Sales Leader’s First 90 Days: Setting a Longer-Term Sales Strategy (Post 4 of 4)

By Hope Eyre

This is the conclusion of our multi-part exploration of how sales leaders approach their first 90 days in a new role. The topic was born from a startling statistic: The average tenure of a Sales VP working in the same role at the same company is incredibly brief – only about 18 months.

So many of our clients have found themselves in a new position, after a relatively short tenure elsewhere, that we wondered what we could learn from their experiences that could be put to pragmatic use by sales leaders changing jobs.

Post 4 of 4

In this, our final blog post (for days 60 through 90), we’ll show you how to organize the considerable information you’ve gathered, actively look for major alignment issues and build a roadmap that sets longer-term sales strategy.

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Show... Then Tell (with Win Themes)

By Rachel Cavallo

The value proposition. It’s at the core of everything we sell, right? Value propositions come in many varieties, but essentially they are the statements that say, “You need what we have to offer, and we are uniquely positioned to sell it to you.” We’ve seen the statistics that tell us how important clear value propositions are to buyers… But is the value proposition statement alone enough?

Show Versus Tell

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a writing workshop for parents of young writers. During this workshop, an author spoke about the importance of “showing” your audience what a character is thinking or feeling versus “telling” them outright. Apparently, many kids (and probably adults, too) tend to write things like “I was very scared” versus something more descriptive to engage the reader like…  “My knees were shaking, and I could barely breathe.” It got me thinking about how it is much more powerful to feel and experience a value proposition than to just read it or hear it in a presentation. 

Crafting Sales Messages

When we work with our clients on crafting sales messages for their customers, we start by encouraging clients to take their messaging beyond the singular value proposition statement. Generally, the value proposition is a statement that is very “we” focused – why our product is the best and why the customer should select us… 

To go beyond this level of thinking, we get our clients to think about the motivations of the individual decision makers and each criteria (rational or emotional) that might drive them to make a decision. Next, we ask our clients to think about their competitors and what value propositions they are offering the customer. Once we more closely examine these factors, we revisit the value proposition to ask, “it is enough?”

Generally, we need more. We need messages that will de-emphasize competitive strengths, counter competitive tactics, appeal to the motivations of the people who will be making the decision, and demonstrate that our offering is worth what we are asking for it. We brainstorm a list of these messages, and then we select the top 3-5 that will have the most significant impact. We call these win themes – they are more than just “we” messages – they are broad themes that set us apart across the entirety of our sales landscape. These win themes form the basis for how we execute our sales strategy.

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Making eLearning Work for the Busy Sales Professional

By Rachel Cavallo

So you need to train your sales force, but you want to minimize their time out of the field. eLearning is the perfect answer, right? In today’s world of cost and performance pressure, eLearning can easily become the silver bullet to “check the box” on sales training. After all, IBM saved $200 million, a 2/3 savings, by adopting a virtual training program for its employees (Source: IRRODL). But beware… you can easily make a significant investment that won’t move the needle as much as you think.

The other day I was sitting near a friend who had to complete “mandatory eLearning” on a new trend his company was trying to position with clients. As someone who is generally on the other end of these courses (the designing and building of them), I was fascinated by his running commentary. I listened to a few of the videos and heard some of his frustrations along the way, and it crystallized my perspective that there are some right and wrong ways to do eLearning.

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Impressions from a Quick Visit to Dreamforce

By Warren Shiver

In a word: Wow! I hadn’t attended Dreamforce (DF) since 2010, and I think it has tripled in attendance. Seems like DF must suck up all of the A/V production capacity in the Bay Area. How great it is to have 170k people pay to be sold to by Salesforce.com (SF) and the partner ecosystem and brand themselves with DF swag. Great business model – I’m certainly envious.

I had the pleasure of speaking during the conference at the Quotable Sales Summit in support of our book, The Multigenerational Sales Team.

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Getting The First Customer Meeting is Hard Enough – What About the Second One?

By Michael Perla

“It’s only getting harder to get a meeting with a decision maker today," the SVP of Sales was telling me, “and getting a second meeting can be even tougher.”  When I ask groups of sales professionals whether it’s harder getting a sales meeting with a decision maker or key influencer today, they all invariably agree that it’s harder.

These days, with the amount of information available online, a seller can’t be a ‘walking brochure’. And, when he/she initially engages with prospects or customers, they are often already behind the curve on their need if they didn’t create the demand.

The infamous 57% statistic from CEB research on how far along in the purchase process a typical B2B buyer is before engaging with a supplier has been debated (for example here and here). But the core message is very important.  If you didn’t create the demand or ‘write’ the RFP, you are already behind.

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Social Selling: Is it for Everyone?

By Erica Abt

Organizations across the globe are changing their sales & marketing strategies because of a fundamental shift in the buying process: access to information. Research shows that, on average, B2B customers are 57% of the way through the buying process and have consulted 10+ sources before engaging a sales person. [1] As a result, sales leaders are buying into the idea that “consumers increasingly use social media to inform their buying decisions” and that “social media has evolved from a marketing channel into a powerful lead generation and sales pipeline tool.” [2] 

While there is no question that social media can be an effective marketing channel, I began to wonder: who is really driving the demand for Social Selling, and is it the right channel to invest in for all customers?

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Essential Ingredients for a Great Sales Kickoff Meeting

By Masami Middleton

It’s that time of year for many sales leaders -- time to gear up for the annual sales kickoff meeting.  Is this a dreaded or anticipated task at your organization?

Topics: sales kickoff
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The 4 C's of Sales Strategy and Restructuring

By Warren Shiver

We’ve worked with several clients on elements of their sales strategy, which clearly define who you are selling to, what you are selling, how you are selling, and why you are different -- all to support better returns for the sales organization (Revenues – Cost of Sales). Asking fundamental questions like these begin to point to significant gaps and opportunities around sales structure and alignment.

While decisions related to sales strategy, model, and structure are highly unique to an organization, we find that investigating four core areas -- what we call the 4 C's of sales strategy -- can help guide those decisions:

  • Customer – How do you segment customers based on size, potential, needs, capacity, location, etc?  Which are your highest priority segments?
  • Coverage – Based on what you learned in customer analyses, how should you define your coverage model to best align with your highest value segments?
  • Capacity – What is the workload required to sell and service customers and how do we size/resource our team (and selling roles within it) accordingly?
  • Capability – What competencies do our people need in order to engage in the right conversations with different levels of customers, which for many companies span strategic/consultative selling to tactical selling?

By examining each of these areas, a sales organization can maximize both selling efficiencies (e.g., reducing overlapping resources, reducing T&E, and expanding the “bag” of solutions) and sales effectiveness (e.g., more value for the customer through broader solutions, better experience through single point of contact).

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Sales Leader's First 90 Days: Dig Deep to Determine Longer-Term Strategy (Post 3 of 4)

By Hope Eyre

Introduction

This is a continuation our multi-part exploration of how sales leaders approach their first 90 days in a new role at either a new company or with a new sales team at their current company. The topic was born from a startling statistic: The average tenure of a Sales VP working in the same role at the same company is incredibly brief – only about 18 months.

So many of our clients have found themselves in new positions, after a relatively short tenure in their previous roles, that we wondered what we could learn from their experiences.

Article 3 of 4

In Article 1, we tackled onboarding yourself with your new company to prepare for day 1. Article 2 offers concrete steps for balancing the need for learning with the need to take the quick actions required to achieve early wins – what we call our “Secure & Get Right” method.

In this article, we’ll show you how to dig deep into the sales organization so you can systematically surface the knowledge you need to determine longer-term strategy. We’ll also use our discovery process to understand the all-important political and cultural landscape. Finally, we’ll begin building relationships with key influencers whom you will, sooner or later, have to rely on to ensure your team’s success.

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Cross-Generational Impacts in Sales: Ignore At Your Own Risk

By Warren Shiver

In merely eight years -- by 2025 -- 75% of the workforce will be Millennials.

As a sales leader, does this sound anecdotal or material to you? 

Before you answer the question, consider these real scenarios that play out today and will continue at an increasing frequency:

  • A 31-year-old sales professional calling on a 58-year-old decision maker
  • A 55-year-old sales professional calling on a 34-year-old decision maker
  • A 60-year-old sales leader coaching a 24-year-old seller
  • A 32-year-old sales manager recruiting a 50-year-old seller

A sea change is underway in the generational makeup of our workforce that causes undeniable friction between people. Yet, very little (if anything) has been written about the implications between sellers and buyers and amongst sales teams.

The impacts of Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers, and Millennials co-mingling in selling situations will be more palpable and frequent than ever.

Quotable, a digital magazine and podcast published by Salesforce, just interviewed David Szen and myself on our recently published book, The Multigenerational Sales Team.  In it, hosts Kevin Micalizzi and Tiffani Bova ask us several central questions about the impact of generational differences on sales leaders, sales teams, and buyer-seller dynamics.

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Prepare Your High-Potential Sellers for the C-Suite

By Hope Eyre

It started with a small group of high-potential sales leaders: seven VPs and directors our long-time client wanted to ensure they retained, because losing even one would have a pronounced effect on revenue.

The company had been heads down for three years on a strategic and operational transformation designed to boost profitability. And it worked. In that time frame, their stock price had gone from $6 a share in 2014 to a high of $38 this past April, a phenomenal turnaround.

Early in this effort, the president realized the company had little in the way of succession planning, and he was concerned about the risk this posed. The topic came up during one of our periodic conversations.

“I have some extra money in the budget, and I want to invest in training. Can you build a business acumen program?”

Sure, we do that kind of thing all the time. It’s usually a multi-day class on customer economics. It’s designed to help sales professionals change how they discuss value by using insights to show how their offerings can impact the customer’s business, financially.

“I was thinking more like a mini-MBA.”

Wait, what?

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"Stop Helping Me Sell More"

By Michael Perla

One of the perspectives I’m fond of is around the dose-response relationship[i]. In other words, what is the minimum dose I need to take (or do) to deliver the response I’m looking to achieve. In exercise, you often see this with high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which is where you intersperse short-duration, high-intensity intervals (e.g., 20-40 seconds of hard running) with active rest periods (e.g., jogging in between). With a minimum dose – say a 20-minute session – you can achieve high-levels of fitness and health.

As an analogue in sales, an up-front dose of more researching and planning at the start of a sales cycle  – before conducting sales calls or targeting accounts – can help to accelerate a sales professional’s results later in the sales process. The Corporate Executive Board (CEB) – now part of Gartner – has found that top-performing sellers often spend more time planning and qualifying than average performers.

With this relationship in mind, it helps to create a frame around a dose that could potentially be harmful as well. As with most things, more is not necessarily better. More exercise can equal injuries and repetitive stress disorders, not unlike too many sales methodologies or technologies can create frustration, fatigue, and eventual turnover.

We are finding that a lot of our clients are much more conscious and intentional of what they ‘throw’ at their sales professionals in terms of change. Too many change initiatives can equal lower productivity and dissatisfaction, usually the opposite of what the sales organization is trying to achieve.

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Sales Leader's First 90 Days: Learn and Take Action for Early Wins

By Hope Eyre

Introduction

This is a continuation our multi-part exploration of how sales leaders approach their first 90 days in a new role at either a new company or with a new sales team at their current company. The topic was born from a startling statistic: The average tenure of a Sales VP working in the same role at the same company is incredibly brief – only about 18 months.

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Sales Call Planning: The One Thing Seasoned Reps Should Never Stop Doing

By David Szen

The life of a sales professional is a busy one, juggling prospecting activities, managing your sales funnel, traveling, growing existing customers, and handling administrative demands. Many sales professionals have the chance to earn a very high income, because if they get all of this right, it should absolutely be rewarded – this is NOT easy work.

What do I know for sure about human behavior? The longer we do anything, the less likely we are to step back, take a few needed moments to prepare, or practice. Think about it this way. How many things do we do each day that if we were asked to do them differently, we would just get angry? Would you be angry if you were made to drive on the left side of the road? Would you get angry if you were told to text with one hand only and the letters on the keyboard were in different places? Would you get mad if Starbucks changed the names of their drinks to ENGLISH and not Starbuckian and had all new drink options on the list? The answer to each question is likely YES.

Look at NFL coaches on the sidelines. They have on their headsets and are holding a huge laminated document that has something very important on it… the game plan with many options, depending upon what they are facing at that particular moment. Why? Because they are prepared and have already spent the time to get ready for the game.

How can we instill this game planning discipline in our sellers, whether they are new or seasoned?

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“I Need to Grow My Sales Pipeline”

By Michael Perla

“Our pipeline is not where it needs to be”, the SVP of Sales said to me, “We need 30% more than what we have now”. “Our immediate focus is on growing the pipeline … How do we do that?”

I hear this type of refrain a lot in my work. It’s also an area that many CEOs are asked about on conference calls – how their sales pipeline is looking, which can be used to predict future revenue performance. The sales pipeline gets a lot of attention from C-suite executives to sales management to sellers. I wrote about pipeline dynamics last year and ‘Pipelies’ before that. Net net, the sales pipeline is the barometer of the ‘future’ for a lot of companies and its current market valuation is derived from future expectations.

In the most prosaic way possible, the pipeline is basically a pipe with lines – the pipe is the sales process and lines are stages. The sales pipeline represents opportunities that are arranged along each of the sales stages or steps that comprise the sales process. The de facto standard today is that your sales process should align to your customer’s buying process, assuming they have some sort of process, which is likely to depend on what they are purchasing.

So if we get back to the question in the title of this post, there is a bit of work to really understand what’s going on with a sales pipeline. First off, are you even assessing the complete picture?

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The Chronicles of Account Planning: The Lion, the Whip, and the Chair

By Hope Eyre

The Good Old Days

In the 90s, when I was selling instead of consulting, I did a lot of account planning. You know, that thing where you and your account team get in a room, usually in Q1, and talk about the sales opportunities you’ll pursue at specific customers during the next fiscal year.

I learned my craft at SAP, and to be sure, our process was disciplined – with the exception of one episode involving dry erase markers that smell like their colors (one finds amusement where one can at a German company).

Our account plans were things of beauty, right down to the color-coded Harvey balls we used to visually denote the health of our selling relationships with decision makers.

The first iteration (building a new plan from scratch) took an agonizingly long time, as much as a full week of running down information for a complex customer:

  • What’s the customer’s corporate strategy?
  • Have there been leadership changes?
  • Did they acquire or divest?
  • What are the trends in their industry or changes to their market dynamics?
  • Who listened to the last analyst call; what did they say?

When we were done, we’d wrap our plan in pretty paper, tie it with a bow, and deliver it to our Sales VP in a formal presentation that solemnly conveyed the highly disciplined client strategy we intended to execute as a result of the entire process.

Then we went back to our day jobs.

It was an annual ritual as old as selling itself. We would check the box on planning, then thank our relative deities that no one would be uttering the “P” word for another 12 months. Time to get back to work; someone might buy something today.

Why didn't we ever make the connection between planning, client strategy development, execution, and winning?

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When Is It Time to Optimize Sales Resources?

By Michael Perla

“History is filled with brilliant people who wanted to fix things and just made them worse.” – Chuck Palahniuk.

If you've ever been into jogging, you know that you usually get injured if you violate one of the three “too’s” – too much, too soon, too fast. It’s easy to get carried away when you first start an exercise program. Similarly, in managing sales, if you don’t take a good assessment of where you currently are, you are bound to miss something and spend more time, resources, and effort than necessary.

I’m not talking about months-and-months of research, but it’s never a waste of time to ask yourself some key questions before you start most endeavors, especially since it’s easy for us to ‘lock-in’ on a single alternative or fool ourselves into thinking we are in a better state than we are.

What are the key questions to ask to determine if you need to optimize sales resources?

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Sales Coaching: To Bear Fruit, Build on the Fundamentals

By David Szen

If you’re like most sales managers, your inbox is crammed with the latest and greatest coaching secrets. Each year, hundreds of books and workshops promise new techniques to help your sales team exceed its targets, out-sell the competition, and generate greater-than-ever revenues.

But let’s get real: year after year, does the art and science of coaching actually change all that much?  Has selling evolved in a way that requires a brand new perspective every cycle?

We think not. In fact, we’ve come to see successful sales coaching as more incremental than transformative. It’s like tending an orchard. Tree farmers read up on new techniques in irrigation, fertilization and pest control, but the essentials – the best practices – evolve. Same with sales coaching: While new models and methods can be useful, sales leaders who build on the fundamentals are likely to get the best results.

If you have one bad harvest, you don’t uproot your entire orchard; you go back to the ABCs, make small-but-continual improvements based on new knowledge, maybe prune a few under-performers – and pretty soon your efforts will bear fruit.

But what does an effective sales coach look like? And what are the basics of the discipline?

In this blog, we look at the fundamentals of sales coaching – the traits of great coaches, coaching to the bell curve, and managing sales reports.

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6 Strategies for Sales and Marketing Alignment

By Masami Middleton

Like oil and water, Sales and Marketing teams don’t always “mix” the way they’re supposed to, and at worst, will view each other with suspicion or blame. This is a sad and ironic truth, given that everything these two teams do should support a singular goal of growing revenue. 

The benefits of sales and marketing alignment are compelling.  Together, these teams have the potential to reduce the sales cycle, meet the needs of high value customers across their buyer’s journey, and directly link ROI to marketing initiatives.

Underscoring the importance of a blended marketing and sales skill set, Forrester Research says the most successful sales people will become hybrid marketers1. By 2020, the need for B2B salespeople will change to demand a more “consultative seller”.

How can Sales and Marketing work more effectively together? 

Based on our experience addressing these opportunities for clients, and our first-hand experience with marketing and sales collaboration at Symmetrics Group, here are 6 strategies for achieving sales and marketing alignment.

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The Sales Technology Challenge - How Much is Too Much?

By Michael Perla

According to CB Insights, in 2016, deals and dollars invested into sales tech startups reached all-time highs of over $5B invested across 425 deals. Moreover, sales organizations spent an average of $4,797 per quota-carrying rep on enablement technology annually, according to a Gartner (formerly CEB) analysis. Net net, more and more money is being spent on SalesTech and sales enablement and it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down anytime soon.

You can’t read much today that doesn’t mention or involve technology. I just read an article on digitizing the customer journey and processes. There are now SalesTech (think FinTech, AdTech) awards that recognize products and companies who exhibit excellence, innovation and leadership in the sales technology space.

Suffice it to say, the technology wave has not bypassed the sales function. Most B2B sales professionals would be lost without some basic sales tools - a smart phone, an audio or web conference line, and a way to keep track of contacts, opportunities, and their pipeline.  Per a recent Techcrunch article I read, the authors ask a good question in their title: 

How Much Sales Technology Is Too Much?

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Back to the Future – The B2B Sales Imperative

By Warren Shiver

“Whoa, this is heavy…There's that word again; "heavy." Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the earth's gravitational pull?" -- Back to the Future

A recent HBR article, The New Sales Imperative got me thinking about the classics. Seems like the “new” B2B sales imperative looks a lot like the old one. It reminds me of NBC’s great slogan in the 1990’s when they would show reruns of their must-see lineup on Thursday nights (the era before Netflix, streaming, etc.), “If you haven’t seen it, it’s new to you.”

I’m not quite sure of the original source, but we were working with sales teams to define their buyer-aligned sales process with supporting “customer evidence” back at OnTarget in the late ‘90s for clients, such as Microsoft, IBM, and HP. There are reasons that good ideas are enduring, especially in sales where there are such clear scorecards.

Back to the Basics

We are often asked about the latest sales trends and pushed by clients, especially those focused on Learning & Development, to offer the latest sales technique, program, or approach. Increasingly, we are recommending a back-to-basics approach for many of our clients.

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When the Specialist Has to Sell

By Rachel Cavallo

You know that guy… You really can’t deliver what you sell without him. He’s the expert. He keeps the lights on. When your clients buy from you, they are really buying him… and sometimes you need to introduce him before you can close the deal. Unfortunately, he spends his time worrying about that thing that makes him so special, so he’s not really focused on what it takes to sell a deal…. nor does he typically think about how he says what he says – he just gets the job done.

In a few days, however, you are taking him out of his comfort zone, on a plane, and through the lobby doors of the client who could represent your biggest sale of the year. If this meeting is going to be successful, how you and your specialist prep over the next few days is crucial.

How can you ensure you leverage the expertise of specialists while aligning them with your sales objectives and plan?

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A Sales Leader's First 90 Days: Preparing for Day One

By Hope Eyre

A few weeks ago, we published a blog for sales leaders embarking on new roles that launched our multi-part exploration of how leaders approach their first 90 days and what we can learn from their experiences. The topic was born from a startling statistic: The average tenure of a Sales VP working in the same role at the same company is incredibly brief – about 18 months.

This is the first of four articles that, together, will tackle what we believe are the top 90-day challenges facing sales leaders taking on a new role:

  1. Cutting down on the initial chaos
  2. Learning your new organization deeply within 30 days
  3. Obtaining early wins to establish momentum
  4. Assessing organizational alignment with Sales and setting longer-term strategy

Seasoned professionals may glance at this list and think, “thanks for pointing out the obvious.”

But here’s the thing.

Sales is a messy business full of messy human beings, each with his own capabilities, expectations, personal goals, learning style, and political agenda.

Understanding them, harnessing their unique power, and avoiding mishaps is no mean feat – regardless of how much experience you have or the size of the operation you assume.

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5 Steps to Sales Onboarding Success

By Joni Santos

How can you design an effective onboarding program for sellers that accelerates their time to productivity, while reducing employee turnover? In our recent blog post, the Case for Sales Onboarding, we highlighted the sobering data around seller turnover, departure costs, recruiting costs, lost revenue, and new seller ramp time. We also emphasized the importance of establishing desired outcomes and milestones for a seller onboarding program, defining success according to five C’s: Clarity, Connections, Comprehension, Confidence, and Contribution. 

As each ‘C’ builds upon the last, you can implement them as you would follow steps in a process, recognizing that the journey may not always be clean and linear.  In this post, we expand on how to apply the 5 C's of Sales Onboarding Success.

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The Sales Resource Challenge -- How Many, How to Align?

By Michael Perla

According to Harvard Business Review, companies spent $800B on sales force compensation and another $15B on sales training in 2015.  If you add in another $15B investment in CRM according to Gartner, companies spent $830B on people, people development and enabling technologies, which is roughly 5% of total US Gross Domestic Product.  This is a staggering amount of money invested to deliver revenue growth. 

Contrast this figure to the investment we make annually in optimizing the return on that investment.  Once a year, typically during the budget process, we sit down and think through how many sales people we need in the organization.  We may base our sizing assumptions on how we performed this year, our revenue targets for the upcoming year, or a financial analysis of the costs (e.g., recruiting, on-boarding) versus the benefits (revenue ramp-up time). 

More often than not, we devote too little time prioritizing our customers, determining our coverage model, and sizing our sales teams. Our need to reassess our go-to-market strategy is magnified when there have been major market or competitive shifts or if our company has grown through acquisition.

We all know the value of rebalancing our 401K to drive greater returns on our investment portfolio.  Yet, as collective stewards of nearly $1 trillion in sales investment, the question remains – why do we place so little time and effort in driving a greater return on our investment in sales? 

To answer that question, we developed an in-depth guide around the components of Sales Resource Optimization (SRO), including the 4 C’s of customers, coverage, capacity and capabilities. More and more of our clients are annually re-assessing how they organize and deploy sales resources to ensure they are keeping up with market/customer changes, which are happening at an accelerated pace today.

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The Generational Mentality Map

By David Szen

The composition of generations in the workforce today is different than ever before. Each generation has unique traits that impact the way people think, communicate, and buy. It can be a tricky selling environment, especially if you do not understand and embrace these nuances.  

So, how can you equip your sales force to sell across generations? Here is your field-tested cheat sheet to help you better understand - and sell to - Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Boomers.

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5 Steps to Find Your Actual Cost of Sales Training - Part 2

By Michael Perla

Part 1 of this blog began with a statistic showing that U.S. firms spend just south of one trillion dollars on their sales forces. A portion of this spend is on sales training, which can be off-the-shelf content/training, custom training, or some combo thereof. We developed this two-part blog with the premise that your sales training is unlikely to hit its target if you don’t first define your desired outcomes (Step 1), your adoption strategy (Step 2), and your optimal modality mix (Step 3), all of which were addressed in 5 Steps to Find Your Actual Cost of Sales Training - Part 1. In Part 2, we explore the specific sales training investments (Steps 4 & 5), as well as a hypothetical example between off-the-shelf vs. custom approaches.

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The First 90 Days for a Sales Leader: A Guide to Success

By Hope Eyre

If you’re a Sales VP and you’ve been in the same role for more than 2 years – Congratulations, you’re above average (like a child from Lake Wobegon). You’ve already exceeded the average Sales VP shelf life of 18 months. Statistically, it’s just a matter of time before you change jobs.

Maybe you’re a veteran to the role, but you’ve taken on a far larger sales organization than you’ve ever led before. Maybe you’re a brand new Sales VP and are still shaping your leadership skills.

Maybe your company just reorganized, and you find yourself heading up an entirely different sales organization than the one you had previously – or even more daunting, you’ve been charged with building one out of whole cloth.

And maybe you’re hovering around that 18-month mark, and circumstances are making you wonder whether you should start looking.

So many of our long-term clients include sales leaders who’ve moved from one company to another (often more than once) that we decided to build a guide for achieving quick wins, avoiding pitfalls and setting a clear, long-term sales strategy within The First 90 Days.

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5 Steps to Find Your Actual Cost of Sales Training - Part 1

By Michael Perla

Annually, U.S. firms spend approximately $900 billion on their sales forces, which is greater than three times their total media ad spend and 20 times their spend on all digital marketing[i]. Based on various sources, there are between 4 and 5 million business-to-business (B2B) sales professionals in the U.S. and approximately $20B is spent on sales training alone, not including sales enablement technologies, tools, and aids.

As a firm that often develops customized sales training, we are frequently asked about the costs over and above our fees. As you can imagine, it’s not a simple answer, but this two-part article highlights the 5 steps you should take to define your cost of sales training and determine whether custom or off-the-shelf training is a better option for you.

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Top Performer DNA: Interview with Ed Calnan of Seismic Software

By Laura Sardilli

As part of our Top Performers in Sales series, we recently had the privilege of interviewing Ed Calnan, Founder and President of sales enablement solution provider Seismic.  Ed offers perspectives on high performance sales from two angles -- as a leader of a high growth SaaS company, and as an enabler of sales productivity and collaboration for Seismic customers.

When asked what differentiates the best people in sales, Ed cites three key traits: 1) The ability to understand and navigate organizations, 2) Proficiency in addressing business problems, and 3) Discipline to learn from wins and losses. Ed and his Seismic team are uniquely skilled at these pursuits as innovators in customer engagement, sales process, and Account Based Marketing.

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Your Buyer’s Age – It’s More Than Just a Number: Part 2

By Kelsey Peusch

In Part I of this blog series, we explored the case for change, highlighting how generational diversity impacts a seller’s ability to connect with buyers from generations different than their own. This blog investigates how recent market and demographic shifts, such as the internet and generational differences amongst buyers, have created new dynamics in today's B2B buying process.

What specifically are Baby Boomers, Gen X-ers, and Millennial buyers looking for and how does a seller adjust?

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When Losing is Winning: Leveraging Win Planning to improve your win rates

By Warren Shiver

“If you’re not first, you’re last” - Ricky Bobby, Talladega Nights

In most cases, sales is a zero-sum game: there is typically a winner and multiple losers. While there are situations where a deal is split among vendors/partners, when a company like Ingersoll Rand wins an order for a large building systems contract, it is usually at the expense of their competitors.

When is it acceptable to lose? EARLY. We work with many clients (and apply this to our own business, sometimes with mixed results), who are seeking to improve their win rate. One of the best approaches (aside from launching a new best-in-class proprietary mousetrap) is to strengthen your sales team’s ability to assess opportunities and constantly qualify in/out. Easy to say, harder to do, especially when there are not enough opportunities in the pipeline to meet monthly, quarterly, and annual goals. 

What are some approaches to improving win rate?

Topics: win planning
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Your Buyer's Age - It's More Than Just A Number (Part I)

By Kelsey Peusch

As Millennials start climbing the ranks, decision-making authority is shifting toward the workforce’s youngest generation.  In the meantime, Generation X-ers take personal risks to establish a foothold in middle and upper management, while Baby Boomers cling to a management style marked by bureaucratic decision making. This changing of the guard is to be expected, but understanding generational nuances of buyers will be critical to ensure that the influences of age do not leave sellers at a disadvantage.

In our recent blog post, Why Leaders Are Failing At Managing Their Generationally Diverse Sales Teams, we explored how generational differences influence what attracts a seller to a new job versus what drives them away from a current one. In this post, we begin exploring generational differences amongst buyers and particularly, what happens when sellers sell across generations.

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Top Performer DNA -- Knowing Your Sales Math

By David Szen

At Symmetrics Group, we regularly meet highly successful sales professionals and have developed a "Top Performer" series that highlights what the best and brightest people do to thrive in their respective fields. Our Top Performers book profiles 15 people with proven records of sales success in order to uncover “success DNA” that separates them from the pack. Not surprisingly, we found some common DNA – or success markers -- across these Top Performers, one of which is the knack for knowing their “sales math” inside-out, top-down, backwards, and forwards. 

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The Case for Sales Onboarding and How to Do It Right

By Beth McGraw

The business case for good employee onboarding is nowhere more glaring than in the sales organization. Companies spend more to hire talent in sales than in any other part of the organization and also experience some of the highest turnover rates (25% to 30% annually1). When a seller leaves, the departure can cost a company between $75K to $300K each year, before considering lost revenue.1 After hiring a replacement, it takes an additional three to six months for a sales rep to become productive.

Benefits of Good Onboarding

Experts agree that a well-executed onboarding program can reduce risk, accelerate the path to productivity, and reduce attrition. CEB research on sales onboarding tells us that engaged employees are 9 times less likely to leave, and effective onboarding programs have the potential to increase employee performance by 15%. Boston Consulting Group’s study, Realizing the Value of People Management, identified onboarding as the second most important capability (after recruiting) amongst 22 HR capabilities that impact revenue growth and profit margins.2

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Why Leaders Are Failing At Managing Their Generationally Diverse Sales Teams

By Erica Abt

Have you ever heard an experienced sales manager complain about the “young sellers” on their team who demand inordinate attention and TLC, lack accountability, and quickly jump ship to a new and exciting roles elsewhere?

The topic of Millennials and their prevalence in the work place is not uncommon and while many seasoned professionals complain about their insurgence, I rarely hear of helpful tips or useful recommendations of how to successfully manage these “odd creatures”.

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The 4 Most Common CRM Disasters

By Tim Clarke

Sales leaders ackowledge CRM's role in business success, yet 63% of CRM initiatives fail. Learn the warning signs and first responder tips for four of CRM's biggest pitfalls with our CRM Disaster infographic.  Dig deeper and download our disaster prevention article "CRM & Sales Effectiveness: Where's the Link?" where Tim Clarke of Symmetrics Group explores the critical components of a successful CRM program.

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Sales Leaders, Did You Make the Right Decision?

By Michael Perla

It was a cold December morning. I was in a corner office of a VP of Sales (a client), talking about the sales pipeline. During this conversation, he lamented to me about all the paperwork and reports he is asked to complete. “Sometimes I feel like I’m just re-arranging deck chairs,” he said. “We can stare at the numbers for days, but at some point we need to take action. I’m buried in data … and it’s not helping.”

So how does a sales leader find the right balance between data and decision?

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5 Must-Haves to Nail Your Sales Kick-Off Meeting

By David Szen

A Sales Kick-Off meeting (SKO) is a huge investment for any company gathering more than 100 sellers in one place to gear up for a new year. In our experience participating in myriads of SKOs, we have seen an unfortunate disconnect between what companies think they’re delivering versus what their sales teams are actually taking away. While companies leave their SKOs believing their sellers are energized and educated, attendees often view the experience as a three-day string of mundane sessions, offering little or no tangible takeaways to use in their sales activities going forward.

What are the elements that make a great Sales Kick-Off meeting and what are the pitfalls to avoid?

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Favorite Reads for Sales Teams: Avoid the "Book of the Month Club” Approach

By Tom Martin

It’s that time of the year again -- Holiday Starbucks cups, panic over Q4 deals to close on 12/31, and finally, lists of books your sales team should read over the holidays (“Top 10  Must Read Books on Sales!”)  This won’t be one of those blog posts.  In fact, I encourage you NOT to push new sales books on your reps over the holidays.

What are the types of reads your sales team would be willing to peruse in their down time that have actual relevance to your business?

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The Sales Transformation Dilemma – To Tweak or To Transform?

By Michael Perla

"Sometimes a tweak (delivered through training or a new tool) is all a sales force needs; other times, a full-bore transformation is in order."

The quote above was part of a book I co-authored with Warren Shiver entitled the 7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation. In the book, one topic we discuss is the difference between a sales force transformation and a tweak. Since the book release in January, we have received a lot of questions around tweaks versus transformations. What exactly do we mean by sales force transformation? As a sales leader, what are some qualifying questions I can ask that help me assess if a transformation -- or a tweak in the right areas -- is the right approach?

In response to these great questions, we have created additional tools and resources for sales leaders to understand the difference between these two options and which would have the best impact on their sales organizations.

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What Is Your Sales Pipeline Telling You?

By Michael Perla

The sales pipeline, or funnel, gets a lot of attention, from CEOs to sales professionals and everyone in between. The CEO often gets asked about the pipeline on analyst calls, while sales managers are constantly looking at their sellers’ pipelines to see if they have the right size, shape and speed.  In some ways, the pipeline equals potential, and almost everyone, from investors to athletic scouts to employers, wants to figure out how to realize the potential of someone or something.

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What is a Key Lever for Sales Transformation Success?

By Michael Perla

In our book, 7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation, my co-author, Warren Shiver, and I write about a key sales transformational lever that is often thrown around like a platitude, but it’s not to be overlooked or trivialized for any organizational initiative. It requires a constant struggle to maintain and enhance. Given that a sales transformation should be a cross-functional endeavor, it’s an essential element to developing and deepening relationships across an organization.

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The Highs and Lows of Sales: Part III

By Erica Abt

If you read the first two editions of “The Highs and Lows of Sales,” you probably agree that achieving cyclical sales goals is hard, whether you are an individual sales representative or a manager. Here are a few tips that have helped me find stability when facing challenging business expectations – I hope they help you, too.

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Sales Coaching Collision – Old School Meets New School

By David Szen

At a recent workshop I engaged in a conversation involving three parties, each from a different generation. Representing Generation X, I approached a Baby Boomer Sales Manager and a Millennial Seller discussing the ideal amount of activities required to fill out a “robust” pipeline. It quickly became clear that the Manager did not feel that the Seller was getting in front of enough prospects.

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Work Hard, Play Hard – The Annual Sales Meeting Mentality

By David Szen

If you hang in a professional sales, consulting or sales leadership role long enough you will spend a few weeks of your life at the ANNUAL SALES MEETING.  You know, the ones with clever themes that are going to make you feel like changing the world: “Aim Higher,” “Deliver,” “Innovate and Motivate,” “All Together,” “Amp it Up.”  I could go on forever about the time and money companies spend to differentiate their yearly sales rendezvous - I have the t-shirts, water bottles, bag tags and pens to prove it - but at the end of the day, these meetings share a common purpose that usually boils down to a combination of the following:

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Do You Run a Sales Team or a Group of People Who All Report to You?

By Rachel Cavallo

Whenever I am at a sales conference, I notice one prevailing theme.  Salespeople love to interact with each other and share ideas.  During breakout sessions, when we give salespeople an activity that involves sharing their experiences and asking for feedback from their peers, we observe so much engagement and enthusiasm… and often a reluctance to turn back to the instruction at the end of the activity.  To build on that, most surveys that we receive post sales meetings show that the sellers want more opportunities to share with and learn from their peers.

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The Millennial Sales Pursuit – You Spin Me Right ‘Round

By David Szen

In consulting, we have the pleasure of working with clients across a variety of industries who share interesting stories.  Every once in a while you hear a story that makes you stop and think about the traditional ways we try and advance a sale. Here is one of those such stories…

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The Highs and Lows of Sales (Part II): Moving to Sales Management

By Erica Abt

Achieving cyclical targets as an individual contributor in sales is not only a professional challenge – it’s also an emotional one. The role tests your ability to keep a constant positive attitude, despite high and low performance across multiple time horizons. When I moved from an individual contributor to a manager, I expected those feelings to lessen. I assumed the further removed I was from the customer, individual stack rankings and intense competition for incentive prizes, the easier it would be to see how my role affected the long-term outlook of the business.

Instead, I found that managing magnified my emotions. I often felt six times the excitement when my team performed well and six times the defeat when my team did not meet expectations. Having just been an individual contributor, I could too easily put myself in their shoes and empathize when team members were frustrated with their performance.

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7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation Blog Series – Step 3: Building Your Case for Change

By Warren Shiver

In our research on sales force transformations for our new book, 7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation, the greatest challenge we heard from our interviews, as well as the survey was the difficulty in achieving sustainable change within a sales team. Even though sales teams and leaders excel at convincing others to change, they are typically highly resistant to change themselves. It’s no accident that there are five steps required to complete in our sales force transformation approach before moving to implementation, and this blog focuses on the third step: building your case for change.

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7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation Blog Series – Step 2: Building the Foundation and Vision of the Future

By Michael Perla

What is your vision for the future? Do you know what you want the sales organization to become? Is your vision of the future big-and-bold and inspiring? These are several of the key questions that Warren Shiver and I set out to answer with a two-year research project that culminates with the publishing of our book, the 7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation.

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7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation [Infographic]

By Symmetrics Group

Markets and customer expectations have changed overnight. You can plan to execute a sales transformation the right way or you should plan to fail. These are the 7 Steps you can't skip:

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7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation Blog Series – Step 1: Drivers of a Transformation

By Warren Shiver

What does it take to truly transform your sales organization? Do you even need to transform, or simply tweak? What levers can you pull to ensure and even accelerate success? These are several of the key questions that Michael Perla and I set out to answer with a two-year research project that culminates with the publishing of our book, the 7 Steps to Sales Force Transformation, to be published by Palgrave Macmillan on January 5th, 2016.

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The Highs and Lows of Sales: Part I Managing the Motion Sickness that Comes with a Sales Role

By Erica Abt

After several of years of facing challenging sales targets, I realized my job had started to feel like a roller coaster, constantly sending me through extreme emotional highs and lows depending on my performance. Most professionals who choose sales or account management as a career path care about hitting goals, but the fact is that most goals are manipulated to stretch the sales rep just enough to encourage him or her to put forth extra effort in order to achieve their targets.

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4 Ways to Cut Cost of Sales (Without Cutting Heads)

By Tom Martin

Like many business projects, sales effectiveness projects are often focused on the big 3 – Increasing revenue, cutting costs and/or reducing risks. When we talk to sales leaders, the primary stated business objectives of sales transformation projects usually tie back to increasing revenue – capturing new accounts, improving up-sell and cross-sell, increasing renewal rates, increasing revenue per seller productivity.

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The Five Disciplines Top Sales Performers Master

By Symmetrics Group

We asked the best of the best of our sales superstar network to tell us what drives their off-the-charts performance.

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Does Your Go-to-Market Strategy Make Sense

By Michael Perla

Over the last few years, one of the most popular content assets on the Symmetrics Group website has been this our Go-to-Market Strategy Primer. It’s a topic that many companies struggle with, and it requires both quantitative justification and qualitative ‘color’ to be actionable.

When it comes to go-to-market related questions, we often hear the following:

  • Should I start up or expand my inside sales team?
  • Does my indirect sales channel actually cost less than my direct team?
  • How do our customers want to interact with us – through which channel, device, etc.?
  • Overall, how can I increase my sales productivity, while also lowering my cost of sales?

These questions and many more point to the challenges of developing a go-to-market strategy.

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Dining Perfection

By Warren Shiver

Recently, I had the privilege of dining at Per Se in NYC for the first time. What an incredible experience. Much has been written about Thomas Keller and his exceptional restaurants (French Laundry in Napa, Per Se in NYC, Bouchon bakeries, etc.) and their impact on fine dining globally, both through the chefs who have worked for him and through his cookbooks – although I can barely spell sous vide, not to mention know how to operate a machine effectively.

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"Pipelies" – The Sales Pipeline Mirage

By Michael Perla

About 12 years ago I consulted with a Vice President of Sales who worked for a large Fortune 50 financial services firm. He was having, like many VP’s of Sales, an issue with his pipeline yielding enough so he could hit his number. If you know anything about business-to-business (B2B) sales, you know that the sales pipeline is constantly scrutinized to ensure a seller has enough pipeline opportunities to hit quota or goal.

In general, most companies assume sellers will win one-quarter to one-third (a win ratio) of their pipeline value, all things being equal. Thus, in a lot of cases, the pipeline value needs to be 3 or 4 times the quota.

As you take sales cycle time into the equation – for example, it takes 90 days to close an average deal –the pipeline math can be a bit more complicated. 

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A Territory is a Territory is a Territory – Except When it’s Not

By Per Torgersen

Most of our clients want to talk about growth. Very often the first place they look is external – What new channels could we sell through? What new products should we emphasize? Are there additional partners we can tap into?

That’s all well and good, but what we find more often than not is that internal factors are a much more serious constraint. These factors can run the gamut from how resources are structured and/or allocated, broken internal processes between departments that support sales and the sales function itself, or misaligned incentive compensation plans. Recently, however, we have come across many cases of territory inequities. Below are the most common situations.

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How Can I Increase My Sales Productivity

By Michael Perla

There are a lot of platitudes, clichés or sayings today – call them what you will – around getting more from less … or less is more. Something like that … most companies are trying to squeeze out more productivity from what they have. It could be assets, people, or customers.

How can I increase my return on assets? Improve sales productivity? Obtain more share of ‘wallet’ from my existing customers?

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Sales as a Story

By Warren Shiver

“Poets, priests, and politicians have words to thank for their positions” – The Police

There is a recent trend (fad?) in sales training around storytelling – it’s the “whiteboard selling” of this decade. Certainly storytelling is nothing new, as it’s probably one of the oldest forms of communication. As found on Wikipedia: “Storytelling is the conveying of events in words, and images, often by improvisation or embellishment. Stories or narratives have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation, and instilling moral values. Crucial elements of stories and storytelling include plotcharacters and narrative point of view.”

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Watching the Sales BASICS at Work… or Not

By David Szen

Over the past few months, my family has been fortunate enough to buy a 1925 bungalow in the neighborhood where we wanted to live. If you have ever acquired an older home with some character marks, you know that these are not perfect structures with straight lines and worry-free living. Once the inspection came back and we decided what issues we were going to immediately tackle, the sales process began with numerous contractors and specialists. None of these issues were uncommon for a home of this age in this area. We engaged specialists for the foundation, structural, electrical, floors, painting and general handyman services.

The entire experience was a vivid reminder of sales basics at work.

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3 Tips to be “Intentionally Exemplary”

By Joni Santos

Are you intentionally exemplary? Do your actions and decisions reflect this quest for sales excellence?

Let’s be honest. With all of the hustle and bustle of balancing work and personal obligations, it’s easy to fall into a rhythm of “action without thought.” Go here, do that, call this client, place the order, check the box. And while it’s nice to have made it through your list of to-do’s every day, the repercussions of hasty decisions made in your robotic-like pursuit to just get things done can be quite nasty.

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No One Sees the “Grunt” Work in Sales

By Michael Perla

If you watch any amount of television, it would appear that being a police officer, a lawyer, or a doctor must be one episode of excitement after another. The chases, courtroom drama, and adventures seem never-ending – along with a lot of other titillating elements to entice the viewer. As the people in those professions will tell you, most of their work is anything but … it’s often monotonous, routine and tedious. The paperwork, the insurance forms, the endless discovery processes. As I often tell my children, many things or situations are not always what they appear to be.

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Autonomous Selling?

By Warren Shiver

I’ve been amazed to read about and watch the developments of so-called “self-driving cars” or autonomous driving. The potential for this technology to fundamentally re-shape transportation in this country is almost limitless, from reducing the # of cars per household (or even ownership) and the need for large amounts of on-site parking at retail and office destinations, to enabling those both young and old with a new form of point-to-point personal transportation. As many recent stories have highlighted, the technology exists today; it’s more a matter of aligning our legal and insurance approaches to align with and support a new model.

I heard Steve Cannon, the President of Mercedes-Benz USA, speak last week, and he confirmed that M-B has already demonstrated the technology – the main barrier is one of liability. In today’s environment, liability resides with the driver and their insurer, but in the future, if an accident is imminent and the “system” or software determines who or what to hit, who’s responsible?

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The Power of Planning

By Debi Jackson

Throughout my 20+ year career in corporate America, I have participated in many training programs: courses focused on everything from industrial engineering work methods to negotiation skills in sales. Out of all the activities and all the courses, one “treasure hunt game” stands out as my most memorable and impactful learning.

For the game, we worked in teams, and the team that reached the treasure first would win. We were presented scenarios along the path where we had to make decisions. The first scenario offered each team the opportunity to sacrifice a few additional days to talk to a “wise man” before embarking on the journey to find treasure. Our team, along with most other teams, was so eager to reach our goal, we chose to get on the path and NOT talk to the wise man. We felt it would be a “waste of time.”

We did not realize that the wise man provided the keys to reaching the treasure. Those teams that took the time up front to speak to the “wise man” reached the treasure first and won the game.

It may sound simple, but for me, it was a revelation! My team was so busy executing that we did not develop a plan or conduct any research. It caused us to be less effective and lose the game.

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10 Sales Facts You Cannot Ignore This Year

By Symmetrics Group

The world of sales is changing. Here are 10 sales facts you need to know to stay ahead of the game.

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How to Say No to Your Customer

By Hope Eyre

If you would like to become an instant YouTube sensation, make a video on the most effective way for sellers to say no to customers, while maintaining or even enhancing their customer relationships.

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The Holiday Season: A Selling Obstacle or Advantage?

By Kelsey Peusch

Business to consumer (B2C) advertising has begun the holiday bombardment, yet businesses are bracing for the slowdown that tends to come in the last, most critical, moments of Q4. With quotas hanging in the balance, is it right to succumb to the notion that it is “…just a slow time of year” in the B2B world? This post explores several options for closing the gap and preparing for a quick start in 2015.

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What Do Sales and Golf Have in Common?

By Doug Ferreira

With the unquestionable, resounding, embarrassing butt-whooping that the European’s recently gave the United States in the Ryder Cup, the PGA Tour officially came to an end for 2014. There were some great stories and performances that came out of the Ryder Cup. Justin Rose killed it, bringing in 4 points alone for the Europeans, tops in the tournament. But how about the rookie, Patrick Reed, bringing in 3.5 points for the U.S. team? As a matter of fact, rookies brought in 8.5 of the U.S. team’s 11.5 points! Certainly the future of U.S. golf looks bright, and we will need it to be if we ever want to hoist that Ryder Cup again.

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Don’t forget…. Leaders Need Leadership

By Debi Jackson

I have seen it over and over. As people rise to high-level leadership positions, it is assumed that they no longer require any feedback, motivation or coaching. It only matters if they meet their bottom line results, not how they do it or how they feel about doing it. This can negatively affect the leaders themselves, the people working for them, and the overall success of the organization.

Consider a sales organization. Sales managers directly impact the success of their sales reps. What if these managers do not lead or coach effectively? What if they are not motivated themselves? How do these problems affect the results of their teams?

It is obvious that these managers need leadership too.

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Why Your Go-To-Market Strategy is Probably Wrong

By Michael Taylor

Is your go-to-market strategy really a go-to-market tragedy? Here are 5 common pitfalls.

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View of a Former Buyer: Episode 3 - Trainers

By Doug Ferreira

This is the 3rd and final episode in the series in which I have shared my thoughts and ideas regarding some of the critical roles in the sales effectiveness world… all roles that I have had the distinct pleasure to play. We have addressed those who sell sales effectiveness solutions and sales training, as well as those who buy these solutions. In this final segment, I would like to talk specifically to my current peers – my sales training and coaching colleagues.

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How Can You Create More Accurate Sales Forecasts?

By Michael Perla

CSO Insights has been conducting research on sales for almost 15 years. In one of their surveys to over 1,000 sales leaders, they ask about the percentage of forecasted deals that actually close. At first blush, you would think this would be a fairly high number.

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View of a Former Buyer: Episode 2 - Buyers

By Doug Ferreira

In the first blog post in this series, we embarked on a journey to discuss my view points on best practices for different players in the sales effectiveness solution “selling cycle,” including those who sell these solutions, those who buy these solutions, and those who deliver these solutions…all roles that I have played myself.

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View of a Former Buyer

By Doug Ferreira

Episode 1 - Sellers

There are thousands, probably 100’s of thousands, of sales trainers walking our wonderful planet at this given moment. Certainly, a large number of us have had a point in time in which we “carried a bag,” some for many years, others maybe for only a brief moment. Many agree that while not a hard prerequisite, having “pounded the pavement” in one’s past gives the sales trainer a unique point of view and some credibility while in front of a bunch of seasoned sales pros.

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Highlights from the Changing Role of Sales, Compliments of Big Pharma

By Warren Shiver

A great article in the WSJ (“Drug Firms Divert Pitch to Hospitals”) outlines how pharmaceutical sales reps are increasingly calling on hospital administrators as opposed to Doctors. The following graphic nicely summarizes this trend:

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The Love and War of Generational Selling

By David Szen

How can you equip your sales force to sell across generations? Here is your field-tested cheat sheet.

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When It Comes to Customer Face-time, Are You Your Team’s Own Worst Enemy?

By Rachel Cavallo

It seems that I work with basically two types of clients: those who know they want their teams to spend more time with customers and those whose reps want to find more time to spend with customers. Of course, in the era of cost efficiency and growing demands on everyone’s time, where is there possibly any additional time to plan for and more successfully execute calls with customers?

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Overworked, Overwhelmed, and Just Plain Over It?

By Joni Santos

Let’s face it… most of us need to work for one reason or another. Some of us like to work, some of us don’t. But regardless of your personal feelings about your current job, your sales quota, your sales manager -- we all have a basic desire to be successful, to be a rock star at something in our lives. And that desire (as well as that paycheck) is largely what drives us, pushes us, compels us to work ourselves into the ground in its pursuit, oftentimes leaving us overwhelmed.

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Inside Sales – Key Skills (Part 2)

By David Szen

My last post discussed how inside sales continues to experience a roller coaster of acceptance within organizations and highlighted some common challenges that organizations face with inside sales teams. This post takes the topic a step further and examines what organizations can do to increase the effectiveness of a company’s inside sales efforts.

Topics: inside sales
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Becoming Quotable: Win Themes

By Rachel Cavallo

Today, I read an article whose headline suggested it would tell me why some movie lines are more quotable than others. I thought I could learn something useful that might apply to my world. I could uncover the formula that would transform sales presentations from dull and boring to memorable and quotable… the possibilities! Unfortunately, the author’s conclusion was that no one really knows why some lines are more quotable than others. Wow – that was anticlimactic. So, I started Googling…

Topics: sales process
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Inside Sales–Why is It So Different? (Part 1)

By David Szen

Since the 1990’s, inside sales has continued to experience a roller coaster of acceptance levels within organizations. It comes, it goes, it gets deployed in new ways, it comes in fashion, it goes out of fashion, it gets outsourced, and it gets measured, usually more than any other sales effort.

Some companies are highly sophisticated and established in inside sales, as the group is a key source of revenue and core to the business model (ADT Home Security, DISH, DirecTV, etc.). Other companies put forth smaller efforts with inside sales or use it as a niche part of the business. And then some organizations only experiment with inside sales and use it inconsistently across the business. For the purposes of this discussion, we will not look at the highly sophisticated models in depth, but we will apply the lessons these companies have learned to those who are struggling today.

Topics: inside sales
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How Do We Improve Our Go-to-Market Model And Strategy?

By Michael Perla

The title of this blog is a question I often hear from clients … and unfortunately, the answer is usually an “it depends.” The next reasonable question to ask is, “What does it depend on?”

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6 Challenges Diets & Sales Organizations Share

By Symmetrics Group

What does your sales organization have in common with the average diet? Here is advice to tip the scale in the other direction.

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'Transforming' vs. 'Tweaking' Your Sales Force

By Warren Shiver

We have found that many sales training companies use the word “transformation” when they’re really only talking about tweaking the existing organization mostly through training, not holistic transformation. Depending on your case for change and the gap between your capabilities and desired results, rolling out sales training or a new tool might be the perfect solution.

Training could affect the change you need. Training could also prepare a sales force for an eventual transformation initiative or reinforce a transformation you have recently undergone. But training alone is not transformation.

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Maximize Your Sales Training Efforts

By Debi Jackson

In my career as a sales training professional, I have seen sales training programs fail time and time again, because they are not reinforced. Participants leave the training eager to leverage new knowledge and test new skills, but if the content is not reinforced, the participants quickly forget what they learned and return to old habits.

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Are Your Reps Getting Enough Feedback?

By Per Torgersen

One of my favorite ways to learn about a particular company and role is to ride around with a sales person, meet customers, and truly see the selling process in motion. During the hours of listening and observing, I always like to ask about what kind of feedback the sales person is getting. From my vantage point, I see two types – one quantitatively oriented, the other qualitatively oriented.

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Lessons in Leadership from a Local Legend

By Rachel Cavallo

Last month Tennessee lost the winningest high school football coach in state history. For 5 decades, he built programs at 4 different high schools in the Memphis area, and his passing rocked the community – I should know… I grew up there, I cheered on the sidelines for his teams, and like most of us in the South, I lived for those winning Friday Night Lights.

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What’s All the Talk About Sales Enablement?

By Michael Perla

It’s a hot topic, particularly in the world of sales. I often hear VP’s of Sales talk about it and pundits at large. A Google search of “Sales Enablement” returns over 1.1 million results. Everyone wants to be enabled – right? To some people, it also may sound better or more strategic than sales operations. So what is sales enablement?

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6 Shifts Sales Organizations Need To Lift Performance

By Symmetrics Group

Is your sales organization struggling? Here are 6 changes you can make to lift performance.

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Coaching Skills: Ask a Few Questions Before You Speak… and Your Style Really Matters

By David Szen

The role of a sales leader/coach, regardless of industry, is not an easy one. The sales leader/coach is living day in and day out with the skills and abilities of the team they are putting on the field. Depending upon a ton of variables, the experience a sales rep gets from coaching may be wildly different from coach to coach.

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Do You Want a Relationship?

By Michael Perla

When someone is trying to sell me something, I often ask myself a key question:  Does this person want a long-term business relationship with me?

Topics: selling value
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The Levers of Sales Transformation

By Warren Shiver

Michael Perla and I have been researching sales transformations for an upcoming book – what works, what doesn’t, lessons learned, surprises – based on our firm’s consulting experience and through primary research (surveys and interviews) of more than 100 leading sales organizations. One of our observations so far is that there are several “levers” that can really amplify your ability to drive a sustainable change in your sales organization.

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Does a Kickoff Matter?

By Doug Ferreira

Another plane ride filled with random thoughts, and on this flight home I started thinking about football! No surprise, given we are in the middle of the greatest football event on the planet, the World Cup, but it is the currently idle and completely off the radar American version I am thinking about tonight. How did my fickle brain find its way to this topic?  Well, let me explain…

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Hunters and Farmers – Putting Food On the Table Couldn’t Look More Different

By Rachel Cavallo

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to work with two very distinct types of salesforces. One group is focused solely on pulling more business out of their accounts, and the other group is focused solely on going after new accounts. While working with these groups simultaneously, the distinction between the “hunter” and the “farmer” has become very real, and it’s given me pause to consider the unique qualities required to develop net new accounts and cultivate existing ones.

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We Work For You

By Warren Shiver

What’s in a name? If it’s a B2B sales enablement and resource website, then it truly says it all, and well. We recently met with AutoTrader.com and spent some time discussing their sales transformation and evolution from supporting auto dealers with advertising solutions, to becoming dealer consultants with a 360 degree perspective on all aspects of running a best in class retail automotive dealership.

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The Next Level

By Joni Santos

We are nearing the end of what I call May-hem. I don’t know about you, but May is always the craziest month of the year for me. It’s particularly hectic this year, because my oldest child is graduating. So, not only do we have exams, end of year activities and a serious case of spring fever, but we also have the added bonus of graduation festivities. I’m certainly not complaining about his successes; to the contrary, I’m extremely proud! But, boy, am I exhausted!

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Sales Relic at Work

By Hope Eyre

Cloud Reshaping GE, SAP: “For an idea of what’s in store for IT workers at industrial conglomerate General Electric Co., you can look no further than German software vendor SAP AG, which Wednesday told the Journal’s Friedrich Geiger that “job cuts” would impact people developing and selling traditional packaged software.” The Wall Street Journal, May 14, 2014

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Leadership Counts DURING Training, Too!

By Doug Ferreira

As is relatively standard for someone in my line of work, I am sitting on an airplane reflecting on another successful training session. One of the things that I’m thankfully reminded of this week is the positive influence a strong sales leader can be IN the training room.

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Sales in the (early) 20th Century

By Warren Shiver

If you want to take a trip down memory lane, walk into a car dealership and buy or lease a new car. If the TV series “Mad Men” has taken us back to the world of 1960’s Madison Avenue and three martini lunches, buying a car today from a traditional dealership harkens back to the era of Willy Loman.

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The People Make the Place

By Michael Perla

I was staying at a hotel recently with my family, and the experience left an impression on me. It was not a fancy hotel – it was three stars and a more of an extended stay brand (full kitchen, two rooms, etc.), which I prefer when we are traveling with the kids. The hotel was in a non-descript office park outside the city of Atlanta. Out of 37 hotels in the town, it was ranked number one on TripAdvisor, a favorite travel review site of mine and the largest of its kind.

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Teamwork

By Warren Shiver

I was driving on the “top end” interstate in Atlanta, and the Elton John song, “Levon,” came on the radio. It prompted me to think about partnerships and how there have been famous collaborative groups and song writing partnerships through the years (Lennon/McCartney, Jagger/Richards, maybe Macklemore/Ryan Lewis for a more contemporary example). What I find really interesting about the Elton/Bernie arrangement is that it’s not really about collaboration, but rather about specialization.

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The Power Of True Sales Effectiveness

By Per Torgersen

Across the years we have worked with many different clients in different industries, trying to solve a variety of their sales related challenges. Many of our clients state that they want to “improve sales effectiveness.” However, we have observed there are many variations to perceptions about what that means; improving a sales process, gaining traction on utilization of sales tools, sharpening-up recruiting, enhancing selling skills through coaching and development - You can take your pick.

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Internal Sales Campaign

By Warren Shiver

As part of researching effective sales transformations, Michael Perla and I have had the privilege of speaking with more than 30 sales leaders in the past 6 months to learn about their experiences leading change within their organizations. One of the interesting threads that we’ve consistently heard is the importance of leading change and how to communicate and lead an organization and functional area that can be highly resistant to change: sales.

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Predicting the Future

By Warren Shiver

We often ask sales leaders and professionals to “call the ball” 30, 60, 90 days in advance. Given the approaching close of the fiscal first quarter for many companies, sales forecasts – and most often, missed forecasts – have been a frequent topic over the past several weeks.

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Millennials in the C-Suite

By Hope Eyre

There are an estimated 82 million Millennials and some are just a few short years away from entering into executive management. What makes them different?  What are they looking for in a buying process?  

Prepare yourself to start selling to them now.

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The Changing Nature of B2B Sales

By Hope Eyre

I’ve been reading a lot about the changing nature of B2B sales: journal articles, blogs, research reports, white papers, opinion from training companies and consulting firms, you name it. Exactly how the world of B2B sales is changing, what’s causing it and how sellers must adapt (or die, presumably) is subject to very broad interpretation.

Topics: inside sales
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What Can We Learn from the Detritus of a Deal?

By Michael Perla

 

An IDC survey this year found that only 55% of large B2B organizations have a formal win-loss analysis program in place.

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Mission

By Warren Shiver

Common definitions of “mission” include: “the business with which such a group is charged” and “an important goal or purpose that is accompanied by strong conviction”. I have been reminded about these meanings over the past couple of weeks in a couple of ways.

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Where is the Growth?

By Michael Perla

 

I have been talking to a lot of clients recently about top-line growth. There are very few companies that don't want to grow – you can only cut expenses so far. The “Slim-Fast” corporate diet eventually makes companies weak and brittle.

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A Leadership Mystery?

By David Szen

How do I help sellers identify which deals to focus on closing?

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What is the Key Lever in Driving Sales Productivity?

By Michael Perla

Back in May of this year, Sirius Decisions, a Sales and Marketing effectiveness research firm did an instant poll at their annual Summit conference around the topic of sales productivity. They found that …

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To See Sales Trends in Action, Fly to LaGuardia

By Hope Eyre

“By 2020, 80% of business-to-business transactions will be automated. As a result … in the coming years we can expect the number of sales jobs to shrink from 15.5 million to just four or five million.”  -- Gerhard Gschwandtner, Founder and CEO of Selling Power. 

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Sales Professionals – Is There a Future?

By Warren Shiver

I’ve recently seen a startling reference from Gartner in a couple of different presentations: “Gartner, a research organization, predicts that by 2020, 85 percent of interactions between businesses will be executed without human intervention. It is likely that of the 18 million salespeople in the United States, there will be only about 4 million left.” (See this article on Selling Power)

Topics: selling value
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Beyond the sales report

By Michael Perla

 

I was in a VP of Sales’ office and we were talking about his team’s performance and the overall market. We both had opinions around where the market was going and if the team could adapt. We started to speculate a bit about where things would go. He then said, “Let’s look at the sales report.”

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Achieving Merger Cross-Sell Synergies

By Symmetrics Group

Corporate mergers are often sold to investors and Wall Street on the illusory promise of cross-selling synergies. Often as a result of a merger, the marketing and sales organizations are charged with delivering growth through the combined portfolio of products and solutions.

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Overcoming the “Me” Phenomenon

By Symmetrics Group

 One of the primary challenges we see when working with sales teams—regardless of industry, size, sophistication, or geography – is a disproportionate focus on the seller and his products and services. Our goal is to change this and help sales reps understand why, and how, the focus must shift to the buyer and her buying environment.

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Economy Finally Bouncing Back? Buh–Bye… The Coming Exodus of Sales People

By Per Torgersen

It is mid-2013 and the tenuous, yet positive, economic indicators keep coming: housing prices up by highest level in 7 years, positive job growth in the private sector extends streak to 40 months, unemployment continues to fall. For many of our clients, these indicators present a double-edged sword.  First, the good - there is finally some growth and more strength and security in their business.

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The Air We Breathe

By Michael Perla

When you talk to Senior Leaders at most middle-to-large sized companies, a key word often creeps into the discussion. I’ve heard the word for years, but it feels like I’m hearing it more lately. It can be a bit nebulous at times, but it often engenders some philosophical deliberation and deep thought. That word … Culture.

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First Job…Sales?

By Warren Shiver

There’s a great article in the New York Times today where the author, Bryan Burkhart, reflects on his first job out of college and pulls together a “not-to-do” list for recent college graduates. It demonstrates the maturity and ability to reflect that only experience and middle age can bring. One of my favorite parts is where he recounts the comparative success of one of his peers who, “was driven to acquire customers for Trilogy, understanding that revenue was the lifeblood of a fast-growing start-up. At the time, I could not have been less impressed with that role”.

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“What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There”

By Warren Shiver

I’m a big fan of the book by this title from Marshall Goldsmith, and even bigger fan of how well the title applies to the role of a first level sales team leader. Research by Chally has found that up to 85% of top performing sales reps who are promoted to sales leader roles ultimately fail. Part of the reason is that the knowledge and skills that make a sales rep a perennial top performer can actually work against them as a team leader.

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The Hard Worker

By Joni Santos

The Sales Executive Council has found through their research that B2B sales people fall into one of five profiles – the Challenger, the Relationship Builder, the Reactive Problem Solver, the Hard Worker, and the Lone Wolf. Our experience tells us that while many top-performing sales people can display more than one of these behaviors, they do provide a quick shortcut to categorize sales professionals.

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What is a Hero?

By Warren Shiver

I've been thinking about this over the past couple of months. There's been plenty reported in the press - both new heroes emerging and former heroes falling from grace. The definition of a hero came from the Greek word “heros” which referred to characters who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self-sacrifice—that is, heroism—for some greater good of all humanity” (from Wikipedia).

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Want your customers to listen? Tell stories and show pictures.

By Rachel Cavallo

Aesop’s Fables are believed to date as far back as 5th or 6th century BC.  The oldest fairy tales were believed to have been told and retold for generations before they were ever written down.  Meanwhile, my clients struggle daily with trying to get their customers to remember their sales pitch 10 minutes after they pull out of the parking lot.

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Staying Top of Mind Unfortunately Isn’t Always Top of Mind

By Joni Santos

I’ve been “courted” recently by a company trying to win my business. After repeated attempts to contact me, I finally acquiesced and responded to an email… only because I had a very specific need at that moment, and I suspected they could help. Once we talked and I learned more about their capabilities, I actually became excited about working with them on my upcoming project. Unfortunately, their capabilities did not include follow-up skills, because although my contact indicated he would get back to me with additional options, he never did.

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How to Support Your Sales Process with CRM

By Warren Shiver

Want to know what’s ailing your sales process? Look no further than how your reps are using CRM.

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The Gifts That Keep On Giving

By Joni Santos

About two months ago, my children presented their Christmas lists to me. My little girl’s list was full of dolls, books, and crafts, while my son’s list consisted merely of video games and football jerseys (both expensive items, I might add, and apparently very typical for his age). As I looked over their carefully prepared wish lists, I wondered how much of the stuff they want will ever get played with or used more than a month after they open it.

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Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth right now?

By David Szen

Yes, that is a quote from a funny Jackie Chan movie. However, it has real meaning in professional sales. Stop and think about the amount of hours and weeks that are burned preparing for strategic sales calls. Sales reps, sales leaders, marketing departments and top executives pour their souls into very important selling opportunities.

This is the right thing to do. Companies absolutely should invest heavily in the right selling opportunities. What might need some attention? Planning the dialogue and that means planning the “words that are coming out of my mouth right now.” We have to leave time for planning and practice. 

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How Do You Know Your Sales Process is Working?

By Warren Shiver

If you want to understand your sales process, start by asking why you’re winning or losing your deals. This simple question can uncover a whole host of misalignments -- and misalignments are what plague the sale process in most companies. For example, ask your sales team the number one reason they lost deals, and they’ll likely say price.

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Are you willing to be bad?

By Michael Perla

 I was conducting some sales training this past week and I said something at the end of the two-day session that gave me pause. It sounded like it came from a Fortune Cookie or maybe some sort of self-help bumper sticker.

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Selling When It’s Down to the Wire

By Warren Shiver

The decline of print media has been thoroughly documented, with Newsweek shuttering their print edition, leaving Time as the last one standing. I was reminded of this today when I picked up my print copy of the Wall Street Journal off the driveway on the way to the gym. Even though I subscribe to their online edition, I find the print edition convenient for exercise bikes and airplanes below 10k feet (can’t afford any Alec Baldwin moments).

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Can We All Get Along?

By Per Torgersen

Do these comments sound familiar from your organization?  These are real quotes derived from interviews with sales people and other functions in various companies.

  1. “All they do is sit in meetings all day”
  2. “They never answer my calls and I never hear back”
  3. “He/she must have a 4 handicap in golf by now”
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Facilitate Effective Meetings…Get the most out of your team’s valuable time together!

By Debi Jackson

 

Have you ever sat through a meeting and felt like the team accomplished NOTHING?  Frustrating, isn’t it? Because your people’s time is a valuable asset and one of your top expenses, it is extremely important to optimize the productivity of your meetings. If you effectively facilitate your team meetings, your team will not only accomplish more, but they will also respect you more as their leader.

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Are You Ready? SEAL Ready?

By Rachel Cavallo

 Last week I finished No Easy Day, the controversial book written by one of the Navy SEALs involved in the bin Laden raid. It was a quick read, and for a few days I was engrossed in the life of a Navy SEAL… reading voraciously about how SEALs become SEALs, how they train, and how they prepare for missions.

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What’s Keeping You Up at Night?

By Warren Shiver

I recently worked with a client to conduct a foundational presentation skills workshop and when I polled the group about some of their favorite questions to ask in a discovery meeting with a prospect, one person offered up the classic, “what keeps you up at night?” This was a relatively junior group, so I wasn’t too surprised, but it was useful to revisit some of the basic keys to an effective discovery meeting:

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Mind Numbing Presentations

By Warren Shiver

I attended multiple conferences this week and witnessed a wide range of presentations and presenters – ranging from the nearly sublime to mind-numbing dull.

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Compete on execution, not ideas

By Michael Perla

 The title of this post is from the best-selling author Jim Champy, who I heard speak at the Consulting Magazine conference last Thursday in New York City. Jim is a great storyteller and thinker – see our Top Performer piece to get a feel for his genius.

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Keeping the Bloodthirsty, Man-Eating Tiger at Bay

By Hope Eyre

Let’s say your company posted a dating profile on Match.com to attract sales managers. Do you sometimes have the feeling that this is how it would read?

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Polished Sales Pros with Open Minds = Big Results

By David Szen

I get the chance to work with sales folks from all walks of life. On a recent journey I was able to connect with a group of very seasoned and polished professionals who serve clients with way too much money. Let's say that life has smiled broadly upon this customer base. Selling to clients like this requires a relationship sale where the primary ingredient to success is one thing - TRUST.

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A Disgruntled Sales Force…Perhaps the Scariest Skeleton in a Corporate Closet

By Joni Santos

BOO! Did I scare you? Probably not… but what if I was a disgruntled salesperson selling to your top customers? Just the thought of an unhappy employee representing your brand in a negative light is enough to make you scream, right?

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Who Cares About CRM Adoption?

By Michael Perla

Yes, the title is a bit facetious. In my conversations with sales executives and management, CRM adoption by the sales force is a serious matter. If the data is suspect, the discussions on sales performance can devolve into “jungle” arguments – the loudest and strongest wins vs. the facts and analysis.

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Selling in Our Culture of Fact Subjectivity

By Hope Eyre

I was sitting in a bar drinking martinis with my friend, Amy, on a recent Saturday night.

We were talking politics, and I mentioned the premise of my last blog post – that the confluence of affordable personal technology with a cacophony of media outlets has allowed our culture to create something new: personalized facts.

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Generations Matter

By David Szen

 “Hi, I am a 30-something sales professional with 10+ years of experience, and I am selling to a 60-something VP who has spent more years at this company than I’ve been alive.  Most of my customers love me…  what is the deal with this guy?”

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Why Sales Leaders Need More than a Great Vision

By Warren Shiver

Competitive sales organizations are usually run by leaders with great vision. But vision alone won’t get your team to the top.

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Facts Are Stubborn Things… (or Are They)?

By Hope Eyre

My mother’s preferred form of maternal bonding is to call and quiz me on articles from The Economist.

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The Greatest Statement on Business Strategy That I’ve Ever Heard

By Michael Perla

I’ve always been a fan of Ockham’s razor, which is a principle ascribed to the 14th century logician and Franciscan friar William of Ockham. In a colloquial sense, the principle states that

When you have two competing theories that make exactly the same predictions, the simpler one is the better.

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It’s Days Like This I’m Glad I’m a Planner

By Joni Santos

Wow! What a day! This has been one of those gloriously busy and quite frankly, incredibly exhausting days where every second of every minute of every hour, from sunrise to sundown, has been jam-packed with commitments.

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Value building gets talked about a great deal...How about value in something really commoditized?

By David Szen

Here is me.  Just moved to Atlanta and all of the relationships I had to get simple things done have changed.  Why?  Because I moved and I am not flying back to Florida to get my teeth cleaned.  Sorry for that little moment.  One of the things we all do is use a drycleaner.  Unless of course, you have chosen “wrinkle-free” living or like to iron.  I admit, there are some occasions I actually like to iron but most months I use the drycleaner a couple of times.  Think about this one.

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Are You Better Off Than You Were 4 Years Ago?

By Warren Shiver

I read a post from Jason Averbook, CEO of Knowledge Infusion, and was inspired to apply his thinking to the state of B2B sales, especially with the first of three Presidential debates televised this evening. Given that the presidential election is almost upon us, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit the title of this post, and  famous political question, from a perspective of the major drivers of sales effectiveness.

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Often times it is a SIMPLE question that triggers growth and focus...

By David Szen

In the day-to-day life of working with sales reps every once in a while you ask a question that helps unlock great progress and then you realize…….this question is the coaching money-maker.  Do not worry, I do not plan to solve the mysteries of the universe anytime soon.

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Emailing the Sales Force or...Navigating the Perfect Storm

By Rachel Cavallo

Whenever I work on initiatives with a sales team, I hear … “They never read their emails”…  “Getting them to follow instructions is like pulling teeth”.   Sound familiar?  Salespeople are busy. Many don’t sit in front of email all day.  This is generally how you want your salespeople behaving… in front of customers driving business.  That said it’s the perfect storm for communications.

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Teaching and Instruction vs. Coaching and Feedback

By Rachel Cavallo

We talk a lot about sales coaching, but what we often observe is that managers focus on teaching the individuals who are either new and learning or need remedial help because they are struggling.  Other instruction comes in the form of mass communication to the team via email or team meetings.  When the team applies this instruction differently, it often leaves the manager asking “Why aren’t they all doing it the way I asked?  They all heard the same message, didn’t they?”

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Moving from a “Pipedream to Pipeline”

By Warren Shiver

There are many sales related axioms, clichés, sayings, etc. One of my favorites has been the title that Rick Page selected for one of his books, “Hope is not a strategy”. While this certainly applies throughout many phases of the sales process, it also applies at the top-of-the-funnel. Generating and developing leads and turning these into qualified opportunities is a foundational element for any business.

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Want people to get on board with a big strategy? Back away from those keyboards and start drawing...

By Michael Taylor

The first 99.9% of human existence had no Microsoft word or PowerPoint presentations. We relied on seeing vs reading to make sense of the world around us. For most of our existence we were in a constant struggle between hunting to eat or being hunted and eaten. Our ability to size up a situation visually with everything seen together in context was the difference between life and death.

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Deciphering the Cultural Divide Between Selling and Delivering

By Michael Taylor

In my former interactive agency we had several very different cultures under one roof: Salespeople, Strategist, and those responsible for delivery. Because our projects tended to be very complex we leaned heavily on the strength of our project managers to deliver what was promised on time and on budget.

I always felt like our great project managers were the equivalent of the computer system in a well-engineered car. They understand load capacity, timing, sequencing and a mind-boggling array of factors and conditions that need to be addressed to assure the project performs smoothly. Ironically these same instincts that are great for project management can neutralize the right environment to close a deal. Our best project managers usually tell me with no shame, “I don’t like to sell…at all.”

Why? Selling and influencing require very different mental skills and orientation. You do not have to look very deeply to see how different the scenes are that call each discipline forward, and how each scene requires different mental skills and orientation to be successful.

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How do you get a sales prospect's attention?

By Michael Perla

There has been a lot of ink spilled on how to get people’s attention … how to have people like you … how to be more popular, and ad infinitum.  One of the biggest challenges in sales is “breaking through the noise” to capture someone’s attention.
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Did you bring any knowledge or insight to the sales call?

By Warren Shiver

The SEC’s Challenger Sales research has generated a lot of discussion and in conversations w/ some colleagues and ex-colleagues in the sales effectiveness space the past couple of weeks, we have discussed how to build this type of skill across his team in a sustainable way, not just run another training event.

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What can Big Data do for the sales organization?

By Michael Perla

“Big Data.” There, I said it. They seem to be the hottest two words in business today. Some say it’s overhyped.

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Developing Sales Talent: Art, Science or Theory?

By David Szen

Regardless of your own answer to the question let’s face the facts.  If you stop everything you are doing right now and call 100 sales reps across a diverse industry pool and ask the following questions you WILL get the following answers:

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Lemonade Stands - A Sales and Marketing Metaphor

By Warren Shiver

With another school year starting up, I was reminded of the time that I took up the typical parental duty of going into the 1st grade classroom and explaining what I do as a “grown-up”. Since I provide a nebulous service and not a product readily identifiable or relatable by 6 and 7 yr-olds, I decided to talk about sales and marketing in the context of a lemonade stand (no points for originality here), to cover the basics of location, advertising, pricing, quality, supply chain, staffing, etc.

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The problem is that no one is accountable … really? Measuring Performance

By Michael Perla

If someone else mentions they have an accountability problem I think I’ll vomit. I hear it ad nauseam.

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Going for the Gold

By Joni Santos

As the 2012 Olympics draw to a close and the medal count is finalized, I can't help but wonder how different life would be if we were all awarded medals for our efforts in life and at work.

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This just in - bad scenes witnessed on sales calls

By David Szen

This just in - bad scenes witnessed on sales calls. Are these any of your "agony of sales defeat?" Easy mistakes to make and old habits hold back sales effectiveness.

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Olympic Selling Moments

By Warren Shiver

Watching the Olympics has made me appreciate living in the “moment”. Seeing the many athletes who have trained for years, and in many cases a lifetime, for a single event that might last minutes really leaves an impression. Although there are other important athletic events , such as national and world championships or collegiate tournaments, it’s really impressive when the announcer says that McKayla Maroney has been training for years for two and a half minutes of actual vault time during the Olympics.

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Being Straightforward in Client Management

By Michael Perla

What she learned from her father ... and then sold over $1B dollars worth ...

Glennis’ father was a doctor. She used to accompany him on his rounds at the hospital and still remembers the tough discussions he had to have with his patients about life and death. Most of us in business don’t have to deal with life and death issues, although it sometimes feels that way if you lose a big deal or your customer champion leaves or is fired.

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Habit Number 7 - Self Improvement

By Hope Eyre

I was sprawled on my couch last week, electronically multi-tasking, when I read that Stephen Covey had died.  My immediate and unexpected reaction was – guilt.

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"The Customer As A God"

By Warren Shiver

There was an interesting article in a weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal with this title. The author (Doc Searls) describes a future state where highly empowered consumers leverage advanced versions of Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) tools to optimize their selctions without divulging any private information (unless they choose).

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Be careful of a “seemore” AND “talker”

By Michael Perla

 This HBR Blog Network piece entitled The Best Sales Reps Avoid “Talkers” has some interesting implications for sellers.

Basically, the authors are saying that because a buyer opens up to you and provides insights and some access doesn’t mean the buyer has the ability to mobilize the internal support to get a deal done.

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Don’t forget to tell them how…Sales Management

By Rachel Cavallo

 As I walked through my daughter’s playroom the other day, I looked at her dilapidated toy kitchen set and laughed as I thought about the fateful Christmas Eve night it came to life. I had purchased what I thought would be the coolest kitchen set ever.

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Understanding the Sales Person

By Michael Perla

 As part of our series on interviewing Top Performing sales (and business) professionals, we interviewed a man named Johnny Van, a car salesman out of the Buffalo, NY area. Like many of the best sales professionals across industries, Johnny is fanatical around follow-up, asking for referrals, and being honest and reliable – many of the same traits you’d want in a Partner at a management consulting firm, but Johnny sells cars.

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Refreshing Candor

By Warren Shiver

It's not often that you see companies own up to internal issues. An article in today's WSJ "The Sun Shines on 'The Cloud'" describes the phenomenal growth of cloud computing and also highlights some of Amazon Web Services' (AWS) recent service issues, one of which was due to a power failure at a data center in Virginia.

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The Lost Art of Handwriting

By Warren Shiver

It occurred to me on vacation last week as my twin two year old nieces were playing on the iPad, that technology might make handwriting obsolete. With voice recognition becoming increasingly sophisticated (thank you Siri), we might be all dictating to our computing devices. In contrast, I returned home to find in the mail a hand-written thank you note from the carpet cleaning service that worked on our house two weeks ago.

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Understanding Customer Purchasing "Triggers"

By Michael Perla

Mary Minnick, the former CMO of Coke, liked to talk about 10 primal “need states” (e.g., hunger and thirst, health and beauty, etc.) in understanding the triggers around a customer purchasing one of Coke’s products.

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Multigenerational Selling Events