How to Design a Really Great Sales Comp Plan

By Mark Donnolo

If you’ve ever been involved in designing a sales compensation plan, you’ve probably heard these questions:

  1. How much is the sales compensation plan going to cost us this year?
  2. Is this a good investment of our money?
  3. What should we expect back?

There are several hot-button issues that drive ROI:

  • The amount we’re going to pay in the market.
  • The pay mix: the amount we’re going to pay in fixed versus variable costs. Some CFOs debate how much money they actually want to commit rather than tie to performance. Another common debate between CFOs and sales is why we can’t put more pay at risk and have less fixed pay.
  • The upside and threshold. How much are we going to pay our top people and how little are we going to pay our bottom people? Do we employ the Reverse Robin Hood Theory, which takes from the underperformers to pay the overperformers?
  • The mechanics. Accelerators are a driver of costs and ROI.
  • How we set our objectives and goals, relative to target pay, and how we allocate those goals to the organization. What we expect back is a big driver of ROI.

When determining the ROI of your own sales compensation plan, we recommend considering several drivers around ROI.

  1. Determine your strategy and the business objectives you are trying to achieve. Understanding, for example, that we want to grow a certain product group or develop a certain market may change the way we look at ROI. We may be willing to invest a bit more to develop this market than we would on average or in our traditional markets. Isolate and evaluate ROI uniquely for that market.

  2. Define how the sales compensation plan can help drive that strategy, and where its limits are. The sales compensation plan doesn’t control everything. If we were going to sell a strategic product, we know the sales compensation plan can motivate people to sell it – but there are other factors such as availability of that product, targeting the right markets, the right sales messages, having the skill in the sales organization to do that, and having the right sales processes. A lot of other factors will play into whether we can actually accomplish that objective, in addition to the sales compensation plan. When we attribute success to the sales compensation plan because it helped us achieve certain objectives, often we have to understand that sales comp was just one piece of it.

  3. Determine who you will pay. We might look at ROI a little bit differently this way as well. We might consider certain sales groups that were able to help us achieve that growth objective, versus the whole population. We can then look at the ROI on them.

  4. Decide how much to spend. We recently worked with a media company that traditionally sold TV advertising, and they wanted to increase their cross selling of online advertising. That’s a sales strategy; that’s an objective. What could the plan do? They wanted the plan to help them get a 10 percent average attach rate to their core product. Their television advertising will have a 10 percent attach rate of online advertising. They stated what they wanted to happen; next, they examined who would do it and who would bring in the return on their investment.

They looked at the TV sales organization. They would be selling that online inventory cross-platform. So now they knew who they were going after. What were they going to pay? They expected an incremental spend of about 15 percent of the first year’s contracted program revenue. So this company basically took that idea and converted it into a statement.

It sounds ironic but, when considering sales compensation ROI, move any focus away from the number. Take the focus – and the argument – away from the number and break down the components driving that number; then, the conversation is simply a lot more productive.

Mark Donnolo is the managing partner at SalesGlobe and the author of The Innovative Sale and What Every CEO Needs to Know About Sales Compensation.

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This One Thing Will Be More Scarce than New B2B Sales Jobs

By Eric Esfahanian

I was reading an article earlier today where a major bank CEO stated that a large percentage of bank employees will be replaced by robots “eventually.”

This got me thinking about the impact on bankers and the evolution of sales and client outreach in 2017. As CRO of Gryphon, clients often ask me about the role robotics and automation might play in the sales function and in sales jobs. So, when the CEO of a large bank makes a statement like that, I pay close attention to it.

Rise of the Machines

At the risk of stating the obvious, automation will play a large part in the future resource requirements of large firms – and, for many of them, it does today.

Sales isn’t immune to this phenomenon, either. People tend to think because sales requires face-to-face meetings and relationship building, it is less at risk for automation than, say, accounting. Though this may be partially true, companies are spending great amounts of time and money working to push more and more of the traditional sales cycle online so human interactions can take place deeper into the sales funnel.

Customers, too, are helping this along by doing more independent research before engaging with a provider. It’s foolish to think this won’t have a significant impact on staffing requirements. And, when it does, sales jobs will be harder to find and even harder to secure when they are found.  

The Solution for Sellers? Get Better Every Day

If ever there was a catalyst to motivate those who truly want to hone their selling skills, the specter of automation and robotics should be about the best.

Sales is a profession many people think they would be good at, but few actually are (similar to lawyers). Our profession is often defined by the worst representatives (the proverbial used car salesman comes to mind). Because of this, sales reps have the responsibility to “make themselves indispensable” through continually taking new risks; educating themselves in the basics of philosophy, sociology, and persuasion; and elevating their profession beyond the lowest sales clichés – with which we are all familiar.

The very best way to protect yourself and your career from being taken over by C-3PO or some self-service e-commerce URL is to invest in your own continuous improvement. Because, quite frankly, if your job performance is so one-dimensional and static that it can be taken over by a robot, it probably should be. Sales is one profession that, when done the right way, could never be replaced with a machine.

In fact, you should view automation as an advantage because it should not be something to fear, but something that can help you be your best. Embrace automation of low-value efforts that waste your time. This will concentrate your mind on truly strategic and important tasks.

Automation is terrific when what you are automating are mindless, repetitive tasks such as CRM updates, bulk email prospecting, and quote creation. Spend your time on meaningful efforts such as outreach to your VIPs, creating and delivering a winning presentation, or negotiating.

Make Your Talent More Scarce than the Sales Job

The answer to the supposed job scarcity coming in sales is fulfilling the “talent scarcity” that has long been a struggle for employers. In fact, it may be the reason firms are turning to robots in the first place. Instead of worrying about being defined and replaced by others, define yourself as one of the very best of your kind.

In the near future, the only thing more scarce than new sales jobs will be truly qualified people to fill them. So, if you make a habit of striving to get better each and every day, you will find yourself with many more sales job offers than you can handle – robots be damned.

For more than 20 years, Eric Esfahanian has been helping clients increase sales and marketing effectiveness with innovative business intelligence technology and processes. As chief revenue officer of Gryphon Networks, Eric is charged with driving the growth of Gryphon’s Fortune 500 client base with cloud-based sales performance management solutions that increase revenue and client retention while reducing training/onboarding times for large, distributed sales organizations. Previously, Eric held sales leadership roles with MicroStrategy, Hewlett-Packard, and EMC Corp. He received his MBA in entrepreneurship from Babson College and his Bachelor’s degree from Boston College.

Posted in: Hiring, Sales Talent | Leave a comment

How to Be Smart When Shopping for a Sales Intelligence Solution

By Sharon Gillenwater

When it comes to sales intelligence and business “data” providers, buyer beware.

What passes as company/executive “data,” “intelligence,” and “insight” is often so out of date and inaccurate that customers have to go out to the open Web to verify absolutely everything.

Let’s think about that for a moment.

You’re paying for something that is wrong so often that you don’t trust it and feel the need to constantly re-verify it.

As a sales intelligence provider who wants to do right by our customers, that just breaks my heart.

I’m not making these claims lightly or trying to trash other vendors. But I know all of the above to be true because I have sampled many of these services. In fact, their flaws – mostly significant omissions and inaccuracies – were the reason I created my own executive profile database while doing consulting for tech companies.

Unfortunately, the sorry state of “sales intelligence” has led to the sad fact that customers have developed a very high level of tolerance for inaccurate data and have become quite cynical when it comes to sales intelligence providers.

Why is this such a problem? There are three main reasons.

  1. It is very hard to do. Companies are constantly changing – and the people who work in them are constantly moving around. Consequently, over time, the information in a sales intelligence database becomes less and less accurate. Most vendors don’t invest in adequate verification and update processes.

  2. Most providers are scraping their data. Smart use of technology can help data providers scale their products as well as automate the updating of their data. The problem? Bad/old data gets out there and all the providers scrape it up – creating more and more instances of it and making mistakes difficult to correct. Without any humans to verify it, inaccurate information gets perpetuated for years.

  3. There is more emphasis on scale than accuracy. “How many records do you have?” is often the first question we are asked about our executive profile database. While it is a valid question, no one seems to think about the fact that the number of records you have doesn’t matter when those records are wrong. Venture capitalists who back sales intelligence companies make things worse by emphasizing scale – and speed to scale – over everything else. When I was looking to raise money for Boardroom Insiders nearly 10 years ago, a VC actually snapped, “Stop talking about the quality of your data. No one cares!”

Well, I care. And YOU, the CUSTOMER, should absolutely care.

So, with this sorry state of affairs, how can customers smartly size up sales intelligence providers?

  1. Ask them how they collect information. If they are relying exclusively on technology with no human-centered editorial process, be very afraid. While some technology is necessary as part of the process, using experienced human editors and analysts to create executive profiles adds a significant layer of relevance to profiles.

  2. Ask to see samples of companies and people you know. This is the easiest way to size up a service for accuracy as well as determine if it can add value beyond what you already know.

  3. Compare “apples to apples” from different providers. Choose a company or a few executives and ask the companies you are considering to provide samples for that company/those people.

  4. Ask to pilot before signing long term. If a company is confident in its service, it will do this because it knows you are going to get so much value that you will want to buy an annual subscription. If a company has trepidation about a short-term pilot, that indicates they may have something to hide – and it’s probably their data quality.

Finally, beware anyone claiming to have a “silver bullet.” There isn’t one. Recently, one of our customers got very excited about a sales intelligence vendor that has raised tens of millions in venture capital. She recommended that we consider using it as a source for our executive profiles.

I had been following the company for several years and there seemed to be no “there” there; but, since our customer asked, I decided to give it another look. Following my own instructions above, I searched for a few executives I knew – and every single profile that came up was either woefully incomplete or completely inaccurate. This was even the case for some very high-ranking executives, such as my friend (let’s call her “Doris”) who is an SVP at Wells Fargo. Not only did the company not have Doris at Wells Fargo (where she has been since 2012), it didn’t have any of her previous jobs – going all the way back to 1990! Other searches yielded similar results.

While I won’t call out this vendor by name, this particular example is egregious. The thought that my customer might be duped into paying for such inaccurate information – that was so easy to get accurately (and for free) on LinkedIn and elsewhere – really made me angry. When companies in our industry do this it hurts the industry by making us ALL look suspect.

If you buy sales intelligence, please beware and do your due diligence. You don’t want to waste your money. And you do want to have access to deep, relevant executive insights that will help you and your team proceed with potential and current customers with confidence.

Sharon 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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Three Ways to Stop Your Most Valuable Salespeople from Leaving

By Dan Harris

Salespeople aren’t going door-to-door selling vacuum cleaners anymore. But that same type of motivation and personality – and tech savviness – are all now needed to keep today’s top sellers moving forward.

That need for highly-skilled team members keeps the sales field more competitive than ever. Yet the sales gap is increasing and we’re experiencing the highest talent shortage since 2007, according to ManpowerGroup’s 2016/2017 Talent Shortage Survey of more than 42,000 employers.

However, for the second year in a row, sales leaders continue to excel in their efforts to keep employee engagement at an impressive high, according to Quantum Workplace’s December 2016 report The Sales Talent Shortage: How Organizations Can Attract and Retain Top Sales Talent.  

Even though an incredible 80.5 percent of sales employees are engaged, according to our report, turnover rates remain painstakingly high. In fact, a January SalesFuel study (What Your Salespeople Are Afraid to Tell You) of 725 salespeople found that 69 percent of millennial sales reps have already voluntarily left an organization.

If employee engagement is so high among salespeople, then how do you stop your talent from jumping ship?

Of all the important engagement factors, three stand out as the biggest motivators for sales employees. Here’s how you can stop your top sales talent from leaving and taking their skills with them:

1. Know your most valuable resource.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in quotas, customer requests and complaints, and the everyday business rush. But keeping employee engagement high and retaining a strong sales team means you won’t lose sight of what’s valuable – your employees.

Keeping the sales team productive and expressing your belief in their value begins with effective training and mentoring. This doesn’t mean putting all your efforts into the first few weeks of onboarding.

Offer your sales team continuous training and mentoring that aligns with their goals and expectations. Take time to focus on strengths, but also understand each person’s weaknesses and struggles. Use this information to format personalized coaching and training sessions.

2. Enhance their strengths.

You’ve worked extremely hard to acquire and train a sales team that doesn’t want to just come to work, do their jobs, and go home. Instead, they’re dedicated to being the best salespeople they can possibly be.

This ability to take their strengths and put them to use in the sales field is the number one driver of engagement, according to our previously-mentioned report. When salespeople are incapable of this – often due to a lack of leadership or technical tools – their motivation to continue doing their best for the company wanes.

Create an environment that aligns your processes and tools with the company and individual success. To do this, it’s crucial that you remain transparent about planning and bringing sales members in on the process.

Encourage your team to suggest new technology and processes as they run into roadblocks throughout their day. Ask them to explain what the issue is, if they have suggestions for improvements, and then be sure to keep them updated as you solve inefficiencies.

3. Grow trust in leadership.

Quality leadership is an obvious asset for any company.

However, in a highly competitive and unpredictable sales world, your team needs leaders they can count on. What promotes strong employee engagement is the trust that salespeople have in their leaders to help guide them into a successful future. As your team sees leaders guide the entire company to success, they’ll feel empowered and comfortable trusting leaders to do the same for their future.  

Trust between leaders and their sales team is built the same way salespeople build trust with customers: through strong relationships.

Communication is the foundation to building genuine relationships. So meet with each team member on a monthly basis. Recognize how their achievements are helping the company reach success. Then give updates on what the company is doing to improve processes, plans for the future, and its current status.

Above all, engagement of your sales employees relies on a continuous focus on improvement and guidance. When your team is left to deal with roadblocks on their own after an initial rush of success, they’ll lose confidence, motivation, and eventually interest in staying onboard with your company.

Take the time to really get to know your team as individuals and offer them the guidance they need to reach sales success.

Dan Harris is workplace insights analyst at Quantum Workplace, a company dedicated to providing every organization with quality engagement tools that guide their next step in making work better every day.

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How Successful Would You Like to Be?

By Jim Cathcart

A plant in a small pot will grow only to the limits imposed by the pot. The roots cannot exceed its bounds and therefore the plant cannot access the needed nutrients; plus, there isn’t enough soil to support greater growth.

But put the same plant in your garden with ample soil, sunlight, and water and it will amaze you with its growth. The same is often true for fish in a glass aquarium: put them in a pond and they will grow larger.

I think we can learn from them.

What Motivates You to Succeed?

It’s true: Your thinking is the “governor” that restricts or frees you to grow as a person. Just as a throttle governor in an automobile puts limits on how fast you can drive, your mindset limits how successful you will be. How is it then that many uber-successful people came from extreme poverty and painful life experiences? It’s hard to find a billionaire who didn’t come through some pretty harrowing life experiences before they succeeded.

Pain, fear, and desperation tend to fuel either pessimism and misery or defiance and discipline. The motivational effect of, “Oh yeah? Well, I’ll show you!” is undeniable.

Zig Ziglar, arguably one of the most successful motivational speakers of all time, once told me that, as a youth, he was very poor and was expelled from the community swimming pool. This, combined with other indignities in his youth, fueled his commitment to succeed. Through immense dedication and hard work, he raised himself to world prominence in his field. Then, once he had succeeded, he built a new home with a swimming pool…one foot larger than the public pool from which he had been expelled as a youth in Mississippi. “Told ya!”

Where does this mindset come from? How can you and I cultivate an attitude that will take us far beyond the limits imposed by our parents, teachers, friends, and neighbors in the past? If Mom and Dad grew up in the Great Depression, as mine did, then their fear of poverty and find-a-way-to-make-do attitude was passed along to their kids. Those of us born in the Baby Boom generation (1946-1964) received both their doubts and their dreams. The ones we embraced determined our destiny.

Chances are good that the Baby Boomers are your parents. It was their job to watch over you and train you to meet the world on your own. But they were only teaching you what they had learned and believed. So, if you accept the same governors by which they were guided, your growth will never exceed their expectations. Break free!

In my 20s, I realized my expectations were small – and my life would be too unless something changed. Realizing that my thinking was at the root of my life experience, I decided to spend five years retraining my mind toward optimism and achievement. My tool was the recorded messages of Earl Nightingale – an inspirational speaker and radio commentator who was on 900 radio stations around the world in the 1970s. He was known as “the Dean of Personal Motivation.”

I purchased a library of Earl’s recordings, on a payment plan, and listened to them every day – often multiple times each day. He spoke about the great philosophers, world leaders, high achievers, and down-to-earth thinkers in ways that expanded my mind and removed my learned limitations, my “governors.” At first, I simply listened to him but, after repeated listening, I began to see the world and myself differently.

Train Your Mind to Expect More from Life

Within a year, I was taking more initiative at work and in my community. Within two years I was holding leadership positions. By year three I was winning statewide awards for my leadership achievements. Today, I’m at the top of my profession and – a few weeks ago – I did a round-the-world lecture tour with stops in China and Poland, speaking to as many as 5,000 people for up to six hours.

As a young man back in Arkansas, I expected an ordinary and unremarkable life. But, by retraining my mind and removing my governing thoughts, I have achieved more than anyone in my family before me. You can do this too. But first, you must learn to believe it is possible.

Note that I said, “Learn to believe.” Our beliefs aren’t necessarily true, though we treat them as if they are. We were taught to believe them. We were trained to see the world in ways that may limit our growth. Everything we know has been limited by what we were exposed to so far, and that is much less than all there is to know. It is up to you and me to

  1. Discover what we believe
  2. Test what we believe
  3. Live what we believe

Think about your future. What do you think it will be like? How successful could you become? A millionaire, billionaire, world leader, industry leader, respected by the most successful people in the world, a world record holder, a pioneer? Can you see your name on a building you have donated to a university? Do you see yourself being inducted into the hall of fame for your profession? Look at the gap between what you believe is likely and what could truly be possible. That gap is created by your governor. Remove the governor. Impeach it!

When you test your beliefs and find them to be inaccurate, embrace a larger vision of your future and live today as the person you hope to become tomorrow. Ask yourself every day, “How would the person I’d like to become do the things I will do today?” Upgrade everything you do to the level you aspire to – not the one you feel you’re currently on. Fire your governor and be all you can be.

Mindset is manageable. Take charge of yours.

Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAE, is the original author of Relationship Selling and one of the world’s leading professional speakers. Jim is a regular contributor to Selling Power and a certified Mindset Trainer. Contact Jim at Cathcart.com.

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How to Align and Motivate Your Channel Partners

By Ted Dimbero

Sales managers who oversee their own teams have a wide array of tools and techniques to boost revenues and performance – and the amount of information and advice on how to do this today is truly staggering. But there’s another layer of complexity for channel sales, where leaders rely on resellers and salespeople who are partners rather than direct reports.

However, it’s possible to get channel partners aligned and motivated – and the key to unlock this potential is sharing accurate, actionable data.

Knowing exactly how, when, where, why, and to whom products are sold via indirect sales channels can be incredibly powerful for both sales leaders and channel partners. This data can drive more intelligent marketing campaigns, faster and more accurate incentive payments, and better customer targeting, among many other benefits.

Today, channel partners around the globe hold roughly $1.5 trillion worth of unsold products at any given time. The opportunity to convert this unsold inventory into new revenue has been overlooked in the past, but enterprises are quickly realizing that boosting channel sales performance can be the fastest path to greater sales and margins.

Two major developments have begun to transform the way companies manage channel sales:

  1. Cloud computing has led an exponential growth in the number of new channel resellers.

  2. New digital processes are making it possible for sales leaders to gain visibility into the channel beyond the manually-filed quarterly reports from partners that usually provide the bare minimum of total sales sums and inventory sold.

The explosion of new partners – and the ability to access data that was nearly impossible to obtain before (if it was even recorded) – could bring about a channel sales renaissance. Here are just some of the important ways enterprises have turned channel intelligence into greater revenue (or cost savings).

#1: Leveraged special programs to target specific customer segments.

For channel sales, it’s important to identify the segments to which partners are selling – and effectively leverage that information. With accurate and timely data on the individual buyers resellers are reaching, sales leaders can better identify and raise awareness about strategic customer market segments. This actionable sales data also helps generate new leads and uncovers new up-selling and cross-selling opportunities for existing customers, which empowers resellers to bring in more revenue and increase their own earnings.

#2: Identified deals early in the indirect sales funnel via real-time channel data.

Companies can also use timely data to accelerate the sales cycle by identifying important leads and routing them to the channel partner with the highest probability to close the deal in the quickest timeframe. A strong channel data feed empowers companies to proactively cultivate new and existing partner relationships – highlighting new, up-and-coming reseller partners and providing early warning signs about less-effective partners and what needs to change. For example, sales leaders can set automatic parameters to enroll successful resellers into a preferred partner program, or track significant week-to-week declines in sales volume to ensure corrective partner management actions before it’s too late.

#3: Used automated payouts to motivate channel partners, increase their productivity, and reduce their workloads.

Incentives and rebates often have the most immediate effect on motivating channel partners, and the efficiency of companies’ sales credit and commissioning processes can make or break partner programs. With a feed of accurate point-of-sale (POS) and inventory data from the channel, companies can automate incentive and rebate payments instead of relying on time-consuming and error-prone manual processes that require a lot of heavy lifting from partners. Not only does this accelerate payments by facilitating claimless processing, but it also reduces the administrative costs of the incentive programs and saves money by eliminating erroneous or fraudulent claims.

The common approach to channel sales has been stuck in the dark ages for too long, but new technology and processes that shed light on indirect sales activities offer enormous potential for companies looking to grow quickly. By establishing systems to ingest and share accurate, timely, and actionable channel data, sales leaders have an immediate opportunity to increase revenues, build better partner relationships, and more closely align sales objectives. These are just a few of a growing list of benefits that channel data management can unlock for enterprises ready to embrace the next evolution of indirect sales.

Ted Dimbero is chief customer officer at Zyme.

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How to Create a Sales Account Plan that Works for You

By Mark Donnolo

Strategic sales account planning has created more than its fair share of heartburn in sales organizations.

But it doesn’t have to. Account planning gets a lot of attention because it works, but it shouldn’t be overly complex or laborious. Salespeople don’t need to be tied to desks for extended periods of time – and most top salespeople will tell you planning makes them better.

The first step in sales account planning is to use the right structure. I’ve seen plans within the same sales organization that are so wildly different sales leaders had to spend hours trying to decode and orient themselves to each one. Not an efficient use of time. Your sales account plan should follow the same basic structure throughout the company and not be designed only so that sales leaders can quickly find key information. Key information – customized for your business – should consistently be included in your sales account plan.

The following six basic components should be in every sales account plan.

Component #1: Profile and Position

This gives an overview of the account and the strengths and weaknesses of the relationships. It answers the question, “Where are we now?” Consider including the following sections:  

  • History. This is your history with the account from a financial, buyer, and product or service perspective.
  • Addressable market. Look at the customer as a market in itself. The addressable market is the total annual spend it makes for services your company can provide. For some businesses, this information might be known at a high level, such as total IT or software spend if you’re selling technology services. For other businesses, this information may be harder to come by.
  • Current pipeline. The pipeline reveals information about your current pursuits and progress within the account. This is useful to understand where you have momentum and where you can build. If your organization uses a CRM system (accurately), good pipeline information should be easy to obtain.
  • Financial summary. A financial summary shows the historic performance in the account from different perspectives, including prior years’ revenue, bookings, profit, and performance to plan or budget.
  • Competitive landscape. This includes competitors by offer and their value propositions, strengths, and vulnerabilities.
  • SWOT. Finally, include a classic analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats with this customer. Remember, the SWOT analysis is from your company’s perspective regarding the customer.

Component #2: Needs Mapping and Alignments

This describes your understanding of the customer needs and the organizational alignments of your team to the account. This section answers the question, “Who are the buyers and how do we align?” Consider including the following sections:  

  • Summary of customer needs as an organization
  • Your account team
  • Account map of buyers and your team

Component #3: Goals and Strategy

This section describes your overall objectives for the account and how you will get to your goal. It answers the questions, “What are our objectives, and what’s our overall direction to achieve them?” It includes the goal build that takes the overall growth objective for the account and builds up the components of how the team’s going to reach that objective.

Component #4: Action Plan

The Action Plan takes each component of the goal build and develops a tactical plan to achieve the goal. It answers the question, “What is our plan to achieve each opportunity?” For each opportunity identified in the goal build, the action plan includes the challenge the customer is trying to address, a summary of your strategy, key steps, timing, and accountabilities.

Component #5: Team Support

Team Support describes how your organization needs to come together across functions to support the account plan. It answers the question, “What internal commitments do we need?” It includes key external dependencies for the strategy. These may be factors such as market conditions, client conditions, and political/environmental conditions that are out of your control.

It also includes the internal dependencies for the strategy across functions (e.g., delivery, innovation, marketing, finance, legal, HR). By identifying dependencies and required support, you’ve established the conditions you need (e.g., a stable economic environment, passage of certain regulations) and your expectations of the investments from the company that will be required to accomplish the goals in the plan. For example, you may require new team members in sales and support roles to have the capacity to work with all the decision makers and influences in the customer.

Component #6: Performance Dashboard

The Performance Dashboard sets milestones and tracks your progress to those milestones; it also helps identify any adjustments that need to be made. It answers the questions, “How have we performed? How should we adjust?” Consider including the following sections:  

  • Dashboard with dimensions for each tactical action plan component (e.g., action, timing, accountability)
  • Commitments, updated regularly for each tactical action plan component
  • Financial, offer, and buyer goals and year-to-date progress toward those goals.
  • Actual performance to goal by division, product, etc.

Note: The Performance Dashboard section may be hosted online for full access and visibility by the team and executives.

We’ve seen this structure work especially well when account teams complete the first three sections before coming together to discuss goals and strategy. With all the past and present information at hand, it becomes easier to plan for the future.

Mark 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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The Disastrous Under-development of Sales Managers

By Kevin F. Davis

I have two simple questions for you:

  1. In your professional career, how many days of sales training do you think you received?
  2. How many days of sales management training have you received? (I don’t mean courses on general management and leadership – I mean training specifically on how to manage a sales team.)

I asked this question a few weeks ago during a public webinar I was delivering to a diverse group of sales managers and sales executives from across the globe. I’ve summarized the results in the graphic below. The red bars – which are much larger toward the lower end of the scale – represent sales management training. The blue bars – much larger toward the higher end of the scale – represent sales training.

When I crunched the math, it turns out these sales managers received about 25 days of sales training on average and just seven days of sales management training.

The obvious conclusion is that most companies think that teaching someone how to get good at selling requires three times as much training as it takes to teach them how to do sales management! And, since 30 percent of participants received NO sales management training at all, it must be their companies think sales management excellence comes via osmosis or something magical.

These informal results from my webinar are supported by more rigorous research. According to the Sales Management Association’s March 2016 Research Report, “Sales Manager Training,” 41 percent of companies participating in the survey had allocated zero budget for sales manager training. And, of the 59 percent who did have a budget, half of those companies were delivering only generic management training – nothing specific to leading a sales team.

The conclusion is startling: For what many consider to be the most crucial, stressful, and challenging job in corporate America – frontline sales manager – seven out of 10 people in that position are not receiving the training they need to excel at their job.

Three Critical Reasons to Develop Sales Management Skills

The lack of investment in sales management development is disastrous for many reasons. Here are some of the most compelling:

1) Developing sales managers has very high ROI. In its 2017 “Sales Manager Enablement” report, CSO Insights showed that companies investing in developing their sales managers’ skills and establishing a strong culture of sales coaching can see a 16 percent increase in quota attainment.

2) Perhaps not surprisingly, investment in sales enablement alone is not paying off. The same CSO Insights report included data to show that investment in sales enablement more than doubled between 2013 and 2014 – but quota attainment dropped over that same period.

3) Untrained sales managers focus on the wrong things. The Sales Management Association studied what topics sales managers tend to discuss most often in coaching conversations. The top three items were all about near-term revenue opportunities. But the coaching topic that had the single biggest impact on revenue growth was identifying skill development needs – and it fell near the bottom of the list in terms of how often it was discussed.

The evidence couldn’t be clearer: Companies are not investing in sales manager development, despite the fact it could have a huge impact on revenue growth and quota attainment. If you’re in a position to influence how your company spends its training dollars, it’s time to make some changes.

Kevin F. Davis is the president of TopLine Leadership Inc., which specializes in sales management development and sales training. His clients achieve higher levels of performance from frontline sales managers when using Kevin’s methods for everything from leading, coaching, and managing priorities, to hiring, forecasting, and driving rep accountability. Kevin’s most recent book is The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top. 

Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinFDavis, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

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How to Amplify Your Connections with Customers

By Jim Cathcart

Garth Brooks is the number two best-selling music artist of all time. By number of albums sold, he’s outsold Elvis, Michael Jackson, and even Neil Diamond! What does this have to do with sales leadership? He has incredible selling power. He’s sold hundreds of millions of albums and performed at more than 350 concerts, which have grossed hundreds of millions more.

But, you say, “I’m not a singer or celebrity! I can’t do what Garth Brooks does.” Okay, granted – there’s a big gap between building a winning sales organization and being a celebrity. But let’s learn from Garth. He’s one of the most accessible successful singers in the world. So, how does he do it?  

  1. Garth is on social media regularly communicating on a personal basis with his customers (aka: fans).

  2. He is willing to be human, to listen to those who have no power, to show respect to others, and to openly express gratitude for the blessings of being able to do a job he loves. As a result, people can’t wait to pay to come see him. His fans aren’t just reflections of his musical talent (and the ability to do the job he is paid for) but, rather, he is followed because people really like and trust him.

  3. He looks out for fans and does nice, unexpected things for them too. At a recent Garth concert, a woman held up a sign with “Chemo [cancer treatment] this morning, Garth tonight!” written on it. In the middle of his signature song, “The Dance” (“I could have missed the pain but I’d have had to miss the dance”), he walked to the edge of the stage, sat down in front of her, held her face in his hands and gently kissed her. Then he took off his guitar and gave it to her! That is the strength of connecting with your customers! Everyone in the audience, and me watching on video, burst into tears at the power of that tender moment.

Do you care as much for your customers as he does for his? They don’t “know” each other; they simply share the experience of his product. How could you get to know the feelings and cares of your customers like he seems to understand his? Once you truly get it as to why people buy from you, you acquire a connecting power that could be immense. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What life or business problem do you help people solve?
  • What feelings – and maybe hopes or fears – are connected to that?
  • If you sell cars, how can you make the delivery of the new vehicle a powerful emotional triumph for the buyer?
  • If you’re a banker, could you find creative ways to thank people for investing their trust in your bank?
  • If you provide a software service, could you make people part of a “club” of insiders whom you protect and empower through your service?

Tommy Emmanuel is arguably the best popular guitarist alive today. Not the best known, flashiest, nor even the top selling, but clearly one of the best skilled you’ll ever see. (Christopher Parkening holds the best classical guitarist title.) Chet Atkins dubbed Tommy a “Certified Guitar Player,” a title he wears proudly. Watch Tommy’s YouTube performance of “Classical Gas.” You’ll be speechless.

Last week I met Tommy before his show in Santa Barbara and I presented a silver acorn to him to thank him for his art and to encourage him to keep on giving. His performance was one of the most joyful I’ve ever seen. He was having a great time – and so were we! Tommy loves playing guitar and people love to see him do it. How can you cultivate your love of what you do? How can you make it joyful to work with others and to provide the value you bring?  

Finally, let’s look at the SBAIC, the Santa Barbara Acoustic Instrument Celebration, organized by Kevin Gillies. This amazing gathering of instrumental artists takes place annually in California and brings the finest guitar makers (luthiers) from around the world. They hold three days of clinics – all day, each day. Customers and fans are encouraged to touch or play the instruments, talk with the artisans who made them, and learn techniques for inlays, wood choices, playing, and more. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of instruments are sold and the art and craft of luthiers is advanced. I conduct a seminar there for the guitar makers titled “The Art of Marketing and The Marketing of Art.”

How could you create an event or a special experience around your product or service so customers can learn the inner workings, get a hands-on experience, and get to know the people who provide the value you offer?

You may not be another Garth Brooks in your own field (or you might) but, even if all you do is learn from his example, you can still add tremendous value to your career and customers. You might not love what you do as much as Tommy Emmanuel does, but you could learn to enjoy and savor it more if you tried. Your “experience” event might not have the same qualities as SBAIC, but I’ll bet there are dozens of ways you can make your work more fun for your team and more enjoyable to your customers.

Jim Cathcart, CSP, CPAE is the original author of Relationship Selling and one of the world’s leading professional speakers. Jim is a regular contributor to Selling Power and a certified Mindset Trainer. Contact Jim at Cathcart.com.

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Is Your Sales Presentation Suffering from Information Overload?

By Terri L. Sjodin

In today’s competitive marketplace, a sales professional’s success often depends upon his or her ability to deliver a polished and persuasive presentation. Although salespeople spend a significant amount of their time verbally communicating, many suffer from common shortcomings in their sales presentations that adversely affect their results.

One of the most common mistakes is delivering overly informative presentations. Of course, every solid presentation requires a certain amount of “data,” but many professionals spend too much time informing rather than persuading.

It’s very easy to deliver an informative rather than persuasive presentation. The reason? A prospect typically won’t say “no” when you’re only disseminating information. The problem is they don’t say “yes” either!

A young woman I recently worked with reluctantly confessed that she suffered from the data-dump syndrome. Like many of us, she felt more comfortable in the information zone. Her strategy was simply to provide more information than her competitor. She was hoping that her prospect would like her more, or at least feel obligated to buy from her because she had been so thorough. She came to realize that she had been spending a great deal of time sharing and consulting with her sales prospects without completing any transactions. (Ouch!)

After stepping back and evaluating her presentations, she realized she needed to move beyond merely relaying information; she needed to build her case. By focusing more on brevity and tailoring her strongest points to her prospects’ needs, this young professional eventually became a consistent producer in her organization.

What Makes a Persuasive Case with Prospects?

Prepare like a debater or an attorney. Debaters and attorneys win cases based on persuasive arguments and supporting evidence. Focus on your most compelling arguments with each client or prospect.

Do you deliver a presentation that creates a true need for your product or service that your prospect may not even be aware of? (Ask yourself: why you, why your company, why now?) Don’t just deliver a standard list of features and benefits. (Remember, a feature is what something is. A benefit is what that something does. These two concepts alone are inherently informative.) Think proactive versus reactive. Design a presentation that anticipates common objections and overcomes them within the body of the presentation before they become reasons not to buy.

If you have been meeting with a substantial number of prospects, but haven’t been completing a significant number of transactions, maybe the big question you need to ask yourself is… “Is my presentation overly informative or is it persuasive?”

After recognizing the danger of data dumping, you are poised to tackle any topic that comes along. Your goal is to be both informative and persuasive, pairing rock-solid information with compelling arguments. Your presentation should be a blend or a combination of the two. I have seen it play out time and again. If you are too informative, nothing happens. If you are too aggressive, nothing happens. Find a balance, and you’ll see results.

Terri L. Sjodin is the author of the national best-selling book, Small Message, Big Impact. Her new book, Scrappy: A Little Book About Choosing to Play Big, was just released by Penguin Random House. She is the principal and founder of Sjodin Communications, a public speaking, sales training, and consulting firm. For more than 20 years Terri has served as a speaker and consultant for Fortune 500 companies, industry associations, academic conferences, CEOs, and members of Congress. She lives in Newport Beach, CA. For more information visit: www.sjodincommunications.com.

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