The Selling Power Sales Leadership Blog showcases insights, ideas, advice about issues related to B2B sales and marketing. Posts are written by top-level sales and marketing leaders across all industries. The blog is run by the editors of Selling Power magazine and SellingPower.com.
“Created and repaired in the USA…but made somewhere else.”
When I grew up it seemed every disposable product was labeled “Made in Japan” or “Made in China.” If it was easy to reproduce – or inexpensive – then that’s where it was made.
It may have been made in another country, but we often had to repair it or replace it. “Made in the USA” products were produced in Detroit or Pittsburgh or Chicago. They were solid, reliable, and substantial.
At least that’s the way it seemed to me from my home in Little Rock, Arkansas, in the late 20th Century.
The Growing Influence of China
Japan had its renaissance a generation ago and, today, its innovative products are serious players in the world markets. China, on the other hand, has remained mostly a manufacturing economy.
For the past few years I’ve been making annual trips to China to conduct seminars on leadership, sales, and communication skills. My audiences have been 1,000 to 2,500 young success seekers who sit enthralled with learning for up to six hours a day as I share ideas and techniques. It’s not that I’m necessarily that interesting but rather that they are that interested. These folks are hungry! They’re eager to learn.
For generations the Chinese have been learning, copying and producing what the USA and other countries have thought up, tested, and refined. But now, their leaders are encouraging them to innovate. They want to learn to think like we do.
And they work differently than we do. They spend years learning, practicing, and studying. Long before they need to take an entrance exam or compete for a job, they are spending hours every day in intense study of their chosen craft. Plus, they want to learn to think like you do. One-third of all international students in U.S. universities are Chinese students – learning here, then returning home.
Why does this matter to you and me? Because these are the people with whom we will be competing in coming years. They are learning English, studying in our schools, learning our techniques, and competing with our products. So far, it’s been mild – but wait till they start innovating! When their creativity and entrepreneurial juices are unleashed there will be no force large enough to resist them.
The Value of Lifelong Learning
What can you do about it? For one, learn like they do. Start spending a portion of each week learning skills and techniques you don’t need…yet. “Yet” – that’s the word to watch. Business is fine now, but what is the next stage of business for you? With whom will you be competing for tomorrow’s sales? What technology will you need to understand in order to keep up? What could you learn now that would give you more options later?
What technology could you begin to invest in today that would expand your capacity to reach more customers with more services next year? In the new book, Sales Ex Machina, authors Victor Antonio and James Glenn-Anderson show exactly how technology is not just augmenting but replacing the human element in some of the sales steps we thought only we carbon-based life forms could handle.
In order to remain a leader in your community and industry, and against impressive new competitors, you and I must continually innovate and prepare. Learn to use technology we don’t yet believe we will need. Create new solutions – exciting ways to do things better than before – and prepare for opportunities you haven’t even seen yet. Get ready…for more than you originally thought you’d need to be prepared for. Just keep growing, learning, experimenting, collaborating, and improving. That’s the American Way and it is what makes the rest of the world want to be more like us. GBA! God bless America.
According to a research study conducted by Harvard Business School in 2014, sales positions (including sales management openings) are increasingly becoming harder to fill. In part, this is because younger workers do not appear to be all that enticed by a career in sales. Other surveys and studies have highlighted the fact that millennials are not as easily lured by traditional incentives such as money or prestige.
What Do Younger and Older Workers Value?
When surveyed about their preferences, the Harvard study showed that 64 percent of older workers listed stability and income as compelling reasons to work in a given field. Younger workers, however, put a higher value on quality of life and making a difference in the world. That means, while older Americans workers are more likely to be impressed by money, their more youthful counterparts find greater significance in doing something they enjoy or being of service to humanity in some way.
This may explain why other studies have shown that millennials often prefer creating their own path such as starting their own company. Far from lazy, younger workers simply prefer to emphasize quality and value over long-term security or income levels. Having grown up during the Great Recession, they are skeptical about finding career security by staying for decades at one particular company.
Whereas 53 percent of baby boomers stated they would rather work for a single employer for their entire career, 45 percent of millennials opted for changing jobs at regular intervals. They are also more comfortable with acquiring new skills. As much as 77 percent of millennials stated they are willing to return to school in order to add additional skillset, although rising educational costs may begin to dampen that enthusiasm.
Recruiting Younger Sales Talent: Retool Your Company Messaging
The hard truth is that sales organizations are fighting a losing battle with time. Aging sales professionals are getting harder to find, just as the up-and-coming millennials are turning away from sales. To effectively fill empty sales positions, companies need to aggressively target talent. To do so, they must also change the message to fit the emerging millennial narrative. This may mean adding value by helping them build fulfilling and meaningful careers.
To compete, companies need to rethink and retool their message by emphasizing quality, individuality, flexibility, and community service. Besides helping fill empty sales slots, purpose-driven companies are more likely to have brand-loyal customers.
Take, for instance, the rise of small neighborhood brewers and microbrewers, which are challenging the status quo of larger companies. The emphasis has changed from mass-produced quantity to high-value, handcrafted quality.
This niche market is a good example of the differences in mindset and emerging marketing trends. Microbreweries are generally more inclined to craft unique, high-value fare. They also espouse a message based on community involvement, coupled with creative approaches and solutions. Their message is not just about beer, but also concerns reaching into an increasingly interconnected world.
While many other examples could be cited, it comes down to the perceptions of the upcoming generation. Companies that ignore the new models will face stiff challenges as younger sales talent move toward other careers. The bottom line is that, like sales, you have to tailor your message to your targeted audience, creating value for the buyer (and, in this case, the seller as well).
Jamie Crosbie is founder and CEO of ProActivate and an accomplished senior executive with a proven record of sales leadership success. A certified Peak Performance Mindset trainer, Jamie helps companies of all sizes increase their sales productivity by training them to think – and therefore act – differently. Contact her today to learn more – email@example.com or 214/720-9922.
Recently we did a deep dive into the backgrounds of CIOs by analyzing data regarding nearly 1,000 CIOs in the Fortune 500 and beyond. If you are familiar with our service, you know we maintain in-depth profiles of several thousand CIOs as well as thousands of other C-suite executives. And, while much of our focus tends to be on their business initiatives and challenges to help sales teams create compelling strategies for partnering with customers, our profiles also contain rich, personal information, such as their hobbies, where they are from, and where they started their careers.
We set out to answer three questions:
What does the enterprise CIO archetype look like?
What do enterprise CIOs have most in common?
How does the CIO archetype differ from the other C-level titles we profile in our database?
So what did we learn?
What Are CIOs Really Like: Five Insights
Insight #1: Our CIO group – in aggregate – looks quite different from other C-level executives.
They’re more cerebral in that they have more intellectually-focused interests and hobbies. They enjoy reading, writing, and speaking on topics such as technology and leadership. They’re more multilingual and globally focused. And they’re also more altruistic in that they show a strong interest in volunteering and mentoring.
Insight #2: Our analysis – which, again, looked at nearly 1,000 CIOs in the Fortune 500 and beyond – found that only 16 percent are women.
While this is a disappointingly small percentage, consider that, in 2017, only 6.4 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs were women, which is itself a new record high.
Insight #3: Unlike when we look at other C-level titles, golf is not the favorite pastime.
For enterprise CIOs, travel tops the list of favorite hobbies, followed by running. Golf tied for third with cycling. After that came mentoring, reading, and skiing.
Insight #4:CIOs are a very international group.
They’ve lived and worked all over the world. After the U.S., our sample of nearly 1,000 enterprise CIOs come from Canada, India, South Africa, and the UK. Nearly 6 percent are multilingual, speaking 25 different languages in total. After English, top languages are French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Hindi.
Insight #5: The CIOs we looked at have been groomed in their early careers by a handful of large organizations – what we have come to call “leadership factories.”
These companies include IBM, Accenture, PwC, JPMorgan Chase, and GE Company. Many also cut their teeth in the military and other public sector organizations such as the Secret Service and the FBI.
Here are just a few examples of CIOs included in our study, which represent our findings well:
Tony Young is the global CIO at Sophos Ltd. He is a frequent traveler who has said he dreams of a “transporter” – the fictional teleportation device in Star Trek, of course. He also speaks Chinese.
Maya Leibman, EVP and CIO at American Airlines, has visited about 80 countries. Based in Dallas, she volunteers with several local organizations, including the “So SMAART” program, where she works with minority girls, ages 9 to 12, to teach them about technology and life.
Stephen Fraser, SVP and CIO at Realogy Corporation, has taken regular trips to India, has spent a lot of time in the UK and Italy, and is hard pressed to pick one favorite place. “It’s hard to pick Rome over Barcelona over London or Paris,” he has said. Fraser is also a mentor and coach at the Society for Information Management and a volunteer mentor at Everwise. He began his career as a client leader and consulting manager at Accenture.
Naveen Zutshi, CIO at Palo Alto Networks, enjoys traveling, reading, sports, and astrophysics. Born in Srinagar, India, his favorite books include Saturday, Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead,A Brief History of Time,2001: A Space Odyssey, and Blue Ocean Strategy.
Luc Hennekens, Airbus Group’s CIO, speaks Dutch, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. He loves mountain biking, triathlons, photography, adventure travel, scuba diving, skiing, golf, and sky-diving. He’s travelled to more than 45 countries and worked in 12.
Diane Enberg Jurgens, CTO at BHP Billiton Plc, is a Seattle native but lives and works in Singapore for an Australian company. She speaks Mandarin Chinese and enjoys traveling. Interested in attracting more American women to engineering careers, she mentors engineers.
Javier Polit, Procter & Gamble’s CIO, was born in Ecuador but raised in the U.S. He started his career at PwC after earning a Master of International Business Administration from Tiburg University in the Netherlands and a Master of International Management from the Budapest University of Economics and Science. Polit has since conducted business in more than 40 countries on five continents, and speaks French, Portuguese, and Spanish. In his free time, he enjoys cycling, reading, playing the guitar, racing cars, flying Cessna airplanes, riding his horses, and playing chess.
Certainly, these are accomplished people, but why should you care about all of this – what countries they’ve been to, the fact that they enjoy reading or running? Simple: The more you know – even beyond the essentials of the companies they work for – the better chance you have of making a connection.
It could be a connection with you; it could be a connection with an executive sponsor at your own company. If you are meeting at an event, it’s an opportunity to invite that person to go for a run or literally speak a common language. If, like your CIO, your target CIO got her start at Accenture or GE, they have very specific experiences in common – and your CIO may have a better understanding of her approach to business given their common career-forming foundation.
In sales, it always helps to know as much as possible about the executives with whom you need to connect in order to drive business forward. Deep insight into executive decision makers can be a powerful tool.
Sharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, the only business intelligence tool designed exclusively for C-suite sales, marketing, and recruiters who need to reach, engage, and build relationships with C-level executives. Gillenwater is a long-time marketing consultant with expertise in marketing strategy, account-based marketing, and CXO engagement programs.
Picture this: A sales rep and a prospect begin the last of several meetings in the hopes of making a deal. Everything has gone smoothly so far, and both the sales rep and prospect expect to leave the meeting satisfied. However, when the sales rep gives the final details of the purchase, the prospect has objections. Eventually, they both leave the meeting frustrated and, ultimately, the sale falls through.
So, what went wrong? This scenario is all too common in the sales world – and it boils down to one thing: The sales rep failed to manage the prospect’s expectations throughout the sale process.
Today, we teach you how to avoid this situation with four easy tactics to manage your prospects’ expectations. Keep reading.
Four Tactics to Manage Prospect Expectations
Tactic #1: Establish goals.
Clear goals are the foundation of any sale. They ensure that both the sales rep and the prospect are working toward the same thing. If you fail to establish goals early on, you risk losing the prospect in the later stages of the sales cycle.
Here’s where many sales reps go wrong: They set goals during the first meeting, but fail to check in on them throughout the process. To start, discuss small goals to provide structure to your meetings. How long do you want the process to take? What do you hope to accomplish in each meeting? What are the next steps?
Then move on to bigger goals, like what the prospect hopes to accomplish with your product and what their ideal price point is.
Tactic #2: Be clear about anticipated outcomes.
Case studies and customer testimonials can be effective sales tools. They give prospects specific examples of what your product has done for past buyers. However, these materials showcase the best possible outcome and can often lead to unrealistic expectations during the sales qualification process – leaving your prospect disappointed and confused.
When you walk the prospect through the anticipated outcome, be hopeful but realistic. Don’t promise the best-case scenario just to sign a deal. If you promise results and then fail to deliver, you will lose any potential business with the prospect in the future.
Tactic #3: Work to extract specific answers.
A vague answer like “maybe” might seem harmless during an early conversation. But, down the line, these non-committal responses from prospects may result in deal-breaking problems. Therefore, it’s important that you push for specific answers from your prospects during your discovery calls. This might seem uncomfortable, but it will prevent either side from making incorrect assumptions about the other’s priorities.
For example, let’s say you want to establish a timeline with your prospect. You ask if they will be ready to make a decision on the deal by the end of the month, to which they say “maybe.” You don’t press for more details – and then, at the end of the month, the prospect reveals they still aren’t sure if they’re interested, and the deal drags out indefinitely. Avoid these last-minute roadblocks by getting concrete answers from the prospect early on.
Tactic #4: Get everything on the table.
Sales reps often hesitate to be upfront about important issues for fear of losing important deals. But building trust in sales is important. So be upfront and address potential roadblocks or issues as soon as you recognize them.
Yes, this means you might have to deliver bad news at times. But deal-breaking issues don’t just disappear if you ignore them. When you wait to address them until later in the process, you may have wasted the prospect’s time and your own.
Worst-case scenario: You disclose that your product may not be the best fit – or that it’s more expensive than the prospect’s allocated budget. You lose the deal and shift your attention to more qualified prospects. Best-case scenario? The prospect appreciates your honesty and works with you to overcome any barriers. Either way, you come out on top.
Final Thought: Not Every Prospect Is a Good Fit for You
Sales reps and buyers are rarely on the same page. Here’s a quick example: According to research from Hubspot, 83 percent of sales reps don’t think they’re pushy, yet more than 50 percent of buyers disagree. Using these four tactics, however, sales reps can better manage prospect expectations – leading to a better experience for all parties involved.
And remember: Not every prospect will be a good fit for your products or services. Setting prospect expectations early on can weed out the bad from the good and make your sales conversations more productive. With more productive and honest sales conversations, you’ll generate more deals and more lifelong customers.
Are you scratching your head right now because you’ve already blown your goals for the new year? Is this a repeat from last year, and the year before, and…I’ll stop right there. For most of us, the answer is probably a resounding YES!
Why do we allow this to happen? Why do we commit to goals every year – yet can’t seem to get halfway through January without caving?
You’ve heard the saying: The bigger the why, the bigger the try. And I can hear you say: “I believe my ‘why’ is big, Christine” So, what happened to the try? Why did you cave? Again?
Here’s a list of the most common obstacles to goal achievement, plus tips to get yourself out of these unhealthy patterns.
Obstacle #1: Procrastination
Do you give yourself a back door as a way out? See if this sounds familiar: “I blew it this month, but I’ll make up for it next month!” (How many times has that happened? Be honest!)
Did you ever make it up the following month? I doubt it. Stop telling yourself that story.
Stop doing what you want to do and start doing what you have committed todo. Winston Churchill said it best: “It’s no use saying, ‘We are doing our best.’ You have got to succeed in doing what is necessary.”
Obstacle #2: No urgency to your timeline
To complete goals, we need a sense of urgency. If you give yourself too much time, there’s a chance you might feel comfortable coasting or not working as hard.
How do you combat this? Shorten the timeline. Give yourself 10 months to complete your yearly goals – especially if you are in the sales profession. This shortened timeline will begin to create a sense of urgency within your very being. Just stop and ponder what that means. Can you feel yourself get slightly anxious about shaving two months off your timeline?
If you have monthly goals, then set your timeline at three weeks to accomplish your goals instead of four weeks. It puts a different spin on the meaning of now, doesn’t it?
Obstacle #3: Your internal blocks
Many times, when analyzing obstacles, people usually look at external obstacles, such as not getting past the gatekeeper or not discovering all the buyer’s issues. Rarely do salespeople consider the internal obstacles, like self-defeating thoughts (which can lead to procrastination or a limiting belief that too much follow-up means you’re a pesky salesperson).
When setting goals, think about obstacles that stand in your way, both externally and internally.
Make a list of both external and internal obstacles.
Describe the obstacle in detail.
Come up with a plan to eliminate the obstacles.
Obstacle #4: Lack of self-improvement habits
What steps do you need to take in self-improvement to succeed? Be completely honest with yourself:
How good are you at follow-up with prospects and customers?
Do you really know the ins and outs of writing a killer email that people want to read and respond to?
When was the last time you studied sales from different perspectives and from different thought leaders?
What was the last book you read about selling?
Do you read (at minimum) one book a month?
Make a list of the areas where you need improvement, both professionally and personally. Usually, what you improve upon personally will have an unintended consequence of helping you professionally – and vice versa. Sales is a journey, not a quick trip around the block (that’s my tagline). The journey of self-improvement is never over.
(At workshops, I ask the question: “Name the last sales book you read and when.” The norm is that one out of 10 people sitting in the workshop have cracked open a book in the past…wait for it…five years! I’m not kidding. Take your self-improvement very seriously.)
After you make the list, commit to a strategy of self-improvement for every item on the list.
Keep a journal in 2018 and reflect upon your journey. At the end of 2018, review the journal and see just how far you’ve come! The evidence will be in your goal achievements and the successes you’ve recorded in your journal. Yes! Always record your successes!
Obstacle #5: No accountability partners
Who can you be accountable to?
My business as a sales coach is booming, because I keep my clients accountable. When they succeed, I succeed, too. Frankly, if they were able to keep themselves accountable, there would be no need for me or the coaching profession.
You may be surprised to know I have an accountability partner as well. Research shows when people share their progress with others, it reinforces their commitment to their goals. It’s a psychological lift we all need. It’s the reason Mastermind groups are so popular.
Caution: Don’t pick a “yes” person. Pick someone who can tell you what you need to hear – not what you want to hear.
If you need an accountability partner or help with areas of self improvement for 2018, I invite you to schedule a free 20-minute session with me. Make 2018 your year!
When you hear the term “a peak performance mindset,” you may naturally think about NFL football players, steely-eyed fighter pilots, nationally-known sales gurus, or the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
Maybe it works for “them”…but they are gifted or talented stars, powerful, rich, or fill-in-the-blank – and you feel you have nothing in common with them.
While it is true that many successful athletes and top sales performers use mental techniques to boost their performance, like most skills, it can be learned. Here’s how.
Use Your Mind to Change Your Mind
It is true that some people may be more initially gifted in one area or another. It is equally true, though, that they have simply practiced more. A person may be gifted in sports, for instance, but they are unlikely to move into professional status unless they couple that desire with practice. It is not just talent, but drive and relentless practice that move us forward.
Daytime television is famous for its love of makeover shows. Some fashion-challenged person is carefully made over, giving them a new look. They may have gone in wearing oversized tee shirts and baggy sweats, but they come out looking more like runway models. Think of developing a peak performance mindset as a mental makeover that changes your life – from the inside out.
Scientists exploring the depths of this changeability call it “neuroplasticity.” It means the structure of the mind is like plastic – more malleable than rigid, welded-in-place iron girders that cannot be changed. Many studies have consistently shown that reframing the way you think about circumstances and challenges activates new neural connections. As it turns out, neurons form cerebral shortcuts, building stronger and stronger connection the more often they are used, until they become the default setting.
In a way, they are like rabbit trails; the more times you mentally walk through a given scenario, the more tramped down the path becomes – and the more likely you are to use that path again. It does take effort at first, but, as you learn the skills, it becomes easier and easier to change the way you process information and respond.
The Power of Not Yet versus a Final Grade of F
In one study, described in The New York Times, many students in the Harlem school districts consistently saw poor grades in many areas. At first, some children in the program were so unfocused they were unable to even hold a pencil correctly. After mindset training, however, they were able to see challenges not as dead ends or failures but as a progression to something more.
This is more than a glass-half-empty or glass-half-full mindset; it is a realization that the glass is, and always will be, refillable.
They were taught that setbacks and failure were more like speed bumps than actual failure. When, for instance, seniors who were required to pass certain tests and classes were given a “not yet” grade rather than an “F,” they were able to repair bad grades with tests; they progressed faster. The results? The very same students who could not hold a pencil, much less read, started breaking academic records as they grew – scoring higher and higher in national and state tests, moving past the 95th percentile.
As a sales professional, you know you sometimes have to grind through a tsunami of contacts, searching over and over until you hit the sweet spot and clinch the sale. Afterwards, the same treadmill starts up again, and you move through the entire process again. Successful salespeople accept this as part of the process.
They know it really is a numbers game and that you may have to knock on 1,000 doors before winning the prize. Or, fate may seem to take a liking to you, and you need to knock only on 100 before hitting a career-making hot-streak. Either way, seeing challenges as a launch point rather than an endpoint can help you push through the down times. You have to be willing to reframe things so failure is merely a “not yet” rather than a permanent failing grade. When you can do that, you develop success as a habit.
Jamie Crosbie is CEO and founder of ProActivate, LLC, and has 20 years of experience in sales leadership and the talent acquisition industry. A certified Peak Performance Mindset trainer, Jamie helps companies of all sizes increase their sales productivity by training them to think – and therefore act – differently. Contact her today to learn more – firstname.lastname@example.org or 214/720-9922.
Following up with prospects and customers is a staple of sales. Everyone knows they “should” do it. In fact, you could argue that CRM systems exist primarily to support following up, broadly speaking.
Think about it this way. Contemporary CRMs define a “lead” as someone worth a follow-up attempt, to be converted into a “contact” (a person) at an “account” (a company) when that follow-up bears fruit – sometimes when a discovery conversation is scheduled or maybe when that conversation discovers there is an “opportunity.” Opportunities are worked through defined stages until they close as wins or losses.
It all sounds very neat and orderly. Interest, followed by contact, followed by discovery, followed by opportunity, followed by closing. A nice, linear process.
The Real Flow of Your Sales Funnel
We call it a “funnel” to recognize inevitable attrition along the way. Then we do “funnel math” to figure out how many leads need to go in the top of the sales funnel to produce the desired flow of closed deals out of the bottom.
The sales funnel metaphor tells us lots of important things. But, unfortunately, it paints a picture that leaves out the most common – and, therefore, the most important – outcome of any sales interaction. The flow of the funnel makes us pay attention to the positive flow: the conversations that end in yes! The shape of the funnel tells us that no is also heard along the way.
The Proper Approach to Your Sales Funnel Math
But what about those other two sales conversation outcomes: “not me” and “not now”? Are they important to our funnel math?
It turns out that a conversation that ends in “not me” can, if handled deftly, yield a referral: a semi-magical lead that has a good chance of being reached and being the right person to talk with. Referrals transform so-so leads into “right parties.”
In terms of funnel math, however, a “not me” doesn’t really do anything. One “Ray Wrong” becomes one “Rae Right” – nice, but it creates no real change to how many leads must go in the top to make your sales goals.
If the obviously positive “not me” doesn’t affect funnel math much, then it would seem “not now” would do even less. After all, if someone isn’t ready to do business with us now, shouldn’t we boot them out of our funnel and send them back to the marketing department to be nurtured until ready to engage in our sales process?
You see, “not me” is treated like dark matter – that stuff that makes up 60 percent of all the mass in the universe. Dark matter bends space-time so galaxies spin way faster than they should, yet it is invisible to us and our instruments.
In other words, dark matter dominates the shape and velocity of our “funnels” (the Milky Way and all those other galaxies) but doesn’t yield new stars or even a little light to brighten up our dark skies.
Two Problems with Prospects and Timing
Why does the “not now” factor dominate and cause so many salespeople to have conversations with prospects who say they’re not ready to make a purchase right now? There are two factors:
Product replacement cycles tend to be long. When we buy a product (or a service to solve a product) we usually aren’t looking to replace it for about three years. That means an intrinsically qualified buyer (our dream client) is only in the market for our category of product for one out of every 12 calendar quarters. That means a perfectly executed sales conversation with a perfectly qualified buyer will yield “not now” almost 92 percent of the time. That’s dominance!
There is only one reliable way to find out if the timing is right for the prospective buyer to consider your product category: have a live conversation. Sure, there are vendors who claim they have dark matter detectors that can tell you when buyers are ripe and ready to make a purchase. But none of their techniques based on publicly available – and, therefore, competitively irrelevant – data can compete with a skillfully managed conversation.
So, we have a 92 percent dominant sales factor – timing – that can only be reliably determined by a rather expensive measurement: a conversation. Our standard funnel treats this dominant set of potential opportunities as “disqualified” and sends them back to marketing for nurturing. In other words, they’re thrown away in the vain hope they will come back on their own when they are ready.
But what if we could capture that 92 percent instead of throwing them aside? The effect on our funnel should be massive! This is especially true if we are capturing them, and our fiercest competitor is using the standard “send them to marketing for lead nurturing” program.
It turns out that, by using one simple mechanism, we can do that: by systematically following up “not now” conversations with (wait for it…) conversations! These can certainly be interspersed with the usual email “drip campaign,” (by the way, who named this anyway? Is being dripped on really that great?), but the key is the follow-up conversation itself. An email, no matter how full of compelling content, won’t give you the answer to the question of whether “now” has arrived.
The Benefits of Following Up with Phone Conversations
The good news is that the numbers work strongly in your favor, three ways:
It’s usually easier to get prospects on the phone when making a follow-up call. The “2017 Follow-Up Conversation Study,” which analyzed almost 20 million dials in 2017, found that follow-up dial attempts reach the right party 1.35 times as often as cold dial attempts. This is not because these people are psychic and know it’s their favorite salesperson calling. It’s because follow-up lists consist entirely of people who have answered the phone before. In other words, the first conversation (or cold call) yielded one additional piece of information: this person is more likely than average to answer phone calls.
The same study found it is 1.68 times easier to set a meeting from a follow-up conversation than from a first conversation. The reasons for this are more subtle. First, if the timing is ever going to be better, it will be in the future – and, on a follow-up call, the future is now! Second, the conversation is easier to get started with rapport, because you can begin where you left off – especially if you wrote your future self a mini-script based on the previous conversation. Third, it is possible that humans are more likely to listen to someone whose voice they have heard before.
The combined effect of harvesting all this “not now” dark matter is that follow-up conversations are 2.26 times more efficient than cold conversations end to end – from the dial attempt through setting the appointment. This is like having your team of 10 sales professionals magically turn into a happy band of 26 without spending a penny.
To summarize, “not now” timing is the dominant problem to be solved in B2B sales. Like dark matter, it makes up the bulk of our sales conversation universe. But, unlike dark matter, it turns out there is a simple way to tame the bad timing problem: systematically follow “not now” conversations with appropriately timed future conversations.
What’s even better: Follow-up conversations are cheaper and easier to get, more pleasant to have, and have much higher yield than first conversations!
In a way, there’s nothing to solving the biggest problem in sales. Here’s the formula:
Use cold conversations to manufacture follow-up opportunities – and some meetings.
Have follow-up conversations to set more meetings or at least to manufacture more follow-up opportunities.
Problem solved. Must be time to go back to figuring out that dark matter thing.
Chris Beall is CEO of ConnectAndSell. He has been participating in software start-ups as a founder or at a very early stage for most of the past 30 years. His focus has consistently been on creating and taking to market simple products that can be used successfully the first time they are touched, without taking a course or reading a manual. His belief is that the most powerful part of any software system is the human being we inappropriately call a “user,” and that the value key in software is to let the computer do what it does well (go fast without getting bored) in order to free up human potential.
Whether you are leading a sales team or presenting a product, the same fundamental forces are at work. People are persuaded by what they care about…period.
You might argue that holding a gun to someone’s head would work to motivate every person, but that’s not true if they don’t want to stay alive more than they want to cooperate with your demands. It’s the motive, not the motivation, that causes the action. A desire to live equals a willingness to cooperate to avoid being shot.
The same applies to incentives and rewards. If you offer a vacation in Tahiti to someone who fears air travel, then it might miss the mark. In fact, you could potentially achieve more motivational impact by offering something that has only 10 percent of the financial value of that vacation – if it aligned with their natural values.
A “value” in this sense is: the relative importance of…whatever it is, when compared to other things. The value of a meal versus a magazine subscription, for example. Values come in two types:
Values that are learned and
Values that are natural to you.
A learned value is what you acquire from your parents, schools, churches, and social culture. You learn to be patriotic, a good neighbor, respectful, clean and well groomed, etc. A natural value is something that is innately important to you. Beyond air, food, and water (the survival needs) we tend to be motivated by our natural values. Maslow popularized the needs hierarchy and that’s a useful model, but here we are talking about motivators (values) that transcend Maslow’s model.
There are seven natural values – and all of us care about all seven of them, but not in the same order. My number one might be your number seven and vice versa. Therein lies the secret to motivating you and me. The value is your motive; the motivation is a stimulus to activate it. There is no universal hierarchy of these values because they differ from person to person. Here are the seven:
The relative importance of your physical experience: sensuality value
The relative importance of feeling connected with others: empathy value
The relative importance of tangible wealth: wealth value
The relative importance of being in charge, gaining recognition and prestige: power value
The relative importance of beauty, balance, symmetry, and organization: aesthetic value
The relative importance of doing what is right and having a mission or cause: commitment value
The relative importance of learning, discovery, and knowing: knowledge value
For ease of memory, you can use the first letter of each value to form the acronym: SEW PACK. Think of the little sewing kits that are made for travel, and imagine there are seven different colors of thread: Sensuality, Empathy, Wealth, Power, Aesthetics, Commitment and Knowledge.
Motivating with values means learning to observe the values as each person expresses them through their choices, tastes, actions, and priorities – then connecting your incentives, rewards, and appeals to the individual’s priority values. You can see the patterns in people when you know to watch for these values.
If a person places high priority on the feel of clothing over the look or quality of it, they are showing the sensuality value. The person who is more excited about a backstage VIP meet-and-greet than the performance on stage is expressing the power value. One with a high empathy value will be more drawn to spending time with their friends than by a trophy in their honor. The commitment value shows when a person is moved by the cause or “the why” behind an action (for example, when they can see a higher purpose to their work). Profit is a motivator to the wealth value but so is high quality (e.g., an item with great resale or investment value). People who love to learn are expressing the knowledge value. A visually appealing and well-organized presentation will go a long way to impress one with high aesthetic value.
If you sell automobiles, for example, the prestige of the brand and performance will appeal most to the power value. Resale and residual to the wealth value. Comfort and drivability to the sensuality value. Economy and responsible energy use to the commitment value. Looks and system design to the aesthetic value. Understandable and impressive technology to the knowledge value. And the effect or appeal of the vehicle to passengers will be a priority to the empathy value.
This can even guide you in selecting gifts for special occasions or designing incentives for people:
Sensuality: a physical experience or something pleasant to the touch or taste.
Empathy: an interpersonal experience or something that has meaning to others they care about.
Wealth: a valuable item such as a gold coin, insider tips for growing wealth, or a luxury item that will endure.
Power: a special experience or privilege. Something others wouldn’t have or be able to do. A position or special recognition.
Aesthetics: an item of beauty or an experience that appeals to their visual and auditory sense.
Commitment: the ability to make a difference, or a way to show their contribution to something they care about.
Knowledge: a learning experience or private coaching, gaining access to a mentor or master.
Values are moving targets. It’s not like behavioral styles, where you can readily observe one pattern over another. This one takes more observation. Tune in to the ways people make decisions and invest their time and money. Notice what they react to strongly and what they are indifferent about. You’ll start seeing value choices everywhere. Once these patterns become clear to you then you will know more about how to motivate others – and even yourself.
In 2017, we saw massive growth in the sales enablement industry. An explosion of new sales enablement technologies fueled an increasingly heated and detailed conversation about the very definition of sales enablement and what its role is. Meanwhile, several new organizations sprang up to address the issue and begin building a body of work around the discipline, while research organizations scrambled to collect data to begin defining and analyzing it.
Yet all the conversation and growth has not yet translated into massive gains in performance for most organizations. In fact, we seem to have forgotten that the fundamental role of sales enablement is to enable better sales performance.
Organizations that want to excel in sales performance by improving sales enablement in 2018 will do well to focus on these top six priorities.
1. Avoid “point solution” chaos
The marketplace is full of so many cool “enablement” tools that it’s easy to get pulled into “investments” that provide no return. Instead of focusing on cool new technologies, organizations should be focusing on developing better sales strategies and then choosing tools that help them execute on those strategies.
2. Provide a better buying experience
Our industry gives a lot of lip service to putting customers first, but we rarely put our investments (or our attention) where our mouths are. In 2018, look for enablement technologies that help you understand your buyer better and align your sales process with their preferred buying experience. This simple approach will help to dramatically improve sales results.
3. Support salesperson success
It goes without saying that more successful salespeople translate to more successful sales overall. Yet many “enablement” technologies in the past have focused more on making salespeople accountable and providing them with neat tricks (like knowing when people open their emails) than with actually providing them support for the things that matter. In 2018, take the time to understand deeply which salesperson behaviors and activities actually move the needle – and then choose technologies, training, and leadership that support them to engage in those things.
4. Empower better coaching
Excellent coaching can be a critical multiplier for sales results. In 2018, take a good look at your coaching system and make sure you’ve enabled your coaches to help your salespeople execute on your sales strategy and provide the excellent buyer experience you envision. If you invest in coaching technologies like call monitoring, make sure they are integrated into the coach’s workflow and are provided with the training and support to coach effectively. Otherwise, they just become more point solutions in the chaos of point solutions.
5. Better insights for leadership
The “accountability” provided by traditional CRMs is no longer adequate for enabling high performance on a sales team. Leaders need to know more than just how many calls a salesperson made this week. They need to know where opportunities are in the sales process, which activities and behaviors are moving the needle, and where bottlenecks in the process occur. Armed with detailed, proactive insights and metrics, sales leaders can make smarter decisions and provide better support to their sales teams.
6. Consistent execution of strategy
Good sales strategy is useless if it is not consistently executed across the organization. Historically, sales enablement and CRM have not done a good job of orchestrating execution of strategy. That is changing and, in 2018, organizations implementing technologies and processes that make it easy for salespeople and coaches to execute on strategy will pull ahead of their peers.
I believe sales enablement is going to continue to be a hot topic for years to come – in part because we still have a long way to go toward realizing its promises. Organizations that get started this coming year with a strategic approach to sales enablement will quickly get ahead of the game. Focusing on these six priorities will help your organization be among them.
George Brontén is a life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto “Don’t settle for mainstream,” he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. Inspired by the work of surgeons, sales best practices, and behavioral modeling, George has invented the SAAS platform Membrain.com to tech-enable sales process, sales methodology, training, and coaching.
The past few years have taught us the future is unsure and evolving pressures can create an unpredictable market. However, emerging trends and technologies can help sales teams prepare for these unexpected changes and help them craft adaptable strategies to effectively and quickly respond to whatever is thrown their way.
As we settle into 2018, here are the top four trends that will affect sales performance in the year ahead.
Trend #1: Selling as a team sport will replace “lone wolf” activity.
Sales reps have long been known for their go-it-alone personality type. Competitive by nature, sales reps thrive on setting their quota – and surpassing it.
In 2018, however, sales organizations will begin a cultural shift from this “lone wolf” mentality toward seeing selling as a collaborative endeavor. This change will be driven largely by new technologies, which are enabling more peer-to-peer collaboration and resource sharing – even for remote teams. Additionally, a natural next step will be the strategic shift in monetary reward structures, where sales organizations will begin to base compensation not only on individual performance, but also on an individual’s contributions to the advancement of team goals.
For the company as a whole, the business does well when the team performs well. By implementing a more strategic rewards system, compensation structures will not only drive improved performance for individuals, but will also promote peer collaboration, knowledge and information sharing, and more friendly competition to reach shared goals.
Trend #2: Process automation and AI will continue to change the role of the sales rep.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) was all the rage in 2017, but, in many cases, with little actual ROI. In the coming year, automation, predictive analytics, and AI will continue to mature – bringing with them notable changes to sales reps’ roles.
For example, AI will allow certain repetitive tasks to be off-loaded to automated tools, freeing up reps so they can spend more time delivering value to prospects and customers. Savvy sales teams will learn how to leverage the power of AI and predictive analytics to provide the most relevant and timely content to their sales reps – content that is not only tailored to the prospect’s specific industry and position in the sales funnel, but that, eventually, is specific to the rep’s individual learning style and knowledge gaps as well.
Taking this one step further, Aragon Research CEO and lead analyst Jim Lundy predicts chatbots will become quite prevalent by 2021, and anticipates that internal teams will begin building their own custom chatbots to quickly serve up and deliver customized info to prospects.
Trend #3: Microlearning will become mainstream.
No one really wants to devour lengthy PowerPoint® decks or dense training materials. In 2018, traditional learning methods such as these will continue to fade, being replaced by microlearning – allowing reps to more easily consume new information while on the go.
Bite-sized pieces of information, delivered through a dedicated sales training platform, will be used to extend and expand upon the skills and knowledge taught during onboarding and sales kickoffs – allowing reps to brush up on information on a daily basis. Microlearning enables sales pros to fit learning into their busy schedules when – and where – it works best for them, and has been proven to be a more effective way for reps to learn and retain information.
When delivered in a quiz-based format (like mobile flash cards) microlearning can also provide sales managers with insight into reps’ knowledge gaps and overall understanding of key topics – helping them further refine their sales training techniques.
Trend #4: Sales learning will become distinct from corporate training.
One of the most profound changes we expect to see in the coming year – and a trend that has long been growing – is the division between sales training and general corporate training.
Sales organizations are realizing that a Learning Management System (LMS) can’t meet their unique needs and are seeking out their own learning solutions – and using their own budget to pay for them. The fact is that corporate-focused LMSs simply can’t deliver the type of training sales teams require, such as just-in-time knowledge delivery, peer-generated video insights, and practice and coaching opportunities. 2018 will be the year of the sales training platform, where more and more teams adopt modern training tools as a way to share peer-generated content, video-based mentoring and training, and on-the-go access to deal-specific messaging and materials.
Simply put, sales teams are recognizing the benefit of tailored solutions and the value and ROI they bring to the company’s bottom line.
Mark Magnacca is the president and co-founder of Allego. Prior to joining founding Allego, Mark spent 15 years helping sales leaders to develop strategies to shorten sales cycles and distribute their best ideas faster. He has also worked as a presentation coach with a wide range of financial service companies by delivering innovative, practice-development and business-building strategies.