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?

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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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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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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 pieces on the Symmetrics Group website has been this Whitepaper – a 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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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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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. On 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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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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Transform vs. Tweak

By Warren Shiver

We’ve found recently 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.

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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?

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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

In the spring of 2000, when the dot-com era was at its peak, and everyone in Silicon Valley was having such a good time that it was easy to ignore the tug of impending economic gravity, I was working as a business developer for SAP, the German ERP software giant.

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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.

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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)

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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.

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

By Hope Eyre

As a business developer in high tech, I did a lot of collaborative account planning. Our team account plans were things of beauty, right down to the little quarter moon, half moon – and so on – shapes we used to visually denote how much preference the decision makers and influencers had for us as a vendor (full moons were best).

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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.

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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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