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.
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.
Over the past few years, the conversation has been around the need for salespeople to align these two concepts and make sure these two processes are neatly tied together. The intention is to make it easier and more effective for us to facilitate change.
The assumption here is that both salespeople and customers are following some sort of process – that they both know and understand their process, that they can and will share theirs, and that they can be aligned.
In some cases, I believe two parties can sit down and work out an alignment of interests and the necessary activities to work together. But, if you are being honest (and I know you would never lie to me – much less yourself), when was the last time you or someone on your team asked to share your process, asked for the client to share their process, and gained agreement on how to proceed with the conversations and commitments necessary to change? How many deals follow your process without interruption or deviation?
Player, Play Caller, and Coach
You already know what non-linearity looks like in the sales process. It tends to manifest in the following ways:
We progress through some conversations with customers – only to go backwards two steps when a stakeholder leaves the company
A new executive enters the picture
The company’s priorities change
The prospect decides to acquire another company
The initiative is greeted with resistance from key stakeholders
Purchasing decides your deal is interesting enough to require an RFP
Someone has low blood sugar in the meeting where you are presenting your solution
The CFO decides there is no longer a budget
The reason I am agnostic about which sales process you use – whether it is off the shelf or custom built for you and your company – is that they all have merit. They all start with the intention of playing the game in a way that provides the best chance of winning.
I am also agnostic about methodologies (I’ve even developed my own). These are the ways we execute a play – like a football play. Selling well now requires you to be player, play caller, and coach.
Player: Because all the negative events in the list above are things that happen in the normal course of selling, you have to be an excellent player to sell well. You have to know how to execute your play – be it something your process dictates or some methodology that has been bolted on.
Play Caller: What is also true is that you must also be the person calling the play. You have to be able to look at the situation and your goals and make a good decision from the choices available to you – even when there is nothing in your process or methodologies to direct you.
Coach: A coach has a different view of the game. Coaches see the larger strategy and – because of what I would call their “situational awareness” – they have greater context from which to derive their choices, improvise and create novelties, create a mismatch or an asymmetrical advantage, and determine what might be done to succeed in different situations.
The fundamental principle here is this: Right and wrong are moral decisions. In problem solving, you are looking for choices, which means effective or ineffective. When we believe there is one right answer – one way to produce some result – we are cutting ourselves off from choices, the very choices we need to play a game that is more non-linear than ever.
You want to be Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. You want to be someone for whom the game looks like it is being played at half speed.
Anthony Iannarino is an entrepreneur, speaker, and author. He is the managing director of B2B Sales Coach & Consultancy, an adjunct faculty member at Capital University School of Management and Leadership, and a certified Peak Performance Mindset trainer. Anthony writes for SUCCESS magazine and Think Sales magazine. He also writes daily about sales, leadership, management, and success at thesalesblog.com.
The late, great Jim Rohn said: “Motivation alone is not enough. If you have an idiot and you motivate him, now you have a motivated idiot.”
Jim was right. Motivation can sometimes be just a bandage – a temporary solution. .
Just like you, I’ve been to the seminars where you leave feeling on top of the world, vowing to change. Then you arrive home – and reality hits you smack in the face. All that motivation to change is now shelved for another day.
Motivation doesn’t teach people one essential tool needed for lasting change. It’s just a quick sugar high that needs constant feeding to keep the high going. Positive thinking isn’t enough, either. It takes the right mindset and understanding of why thoughts go negative..automatically.
This is a very broad subject, and this article’s focus is solely on the initial steps you can take to make motivation and positive thinking stick in a permanent way.
Preparing Your Mind for Success
The first thing to do is address your daily habits. What daily habits do you practice to set your mind up for success?
First, notice I didn’t say set you up for success.Why the distinction? Because most people do not intentionally pay attention to their thoughts. The 60,000 thoughts competing for attention every day? They mostly run in the background of your mind. Usually what gets your attention are thoughts of fear, anxiety, and condemnation. As you’ve been taught, when these thoughts enter your consciousness, you either dismiss the thoughts immediately or launch into your positive affirmations – repeating the chant over and over in a rote process. Sound familiar?
Neither dismissing nor positive rote chanting works. Maybe they will – for a few minutes – but, within less than an hour, the negative thoughts, fear, and anxiety slowly return.
For most people, negative thoughts are automatic. I tell my clients they have ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) crawling around in their mind. (I wish I knew who coined the term “ANTs” to give them credit for such a wonderful visual of negative thinking habits.) You know this kind of person…you’re excited about something positive that occurred in your life, so you tell Negative Ned all about it. But you walk away wishing you’d kept your good news to yourself – because Negative Ned’s negative viewpoint poked holes through your good news.
Don’t waste your time trying to fix Negative Ned. Instead work on not letting Negative Ned, anybody else, or any other circumstance or situation bring you down.
That’s why it’s important to set up daily habits and to understand your Mindset Operating System.
Think of daily habits as your daily mental gym. Journaling is the gym. Each time you record your thoughts and reflect on your day, your mental muscle will begin to grow and strengthen.
WARNING: This daily habit is to raise your awareness; it isn’t an exercise in judging yourself.
Seven Essential Daily Habits
#1 – Goals: How can you benefit from a daily goal? Research shows when you state a goal and put it into writing, you have a far better chance of reaching your goal. If you have a yearly goal, (which can seem daunting) break it down into monthly, weekly, and daily goals. In your journal describe the progress you’re making and the obstacles that need a better solution.
#2 – Gratitude: Gratitude boosts happiness. There’s all kind of research that supports this. When you write about the gratitude you feel, you’ll be more joyous about life.
#3 – Victories: Do you recognize your victories? What about the small ones? Recording even the smallest victories is evidence of your wins. A year later, review your victories. It’s a clear vision of progress. So, no matter the size, record each victory.
#4 – Lessons Learned: Every day is an opportunity to recognize lessons. What lessons have you learned? Are there any that repeat? The new lessons learned are proof you’re improving your mindset. Track your learned experiences.
#5 – Happy Moments: Record what makes you happy. The more you’re aware of what makes you happy, the greater the chance of creating a happier life.
#6 – Learning Goals: Gerhard Gschwandtner says, “The road to learning runs parallel to the road to earning.” Become curious. Increase your passion for reading books. If you want to make more money, then begin self-education. Sign up for workshops, seminars, webinars. Don’t wait for your boss to send you; you take control of your career and life.
#7 – Action Idea: Productivity’s road is paved with ideas and creativity. Capture your new ideas every day in your journal. This will help you transform and grow your mindset.
Your goal this week is to look into your mind and record the Seven Essential Daily Habits. Notice how your awareness increases as the week progresses.
Earlier this month, Gartner unveiled its 2018 CIO Survey, which summarizes what is top of mind with CIOs moving into 2018. The respondents were 3,160 CIOs from 98 countries and all major industries, representing approximately $13 trillion in revenue/public sector budgets and $277 billion in IT spending.
So what did they have to say?
The first thing that sticks out is that CIOs are routinely driving business outcomes in partnership with business leaders. In years past, CIOs have spoken about their struggles to gain a seat at the table with business owners and their challenges in trying to align with the business. Today, at least 84 percent of the CIOs surveyed say they now have responsibility for areas outside traditional IT and many reported they are close to an “ideal balance” with more focus on business outcomes rather than IT delivery. Their roles are transitioning from controlling costs and engineering processes to driving revenue and exploiting data.
For 2018, 26 percent of CIOs surveyed say their No. 1 priority is growth – to use digitized products and services to drive new forms of revenue, business value, and customer engagement.
Yes, CIOs have come a long way from the data center. And their jobs have become more challenging than ever. They have to manage more change and complexity than ever before, evaluate a steady stream of new technologies and vendors, and navigate an ever-shifting landscape of skills and talent. Plus, they have to make sure all the basic infrastructure is up and running – and that everything is safe and secure.
What does this all mean for those of us who are in the business of helping CIOs?
Well, for one thing, it means the percentage of CIOs exclusively focused on “keeping the lights on” is falling. The pivot to growth as a main focus of top CIOs opens the door to more sophisticated business conversations and solutions – ones that some CIOs may not have been ready for just a few years ago.
That’s not to say everyone is there yet. Gartner noted that some are “trailing” when it comes to digitalization, so there are CIOs out there who are still mainly “keeping the lights on.” It could be challenging to engage this type of CIO around a broader business transformation vision when they are still operating in survival mode.
So how do you know who’s a leader and who’s “trailing” – or at the very beginning of their digitalization journey? You can usually tell by doing some homework on the company and the CIO you are targeting. Look at what the company’s executives are saying on earnings calls. Does the CEO call out technology, innovation, and digital as investment priorities? Or is the focus mainly on cost cutting? These things can give you a clue as to how you should focus your conversation for maximum relevance.
Finally, if you are targeting CIOs, prepare to live in a state of near-constant change. Why? Because that is their reality; 95 percent of CIOs surveyed by Gartner expect their jobs to change, thanks to digitalization. For those of us who want to help them, it means we need to keep up – and keep on coming up with ideas and solutions for helping them meet their business goals.
Sharon Gillenwater is the founder and editor-in-chief of Boardroom Insiders, which maintains an extensive database of the most in-depth executive profiles on the market – from Fortune 500 companies to independent nonprofits – to help sales and marketing professionals build deeper relationships and close more deals with clients. Gillenwater is a long-time marketing consultant with expertise in marketing strategy, account-based marketing, and CXO engagement programs.
People often say that any successful product design must be at least two of the following: fast, cheap, and reliable. An MIT scientist later upended this idea, suggesting that space exploration would be more successful if it were “fast, cheap, and out of control.” He argued that, instead of sending one large robot into space, sending 100 tiny, “out of control” robots would be better.
Why? Sending more robots offers a greater chance of success. If one failed, there would be another that didn’t. NASA could afford to lose a few.
This strategy presents an unsettling similarity to how some approach inside sales.
Advances in sales and marketing automation allow sellers to reach more customers in less time. However, inside selling cannot succeed on volume alone. Unlike those tiny robots, sellers can’t afford to lose a few customers. Each one counts. Therefore, inside sellers need a framework to yield value from every interaction. That framework is Consultative Telephone Selling.
The Rise of Inside Sales
Traditionally, many businesses relied on face-to-face meetings to win the sale. However, “Cost pressures resulting from the economic downturn have forced many B2B vendors to reevaluate that stance, with surprising results,” writes McKinsey. By emboldening their inside sales team, one global brand “reduced travel costs for sales specialists by 50 percent globally, saving millions of dollars a year.”
Meanwhile, today’s customers are also getting accustomed to inside selling for two reasons. First, they are more comfortable making a buying decision without meeting the seller because they want immediate solutions. Second, the average number of decision makers is rising as the logistics of managing different schedules has become prohibitive. For customers, working with sellers over the phone and video is becoming a necessity.
However, in the race to reach more customers, sellers cannot afford to sacrifice quality. The customer must still be part of the inside sales equation. However, according to Gallup, less than half of customers believe that sellers adequately address their problems. A consultative approach is helping more sellers overcome this challenge.
Unlocking the Value of Inside Sales
The core of Consultative Telephone Selling is the ability to understand customer needs. It’s also the skill most lacking in sales today. Effective questioning starts by providing the rationale for the inquiry. This preface encourages customers to share information.
Remember, questioning shouldn’t be an interrogation. Sellers need to earn the right by balancing their questions with insights. By offering relevant ideas, the seller establishes credibility. As the seller moves through these questions, they must acknowledge what the customer said as they lead to the next question because it’s too easy for the customer to disengage over the phone.
Ultimately, customers will be receptive because the information is relatable. However, keeping information relevant means avoiding the tendency to show the volume of one’s findings. Sellers must share only the most relevant information. Otherwise, they risk losing the customer. Volume doesn’t necessarily equal value.
As this exchange builds, rapport develops – allowing the seller to float ideas. Doing so starts with a carefully crafted value statement linking the seller’s capabilities to the customer’s challenges. The value statement must address:
What’s important to the customer
How the seller can help
What outcomes can be expected
A strong value statement fits the inside selling model because it’s brief. Brevity matters because inside sellers leverage technology to reach more customers in less time. With a concise articulation of value, a seller can form a connection faster over several calls.
After sharing insights and a value statement, consultative sellers need to get feedback. Customer feedback offers clues to closing. Take time to check with the customer that the solutions discussed meet their challenges. This information is needed “in the moment” when the seller can react. Getting the customer’s reactions is critical in keeping ideas malleable. Additionally, asking for the customer’s perspective demonstrates a commitment to a collaborative, consultative process.
Excellence in Consultative Telephone Selling is the driver of inside sales. Sellers equipping themselves with these skills are learning how they can approach each call with dialogue that’s relevant, persuasive, and “in control.”
Ben Taylor is content marketing manager at Richardson. He has an MBA in finance from LaSalle University and more than a decade of business and writing experience. He has covered content for brands such as Nasdaq, Barclaycard, and Business Insider.