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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When It Comes to Forecasting, Sales Managers Should Be Afraid of Commitment

sales forecasting

By Donal Daly

The “commit theory” of sales forecasting – in which salespeople commit that their deals are on track to close – is in need of improvement. The “commit paradigm” rarely delivers the expected results.

One of the issues is that the confidence salespeople feel about the outcome of a deal can be based more on intention, subjective assessment, and pressure from their managers to achieve – rather than collaboration with their customer on when they need a solution to their business problem.

Accountability is good, and having a grasp on future outlook is important for business – but the over-emphasis on commitment can totally undermine a good sales practice, alienate skilled salespeople, and even jeopardize customer relationships.

Sales works only where there’s trust. That means there needs to be trust between salespeople and their customers – and also internal trust between salespeople and management. Inaccurate information, even if not given deliberately, can wear away at that trust, which is hard on both managers and on sales reps themselves.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are strategies sales managers can execute that make for more accurate forecasts, without the need for speculation or putting pressure on reps to make commitments on deals they are not ready to make.

Four Forecasting Strategies Better than a Vague Commitment

  1. Study history. Looking at past information is one of the best ways to get a feel for the future. Considering the team’s quota – as well as the number of deals closed, in process, or projected – is a fantastic way to identify patterns and recognize trends. This may seem like an extremely intuitive step, but many organizations still miss it. It’s easy to do, and extremely illuminating when organizations are forecasting. Past performance, put in the right context, is one of the clearest indicators we have of future achievement.
  2. Implement a standard sales process. Having one single, universal procedure for the entire team to follow minimizes confusion and creates a more objective basis for an activity that can often feel very interpretive. This process should be based on customer-verifiable outcomes and specific evidence, which most organizations already measure. The more sales leaders tie in hard metrics and solid practices, the more likely their teams will adhere to a more reliable program.
  3. Build an early warning system. At any given moment, there’s a lot going on in a sales organization, and it’s easy to lose sight of important details in the flood of data and activity salespeople encounter on a daily basis. Having a system in place to spot risks and highlight inactivity, deal slippage, or other factors sets sales managers up with more realistic expectations about whether a deal will close from the very beginning, so that – when forecasting time comes around – they’ll have a better lens through which to examine their pipeline.
  4. Decide where to focus. Not all deals are equal and, unless priority is given to the “must win” deals to make the forecast and the quarter, the risk is that deals will slip and the organization as a whole may suffer. Each deal in the forecast should be categorized as a “must win now,” “must develop for next quarter,” or “qualify out” – so the focus is clear. These categorizations help guide salespeople to make stronger decisions about their opportunities without putting them in the position of speculating about them on their own.

Forecasting is a useful tool to predict and measure future pipeline, but it must be accurate to be effective. Rather than asking salespeople to come up with estimates based on subjective estimates and personal judgments, sales managers who take a thoughtful approach to evaluating their pipelines will be in a stronger position than those who don’t.

Donal Option 1 (2)CEO, founder, and author of Amazon number one best-seller Account Planning in Salesforce, Donal Daly combines his expertise in enterprise software applications, artificial intelligence, and sales methodology as he continues to transform how progressive organizations sell. The TAS Group is Donal’s fifth global business enterprise.

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Seven Vital Questions You Need to Ask Your Reps Prior to Their Sales Calls

Barrett Riddleberger SLB post

By Barrett Riddleberger

A well-prepared sales rep always has a greater chance of landing a sale than those who aren’t.

How should your sales reps prepare for a sales call? Start by asking them the right questions to get them thinking about their next appointment from a more strategic perspective.

  1. How will you demonstrate credibility with the decision maker?

What words and resources will you use to present yourself as a trusted business advisor to the buyer? How will you demonstrate low risk and high value? Listen for your sales rep to be specific in their answers, such as providing testimonials or case studies, demonstrating the depth of their business knowledge and product knowledge, asking quality questions, etc. This will open up opportunities for you to coach and support their credibility efforts.

  1. What seven questions are you going to ask on your next appointment?

In other words, do you have a set of prepared questions that are written and logical for this sales call? Are they relatable to the prospect or customer’s situation? Are they problem-, solution-, and business-focused questions? Do they help your sales rep determine the validity of the buyer? Will they help your sales rep make a legitimate, on-target recommendation of your products and services?

  1. What are the buyer’s three primary wants?

That’s wants, not needs. Needs are easier to identify, but you’re looking for motives for buying – anything from the buyer’s pain points to their desire for personal gain. Whatever the wants may be, is your sales rep considering how to sell to the buyer’s wants? For example, the executive may need a new service contract. What they want is a guarantee not to look bad in front of their boss if the system crashes. They want to look smart to their boss because they were thinking ahead with a new service contract to mitigate risk.

  1. How qualified is this opportunity?

Unqualified buyers buy little – if anything at all. Is your sales rep attempting to sell to unqualified buyers? Does your sales rep have a defined set of characteristics of a qualified buyer – authority, budget, time frame, basic needs, credit? Do they have prepared questions associated with each characteristic? Without a concrete plan for determining the level of qualification of a buyer, your sales reps are rolling the dice on who will and who won’t buy. In most cases, your reps will fill their pipelines with prospects based on perceived emotional connections, not facts.

  1. How will you differentiate our solution from our competitors’ solutions?

Knowing your sales rep will compete with other reps and companies, make them explain how they will separate themselves from the other salespeople vying for the prospect’s business. Look for more than just product or service differentiation. Ask how your sales rep will create value for the prospect to buy their talent instead of just your product or service.

  1. Who are the influencers participating in making the decision?

You want to know how your sales reps will create account depth. How will they gain access to as many people involved in the decision as possible? How will they extract each person’s personal agenda in the buying decision? Help them network within an account in order to gain insights from multiple sources.

  1. What is the financial benefit to the buyer if he or she buys from us?

Is your salesperson prepared to make a financial case for why the prospect should do business with your company? Is the buyer attempting to reduce cost? Increase margin? Improve productivity? Reduce downtime? Increase sales? Expand market share? Reduce turnover? Increase efficiency? Reduce head count? Regardless of the financial impact, is your sales rep asking the right questions and framing their presentation to satisfy the buyer’s financial objectives?

Adopting these seven questions into your coaching sessions will boost your sales rep’s level of awareness and quality of preparation. In time, you’ll find this leads to more confident salespeople and better outcomes.

1c32a6dBarrett Riddleberger is CEO of xPotential Selling, author of Blueprint of a Sales Champion, and columnist for

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Are You Building Relationships with Those Who Hold the Purse Strings?

By Sharon Gillenwater

A sale here. A sale there. Yep, that’s that seemingly impenetrable account you just can’t seem to grow. All salespeople have them. What’s the barrier? Well, it could be that the bigger deals elude you because you’re not selling to the people who have a bigger vision – and who hold the purse strings for those multimillion-dollar sales. Getting the C-suite on your side is one way to move the needle with those underpenetrated accounts.

When you develop personal relationships in the C-suite, you’re cultivating action. These relationships open doors and facilitate your ability to close bigger deals faster. Earn their trust and respect and C-suiters can and will:

  • Immediately create a budget that includes your product or service
  • Greenlight a sale that had been blocked by a lower-level manager
  • Open doors to their peers at other organizations – both in their company and beyond – providing you with an invaluable entrée to a very powerful and difficult-to-access group of decision makers.

Sounds great, but the obstacle, of course, is, first how to reach, engage, and nurture long-term relationships with CXOs. Cold calls or even “warm” email referrals are unlikely to get you in the door. Success requires equal parts finesse, chutzpah, and courage – and, even more important, in-depth knowledge of the executive’s background, business, current focus, and key challenges. You need to demonstrate credibility and that you can help solve their problems, which you’ve thoroughly researched and are comfortable discussing.

Three Steps to Attacking Underpenetrated Accounts via the C-Suite

  1. Target the right person: Do your research. Identify who in the executive suite is most likely to be able to make a decision about your product or service. With good information you can determine which executive owns – or can influence – the area relevant to your product or service, such as marketing analytics, supply chain solutions, or accounting software.
  2. Really, really know your targets: Corporate bios tell you what the company wants you to know about their executives. If you’re lucky, LinkedIn tells you what the executive wants you to know. But you’ll probably have to dig deeper to uncover potential hooks that will help you get their attention and a return phone call. Our recommendation is to always use their own words when contacting them. Search for interviews they have given with an industry publication, or something they said on a quarterly earnings call. With that in hand, you’ve greatly increased your chances of breaking through the noise.
  3. Don’t be afraid to challenge them: Don’t take the new pal approach. CXOs aren’t looking for new friends; they need business partners who add value and even speak uncomfortable truths. Give them the facts, but don’t shy away from asking hard questions based on what you’ve learned from other companies in their industry. That kind of honesty adds value, builds trust, and establishes your credibility.

The Three Pillars of a CXO Relationship

If you have in-depth knowledge about your prospect, you can establish a relationship that goes deep and sets you apart from your competition – which may even be their existing vendor. We know from CIGNA Corporation’s CIO Mark Boxer, for example, that, “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.”

Having in-depth knowledge about your prospect’s industry and business and how your product/service adds value to them – and can even help them innovate – builds the second pillar with your CXO prospect: credibility. Many CXOs can relate to Intuit’s Atticus Tysen, who has said that their big issue is how they can get more efficient and automate with what they already have. They work with vendors “to help us get better while we shift resources over to the new, because I’m definitely not getting more budget!”

Understanding those parameters and speaking honestly about their needs and how you can help them – even putting skin in the game – builds the third pillar: trust.

Keep these pillars – knowledge, credibility, and trust – top of mind as you build relationships with C-level executives and you have a good chance to make the leap to becoming a valued partner within the company. This is what leads to those much larger deals you’ve been aiming to achieve.

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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Using the Power of Attitude to Transform Sales Performance

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By Scott Roy and Dr. Roy Whitten

Mental attitude is critical to sales performance, yet we have found that most training programs barely scrape the surface of the subject.

In today’s increasingly competitive business environment, training professionals are often tempted to concentrate on competency (skills) and execution (activity) when training their sales force. However, at our sales consultancy Whitten & Roy Partnership, we believe attitude is the key factor – and needs to be an equal point of focus.

As a subject, attitude is currently trending in the training world. There are many effective sales training programs around, but – to our knowledge – none focuses on actually solving the attitude challenge. Many trainers and human resources professionals have a finger on the symptom; however, they don’t quite have the solution to make it work.

Managers need to know how to manage attitude – and they need to want to do it. At Whitten & Roy Partnership, we have developed an approach that utilizes a formula – devised by cofounder Scott Roy – that improves sales Results by addressing the three critical factors of Attitude, Competence, and Execution. This is known as R=A+C+E®.

Attitude is not black and white. It’s complex and covers qualities like purposefulness, resilience, integrity, self-discipline, and enthusiasm. It shifts quickly and unexpectedly and, once it shifts, it has a huge impact on people’s ability to perform – particularly salespeople.

We’re on a mission to help others unlock and control their attitude and believe that we have cracked it with our Split Attention technique. This transforms professional performance by enabling individuals to be in the present moment, maximizing their natural ability to learn and perform at their best – an ability that human beings exercise naturally for the first few years of their lives.

Much of our work on attitude is founded on Dr. Roy Whitten’s PhD dissertation on the subject of Utilizing Split Attention in daily life. Specifically, Split Attention involves continuing to focus on what you were doing before your attitude dropped while, at the same time, focusing part of your attention on something physical – something you can feel: for example, your breath.

To enhance the learning experience, we have created a short video tutorial in which our cofounder Dr. Roy Whitten walks you step by step through getting the knack of Split Attention.  

The technique is easy to learn and the great majority of the people who have completed our training programs rate it as one of the most important benefits. With regular practice, by applying the Split Attention technique, people’s attitude can be radically changed – resulting in a more alert, more confident, and clearer-thinking state of being.

When we fully concentrate on what we are doing – right here and right now – we think more clearly. Free from inner self-definitions, people start finding themselves acting more naturally and with freedom to change – just as they did when they were young.

Quick-fix half-day courses and so-called “motivational” tactics don’t work to change self-belief. In our longstanding experience, we have learned you need to invest in people to transform their performance.

Using the power of present-moment-awareness – as part of the training formula R=A+C+E® –  fundamentally transforms results. By addressing attitude, competence, and execution, sales managers and business leaders can be genuinely empowered.

About the Authors

Whitten and Roy copyAs an international sales consultancy, Whitten & Roy Partnerships ( provides bespoke sales programs to transform clients’ ability to generate results. At the core of the training is the critical role of attitude to both employees’ and managers’ performances. Dr. Roy Whitten is an expert in attitude and its role in human performance and sales management, and earned a PhD for his work in transformative learning and change. In his more than 40 years of experience as a trainer and consultant, he coached more than 100,000 people. The co-author, Scott Roy, is an expert in the art of selling and sales management. He built and ran large sales teams as well as founding a nationwide insurance company. Additionally, both have extensive experience of sales and training in the nonprofit sector.

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100 Days to a Winning Sales Culture

100 days

By John Turner

Picture yourself in one of the following scenarios. You may even recognize one or all of these situations from personal experience:

  • You were just promoted to lead your company’s sales team.
  • You have switched companies and are now heading up an entirely new sales team.
  • You have been charged with turning around an under-performing sales organization.

When presented with one of these opportunities, your mind naturally starts reeling with how you will approach your new role. You may start thinking about tactics, strategy, sales goals, hiring, training, measuring success, and how you will pay the mortgage if you fail. The list goes on and on.

I ask you to take a step back and think about the one thing that can make sure all those other factors swimming in your head fall into place successfully: culture.

Sales Culture Is Going to Happen – with or without You
Sales culture is everything, and I do not say that lightly.  Your sales culture is, essentially, a set of values shared by you and every member of your team. It fuels every single aspect of how you operate – both as a team and as individual performers. So, if your sales culture is not purposefully set up for success, then you leave everything about your sales effort to chance – and nothing left to chance ever endures for long.

If you don’t take charge and lay a solid foundation for what you want your sales team to be, then everything that comes next will be on shaky ground. This is why your first job when taking over as head of any sales team is to immediately focus on creating a strong, enduring sales culture.

You have 100 days to do so.

This is the maximum amount of time most business experts agree it takes to establish yourself as a leader and set the tone for the rest of your tenure at your company.

Before Day One
To create a sales culture, you must start even before day one.

Thirty days before I took over as head of sales at TriNet, I thought about what type of culture I needed to create in order to achieve the company’s ambitious growth goals. I knew from experience that the second I walked into that building on my first day and introduced myself to my team, the sales culture wheel would already be put in place. It was my job to steer it in the direction I wanted it to go.

I am a big believer in learning from the best, and I highly recommend doing some research on the company culture before you take on your new role. Books that have been invaluable to my process of creating a winning sales culture include The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni and The Team Formula by Mandy Flint.

Three Ways through the First 100 Days
To set the foundation for your winning sales culture, I recommend you focus your attention for the first 100 days on these three areas:

  1. Gathering data
    Your first 100 days are about gathering data – talking to your sales reps, talking to vendors, talking to colleagues, and gathering as much information as you can about the company’s issues, priorities, and opportunities. These are the items you will feed into your culture and the items your culture will feed into. Observe how the wheels turn at your company and figure out how to move each cog to instill the culture you want to create.
  2. Purposefully exuding culture
    Culture starts with the head of the sales team and filters down to that person’s direct reports, through frontline managers and on – all the way to the very last sales rep. This means that, for the first 100 days, you have to come into your place of business embodying all the values you want in your culture and you have to immediately instill those values in each member of your team. As a sales leader, you are always building or strengthening your company’s culture. Whether you do this intentionally or not, you are doing it. Everything you do and say either strengthens or weakens your sales culture. Be exceedingly mindful of this in the first 100 days. After that, culture should pour out of you just from habit.
  3. Building culture into your rewards program
    We all know the way to get the attention of every single member of your sales team is to “hit” them where it counts: in the rewards program. Of course our sales reps are rewarded for their numbers – but we also recognize them for displaying our cultural values. Make sure your team understands that performance and culture are closely tied to each other and one cannot be a top performer by succeeding in only one area.

A Case Study in Creating a Value-Based Culture
Here are the major values of the TriNet sales culture and how I implemented each one – all within 100 days, using the three methods I discussed above.

Transparency: Starting on my first day at TriNet – and continuously since then – I have shared my values, my triggers, and my leadership principles with my team. Everyone understands how I lead and what is critical to me. Just as importantly, everyone understands their responsibility and the role they play in our success. All my communications to my team consistently and clearly underline these same values. I aim to never miss an opportunity to remind them.

Everyone counts: Culture starts at the top but it doesn’t live there. Each face-to-face interaction with a member of your team is a chance to impart your values and, thus, strengthen your sales culture. You have to go out in the field and listen to your employees. You have to make sure your managers do the same. This leads to a culture where sales members feel valued and are more comfortable being creative and proactive. At TriNet, we constantly reiterate, through both words and actions, that everyone – regardless of title – plays a crucial role in our success.

Teamwork: Sales is a competitive field, but it’s also collaborative. We have built-in recognition programs in which we honor colleagues for their partnership in making our sales organization great. A good example of this is our annual “friends of sales” award, in which we recognize colleagues outside of the sales department who have gone above and beyond to help our sales efforts.

Beyond 100 Days
Just as culture can be built, it can be destroyed. It is imperative that, after those critical first 100 days, you continue to keep your cultural priorities front and center and reflective of everything you do. Make it part of your employee recruitment and onboarding processes with new hires. Implement it continuously into your sales training, goal setting and rewards programs. Even make it part of your employees’ exiting process.

I chose to be intentional about the culture I created at TriNet and it has paid off. If I ask a new sales rep at the end of his or her first week at TriNet to define our sales culture, frequently he or she describes the exact culture I envisioned before I even walked into my new job. The winning sales team culture at TriNet is palpable, even with a 500 percent increase in size over the past three years. This is no accident.

How can you purposely shape the culture of your company and your team?

John Turner is senior vice president of sales for TriNet, where he has grown the sales force to seven times its size since 2012.

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The Personality Of A Perfect Salesperson

By Logan Strain

Your success in sales is a direct result of your daily habits. It’s simply a matter of taking the right action, at the right time, in the right order, over and over again. But your actions are the result of something more important: who you are. Your personal values, temperament, and motivation influence your actions; and therefore influence your success.

But what are the personal qualities that really matter? What separates salespeople who see success quarter after quarter from those who struggle? This a question that psychologists, social scientists, and business researchers have tackled over the last few decades. Thanks to their research, we now have a more accurate picture of what it takes to succeed in sales.

This infographic from NextGen Leads explains some of the most interesting and relevant findings. Some of the facts confirm conventional wisdom. For example, one study found that successful salespeople have a high level of grit, which is necessary to push through difficult times. Other conclusions challenge the traditional ideal. For example, one study found that “ambiverts” are more successful salespeople than traditional extroverts.

Take a look at these seven qualities. Do you recognize any of them in yourself?

The Personality Of A Perfect Salesperson

Logan-HeadshotLogan Strain is the Digital Content Specialist for NextGen Leads. His work has also been featured in Search Engine Journal, The Salesforce Blog, HubSpot, and other fine publications. He lives in San Diego with his wife and daughter. Follow him on twitter @LM_Strain.

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New Year’s Resolution: A Winning Sales Script

By Karen Tang

As we begin 2016, some are predicting the death of the cold call. However, with more than 75 percent of senior executives reporting taking a meeting after a cold call, I have to disagree. Cold calls can work for you, too – as long as you have the right sales script in place and are using the call to build an interactive, two-way conversation.

Sales scripts are incredibly important, especially if you are talking with a prospect over the phone. It can be intimidating to make a cold sales call, and you may worry that your potential customer will be annoyed with you or just hang up.

Sales executives who want to turn their sales force into a lean, mean, cold calling machine have to make a simple resolution this year: develop a top-notch sales script. A good script will guide your sales reps through a natural, two-way interactive conversation with each prospect, and will help them get to the bottom of each prospect’s pain so they can articulate the value of your product or service most effectively.

Not sure how to write a sales script that will help you win tons of business – and be more engaging to your prospects? Take note of these tips.

Skip the Small Talk

When cold calling, ask for your prospect by name (first and last) and then introduce yourself, providing your title and company name. From there, ask if you are calling at an OK time in their day and if you can take three to five minutes of their time. If they say no, ask if you can call back at a specific time the following day. That way, you will have an appointment.

From there, launch into the reason for your call. Condense this explanation into three to four sentences that go into the precise assistance your company provides, how your prospect can benefit, and a short example of a similar company with which you have worked.

The most important thing here is to stick to business-speak. Show them that you respect their time by getting right down to business.

Do Your Research

Spend a good deal of time gathering background information on your prospect. According to a recent study by Vorsight, only 3 percent of your market is ready to buy at any given time, but 40 percent are poised to do so. You can keep tabs on who is moving from the 40 percent and into the 3 percent by asking yourself the following questions: Has the company been in the news lately for a new product? What pain points are they facing these days? How is the state of their industry?

The more pertinent information you can present during your initial call, the more likely they will be to take you seriously and listen.

Use Their Jargon

Read up on the jargon, acronyms, etc., relevant to their industry and try to incorporate those terms into your sales script. Only 13 percent of customers believe a salesperson understands their needs, so, by using their jargon, you are not only making them more comfortable, but demonstrating you’re knowledgeable about their industry or product, which will help you gain credibility in the eyes of your prospect.


Cold calling can be nerve wracking – and those nerves can cause you to speak quickly and not allow any time for the person on the other end to have their say. Try to speak slowly and pause between sentences. Ask authentic questions that show you know their industry and want to start a dialogue.

Have a Conversation

In sales, customization is key – your audience is busy, so they want to know why you and your product are relevant to their lives within the first few minutes of your call, or you’ll lose their attention. Instead of giving a monologue or a lecture, start a dialogue to find out what your prospects care about most while you’re giving the talk, and then adjust your content on the fly.

If the prospect is interested in getting more information, schedule a follow-up presentation that is designed to be a two-way conversation between the presenter and prospect. Tools like Prezi – which are interactive and provide a zoom-able canvas that offers both the presenter and prospect a more unique, compelling, and engaging experience – can aid in the selling practice and be used while you deliver your script.

We have also found conversational presenting to be an effective tool for many of our customers, including Verifone. At trade shows, Verifone’s mobile sales team uses a Prezi that runs on an iPad so they can leave the booth and have on-the-fly conversations with prospects with a presentation they can take with them wherever they go, so they can extend the conversations to after-trade-show-hours dinners and networking events.

Stick with the Timeline and Finish with an Ask

If you told your prospect the conversation would last three to five minutes, stick to that. If you are about to go over because you’ve gotten to talking, pause for a moment and ask if they are still OK on time. They will appreciate this courtesy.

Before you end the call, ask for another meeting. This could be another phone discussion or a coffee date – whichever is best for their schedule. Offer a few times that work for you and ask them for their preferred time. After you get off the phone, confirm over email and then look forward to landing that sale!

Karen Tang leads the sales, customer success, and support teams at Prezi, and is passionate about growing and delighting its customer base. She leads the charge in expanding Prezi into teams and businesses, and in helping these business users adopt and maximize value out of the product.

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How to Master the Negotiation Process

By Kim Dean

Mastering the negotiation process is an ongoing challenge for sales professionals. Is the negotiation process different from the sales process? Yes, selling is the act of providing value through goods, services, and information/insights to address a customer’s challenges and/or opportunities. Negotiating is the interaction that determines the terms of the transaction.

Essentially, selling creates value; negotiating gets paid for that value.

What are the obstacles that impede negotiation?

Start with a Strong Platform

In an ideal world, negotiation terms are fair and fruitful – and all parties emerge satisfied with the terms

Too often, though, the sales professional assumes the customer’s concerns and positions without truly exploring what the customer is thinking and trying to accomplish. Salespeople must remain open and listen to the initial feedback regarding the opening offer.To end well, the negotiation must begin on a positive note….creating value. A salesperson must have established that value and have aligned it to the needs of the customer.  

How can both parties interests be served?

Avoid Playing Defense

A common tactical error is to begin the process in a responsive mode, waiting for a pricing challenge and then trying to justify value. This is playing defense. Instead, start strong with the opening terms and the rationale for those terms. Start from a position of strength.

If you open with a justified price and terms based on what you bring to the transaction, all changes should be a give and take. That is true trading. Concessions, on the other hand, are one-way gives and should be the path of last resort.

Andrea Moses put it well when she said, “When your customer says that your price is too high, he means that he does not appreciate the value of your product.” Make sure both sides are speaking the same language about the product before coming to any agreements.

Closing a deal for the sake of closing is not smart negotiating. It leads to difficulty in implementing the solution – as there is no meaningful basis for the terms. No deal is a legitimate close to a situation where the parties do not agree on value. Sometimes, the first step in achieving win-win negotiations is reaching a diplomatic – yet not consummated – close.

Build Trust

Some sales professionals choose to hedge their bets at the negotiating table, opting to keep something hidden as a form of insurance policy should negotiations go south. However, if your goal is to build trust and long-term business relationships, then the phrase “negotiating in good faith” must become a personal objective.

Professional credibility is earned, not purchased, and the easiest way to forfeit all hope of establishing credibility is to not play it straight. Negotiating can be done fairly and firmly without compromising one’s integrity, and will pay dividends with business partners who share a like-minded approach.

Prioritize Your Desired Outcomes

Not all terms are equal in value to both parties. The best trade is giving something of value to your customer that is not as costly as other options. Some trades are fixed costs to your organization and can be of great worth to the customer.  

A large portion of successful negotiating can be attributed to deftly prioritizing one’s desired outcomes. While not everything on a given priority list may be attained in a negotiating session, working toward achieving the most important results should be the goal. Similarly, it is important for one side to recognize the opposition’s priorities to maintain fluidity and balance in negotiations.

If you realize both parties enter a negotiation with different and sometimes competing interests, a potential win-win can be found. Figure out quickly – before starting to trade – what their top priorities are versus their opening positions. Discuss openly so negotiating partners know the order of importance and are willing to dispense with secondary requests to reach a mutually acceptable position.

Everyone wants to emerge victorious from a negotiating session. Know what would truly constitute victory for your company. Realistically, this does not mean getting everything you propose. Long-term victories require both parties to win what they really need.

At Richardson, we help sales professionals master win-win negotiations and achieve great results for both sides of the conversation. Learn more about Richardson’s negotiation training program or follow us on Twitter.

Kim Dean is senior training consultant at Richardson Sales Training. Kim facilitates highly interactive training workshops for sales and sales management professionals in a variety of industries.

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Secrets to Motivating and Recruiting Top Salespeople

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By Karl Gustafson

Sales professionals are inherently goal-oriented individuals. Achieving results and big wins drives most successful sales professionals. For most of us, that attitude started in the cradle.

When I started my career in sales (around the time Ronald Reagan was first elected president), goals were still a big part of the game, as they always had been. They were focused on a few key performance indicators (KPIs) such as prospects, opportunities, and, of course, sales numbers. It was a solid system that set goals to keep employees focused, yet allowed time for personal growth and development.

However, as the selling profession has evolved, so too has the focus on goals and metrics that sales leaders now utilize to measure the health of their organizations and the success of their sales force. With the invention of the CRM and dozens of other analytics programs, today’s sales leaders are immersed in data and new tools that allow them to create and track goals that span far beyond what was trackable in my early days of selling.

Today’s sales leaders have more KPIs than ever before. Some of these are fairly common, but many are completely customized based on experience and what forecasts the health and success of their unique sales organization.

The Overlooked KPI

Don’t get me wrong – sales technology has, for the most part, transformed the industry in a truly positive way. Today’s organizations have power and information we could have only dreamed of back in the day. However, along the way, I believe we lost sight of the most important KPI of all…the success of our people.

What I’m referring to is establishing and tracking goals that not only support the company’s vision, but also help foster the success and development of the individuals on the sales team. In my first management assignment (and every year since), I established goals for the professional success of my team and I held myself personally accountable for my team meeting those goals.

For my frontline sales professionals, I strived to have each member of the team meet their goals – and for at least one team member to be recognized by the company (in whatever award system they had in place). I also set a personal goal to have at least one member of my team be promoted.

All of these goals were incredibly important to me, because I felt personally responsible to not only motivate my team to push themselves, but to also help the top performers achieve their career goals – even though this would often mean losing a great member of my team. Fortunately, the personal satisfaction and loyalty gained in helping someone reach another rung on their career ladder significantly outweighed the loss of a key contributor.

Recruitment Benefits

This type of attitude and approach to the people you manage is also very helpful in recruiting. The more I helped others succeed, the easier it became to find quality leaders for the team. Good internal candidates started taking notice and became interested in working on my team. This also became a selling point in outside recruiting, as I was able to explain the reason the position was open was because the previous individual had been promoted. This, in turn, helped me attract the candidates I was looking for.

The environment for sales leaders and managers is difficult. The average tenure of a top sales leader is somewhere in the vicinity of two years, and it seems it’s about the same for frontline managers. The churn rate is high because these people are under tremendous pressure from the company to produce results…and quickly. This is why the CRMs and data analysis tools exist, and why KPIs are focused on measuring all of these data sources – to quickly identify sales gaps and subpar performance.

With sales leaders and managers under constant pressure to deliver results, it’s easy to move away from what we should be doing, and focus only on what we have to do. All this new information often results in taking time away from the one thing we should be investing in – our people.

I will leave you with this – one of the key things I’ve learned in my decades in sales leadership. People matter. In fact, they are the most important element of a successful sales organization. Investing your time and energy in supporting the development and career goals of your sales staff is a top priority, and you’ll be on the road to creating a top-notch, loyal sales team.

KarlGustafsonKarl Gustafson is CSO of SalesFitRx. Karl previously worked for Apple, Liveops, and Pearson, and has almost 30 years of experience in sales.

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