Six Steps to Winning the Race for Value

By Adrian Davis

Everywhere sales leaders are grappling with unprecedented, constant change when it comes to industries, customers, and competitors. As a result, sales leaders have to rethink their go-to-market strategies.

Often, they reach out to consultants to help them rethink their sales objectives, strategies, and processes. Getting external help when facing transformative change is not only a good idea it’s often the foundation for fresh and innovative approaches.

One thing that can’t be overlooked, however, is that new strategies and new processes have no value unless they are actually implemented. Execution is the only thing that matters.

A Lesson from NASCAR

When it comes to winning, we can learn a lot from NASCAR. Not unlike NASCAR, we are in a race. Ours is a race for value, which requires us to make pit stops from time to time.

One of these “pit stops” is the annual sales conference – often when sales leaders introduce change to the sales team. This is not, however, where change happens. Change happens when talented salespeople are in front of qualified prospects and they implement the new strategies and processes.

When reflecting on a recent win, one best-in-class NASCAR pit crewmember said this:

“Victories aren’t always determined behind the wheel. With the cars these days, you can’t really pass that well. Most races now are won in the pit.”

The relevance of this quote to sales teams undergoing change is significant. NASCAR has reduced the time in the pit to 8.5 seconds. That’s 8.5 seconds to change tires, refuel, and do any other necessary maintenance. Because of parity on the track, it is the team that can get its car in and out of the pit the fastest that now wins the race.

In the same way, every sales force must change or die. The adoption and use of CRM is no longer a “nice to have.” The ability to engage all stakeholders in meaningful and strategic relationships has become compulsory. And the ability to understand and contribute to the client’s total economic equation has become the only way to create real value.

These are just a few examples of the many changes through which sales leaders must guide their teams. With these seismic shifts in the marketplace, sales leaders are forced to pull their teams off the road and educate them on their new strategies and processes. The sooner the sales teams can fully grasp and implement the proposed changes, the more quickly they can get back into the race for value. With the unrelenting changes and intense competition these days, this is where the race is won.

Coping with the Shock of Change

Unfortunately, implementing change in a sales team is far more difficult than it sounds. The type of unprecedented change sales organizations are undergoing leaves many salespeople in a state of shock and bewilderment. They find comfort in doing things the way they’ve always done them. Rather than see the new vision and associated opportunities, all they see is something being taken away from them and they react accordingly. Often, they drag down the morale of the whole team and ensure your change efforts are stalled (at best) or abandoned altogether (at worst).

Six Steps to Success

Understanding the states people go through when facing dramatic change can help you coach your people to success and get them out of the pit and back on the track. The following stages are loosely based on the Kübler-Ross model of coping with loss.

Stage of Sales Team What Management Should Focus On
1. Denial – They do not accept that the proposed change is real. They believe it’s just the flavor of the month and all they have to do is wait it out and it’ll go away. Use this time to strengthen relationships with team members on a one-on-one basis and avoid confrontation. Break the change down into small bite-size steps and get the team to focus on fully implementing the first step.
2. Anger – They begin to realize the change is here to stay and the old way of doing things will no longer be acceptable. They begin to act out in anger in an effort to regain control. Do not take these attacks personally; instead, legitimize the anger and acknowledge that it is appropriate to feel anger when you do not feel in control of the changes you are undergoing.
3. Bargaining – They try to negotiate elements of your change effort in order to minimize the impact of the change on them personally. Be careful not to negotiate on the major elements of your change effort. If you do, you are redefining the change effort – generating a whole new wave of negative responses to any future change efforts.
4. Depression – They acknowledge that they have “lost” the battle to defend the old ways and they experience a deep sense of loss and intense frustration. Continue to provide support and let the team know about resources that are available to help them. Encourage them to take responsibility for their career and to reframe the change in order to regain a sense of control. As an example, rather than say, “No one told me and there’s nothing I can do,” encourage them to say, “I didn’t ask for the information I need,” and, “Let me begin to explore my options.” This reframing will give them greater psychological strength and help them preserve and build their self worth.
5. Testing – They are willing to experiment with the new methods. Acknowledge the team’s progress and help it build confidence. Openly praise the progress individuals are making.
6. Acceptance – They begin to realize that the change is positive. Reward and acknowledge the progress; also, identify what has been learned that can be used in the next change effort.

Hiring external consultants to provide thought leadership with respect to sales transformation is critical. Bringing in a powerful keynote speaker to galvanize the sales team at your next sales conference will help win over hearts and minds and kick off your change effort in a position for optimal success (please reach out to me if I can help you here).

However, the most critical step in change is using a strategy for adoption to prepare management to coach and validate your people through the change. This is where the real transformation takes place. In the end, it’s not systems or processes that change, it’s people. The sooner they change, the faster you can get out of the pit stop and back into the race for value. In a world of constant change, the speed in and out of the pit stop is where the race for value is won!

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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How to Make 2017 The Year of Sales Manager Enablement

By Mike Kunkle

As 2016 draws to a close, sales organizations are assessing what worked – and where improvement is needed – to drive even better results in 2017. With one in five companies offering their sales managers no training at all (CSO Insights), there’s ample room for improvement in sales manager enablement.

Buoyed by the strong results it generates, sales manager enablement will, I predict, continue to blossom and become more mainstream next year. Am I right? Only time will tell, but maybe we can give it a collective nudge.

Sales Manager Enablement Momentum

Some thought-leaders are already championing the cause. Tamara Schenk of CSO Insights has been at the forefront, citing the need for and impact of sales manager enablement. Consultant Mike Weinberg speaks frankly about the folly of how we get in the way of sales success. And thought-leader Dave Brock recently published a book that could be the foundation for an entire sales manager enablement program. These are just three great examples.

A True Story about Sales Manager Enablement: The Request

Personally, I often quip that, if I had a dollar to spend on sales training, I’d spend 75 cents on managers. There’s a reason for this, and I’d like to share a quick story and takeaways to help you take bold steps toward better enabling managers to transform sales results.

Back when I was consulting, a senior sales leader at a mid-market technology firm approached me, concerned that his frontline sales managers weren’t coaching. When I asked how he knew that, he cited a recent survey with lackluster feedback from reps on how they were (or mostly weren’t) being coached.

The Analysis: Too Many Meetings, Too Much Reporting, Too Much Bureaucracy

The leader wanted me to train his managers to be effective coaches. However, I’ve never been much of an order-taker without validating the performance need, so I first reviewed the survey results and set up conference calls with the frontline managers and their sales leaders.

What I heard from managers was that they were swamped with too many meetings, too much reporting, bureaucratic “C.Y.A.” activities, and more that prevented them from coaching in the first place. To validate that, we did a focus group, laying out all the things managers were being asked to do and documenting estimates for how long each should take.

As it turned out, managers were being asked to fit 110 hours of work in a week (which leaders deemed a conservative estimate). Obviously, not everything could get done, and managers prioritized based on what headquarters or executives were reviewing – none of which centered on coaching or performance management.

The Solution

Senior executives and sales leaders had an “aha” moment, took ownership, and made changes, including

  • Offloading many of managers’ administrative tasks
  • Reducing meeting requests
  • Redefining sales manager roles, with a primary focus on hiring, field training and coaching, pipeline management, forecast management, customer/prospect issue resolution, strategic account development guidance, and team leadership and performance management
  • Defining sales manager competencies and assessing frontline managers against them, with individual development plans
  • Developing a manager training curriculum and implementing an effective learning system to ensure managers’ knowledge sustainment, skills transfer, and mastery – culminating in a sales manager certification
  • Establishing a cadence or management operating rhythm and holding managers accountable for executing on it

Takeaways to Make 2017 the Year of Sales Manager Enablement

The investment and discipline paid off. Manager training was completed in late Q1, and, by year-end, the company had a top-line revenue lift of more than 34 percent, finishing the year over quota. The company subsequently reported a decrease in rep turnover, along with faster ramp-up times for new sales hires.

The strategies implemented represent best practices other organizations can incorporate. Additional tips and takeaways to make 2017 the year of sales manager enablement include:

    • Make the commitment. There’s a lot of boardroom head-nodding about the importance of frontline sales managers, but taking aligned action with top-down support is what produces results.
    • Get the role expectations and competencies right. Train to those competencies.
    • Provide the right tools to help managers work more efficiently and enable them to increase their time with reps and focus on what really matters.
    • Hire (or rent) someone to coach your coaches. Just as with reps, managers need knowledge sustainment, transfer support, and coaching too, so training sticks.
    • Measure the behaviors and outcomes you expect, and report on them transparently.
    • Capture the output of sales coaching sessions. Regardless of where you do so (be it your CRM, LMS, or HRIS/performance management system), capture them somewhere so analytics can be run pre- and post-coaching to see the impact, and so sessions and action plans can be viewed and reviewed by others.

When you enable your frontline sales managers in these ways, you’ll get far better results from your sales force and have the best chance of meeting or exceeding your sales plan. Good luck in 2017!

Mike Kunkle is a renowned strategist, practitioner, speaker, and writer in the field of sales. Mike has more than two decades of experience leading sales training, productivity, and performance initiatives. He is senior director of sales readiness consulting at Brainshark, a leading provider of sales readiness software. Prior to Brainshark, Mike spent 21 years as a corporate leader and consultant, helping companies drive dramatic sales results through best-in-class learning strategies and sales performance methodologies. You can follow Mike on Twitter at @Mike_Kunkle.

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Managing the Mysterious Remote Sales Rep

By Suzanne Paling

The first few months with your newly-hired field rep go well. With prior industry and remote field sales experience, the rep catches on quickly. You fly out to his  territory and accompany him on some sales calls, which go very well.

Then things start to go downhill. He frequently misses the weekly staff meeting conference call. A customer service rep (CSR) complains about difficulties reaching him. Now that you think about it, the remote sales rep has yet to return your most recent email.

When you speak directly with the rep, he has a plausible explanation for everything – including car trouble and a recent rainstorm knocking down a tree in his front yard. You pass these explanations on to the CSR. But the problems start cropping up again. You feel as if you’re losing control of the situation. What do you do?

Though painful to accept, the remote sales rep likely has a challenge of some sort he didn’t disclose to you during the interview process. These could include:

  • Second job
  • Addiction
  • Debt
  • Health issues
  • Family issues
  • Intrusive hobby

For sales leaders in this difficult situation, I recommend the following.

Find the Pattern

Look at login times and CRM usage. My clients – after first refusing to believe a remote sales rep would be deceitful – say to me, “Oh. You were right. She doesn’t log in until 11 a.m. Tuesday through Friday,” or, “He never logs any activity after 2 p.m.”

Speak with Customers

Go through the rep’s account list and call several of his most important customers. Ask how they like working with the new rep. Inquire about the frequency of visits. Many sales leaders find that a salesperson logging three in-person calls into the CRM may have actually met with the account only once – or not at all.

Keep a Log

Remote reps not doing their job tend to have a lot of drama in their lives: pet emergencies, sick relatives, traffic jams, and IT issues – ten times the number of the average person. Create a spreadsheet and record all the dates/times/specifics of the various scenarios. You may need the information later on.

An Important Question

Once you’ve done your due diligence, speak with the rep. Calmly ask, “Would anything prevent you from working the company’s stated hours of Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.?”

Reps may react to this question by talking non-stop, acting indignant, or remaining silent. Don’t react yourself or argue – just listen. Once you ask this question, the rep knows that you know. Believe me; you’ve made your point.

Taking Action

Give the rep a few days and see what happens. Some reps stay on until you terminate them; others resign. A few come clean – admitting to a difficulty or conflict of some kind. Regardless, you have all your facts and can choose between helping the rep solve the problem (if that’s even possible) or beginning the disciplinary action process.

Suzanne Paling of Sales Management Services provides sales management advice and coaching to company and sales leaders seeking to increase revenue by improving their sales organization’s performance. Her latest book, The Sales Leader’s Problem Solver (Career Press, Nov. 2016) and Winner of the 2016 USA Book News Awards Business: Sales category, offers solutions for 15 common sales management dilemmas.

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Why Are You Overwhelming Customers with Irrelevant Information?


By Sharon Gillenwater

Pity the poor chief information security officer (CISO). Once engaged in a role buried many layers down in an organization, the person in this position is  now a business leader, CSO from IDG wrote recently.

According to Dawn-Marie Hutchinson, executive director in the Office of the CISO at Optiv, “The new CISO is more the CIRO (chief information risk officer) tasked with managing risk to data and technology.” It’s a high-pressure job and, on top of that, they’re dealing with “vendor overload.”

A Glut of Vendors

CSO from IDG noted there are more than a thousand companies pitching security tools and solutions. A 2015 report by CB Insights found that, over the past five years, $7.3 billion was invested into 1,208 private cybersecurity startups. Yikes! Who has the time to evaluate each offering – and still do their job?

As a vendor for enterprises in any industry, the last thing you want is for your team to aggravate potential customers like these CISOs with irrelevant information. The customer is hand wringing over problem X, but your folks are eager to download product details that address problem Y – or, even worse, rat-a-tat-tat about all your products, hoping to score with something.

Why Customers Are Overwhelmed

The customer, who is likely being pitched by scads of other vendors besides you, is justifiably irritated on any number of levels. The problem isn’t being solved. It’s a selling exercise – not an effort to solve problems. And, of course, a waste of their limited time.

In a recent article in Channel Partners, CenturyLink chief security officer David Mahon said that a lot of people are being pitched “gold-plated security tools” to solve a range of problems –  some more pressing than others. He noted that, with so many vendors, enterprise customers are confused and he likens the situation to a construction project with too many subcontractors in the mix. “Something goes wrong, you have the plumber blaming the electrician, the electrician blaming the framer,” he said. “We need a consolidation, for a number of reasons.”

In the face of the ever-changing technology landscape, vendors overwhelm customers with irrelevant information when what is called for is precise targeting – especially if you are pitching to a busy executive.

Sure, the temptation is to tell them about everything in the hope of hitting on something they need. But a smarter approach is to do your homework and find out what the customer is focused on and then connect the dots between their needs and your products and services.

Five Tips to Stand Out from Your Competitors

With that in mind, here are five tips for targeting your pitch and cutting through the vendor “noise:”

  • Do your research: The basics are key. Who are you going to be talking to? What are they focused on? What are the company’s goals and priorities, their setbacks and strategies, and their competitive position? What threats are they facing?

  • Address market realities: You not only need to know their competition, you need to have a firm grasp of yours and how you are different. Your customer is facing a landscape in which the vendors and products – and the very technology itself – are constantly changing. Focus less on this “noise” and more on how your product or service alone can help them meet their business goals.

  • Listen: If you go into a meeting anxious to download information, you’re going in to sell. But no one wants to be sold to. Instead, ask intelligent questions that reflect your knowledge of the customer’s business. Listen carefully to their answers and make real and clear connections between your offerings and their needs.

  • Start with the basics: Instead of trying to be all things to the company, try to focus on their biggest priorities first. This will help you build credibility and earn the right to expand the business relationship.

  • Be a collaborator and an advisor: Help your customer figure out what’s coming down the road by providing a steady drip of relevant, useful nuggets of information – anything that will help them plan for the future. Instead of wasting their time, you become a go-to advisor.

As technologies evolve and vendors grow in numbers by leaps and bounds, meeting customers where they live becomes essential. Instead of being the bore who annoys CXOs with too much that addresses too little, do your research and tap into their concerns and needs with just enough of the right details to pique their interest.

SharonGillenwaterSharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, which maintains an extensive database of the most in-depth executive profiles on the market, from Fortune 500 companies to independent non-profits, to help sales and marketing professionals build deeper relationships and close more deals with clients. Gillenwater is a long-time marketing consultant with expertise in marketing strategy, account-based marketing, and CXO engagement programs.

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Three Ways to Ensure You’re Hiring the Right Sales Talent


By Byron Matthews

Talent is one aspect of your sales and service organization that cannot be developed. I know that goes against everything we’ve ever been told, so let me explain.

Yes, of course, sales training and development are vital to any sales organization. In fact, organizations that have a robust sales enablement function – which includes a strong commitment to training and development – are 10.2 percent more likely to reach their revenue targets than all other organizations, according to research by CSO Insights. Just think about the year-over-year impact that can have on a business.

But talent is different. It is a part of any person that cannot be explained or accounted for by training or experience. Talent is made of recurring patterns of thought, feeling and behavior, and it’s something you have to act on to activate.

Here’s an example: Courage. This admirable quality can be considered a talent – either you have it or you don’t. And, if you have courage, it doesn’t do any good to you or anyone else unless you use it. If you don’t use it, you may as well not even have it.

We all have a series of traits that can be considered talents, and each person’s talents are unique. These traits – or talents – lead to performance.

The winning formula for any sales organization is simple:

TALENT + developable SKILLS x the CULTURE you work in = PERFORMANCE

So, if you’re already committed to developing the skills of your sales team and creating an environment in which people can thrive, you just have to find the right talent and you will be on your way to performance.

Here are three tips to ensure you are hiring the right talent the first time:

  1. Learn everything you can about your high performers and uncover the reasons they are successful. You need to have a deep understanding of what top talent looks like in your organization and what drives the very best performers to produce results.
  2. Once you discover what top talent looks like, hire people with similar traits and characteristics. Plot a blueprint of your existing successful performers, then simply replicate the blueprint to fill your sales organization with high performers.
  3. Once you’ve identified and hired more top talent, invest in your people. Encourage them to develop their skills and hone the talents that make them special. Make it a mandatory part of your onboarding and development processes.

Remember, you can teach skills and you can create a winning culture, but you can’t develop talent, because it comes naturally. The trick is to discover what it looks like and find more of it. When sales leaders can do that, results will follow.

To learn more about what drives high performance and read about the four insights all sales leaders must know to be successful, download the latest white paper from Miller Heiman Group.

screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-11-11-42-amByron Matthews leads Miller Heiman Group’s commitment to championing customer-management excellence throughout the customer lifecycle 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 percent.

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How Customer Feedback Fits into Your B2B Sales Strategy


By Mark Donnolo

Last year, I found myself on the phone, listening as an irate woman spelled out the reasons she would never consider using a particular technology company again. “It’s pretty damn expensive for a product that doesn’t work,” she yelled.

Though technically I was on the receiving end of her anger, she wasn’t actually mad at me. I was talking to customers – and former customers – of our client, a large telecommunications provider, and trying to understand why their customers were leaving in droves. This helpful lady had agreed to participate in these “voice of the customer” interviews. At the end of hundreds of such interviews, the technology company agreed it needed to make some substantial changes to its customer service, service bundles, and overall value proposition. They needed to revamp their sales strategy.

Customer Feedback Plays a Vital Role

Customer feedback – or voice of the customer – is a critical piece of a sales organization’s strategy. Together with other essential information, including the macro market environment and competitor performance, the voice of the customer shapes the following:

  • Products and services to promote or retract
  • Customer segmentation and targeting
  • Value proposition
  • Approach to market
  • Sales channels
  • Sales roles and structure
  • Sales process
  • Sales deployment
  • Incentive compensation and quotas
  • Recruiting and retention
  • Training and development
  • Tools and technology

Sales leaders must understand the needs and expectations of their customers and the sales organization’s performance relative to those expectations. That insight allows leaders to see any gaps and determine where they can improve, as in the case of the helpful, irate woman informing them their value proposition was out of whack.

How Customer Feedback Informs Sales Leadership

Once sales leadership understands what’s going well and what’s broken with its products or services, they can create an informed sales strategy, which is essentially just an action plan to achieve its goals. The sales strategy will drive decisions concerning product and service focus, concentration on certain markets, value propositions, and the resulting approach to market.

First and foremost to the strategy, it’s critical to define the core and strategic products and services the business provides. In many companies, these are developed based on the needs of certain customer segments. Too often, however, products or services are internally driven and may not align naturally with customer needs, requiring a significant change in the offer or value proposition. Customer feedback helps keep products and service decisions in line with customer preferences.

The organization determines how it will organize and prioritize customers and prospects through its segmentation and targeting. The most effective segmentation and targeting considers characteristics such as customer industry, sales potential, profitability, common needs, and overall fit with the sales organization’s business. It’s important that segmentation and targeting flow into a plan that’s actionable by the sales organization. Simply defining the segment at a high level is not going to answer the sales rep’s question, “Who do I go see on Monday morning?”

Your Value Proposition

The value proposition goes beyond what the sales organization communicates to customers and articulates the organization’s understanding of the customer’s business and issues, what the organization can accomplish for the customer, and how the organization differentiates itself from the competition. The highest level value proposition is usually communicated at a company level. To be effective for sales, however, the organization must convert its value proposition to sales messages that can be communicated at the segment level, customer level, and deal level to adapt to changing situations and customer needs. And, it has to be honest. As the lady in my customer interview pointed out, a product that’s expensive and doesn’t work won’t live up to promises of high quality.

When developing the approach to market, sales leaders should incorporate insight about product, service, target segments, value propositions, and potential sales resources – especially when the information comes directly from the customer – into a plan that can be executed by the sales organization.

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

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A Selling Shortcut: A Tip from 7 Secrets of Persuasion


By James C. Crimmins

What if you could give people a reason to buy that is far more compelling than information or statistics? What if you could convey a wide range of positive attributes associated with your real estate property, car model, or investment opportunity, while actually saying very little? What if you could show buyers a shortcut that leads in the direction of your sale?

You can.

People are not good at objectively comparing options. It’s no wonder we all struggle with making major purchases. Even experts disagree on which property has the most potential, which automobile is the best value, or which investment opportunity offers the best return. No matter the category, prospective buyers often feel they are at a disadvantage. They are usually not equipped to carefully examine the choices and pick the best. Even in those rare cases when prospective buyers can accurately judge the options, they usually don’t have the time. Buyers are looking for a shortcut.

The best shortcut – the one thing prospective buyers find most compelling – is what other people are doing. Who else is interested? Who else is buying? People’s perception of who’s interested in what you have to offer can be your most valuable asset. No one is a skilled judge of every item they buy, but we all believe we are good judges of people. Your user image – or the perception of who’s purchasing your product – should be carefully crafted.

User image helps you make a sale in several ways.

First, though we are reluctant to admit it, we all feel the urge to imitate. When other people yawn, we yawn. When other people laugh, we want to laugh ourselves. When we see a long line outside a restaurant, we try to make a reservation there to discover what those people find so appealing. If many have bought a product and there are only a few left, we quickly grab one lest we lose the opportunity to imitate. Perceived popularity – especially perceived growing popularity – is hard to resist.

Second, we use the opinions of others to inform our own preferences. What we believe others think of a product informs our appraisal much more than the product’s objective qualities. We are social animals – and social judgment often trumps our own personal evaluation. Scientists have seen, around the world, that, if we are buyers of a product a lot of people buy, we generally buy it more often. If we are buyers of a product few people buy, we generally buy it less often. When we think a product has drawn the interest of a lot of people, we have a much higher opinion of that product.  

Third, if we have a positive stereotype of a product’s users, we want to participate in that stereotype by using the product ourselves. When we use the product, we feel like we are joining that attractive club of product users and, as a result, we believe others will see us as we would like to be seen.   

Even when we use a product in private, our perception of who else is using it makes the experience more pleasant – and this “positive user image” enables us to see ourselves as the type of person we would like to be. This works on something as mundane as oatmeal. If I think people who serve oatmeal to their kids are good parents, I will see myself as a good parent when I do likewise – even if no one else knows what’s on the menu.  

Finally, people draw narrow inferences from factual information, but they draw general inferences from user image. If we learn your hotel has soft beds, we draw no inference about the attentiveness of your hotel’s service, the quality of your hotel’s food, or the fun of your hotel’s bar. However, if we learn your hotel is the choice of sophisticated travelers, we assume your hotel has responsive service, great food, a cool bar, and also soft beds. If we learn your investment is the choice of smart, aggressive investors; or your auto is the choice of people who are on top of the latest trends; or your real estate property has drawn the interest of savvy buyers, we infer many more positive attributes about your offering than if we learned some additional product fact.

When you communicate something positive about the people who use your product, you say much more about your product than if you had described it directly. User image is, therefore, not only a shortcut for buyers, but also a shortcut for sellers.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-1-29-19-pmJames C. Crimmins is the author of 7 Secrets of Persuasion: Leading-Edge Neuromarketing Techniques to Influence Anyone. He has been a professional persuader for 27 years, mainly as chief strategic officer for DDB Chicago and a worldwide brand planning director with clients such as Budweiser, McDonald’s, State Farm, and Betty Crocker. He has earned a PhD in sociology and a Master’s degree in statistics from the University of Chicago and has taught integrated marketing communications at Northwestern University’s Medill School.

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How to Get Your Team to Sell Higher


By Julie Thomas

Some questions I hear constantly from clients are: “How do our sales reps gain access to the executives they need to call on?” and “How do they prepare for success when they get there?”

The reality is that executives want to talk to other business people. If your reps want to sell higher, they  must understand and speak the language of business – the language of finance. Help them learn to think like an executive and develop business acumen by encouraging them to go through these three steps:

Step 1: Investigate a buyer’s company, industry, finances, and people. Do a Google search and you’ll see how easy it is to get stuck in “analysis paralysis.” Give your team the tools to rapidly sift through mounds of information to uncover salient, relative nuggets that can be used in a communications strategy. What’s currently going on in the buyer’s business? Where’s the industry headed? What do the business financials tell you? Who are the key people on the purchase decision?

Remind your reps that, when researching, they need to avoid going down rabbit holes. Instead, they should search the most reliable publications; get information about the prospect’s company, industry, financials, and people; and notice the most recent changes in the executive’s business.

Step 2: Predict the most likely business issues and problems. Based on the information they discover, sales reps need to be able to quickly spot business issues and problems and assess the general health of a business. Is the business growing? Shrinking? Facing new opportunities? Within that context, the sales rep needs to connect your solution to what’s going on in the executive’s business.

To sell higher, your sales reps need to know enough about relevant business issues to be conversant, intelligent, and credible when talking with an executive. Encourage your team members to make educated guesses about important business issues and confirm them with the executive throughout the sales meeting.

Step 3: Prepare to gain access and plan for the upcoming business conversation. According to SiriusDecisions, 65 percent of sales leaders say their top challenge is that reps spend too much time not calling. Take a good hard look at what the individuals on your sales team are doing in lieu of making sales calls. Are they procrastinating because they lack confidence in gaining access to executives? Are they failing to prepare properly for the sales call? If they get in to see the right people, are they wasting precious meeting time focusing on the technical aspects of your products and services?

The highest performing reps are those who have more meetings, which results in more opportunities. But first, a sales rep must gain access. Give your team methods to get past gatekeepers with messages that are so compelling executives want to meet. Listen to their introductions and gauge whether they can immediately establish credibility.

Landing an important sales meeting with an executive who holds the power and authority to make the purchase is not about luck. It’s about knowing how to turn information into insight. It’s about developing stories and communications campaigns to gain access. And it’s about engaging executives through business conversations. All it takes is business acumen and effectively investigating, predicting, and preparing for the sales meeting.

To address this critical need, ValueSelling Associates created a blended learning program, Executive Speak™, which gives a basic primer on business and financial acumen, guidance on where and how to hone in on relevant facts about your buyers, and proven tactics to gain access to decision makers.

Streamlining the research process is so important that, as part of Executive Speak™, we developed the 360° Profile Builder™ – a tool that leads sales reps through answering 16 targeted questions about their buyer. The answers are then mapped to a ValuePrompter®, a tool that guides sales reps through a conversational questioning process. Our Executive Speak™ program develops business acumen, giving your sales reps the confidence and competence to sell higher, create more opportunities, and generate more revenue.

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

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The Future of Your Sales and Marketing Organization


By Gerhard Gschwandtner

What does the future hold for B2B sellers and marketers? In this Q&A, Gerhard Gschwandtner, publisher of Selling Power magazine, and Tiffani Bova, global, customer growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce, discuss how technology is affecting sales and marketing organizations.

Gerhard Gschwandtner (GG): What is the biggest challenge for sales teams today?

Tiffani Bova (Bova): A sales team’s success today depends on the investment a company is willing to make in individual customer relationships. Companies need to provide salespeople with valuable data points that enable more intelligent outreach and facilitate connections with prospects at the right time and with the right content.

That means sales representatives need immediate access to rich data and artificial intelligence (AI). The most frustrating aspect of the selling process is technological limitations – and that’s preventable. Sales and marketing leaders need to be laser focused on ensuring that speed and access to data never present a roadblock.

Fortunately, as machine learning and natural language processing become more integral to CRM, sales representatives are offered more opportunities to leverage these tools for selling power. The growth of your team is based on its selling know-how and the technology it uses to assist them in identifying buying habits and surfacing customer preferences. Teams need to  access, consume, analyze, and update customer information from any place at any time; this can mean the difference between closing a deal and losing it.

GG: What does the future of sales look like from Salesforce’s perspective and how will sales strategies evolve?

Bova: At Dreamforce, we announced Salesforce Einstein, a layer of AI across the Salesforce platform that delivers intelligence to our sales, service, marketing platforms, and more.

With Einstein, companies of all sizes can drive more intelligent conversations with customers thanks to features such as Predictive Lead Scoring (helping sales reps stay focused on their most promising leads) and Opportunity Insights (providing reps with alerts when a deal is trending). The future of sales is evolving into a personalized experience for the customer. And it’s lending itself to faster processes for sales teams as each bit of data gleaned from a customer interaction helps Einstein become smarter.

GG: How will the implementation of AI change the selling landscape and how will it enhance the role of salespeople?

Bova: It would be impressive if every sales representative had a clairvoyant gift that permitted him or her to identify customer and prospects’ interests with perfect accuracy. While we’re not quite there yet, AI is showing remarkable promise. Sales teams can now look at a prospect and predict deal closure probability given geography, seniority level, and other key factors. Using analytics and intelligence has created a better selling process that translates all the way down the line to a seamless customer experience and, ultimately, higher customer retention.

As AI becomes more widely adopted, sales teams will become even smarter and better informed – spending more time targeting prospects with the highest selling potential.

GG: As we move from Sales 2.0 to Sales 3.0 and new technologies become more prevalent, how do you encourage buy-in from the entire team?

Bova: Despite the promise of AI, as with many new technologies, sales leadership may be faced with initial reluctance from their teams. This reluctance will quickly give way to acceptance as salespeople understand how AI helps them do their jobs better and provides more time to focus on establishing improved relationships with prospects.

Sales leaders are under constant pressure to reach monthly sales numbers and keep the company aligned on the end goal – increasing revenue. The process starts at the top. Sales leaders should set an example for the company by embracing new technologies to promote the shift to Sales 3.0. Training is an obvious, yet critical, aspect of gaining internal traction, and wide adoption starts with sales reps developing an understanding of the problem before they move to solve it. Additionally, designating a sales rep on your team as the point person for a new tool will ensure challenging questions and obstacles are quickly and efficiently resolved on the ground level. Plan for the future of your sales operations by strategically  planning for an implementation strategy and understanding the short-term and long-term outlook of technology in your company.

screen-shot-2016-11-10-at-9-06-11-amTiffani Bova is the global customer growth and innovation evangelist at Salesforce, where she is focused on enhancing the overall customer experience. Prior to Salesforce, she spent 10 years at Gartner as a vice president, distinguished analyst and research fellow, covering sales transformation and indirect channel innovation.



gerhardgschwandtnerGerhard Gschwandtner is the Founder and CEO of Selling Power and the publisher of Selling Power magazine. He is the regular host of the Sales 2.0 Conference. Follow him on Twitter @gerhard20.

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How to Think about Your Failures


By Stan Beecham

Most elite athletes – from golfers to gymnasts, placekickers, and baseball pitchers – tend to be very focused, disciplined, and perfectionistic. Their belief is that the desire to be “perfect” will end up making them better.

Unfortunately, this is not always true. More often than not, the desire to be perfect actually hinders performance. When we try to be perfect, we assume success equals not making any mistakes, when, in fact, success is your response to the mistake.

Why Adversity Is a Good Thing

People who tend to be perfectionists do not respond well to adversity or defeat. Their belief is: “If I’m doing it correctly, there will be no struggle or failure.” However, loss, pain, defeat, struggle, and embarrassment are the great motivators to change – and change always leads to improvement.

Not understanding that failure is part of the journey of success will lead to more failure – not perfection. Perhaps the best and easiest way to define success is this: Fall down 100 times; get up 101.

We must accept that, every now and then, we will have a bad day. When I talk with elite athletes, I ask them the following question: “If you were the best athlete in the world in your event, how frequently would you have a bad day?” Surprisingly, many great athletes believe they should get to a point where they no longer have any bad days (or failures). But, in reality, the best and most self-aware of those athletes report that, during the course of a 30-day month, they have somewhere between three and six bad days. They understand that having a bad day is simply part of the process. The ability to accept these fluctuations in performance allows athletes to remain fully engaged in their training and keep their goals high.

Likewise, the inability to make sense of your failures will ultimately cause you to become discouraged and less motivated, and your performance will decline as a result. How you function during a good day does not define your character. It’s how you function during a bad day that is the true test.

How Do You Respond to Failure?

It is always beneficial for me to see an athlete I am working with have a bad day because it is the truest measure of that person’s competitive ability. Do they exacerbate the bad day by becoming even more critical of themselves or someone else? Do they feel sorry for themselves and pout? Do they make excuses and quit? For you to reach your potential, you must know how you respond to poor performance. This is critical information without which you simply cannot move forward.

If perfect is not the goal, what is? It’s simple: Do your best. That’s it. Each day, make it your intention to do the very best you can with what you have that day. Keep a daily journal and give yourself a W or an L for each day. If you did the best you could that day, you get a W. If you did not do your best, you get an L. The goal is to have six or fewer L’s in a month. And you never want to have two consecutive L’s. It’s okay to have a bad day, but you must make yourself recover quickly and get back on track.

Remember: The goal is not to be perfect. It’s to do your best and recover quickly from failure.

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-3-19-11-pmDr. Stan Beecham is a sport psychologist, director, and founding member of the Leadership Resource Center in Atlanta, Georgia, and author of Elite Minds: How Winners Think Differently to Create a Competitive Edge and Maximize Success. Since 1998, Beecham has been helping organizations maximize performance and realize the full potential of their human resources. Senior executives utilize Dr. Beecham’s expertise to guide them through the process of selecting and developing high-performance teams. In addition to his coaching and consulting engagements at the Leadership Resource Center, he is a professional speaker and writer committed to advancing the science of leadership development. Visit his Website at

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