Four Inside Sales Rules That Beg to Be Broken

By Ed Shineman

Sometimes, hard-and-fast rules for inside sales teams can get in the way of doing what’s best for customers and sales results. Here are some traditional inside sales dogmas that are worth challenging based on real case examples from my personal experience.

Rule #1: Inside sales reps must not visit customers.

Winnie was responsible for teleselling customer education courses to installed base IT accounts. She discovered a fluke 90-day airfare promotion that let a Chicago customer fly course participants to Hawaii for $75, negotiated a rock-bottom corporate rate at a Waikiki Beach hotel, and positioned it as a combination training/reward event.

Her customer was so delighted they invited her to attend their national conference as a guest of honor.    

Winnie’s supervisor was aghast. “Her call metrics will go in the tank while she’s away. Plus, I don’t have a dime in the travel budget for her.”  

But he relented, and Winnie was the star of the event – singled out as a supplier who was willing to go the extra mile for her customers. Breaking the no-travel rule was good for business, and recognizing Winnie was an inspiration to her inside sales peers.

(I’ll address another good reason to break the inside sales no-travel rule later.)

Rule #2: Large deals always belong to the field sales team.

Fred was assigned to pursue small accounts and larger accounts the field sales team had worked over and determined were “poor potential.”  

However, Fred didn’t let this assessment prevent him from giving these lost causes his best efforts; and, what do you know, he surfaced a $270,000 opportunity, got the decision makers on board, and set to work developing a proposal…

At which point the field sales rep who had originally given up on the account cut in: “Thanks, Fred; I’ll take over now. Large deals are my responsibility and I can see you’re over your head. When the deal closes, I’ll see if I can get you a finder’s fee.”   

Fortunately, the sales VP intervened: “Fred has obviously developed a close rapport with this customer, and it would be foolish to change horses in midstream. Let’s all unite in providing Fred with the support he needs to develop the proposal and close the deal.”

There’s no telling where a sales conversation will go, and arbitrary turf constraints shouldn’t get in the way of serving customers.

Rule #3: Inside sales and field sales responsibilities should be kept separate.

Newly appointed to lead a troubled sales organization, I ambushed my inside sales team with a surprise operating review. “Any big deals in the pipeline?” One intrepid rep piped up: “I’ve just scored a big win against the competition.”

And who was the competition? His sales counterpart in the field!

Potential channel conflict is just one reason some sales leaders prefer to create a firewall between inside sales and field sales teams. Another fear is that blending the two groups will result in diluted accountability and – horror of horrors – double-counted revenue.

Unfortunately, this silo approach to sales deployment couldn’t be more wrong.

When two sales teams play independently in the same account sandbox – no matter how concretely roles have been defined – hard feelings and a lack of trust are bound to be the result.

The solution: Align your inside sales organization with your field sales organization and be sure your field team is invested in the success of their inside sales counterparts.

If your field team is organized by account or industry, mirror that with your inside sales team – even though it may seem more convenient to assign reps by time zones, area codes, or an alpha sort.  Reinforce collaboration by populating field account manager goal sheets with a corresponding inside sales line item. Consider adding overall account plan achievement as a line item in evaluating your inside reps.

Finally, while inside sales and field sales units will likely have their own report-in structure, be sure both groups ultimately report to the same leader.  

Inside sales is a lot more rewarding when reps have an ownership stake in accounts and work in tandem with a buddy in the field.

Rule #4: Inside sales units can’t perform traditional field sales jobs.  

Once upon a time, inside sales jobs were limited to low-ticket transactions that could be completed in one call.   

Today, thanks to Web conferencing, document sharing, and other virtual collaboration tools, almost no sales job is too demanding to be performed remotely. However, don’t assume the same skill set required to book service renewals or set appointments applies when inside sales units take on more complex sales responsibilities.  

Let’s examine a few traditional field sales jobs that might benefit from an inside sales approach and identify where the talent requirements differ.

  • New Business Development: There’s a bus-dev component to many inside sales units. But reps typically rely on a prequalified database or inquiry feed and present a standard solution. True hunter-level business development pros go off the grid to surface opportunities and custom tailor solutions. Social media prospecting platforms like LinkedIn make it easier to think about inside sales units performing a business development role. However, you’ll need to select individuals with highly developed networking and problem solving skills.
  • Channel Sales: When channel partners want help, they typically want it NOW! An inside channel sales unit enjoys the advantage of being 100 percent uptime and hot linked to dozens of tools and resources. What’s more, the product education that’s such a big responsibility of supporting the channel is easily launched via desktop Webinars. Just be sure any inside rep devoted to supporting channel partners has the presentation and collaboration chops that make VARs want to network them in on joint sales calls.
  • Account Management: Account managers must be adept at relationship building and orchestrating the assets and resources of their firm on behalf of customers. While these responsibilities may not require travel, the fact remains that traditional inside sales units are transaction oriented, not relationship oriented. The solution? Be sure any individuals you select to staff an inside account management unit are adept and agreeable to playing a farmer role.

So how do you find reps who can perform these hybrid inside sales jobs?

If you are planning on repurposing or pulling from the ranks of an established inside sales organization, consider a talent audit (an organization-wide sales talent assessment). A superior assessment will match incumbents against a range of sales roles and is an excellent foundation for succession planning.

Similarly, if you’re recruiting a hybrid team from scratch, look for an assessment that will score candidates against both inside sales and the nontraditional role you are seeking them to perform.

One last thing: Let’s not kid ourselves. Rarely can a traditional sales job can be performed in a 100 percent remote/virtual way. There will always be trade shows, product launches, and customer conferences where a physical sales presence is advisable. So go ahead and break Rule #1. There’s no reason an inside sales rep can’t travel to a customer site on special occasions.

Ed Shineman is co-founder and CMO of SalesGenomix, a psychometrics-based assessment service that is the product of a 30-year research effort to predict the success likelihood of sales candidates based on the role they are required to play.

Mindset Training: Crush It with Emotional Selling

By Jamie Crosbie

As they say, looks can be deceiving.

As it turns out, actions may be a little suspect, too – at least when it comes to buying and selling.

Let’s pretend, for a moment, that you bought a doughnut on your way to work this morning. Why did you choose that particular doughnut shop?

It could be that you were in a hurry, hungry, and it was on your way. It could also be that you are a regular and have a habit of buying your breakfast items there. But why did you choose that place or that doughnut?

It may have more to do with emotions than you might think.

Good salespeople already know that most people make buying decisions based more on emotion than logic. Great salespeople bank on it – because even company CEOs who like to think of themselves as steely-eyed titans of industry may make large purchases based more on primal human emotions rather than sheer logic and reason. Of course, when people explain to others why they made a purchase (especially to corporate bean counters or people in positions of authority over them), they are probably going to seek to justify their purchase instead of admitting they had identified with the emotional message of the product.

Emotional Triggers Are Powerful Motivators

Nor are consumers likely to admit (even if they are aware of it) that they had made a decision because they identified with a product based on a perception of inherent prestige, power, security, or other social affiliation the buyer deems (however temporarily) emotionally fulfilling.

According to Antonio Damasio, professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California, people think they are much more motivated by facts and logic than they really are. In his book, Descartes’ Error, he presents the idea that emotions are, to some degree, probably involved in almost every decision we make.  

He states, “When we are confronted with a decision, emotions from previous, related experiences affix values to the options we are considering. These emotions create preferences which lead to our decision.”

What Moves the Buyer?

Bottom line, when you are selling a product, look beneath the surface to find the hidden human emotional needs with which your product or service best aligns. Selling is, after all, a relationship. Good sales reps come alongside the client taking a genuine interest in helping the customer solve a problem.

In some instances, the client’s underlying need may be mainly emotional in the sense that they desire something that resonates with them on a basic human level. In others, the issue may be a combination of factors of which, emotion is only one.

Not only do salespeople sell more when they sell emotionally, they are often happier, feeling they’d helped someone achieve or obtain something that mattered to them. Customers, too, are happier, feeling they’d made a human connection through the interaction, as well as gaining something with their purchase.

By connecting with customers emotionally as well as logically, customers are also more likely to bring their concerns and issues to you in the future. This gives you the opportunity to create more win-wins. The client’s needs are met, you feel better about your job, and you sell more too.

Jamie Crosbie is an accomplished senior executive with a proven record of sales leadership success. Contact Jamie today and find out how to take your business to the next level. Call 214/720-9922 or email

How Can Women in Sales Close the Gender Gap?

By Melissa Di Donato

Last month, International Women’s Day struck a chord around the globe and inspired countless conversations about women and their career paths. Millions of women worldwide participated in rallies and protests, including female workers in Spain who organized the country’s first national women’s strike, in support of equality in the workplace.

Take a moment to look up from your computer screen, glance around your office, and see who is sitting in the sales department. You will likely notice that women make up a small percentage of the sales team. According to LinkedIn, women account for only 39 percent of the overall sales workforce – but, at director level and above, that number drops (substantially) to 27 percent. This is a huge disparity when compared to finance, communications, and HR functions.

Despite these figures, women in sales are excelling in their careers, averaging an 11 percent higher win rate than men, according to a Gong study. Being a woman in technology – and, specifically, in sales tech for nearly 20 years – I know first-hand the incredible accomplishments women can make when given the opportunity. The responsibility is on employers to recognize this disparity and identify ways to foster inclusivity and diversity as well as provide women with the right tools to advance their careers.

Breaking Down Barriers to the Boys Club

A recent Accenture study found a strong correlation between having a role model and having leadership goals. One of the biggest issues I see in sales is the lack of female mentors present to encourage other women to view sales as a viable job option. It’s no surprise that women often gravitate toward marketing and HR – departments where there are more prominent female leaders. They can look at these women for inspiration and can rest assured that, if they put the work in, they could someday join the ranks of management.

I’ve worked with many women throughout my career and know they excel when they have a role model to look up to. That’s why I encourage all female (and male) leaders to be visible, welcoming, and accessible to their female peers – and empower them to achieve what can sometimes feel like the impossible. Implementing this type of culture within sales departments is crucial; the outcome will be more female representation in the field.

One way organizations can take a step in this direction is to hold monthly coffee meetings and/or networking luncheons for women. This is a great strategy to convene women across departments to discuss the various challenges and opportunities they face in a particular role. This type of gathering encourages relationship building and creates networks and support systems. It also serves as an opportunity for women in sales to share their first-hand experience on the job, with the goal of attracting more women to join the ranks.

You Can’t Be What You Can’t See

Once women break into the sales field, there are always obstacles to overcome. As a first step, women in sales need to own their successes instead of undermining their accomplishments by attributing them to “luck” or being “in the right place at the right time,” which I’ve seen many women do in the past.

Female sales executives must remember they have achieved success because of the smart decisions they have made. It’s time for them to reclaim their confidence to drive change. This self-positivity and confidence, paired with strong role models, is the perfect equation for an unstoppable woman in sales. With this attitude and support system, women can have thriving sales careers without having to sacrifice other important parts of life such as family time and hobbies. Now, I’m not saying it doesn’t require juggling, but I want women to know they can have their cake and eat it too – even if they can only take a few bites at a time.

Women have all the right qualities to enter – and thrive in – the sales field; it’s just a matter of tapping into that potential and being encouraged by colleagues and mentors along the way. Women have an entrepreneurial spirit of collaboration and consensus. They want to create wins as part of a team and are flexible and understanding of client needs.

Women in sales are starting to have more open and honest conversations about what they want and what they deserve – and that’s a great start. With the recent traction we’ve already seen in the field, I’m positive that, within the next 10 years, we’ll see an uptick in women entering sales roles and moving up to management-level positions.

Melissa Di Donato is chief revenue officer, SAP Cloud ERP.

Mastering the Art (and Science) of Sales with Emerging Technology

By Todd Gracon

Sales, like any form of persuasion, is an art. A smooth sales cycle is like a beautiful painting, where individual elements are brought together with masterful finesse. If even one element is out of place or poorly executed – if the lighting is off or the perspective is sloppy – the entire painting suffers; so, too, in sales.

But sales is also a science that can be analyzed empirically. If it were an equation, it would look like this:

Average Deal Size × Likelihood of Close × Number of Deals ÷
How Much Time You Have to Move Them Forward

It’s important for sales professionals to have a solid grip on both the art and science of sales. Today, it’s much easier to do so thanks to emerging technology. In fact, according to a Salesforce survey, high-performing sales teams use about three times more technology than underperforming teams. Here are a few ways I’ve seen sales professionals leverage new tech to be more productive, waste less time, and sell smarter.

Make Time for Your Art with Automation

In sales, time is crucial, and nothing is more frustrating for a sales professional than wasting their time. Efficiency equals money – and being inefficient can determine the size of your commission check.

Yet, every day, salespeople waste valuable time doing repetitive tasks like looking up contacts, updating leads, and logging demos. Every second spent on administrative work is a second you don’t have to meaningfully move forward in the sales cycle. The more administrative work you do, the less time you have to practice your art.

You can use automation to cut down on the amount of administrative work you need to do throughout the day. For example, a friend of mine created an automated workflow that takes any new email in their inbox, looks that email up in Salesforce, and creates a contact if one doesn’t already exist. The workflow also logs the new contact in Evernote; my friend gets a summary of all new updates to Salesforce via Slack at the end of the day, so he can easily track which prospects he has yet to follow up with.

That’s a simple example of how automation can fit into your daily life as a salesperson, but it’s by no means all that technology is capable of. I’ve seen sales pros create automated workflows to alert them of new activity on VIP accounts, send contract approval requests to a designated Slack channel, and more.

Leveraging Technology to Time Travel

I’ve written before about why time traveling is the most important skill a sales professional can cultivate. The key here is to remember that sales, as a discipline, is like spinning plates rather than juggling balls. You need to get processes going as quickly as you can while simultaneously ensuring no process ever loses its momentum.

The artistic aspect of this process is found in how you qualify prospects; a lot of the time, there’s an element of instinct that guides the decision. Are you asking the tougher questions? Are you giving them the “why”? Are you making it easy for them to make a choice? Do you identify potential proof points, make good use of social engineering, and get existing customers to sell on your behalf?

The science of time traveling can be tricky to deconstruct; there are so many micro-processes to manage. How do you know whether a process is inefficient or not? How can you tell when it’s time to get started on another step in the process?

That’s where analytics come in. It’s crucial for every sales professional to know how they’re performing according to certain KPIs. CRMs do a good job making pipeline analytics available to sales reps, but these measurements are only as good as the information available. If you have poor demo-logging or lead-updating habits, it’ll be harder to get an accurate picture of your pipeline and processes.

Intelligent automation and integration not only make it easier to keep records up to date; they can also open up new ways to measure your efficacy – and efficiency – as a salesperson. You can create a 360° view of every customer by pulling information from different apps into your CRM. You can see which marketing campaigns they’ve been most responsive to, for example, or whether they have any customer support tickets open. These are key bits of information that can help you strike while the iron is hot, as well as allow you to better analyze which of your processes could work better.

Sales professionals are constantly looking for ways to make more money and have more success. The smarter and more innovative ones know that technology isn’t to be feared; instead, it’s a tool they can leverage to up their sales game and scale their franchise. Regardless of the process you want to optimize, chances are there’s new tech that can help you do it!

Todd Gracon is the VP of sales at Workato, the world’s first intelligent automation platform. As a sales executive with 20+ years of experience and an MBA from UC Berkeley, he has worked in roles ranging from selling and architecting to developing and consulting. Todd is passionate about disruptive and innovative approaches to problem solving; prior to Workato, he spent time at Accenture, BEA Systems, Oracle, and Tableau.

How to Sell a Service Mindset to Carnivore Salespeople

By Jim Cathcart

After years of your sales team seeing prospects as “fresh meat,” how do you cultivate a service-oriented mindset?

Well, it’s not as complex as it might seem. It is not like getting lions to become vegetarians. Instead, it’s about showing the value (e.g., payoffs) of doing things in new ways.

Setting the Right Vision

There’s a common saying in management: “What you measure is what you get more of.” In other words, what you inspect tells people what you expect. If someone wants to gain your approval or praise, they’ll do what you are measuring. If it’s sales calls, they will do what they can to increase the number of calls. If it’s new contracts, they’ll focus only on signed orders.

A utility company in California once implemented a new system to increase customer orientation and service quality in their call center. They told their people they would be rewarded based on the length of time they spent on phone calls with customers. The thinking was that longer calls would be perceived as better service.

But there were unintended consequences! Upon hearing of the new plan, the workers started placing people on hold so call times would be extended. Service didn’t improve – but call length did increase. Service quality, on the other hand, got worse.

Next, management said, “No more long calls. We will now measure you based on the number of calls you handle.” Workers immediately adapted. They started hanging up on customers so they’d call back and score two calls for each inquiry.

Finally, the leaders realized their errors and changed to a system of customer satisfaction measures that directly involved customer feedback.

Playing the Sales Game

In some fields, there is a long history of aggressive and manipulative sales practices. Customers have become numb to advertising that offers a wonderful new experience – only to be contradicted in practice by uncaring salespeople. They think, “Same rust, new paint.” Good words and slogans – promises of great treatment and respect for the customer – have just become “white noise” to many buyers. They expect to have to play the sales game, and they hate doing it.

The big question, then, is: How do you get salespeople to stop focusing just on closing techniques and profit margins, and start truly trying to help people? As with the utility company above, there is a bigger issue here than just what you measure. Measures communicate priorities, but mindset drives the culture. That is why we need to reorient the thinking toward seeing customers as assets instead of targets.

What’s the Purpose of Your Business?

Hint: it is not profit. All businesses must earn a profit in order to stay in business, but the purpose of each business is something different. Profit is a by-product of what you do – not the reason for doing it. Of course, profit is necessary and important, but your product or service has a greater value than just stimulating revenue.

The purpose of automobiles is to provide enjoyable and reliable transportation – not to generate profit margins. The purpose of banking services is to give people more control over (and security about) their money. The purpose of computers and smartphones is to give people more control over their day-to-day lives and the information flow in their work. The communication capabilities of your technology are the reason profit can be produced by selling them. But profit, again, is the by-product.

The more people see the value in what they do, the more commitment they make to doing it well. A salesperson who truly understands how their offer helps others – and makes the world a better place – will be far more persuasive in a sales dialogue than someone who simply knows 15 power closing techniques. All of this starts with how you talk about the job.

Salespeople are not paid for making sales. They are paid for helping people at a profit. If they make lots of sales and many of them “unwind” or result in high-cost customers, then profits will drop, work will be miserable, and the business will fail. It’s not the number of sales that counts; it is the number of happy customers who pay you on time and speak well of you.

Jim Cathcart is a long-time contributor to Selling Power and one of the world’s leading professional speakers. He is the original author of Relationship Selling plus 17 other books. helps organizations increase sales engagement and self-motivation. Contact him at

Your Most Valuable Selling Skill and Other Important Insights

By Ben Taylor

We asked sales professionals across industries what challenges they anticipate this year. After receiving hundreds of responses, Richardson compiled our 2018 Selling Challenges Study. The results provide a panoramic view of ground-level challenges in sales today. Here’s what we learned.

Competing Against Low-cost Providers

Sales professionals are feeling the pressure to articulate the value of their solution amid inexpensive alternatives. More respondents cited this problem than any other in the study. Connected to this challenge was another common response: “gaining higher prices.” During the negotiation process, more sales professionals are struggling to maintain control and generate mutually beneficial outcomes.

Strong sales professionals overcome these challenges by converting demands to needs. This approach is important because needs (e.g., “I need more flexibility in the payment schedule”) are much easier to discuss and resolve than demands (e.g., “I can’t pay that much”). Once specific needs are understood, they may identify multiple options for meeting the need, which does not necessarily require concessions. In the end, they maintain the scope of the work and the pricing.

Creating a Targeted Prospecting Strategy

The increasing sophistication underpinning sales automation tools is motivating sales professionals to redesign their prospecting strategy. However, process improvement isn’t the same as sales improvement. CRM systems offer a range of capabilities, but the customer must be at the center of most decisions.

Getting to the right stakeholder is part of the challenge behind creating a targeted prospecting strategy. More sales professionals are discovering that developing a brand marketing mindset helps clarify the right leading message – starting by considering what kind of customer they want to talk to and what those customers care about.

Understanding How Buyers Make Decisions

Having more stakeholders on the buyer’s side of the table leads to a complex decision making process – the result of multifaceted business needs. Sales professionals must remember to take the time to ask questions that reveal the decision making tree.

Doing so requires relationship building. Information moves freely with an established relationship between the sales professional and the buyer. The buyer is likely to recoil from direct questions about the decision making process if they come before the sales professional has prepared some groundwork.

The Status Quo Remains Powerful

This issue garnered among the most responses of all questions across all categories for the past two years. Meanwhile, the problem is growing.

Buyers today have more options. Each of these options has several possible outcomes. This complexity and the need to fulfill day-to-day responsibilities creates inertia. Additionally, buyers are considering the ROI of their decisions. In doing so, they’re asking themselves which metrics will matter when gauging the effectiveness of a solution.

However, sales professionals can remind buyers that making no decision is, in fact, a decision. Standing still carries risk – especially as the competition moves forward. Conveying this message requires a proactive mindset around a process that makes it easy for the buyer to do business with the sales professional.

Balancing Sales and Relationship Management

Increasingly complex sales require more follow-through. As a result, the sales professional has less time to pursue new opportunities. At the same time, more sales professionals are working to become trusted advisors. This approach also takes time. In fact, “becoming a trusted advisor” was the second most popular response to the question of how best to manage accounts and expand relationships.

Sales professionals should communicate their intention to keep new product discussions separate from work already implemented. This approach permits time to focus on “whitespace” in the account without impeding on the value expected from previous solutions.

The Most Valuable Selling Skill Is…

Respondents cited “asking insightful and relevant questions to understand customer needs and challenges” as the most valuable selling skill in 2018.

Competition has forced many businesses to leverage nuanced differentiators. As a result, sales professionals recognize the need to make a greater effort to understand these details across a range of customers. Moreover, insightful questions are an early step toward shaping the customer’s thinking by directing their focus to areas where the sales professional can offer value.

To reach a close, a sales professional needs a path. The customer’s responses to insightful questions reveal that path. Effective sales professionals start by offering context. They explain their thought process and why they’re asking the question.

The buyer is changing, and sales professionals must change with them. With a refocus on the right selling skill, the strongest sales professionals stand to gain big in 2018.

For more information, visit this report summary page (where you can also download the full report).

Ben Taylor is the content marketing manager at Richardson. He has an MBA in finance from LaSalle University and more than a decade of business and writing experience. He has covered content for several brands, including Nasdaq, Barclaycard, and Business Insider.

The High Value of Lifelong Learning

By Jim Cathcart

“Created and repaired in the USA…but made somewhere else.”

When I grew up it seemed every disposable product was labeled “Made in Japan” or “Made in China.” If it was easy to reproduce – or inexpensive – then that’s where it was made.

It may have been made in another country, but we often had to repair it or replace it. “Made in the USA” products were produced in Detroit or Pittsburgh or Chicago. They were solid, reliable, and substantial.  

At least that’s the way it seemed to me from my home in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the late 20th Century.

The Growing Influence of China

Japan had its renaissance a generation ago and, today, its innovative products are serious players in the world markets. China, on the other hand, has remained mostly a manufacturing economy.

For the past few years I’ve been making annual trips to China to conduct seminars on leadership, sales, and communication skills. My audiences have been 1,000 to 2,500 young success seekers who sit enthralled with learning for up to six hours a day as I share ideas and techniques. It’s not that I’m necessarily that interesting but rather that they are that interested. These folks are hungry! They’re eager to learn.

For generations the Chinese have been learning, copying and producing what the USA and other countries have thought up, tested, and refined. But now, their leaders are encouraging them to innovate. They want to learn to think like we do.

The Will to Prepare

There are 400 million millennials in China, born between approximately 1980 and 2000. By contrast, there are 80 million millennials in the USA. China has more young adults than we have people of all ages in our entire country plus all of Canada!

And they work differently than we do. They spend years learning, practicing, and studying. Long before they need to take an entrance exam or compete for a job, they are spending hours every day in intense study of their chosen craft. Plus, they want to learn to think like you do. One-third of all international students in U.S. universities are Chinese students – learning here, then returning home.

Why does this matter to you and me? Because these are the people with whom we will be competing in coming years. They are learning English, studying in our schools, learning our techniques, and competing with our products. So far, it’s been mild – but wait till they start innovating! When their creativity and entrepreneurial juices are unleashed there will be no force large enough to resist them.

The Value of Lifelong Learning

What can you do about it? For one, learn like they do. Start spending a portion of each week learning skills and techniques you don’t need…yet. “Yet” – that’s the word to watch. Business is fine now, but what is the next stage of business for you? With whom will you be competing for tomorrow’s sales? What technology will you need to understand in order to keep up? What could you learn now that would give you more options later?

What technology could you begin to invest in today that would expand your capacity to reach more customers with more services next year? In the new book, Sales Ex Machina, authors Victor Antonio and James Glenn-Anderson show exactly how technology is not just augmenting but replacing the human element in some of the sales steps we thought only we carbon-based life forms could handle.

In order to remain a leader in your community and industry, and against impressive new competitors, you and I must continually innovate and prepare. Learn to use technology we don’t yet believe we will need. Create new solutions – exciting ways to do things better than before – and prepare for opportunities you haven’t even seen yet. Get ready…for more than you originally thought you’d need to be prepared for. Just keep growing, learning, experimenting, collaborating, and improving. That’s the American Way and it is what makes the rest of the world want to be more like us. GBA! God bless America.

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

Why Some Millennials Avoid Sales – and What You Can Do About it

By Jamie Crosbie

According to a research study conducted by Harvard Business School in 2014, sales positions (including sales management openings) are increasingly becoming harder to fill. In part, this is because younger workers do not appear to be all that enticed by a career in sales. Other surveys and studies have highlighted the fact that millennials are not as easily lured by traditional incentives such as money or prestige.

What Do Younger and Older Workers Value?

When surveyed about their preferences, the Harvard study showed that 64 percent of older workers listed stability and income as compelling reasons to work in a given field. Younger workers, however, put a higher value on quality of life and making a difference in the world. That means, while older Americans workers are more likely to be impressed by money, their more youthful counterparts find greater significance in doing something they enjoy or being of service to humanity in some way.

This may explain why other studies have shown that millennials often prefer creating their own path such as starting their own company. Far from lazy, younger workers simply prefer to emphasize quality and value over long-term security or income levels. Having grown up during the Great Recession, they are skeptical about finding career security by staying for decades at one particular company.

Whereas 53 percent of baby boomers stated they would rather work for a single employer for their entire career, 45 percent of millennials opted for changing jobs at regular intervals. They are also more comfortable with acquiring new skills. As much as 77 percent of millennials stated they are willing to return to school in order to add additional skillset, although rising educational costs may begin to dampen that enthusiasm.

Recruiting Younger Sales Talent: Retool Your Company Messaging

The hard truth is that sales organizations are fighting a losing battle with time. Aging sales professionals are getting harder to find, just as the up-and-coming millennials are turning away from sales. To effectively fill empty sales positions, companies need to aggressively target talent. To do so, they must also change the message to fit the emerging millennial narrative. This may mean adding value by helping them build fulfilling and meaningful careers.  

To compete, companies need to rethink and retool their message by emphasizing quality, individuality, flexibility, and community service. Besides helping fill empty sales slots, purpose-driven companies are more likely to have brand-loyal customers.

Take, for instance, the rise of small neighborhood brewers and microbrewers, which are challenging the status quo of larger companies. The emphasis has changed from mass-produced quantity to high-value, handcrafted quality.

This niche market is a good example of the differences in mindset and emerging marketing trends. Microbreweries are generally more inclined to craft unique, high-value fare. They also espouse a message based on community involvement, coupled with creative approaches and solutions. Their message is not just about beer, but also concerns reaching into an increasingly interconnected world.

While many other examples could be cited, it comes down to the perceptions of the upcoming generation. Companies that ignore the new models will face stiff challenges as younger sales talent move toward other careers. The bottom line is that, like sales, you have to tailor your message to your targeted audience, creating value for the buyer (and, in this case, the seller as well).

Jamie Crosbie is founder and CEO of ProActivate and an accomplished senior executive with a proven record of sales leadership success. A certified Peak Performance Mindset trainer, Jamie helps companies of all sizes increase their sales productivity by training them to think – and therefore act – differently. Contact her today to learn more – or 214/720-9922.  

What Does 2018 Have in Store for Sales?

By Mark Magnacca

The past few years have taught us the future is unsure and evolving pressures can create an unpredictable market. However, emerging trends and technologies can help sales teams prepare for these unexpected changes and help them craft adaptable strategies to effectively and quickly respond to whatever is thrown their way.  

As we settle into 2018, here are the top four trends that will affect sales performance in the year ahead.

Trend #1: Selling as a team sport will replace “lone wolf” activity.

Sales reps have long been known for their go-it-alone personality type. Competitive by nature, sales reps thrive on setting their quota – and surpassing it.

In 2018, however, sales organizations will begin a cultural shift from this “lone wolf” mentality toward seeing selling as a collaborative endeavor. This change will be driven largely by new technologies, which are enabling more peer-to-peer collaboration and resource sharing – even for remote teams. Additionally, a natural next step will be the strategic shift in monetary reward structures, where sales organizations will begin to base compensation not only on individual performance, but also on an individual’s contributions to the advancement of team goals.

For the company as a whole, the business does well when the team performs well. By implementing a more strategic rewards system, compensation structures will not only drive improved performance for individuals, but will also promote peer collaboration, knowledge and information sharing, and more friendly competition to reach shared goals.

Trend #2: Process automation and AI will continue to change the role of the sales rep.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) was all the rage in 2017, but, in many cases, with little actual ROI. In the coming year, automation, predictive analytics, and AI will continue to mature – bringing with them notable changes to sales reps’ roles.

For example, AI will allow certain repetitive tasks to be off-loaded to automated tools, freeing up reps so they can spend more time delivering value to prospects and customers. Savvy sales teams will learn how to leverage the power of AI and predictive analytics to provide the most relevant and timely content to their sales reps – content that is not only tailored to the prospect’s specific industry and position in the sales funnel, but that, eventually, is specific to the rep’s individual learning style and knowledge gaps as well.

Taking this one step further, Aragon Research CEO and lead analyst Jim Lundy predicts chatbots will become quite prevalent by 2021, and anticipates that internal teams will begin building their own custom chatbots to quickly serve up and deliver customized info to prospects.

Trend #3: Microlearning will become mainstream.

No one really wants to devour lengthy PowerPoint® decks or dense training materials. In 2018, traditional learning methods such as these will continue to fade, being replaced by microlearning – allowing reps to more easily consume new information while on the go.

Bite-sized pieces of information, delivered through a dedicated sales training platform, will be used to extend and expand upon the skills and knowledge taught during onboarding and sales kickoffs – allowing reps to brush up on information on a daily basis. Microlearning enables sales pros to fit learning into their busy schedules when – and where – it works best for them, and has been proven to be a more effective way for reps to learn and retain information.

When delivered in a quiz-based format (like mobile flash cards) microlearning can also provide sales managers with insight into reps’ knowledge gaps and overall understanding of key topics – helping them further refine their sales training techniques.

Trend #4: Sales learning will become distinct from corporate training.

One of the most profound changes we expect to see in the coming year – and a trend that has long been growing – is the division between sales training and general corporate training.

Sales organizations are realizing that a Learning Management System (LMS) can’t meet their unique needs and are seeking out their own learning solutions – and using their own budget to pay for them. The fact is that corporate-focused LMSs simply can’t deliver the type of training sales teams require, such as just-in-time knowledge delivery, peer-generated video insights, and practice and coaching opportunities. 2018 will be the year of the sales training platform, where more and more teams adopt modern training tools as a way to share peer-generated content, video-based mentoring and training, and on-the-go access to deal-specific messaging and materials.

Simply put, sales teams are recognizing the benefit of tailored solutions and the value and ROI they bring to the company’s bottom line.  

Mark Magnacca is the president and co-founder of Allego. Prior to joining founding Allego, Mark spent 15 years helping sales leaders to develop strategies to shorten sales cycles and distribute their best ideas faster. He has also worked as a presentation coach with a wide range of financial service companies by delivering innovative, practice-development and business-building strategies.

Why It Doesn’t Really Matter Which Sales Process You Use

background-2492010_640By Anthony Iannarino

Recently, I wrote about the non-linear nature of what we traditionally call “the sales process” or “the buying process.”

Over the past few years, the conversation has been around the need for salespeople to align these two concepts and make sure these two processes are neatly tied together. The intention is to make it easier and more effective for us to facilitate change.

The assumption here is that both salespeople and customers are following some sort of process – that they both know and understand their process, that they can and will share theirs, and that they can be aligned.

In some cases, I believe two parties can sit down and work out an alignment of interests and the necessary activities to work together. But, if you are being honest (and I know you would never lie to me – much less yourself), when was the last time you or someone on your team asked to share your process, asked for the client to share their process, and gained agreement on how to proceed with the conversations and commitments necessary to change? How many deals follow your process without interruption or deviation?

Player, Play Caller, and Coach

You already know what non-linearity looks like in the sales process. It tends to manifest in the following ways:  

  • We progress through some conversations with customers – only to go backwards two steps when a stakeholder leaves the company
  • A new executive enters the picture
  • The company’s priorities change
  • The prospect decides to acquire another company
  • The initiative is greeted with resistance from key stakeholders
  • Purchasing decides your deal is interesting enough to require an RFP
  • Someone has low blood sugar in the meeting where you are presenting your solution
  • The CFO decides there is no longer a budget

The reason I am agnostic about which sales process you use – whether it is off the shelf or custom built for you and your company – is that they all have merit. They all start with the intention of playing the game in a way that provides the best chance of winning.

I am also agnostic about methodologies (I’ve even developed my own). These are the ways we execute a play – like a football play. Selling well now requires you to be player, play caller, and coach.

  • Player: Because all the negative events in the list above are things that happen in the normal course of selling, you have to be an excellent player to sell well. You have to know how to execute your play – be it something your process dictates or some methodology that has been bolted on.

  • Play Caller: What is also true is that you must also be the person calling the play. You have to be able to look at the situation and your goals and make a good decision from the choices available to you – even when there is nothing in your process or methodologies to direct you.

  • Coach: A coach has a different view of the game. Coaches see the larger strategy and – because of what I would call their “situational awareness” – they have greater context from which to derive their choices, improvise and create novelties, create a mismatch or an asymmetrical advantage, and determine what might be done to succeed in different situations.

The fundamental principle here is this: Right and wrong are moral decisions. In problem solving, you are looking for choices, which means effective or ineffective. When we believe there is one right answer – one way to produce some result – we are cutting ourselves off from choices, the very choices we need to play a game that is more non-linear than ever.

You want to be Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. You want to be someone for whom the game looks like it is being played at half speed.

To get these kinds of insights from me every Sunday, sign up for my newsletter at

anthonyiannarinoAnthony Iannarino is an entrepreneur, speaker, and author. He is the managing director of B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, an adjunct faculty member at Capital University School of Management and Leadership, and a certified Peak Performance Mindset trainer. Anthony writes for SUCCESS magazine and Think Sales magazine. He also writes daily about sales, leadership, management, and success at