Deliver Sales Training Where Your Salespeople Are

By Byron Matthews

One constant in the life of a sales professional is change. Circumstances throughout the sales cycle change often, forcing salespeople to make quick decisions about the use of their time, their talent, and their resources. They make these decisions hoping they lead to closed deals. But what works one week may not be very effective six months down the road.

As a result, it makes perfect sense that sales leaders constantly shift their strategy as well, given today’s tenuous business landscape. Pressure to win and close more deals and drive higher revenue is as great as it’s ever been, so sales professionals must be able to win deals regardless of their situation. This is where sales training comes into the picture.

In fact, sales organizations should alter their training and sales enablement approach to effectively arm their teams with the expertise they need to meet the ever-changing challenges they face. Learning should never be static. In fact, it must evolve and be continually reinforced or it quickly becomes just another box to check during the year.

Learning that is vibrant, personal to salespeople, and current keeps the sales engine humming in the most efficient way possible.

What does vibrant learning look like? Just like it does at home. People expect to learn at work exactly how they learn at home. In other words, they have consumer-grade expectations that, quite frankly are not being met.

Here’s what I mean:

  • People, on average, pick up their smartphones 85 times a day.
  • Eighty percent of Internet users have a smartphone, which means most people deal with multiple gadgets throughout the day.
  • Eighty percent of technology users check their smartphones within 15 minutes of waking up.

When salespeople are away from work, they can access whatever content they like in an instant. This is the new way of learning – via YouTube, Google, and Siri. And, here’s the important part: Their expectations are being met.

At work? Not so much.

But doesn’t it make sense to give your salespeople the same kind of learning experience when they’re at work?

Sales professionals need sales training to be delivered where they are and applicable to real-world situations. When it’s not, you disrupt your organization’s revenue flow.

Let me put it another way: This slows down the sales engine and, in some cases, it slows to a standstill. And you must do everything you can to keep that sales engine humming.

Every seller needs to learn new selling skills and keep sharp those they already possess, but they’re constantly on the go. That’s why training initiatives that are agile, flexible, and include several modalities that open up options allow each seller to learn at his or her own pace.

Organizations need a mix of sales training modalities to meet the specific needs of their sales team. These modalities should include classroom-led, digital, and integrated learning and a reinforcement emphasis – or any combination of the four – and be delivered any place, any time.

Learning initiatives delivered where sellers happen to be should be a way of life for sales and service leaders because the world is changing – and keeping up with learning is more difficult than it has ever been.

This doesn’t mean wholesale changes must be made year after year. Rather, these changes, or shifts, must take into account the skill level and preferred learning method of every seller. It must be simple, easy to use, and deliver exactly what your sellers need – where, when, and how they need it.

“Perfect fit” learning includes experiences that fit the needs of the individual, the team, the company, and the organizational culture. If your learning doesn’t meet the needs of your sellers, maybe it’s time to rethink the way you do it.

To learn more about how perfect-fit learning solutions can impact your sales, check out The Sales and Service Training Shift Webinar.

Byron Matthews leads Miller Heiman Group’s commitment to championing customer-management excellence throughout the customer life cycle and across the enterprise. His dedication to placing the customer at the core of everything gives Miller Heiman Group its expanded, holistic approach for developing, managing and sustaining long-term customer relationships. Before joining the organization, he served as Senior Vice President of Sales at Aflac, where he led more than 30,000 sales professionals across multiple channels. He also spent more than five years at Mercer as Global Sales Performance Business Practice Leader, where he grew revenue more than 40%.

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Five Mistakes You’re Making with Your Sales Proposals

By Adrian Davis

If you’re like most sales leaders, you have a nagging feeling there is something wrong with the sales proposals your team sends to prospects and customers. You just don’t know where to start when it comes to reworking them.

Here are five things they should stop doing immediately:

  1. Not understanding the target audience. In most cases, the individual receiving the proposal is not the person actually making the decision. Ensure your salespeople have a clear understanding of the approval process and who the final decision maker is. From now on, never allow a proposal to begin with these words: “We are really pleased to have the opportunity to submit this sales proposal.” When people read this line, they immediately disengage from the proposal.

    You need to come out swinging and ensure every line counts. The most powerful word at the start of a proposal is the word, “You.” Ensure your salespeople articulate very clearly the strategic goals of the decision maker and how the current situation is jeopardizing the achievement of these goals. This opening will emotionally engage the decision maker. The needs and objectives of other stakeholders should be articulated within the context of the strategic goal and challenges of the key decision maker.

  2. Not understanding what a proposal is. Most salespeople believe a proposal is a 100-page document. Lacking a clear understanding of what a proposal is creates confusion for the buyer.

    Simply put, a proposal is a request for a proposed course of action. “Will you marry me?” is a proposal. So is, “Will you buy my product/services?” The 100-page documents your salespeople are generating should be thought of as technical appendices. Lower level people will comb through these documents to ensure they understand the specific details. Executives will not read these documents. They will, however, read the Executive Summary or the Transmittal Letter. If those documents are well crafted, your chances of winning will significantly improve.

    Most salespeople fail to realize that the more senior the executives are, the more they want to be told what to do. They tire of people bringing problems to them without any solutions. Your proposals must clearly articulate the problem the organization is facing and then provide a clear course of action.

  3. Not providing a transition vision. When people are confused, they do nothing. Many opportunities stall because the buyer is unclear how the change will take place. Buyers want change – the movement from a current state through a transition state to a future state. The transition state is messy and risky, which is why, without a clear vision of that transition, buyers are reluctant to take the risk. Therefore, a section of your proposal should clearly articulate how the change will be made – reassuring the buyer that you have an approach that will work and that they will feel comfortable with.

  4. Not focusing on outcomes. So many proposals focus on the price and the process. This is not what buyers want. What they really want is outcomes. The prices and the process are necessary evils. Ensure your proposals paint a picture of their new reality. Fire up their imagination about the transformation they are about to undergo. The unconscious mind loves contrast. This section should provide a strong contrast to the needs and challenges identified in section 1.

  5. Not providing a clear next step. You need to keep the ball moving forward. Right now, inertia is working against you. You need inertia to work for you. For that to happen, you need to request the smallest action that will demonstrate real commitment to moving toward your solution. In some cases, this may be scheduling a project kick-off meeting; in other cases, you may need a signature for an agreement.

If you can get your people to stop making these common mistakes, you will improve the number of wins when your opportunities get to the sales proposal stage.

Adrian Davis is president of Whetstone, Inc, where he has worked with organizations such as Johnson & Johnson, KPMG, Motorola, PwC, Phonak, Aviva, and DuPont. His highly talented team has developed a reputation for leading organizations to innovative and practical solutions that enhance customer value and dramatically increase sales. Adrian is the author of Human to Human Selling: How to Sell Real and Lasting Value in an Increasingly Digital and Fast-Paced World, a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), a certified professional in Business Process Management (P.BPM), and a certified Competitive Intelligence Professional (CIP).

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Should Sales Leaders Swoop in to Save the Deal?

By Sherri Sklar

Recently I received the following email from a VP of sales, asking for advice about how to bring out the best in his people:

Dear Sherri:

We have a relatively new team and I am noticing that the first-line sales managers are spending a lot of time swooping in to “save” the deal. If they don’t step in, they say we’d lose the deal to either competition or no decision. I know we need to be developing these reps, but they are concerned that, if we take time out to coach and train, we’d lose the momentum we’ve got going with these deals. But, even with the managers stepping in to drive the deals, I’m still not getting the results we need. Reps are getting frustrated that they aren’t more empowered and many are starting to leave. Help! Is there a better way?

Sincerely,

SWOOPING IN SALES VP

Yes, there is a better way. Take note of these simple points that could make all the difference in bringing out the best in your people and their performance:

  1. Embrace a new mindshift about your reps. You, yourself, as the head of sales, have to start seeing your reps as the secret weapon. As soon as you have that vision, you’ll realize you need to do everything in your power to develop and coach your reps into being amazing, trusted advisors for your customers. That’s when the magic begins. Your customers will start to see your sales being able to make an impact on them and their business – and truly look at them as partners and valuable assets to their business. When that happens, you win deals and your reps will make quota.  

  2. Stop the swooping; start the coaching. Along with the new mindset, you need to stop the swooping. By swooping in, the credibility of your reps is being undermined and you are setting a bad precedent for an imbalanced buyer-seller relationship. When your rep has been undermined, your buyer will no longer perceive them as a “trusted advisor” on equal footing with them. Without being a trusted advisor, your company is seen as just a mere vendor, not a company that can make a difference – and, ultimately, not the company they will choose to do business with. Instead, use your and your first-line sales managers’ expertise to coach and guide these reps. You’ll find reps starting to feel empowered – and happy again that you entrust them with the job they were hired to do. They will most likely go through walls for you just because you are showing them you believe in them, you are investing in them, and you care about them. 

  3. Build a first-rate sales management team. One of the most important roles in the entire sales organization is the first-line sales manager – simply by the fact that they have so much influence over the people who report to them. Are you sure you have the right people as first-line sales managers? If the reason these managers are swooping in is because they relish being the hero who saves the deal instead of enabling their reps to be heroes, then it’s time to assess whether you can coach them to be great managers or whether you should return them to the field as reps where they are at their best. Assess your management team, recruit great managers who are outstanding at leading and growing others’ skills, and weed out the ones who aren’t.

  4. Invest in your people. Coaching your reps and sales managers on an ongoing basis is one very important step. Make sure you are also investing in helping them grow their skills in all aspects of what they do by giving them great sales training and sales management training. The last thing you need is people second-guessing how to generate business; winging it will lead to 50 different approaches and 50 different outcomes. Give your organization the tools they need to succeed. By having an ongoing learning environment, your sales managers will be empowering their reps, building their reps’ skills, and equipping and empowering them to perform.

  5. Make it fun. Make it fun to be a part of your organization and to come to work every day. Create an environment where you are not only helping people grow, but also giving them the tools and support they need, along with team mentoring and manager mentoring. One way to do that is by conducting regular team meetings, sharing stories, recognizing great performance, and creating opportunities for friendly coopetition with fun games, contests and incentives.

Changing your approach by creating an environment that empowers your reps – giving them the support they need to succeed – will ultimately prove the better strategy in the long run, enabling you to amplify your results significantly by bringing out the best in your people and the organization as a whole.

Want more insight from Sherri? Contact her at sherri@growthtera.com and join her at the Sales 3.0 Conference in Las Vegas on September 18-19, where she will present Sales Planning: Strategies that Leave Your Competition in the Dust.

Sherri Sklar is CEO of GrowthTera, a consulting firm that helps organizations elevate their performance to accelerate growth. For more than 20 years, she has helped companies deliver triple-digit growth, orchestrate liquidity exits, and emerge as market leaders in their field. She has trained, coached, and helped companies expand deal size, shorten sales cycles, build a robust pipeline, and convert stalled opportunities into multimillion-dollar closed deals. Sherri received a BA from Tulane University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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How to Really Motivate and Incentivize Salespeople

By Donald St. Clair

The economics and shifting contexts related to motivating B2B salespeople are staggering. U.S. companies spend more than $800 billion each year on B2B sales force compensation, representing the single largest marketing expense.  

According to a 2012 article (“Breaking the Sales Force Incentive Addiction: A Balanced Approach to Sales Force Effectiveness”) written by ZS Associates experts and published in the Journal of Personal Selling & Sales Management, customers are also better informed than ever and expect salespeople to be consultants – which is consistent with recent research findings that incentives distract from the creative problem-solving required for such consultative sales roles.

While salespeople face an array of obstacles in meeting customer and organization needs – and as the center of gravity shifts in buyer-seller relationships – it is imperative that sales leaders reexamine how motivation affects sales performance. A recent review by ZS Associates on sales force drivers reveals U.S. spending on sales force incentives – traditionally utilized as the primary sales motivator – exceeded $200 billion in 2010. Certainty concerning how best to use sales force drivers remains elusive, with nearly 80 percent of U.S. companies making significant changes to their sales force programs every two years or less.

Yet, countless researchers and sales managers propose that monetary rewards are the primary motivators of sales efforts. Perhaps not surprisingly, many U.S. corporations employ programs to motivate employees by linking compensation to one or more aspects of performance. Meanwhile, some companies have abandoned such sales incentives, favoring salary compensation plans while citing the detrimental effects of such short-term economic incentives on the long-term relationship building goals of the sales organizations.

Here are two key findings about how to really motivate salespeople, based on decades of successful sales leadership and scholarship relevant to successful sales forces in business markets:

Finding #1: Take money off the table.

In addition to my 23 years of B2B sales and sales management experience, my study and many others have found P4P plans and carrot-and-stick approaches led to decreased well-being levels and diminish feelings of autonomy and intrinsic motivation. While I agree simple selling tasks (transactional) require incentivizing, selling in today’s B2B world requires creative and conceptual skills. In this transformational B2B sales domain, incentives hinder performance and are the competitor of exploration. Sales managers should pay salespeople generously and equitably and do their best to ensure money is a non-issue. Please do not mistake this as an indictment on all extrinsic rewards. I have found they can be effective if used appropriately and are not linked directly to performance.

Finding #2: Promote purpose.

Rather than bringing in XYZ Associates to help tweak, yet again, your sales compensation plan, focus on how to promote purpose. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. This addiction to incentives is challenging and stifles innovation and the cross-pollination of ideas. After all, we are indoctrinated into this “if/then” thinking – like children. We bribe our children with rewards stating “if” they make their bed and mow the lawn (or other countless chores), ‘then” they will reap a reward. In doing so, we are attempting to control them. If you believe you need to pay salespeople more money to do their job or that, by paying them more, they will perform better over the long term, you – simply misunderstanding intrinsic motivation – are unknowingly creating unsustainable compensation models.

Salespeople are intrinsically motivated by the challenging work and by the ability to improve their customers’ lives. In his book, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the concept of the “flow state.” My study uncovered intrinsic motivation (doing an activity because they find it interesting and derive natural satisfaction from it) to be rooted in creative behavior that is often characterized by a “flow state” where a person’s skills are fully engaged in overcoming a challenge that is just about manageable, so it functions as an attractor for learning and developing new skills to tackle even more challenging problems.

Specifically, “flow” is defined as a state in which a person is a temporary psychological merger with the activity, which produces positive feelings such as enjoyment and enthusiasm. In practical terms, this research revealed salespeople felt a sense of wholeness when they were allowed to do what they do best – help improve customers’ lives.

Salespeople are seeking genuine relationships where there is no longer an “us” or “them” but rather a “we” (collaborative relationships) – we are all people seeking connection, a sense of belongingness. Sales managers need to transition their thinking into paradigms without incentives or sales goals and encourage salespeople to self-actualize – to grow vertically to a new stage of consciousness. In this new world of B2B sales, sales managers need to decouple sales performance models derived from the share of the customer’s wallet to ones that foster the higher-order development of its sales force.  

In their book Why We Do What We Do: Understanding Self-Motivation, authors Deci and Flaste suggest the question sales managers should be asking is, “How can people create the conditions within which others will motivate themselves?” The ineffectiveness of incentives highlighted above strongly suggests that sales managers need to shift resources and energy toward models that align better with what matters to salespeople – improving customers’ lives! Sales managers need to create systems that feed purpose and promote self-actualization rather than try to drive change through control mechanisms.

Metrics should evolve from frequency and quantity of sales calls to quality of relationships, customer retention rates, customer satisfaction, and other longer horizon metrics. If sales managers are willing to shed orthodoxy and reshape their motivational mental models to fit the new world of sales, they can take full advantage of what the new world has to offer.

Donald St. ClairDonald P. StClair is vice president of sales and marketing at OEM SALES in Troy, MI. He is also a doctoral candidate in the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University.  He can be reached at donald.stclair@case.edu.

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Improve Your Sales Performance with These Team-Building Activities

By Luke Talbot-Male

Common practices and sales pitches nowadays are becoming ineffective because consumers have been overexposed to them over the years.

To help the company achieve their sales goals, revising sales strategies sounds like a great plan – but doing so will be more effective if you have a strong sales team behind it. The team-building buzz is now targeting businesses and companies that aim to improve sales performance and hit their revenue targets.

Why Strengthen the Sales Team?

Functional teams achieve their goals because they are able to communicate well and make collective decisions. Evaluating your sales team in terms of its skills in communication, listening, creativity, decision making, and teamwork will help you find the areas you need to work on. And implementing these “new” sales strategies – and how high your sales can reach using them – depends on your team’s skills. So it will be best if they are geared up for the battle ahead.

Trust and Interdependence

Every team needs to establish trust and task interdependence to improve the quality of its output. Accomplishing sales goals is also dependent on your sales team’s cohesiveness. When the team is working closely together, the variable of having to completely trust each other always comes into the picture. A simple team-building activity that will help you enhance your team’s interdependence and trust is the game called the “mine field.”

You will need to do this activity in a wide indoor or outdoor space with materials like chairs, boxes, or cones as obstacle. Build a maze where a blindfolded person can pass through from start to finish – but strategically create “mines” using the obstacles you have gathered. Divide the team into pairs; one person will be blindfolded and will pass through the minefield while following his teammate’s verbal instructions.

The Good Old Role Plays

There’s nothing old with “experiencing” how to do the different scenarios when pitching sales to your customers. This team-building activity will help you raise sales performance by improving your sales team’s customer relations skills and creative thinking.

Divide your team into groups that will act as customers and salespeople. The salespeople team should be able to brainstorm the best sales pitch they can come up with for the product while the customers team will need to make the act as realistic as possible by asking questions most customers ask. Role playing this act will help you identify the reasons potential customers do not buy your products – and how your sales team can overcome those reasons.

Know Your Team Better

There might be instances where some of your sales team are assigned through various regions and cities and might not have even interacted with each other in person. One of the best “get to know you” games we use for team activities is based on the American television game show To Tell the Truth. We ask all members of the team to state two truths and make up one lie about themselves – and the other members have to guess which one is the lie. Unlike the old-fashioned way of introducing yourself to the team, this game will help you build rapport with your colleagues in a more fun and creative way. Knowing the people you’re working with will help establish great working relationships.

Problem Solving

Your sales team will face a lot of problems that will require them to devise new ideas that are outside of the box. Organizing team events that will require problem-solving skills will help your team enhance their cognitive abilities. Team activities like the ones described above are just some of the team events your team can try to develop their problem-solving skills.

If you want your sales team to experience these super team building events and other team building Melbourne activities, visit our Website today!

Today’s post is by Luke Talbot-Male, founder and managing director of Beyond the Boardroom Australia. Luke has a 20 years’ worth of experience working in Australia’s adventure tourism industry. As the owner of Beyond the Boardroom, he understands the importance of a functional team and his leadership style follows the same principles that are used in every Beyond the Boardroom activity.

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Sales Leadership in The Age of Anxiety

By Adrian Davis

Sales leaders are conducting business in a unique environment of rapid change and immense risk. We face complex national and international challenges.

Predictability provides peace of mind, whereas uncertainty creates anxiety – and ours is an uncertain age. The Information Age is behind us. We are now in The Age of Anxiety.

We are the most educated and well-informed people in the history of mankind. Yet, in some ways, it feels as if sales leadership is being asked to solve insurmountable problems based on events over which they have little control.

What are the top challenges facing sales leadership today? Here are three to consider.

1. Employee Engagement

As our world continues to change, your customers will face more complex problems. You need engaged employees to bring their best thinking to client problems. Otherwise, the spark of creativity will seep out of your business, you won’t be able to inspire your clients, and your business will decline.

Your salespeople are dealing with more stress in their lives than previous generations. This mounting stress is leading to unprecedented levels of depression.

Everyone is trying to find ways to cope. Use of antidepressant medication and alcohol is increasing, and many are turning to extreme forms of entertainment.

Employees struggle to balance their work and personal priorities. People shut down when they feel overwhelmed, and depression is one of the ways that happens. Employers must now also take part in their struggle. That’s why one of our clients specializes in helping large corporations spot depression in employees. Sales leaders must now take an interest in this balancing act.

Another of our clients has an incredible, high-performance work culture. What is different about their high-performance culture is how much they care for each other. They have built a culture that is productive and supportive – and that support extends beyond the work environment. They have developed personal friendships. People feel needed and appreciated. They derive great satisfaction from their work.

Employee engagement will continue to be a key challenge in our changing world. How are you doing connecting your employees to the core purpose of your business?

2. Customer Loyalty

Getting attention is hard enough. Once you’ve gotten it, keeping it is even harder. As your clients’ world changes, their priorities change. As their world and priorities change, they face increasing anxiety – and doing business with you may no longer be one of their top priorities. Commoditizing your services may give them a sense of control and security. Finding a cheaper alternative may give them a false sense of accomplishment. This is especially true if your employees have not been as engaged as they once were.

You must earn your customers’ loyalty. That means your loyalty to your customers has to come before their loyalty to you. Win-win means you win after your customers win – not before. The more successful you can make your customers, the better customers they will be. Take the risk with your right-fit customers. Invest in them. Help them address their current priorities. Grow your business by helping them grow their business.

Remaining relevant to your customers will be one of the greatest challenges your business will face in a rapidly changing world.

3. Effective Leadership

In the simple world of the Industrial Age, leadership was about command and control. We broke work down into discrete units and we employed arms and legs to perform the work.

As the world has grown in complexity, we have realized we need people’s heads and hearts as well. We needed to put the discrete work units back together. We now ask our employees to own their work and we gave them the autonomy to make appropriate decisions. As the pace of change accelerates, we need employees who care about their work. We are now asking employees to bring their heart to work – and not just their arms, legs, and mind. We need arms, legs, head, and heart – we need entire human beings to show up.

We humans are complex creatures, aren’t we? Managing complex people in a complex, fast-changing world requires a different leadership style. The command-and-control style of the Industrial Age no longer works. People check out when they feel exploited or undervalued. Command and control ignores the internal lives of employees. It used to be about getting the job done. Period. Today, it’s about outcomes and results. You need people who commit to outcomes. People who commit to outcomes need a leader they can respect. You need to be humble but decisive. You need to be calm, cool, and collected as you navigate your company in a sea of anxiety. Your people need to see your heart. You need to be transparent and humble but not soft or weak.

Your leadership needs to extend out to your clients and suppliers. Personal development must be a key priority for you. As the pace of change and increasing complexity heats up, character flaws will show up. When character flaws show up in leaders, followers can be unforgiving. You must commit to personal growth in The Age of Anxiety. As those who depend on you see you grow, they will also grow.

Three Key Sales Leadership Challenges

Our key challenges are:

  1. Keeping our employees engaged
  2. Keeping our clients loyal
  3. Providing leadership

If you’d like to explore a program to address these challenges with your team, reach out to me for a complimentary consultation.

Adrian Davis is president of Whetstone, Inc, where he has worked with organizations such as Johnson & Johnson, KPMG, Motorola, PwC, Phonak, Aviva, and DuPont. His highly talented team has developed a reputation for leading organizations to innovative and practical solutions that enhance customer value and dramatically increase sales. Adrian is the author of Human to Human Selling: How to Sell Real and Lasting Value in an Increasingly Digital and Fast-Paced World, a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), a certified professional in Business Process Management (P.BPM) and a certified Competitive Intelligence Professional (CIP).

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Teaching Sales Warriors New Tips: How to Train Seasoned Salespeople

By Shari Levitin

Many salespeople speak about sales through the language of warfare. To them, the idea of a warrior suggests power and conquest. They skirmish with customers, fight for leads, and talk about losing the battle but winning the war. They forget that what makes a warrior isn’t a weapon or a uniform, but sacrifice and doggedness. Great salespeople – like great soldiers – learn how to deliberate, practice, drill, and rehearse.

But let’s face it, most salespeople don’t wake up in the morning eager to train any more than your prospects line up to purchase your product. So how do you energize sales reps to fight for the skills they need to win more deals?

According to new research in the Harvard Business Review, titled “The Internet Makes You Think You’re Smarter than You Are,” Yale doctoral candidate Matthew Fisher and his colleagues concluded people are more confident that they’ve learned information by simply having access to that information.

This got me thinking. Do salespeople assume they know how to build trust – or move a customer through the pipeline – simply because they bought the book or signed up for the online course? Fisher’s research indicates an answer in the affirmative. Even more compelling is this: Just because you can find the information and understand it doesn’t mean you can apply it.

So how can you encourage your sales and marketing teams to open the books and courses at their disposal and apply the material inside? Employ these five methods.

  1. Reward a Growth Mindset. Too many sales contests reward the top 20 percent, leaving the remaining reps discouraged. The solution? Offer incentives for learning and sales activities rather than simply sales outcomes. Create rewards and recognition for books read, leads generated, and courses taken.

  2. Create Team-Based Contests. This will bolster bonds and increase creativity. Focus either on sales performance or mastery of learning objectives. At one of our Train the Trainer events, 10 teams of five demonstrated their understanding of the buying process by creating skits and clay models – and even performing rap songs! Of course, everyone won.

  3. Present Learning in Small Chunks, Not in Large Assignments. The average attention span of people today has plummeted from 12 seconds to eight seconds. They say goldfish have a longer attention span than people! If you don’t believe me, go to the nearest pet store and have a staring contest with a goldfish. If you’re like most people, my money’s on the fish. Short, poppy pieces of wisdom will inspire and entertain. They’ll offer instant solutions to common problems – resulting in a series of small wins.

  4. Make Training Interactive. A few years ago, I sat with a group of senior leaders who weren’t meeting their quotas. They were struggling to get salespeople to prospect correctly and to isolate objections. “The salespeople just don’t listen,” they complained. “We tell them over and over again what to do and it goes in one ear and out the other.” Their complaint revealed the underlying problem: them!

    According to Adult Learning Theory, people retain:

    * 10 percent of what they only hear.
    * 50 percent of what they see and hear.
    * 90 percent of what they see and do.

    Your reps learn by seeing and doing. Simply telling your reps what to do – rather than engaging them in role-plays, exercises, and interactive games – will cause frustration and result in low performance.

    People don’t want to listen to the conversation; they want to be part of the conversation.

  5. Become a Master at Giving Feedback. No one likes being told what they did wrong. Before ever giving negative feedback, though, tell your reps what they did right. By hearing the good stuff first, their brains will be more receptive to the areas where they need to improve. In fact, a Harvard Business Review study confirms that individuals who receive at least a 6-to-1 ratio of positive-to-negative advice significantly outperform those who are more often criticized.

Apply these simple tips and you’ll not only lead your war horses to water, but you’ll also help them to think.

Shari Levitin is the author of Heart and Sell: 10 Universal Truths Every Salesperson Needs to Know. She is the founder of The Levitin Group, a global company operating in more than 40 countries to passionately inspire transformative change.

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How to Find Your Sales Presentation Persona

By Scott Schwertly 

I have been studying the public speaking styles of famous politicians and business leaders for over a decade. I have studied magnetic ones. I have studied terrible ones. But I have never seen someone as intriguing as the 16th President of the United States.

His mannerisms have been noted as awkward yet warm; his voice unpleasant yet profound; his thoughts clear yet argumentative; and his appearance as ungainly yet cool. Either way, he made a lasting impact on American politics and the world.

So how did he accomplish such an amazing feat? It all boils down to his presentation persona.

I’ll explain. For quite some time, my team and I have been working on a proprietary presentation assessment tool called Badge. Bottom line, one can take the Badge assessment and, within minutes, discover which one of 16 profiles fits them best. Without giving away all of our secret sauce, it examines every presenter in four major areas.

Here’s a breakdown of each those modules:

Module 1: Exploration – An Introduction
This quadrant captures everything about how one approaches the task of presentation preparation. It unpacks the level of seriousness with which an individual plans, researches, and organizes his or her thoughts.

Why It Matters
Exploration matters because it examines whether a speaker has researched and rehearsed, has the right message, and cares about the look and feel of his or her slides. In other words, it measures if the presenter is prepared to share a powerful narrative.

Module 2: Sharing – An Introduction
This quadrant measures one’s ability to share and deliver a compelling message. It covers charisma, confidence, humor, authenticity, and much more. It explores just how natural or awkward a person is in front of a room.

Why It Matters
It’s the presenter on stage. Is he or she confident? Conversational? Charismatic? Comfortable? All these elements matter when an individual is in front of a room.

Module 3: Response – An Introduction
Do people like or dislike the presenter once the presentation is over? This is what the Response quadrant attempts to discover. It unpacks just how well a person’s message is received and retained by the audience.

Why It Matters
Response is all about whether a speaker has a servant’s heart. Caring about the audience matters – and this quadrant will extract that reality.

Module 4: Durability – An Introduction
This quadrant is all about lifetime value. Does the content stand the test of time? Speeches that would score well here include Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” or Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor address to the nation. Why? They continue to stand the test of time.

Why It Matters
Every great presentation or speech inspires, motivates, and even changes the world. Durability matters if a presenter wants to make a broad impact on the world and those around them.

How Does Lincoln Stack Up?

So how does Lincoln fit within these four main modules?

He was a Scholar – a presenter who is an always-curious learner informed by his own wisdom.

This implies that Lincoln scored high in Exploration and Durability and mid-low in Sharing and Response.

Exploration: Lincoln was known for the clearness of his logic.  Every word was always carefully chosen. If you revisit the Gettysburg Address, you will find that, in 273 words, he changed the world utilizing groundbreaking concepts like “A government of the people, by the people, for the people” or his mention of ideologies like “equality.”

Sharing: President Lincoln was a tall man, standing at six feet four inches, with long arms and legs. His feet and hands were also large. As an end result, he always looked a bit awkward in front of a room. He also was considered a sad man with an intellectual face; in turn, not giving him amazing scores in the Sharing category.

Response: When we look back to the 1860s, we look at a man who made a radical difference on America and the world. However, he was not adored by every single citizen. As the leader of the Union during the Civil War, his words didn’t always resonate with the masses –  including the Confederate south.

Durability: President Lincoln was a revolutionary. Plain and simple. His words and speeches changed our nation and the world forever. His speeches, letters, and proclamations challenged the status quo and pushed the American people past their comfort zones.

Abraham Lincoln was a powerful and thoughtful orator, which made him an incredible scholar. But what about you? You can find out your own presentation persona right now.

Here’s how:

  1. Go to ethos3.com/badge
  2. Take the Badge assessment (it only takes 10-12 minutes)
  3. Pick up a copy of What’s Your Presentation Persona? to learn about your profile

It’s that easy. Once you discover your profile, come back here and let me know how you scored. I would love to discuss.

Scott Schwertly is the founder and CEO of Ethos3 and the creator of Badge, a proprietary presentation assessment tool that helps presenters discover and maximize their presentation style. He is also the author of two books: What’s Your Presentation Persona? and How to Be a Presentation God. If Scott is not working with his team building presentations or co-hosting his Presentation Scientists podcast, you will find him in the pool, on the bike, or on a long run since he is a 2x Ironman, 7x marathoner, and competitive triathlete.

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Advice for a Sales Leader: How to Gain Control of Your Sales Pipeline and Forecast

By Sherri Sklar

Recently I received the following email from a VP of Sales, asking for advice about his sales pipeline and sales forecast.

Dear Sherri,

I’m a Sales VP, it’s mid-March, and I’m sweating the end of quarter. Truth is, we don’t have enough good opportunities in our pipeline. I can only rely on 20 percent of what has been inputted into the CRM. Either reps are sandbagging or putting in fluff just to have something there. How can I get control of this situation so I’m not left to figure out where things stand so close to the end of the quarter?

Sincerely,

“Sweating the Numbers”

In my reply, I assured this VP there are a number of things sales leaders can do to turn a situation like this around. Even starting with just a few of the actions below can make a huge difference in a single quarter, while also setting you up for sustainable growth.

  1. Face the truth. When I was training for a triathlon, my coach used to say, “Face the truth,” so we knew where I was in terms of strength, endurance, stamina, and speed. You need to use the same “face the truth” type of information to determine where each deal truly is in the pipeline. You need factual evidence of where the opportunity is in the buyer’s process. Look at your reps’ letters of understanding, emails, and social interaction with the client, and ask yourself if your rep truly set all the right elements in motion for this to be categorized as an opportunity ready to close by the end of the quarter.Key information you need to look at includes: what is the buyer’s critical business issue keeping him or her up at night? What’s causing that issue? Who else is impacted and how? And is your rep calling on the right person? Other telltale signs will also tell you where this opportunity stands, such as, are they still demoing the product? Are they still meeting with other members of the buying committee? If the answers are yes, you’re looking at an earlier stage opportunity, not late-stage ready for closing.By getting a good grip on answers to these questions, you’ll know where the opportunity actually stands and if it’s fluff or real. Don’t just rely on your CRM system. You need to roll up your sleeves and have these concrete conversations to truly get the real picture. You’ll get a much more realistic view of the pipeline and be able to produce a solid forecast.
  2. Get the real deals across the finish line. Once you’ve figured out what’s fluff and what’s real, you want to clear the pathways and make it easy for every deal that’s real to close. There are many things your reps will need. For instance, you can help your reps foster an even stronger relationship between your company and the client by developing meaningful dialogue with C-level executives from both companies. You can create account-based cross-functional SWAT teams to triage issues and ensure the most creative solutions emerge that will gain rapid agreement with other key managers in your company who are stakeholders in this deal.Where you need to, you can run pass interference for your reps to speed up any problematic legal issues or T’s and C’s. All these things can make an enormous difference in being able to close a deal faster and solidify the relationship for long-term success.
  3. Accelerate sales with process. Simply put, you’re going to need a good systematic approach to deliver reliable, predictable numbers so this does not happen every quarter. You may hate the word “process,” but – call it what you will – the fastest and most dependable way to deliver an outstanding performance is to give your team a common language and a set of consistent, repeatable actions that work. It has been proven over and over that implementing some kind of method and process not only helps every rep grow into a better rep; it helps them make quota – and organizations as a whole perform a whole lot better. Putting in a process helps you avoid people “winging it” and gets people doing the right things at the right time so there are no surprises in the pipeline or forecast. Reps won’t be sandbagging or creating fluff anymore, because your clearly defined and articulated process will expose it right away. You will accelerate sales and, as a result, the performance of the entire team will improve.

Reps can be like kids. They’ll tell you they hate structure, but secretly – or maybe subconsciously – they crave it. They need your leadership, your guidance, and your process to review their opportunities in a way that gives you the accurate information you need to accurately predict the numbers. Only then will you not be sweating the numbers.

Want more predictability in hitting your numbers? Download GrowthTera’s free checklist for Sales Leaders and get control of your numbers.  Or, contact Sherri at:  212/500-2161 x 700 or sherri@growthtera.com.

Sherri Sklar is CEO of GrowthTera, a consulting firm that helps organizations elevate their performance to accelerate growth. For more than 20 years, she has helped companies deliver triple-digit growth, orchestrate liquidity exits, and emerge as market leaders in their field. She has trained, coached, and helped companies expand deal size, shorten sales cycles, build a robust pipeline, and convert stalled opportunities into multimillion dollar closed deals. Sherri received a BA from Tulane University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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The Only Power Source that Really Matters in Your Company

By Jim Cathcart

In a speech years ago to the executive team of Wal-Mart at their Bentonville, AR, headquarters – after meeting Sam Walton himself in the hallway – I explored the concept of where power comes from in an organization.

The traditional view has always been that power “comes from the top” and flows downward through the organization. We use organization charts with boxes to indicate the players, with lines to show reporting roles between them.

The boss or owner is always at the top and the hourly workers are at the bottom in a wide row. It’s a pyramid. The problem with this structure is that it isn’t true to life. That is not how good organizations get results.

In truth the only power that really matters is the power of customers. As a company, we are working to find what the customer will value – and design and deliver it in a way they’ll be eager to pay for. We want the customer’s allegiance and enthusiastic loyalty. They give that both through money (revenue) and through support (testimonials, referrals, and feedback).

When I received my orientation to Wal-Mart prior to my speech, I discovered that they operate quite differently from most organizations. No wonder they are one of the world’s most successful! They refer to their coworkers as “associates” instead of employees, superiors, subordinates, or bosses. The store managers don’t have traditional offices because they are expected to spend most of their time walking around and actively engaging with others. They see their stores as outlets designed for the convenience of their customers and they negotiate the lowest possible prices from their suppliers. They were the originators of “greeters” at the front door and many other friend-building innovations in retailing.

Pyramid-shaped org charts don’t describe Wal-Mart. And, in actuality, neither does that structure describe any customer-facing organization. The owner or CEO, in truth, is at the bottom of a pyramid – with all of the weight of the organization on his or her shoulders. The people who touch the customers most are at the top, like the ice cream in a cone. But there’s another element that doesn’t show in this symbol: the resource network – the suppliers and industry colleagues.

A much better symbol, as I told the execs that day, is a tree. Trees have two systems: one seen and one hidden from view. The seen system is made up of the trunk, branches, and leaves reaching toward the sky (opportunity). The unseen system is made up of the root system and taproot reaching down for the resources and nutrients in the soil.

The branches represent the growth system of your organization: sales, marketing, customer service, product development, etc. The roots represent your strength system: suppliers, distributors, research, finance, engineering, quality control, etc.

If the strength system is weak, you might outgrow your ability to deliver or sustain growth; and, if the growth system is weak, you could die from lack of sales. Seeing ourselves in this way within the company gives us a much better sense of our responsibility to each other and to our marketplace. The purpose of selling is to make life better for people at a profit so it also makes life better for us.

Years later I encountered then-president of Wal-Mart, David Glass, at a banking conference where we were both speaking. He told me, “We are still using many of your ideas from that day.” Cool.

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 Cathcart.com.

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