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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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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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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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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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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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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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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