A Ten-Point Sales Leadership List for 2013

by Gerhard Gschwandtner

As we near the end of 2012, I’m certain about one thing: your success in sales will be dictated by how well you anticipate your buyer’s needs and expectations. Here’s a list of questions that can help you prepare your sales organization to win in 2013.

1. Do you thrive on change?

If your company’s rate of innovation is slower than normal for your industry, you can’t expect forward momentum. Customers are always looking for new ideas. If they can’t get them from you, they’ll get them from your competition.

2. Are you committed to ongoing improvement?

The more you improve as a company, the better you can help your customer’s business improve. Remember that the more customers improve as a result of your sales efforts, the better your bottom line.

3. Are you stretching your abilities?

If your salespeople don’t stretch their abilities, you’ll see a stretch in your company’s liabilities. If your team’s sales goals are not stretched, your cost of sales soon will be.

4. Are you removing all barriers to buying?

If you can’t deliver what your customers want, when they want it, they will surely look elsewhere for a company that can. Are you willing to improve your sales performance to a world-class level? Do you have a plan for mapping your sales cycle to the buyer cycle, and removing all barriers to buying?

5. Do you exploit technology aggressively?

The purpose of technology is to save time for the customer, to manage relationships for the sales team and to help management improve the organization. Is your information technology truly designed to serve people’s needs?

6. Is everyone motivated to win?

People come to work to win, not to lose. Winning demands that the heart be involved in the job. If salespeople love what they do, sales managers will love the results.

7. Do you measure and reward top performance?

Winners expect results, not excuses. Result seekers are scorekeepers. Set competitive rewards commensurate with the levels of achievement.

8. Are you managing meaning?

Rethink, resell and renew your company’s mission. If your salespeople can’t answer the question “why are we doing this?” you cannot expect them to get the job done. Once your sales team knows the “why,” the “how” will be easy.

9. Are you failing forward? I

f nobody makes a mistake in your organization, it’s a sure sign that you’re not growing. Use failure as an opportunity to learn. If you want to triple your success ratio, you have to triple your failure rate.

10. Are you creating trust?

How much trust do your customers place in your company? The answer will be in direct proportion to the amount of repeat business. How much trust do your salespeople place in your company? The answer will be in inverse proportion to your turnover. Do the right thing and you will create more trust.

Gerhard Gschwandtner is founder and CEO of Selling Power, and is host of the Sales 2.0 Conference. Follow him on Twitter @gerhard20.

Adapting to Today’s Customer: Q&A with Gerhard Gschwandtner

In this Q&A with Gerhard Gschwandtner, host of the upcoming Sales 2.0 Conference, (April 2-3 in San Francisco), we discuss how sales leaders are learning to adapt to the needs and expectations of today’s customer. We’re exclusively offering a special offer for this event: use code ggSLB3 at checkout by Thursday, March 29 and get $300 off registration. 


Q: How is sales changing and what trends should I be aware of?
A: Research by the Sales Executive Board shows that 57% of B2B buying steps are completed before buyers connect with a salesperson. Learn how successful companies adapt successfully to the new buying behaviors. Learn how high-growth companies give their salespeople better tools that help them spend more time to deliver more insight (not knowledge) to their customers.

Q: What is Sales 2.0 and how will I benefit?
A: Sales 2.0 is all about a) adaptation of sales productivity enhancing application b) acceleration of sales processes and c) integration of people, process and technology to optimize sales results. At this conference you learn from your peers as well as industry leaders and you will take home actionable ideas that will help you transform your sales organization and achieve far greater levels of sales effectiveness.

Q: Should we invest in social media tools now, or wait until we have a greater chance of seeing ROI?
A: We live in a social and mobile world and we see the formation of a new “social mind-set” that creates the foundation for the conversation economy. On a global level we realize that none of us can be as smart as all of us. Social technology allows us to connect, collaborate, and co-create sales. This new mind-set impacts everything; the way we manage people, the way we invest our time, the way we design our offices to optimize social and mobile interactions, the way we manage the flow of our work and the way we innovate, and the way we communicate with our customers. You’ll meet several experts in this new field who will impress you with their cutting edge ideas and proven processes. 

Q: Will you be available at the conference to answer any questions from the participants?
Yes, of course. I will also be happy to answer any questions you have before the conference. Just email me at gg@sellingpower.com

The event will be held at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco, on April 2nd and 3rd.

Gerhard Gschwandtner

Gerhard Gschwandtner is the founder and CEO of Selling Power and regular host of Sales 2.0 Events

Timeless Sales Messaging Tips to Win Today’s Customers

What is the number one problem that stands between your sales reps and prospects? Chances are that their sales messages fizzle in the marketplace. Prospects don’t know you, your company or your product; they don’t understand your message; and they don’t care about your story or your unique selling propositions.

Back in 1888, very few people had heard of George Eastman and his little black box that he called the detective camera. Only a few people understood photography, and even fewer knew his company. He started a sales revolution with the simple and compelling message: “You press the button, we do the rest.” Eastman’s sales message was as innovative as his camera.

Since 1888, advances in technology have created a landslide of products and an avalanche of information. Today customers are bombarded with sales messages that they have learned to tune out faster than ever.

Ask marketers and they’ll tell you that every year response rates decline. Today, more than 99 percent of all promotional emails are ignored or deleted. Why? The subject lines are boring, boilerplate messages. Ask sales managers and they’ll tell you that 90 percent of all prospects ignore a salesperson’s attempt to close the sale. Why? Because most salespeople talk about how great the product is, but they have little understanding of how their product can enhance their prospect’s business.

Why do most sales messages fizzle? When companies think of innovation, they think of innovative products, processes and technologies, but not messaging. What makes effective customer messages sizzle? The first author to write about selling with sizzle was Elmer Wheeler.

Wheeler’s bestselling book Tested Sentences That Sell was published in 1937, it revealed his experiments with sales messages and their impact on prospects. Wheeler spoke about meaty words that prospects could sink their teeth into and watery words that had little impact.

The world has changed since 1937, the advances in technology have been remarkable and business has become a lot more complex, yet human nature stays the same. For example, Wheeler found that if a waiter asked, “Would you care to order a red or white wine with your dinner?” it would double the sales of wine. Compare that with the unproductive questions that most waiters ask today: “What would you like to drink with your dinner?” Wheeler taught his students: “Don’t ask if, ask which!”

Today, winning customers has less to do with the right choice of products than with the right choice of words. Every market has its own jargon, acronyms and buzzwords that salespeople need to know. Each prospect lives in a different world that is governed by different preoccupations, perceptions and preferences. While a CEO’s perception focuses on the future, strategy and efficiency, the CFO’s preoccupations revolve around cash flow and ROI. For a sales message to gain access to the prospect’s mind it must reflect the language of the market, the preoccupations of the prospect and the challenges of the company. If salespeople want to get a seat at the table, they need to initiate the right conversation and speak the customer’s language.

Today’s successful companies take a more strategic approach to creating and distributing effective sales messages. The new process is called sales enablement which is designed to give each salesperson direct access to the collective intelligence that already exists in a sales organization. Why should salespeople reinvent the wheel every time they need to create a proposal or prepare for a call? Why should salespeople quiz each other for customer testimonials or to find the best practice for negotiating a deal? Why should salespeople create their own laboratory for tested selling sentences?

As regular host of Sales 2.0 Events, I am continually amazed by the sophistication of sales enablement solutions that can help teams collect their best “message assets” (such as talking points, white papers, conversation maps, persuasive stories, presentation videos, proposal templates, market overviews, research data, ROI analysis, customer testimonials and more) and make them instantly available to the entire sales team.

I am sure that Elmer Wheeler would come up with a clever way to describe such innovation in one sentence: “Sales Enablement is the crunch in the cracker, the whiff in the coffee, the pucker in the pickle and the commission in the close.”

Gerhard Gschwandtner is the Founder & CEO of Selling Power. This post appeared originally on his blog. Gschwandtner will host the Sales Management 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on March 5, 2o12 and the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on April 2-3, 2012

Sales Leadership & Innovation Lessons from Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs Apple homepage

As the world memorializes Apple founder Steve Jobs this evening, we’re meditating on how the innovations of one man have pushed so many sales leaders to go above and beyond their highest aspirations for their companies and their teams. 

Selling Power magazine publisher Gerhard Gschwandtner has often noted that Steve Jobs has always been “at the center of the innovation process.” When the iPad was first released, Gschwandtner bought one immediately, and declared that the device was destined to fundamentally change how salespeople work, sell, and play. He outlined three ways the iPad represented visonary innovation:

  1. Laptops are not designed for sharing. The iPad will pull people from isolation to a place of co-creation. 

  2. Laptop screens are not dynamic. The iPad screen automatically orients itself in relation to your movements. The image on the screen flips from horizontal to vertical and from top to bottom automatically.

  3. Laptops emerged at a time when the world was still linear. The iPad allows people to leave that static world so they can connect with the dynamic flow of human intelligence online and offline.

In a conversation economy, driven by Sales 2.0 technology and process, social networks and real-time exchanges, the iPad has come to represent a new age for sales teams trying to start meaningful and engaging conversations with prospects and customers. Gschwandtner describes a meeting he had with a CEO:

I brought my iPad; he had his laptop. During our conversation, we discussed how many different tasks salespeople need to perform to drive customer value. The conversation brought to mind an interesting chart I received in an email the same morning. I pressed the start button on my iPad, and it came to life instantly (there is no staring at a blank screen for two minutes). Within seconds, I pulled up the email, clicked on the message, and handed the iPad to [the CEO], who studied it and asked for the URL so he could share it with his team. I simply forwarded the email and the conversation resumed.

The iPad added instant value to the conversation, and it blended in naturally, which added a touch of elegance to the discussion (and of course a little iPad envy). In this case, the iPad delivered content in real time. In effect, this experience would not have been possible with the use of a laptop. After all, who would want to wait two minutes to make a point?

To invent and produce this kind of technological product — one that courts customers with an unparalleled combination of elegance and function —  Jobs had to maintain a ruthless focus on the end goal. During a presentation in 1997 (as outlined by Jon Steel in the introduction to his book Perfect Pitch: The Art of Selling Ideas and Winning New Business) Steve Jobs described innovation as an exercise in discipline. He drew more than a dozen boxes on a dry erase board and labeled them with names of Apple products still in their project stages: Cyberdog, OpenDoc, G4, iMac, etc. Jobs told the assembled group that Apple had invested millions of dollars in pursuit of each product. Then he began crossing them out.

“In the past days, I’ve killed this one, this one, this one…” Jobs said, until all that were left were G4 and iMac. “These two projects that remain represent what we always wanted this company to be about; they’re technologically superb and visually stunning. And I’m going to bet the future of this company on them.”

At the heart of innovation is change. Jobs’ legacy is a reminder for sales leaders that technology is a powerful driver of change. But the nature of change itself — the necessity of letting go of one thing to make room for something new — is also a reminder to seize the day. As Steve Jobs said in a 2005 Commencement address at Stanford:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

Sales Success in a Social & Mobile World

This post is an excerpt from “Sales Success Strategies for a Social & Mobile World,” by Gerhard Gschwandtner.

Since social media is accessible on most mobile devices, real time collaboration is the new rage. A VP of Sales shared the story of driving in a cab to visit a client. He posted a question on Chatter:

“Visiting XYZ in London, any thoughts that I could share to enhance our relationship?”

Within minutes the company’s CFO shared:

“Yes, they owe us $400,000 that’s 60 days overdue.”

The results, the VP was able to eliminate the bottleneck in the company’s payment process. Problem solved.

The social media world is slowly moving in a new direction. Let’s say you are working in a company that employs 600 salespeople. Would you want to follow everybody? No.  You’d follow the top ten thought leaders and learn what’s important to them. The big shift: from quantity to quality connections. Social learning companies like Saba.com benefit from this new trend by continually refining social learning tools.

Someone recently told me: “I consider the iPhone as an extension cord to my brain.” Social media has become a second brain for everybody. Why not use it more effectively to serve the community and serve your business?

I’m looking forward to discussing these issues in depth during our next conference on November 14-15 in Santa Monica with plugged-in leaders like Anneke Seley and Jeff Hayzlett. Check out the agenda and reserve your spot now:

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Gerhard Gschwandtner

Gerhard Gschwandtner is founder and publisher of Selling Power magazine, and is host of the Sales 2.0 Conference series. Follow him on Twitter @gerhard20.