Do You Have a Negative Mindset about Inside Sales?

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By Anneke Seley and Britton Manasco

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

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

The Rising Value of Inside Sales Teams

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

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

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

Dealing with the Stigma of Inside Sales

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

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

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

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

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

Why Your Buyers Want Inside Sellers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

3 Things You Need to Be a Predictive Sales Organization

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Do you look into your revenue future and see uncertainty?

If so, that might be because you’re still looking at backward-focused data rather than making predictions based on future-focused insight.

Business Intelligence vs. Predictive Analytics

As early as 2013, experts at Gartner were saying that using business intelligence (which looks back at what happened in the past) was no longer enough to be competitive. Instead, they encouraged leaders to look at the potential of predictive capabilities.

This year, the mission of the Sales 2.0 Conference is to educate business-to-business sales leaders about the power of predictive analytics. The reason predictive tools are so powerful is that they help you answer two key questions:

  1. “What could happen?”
  2. “What should we do?”

What Questions Can Predictive Analytics Answer?

Predictive capabilities improve your ability to make informed, intelligent decisions about how to manage your team and generate revenue. In their book, The Power of Sales Analytics, experts at global sales and marketing consulting firm ZS Associates write that data and technology can be used to address the following common questions for sales leaders.

  • How can salespeople identify the right customer opportunities? What sales activities best seize those opportunities?
  • How can sales activities be organized into effective selling roles? How many people do we need in each role?
  • What is the profile of a successful salesperson? Does our recruiting program acquire the best talent? Are we training and developing the right competencies?
  • What information and tools does the sales force need to create value for customers?
  • Are incentive programs, goals, and performance-management processes aligned to motivate high achievement and drive results?

Three Ways Sales Teams Can Become Predictive

If you want to adapt to a predictive future, you need to take the following three steps.

#1: Embrace your organizational data.

Analytics run on data. The good news: you don’t need any extra data to become predictive. Predictive applications use data you already have to make useful predictions about future events.

#2: Don’t play the waiting game.

Many sales organizations are still behind the data curve. In this month’s Selling Power magazine cover story, Jenny Dearborn, senior vice president and chief learning officer at SAP and a past presenter at Sales 2.0 Conference events, said that very few sales leaders know how to leverage data in a comprehensive way that impacts the sales cycle “from start to finish.”

She observes that, by contrast, leaders who are using data and predictive analytics are driving “breakthrough results.”

To hear specific examples of how these tools are helping sales leaders, join Mike Moorman, managing principal of sales solutions at ZS Associates, at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco in April. His presentation, “Sales Analytics Truths, Myths & Realities: Insight from 30 Years of Sales Analytics Leadership,” will show

  • how leading companies have, are, and will use sales analytics to increase profitable revenue growth;
  • the sales analytics business case;
  • how to achieve world-class sales analytics capabilities.

It can be intimidating to tackle mounds of expanding information about your customers, sales transactions, market potential, competitors, sales activity, and salespeople, but the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to start turning data into predictive insight.

#3: Use your CRM system diligently.

Most sales organizations today rely to varying degrees on a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Ideally, it holds important, useful data related to prospects, pipeline coverage, sales opportunities, and customers; however, salespeople aren’t always using this tool consistently or diligently. As a result, data is often inaccurate, incomplete, or just plain missing.

Becoming a predictive organization will require a culture change, starting with the consistent use of the CRM system. Once salespeople see the results and what predictive tools can do for them, they’ll be ready and willing to do so.

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Lisa Gschwandtner Lisa Gschwandtner is editorial director at Selling Power and manages the Sales 2.0 Conference media team. Find her on Twitter @SellingPower20.

 

[Image via Flickr / Mark Weaver]

 

Managing Sales Team Talent: How to Help Reps at Any Level Sell More

By Nancy Martini

One of the most difficult challenges any manager faces is helping an employee improve performance. Creating a high performance sales team is even more complex. A typical sales team includes a number of top producers (10-20% of the team); these are the folks who crank out the numbers month after month — either with incredible skills, sheer effort, or a combination of brains and brawn. The middle group (60-80%); often includes reps who are adequate but not yet reaching their potential — various reasons get in the way, from confidence, to commitment, to limited skills or motivation. Finally, there is the small group (10-20%) of those struggling with the position and trying to figure it all out — they may or may not make it. Ultimately it’s up to the sales manager to drive the performance of the entire team, fortunately (as I discuss in my new book) science can help determine the exact scenario and who needs what.

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As a manager it’s important to look first at the relationship between the reps’ sales skills and their actual sales results. There are four science-based scenarios that occur to help diagnose and guide you for accurate coaching.

The “Muscle” Scenario: High sales results, Low sales skills.
These are top producers who get the job done, but likely in their own way. Their success may come from years of experience, superb product knowledge, or they’re simply extremely hard workers. The good news is, they get superior results. The bad news is how they do it. A rep with high sales and low skills tends to be highly reliant on a single muscle (for example closing skills, presentation skills or questioning skills). They are most likely working inefficiently. By building other muscles, they could potentially increase their performance and efficiency substantially. Most top producers are all over increasing skills that can help create more sales; managers tend to shy away with a fear of messing with success. Gather the sales skills assessment data and dive in; this effort is well worth the return.

The Execution Scenario: Low sales results, High sales skills
These are the folks who know what to do but have trouble executing on that knowledge. They’ve attended the sales training, they even get it, but they just have a block getting it done. We all know the old adage “the knowing-doing gap” and this the classic issue in this scenario. It may be from lack of confidence, lack of drive, or simply lack of coaching but this rep needs help with the “doing.” In this scenario, a focus one-on-one coaching is ideal. The rep gets to see how his or her judgment and knowledge plays out live with feedback from a skilled coach. When a person has the sales skills assessment needed for the role, it’s also helpful to examine their behavioral assessment to uncover the drive behind their selling.

The Knowledge Scenario: Low sales results, Low sales skills
Your sales reps who score low on the sales skills assessment and have low sales results need one thing — training.  You can hire the best reps in the world, with all the drive necessary to succeed, but if they don’t have core sales skills, they become a rocket without a direction. This one is fairly easy to adjust: start with solid sales training and reinforce with focused skill builders. By increasing a rep’s core sales skills, you are giving them the tools necessary for the role. These reps tend to be sponges and the sales skills training is absorbed and used.

The Leverage Scenario: High sales results, High sales skills
This one is the most complex of all. A terrific rep who emulates all the sales skills you want and creates outstanding sales results. Good as it is, you have two risks to stay on top of: 1) the rep may plateau because of time constraints; and/or, even worse: 2) he/she gets bored when “been there, done that” kicks in. In either case, your top producers need to be kept engaged, challenged, and leveraged. The leverage approach suggests that you examine all aspects of the person’s role to remove obstacles and increase support to give them as much selling time as possible. It may be additional technology or it may be a part time assistant but ultimately your goal is to leverage this talent with more time to sell.

In each of the four scenarios sales analytics help remove the guesswork and provide you with laser sharp focus of what’s needed. Pay attention to the sales skills assessment scores, the behavioral assessment profile, and the reps’ actual sales results — those three data points provide the accurate insight needed to impact the sales performance of every member of your team.

Nancy Martini
Nancy Martini is President & CEO of PI Worldwide, publishers of the Predictive Index (PI) and Selling Skills Assessment Tool (SSAT). She is the author of the newly released Scientific Selling. In October she will present Sales Coaching 2.0: How Using Scientific Data Leads to Better Sales Performance as a keynote  speaker at the Sales & Marketing 2.0 Conference in San Francisco.

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

Sales Leadership Advice for Aligning Marketing & Sales

I’m publishing a series of Q&A excerpts from my interviews with Sales 2.0 leaders, which will appear in my next book. This is an excerpt from my interview with Mark Burton, former VP of sales at MySQL (acquired by Sun Microsystems), where he was responsible for growing and managing MySQL AB’s entire international corporate sales force, indirect channels and partnership alliancesHe has been involved in enterprise-level sales leadership for 30 years. 

Anneke: What were your “failures,” or things that didn’t go as well as they could have? What would you tell another executive about what not to do, or what to learn from your past experiences?

Mark: Failures: We’ve had lots of them. Processes and systems are so important. It took us a long time to work with a team to figure out everything we really needed to manage this environment. Marketing tends to be more positioning- and messaging-oriented, and more about just putting it out there. That whole idea of what a qualified lead is, and having something that ends up in the hands of sales that they want to deal with — it’s a big chasm between those two functions.

Get a very objective and measurable set of definitions, processes and systems to do some system-oriented scoring, and then have a very clear and written description for what becomes a sales lead. Get the marketing organization on board with forecasting and measurement of conversion rates, and make sure this is an activity that is worked monthly to continually pursue conversion rates that drive the company to profitability. This is a big change for most marketing and sales organizations. I wouldn’t call it a failure, but I will say it takes a long time to make sure everyone understands this end-to-end process, and what is involved in managing and measuring it. That was hard work with a lot of iterations and false starts.

Anneke: I see that changing rapidly, though, in many Sales 2.0 companies, where success depends on marketing and sales being aligned and collaborating. Do you see that working? How are companies bringing sales and marketing closer together?

Mark: It’s still a challenge for many companies. One of the first thoughts is, “Great, we’ll just give sales and marketing to the same person.” It’s unusual to have any one person who really understands sales and marketing well enough to add value across both functions through the Demand-to-Close process. There also aren’t many CEOs who really understand it. I would say this is still developing. My suggestion is to get advice from others who have successfully implemented the new model. This can be accomplished through a combination of outside consulting and benchmarking with companies that have successfully implemented such models.

Read the full interview with Mark Burton.

Anneke Seley
Anneke Seley is CEO and Founder of Phone Works and author of Sales 2.0This post appeared originally on her blog.

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.

4 Social Media ROI Tips for Sales Leaders

These tips are taken from Social Media is Getting Tired … Social Business is the New Frontier, by Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder and publisher of Selling Power magazine.

Suggested Social-Media Action Steps for Sales Leaders:

  1. Change your mind-set from social media (low ROI) to social business (measurable ROI).
  2. Expand the definition beyond personal selling. Turn your salespeople into digital influencers. Teach them how to listen online, join the right communities, and engage customers in their social-business sphere. Give them sales intelligence tools, such as InsideView for Sales.
  3. Create your social business strategy before searching for the best technology. Gartner considers Jive, Lithium, and salesforce.com as key players in the market.
  4. Take a closer look at Social CRM tools. SugarCRM, Nimble, and salesforce.com executives participated in a great panel discussion on the subject. Note how Jon Ferrara (founder of GoldMine) sees the future of Social CRM in this video:

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Learn more on November 15, 2011, in Santa Monica at the Sales Strategies in a Social & Mobile World conference. Gschwandtner will be there with many expert speakers, including Anneke Seley (author, Sales 2.0), Jeffrey Hayzlett (former CMO, Kodak), Todd McCormick (PGi), Brett Queener (salesforce.com), and Jon Ferrara (Nimble).

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