauthor of Sales 2.0: Increase Results Using Innovative Business Practices and Technology. She was also Oracle’s twelfth employee and designed the technology giant’s global multibillion-dollar inside sales organization. Currently she is CEO of next-generation sales consultancy Reality Works Group LLC.



BrittonManascoBritton Manasco (@brittonmanasco) is CEO and founder of Visible Impact, a strategic marketing and sales enablement firm focused on making sales conversations matter. Prior to launching Visible Impact, Britton held thought leadership roles with Corporate Visions (specialists in strategic messaging), Prime Resource Group (specialists in the complex sale), and Peppers and Rogers Group (specialists in customer strategy).

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Five Scientifically-Proven Ways to Improve Your Sales Presentation


By Peter Arvai

When you are a sales professional, presentations are a part of your daily routine – and the fate of your business often rests on them. Whether delivering an internal presentation to your team or pitching the business to a potential new client, sales teams need to be able to communicate their message in a way that engages the audience, sticks in their minds, and persuades them to take action. This can be one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the job, but – if done right – it can also be one of the most rewarding.

In our daily work at Prezi, my team and I are laser focused on building tools that help people give more effective presentations – and, through that work, we’ve done a lot of research on what makes information engaging, memorable, and persuasive. We’ve gone digging through studies conducted by psychologists and neuroscientists to try to understand how audiences’ brains work. As it turns out, people are hardwired to respond to certain kinds of content, and there are a few simple things presenters can do to take advantage of this. Here’s what science has to say about improving your presentations.

1. Text-based bullet points are not compatible with the way our brains consume information.

We’ve all seen the typical slide: a headline followed by a long list of bullet points full of text. Research has shown that this format, however, is highly ineffective, especially when compared to a more visual approach. Media consultant Mario R. Garcia found that in print, the eye goes to large pictures, even before the title or headline. In another, researchers found that visuals and/or animation increased persuasion over text alone. Another study conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group found that people read content in an “F-shaped pattern” – that is, they pay the most attention to the content at the top of the page and spend less time with each subsequent line as they move down the page.

If we apply this research to the typical format of a traditional bullet-pointed slide it is easy to see that much of the content will go unread or fail to make an impact. What’s worse, while your audience is struggling to read your slides, they won’t be listening to what you have to say, because people can’t actually do two things at once. According to MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller, one of the world’s experts on divided attention, there is no such thing as “multitasking.” When we are doing multiple tasks at the same time, we are actually switching, cognitively, between each of those tasks very rapidly, which makes us worse at everything we’re trying to do. As a result, your audience will likely disengage and miss key pieces of your message.

So ditch those bullet points. Instead, put one piece of information on each slide or frame of your presentation, and stick with visuals instead of text wherever possible.

2. Metaphors engage more of our brain.

Numerous studies have found that, when presented with metaphors and descriptive words or phrases – things like “perfume” and “she had a velvety voice” – the sensory cortex in our brains is triggered. This is responsible for perceiving things like smell and touch. That is, how the brain handles reading and hearing about sensory experiences is identical to the way it handles actually experiencing them.

On the other hand, when presented with non-descriptive information – for example, “The marketing team reached all of its revenue goals in Q1,” – the only parts of our brain that are activated are the ones responsible for understanding language. Instead of experiencing the content with which we are being presented, we are simply processing it.

Using metaphors within stories is such a powerful engagement tool because it engages more of the brain. Vivid imagery brings your content to life in the minds of your audience. Next time you want to hold the attention of a room, tell a story.

3. Showing spatial relationships taps into deep memory.

Do you think you could memorize the order of two shuffled decks of cards in under five minutes? That is exactly what Joshua Foer had to do when he won the United States Memory Championship in 2006. He was able to use a time-tested technique that has been around since 80 B.C. to memorize a vast quantity of information in a very short period of time – a technique you can use to make your presentations even more memorable.

This technique is called the “method of loci,” more commonly known as the “memory palace,” and it relies on our innate ability to remember spatial relationships – the location of objects in relation to one another. We have evolved this powerful spatial memory over millions of years, and it enables us – as it enabled our hunter-gatherer ancestors – to navigate the world and find our way.

Numerous studies have shown that the method of loci improves memory. For example, in one study, normal people who could memorize only a handful of random numbers (seven is average) were able to remember up to 90 digits after using the technique.

What does the method of loci teach us about creating more memorable presentations? If you can lead your audience on a visual journey that reveals the relationships between your ideas, they will be much more likely to remember your message – because they are much better at remembering that visual journey than they are at remembering lists of bullet points.

4. Conversations build connections, which are key to convincing your audience.

If you want to make your presentation more memorable, make it interactive. Research has shown that people are more likely to remember which brands are associated with certain products when first presented with the information in an interactive format versus a static format.

Beyond being more memorable, however, interactive, conversational presentations are also more effective at convincing an audience to take action. A lot of research has been done around persuasion in the context of sales presentations. RAIN Group analyzed the behavior of sales professionals who won more than 700 B2B opportunities, in contrast with the behavior of those sellers who came in second place. This research revealed that one of the keys to delivering a winning sales pitch – that is, a persuasive pitch – is connecting with your audience.

In looking at the top 10 behaviors that separated persuasive salespeople from those who didn’t win the deal, RAIN Group researchers found that prospects listed collaboration, listening, understanding needs, and connecting personally as some of the most important. In fact, collaborating with the prospect is listed as the number two most important behavior when it comes to winning a sales pitch, just after educating the prospect with new ideas.

Crafting your pitch like a conversation – and allowing your audience to take the driver’s seat in deciding what to discuss – is a key tool in selling effectively. More broadly, in any presentation where you are trying to convince your audience to take action, consider taking a more collaborative approach if you want to be successful.

5. Telling a story instead of sharing raw data will make your presentation twice as persuasive.

Stories are one of the most fundamental ways we teach children about the world and how to behave. And it turns out that stories are just as powerful when it comes to delivering a message to adults. Research has shown again and again that storytelling is one of the best ways to persuade people to take action.

Take, for example, a study conducted by a marketing professor at Wharton Business School, which tested two different brochures designed to drive donations to the Save the Children Fund. The first brochure told the story of Rokia, a seven-year-old girl from Mali whose “life would be changed” by a donation to the NGO. The second brochure listed facts and figures related to the plight of starving children across Africa – like the fact that “more than 11 million people in Ethiopia need immediate food assistance.”

The team from Wharton found that the brochure that contained the story of Rokia drove significantly more donations than the statistics-filled one. This may seem counterintuitive – in today’s data-driven world, making a decision based on “gut feeling” rather than facts and numbers is often frowned upon. But this Wharton study reveals that, in many cases, emotions drive decisions far more than analytical thinking. Next time you want to convince your audience to take action, consider telling a story that brings your message to life rather than presenting data alone.

PeterArvaiPeter is the CEO of Prezi, the interactive presentation software, which he cofounded in 2008 with Adam Somlai-Fischer and Péter Halácsy, an architect and an innovator, as a means to create a more memorable and engaging way for people to share stories. Before co-founding Prezi, Peter founded, a company that aggregates data on treatment outcomes for hospital patients, as well as developing the world’s first mobile newsreader so people could follow TED Talks from their mobile devices. You can follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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Five Things Sales Leaders Do to Create High-Performing Teams

sales leaders

By Julie Thomas

According to the Social Security Administration, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will be eligible for retirement every day for the next 13 years. At the same time, the Wall Street Journal reports, “…young workers are uninterested in sales – a field they perceive as risky and defined by competition.” Given the dynamics of the labor environment, what are sales leaders doing to get the best out of their team members?

When you’re building a sales team, you’re always on the lookout for people who have the right personality and team fit – combined with sales competency. Once you’ve secured them, you’ve got to retain them – coaching them, holding them accountable, and rewarding their successes.

Personally, I’ve hired, trained, and coached thousands of sales professionals at all levels. Working with sales leaders in both multi-national sales organizations and rapidly emerging firms for the past 20 years, these are five things leaders of high-performing teams consistently do.   

  1. Hire the right people. As Jim Collins said, “Get the right people on the bus, then figure out where to go.” 

    High-performing sales leaders hire individuals with the right attitude, right enthusiasm, and right work ethic. They look for people who love to learn and who can accurately self-assess and adjust. These are all innate traits. You can’t teach someone to be an optimist.It takes time to get the right mix and the right team members. A single bad attitude can spread like a virus among your team. So it’s worth the wait and due diligence to build a strong team.

  2. Close competency gaps. Whether you hire seasoned pros or train new hires on the organization’s sales methodology, have a plan for onboarding and continual reskilling. 

    Assess each individual and train them to close the gaps. “Fake it ’til you make it” is not how new team members should be operating. Instead, provide the right training, education, and coaching.To make training stick, be sure it’s easy to implement and fits within your existing processes. Offer a learning environment that’s engaging, relevant, and ongoing.

  3. Measure what matters. We’ve all heard that what gets measured gets done. Hold your sales representatives accountable to things that they care about. 

    Are you building a culture of continuous improvement? Do you have a team made up of people who continually stretch, learn, and grow? Those are the sales professionals you want. They’ll serve as shining examples for the new hires on your team.To recruit and retain the right people, create metrics that are meaningful at the individual, team, and organizational level. When all three are aligned, the team is high-performing and unstoppable.

  4. Recognize and celebrate people. Ken Blanchard said, “Catch people doing something right.” High-performing leaders recognize and praise more than they correct and beat up. 

    When you have to correct a team member, do it in a way that’s constructive and motivating rather than destructive and criticizing. Make sure your positive feedback outweighs the constructive by a 2-to-1 margin.Nobody’s perfect and no one likes to be called out when they make a mistake. With this in mind, praise in public; correct in private.

  5. Drive incremental performance. How can you get everybody on the team to do their jobs just a little better? Create an environment where coaching can be used to drive incremental improvement. 

    In baseball, the goal is to get the team playing better. How? By making each individual’s performance better. While every player has a distinct role on the field, success in one role doesn’t diminish the success of other roles.By increasing each person’s skills incrementally, the competencies of your entire team come together. With this coaching strategy in place, you are positioned to win the game.

But that’s not all. Balance these five actions with a management style that builds credibility, demonstrates flexibility, and displays empathy throughout your sales organization. All of this together makes for a proven path to creating a high-performing team.

thomas_julie_150x210Julie Thomas, president and CEO of ValueSelling Associates, is a business consultant, coach, facilitator, speaker, and author of ValueSelling: Driving Up Sales One Conversation at a Time. She has led ValueSelling Associates to become an award-winning, competency- and process-based training provider that measurably improves sales performance in B2B sales organizations around the world. Visit

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Why You Don’t Really Need an Accurate Sales Forecast

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By Michael Weening

I frequently get asked the question, “How do you drive forecast accuracy?” and have debated it with many fellow sales leaders.

The answer is very simple. Forecast accuracy isn’t a goal, but an outcome.

Your goal shouldn’t be accuracy – it should be consistency. Here’s why. A sales organization that has a forecast with a 75 percent accuracy rating in the first quarter, 45 percent accuracy in the second quarter, and 99 percent accuracy in the third quarter is obviously highly inconsistent. Who knows where the arrow will hit?

However, if a sales organization maintains a steady 65 percent forecast accuracy for three straight quarters, the sales operations team can build those propensities into the forecast model.

For a forecast to truly be useful, the sales leader must focus on consistency. As the sales leader, you can make that call. If the team forecasts a consistent way each time, you will know how to adjust the numbers to hit the center.

Six Steps to Drive Forecast Consistency

Step #1: Create a well-defined sales model with all elements of the sales cycle mapped into your CRM tool. If you use, that means the sales model has been mapped into opportunities, and every stage is well defined. A sales rep knows when to move a deal from Stage 1 to Stage 2, and they all do it the same way.

Step #2: The training programs reinforce the sales model and ensure everyone understands how to use the CRM tool. This is not once and done; it needs to be ongoing and constantly reinforced.

Step #3: Abandon all Excel-based forecasts. Leading from the front, they use dashboards and the CRM forecasting engine to drive all forecasting calls. In the model, sales leadership drives all forecasts from the engine and uses data insights such as deal velocity – how fast deals move from one stage to the next – to coach. If a deal jumps from prospect to closed, skipping all the steps in between, there is a problem.

Step #4: Make sure the sales operations team includes analysts who live outside the field forecasting process. Also ensure they understand how to build propensity models to drive accurate forecasts.

Step #5: Don’t forecast too frequently. Nothing is worse for your salespeople than asking them to step away from their customers and prospects to explain their opportunity for the third time in two weeks.

Step #6: Consider any alterations you might need to make to your sales compensation structure. This is a much larger discussion, but I have frequently implemented a percentage of variable income (e.g., five percent) to internal hygiene tasks. For example, setting the target of ensuring all contacts have an address and email for one quarter, and forecast consistency targets the next. Read more in my recent post, “What Gets Paid Gets Done.”

MichaelWeeningA version of this post was published originally on Michael Weening’s blog. Michael Weening is a senior vice president at, has been a presenter at past Sales 2.0 Conferences, and is in the process of completing the book Leading a Sales Transformation.

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How to Increase Sales Productivity During Off-Peak Seasons

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By Shayla Price

Every sector has peaks and valleys. It’s just a given. So, how can sales leaders keep sales productivity high throughout the year?

How your business handles the off-peak seasons will determine if you miss or exceed your annual sales goals. And that all starts with increasing sales productivity. Here are a few strategies to maximize your team’s success.

Automate Sales with Branded Templates

According to the 2016 Ultimate Marketing Automation Stats by Emailmonday, 55 percent of B2B companies already use automation. The other 45 percent are missing an opportunity to be more effective.

Take advantage of using professionally-branded company templates. They help automate document management. Therefore, your sales team can focus on closing deals, not complying with marketing standards.

“Automating as much of the template deployment process as possible is the ideal solution,” writes Henrik Printzlau, CTO at Templafy.

Give your sales team the ability to access documents on demand in an organized system. A document management solution will help maximize performance.

Boost Productivity with Account Management

Account management tools assist your team by providing accurate forecasting. This saves your business time and resources. These tools will uncover revenue-generating patterns for your company – and bring valuable insight to develop a more effective sales process.

Moreover, with automated apps, important customer details can be delivered directly to your sales reps’ mobile devices. Deal tracking and account history ensure all team members receive the most up-to-date information.

Let your sales team focus on building the customer relationship. Technology will handle the rest.

Keep Sales Teams Accountable

Tracking sales performance from week to week is vital for management. Managers need to know how to adjust their strategies during slow and busy sales periods.

Online platforms offer businesses the ability to connect with sales rep performance in real time. It’s easier for sales leaders to track daily, weekly, and monthly goals.

Most sales activity management systems include performance data collection, historical trend tracking, personalized analytics, and peer comparisons. In addition, you can create customized campaigns to raise morale with team competitions.

You want a 360-degree view of your enterprise. Invest in an interactive dashboard for easy communication and on-the-go sales management.

Be Social Online and Off

Based on the 2016 State of B2B Marketing report by Regalix, 74 percent of companies plan to increase their events budgets this year. Social events are essential for connecting with prospective customers and generating leads. Off-peak seasons are ideal for planning conferences, trade shows, and online Webinars.

Also, consider hosting internal events. Facilitate sales training to transform good sales reps into great sales leaders.

Bring it All Together

Integrating your entire sales process helps with efficiency. Seek all-in-one solutions that allow you to combine pipeline and project management. These tools enhance productivity by aligning functions within one interface. Then, your team doesn’t have to jump back and forth between multiple software programs.

Managers desire a more collaborative work environment. So, shift from scattered resources to a streamlined software.

Stay Productive

Give your sales team an advantage during off-peak seasons. Focus on upgrading your sales productivity activities. Generate sales all year round.

ShaylaPriceShayla Price creates and promotes content. She lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology, and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter: @shaylaprice.

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Does Your Sales Compensation Plan Really Motivate the Team?


By Mark Donnolo

Several years ago, I spent the day with Tony from Philly, riding along on his sales calls to various warehouses. I learned several things:

  • In certain warehouses in Philly, managers keep revolvers behind their desks. In plain sight.
  • Tony was much more enthusiastic about his upcoming “vay-cay” than his sales job.
  • Tony was a lap-dog.

In Tony’s sales role, he didn’t actually do any selling. His day-to-day goals weren’t about growing customer revenue or volume – or even really hitting his quota. He was simply doing what he had been groomed to do over 20 years: operations with a sprinkling of customer relationship time.

His sales leaders were frustrated.They’re not out hunting down new business. Why don’t they have the drive to get out and find some new volume?” the SVP of sales asked me.

But, according to his sales compensation plan, Tony was doing exactly what he was paid to do: he was measured on shipping volume (which changed little from year to year) and customer contact time. For Tony and most of the other reps, customer contact time included a brief conversation with the distribution manager, time in the warehouse measuring boxes, and time in the parking lot filling out the call report. Not exactly sales.

It was a classic example of a sales compensation program that didn’t drive behavior to achieve the actual sales goals. The truth of the matter was that, if the company’s strategy was to find new business, they had the wrong breed of dog.

Organizations change, as do sales strategies. Sales roles either evolve with the strategies or fail. Below is a list of five sales roles and the type of compensation plan that motivates each. (When describing sales roles and personalities, we prefer the canine model to the more common hunter/farmer metaphor.)

  1. Dobermans. Dobermans are always on the prowl for new opportunities. There are at least two types: the competitive Dobermans who are going after next big new account sale, and long-term business developer Dobermans. The Doberman is motivated by financial rewards and responds to significant pay at risk. But with that pay at risk comes substantial upside potential because a Doberman sees himself as a high performer. Many Dobermans will glance at their salary, focus on their target incentive, and base their lifestyle on the upside. In organizations with good sales compensation plans, it’s not uncommon for a Doberman to make more cash compensation in a given year than his boss or even the president of the company. If he sees his earnings as capped, he’ll probably be prospecting for his next job with an organization that will give him the earnings opportunity.
  1. Retrievers. Retrievers are bred as companions in the hunt. They are typically responsible for retaining the base of current customer revenue and – more importantly – for finding new growth within the current customer. The Retriever is typically motivated by money and will work diligently to hit her quota. With Retrievers, we don’t want to make the incentive out of balance and produce overly aggressive behavior. We want to weight the incentive to make it motivational enough to drive relationship management and development.
  1. Collies. Collies are the ultimate lap dogs and the customer’s best friend. Collies are great business retainers because of their depth of customer understanding and level of service. The downside of all this friendliness is that Collies often lack the perspective to see a new opportunity even if it passes before their noses. Sales compensation for a Collie typically focuses on retaining the business and growing it to a moderate degree. Collies will have a significant percentage of base pay with nominal pay at risk to promote long-term relationship development. The caution on compensating the Collie is to make sure incentives drive behavior and that an abundance of base pay does not diminish its hunger.
  1. Pointers. Pointers source new opportunities. A Pointer may be a new business developer or even an inside salesperson. Incentives for the Pointer are typically focused on creating opportunities in volume and quality. Depending upon the lead development cycle, incentives for the Pointer may be aggressive or conservative to promote the right behaviors.
  1. Service Dogs. The Service Dog works with Dobermans and Retrievers to provide depth on product applications or serve the needs of a specific industry that are beyond the capabilities of the general seller. Sales compensation for the service dog is driven by a combination of factors, including whether he holds a unique quota or plays an overlay role with other sales resources. The Service Dog’s incentive will be a significant portion of total compensation if he holds a unique quota, or a smaller portion of total compensation if he has an overlay role with a general rep to motivate him to perform without distracting him from the details of his work.

When trying to determine if your sales compensation plan really motivates your team, remember: One size does not fit all. Each sales role should have its own goals, performance measures, and compensation plan. Make sure your roles align with each major revenue growth source – whether you’re trying to find new business (Doberman) or grow an existing client (Retriever). Assess your current talent and decide if you need to develop your talent or source new talent. And finally, design a compensation plan that motivates each sales role to achieve its specific goals.

MarkDonnoloMark Donnolo is managing partner of SalesGlobe and author of The Innovative Sale: Unleash Your Creativity for Better Customer Solutions and Extraordinary Results and What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation.

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Imagineering: How to Turn Your Dreams of Sales Success into Reality


By Michael Michalko

Walt Disney was a high school dropout who was fired from his first job on a newspaper because he lacked imagination. Over the next few years, he suffered several business disasters and bankruptcy. But he overcame his personal and financial challenges by using his imagination to create an entertainment empire that has touched the hearts, minds, and emotions of all of us.

I learned imagineering from Walt Disney. The term “imagineering” combines the words “imagination” and “engineering” and basically means engineering your dreams and fantasies into something realistic and possible. Imagineering helped Walt Disney transform the dreams, fantasies, and wishes of his imagination into concrete reality.

Disney’s imagineering strategy involved exploring something using three different perceptual positions each using different strategies: the dreamer, the realist, and the critic. A dreamer and realist can create things, but find that a critic helps evaluate and refine the final products.

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Following are descriptions of each strategy.

Dreamer: A dreamer spins innumerable fantasies, wishes, outrageous hunches, and bold and absurd ideas without limit or judgment. Nothing is censored. Nothing is too absurd or silly. All things are possible for the dreamer. To be the dreamer, ask, “If I could wave a magic wand and do anything I want, what would I create? How would it look? What could I do with it? How would it make you feel? What is the most absurd idea I can conceive?”

Realist: The realist imagineers the dreamer’s ideas into something realistic and feasible – figuring out how to make the ideas work and then sorting them in some meaningful order. To be the realist, ask, “How can I make this happen? What are the features and aspects of the idea? Can I build ideas from the features or aspects? What is the essence of the idea? Can I extract the principle of the idea? Can I make analogical-metaphorical connections with the principle and something dissimilar to create something tangible? How can I use the essence of the idea to imagineer a more realistic one?”

Critic: The critic reviews all the ideas and tries to punch holes in them by playing the devil’s advocate. To be the critic, ask, “How do I really feel about it? Is this the best I can do? What can make it better? Does this make sense? How does it look to a customer? A client? An expert? A user? Is it worth my time to work on this idea? Can I improve it?”

Imagineering at Work?

Suppose your challenge is to improve morale at work. The Dreamer comes up with these three ideas:

  • Create a “happy” pill that makes people feel happy and positive. Provide them free to employees.
  • Pay people to stay at home.
  • Give everyone a company car of their choice.

The Realist studies the ideas of the Dreamer and tries to work them into something practical – examining the principle and then trying to create metaphorical-analogical connections with something in his or her own experience.

  • The “happy” pill – The essence of the Dreamer’s idea: The “happy” pill aims to improve an employee’s attitude. How can this be made into a benefit? How are attitudes adjusted? The Realist’s imagineering: Bring in motivational speakers to speak during catered in-house lunches. Bring in a masseur once a week to give back massages. Bring in a facilitator to give attitude adjustment exercises and produce role playing skits. Encourage employees to take evening or weekend courses in art, sculpture, crafts, woodworking, creative writing, and so on. Pay the tuition and provide a room where employees can display their creative products. Have each employee bring in an object for their desk that symbolizes something important about them (e.g., a crystal ball that represents forward-looking vision, jumper cables to represent a person who jump starts others, a can of WD-40 representing someone who is called upon to do many different things, etc.).
  • Pay people to stay at home The essence of the Dreamer’s idea: The core of this idea is “at home.” What do people do when they stay home? They work on their house, household projects, remodeling, painting, landscaping, and gardening. How can this be made into a benefit? The Realist’s imagineering: 1) Offer the employees the services of a handyman as a benefit. The employee pays for materials, while the employer pays the handyman to fix sinks, hang wallpaper, and so on. 2) Provide the services of a real estate consultant who will offer suggestions on how employees can upgrade their houses and property to increase the value of their assets.
  • Company car – The essence of the Dreamer’s idea: This idea aims to provide something related to cars or transportation. What are some aspects of cars that can be engineered into ideas? The Realist’s imagineering: 1) Make a fiscal arrangement with a youth group to come once a week and wash all the employee cars at the company’s expense.The cause should be a tax-deductible one. 2) Create an incentive system where points are awarded for exceptional performance. When so many points are accrued, award the employee with a gift certificate for gasoline or routine maintenance from a local garage. 3) Make a company car available for employees to use while their cars are being serviced or disabled. 4) Provide a company-designated driver for Friday and Saturday evenings. Employees who’ve imbibed too much can call the driver. The driver drives them home and then drives them back to their car the next day.

Suppose your challenge is to increase the number of sales calls. The Dreamer comes up with the idea that the salesperson gets a commission for every call made – regardless of whether a sale is made. In fact, you reward rejections.

The Realist considers the Dreamer’s idea and hones it so that – every time a salesperson gets a “no” –  it gets tracked and recorded. At the end of every week, the person with the most nos receives a $100 gift card. This might sound crazy, but you get a lot of nos when doing sales. The more nos you get, the closer you are to getting a “yes.” The prize for getting a “yes” is way larger than $100, so you still wanted to get “yes.”  

Put your imagination to work. What is your dream? Now imagineer it back to a realistic idea.

06243b2Michael Michalko is the author of Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative Thinking Techniques and Cracking Creativity: The Thinking Strategies of Creative Geniuses.

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How to Get Better Results from Your Sales Compensation Plan


By Mark Donnolo

Every December at one high-tech company in Dallas, the sales offices are a ghost town. No hustle and bustle, no sales calls, no people. The last two weeks of the year routinely slide into one long holiday. But, on the other side of town, at a competitor high-tech company, the last two weeks of December are the busiest of the year. The sales offices look like Grand Central Station, with phones buzzing and late-night meetings.

Clearly, these two companies have very different sales cultures. And it’s not hard to guess which one pays its salespeople on performance.

The culture of the sales organization is very closely tied to sales compensation. In fact, the compensation plan dictates whether you have a sales culture or a service-and-operations culture. Most sales organizations want a sales culture – one that drives growth through new customers and retaining and growing current customers. But some sales organizations are designed just to retain and service their current customers. These two sales teams will have very different compensation programs.

The following three factors determine the behavior of the sales organization and the resulting culture:

  1. Target pay. Consider the relevant labor market. Then, determine a competitive total target pay that includes base salary and incentive compensation.
  2. Pay mix. Pay mix is the single biggest determinant of behavior and can make or break a sales culture. Pay mix defines the proportion of salary and incentive at target (when you reach your quota). Pay mix can vary by job type – in a more sales-oriented culture, salespeople will have more incentive pay as a percentage of target total compensation (perhaps 50 percent base salary and 50 percent target incentive) than a salesperson in a service-oriented culture (perhaps 70 percent base salary and 30 percent target incentive). And beware: Compensation plans with high base salaries often create a pay entitlement culture.
  3. Upside potential. Upside potential is the incentive pay available to top performers once they go above their quota. It’s often what really drives salespeople. A true hunter, for instance, will ignore his base pay, glance at the total target pay (his pay when he reaches quota), and will base his lifestyle on the upside. In a sales culture, top performers are paid significantly more than moderate or poor performers.

In addition to the mechanics of the compensation plan, the messaging around the plan also has a huge impact on culture. The right message needs to be communicated at three levels:

  1. Leadership message. Culture comes from the top. If the CEO and/or sales leaders publicly and frequently recognize and reward top performers, you’re going to have a sales culture. If they fail to single out high performers or regularly recognize mediocre performers or praise good citizenship, you’re going to see less of a sales culture. This is true even if leaders say they want a sales culture. Talking the talk is not the same as walking the walk.
  2. Sales team actions. In addition to listening to leadership messages, there’s definitely some monkey-see monkey-do in sales organizations. If salespeople see their teammates hitting their quotas and offering customer solutions, they tend to try and repeat those same behaviors. On the other hand, if few people even try to hit their quota, others model that poor behavior and become more complacent.
  3. Measure and manage. If a sales culture is important, measure quota attainment. Similar to leadership messages, what you measure and recognize determines what people will work toward. Sales organizations that discuss results and sales performance – and hold up the people who drive results – will maintain a healthy sales culture.

MarkDonnoloMark Donnolo is managing partner of SalesGlobe and author of The Innovative Sale: Unleash Your Creativity for Better Customer Solutions and Extraordinary Results and What Your CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation.

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