How Successful Would You Like to Be?

By Jim Cathcart

A plant in a small pot will grow only to the limits imposed by the pot. The roots cannot exceed its bounds and therefore the plant cannot access the needed nutrients; plus, there isn’t enough soil to support greater growth.

But put the same plant in your garden with ample soil, sunlight, and water and it will amaze you with its growth. The same is often true for fish in a glass aquarium: put them in a pond and they will grow larger.

I think we can learn from them.

What Motivates You to Succeed?

It’s true: Your thinking is the “governor” that restricts or frees you to grow as a person. Just as a throttle governor in an automobile puts limits on how fast you can drive, your mindset limits how successful you will be. How is it then that many uber-successful people came from extreme poverty and painful life experiences? It’s hard to find a billionaire who didn’t come through some pretty harrowing life experiences before they succeeded.

Pain, fear, and desperation tend to fuel either pessimism and misery or defiance and discipline. The motivational effect of, “Oh yeah? Well, I’ll show you!” is undeniable.

Zig Ziglar, arguably one of the most successful motivational speakers of all time, once told me that, as a youth, he was very poor and was expelled from the community swimming pool. This, combined with other indignities in his youth, fueled his commitment to succeed. Through immense dedication and hard work, he raised himself to world prominence in his field. Then, once he had succeeded, he built a new home with a swimming pool…one foot larger than the public pool from which he had been expelled as a youth in Mississippi. “Told ya!”

Where does this mindset come from? How can you and I cultivate an attitude that will take us far beyond the limits imposed by our parents, teachers, friends, and neighbors in the past? If Mom and Dad grew up in the Great Depression, as mine did, then their fear of poverty and find-a-way-to-make-do attitude was passed along to their kids. Those of us born in the Baby Boom generation (1946-1964) received both their doubts and their dreams. The ones we embraced determined our destiny.

Chances are good that the Baby Boomers are your parents. It was their job to watch over you and train you to meet the world on your own. But they were only teaching you what they had learned and believed. So, if you accept the same governors by which they were guided, your growth will never exceed their expectations. Break free!

In my 20s, I realized my expectations were small – and my life would be too unless something changed. Realizing that my thinking was at the root of my life experience, I decided to spend five years retraining my mind toward optimism and achievement. My tool was the recorded messages of Earl Nightingale – an inspirational speaker and radio commentator who was on 900 radio stations around the world in the 1970s. He was known as “the Dean of Personal Motivation.”

I purchased a library of Earl’s recordings, on a payment plan, and listened to them every day – often multiple times each day. He spoke about the great philosophers, world leaders, high achievers, and down-to-earth thinkers in ways that expanded my mind and removed my learned limitations, my “governors.” At first, I simply listened to him but, after repeated listening, I began to see the world and myself differently.

Train Your Mind to Expect More from Life

Within a year, I was taking more initiative at work and in my community. Within two years I was holding leadership positions. By year three I was winning statewide awards for my leadership achievements. Today, I’m at the top of my profession and – a few weeks ago – I did a round-the-world lecture tour with stops in China and Poland, speaking to as many as 5,000 people for up to six hours.

As a young man back in Arkansas, I expected an ordinary and unremarkable life. But, by retraining my mind and removing my governing thoughts, I have achieved more than anyone in my family before me. You can do this too. But first, you must learn to believe it is possible.

Note that I said, “Learn to believe.” Our beliefs aren’t necessarily true, though we treat them as if they are. We were taught to believe them. We were trained to see the world in ways that may limit our growth. Everything we know has been limited by what we were exposed to so far, and that is much less than all there is to know. It is up to you and me to

  1. Discover what we believe
  2. Test what we believe
  3. Live what we believe

Think about your future. What do you think it will be like? How successful could you become? A millionaire, billionaire, world leader, industry leader, respected by the most successful people in the world, a world record holder, a pioneer? Can you see your name on a building you have donated to a university? Do you see yourself being inducted into the hall of fame for your profession? Look at the gap between what you believe is likely and what could truly be possible. That gap is created by your governor. Remove the governor. Impeach it!

When you test your beliefs and find them to be inaccurate, embrace a larger vision of your future and live today as the person you hope to become tomorrow. Ask yourself every day, “How would the person I’d like to become do the things I will do today?” Upgrade everything you do to the level you aspire to – not the one you feel you’re currently on. Fire your governor and be all you can be.

Mindset is manageable. Take charge of yours.

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 Mindset Trainer. Contact Jim at Cathcart.com.

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How to Align and Motivate Your Channel Partners

By Ted Dimbero

Sales managers who oversee their own teams have a wide array of tools and techniques to boost revenues and performance – and the amount of information and advice on how to do this today is truly staggering. But there’s another layer of complexity for channel sales, where leaders rely on resellers and salespeople who are partners rather than direct reports.

However, it’s possible to get channel partners aligned and motivated – and the key to unlock this potential is sharing accurate, actionable data.

Knowing exactly how, when, where, why, and to whom products are sold via indirect sales channels can be incredibly powerful for both sales leaders and channel partners. This data can drive more intelligent marketing campaigns, faster and more accurate incentive payments, and better customer targeting, among many other benefits.

Today, channel partners around the globe hold roughly $1.5 trillion worth of unsold products at any given time. The opportunity to convert this unsold inventory into new revenue has been overlooked in the past, but enterprises are quickly realizing that boosting channel sales performance can be the fastest path to greater sales and margins.

Two major developments have begun to transform the way companies manage channel sales:

  1. Cloud computing has led an exponential growth in the number of new channel resellers.

  2. New digital processes are making it possible for sales leaders to gain visibility into the channel beyond the manually-filed quarterly reports from partners that usually provide the bare minimum of total sales sums and inventory sold.

The explosion of new partners – and the ability to access data that was nearly impossible to obtain before (if it was even recorded) – could bring about a channel sales renaissance. Here are just some of the important ways enterprises have turned channel intelligence into greater revenue (or cost savings).

#1: Leveraged special programs to target specific customer segments.

For channel sales, it’s important to identify the segments to which partners are selling – and effectively leverage that information. With accurate and timely data on the individual buyers resellers are reaching, sales leaders can better identify and raise awareness about strategic customer market segments. This actionable sales data also helps generate new leads and uncovers new up-selling and cross-selling opportunities for existing customers, which empowers resellers to bring in more revenue and increase their own earnings.

#2: Identified deals early in the indirect sales funnel via real-time channel data.

Companies can also use timely data to accelerate the sales cycle by identifying important leads and routing them to the channel partner with the highest probability to close the deal in the quickest timeframe. A strong channel data feed empowers companies to proactively cultivate new and existing partner relationships – highlighting new, up-and-coming reseller partners and providing early warning signs about less-effective partners and what needs to change. For example, sales leaders can set automatic parameters to enroll successful resellers into a preferred partner program, or track significant week-to-week declines in sales volume to ensure corrective partner management actions before it’s too late.

#3: Used automated payouts to motivate channel partners, increase their productivity, and reduce their workloads.

Incentives and rebates often have the most immediate effect on motivating channel partners, and the efficiency of companies’ sales credit and commissioning processes can make or break partner programs. With a feed of accurate point-of-sale (POS) and inventory data from the channel, companies can automate incentive and rebate payments instead of relying on time-consuming and error-prone manual processes that require a lot of heavy lifting from partners. Not only does this accelerate payments by facilitating claimless processing, but it also reduces the administrative costs of the incentive programs and saves money by eliminating erroneous or fraudulent claims.

The common approach to channel sales has been stuck in the dark ages for too long, but new technology and processes that shed light on indirect sales activities offer enormous potential for companies looking to grow quickly. By establishing systems to ingest and share accurate, timely, and actionable channel data, sales leaders have an immediate opportunity to increase revenues, build better partner relationships, and more closely align sales objectives. These are just a few of a growing list of benefits that channel data management can unlock for enterprises ready to embrace the next evolution of indirect sales.

Ted Dimbero is chief customer officer at Zyme.

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How to Create a Sales Account Plan that Works for You

By Mark Donnolo

Strategic sales account planning has created more than its fair share of heartburn in sales organizations.

But it doesn’t have to. Account planning gets a lot of attention because it works, but it shouldn’t be overly complex or laborious. Salespeople don’t need to be tied to desks for extended periods of time – and most top salespeople will tell you planning makes them better.

The first step in sales account planning is to use the right structure. I’ve seen plans within the same sales organization that are so wildly different sales leaders had to spend hours trying to decode and orient themselves to each one. Not an efficient use of time. Your sales account plan should follow the same basic structure throughout the company and not be designed only so that sales leaders can quickly find key information. Key information – customized for your business – should consistently be included in your sales account plan.

The following six basic components should be in every sales account plan.

Component #1: Profile and Position

This gives an overview of the account and the strengths and weaknesses of the relationships. It answers the question, “Where are we now?” Consider including the following sections:  

  • History. This is your history with the account from a financial, buyer, and product or service perspective.
  • Addressable market. Look at the customer as a market in itself. The addressable market is the total annual spend it makes for services your company can provide. For some businesses, this information might be known at a high level, such as total IT or software spend if you’re selling technology services. For other businesses, this information may be harder to come by.
  • Current pipeline. The pipeline reveals information about your current pursuits and progress within the account. This is useful to understand where you have momentum and where you can build. If your organization uses a CRM system (accurately), good pipeline information should be easy to obtain.
  • Financial summary. A financial summary shows the historic performance in the account from different perspectives, including prior years’ revenue, bookings, profit, and performance to plan or budget.
  • Competitive landscape. This includes competitors by offer and their value propositions, strengths, and vulnerabilities.
  • SWOT. Finally, include a classic analysis of your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats with this customer. Remember, the SWOT analysis is from your company’s perspective regarding the customer.

Component #2: Needs Mapping and Alignments

This describes your understanding of the customer needs and the organizational alignments of your team to the account. This section answers the question, “Who are the buyers and how do we align?” Consider including the following sections:  

  • Summary of customer needs as an organization
  • Your account team
  • Account map of buyers and your team

Component #3: Goals and Strategy

This section describes your overall objectives for the account and how you will get to your goal. It answers the questions, “What are our objectives, and what’s our overall direction to achieve them?” It includes the goal build that takes the overall growth objective for the account and builds up the components of how the team’s going to reach that objective.

Component #4: Action Plan

The Action Plan takes each component of the goal build and develops a tactical plan to achieve the goal. It answers the question, “What is our plan to achieve each opportunity?” For each opportunity identified in the goal build, the action plan includes the challenge the customer is trying to address, a summary of your strategy, key steps, timing, and accountabilities.

Component #5: Team Support

Team Support describes how your organization needs to come together across functions to support the account plan. It answers the question, “What internal commitments do we need?” It includes key external dependencies for the strategy. These may be factors such as market conditions, client conditions, and political/environmental conditions that are out of your control.

It also includes the internal dependencies for the strategy across functions (e.g., delivery, innovation, marketing, finance, legal, HR). By identifying dependencies and required support, you’ve established the conditions you need (e.g., a stable economic environment, passage of certain regulations) and your expectations of the investments from the company that will be required to accomplish the goals in the plan. For example, you may require new team members in sales and support roles to have the capacity to work with all the decision makers and influences in the customer.

Component #6: Performance Dashboard

The Performance Dashboard sets milestones and tracks your progress to those milestones; it also helps identify any adjustments that need to be made. It answers the questions, “How have we performed? How should we adjust?” Consider including the following sections:  

  • Dashboard with dimensions for each tactical action plan component (e.g., action, timing, accountability)
  • Commitments, updated regularly for each tactical action plan component
  • Financial, offer, and buyer goals and year-to-date progress toward those goals.
  • Actual performance to goal by division, product, etc.

Note: The Performance Dashboard section may be hosted online for full access and visibility by the team and executives.

We’ve seen this structure work especially well when account teams complete the first three sections before coming together to discuss goals and strategy. With all the past and present information at hand, it becomes easier to plan for the future.

Mark 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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The Disastrous Under-development of Sales Managers

By Kevin F. Davis

I have two simple questions for you:

  1. In your professional career, how many days of sales training do you think you received?
  2. How many days of sales management training have you received? (I don’t mean courses on general management and leadership – I mean training specifically on how to manage a sales team.)

I asked this question a few weeks ago during a public webinar I was delivering to a diverse group of sales managers and sales executives from across the globe. I’ve summarized the results in the graphic below. The red bars – which are much larger toward the lower end of the scale – represent sales management training. The blue bars – much larger toward the higher end of the scale – represent sales training.

When I crunched the math, it turns out these sales managers received about 25 days of sales training on average and just seven days of sales management training.

The obvious conclusion is that most companies think that teaching someone how to get good at selling requires three times as much training as it takes to teach them how to do sales management! And, since 30 percent of participants received NO sales management training at all, it must be their companies think sales management excellence comes via osmosis or something magical.

These informal results from my webinar are supported by more rigorous research. According to the Sales Management Association’s March 2016 Research Report, “Sales Manager Training,” 41 percent of companies participating in the survey had allocated zero budget for sales manager training. And, of the 59 percent who did have a budget, half of those companies were delivering only generic management training – nothing specific to leading a sales team.

The conclusion is startling: For what many consider to be the most crucial, stressful, and challenging job in corporate America – frontline sales manager – seven out of 10 people in that position are not receiving the training they need to excel at their job.

Three Critical Reasons to Develop Sales Management Skills

The lack of investment in sales management development is disastrous for many reasons. Here are some of the most compelling:

1) Developing sales managers has very high ROI. In its 2017 “Sales Manager Enablement” report, CSO Insights showed that companies investing in developing their sales managers’ skills and establishing a strong culture of sales coaching can see a 16 percent increase in quota attainment.

2) Perhaps not surprisingly, investment in sales enablement alone is not paying off. The same CSO Insights report included data to show that investment in sales enablement more than doubled between 2013 and 2014 – but quota attainment dropped over that same period.

3) Untrained sales managers focus on the wrong things. The Sales Management Association studied what topics sales managers tend to discuss most often in coaching conversations. The top three items were all about near-term revenue opportunities. But the coaching topic that had the single biggest impact on revenue growth was identifying skill development needs – and it fell near the bottom of the list in terms of how often it was discussed.

The evidence couldn’t be clearer: Companies are not investing in sales manager development, despite the fact it could have a huge impact on revenue growth and quota attainment. If you’re in a position to influence how your company spends its training dollars, it’s time to make some changes.

Kevin F. Davis is the president of TopLine Leadership Inc., which specializes in sales management development and sales training. His clients achieve higher levels of performance from frontline sales managers when using Kevin’s methods for everything from leading, coaching, and managing priorities, to hiring, forecasting, and driving rep accountability. Kevin’s most recent book is The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading Your Team to the Top. 

Follow Kevin on Twitter @KevinFDavis, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

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How to Amplify Your Connections with Customers

By Jim Cathcart

Garth Brooks is the number two best-selling music artist of all time. By number of albums sold, he’s outsold Elvis, Michael Jackson, and even Neil Diamond! What does this have to do with sales leadership? He has incredible selling power. He’s sold hundreds of millions of albums and performed at more than 350 concerts, which have grossed hundreds of millions more.

But, you say, “I’m not a singer or celebrity! I can’t do what Garth Brooks does.” Okay, granted – there’s a big gap between building a winning sales organization and being a celebrity. But let’s learn from Garth. He’s one of the most accessible successful singers in the world. So, how does he do it?  

  1. Garth is on social media regularly communicating on a personal basis with his customers (aka: fans).

  2. He is willing to be human, to listen to those who have no power, to show respect to others, and to openly express gratitude for the blessings of being able to do a job he loves. As a result, people can’t wait to pay to come see him. His fans aren’t just reflections of his musical talent (and the ability to do the job he is paid for) but, rather, he is followed because people really like and trust him.

  3. He looks out for fans and does nice, unexpected things for them too. At a recent Garth concert, a woman held up a sign with “Chemo [cancer treatment] this morning, Garth tonight!” written on it. In the middle of his signature song, “The Dance” (“I could have missed the pain but I’d have had to miss the dance”), he walked to the edge of the stage, sat down in front of her, held her face in his hands and gently kissed her. Then he took off his guitar and gave it to her! That is the strength of connecting with your customers! Everyone in the audience, and me watching on video, burst into tears at the power of that tender moment.

Do you care as much for your customers as he does for his? They don’t “know” each other; they simply share the experience of his product. How could you get to know the feelings and cares of your customers like he seems to understand his? Once you truly get it as to why people buy from you, you acquire a connecting power that could be immense. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What life or business problem do you help people solve?
  • What feelings – and maybe hopes or fears – are connected to that?
  • If you sell cars, how can you make the delivery of the new vehicle a powerful emotional triumph for the buyer?
  • If you’re a banker, could you find creative ways to thank people for investing their trust in your bank?
  • If you provide a software service, could you make people part of a “club” of insiders whom you protect and empower through your service?

Tommy Emmanuel is arguably the best popular guitarist alive today. Not the best known, flashiest, nor even the top selling, but clearly one of the best skilled you’ll ever see. (Christopher Parkening holds the best classical guitarist title.) Chet Atkins dubbed Tommy a “Certified Guitar Player,” a title he wears proudly. Watch Tommy’s YouTube performance of “Classical Gas.” You’ll be speechless.

Last week I met Tommy before his show in Santa Barbara and I presented a silver acorn to him to thank him for his art and to encourage him to keep on giving. His performance was one of the most joyful I’ve ever seen. He was having a great time – and so were we! Tommy loves playing guitar and people love to see him do it. How can you cultivate your love of what you do? How can you make it joyful to work with others and to provide the value you bring?  

Finally, let’s look at the SBAIC, the Santa Barbara Acoustic Instrument Celebration, organized by Kevin Gillies. This amazing gathering of instrumental artists takes place annually in California and brings the finest guitar makers (luthiers) from around the world. They hold three days of clinics – all day, each day. Customers and fans are encouraged to touch or play the instruments, talk with the artisans who made them, and learn techniques for inlays, wood choices, playing, and more. Hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of instruments are sold and the art and craft of luthiers is advanced. I conduct a seminar there for the guitar makers titled “The Art of Marketing and The Marketing of Art.”

How could you create an event or a special experience around your product or service so customers can learn the inner workings, get a hands-on experience, and get to know the people who provide the value you offer?

You may not be another Garth Brooks in your own field (or you might) but, even if all you do is learn from his example, you can still add tremendous value to your career and customers. You might not love what you do as much as Tommy Emmanuel does, but you could learn to enjoy and savor it more if you tried. Your “experience” event might not have the same qualities as SBAIC, but I’ll bet there are dozens of ways you can make your work more fun for your team and more enjoyable to your customers.

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 Mindset Trainer. Contact Jim at Cathcart.com.

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Is Your Sales Presentation Suffering from Information Overload?

By Terri L. Sjodin

In today’s competitive marketplace, a sales professional’s success often depends upon his or her ability to deliver a polished and persuasive presentation. Although salespeople spend a significant amount of their time verbally communicating, many suffer from common shortcomings in their sales presentations that adversely affect their results.

One of the most common mistakes is delivering overly informative presentations. Of course, every solid presentation requires a certain amount of “data,” but many professionals spend too much time informing rather than persuading.

It’s very easy to deliver an informative rather than persuasive presentation. The reason? A prospect typically won’t say “no” when you’re only disseminating information. The problem is they don’t say “yes” either!

A young woman I recently worked with reluctantly confessed that she suffered from the data-dump syndrome. Like many of us, she felt more comfortable in the information zone. Her strategy was simply to provide more information than her competitor. She was hoping that her prospect would like her more, or at least feel obligated to buy from her because she had been so thorough. She came to realize that she had been spending a great deal of time sharing and consulting with her sales prospects without completing any transactions. (Ouch!)

After stepping back and evaluating her presentations, she realized she needed to move beyond merely relaying information; she needed to build her case. By focusing more on brevity and tailoring her strongest points to her prospects’ needs, this young professional eventually became a consistent producer in her organization.

What Makes a Persuasive Case with Prospects?

Prepare like a debater or an attorney. Debaters and attorneys win cases based on persuasive arguments and supporting evidence. Focus on your most compelling arguments with each client or prospect.

Do you deliver a presentation that creates a true need for your product or service that your prospect may not even be aware of? (Ask yourself: why you, why your company, why now?) Don’t just deliver a standard list of features and benefits. (Remember, a feature is what something is. A benefit is what that something does. These two concepts alone are inherently informative.) Think proactive versus reactive. Design a presentation that anticipates common objections and overcomes them within the body of the presentation before they become reasons not to buy.

If you have been meeting with a substantial number of prospects, but haven’t been completing a significant number of transactions, maybe the big question you need to ask yourself is… “Is my presentation overly informative or is it persuasive?”

After recognizing the danger of data dumping, you are poised to tackle any topic that comes along. Your goal is to be both informative and persuasive, pairing rock-solid information with compelling arguments. Your presentation should be a blend or a combination of the two. I have seen it play out time and again. If you are too informative, nothing happens. If you are too aggressive, nothing happens. Find a balance, and you’ll see results.

Terri L. Sjodin is the author of the national best-selling book, Small Message, Big Impact. Her new book, Scrappy: A Little Book About Choosing to Play Big, was just released by Penguin Random House. She is the principal and founder of Sjodin Communications, a public speaking, sales training, and consulting firm. For more than 20 years Terri has served as a speaker and consultant for Fortune 500 companies, industry associations, academic conferences, CEOs, and members of Congress. She lives in Newport Beach, CA. For more information visit: www.sjodincommunications.com.

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How to Create More Accurate Sales Forecasts

By Rowan Tonkin

All business leaders live in the future to some extent. They make forward-looking decisions based on market share projections, educated guesses about competitor strategies, and analysis of customer trends. Sales forecasts are a huge factor in decisions about pricing ranges, account focus, and much more, so it’s critical to work with accurate information. But too many business leaders are still operating in the dark.

It’s not that business leaders don’t understand the importance of forecast accuracy. Market research demonstrates that effective sales forecasting methodologies can improve performance. One study found that best practices in sales forecasting can improve accuracy 20 percent, which leads to measurable increases in deal size as well as shorter sales cycles.

But many companies are still using manual, error-prone, data-deficient tools and processes that lead to inaccurate sales forecasts. Here are the problems associated with that approach:

  1. Spreadsheets generate data but not credibility: Business users understand spreadsheets, but, unfortunately, their use results in inaccurate data that colleagues rightly suspect of being manipulated or riddled with errors. Spreadsheets aren’t set up consistently, so functions and territories may drive errors; and, once submitted, spreadsheets are often reworked because users don’t trust the information.
  2. Disconnection inhibits collaboration: An accurate forecast requires cooperation between groups, such as product, sales, and finance teams. When each group uses its own spreadsheet and methods to capture data, the forecast reflects the lack of cohesion. And the process of developing separate spreadsheets underscores the lack of collaboration among team members.
  3. Dependence on subjective judgment instead of predictive analytics: Business leaders who use simple arithmetic pipeline weightings may be missing factors that drive forecast accuracy, such as headcount, pricing decisions, and route-to-market emphasis points. Without sufficient data, business leaders rely on subjective judgment calls rather than data-driven insights.

To avoid these pitfalls, business leaders need stronger organizational coordination. An automated system that captures reliable data and uses analytics-based methods can significantly improve sales forecast accuracy, plus enable companies to produce forecasts quickly and efficiently. A system that allows leaders to visualize data and collaborate across business units can return incredibly valuable insights.

When looking for a way to upgrade sales forecasting abilities, business leaders should find a way to leverage predictive analytics to reduce overreliance on subjective judgment calls. They should ensure that data contributors use a common set of data definitions and agree on baselines so decision making is aligned and processes are efficient.

A forecasting solution that enables real-time data analysis is valuable because it allows leaders to course correct quickly when required and generate new forecasts as business conditions change. It’s also a good idea to choose a solution that provides visibility across levels, including representatives and regions. This provides insight that leaders can use to improve performance and align efforts more broadly.

Companies that use a cloud-based planning solution can continuously improve sales forecasting processes, increasing accuracy and making more informed business decisions. The greater understanding of true business drivers that results from a collaborative approach gives business leaders a more accurate glimpse into the future – and an edge over their competitors.

Rowan Tonkin is head of sales and marketing solutions at Anaplan.

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Five Ways a Sales VP or Chief Revenue Officer Can Get Fired

By Jim Lochry

As most VPs of sales and chief revenue officers know, the mortality rate is quite high for those who take on ownership of meeting an organization’s top-line revenue. The job security of a VP of sales is often determined by whether they made the number for the last quarter.

So, what can a VP of sales/CRO do to avoid becoming just another casualty?

There are some issues beyond a sales leader’s control – like when the product doesn’t work, when there is no market for the product that has been built, or when the product isn’t competitive. These issues are often outside the control of sales. There are, however, several fatal mistakes that are controllable. I have outlined five of the most common below.

  1. Signing up for an unachievable revenue target: This is the classic situation sales finds itself in during the budget setting process. The goal line keeps moving during the revenue negotiation. The VP of sales keeps getting pressured into signing up to an ever-increasing revenue target. Pressure then gets applied to ensure engineering delivers on time and that a sufficient marketing program spend is in place to drive the needed lead generation activities. Pressure pressure pressure! Too much pressure.  

  2. Poor sales talent and inability to develop them: Unfortunately, many in sales leadership roles don’t build a strong sales pipeline of prospective candidates. This often results in hiring new sales reps under time constraints, which can make poor hiring decisions – such as not filling open positions in a timely manner. This will result in missing revenue targets, unpredictable forecasts, high turnover, and inability to scale.

  3. Ineffectiveness in defining and targeting ideal prospect: There are great tools, which integrate with services such as Salesforce, that marketing uses to target macro-level profiles for prospective customers and markets. These definitely provide value, but are often insufficient for optimizing the ideal prospect and profile for an individual sales rep’s territory. Variables such as verticals and account-based selling strategies make account reps’ territories unique. Additionally, for sales to be successful in having more customer interactions, they also need to know when and how to optimally reach a specific prospect.  

  4. Lack of investment in provisioning a sales team with the right technology, such as auto dialers, to make them more effective and productive: A CRM system is a great repository/database for sales reps to access. What salespeople need, in addition, are tools or a platform that allows them to leverage the data that resides in the CRM. They need to use that data to increase the amount of customer engagements. Ideally, salespeople need a multi-channel customer engagement platform that supports customer communication through email, voice, text, direct mail, etc.

  5. Don’t speak with your customers, but pummel them with a barrage of marketing automation drip and nurturing campaigns: If you are selling something other than a pure commodity, the ability to build a trusted relationship with your customer is often what determines whether you win or lose the business. This requires a dialogue – not just a series of email monologues. No doubt email is a useful tool, but it should not replace the need for a real conversation between buyer and seller. To understand the buyer’s need and articulate the unique value proposition you’re offering, you need to get to know the customer, establish a relationship with them. You have to talk to them.

Today’s sales leadership will always be in a high-pressure and high-risk position due to revenue being the lifeline of all organizations. Monday morning quarterbacking and second guessing will never go away. But the odds of survival can be dramatically improved – if you remain aware of the above pitfalls.

Jim Lochry is SVP corporate development at ConnectLeader. Jim is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and alliances. He is a results-driven software industry executive who has held domestic and international sales leadership roles with P&L responsibilities for leading enterprise software companies such as Oracle, Extricity, Versant, and Peace Software.

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New Survey Shows How to Develop Excellent Sales Managers

By Norman Behar

When speaking to clients, I often make the point that sales success is highly correlated to the effectiveness of their frontline sales managers – those who have day-to-day responsibility for managing the sales teams. These responsibilities typically include hiring, managing sales performance, coaching, and leading their teams. Obviously, these are not easy tasks.

In our book, The High-Impact Sales Manager, we describe the “Star Athlete Syndrome,” where high-performing sales professionals are promoted into sales management positions with the assumption that their individual sales success will translate into better sales team performance. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, since the skills they developed as sales professionals do not prepare them for the key responsibilities they will assume as sales managers.

To better understand the correlation between sales management skills and sales team performance, we (in partnership with Selling Power) recently conducted a survey that included sales leaders from more than 20 industries. A new report, “2017 Sales Management Research Report: Five Hallmarks of High-Impact Sales Organizations,” based on survey findings, was published this week (and can be downloaded here).

As part of our analysis, we compared high-impact (where over 75% of sales reps achieve quota), average (where 25% to 75% of reps achieve quota), and low-performing organizations (where less than 25% of reps achieve quota).

This list summarizes what we found were the five hallmarks of high-impact sales organizations:

  1. Sales managers spend more time coaching.
  2. They are better at managing sales performance.
  3. They are more proficient at recruiting and hiring.
  4. They earn their teams’ trust and respect.
  5. Their sales organizations invest more to develop sales managers.

It was interesting to note that, while most organizations recognize the leverage sales managers can have in increasing sales team performance, most sales managers are left on their own to learn how to coach their teams. In fact, 45% of the respondents reported that they do not have sufficient resources or budget for the development of their sales managers.

We also learned that the biggest impediment to implementing a sales management training program was (according to 65% of respondents) competing priorities. While I wasn’t totally surprised by this response, I seriously question what other sales initiatives would have a higher impact on sales performance than training frontline sales managers.

I continue to believe that training sales managers has a huge impact on sales team performance – and the responses from our survey seem to validate this point. To download the full report, please click here.

Norman Behar is CEO and managing director of Sales Readiness Group.

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Why You Need Strong Customer Relationships More than Ever

By Sharon Gillenwater

You’re in sales. You’ve got a product to sell. Boom. Done. Then on to the next deal. Your technique? You use the sales enablement tools on which your company has spent millions to help you be more productive. At least that’s what your organization hopes is happening.

Why Is Sales Productivity Down by 36 Percent?

But consulting firm Accenture has studied this approach. What they’ve found is that – instead of being more productive – you’re too distracted by the information free-for-all. Sales productivity, they say, is down from 41 percent to 36 percent over the past five years. And 55 percent of you find using these sales tools more of an obstacle than a help. Even more say they have too many sales tools.

Well, that’s not a surprise to us. According to a May 2016 Gartner survey, worldwide CRM software totaled $26.3 billion in 2015, up 12.3 percent from the previous year.

But, while these tools can be very useful in managing and generating customer data, we’ve found that pricey systems alone can’t drive more sales. Instead of supporting a strategy, they sometimes become the strategy. They are touted as enabling salespeople to make more calls and send more emails – but most of these communications annoy and are ignored by buyers and disappear into the void.

The Shift to “Outcome Selling”

And it’s not just you. Customers are more demanding, more impulsive, more disjointed, and less predictable, says Accenture. In response, you try to change. You’ve been told to sell personalized experiences. Okay. But how do you identify that fleeting moment when your customer is ready for advice – ready to be guided? As Accenture notes, “In the land of evergreen customer relationships, the deal is never done.” In other words, there is no longer a single moment to capture.

So what’s the answer? Accenture claims sales zeitgeist is necessarily shifting to outcome selling, which emphasizes post-sales interactions and services to deliver on what had been promised initially. We used to call it “upselling.”

Here’s the bigger lesson: If the deal is never done, the only way to successfully practice outcome selling is to understand your customer, track your customer, and engage your customer.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review acknowledges this, too. The authors, from L.E.K. Consulting, point out that, for an outcome-centric company to carry out marketing’s promise, sales organizations must know the customer well enough to understand the specific outcomes it seeks. It requires a strong partnership between sales organizations and customers. And it requires business intelligence.

And that should be good news for you. After all, salespeople enjoy putting their people skills to work to nurture relationships. The people part of selling has become so forgotten that your buyers will actually find it refreshing to hear from you – but only if you’ve educated yourself about them and their needs.

The Value of Strong Customer Relationships

Give salespeople a good current backgrounder on the decision makers they need to know – in tandem with what their CRM can offer – and turn them into listeners. They can then learn from customers what is driving the decisions and how your business can help. It’s just good old-fashioned sales.

CA Technologies’ CEO Mike Gregoire touted this strategy during the company’s October 2016 earnings call:

“From the earliest point of contact with customers through the many years that follow, we have vastly improved how we are showing up…CA’s brand familiarity and consideration continue to move higher – particularly among business decision makers. Our customers are giving us higher scores on product quality, and customer satisfaction continues to trend positively.”

This, he said, is key to driving long-term sustained growth.

Consistent with what Accenture is saying is the key to winning in sales, successful vendors are keeping an eye on the long game: customer outcomes. Because Fidelity National Information Services emphasizes creating operational efficiencies for clients to run and grow their businesses, president and CEO Gary Norcross told analysts in November 2016 that, “Despite continuing macroeconomic pressures, our sales teams continued converting opportunities to new wins and cross-selling and upselling to existing clients.”

These two vendors get their customers. They aren’t just selling; they’re connecting and learning about what their customers want to achieve now and over time. It’s then up to sales to provide the expertise to recommend what can help them get there – again and again.

It’s like that NBC public service announcement, “The more you know.” The more you know – about the people, their concerns, their goals, what the company strategy is, who is making the decisions, and what their competition is up to – the more you can offer to help them reach their desired outcomes. Instead of getting distracted, focus on that.

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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