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Have you checked out the Hey Salespeople podcast is hosted by SalesLoft’s VP of Sales Strategy and self-proclaimed sales nerd, Jeremy Donovan?

Episode two is with Alyssa Merwin, VP of Sales Solutions, North America @ LinkedIn.  Alyssa has had a rocket on her back throughout her career, but it hasn’t come without a lot of hard work and learning to be receptive to feedback. In this episode, Jeremey and Alyssa talk about personal development and dive into the two hallmarks of sales (do you know what they are?).

Alyssa learned the difference between being directive and co-creating and began to see wildly different outcomes. That translates to sales, too.  Her team focuses on working with customers to provide them with the best solution for their needs.  During the conversation, Alyssa shares the way she teaches her team to demonstrate the value they can uniquely bring to each prospect.

Listen to this episode to learn how they practice what they preach at LinkedIn, as well as answers to questions like:

  • What advice did Alyssa receive about developing high performing teams at LinkedIn?
  • How do you show a buyer that you truly know them?
  • Does the number of LinkedIn connections within a target account affect win rates?
  • How do you show a prospect the value you bring specifically to their business?
  • What is Alyssa predicting to be the next wave in sales innovation?

Partial transcription:

Jeremey: Welcome to the Hey Salespeople podcast where we focus on delivering immediately actionable best practices for sales professionals. I’m your host, Jeremy Donovan from SalesLoft.  Today, it’s my pleasure to be joined by our guest, Alyssa Irwin, who is the Vice President for the LinkedIn Sales Navigator business in North America. Welcome, Alyssa.

Alyssa: Thanks, Jeremy. It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Jeremey: It’s truly an honor. I always like to try to get to that immediately actionable value by asking our guests what’s their favorite sales or leadership book or other type of resource?

Alyssa: Oh, gosh, there’s so many. I’ll tell you one that really has been a backbone of how I’ve thought about leading sales organizations, and it’s actually really synonymous with a lot of the work that I’ve been doing the last few years – The Advantage.

Jeremey: Patrick Lencioni. What is it about that book? What did you take away from it?

Alyssa: He talks so much about how to build teams and build trust. How to think about, when you’re in a leadership role, who your team is. So many of the things that he outlines are practices and tactics that, as leaders, we can adopt within our teams to create psychological safety in our teams. It’s how to get rallied around and focused on the right behaviors, and to build commitment and shared vision. Those are such critical components of building a high performing team. They’re all things that I’ve incorporated into how I lead.

Jeremey: I love one of the phrases you use there, which is who your team is. One of the interview questions I pretty much always ask when I’m hiring new leaders, first line manager or above, as I asked them, what’s your definition of your team? The answer I’m looking for right as it’s not just the people who work for you, right? It’s your team, it’s your peers, it’s the overall company, and it’s your stakeholders. So, I found that people who are hyper-focused on just the people who work for them, sort of overly guard and protect those people in ways that are even detrimental to them,

Alyssa: We all have to just be really conscious of where we’re operating. So both in terms of the peer group and the individuals that we’re connecting with. I found that I was getting some feedback that I was great at building high performing teams and really investing in building my organization. But I was not as much of an interdependent leader.

I got feedback that I needed to be thinking across working with my counterparts in other parts of the world or other parts of the business, to do a better job of making sure that we were collaborating and finding opportunities to work together and share ideas and best practices. That was a really important moment in the way that I started to think about who my team is, and leading the individuals who report to you versus working with your peers and those that are above you. That part really resonated with me when I read it in the book.

Jeremey: I always like to push when I hear the what and the why. What was the how? What did you change in the way that you did that actually allowed you to be successful in making that change?

Alyssa: Let me start with it’s a journey. We have ingrained behaviors and ways of working together norms that we get used to. It hasn’t been an overnight switch. But I have tried to be much more cognizant of both bringing my peers along and reaching out to get their input on the things that I’m doing. I’m trying to be more conscious of doing that upfront. Starting from a place of interdependence, as opposed to starting from a place of independence.

Jeremey: You just took me back to one of my greatest lessons, I was having an incredible struggle with a peer of mine. He was actually my boss, and then I got promoted to be his peer. He was hands down one of the best managers I ever had. I don’t really want to call him a manager – he was a leader, a developer.

Once he was my peer, I was having this incredible friction. So I asked our mutual boss for advice on what to do. He gave me that exact advice. He said, ‘Jeremy, your problem is that you’re trying to bring the solution to other people, and not putting them on the bus early enough,’ especially with that peer of mine. Once he was a co-creator, then obviously, things began to work out much better. So I think that’s a huge lesson.

Alyssa: That’s an area that I probably get a lot of feedback on because I like to move quickly. It’s less about wanting to do it all myself, but you feel like you know where you need to go and you want to just go execute. You can really overlook those really critical steps of bringing people along. I spent a lot of time with my team on this. You might be very clear about what needs to happen and how to do it, but being directive versus co-creating with your team gets you such wildly different outcomes.

I am trying to do more of that myself – co-create and be part of the process. It might take us a little bit longer, but we’re likely going to be a lot more successful. In the long run, if we come together with ‘this what we need to go do and let’s go get it done’. Again, work in progress. But it’s such an important leadership lesson.

Jeremey: I think another lesson in there is that co-creation does not mean creation by consensus. Co-creation means that you, as a leader or as a decision maker, apply a consultative leadership style. You seek input from others but ultimately make the decisions.

Alyssa: Absolutely. We’ve got to be the person that moves things along. We are creating space for everyone’s input, but ultimately you’re still going to need to be the one to make the decision and move forward.

Jeremey: What is the first thing you ever remember selling?

Alyssa: I grew up in a really small beach town called St. Augustine in Northeast Florida on the Atlantic coast. And every year there was is a craft fair downtown. When I was maybe nine or 10, a girlfriend and I decided to sell greeting cards that we created using our fingerprints. We turned those little fingerprints into animals and all sorts of fun little cards, and we called them Pinky Prints.

Jeremey: You had branded them. Wow, that’s clever at nine years old.

Alyssa: We had branding, we had great packaging, it was a really fun experience. It was my first exposure to being a salesperson, and the challenges and the rewards that come with it.

Jeremey: That’s amazing. I love the fingerprint greeting cards – Pinky Prints. I gotta remember that one.

So what I would love to transition into is understanding your perspective on how the sales landscape is changing, and what people need to do to react to that. I find one of the best ways to do that is to walk through your own career progression. In each one of those steps, what did you notice? How did things change? Perhaps things that stopped working, or things that started working and that you learned along the way? You started out in the early 2000s as a fresh young sales associate after graduating with a degree in political science. What was that transition like?

Alyssa: Probably like a lot of us who are in sales today, I stumbled into it not really knowing what I was getting myself into. It turned out to be the best thing that ever happened. When I started out, I thought I was going to a consulting firm with CB Insights – who does best practices research and some consulting-ish services. The entry-level job was a BDR role, a sales tough role. That as my very first job out of college.

Growing up, I didn’t think I was a very competitive person. I played tennis rather competitively for most of my childhood and through high school. I loved the sport, and I loved the game. But I did not actually like playing singles. I liked playing doubles, I hated playing singles. I was actually quite a good player, but I kept getting into my own head. I’d be up 5-0 in the second set about to win the match, and then get in my head and throw the whole thing. Not on purpose, of course. But I would just psych myself out. I realized I don’t like the zero-sum outcome where one person wins and one person loses.

Maybe subconsciously, I would have rather been the loser than the beating someone. I actually don’t think I would have thought sales would be good for me. But what I realized in that first role is that sales is not a zero-sum game at all. In fact, we can all be successful. We can help each other and we can all benefit. I absolutely love that and found that it was one of the things that made me fall in love with sales.

Jeremey: I think it’s so much the dedication as an individual sport athlete that you have in enterprise sales. It is a team selling motion. But so much of what you do as a salesperson, especially as you’re coming up as a salesperson, is very individual, right? There are the challenger sellers and lone wolves and so on. So much work in sales really does come down to you winning the deal. It even has that language in it.

Alyssa: I would say so much of success in sales comes down to individual dedication and accountability to the inputs that matter. If you’re not disciplined enough to put in the extra work, to make the extra call, or whatever that that extra step is, I think that’s what really ends up setting people apart. More so, in my opinion, than your sales skills. It’s really the behaviors on the front end that I think dictate the outcomes. I can see where that corollary between folks that are in sports that are more individual, where you only have yourself to rely on. That makes a ton of sense.

Jeremey: Yeah, we won’t go through your incredible progression at CB from account management to Senior Director of Sales, but I’d love to hear about that nine-year journey. How did you see sales evolving? 

Alyssa: When I started right out of college, CB was a really well-oiled machine. We had a really strong, clear sales process. As a BDR, probably like a lot of others around the world, we were smiling and dialing. It was all about cold calling. We were selling a product that we had to create a need for and, in a lot of cases, that prospects weren’t necessarily aware of it – the solution we were offering. It took an enormous amount of cold calls to try to get a foot in the door. I don’t know that we had dial minimum per day. But we were certainly making 100 dials a day and needing to schedule for at least 30 live meetings a month for the account executives.

Let’s call that the face-to-face era. Cold calling was the currency of a sales executive and held a lot of the value…

THERE’S A LOT MORE AFTER THIS! Listen to the full episode fo the rest of Jeremy’s conversation with Alyssa.

If you have a passion for the art and the science of sales, are looking to further your career, or just want to hear some great, practical tips, ‘Hey Salespeople’ is the podcast for you. Subscribe so you can follow along as he interviews the brightest minds in modern sales to bring you immediately actionable advice. Listen and subscribe here.

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This week we are very excited to announce the launch of Hey Salespeople, a podcast hosted by the one-and-only Jeremy Donovan, SalesLoft’s VP of Sales Strategy and self-proclaimed sales nerd.

If you have a passion for the art and the science of sales, are looking to further your career, or just want to hear some great, practical tips, this is the podcast for you. Subscribe so you can follow along as he interviews the brightest minds in modern sales to bring you immediately actionable advice.

Episode one is with Trish Bertuzzi, CEO of The Bridge Group.  In this episode, Jeremey and Trish talk about topics that range from sales leadership skills to the right and wrong ways to prospect. (Spoiler alert: People appreciate honesty.)

She also talks about phones and voicemail.  Who knew that’s what this thing in your hand was originally intended for?

44% of people in a Bridge Group survey don’t have a desk phone… but 56% DO have one. Plus, everyone has a cell phone. Trish admits that her phone number is easy to find, yet her phone never rings.

Are we losing the ability to communicate human to human?  Or will we shift back?

Interested?  Listen to this episode for more on voicemail and answers questions like:

  • What does it mean to be a vitamin vs. aspirin in sales?
  • What is on her cons list of leadership skills?
  • How is Trish’s data-driven approach so different?
  • What type of prospecting email or call will get her to respond?
  • Who actually picks up a phone?
  • How does like-ability matter in the sales process?

Partial transcription:

Jeremey: Welcome to the Hey Salespeople podcast where we focus on delivering immediately actionable best practices for sales professionals. I’m your host, Jeremy Donovan from SalesLoft. Today it’s my pleasure to welcome to the show, someone that I’ve been a fan of for years and years. I truly enjoyed her book, The Sales Development Playbook, and probably everything her company, The Bridge Group produces.

My guest today is Trish Bertuzzi, the CEO and Founder of The Bridge Group. Welcome, Trish. It’s such a good opportunity as always to speak with you and to share some of your wisdom today with our listeners. I always start with a couple of questions I like to get a baseline on everyone. The first question I love to ask is, as you reflect on all the sales books you’ve read over the years, which one is your favorite and why?

Trish: You know what a hard question that is, right? It’s so hard, but upon reflection, and I had been thinking about this lately, I think the sales book that had the most enduring impact would have been Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm.

Jeremey: Wonderful book. People may not be familiar with it. What was it there was so special about that for you?

Trish: The reason it was so special to me is that it articulated in a way I had never heard before, a plan for growing a business. You know, we all have these great ideas for our businesses, right? And I talked to people all the time who call me and they’re like, Hey, I’m going out with a startup and here’s what we do. Geoffrey Moore had a way of articulating, are you a vitamin or are you an aspirin? That’s my interpretation of what he said. If you’re a vitamin, you’re a nice-to-have, but not everybody’s going to buy you. You have one strategy.

If you’re an aspirin and you’re solving a pain, you have another strategy. And for those ‘aspirin’ people he articulated a way to go to market, that was very simplistic. Pick a niche, establish your benchmark, cross the chasm and expand. Because we get so excited when we start, we’re like, ‘oh, I’m a horizontal play. I can sell to anyone.’

No, you can’t. Those who focus are those who win and Geoffrey Moore owns articulating that in a way that was better than anything I’ve ever read sets.

Jeremey: It absolutely changed my perspective on understanding that whole concept about finding the niche. I think about a basic service and price frontier. You pick a place on that efficiency frontier and you’re going to operate in that place. But that signals what your brand is and some things are no frills or low frills and some things are high service.

It’s not that you can’t be both, but you can’t be the ultimate lowest cost and the ultimate best service. Those things don’t go together. The second question I’d like to ask is to wind the clock back to a story about the first thing that you ever remember selling.

Trish: The first thing I ever remember selling was me. And I didn’t even know I was selling it, but I did know when I had to close it. So a million years ago, I was a waitress at a place here in Massachusetts called Ken’s Steakhouse. It was back in the days of the three-Martini lunch for executives. And every day the CEO, VP of sales and CFO for a local tech company would come into cans and they would sit in my station and I would wait on them every day.

One day the CEO said to me, ‘Trish, you are rude, obnoxious, arrogant, and hungry and you should be in sales.’ And I said, ‘give me a job.’  He laughed. But he didn’t laugh for long because I went at him, the CFO, and the VP of Sales every day for the next three days, telling them why they should take a risk on an unknown entity to help them sell their technology. And they did. That launched my career in sales.

Jeremey: What was it? Obnoxious, arrogant and hungry.

Trish:  Rude, obnoxious, arrogant, and hungry.

Jeremey: I just want to be careful with that. It’s like if you’re hiring people, is that the profile that you look for is hungry? What about the rude, arrogant, and obnoxious side?

Trish: Well, you have to think about it. This wave, so first of all, they weren’t interviewing me. They had one view of my personality and anyone who’s ever met me knows I am extremely direct. I am extremely aggressive. I don’t suffer fools gladly. So their interpretation of me was couched in those terms. Which by the way, I was flattered. I didn’t view any of those in the negative.

Additionally, we’re talking about a long time ago. There were fewer women that had my communication style. Would they have used those same adjectives? If I was a man, I’m going to say no. Whatever it was, I took it as a positive. I saw an opportunity. I went for it. It launched my career.

Jeremey: I’ll preface this next segment by saying one of the things that made me a Trish Bertuzzi and Bridge Group fanboy for so many years is that you take a data-driven approach to pretty much everything you do. So I just wanted to thank you for that.

Trish: We take a very data-driven approach to sales. I think one of the ways we differ from some others who also publish data is we get very specific. If we publish a survey, not everyone on the face of the planet can take the survey or they can take it, but then their data is eliminated because it isn’t accurate. Understanding who has the information we need to collect and only allowing those people to participate has been the rock bed of what we’ve done. And I think it served us well.

Jeremey: It really shows. I know you as a CEO of a company and that is highly influential. You probably get a ton of prospecting emails. What engages you when you receive an email?

Trish: What engages me is someone who understands the business. They talk about what it’s like to be a services business… here’s how we help other management consultants or they reference something that they’ve seen. Whether they agree with me or disagree with me or they’ve read my book or anything that shows that they have invested a moment to understand how what they’re offering could potentially integrate with my business. When I get emails that are trying to sell me ERP systems and they’re quoting customers like  American Express, I’m like, ‘are you kidding me?’ That makes me crazy.

Engage with me; you need to know me to earn a reply. I would say I get two of those a month.

My phone number is everywhere. Everywhere. My phone never rings. Never.

Jeremey: It’s crazy. So it’s just the lazy ‘pull your name off a list, add it to their standard email, and fire away.’

I don’t even really have a phone number. Your sales engagement study that you guys did recently talks about this. I actually do have one phone number that I use as a secret shopper to test inbound response. I’ve become all email, which is so weird for me. From the folks that you run across is that now more the norm these days?

Trish: 44% of all decision-makers that we surveyed in that ultimate sales engagement guide don’t have a desk phone. It’s not that they don’t have a phone, they don’t have a desk phone.

Jeremey: They do have a mobile phone and a voicemail, presumably. Right?

Trish: Correct. 44% don’t BUT 56% still do. And there’s always mobile voice communications. We’re losing the ability to communicate human to human and it’s breaking my heart.

I actually responded to an email the other day and I said this is not a very good email because of this reason and I have to ask are you a Bot? And it wasn’t a Bot, but they were trying different things and I’m like well it’s not working.

Jeremey: What do you think it is about the Gen Xers that don’t like getting sales calls on their mobile phone… and if you’re older or younger, you’re okay with it?

Trish: I’m totally making this up. This is straight up gut conjecture. If you’re older, you’re used to a phone. That’s how humans communicated. It’s always been phone. If you’re younger, you’re kind of still phone obsessed.

Who are the busiest people? You know people your age – big jobs, busy jobs, commutes, small children. When they go to work, they’re in a workflow and they don’t want to be interrupted. The phone interrupts.

Jeremey: If you’re under 35, you basically were born with a phone attached to your hand. If I had a phone, I’d be checking it every time the red light was flashing.

Trish: That’s because you’re trying to get to inbox zero. So you’d be trying to get to voicemail zero. People do check their email once a day. It’s probably the biggest gap or their day, like while they’re eating their lunch. The stat itself isn’t what’s interesting. What’s interesting is what we can to do about that. If you’re leaving a voicemail – and you should be leaving a voicemail because it gives you an opportunity to tell a little piece of your story – you don’t want to sound like everyone else.

‘Hi, this is John Smith with Acme.’  Delete.

‘Hi, this is Kathleen Glass of XXX.’  Delete.

You have to think of voicemail is real estate and the beginning is Rodeo Drive. Don’t waste that real estate saying your name and company name. Say something interesting. Say something to grab attention. Arouse curiosity. There are fascinating statements you can make at the beginning of a voicemail that will make people just maybe sit back for a second and say, ‘okay, I’ll give it a go.’

Jeremey: What’s an example of that? Is it a question? Is it a provocative statement? If you had one of your own people calling you, would they start, ‘Hey Trish, did you know some factoid?’ How would you start it?

Trish: ‘Hey Jeremy, I was just looking at job descriptions on your website and I noticed that you have your sales development team calling back into your customers and going after new logos. I have research that shows that role specialization can increase productivity by 22%. I’d love to talk to you about it.’

Jeremey: In that phone call that you showed them that you know them.

One of your big takeaways in that sales engagement survey was how to engage professionals the way they want to be engaged.

Trish: You almost don’t know until they respond to something. One of the things that I think is a critical success factor – and you’re making me think about my own sales process. I’m taking mad notes for myself over here, by the way. You should say, ‘What’s your communication vehicle of choice? Email, phone, text? How do you want me to communicate with you?’

Give them what they want. We need to stop competing with each other and start just trying to do what’s right for the customer, based on what we can do for them.

THERE’S A LOT MORE AFTER THIS! Listen to the full episode fo the rest of Jeremy’s conversation with Trish.

Learn more from top sales leaders on Jeremey’s podcast, Hey Salespeople. Listen and subscribe here.

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Guest post by Sahil Mansuri, CEO and Co-founder of Bravado.

Why does a buyer talk to a sales professional?

  • To get pricing?
  • Take a demo?
  • Compare features and capabilities?

Historically, submitting your info to get pricing, a piece of content, a free trial… anything at all… was seen as a bear trap set by vendors to coerce buyers into a miserable sales process.

But thanks to G2 Crowd, Capterra, TrustRadius, Quora, Reddit, Twitter, LinkedIn, the Internet… buyers do NOT need to talk to a sales professional in order to get answers to their questions.

So let’s ask the question differently.

In 2019, why does a buyer talk to a sales professional?

  • Consultation.
  • Expertise.
  • Deep industry knowledge.

In other words, buyers no longer need to talk to you. Instead, you must convince them to choose to work with you. This is why building your personal brand is necessary to succeed in 2019. Otherwise, how will buyers know that you are a consultative expert in your field?

Welcome to the modern sales process: powered by human connection in an otherwise digitized world.

Okay. How do I build my personal brand?

Great question! The good news is, whether you realize it or not, you already have one! No need to start from scratch; just need to do a little self-discovery.

Shelley Zalis wrote for Forbes, “Personal branding isn’t about coming up with a complicated strategy. Rather, it’s about knowing who you are and what you stand for, and then finding ways to make that visible.”

The most trusted brands have:

  • Clarity – it’s clear what it is they stand for
  • Consistency – they deliver on what they promise
  • Constancy – they’re visible; they build and nurture relationships regularly

You may be asking yourself right now: What am I trying to be clear on? How can I be consistent if I’m not clear?

It’s totally normal to be unaware of what your strengths are. They come easily to you, so you’re not thinking about it! You have to recognize that the things that come easily to you do not come easily to other people.

You may feel like building your brand around your strengths is self-promoting. In fact, it’s the opposite. It is your duty to promote your strengths! You never know who can benefit from what you have to offer the world.

Side note: If you’re comfortable selling the features and benefits of your product, you should be comfortable selling the benefits of working with you. Whether you intend for it or not, customers aren’t just evaluating a product. They are buying the experience of being your client, too.

Self-Discovery

The best way to gain visibility into your strengths and find out what unique magic you have to offer is to do a little self-reflection. Understanding and discovering your personal brand is really understanding and discovering yourself.

Ask yourself:

  • How do you connect with others?
  • How do others respond to you?
  • How do others perceive you?
  • What are your personal core values?
  • What do people seem to always ask you about?
  • What makes you uniquely good at sales?

To dig even deeper into this self-discovery, ask your friends and colleagues how they’d answer these questions about you. How would they describe you? If there are areas of misalignment, take the opportunity to reflect and iterate on your self-perception. Then, pick the descriptions that resonate strongly with you. Focus on cultivating and amplifying them.

After you’ve got a good sense of these answers, it’s time to start putting it all to work.

Amplification

Below is a simple, three-step framework that we teach at Bravado for personal brand building. The steps are Curate, Annotate, Create.

Curate

It’s intimidating to just start publishing content or making videos, right? It’s totally reasonable to ease into it.

Remember the skills you wrote down earlier? That’s your secret sauce.

Find a few articles that talk about these qualities in a way that speaks to you. Maybe you’re passionate about being organized and efficient. Find a few articles that discuss how to maximize productivity and post them on LinkedIn with your top takeaway. You don’t need to do anything more than reshare 1-2 articles per week that fit your personal narrative and passions. Use hashtags to help relevant folks find your content.

Pro Tip: Set up Google Alerts, so you have a steady stream of fresh content coming in the door.

Annotate

Now you’ve started posting content that is relevant to your interests and helps the world see what matters to you. Next, it’s time to start annotating that content. Start by jotting down a few comments on the article that brings to light your personal knowledge of the space. For example: “This article discusses how to eliminate clutter. The 3rd tip around watching Marie Kondo videos is one I find especially useful.”

Maybe you agree, maybe you disagree, maybe you have something to add. Just have a point of view. Post your next piece of content with your thoughts. You’re essentially annotating and going a little deeper on each piece. Think Rap Genius, but on your LinkedIn feed!

Pro Tip: Do this regularly. Find a cadence you can stick to. Remember, Constancy is a foundational pillar of building a brand!

Create

After a few weeks, you’re will have read and thought about productivity and clutter on a regular basis. Now you’ve got enough references and opinions to write a Medium post or create a video. Choose the method you feel most comfortable with.

It can start simple: “5 Tips for Marie Kondo-ing Your Life.” Pick your 5 favorite tips from the articles you posted and combine them, along with adding a few personal notes. Boom, you’re an author!

Think of it as preheating the oven for content creation. It’s the easiest way for you to get started with creating content. You never know who is going to connect with something you wrote. Stay with it and give it time to build momentum.

Jeremey Donovan’s ‘Hey Salespeople’ posts on LinkedIn are a great example. He started with just a handful of people liking his posts. After just a couple months of daily posts, he’s earned more than 350 likes and 175 comments.

Don’t be afraid of putting yourself out there. Take the first step, and take another, and the momentum will drown out your fears quickly.

“If you have a voice inside your head that says you cannot paint, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.” – Vincent Van Gogh

Pro Tip: If you have any questions or want to learn more about how to build your personal brand, or why it is necessary to succeed in the modern sales environment, please connect with me on Bravado.

Want to learn more about ways top sales performers find success? Download research on the Best Practices of Top Performing Sales Reps here!

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Want a blueprint for how to become the best salesperson in the world? Or how about a yardstick by which to measure your leadership abilities? The good news is that you don’t need a career counselor or full 360 to get that additional insight.

All you need is to be self-aware.

Be honest with yourself about where you’re really strong and where you can struggle. It’s okay not to be great at everything! You can use it to become a better, more well-rounded sales professional. The ability to be self-aware is an invaluable skill that will serve you throughout your career.

Tony Hughes explores the 30 best qualities to have in sales in his book, The Joshua Principle.  We’ve expanded on them below with 30 questions to ask yourself to self-assess.

1. Persistence

Do you keep on going in spite of opposition, obstacles, and discouragement?

Gaining traction in an account takes persistence. There’s a reason it’s listed first here – persistence the main ingredient for sales success. Studies have shown that it takes at least 8 touches in a sales process to reach a prospect.

2. Honesty

Are you honorable in your principles, intentions, and actions?

The empathy-lacking, money-hungry stereotype of a salesperson doesn’t work in 2019. Buyers are looking for someone who will be a trustworthy partner and help them find a solution that addresses a particular pain point.

3. Confidence

Do you have a strong belief and full assurance in yourself?

Much like dogs can smell fear, prospects can smell a lack of confidence. Confidence isn’t arrogance. It’s a belief in your offering and the value it can add to your buyer’s organization. Managing objections in a way that transfers confidence to your prospect.

4. Fun

Do you provide your clients with amusement, enjoyment, and playfulness?

Sales is a fun profession. You get to meet with people all day long and help them find solutions to their problems. Share that with them! There’s no need for a sales interaction to be boring. Discovering a solution is fun and exciting – for both parties.

5. Teachability

Are you capable of continually being taught by your clients, your company, and your profession?

Study after study will tell you that lifelong learning is critical for success. It can be easy to fall into a routine and find yourself going through the motions. When you find yourself doing that, do something to inspire growth – find a conference, have a drink with your mentor, or sit down with a customer to talk about what they’re seeing in the market. You’ll both be better for it!

6. Work Ethic

Do you believe in the moral benefit and importance of work and its inherent ability to strengthen character?

A strong work ethic and the standards behind the work are necessary for long-term success. Sales is a funny profession – not many of us set out to be in sales. Even fewer of us went to school for it. Being exceptional requires sweat equity and – much like Tiger – sheer drive.

7. Passion

Are you able to express your feelings of excitement clearly and confidently to prospects and clients?

If you aren’t passionate about your solution and how it can benefit a prospect or customer, how can you expect them to get excited? Moreover, why would you want to sell a thing you don’t believe in? Tap into what turned you on to your company on day one, and transfer it to your prospects.

8. Team Player

Do you willingly work and cooperate with other sales reps and disciplines?

Being a team player ties into every other point on this list. When you work with your team, you are inspired to learn more and do more. They are your people, your tribe… and you need them to succeed. In the words of Michael Jordan, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”

9. Accountability

Are you capable of answering for your choices and decisions?

I’m sure we all got tired of hearing about it growing up, but taking responsibility for your actions – accountability – is critical to any relationship. Accountability is good for your own development, your team dynamics, and for your customer relationships.

10. Friendly

Are you kind and helpful in every sales relationship and supportive of your team?

Let’s be real – part of your job in sales is getting people to like you. Who would buy from someone they didn’t like? Who would help a teammate that was a jerk? People like friendly people.

11. Discipline

Are you capable of following a routine and keeping people on track?

One of the fun parts about sales is the freedom you have in your day. Don’t confuse that with a lack of discipline. There are a lot of ebbs and flows in the sales process, but with discipline (and proper planning), you can turn those ups and downs into consistent success. Execute your cadence, follow up when you say you will, and you won’t have that “oh man… it’s the end of the quarter, and I’m wayyyy behind on quota” feeling of regret.

12. Optimism

Do you expect favorable outcomes and work towards them in every sale?

It sounds cheesy, but there is power in positive thinking. We even called out being “competitively optimistic” in a post on ways to be a successful Account Executive. In short, winners don’t win by giving energy to the thought that they might lose.

13. Empathy

Can you easily understand buyer’s situations and help solve their problems?

Don’t underestimate the role of empathy in finding the right solution for a prospect. Today’s buyers are more independent than ever but are willing to give time to sellers who are empathetic and informed about their business needs.

14. Competitive Spirit

Do you have a strong desire to succeed and outperform your competition?

Business is no different than sports in that they’re both driven by healthy competition. Like an athlete, the drive the salespeople have to always be working towards a win enables success. Don’t get complacent and forget to feed it.

15. Stability

Can you provide consistency to your team and customers?

Have you ever heard the analogy about a duck looking peaceful on top of the water but below their feet are moving like mad to keep them going? Your customers should see the peaceful side of you that shows above the water. That consistent calm inspires confidence and trust.

16. Energy

Are you full of energy and have the ability to translate that energy to your buyers?

Energy begets energy. Can you imagine watching a football game where the announcers weren’t screaming into the mics? It gets you fired up, too!

17. Vision

Do you have the perception to visualize new strategies and create new opportunities?

Visualization is a real thing. Jim Carrey is a great example. Before he was famous, he was flat broke. One day, he wrote a $10 million check to himself for acting services rendered and dated it Thanksgiving 1995. Five years later, he earned $10 million making the movie “Dumb and Dumber.” That’s the power of visualizing success.

18. Leadership

Do people naturally listen to you and follow what you say?

Are you the type of person who creates pressure? Or are you able to provide focus and energy? Being a leader means being able to encourage and inspire people to action.

19. Maturity

Are you able to handle difficult situations with ease and face pressure collectedly?

This isn’t the kind of maturity that comes with age. Emotional maturity is an important part of what enables managers to become leaders. Maturity in the context of leadership is what allows managers to put their team ahead of themselves.

20. Sincerity

Do you operate free of pretense or deceit and share your genuine feelings with your clients?

You can’t fake sincerity. Without sincerity and belief in your offering, there is no way to form trust during the sale process. Build lasting relationships by understanding your buyer and providing them with something they genuinely need.

21. Thorough

Do you have full command and mastery of your actions?

Don’t enter a meeting without having done your due diligence in advance. Being thorough demonstrates command of a subject, which inspires trust, helps you create value… and prevents mistakes.

22. Consistency

Are you capable of delivering quality results to your team time and time again?

It’s too easy to focus on quantity at the expense of quality. If you consistently deliver quality results, it gives everyone – your customers, your leaders, and your teammates – confidence in that you will continue to execute in a way that is best for all parties.

23. Listening Skills

Can you actively pay attention when others are speaking and respond to their needs appropriately?

There’s a world of difference between listening for your turn to speak and listening to understand. If you really listen, you can ask better, more insightful questions that demonstrate empathy and understanding.

24. Competence

Do you have suitable skills necessary to adapt to a variety of scenarios?

Competence typically refers to the base-level skills required to do a job. It can also refer to competence in interacting with others. Does your attitude differentiate you as a leader?

25. Thoughtful

Do you show consideration for buyers to help them get value from your interactions?

Don’t fall into the trap of mindless action. Every buyer and every interaction is unique. Take the time to put some thought behind what they’re looking for and how you can personalize their experience.

26. Experience

Are you wise and skillful in each buyer conversation?

Experience is something to be leveraged in every conversation. Buyers are looking to you for guidance. Use past interactions and sales successes to provide best practices and words of wisdom that will help your current buyers.

27. Integrity

Do you adhere to ethical behaviors by striving to provide honest solutions to your prospects?

Professional integrity is arguably the most important asset you can possess. It should inform every action you take if you are to have lasting success.

28. Committed Mindset

Are you constantly engaged and self-motivated to achieve your business and personal goals?

None of these traits on this list are possible without commitment. The best, more respected leaders in history committed themselves to behave in a way that demonstrates all of these qualities.

29. Enthusiasm

Are you eager to come to work each day with a smile on your face regardless of current events?

Get excited about what you are doing, how you can help buyers, and the opportunities ahead of you. Enthusiasm is contagious. It’s a kind of fire-power that, when used wisely, motivates people and expands ideas.

30. Engagement

Are you deeply involved in conversations and able to identify the implicit needs of your clients?

Engagement consists of the various interactions we have all day long. Your level of engagement is up to you. Leaders will align every engagement they have with the qualities we’ve listed here to ensure interactions are of the highest quality possible.

Nobody in the world can be all these things at all times, but the best mimic them more than everyone else. Where can you improve? What can you do to get to the next level in your career?

Write down the areas you excel in and take a moment to congratulate yourself. Then, note the ones you need to improve upon most. Set a clear goal for each and seek help from a mentor or someone who demonstrates the quality in a way that you admire.

Also, check out this study about how top performing sales reps are getting it done.

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If you’ve ever read Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, you’re familiar with the 10,000-hour rule. First proposed by a Swedish psychologist, the rule states that exceptional expertise requires at least 10,000 hours of practice.

Tiger Woods would probably tell you it took well over 10,000 hours to achieve his latest Masters jacket. His was a journey that started at 3 years old. I’d venture to guess that the last five to 10 years have been the hardest, and required far more than practice.

To be exceptional requires practice, but also focus and sheer drive. Practice alone won’t get you to extraordinary.

Deliberate practice is focused. You have to have the drive to be exceptional. That is what keeps you going on the days you aren’t as motivated, when you’d rather sleep in. It requires that you seek outside feedback and reflect on your performance. And yes, it probably takes some help in the genetics department. At 5’3”, playing basketball every day for hours likely won’t turn me into Michael Jordan (although sheer determination, practice, and science can get you pretty far).

“I’m not out there sweating for three hours every day just to find out what it feels like to sweat.” – Michael Jordan

Isn’t this a sales blog?

Here’s how this translates to sales. If sales is your chosen profession, you already have that dose of “nature.” Hopefully, you enjoy what you do and you are passionate about it. If not, that may be another conversation.

Assuming that, let’s focus on practice, focus, and drive. How can you leverage those to be exceptional in sales?

Practice

Who here nailed their first cold call? Me either — but the bar was low. I felt like I won when I didn’t get sick to my stomach my first time out. With practice, we all get better and more confident.

Most of us heard “practice makes perfect” from coaches or parents growing up. It still applies as an adult. Beyond the practice built into onboarding, be deliberate in doing it throughout your career. As Tiger once said, “No matter how good you get, you can always get better.”

Try sparring with your teammates or sales leaders. This can be a fun activity; salespeople are naturally competitive. Individually, make a video of practice sessions. Observe yourself from the outside looking in. No doubt Tiger has watched thousands of hours of tape! No matter what it is, make practice a scheduled event. There’s nothing more deliberate than a block on your calendar.

Focus

Don’t just go through the motions. Playing hours of half-assed golf didn’t make Tiger who he is. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Instead, be intentional about learning, and sharpening your sales or sales management skills. You need regular feedback and practice that focuses on your weaknesses. Slow down and do it again. And again. Ask for more feedback. Rinse and repeat. Deliberately increase the difficulty of your practice. Raise the bar for yourself, and bring in others who can help you level up.

When you get in front of customers, apply those skills and carefully listen so you can identify problems, develop relationships, and help them be a leader of positive change who truly makes a difference to their organization.

Drive

At the end of the day, you have to want it. You have to have the drive to be the best version of yourself possible. Think about everything Tiger went through in 10 years — scandal, addiction, and spinal fusion surgery. He had the drive, the mental strength to come back and play what he called “some of the best golf I’ve played in my life” to win the Masters. In his biography, Tiger said, “I am the toughest golfer mentally.” He just proved it.

What gets you fired up? Talk to a mentor, visualize success, listen to a motivational podcast or TED Talk … whatever gets you fired up, do it! Keep yourself motivated.

What now?

By all means, practice. But don’t stop there. Don’t stop at 10,000 hours. Apply focus. Maintain your drive. Put in the work it takes to achieve the extraordinary. And never look back.

Be a Tiger.

Want to learn more about the behaviors that separate top sales performers from their peers? Download research on the Best Practices of Top Performing Sales Reps here!

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It’s the first day of your sales career. You’re ready to take on the world sales, one cold call at a time as a Sales Development Representative (SDR). Your new manager congratulates you and says, “Alright, you’re here. Tell me about your goals.”

How does one uncover what the next step in their sales career should be? (Beyond learning 8539 acronyms, that is.) From everyday best practices to the secrets for finding mentors, a panel of sales rockstars at this year’s Rainmaker inspired us to loft our careers.

The Premise

The traditional career path has started to fade away in recent years. More often, people will change areas of interest, management goals, and even careers. We’re free to explore different opportunities rather than stay with the same company for 50 years and retire with a pension (google it – that used to be a thing). In fact, on average, people change jobs 12 times these days.

Sales careers are no different. An SDR doesn’t HAVE to become an Account Executive (AE). AEs don’t always want to be in management. Many companies even offer opportunities for salespeople to move to different functional areas. You might discover sales enablement is your thing. Or maybe it’s marketing. The possibilities are endless!

The Experts

SalesLoft Account Executive Brad Ansley moderated the panel. SalesLoft Sales Executive Blanche Reese, Steve Dinner, Director of Business Development at League, and Jill Horka, Relationship Manager at Honest Buildings joined him on the Rainmaker stage to discuss how to get from where you are to where you want to be.

The Insights You know you want to move up the ladder, but maybe not in the same division. What are the best ways to get to that next level?

Reese says, “If you don’t have a mentor, find one. You don’t have to actually say, ‘Will you be my mentor?’ They don’t have to know that they are. Just find someone who you admire – the path that they’ve taken, or maybe the way that they’ve taken their path.”

Every manager, mentor, and executive has held an entry-level position. Use the experience of those above you to guide you to your next step, even if it’s an unconventional one.

To find a mentor within your organization, do some internal networking. Ask around to different departments and even conduct interviews. Horka advised, “figure out what people like about their role and what their day to day is like to see how that matches with what you’re looking for.”

As your organization grows, your network grows with it. Introduce yourself when you see someone new. Make an effort to keep in touch with people you might not directly work with. At SalesLoft we use a Slack app, Donut, that connects two employees at random bi-weekly. It facilitates employee networking and community. We call it ‘Coffee with a Lofty.’

What are the things you look for from a leadership team in terms of supporting your growth and helping you get to where you want to be?

Keeping your manager up to date on your personal goals keeps your relationship transparent. If your manager asks you “What’s next?” don’t reply “AE” simply because you think that is what they want to hear. That would be a disservice to yourself and your organization.

Reese advises, “work with your manager and say, ‘These are the things that I want to accomplish. What are the goals that I need to achieve before I can do those things?’”

As a manager, Horka expresses the importance of making sure employees’ voices are being heard. “Asking your employees what they’re hearing every day, and what they think could be better or worse definitely is helpful from my point of view. I feel like my opinion is valued in that you want to hear what I have to say.”

For individual contributors, it is your prerogative to have your voice be heard. Keeping your manager up to date on your thoughts about how to improve the team shows that you’re forward-thinking.

Dinner cautions, “understand and respect that there are certain things that are core to the company’s value proposition or to the way that the company wants to posture themselves, and that feedback is a two-way thing. The manager is there in some sense keep those pillars strong.”

What activities an SDR can do to demonstrate skills beyond cold calls and emails? How can they develop outside of their day-to-day activities to be considered for additional responsibilities or a promotion?

Taking on more responsibilities is a great way to progress in your sales career. A natural next step for SDRs is to stay with the customer longer on their journey. Talk to your manager about having the opportunity to follow through and run a demo yourself, rather than just staying on for the initial discovery call. In Horka’s organization, they have taken it a step further implemented demo certifications.

“We’ve done demo certifications with our SDRs, now they get to move forward past that stage. I think that’s another level that gets you more prepared to be an AE. Then, when you do get there, you just need to learn the closing, pricing, and negotiation.”

We do something similar at SalesLoft. Our SDRs are eligible for mini-promotions to SDR II and SDR III. This progression rewards performance and growth even if a role in the AE department isn’t open.

Most sales directors aren’t concerned that newly-promoted AEs won’t be able to learn to run effective sales meetings or discuss pricing. According to Dinner, “they’re worried that once you get into the seat, that maybe you don’t have the maturity to take on a number and understand what that actually means.”

By taking these smaller steps and proving that you are eager to advance, you give leadership confidence that you are ready for a bigger role. You have shown that you know what it means to deliver a better buying experience for prospects. That is what will set you apart.

The Next Step

Everyone is on their own journey. Your career path is your own. Lean into your own development. Build your tribe of supporters. Learn to be self-aware. When it is time to take the leap, don’t let up.

And always be sure to pay it forward.

Want to learn more about the behaviors that separate top sales performers from their peers? Download research on the Best Practices of Top Performing Sales Reps here!

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Inbound lead response time is critical to generating revenue.  Picture a world in which you locate the coffee you like on Amazon, only to have to fill out a request form and wait for a reply.  Then, imagine what would happen if they didn’t respond to your order request for 2 hours… 12 hours… and full day.

I would lose my mind. 

The root problem – having to wait for something you want – is frustrating in any scenario. Buyers have a need for immediacy – regardless of whether it’s a B2B or B2C interaction.

Inbound B2B Lead Response in Sales

What happens if your sales team pushes off responding to an inquiry for a few days – or even hours? You are already behind.

The lead may have already visited a competitor’s website and be further into the sales process with a more responsive salesperson. In the most extreme scenario, they might have already made a purchase decision. Failing at responding to inbound sales leads is costly.

SalesLoft’s SVP of Sales Strategy, Jeremey Donovan, got curious about inbound sales lead response time and turned it into a white paper.  A newly-submitted lead is already making headway through your sales funnel. How can a sales organization capitalize on that interest? We submitted lead generation forms on the websites of 97 B2B organizations to learn more.

There’s a lot of meat in this study about how businesses are (and are not) making lead response a priority.  In this post, we’ll cover lead capture options, response time, and the number of follow-ups to submissions.

Lead Capture Options

The ways companies can capture leads on their websites are increasing at the speed of technology. The figure below adds up to more than 100% because companies very rarely only offer one way to connect.

Percent of company homepages using various lead capture approaches

A ‘Contact Us’ option is standard practice. More than 50% of companies entice prospects with demos. Organizations with more complex offerings requiring managed setup and implementation are especially likely to do this. Companies with more self-explanatory offerings – typically those targeting individual corporate users to create a groundswell – offer free trials.

Lead Response Time

A study published wayyyyy back in the March 2011 issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR) found the median online lead response time was between 1 and 2 hours.  Hours, y’all.

Our research efforts revealed that the bar has been set higher in the last 8 years.

  • The percentage of companies responding in less than 5 minutes increased from 26% to 40%.
  • The median response time decreased from 1 to 2 hours to just 18 minutes.
Today’s inbound lead response time Responding to Inbound Leads

If we could offer you one piece of advice for responding to inbound leads, it is to be (pleasantly) persistent. When we looked at the number of times companies reached out to us over a period of one week, the results were surprising. True, one week is on the short side since some may have a longer cadence for follow-up. You certainly don’t want to annoy a lead. The fact still remains, as the chart below shows, that far too many companies give up after just a single touch.

% of companies by number of emails and calls with voicemail over a 1 week period

We also looked at multi-channel engagement. A whopping 82% of companies asked for a phone number on their lead generation forms. However, just 31% ever called and left a voicemail.

Make no mistake – phone calls are critical to securing meetings with prospects. Companies are clearly leaving money on the table by taking the email-only road. This aversion to using the phone seems to be a growing issue in the sales community. It may be easier to use email, but it isn’t more effective.

The Good News

Inbound lead response is an area of your business that can be quickly optimized to outperform competitors.  Be encouraged by the opportunity that exists for responsive sales teams willing to engage leads before the competition does.

This was just a small preview of the whole study.  Download the full study to learn about techniques for capturing leads, how to personalize responses, and dig deeper into a few real-world examples.

Learn more about responding inbound B2B sales leads, including specific inbound techniques, in this white paper: Best Practices for Inbound B2B Sales Lead Responses.

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A guest post by Rob Käll, CEO and Co-Founder @ Cien.

Your sales are being held back. The culprit? Intangible sales data.

What makes a good sales rep? It’s a question that constantly plagues sales leaders. If you know how to spot your best salespeople, you can feed them with more sales opportunities. You can also use that knowledge to train team members who are not exhibiting these skills, and piece together other influences.

For instance, the contribution that marketing is making to the sales process. We’ve all griped about low-quality inbound leads. However, the extraordinary sales reps are making them count anyway.

The problem is not in understanding the elements of a good sales professional – there is plenty of literature on better sales performance. The issue is identifying the best reps at your company, and pinpointing where they can improve. It’s about using sales data.

Books and blogs can’t help you with that. Unfortunately, neither can the sales data that most companies use for evaluating sales rep performance.

Much of the data required to understand who is performing best comes from intangibles that are hard to measure. Many sales leaders let these factors stay fuzzy. They rely on their gut when deciding things like the impact of lead quality and team mood on sales performance. This is a mistake. With the right metrics, sales teams could be driving greater sales success.

Everything Can Be Measured

There are no intangibles. That’s my basic philosophy in life. Everyone says there is this “gut feeling” and a “sense” for sales. But those things can be measured! You’re just not measuring them. You’re leaving the data fuzzy and at great cost to your business.

Sure, you can try optimizing your sales team with the usual fix: sending great leads to underperforming salespeople.

In many cases, poor performers are not bad at their jobs. They’re bad because they are missing the key ingredients to becoming a good salesperson. They haven’t been given the tools to get past an important roadblock: themselves. It’s extremely difficult to see this dynamic (and determine how to help) if the data is fuzzy and left intangible.

Turn your intangible sales team data into hard numbers. Otherwise, you cannot truly optimize.

Make Intangible Data Precise and Actionable

Let’s skip ahead and get to the meat. How you can measure intangibles like team mood or product knowledge? Are your lead assignments helping reps or holding them back?

There’s an app for that.

By structuring your sales data, you can measure the intangibles. You can have more defined parameters within your SalesLoft and your CRM. These will give you actionable next steps for improving your sales team performance.

AI-powered apps such as Cien make intangibles like work ethic, product knowledge, and closing ability much more measurable. Start by untangling the variables (like marketing’s contribution to sales) and break them down into measurable chunks that you can assign values to and therein measure.

Machine learning and natural language processing help make sense of this. For example, calculating the specific value of the leads handed to sales from marketing.

Then, sales leaders can understand previously ‘fuzzy math’ in a measurable way. What if you know exactly where marketing is adding value to leads?

Beyond that, you can measure seemingly qualitative factors such as team mood. You don’t just send out a survey asking how your team is feeling. If someone had a fight with their partner that morning, they will be feeling off during the workday. That isn’t what we mean by measuring team mood.

Instead, ask your sales team very concrete and relevant questions. Try “How do you feel about the training you received last month?” If the response is positive, that’s great. If it’s negative, then that was determinant to team mood.

You have to drill deeper with questions. It is easy for people to answer a question like “How are you feeling?” with a false answer. When you pass someone in the hall at the office and ask how they are doing, the reflex response – “doing great” – might not be honest or accurate.

So you also have to ask questions in several different ways to home in on the truth. Many questions, same goal.

Making intangibles meaningful also requires asking these concrete questions repeatedly, prompting trends to emerge. These data points only start to make sense when you see their changes over time, and how they relate to other sales data. By comparing all the inputs, you’ll finally be able to establish patterns and draw important inferences.

The outcome of your efforts is sales dynamics that are no longer intangible. Applying AI to your CRM data, what was previously fuzzy sales data can suddenly become a clear picture, with actionable improvement areas.

When assessing what your numbers are telling you, lean on structured metrics instead of the fuzzy and intangible data. The reward is better sales productivity and effectiveness, not to mention a happier sales team.

Rob Käll is an accomplished entrepreneur with 3 Successful MM exits in 10 Years. His latest startup, Cien, gives sales leaders an immediate edge by using the power of AI to increase the productivity of their teams. Automatically detecting problems, predicting outcomes and recommending the shortest path to success. A versatile leader that has served as Startup CEO, Corporate Exec and Technical Founder, Rob advocates a scientific approach to sales and marketing alignment. Connect with Rob on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Interested in learning about how a sales engagement platform can boost your sales data and transform your sales organization?  Download the full report here.

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Guest post by Peter Kazanjy, founder of Modern Sales Pros and of Atrium, makers of totally amazing continuously monitored sales performance analytics.

New hires are an investment, especially in sales. How can you make sure your new salespeople are up to speed in the least amount of time possible? Establish a formal Onboarding process.

Sales organizations invest a lot in finding the right people to bring onboard. They establish referral programs, conduct multiple rounds of interviews, and complete a mountain of paperwork (everyone’s favorite part). Everyone involved in the process hopes it leads to a successful outcome for all parties.

How do you set your new hires up success (and yourself for that ROI)? A consistent, intentional sales onboarding process. Here are the basics of how to create a successful Onboarding process.

Why Is Onboarding so Important?

You’ve found “the one.” The golden standard of salespeople. You know this person will succeed on your team, but it turns tragic when they don’t know it. This person doesn’t know anything about your organization, how you run your sales processes, what their day-to-day will look like, or even what is expected of them.

These are the gaps an Onboarding process fills. Be transparent in setting expectations and invest generously in training. It will pay off in spades when your incoming salespeople have a much better success rate.

If you lose 30%–50% of each sales hiring class to flameouts, in part due to faulty onboarding, you are eating this terrible opportunity cost again and again – not to mention the pure cost of the time and money you put into recruiting.

“The salesperson you haven’t hired yet, and haven’t gotten productive yet, isn’t generating the $50k, $100k, or $200k a month in sales they could be. Consider the future value of those customers as they recur, proliferate, and refer other customers, and that lost revenue looks even more troubling.”

In a HuffingtonPost article, Maia Josebachvili, VP of People at Greenhouse, found that “retaining a salesperson for three years instead of two, along with better onboarding and management practices, yields a difference of $1.3 million in net value to the company over a three year period.” The calculate expense is not limited to new hires; experienced staff can be just as costly.

Bottom line: Hire right. Enable right. Position your human capital for success. You won’t be sorry.

Onboarding 101

Day one. Your future top sales rep enters the lobby. Yes, they’re probably nervous. This might be their first job out of college or leaving a company they’ve been with the last five years. Either way, they’re the “new kid.” They’re carefully observing everything about your organization.

There are 3 ways you can make a great impression… even before they walk in day one.

1. Onboarding Structure

No one in the history of coaching has ever created a roster and stopped there. They have a very strategic book of plays. Onboarding works best if set up intentionally, like a class. One week may focus on how to use your product. The next week will go into your team’s sales process. Research indicates that 77% of new hires with a formal onboarding experience hit their first performance milestone.

Throughout the ‘course,’ there should be repetition in addition to new information. To make the process less mundane, incorporate challenges. Create teams to encourage the class to form bonds that last well after onboarding is over.

2. Pre-Work

Assigning pre-work for new hires can make that first day less stressful for everyone. This can be in the form of presentations, recordings of successful sales calls, or even reading material. The purpose is to give everyone a baseline of understanding so they can hit the ground running. Recent graduates or newbies to the tech industry might not know all the lingo. Provide resources so they know simple things like the difference between an AE and SE. It shows them that your team is willing to teach them and that questions are welcomed.

Prework can also be internal. A (very basic) welcome gesture is making sure all of their equipment is ready when they arrive. For extra brownie points have the sales team sign a card and gift the new class with a swag bag. At SalesLoft, all new hires are welcomed with branded apparel, stickers, a reusable mug, and a personalized welcome card.

3. Administrative

We’ve all been through a snooze-fest orientation (maybe more than a few times). The necessary evils of the first day include government paperwork, an explanation of employee benefits, and an overview of the departmental functions. The most important thing about this day is to make sure that in the end, new hires have a proactive, explicit, candid discussion of what is valued and expected in your organization. Leave on an inspirational note… and assure them that day 2 will be full speed ahead!

The tone is set for the success of your new sales professionals on day one. Providing resources for success, inspiring confidence in the organization, and transferring a feeling of inclusion to your new rockstars are critical in ensuring they’re excited and ready to take on the role.

Looking for more effective ways to coach once you’ve onboarded your new employees?  Download this eBook on Effective Sales Coaching.

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