Five Things Sales Leaders Do to Create High-Performing Teams

sales leaders

By Julie Thomas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why You Don’t Really Need an Accurate Sales Forecast

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By Michael Weening

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

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

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

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

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

Six Steps to Drive Forecast Consistency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Increase Sales Productivity During Off-Peak Seasons

sales productivity

By Shayla Price

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

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

Automate Sales with Branded Templates

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

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

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

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

Boost Productivity with Account Management

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

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

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

Keep Sales Teams Accountable

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

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

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

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

Be Social Online and Off

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

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

Bring it All Together

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

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

Stay Productive

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

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

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Does Your Sales Compensation Plan Really Motivate the Team?


By Mark Donnolo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By Michael Michalko

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

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

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

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Following are descriptions of each strategy.

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

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

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

Imagineering at Work?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Get Better Results from Your Sales Compensation Plan


By Mark Donnolo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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