How to Help Your Reps Stand Out on Sales Calls

sales calls

By Lisa Earle McLeod

Imagine two competing salespeople who are about to call on the same customer. Salesperson A is making his call at 10:00 a.m., and Salesperson B is making her call at 11:00 a.m.

Before they go into the call, they both do the exact same thing: they open their laptops to review the customer’s information. As they scroll past the customer’s contact information, the two salespeople see two different things.

Salesperson A sees the projected revenue for this customer and the anticipated close date that he promised his boss.

Salesperson B sees five boxes labeled

1) customer environment,
2) customer goals,
3) customer challenges,
4) what success looks like for this customer, and
5) what lack of success looks like for this customer.

Each box contains a succinct summary of the information Salesperson B has gathered on her previous sales calls.

Which salesperson is going to make the better sales call, Salesperson A, who goes into the call after being reminded about his quota, or Salesperson B, who was just reminded about the customer’s goals?

Who is better prepared to discuss the customer’s most pertinent business issues? Who is going to do a better job of aligning the solution with the customer’s key goals?

If you were the customer, which screen would you rather your salesperson look at before calling on you? Who would you rather do business with, Salesperson A, who shows up thinking about his quota, or Salesperson B, who is thinking about what matters to you, the customer?

Salesperson B is going to make a better call because she’s going to be more focused on the customer. Salesperson A might not be a bad rep, but his customer relationship management (CRM) system set him up for mediocrity.

Why Most CRM Systems Promote Sales Mediocrity

Sadly, Salesperson A, with his pipeline-oriented CRM system, isn’t the exception; he’s the norm. His system set him up to make a mediocre sales call because it focused him on information that’s important to his company (pipeline, revenue projections, close date, etc.), not what’s important to his customer. Without being prompted to focus on the customer’s goals and challenges, Salesperson A will do what most average-performing salespeople do: provide a generic description of his products and services and hope he closes the deal.

Salesperson B has a big advantage: her CRM system set her up to make a customer-focused sales call. By putting up front all the information about the customer’s environment, goals, challenges, and success factors, her system prepared her to connect the dots between the customer’s high-priority goals and her solution.

If the two salespeople’s products and pricing are about the same, the person with the customer-focused CRM system will win. Additionally, even if Salesperson B is selling a higher-priced product, she’ll still win the business, because while Salesperson A’s company has focused him on his quota, Salesperson B has a more noble purpose: to help the customer.

The Huge Mistake People Notice Only When They Start Losing Business

As a sales-leadership consultant, I’ve seen firsthand just how much CRM affects sales behavior. Several years ago, I was working with a major manufacturing firm that had recently implemented a new CRM system with all the bells and whistles. There was just one problem: the expensive new system hadn’t improved the close rate one bit. Company execs brought me in to figure out why. The answer was obvious to me after I spent a few hours in the field with the reps.

The CRM system captured the information that mattered to the company, but nowhere was there a space to record the information that mattered to the customer. There wasn’t a single screen or even a box to record the critical customer information that should be the centerpiece of every sales call. No wonder the reps were getting a reputation as product pushers. We fixed the problem, and not surprisingly, the close rate went up dramatically.

Here’s the big mistake most companies make: they tell salespeople to focus on the customer, but the CRM system is more focused on internal metrics and pipeline management. The result is mediocre sales behavior.

Look at your own CRM system and ask, where is the information about the customers’ goals? Is it buried, or is it right up front? What do your salespeople see when they open their screens? If the information is more company focused than customer focused, you have a big problem.

A good CRM tool delivers useful analytics and reports, but don’t make the mistake of letting the tail wag the dog. The ultimate purpose of capturing customer information is to drive more sales. The information you require your salespeople to gather about their customers influences their sales behavior. Capturing the right information about your customers and pulling it to the front and center of your CRM gives you a huge competitive advantage.

You can be a me-too sales force that says you want to make a difference to customers, or you can be the rare company that actually does. If you want to be mediocre, keep focusing on your pipeline. If you want to be outstanding, choose a more noble purpose; focus on your customer.

Lisa Earle McLeodLisa Earle McLeod is a sales-leadership consultant and the best-selling author of Selling with Noble Purpose: How to Drive Revenue and Do Work That Makes You ProudCompanies like Google, Hootsuite, and Roche hire her to help them create passionate, purpose-driven sales organizations. View her free sales-leadership tips and videos at

selling power magazine[Image via Flickr / Liam Quinn]


3 Things You Need to Be a Predictive Sales Organization

predictive analytics Selling Power

Do you look into your revenue future and see uncertainty?

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

Business Intelligence vs. Predictive Analytics

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

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

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

What Questions Can Predictive Analytics Answer?

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

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

Three Ways Sales Teams Can Become Predictive

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

#1: Embrace your organizational data.

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

#2: Don’t play the waiting game.

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

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

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

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

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

#3: Use your CRM system diligently.

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

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


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


[Image via Flickr / Mark Weaver]


Time to Create a Quick and Mobile Sales Team

We talked with Seth Patton, Senior Director of Marketing at Microsoft Dynamics CRM, for an article published last week in our Sales Management Digest. Patton speaks frequently to sales leaders at industry events like the Sales 2.0 Conference. Here’s what he said about the need for today’s sales teams to be quick and mobile.

It’s not good enough to say, ‘Hey, I’ll wait until I get back to the office to get or share the latest information,'” says Patton. “CRM applications on mobile devices are becoming indispensable selling tools. Five minutes before going into an appointment, reps need real-time information about what’s happening with prospects. I need to know what conversations are going on about those prospects. And I need additional market data and news feeds. Did the prospect recently go through an acquisition? Is there an existing service issue with this customer that you might not know about? You can get that kind of real-time information on your mobile device.”

READ MORE: Four Characteristics of Dynamic Sales Teams