RAIN Group Sales Blog

Your source for sales advice, tips, research, and insights to unleash sales potential.

Not Today is unlike the other books we’ve written and talked about in this space. While it’s certainly applicable to sales and selling—our clients have been benefitting from The Productivity Code and related content for years—it’s not your typical business or self-help book.

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Nobody wants to be unproductive. Nobody wants to procrastinate. Nobody wants to fall short of their goals and see their dreams fade away.

Yet, when many people ask themselves, “Am I ready to stop putting off my future, make a plan, and change?” they all too commonly, deep within their psyches, answer, “Not today.”


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The word "no" can be a tough pill to swallow.

In selling, when you're trying to meet a quota, squeeze in an extra deal before the end of the quarter, or get your bonus, the word "no" is too often interpreted as a sign to run for the hills.

Worse, some salespeople see most objections as a call to battle. With this attitude, it’s no wonder they handle sales objections poorly. However, when we break it down, you can see that objections can actually be a good thing.

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Almost all sellers at some point in their career will consider adopting a time management system to improve their productivity. Few stick with it. The challenge is that many time management systems focus too deeply on the activity level—what to do first, what to do next, what the priority order is—without paying enough attention to the bigger picture.

We studied the habits of extremely productive people—we call them The XP—in a global productivity research study with more than 5,000 participants to date. Not only did we learn their habits, we found that the most productive people are also more satisfied with their jobs, more likely to be top performers, and are happier.

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Great sales questions help you find out what’s going on in your buyer’s world. They help you connect with buyers, understand their needs, understand what’s important to them, and help them create better futures for themselves.

They help you disrupt buyer thinking and change buyers’ perception of what’s true and what’s possible. They help you drive the sale forward and avoid pitfalls that can derail the sale along the way. 

Great sales questions help you win sales.

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Becoming a top seller has always been part art and part science. The following are among the hallmarks of successful sales professionals:

  • Deep expertise in your company’s offerings and industry
  • The skills to determine customer needs and proactively drive opportunity
  • The ability to help buyers to shift and set new priorities and attack challenges with better approaches

However, being successful in sales also requires the ability to connect, engage, collaborate, and influence buyers remotely.

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If you’re like most sellers, you find yourself negotiating deals with a buyer’s procurement team at least some of the time. Certainly, the frequency with which you’re dealing with procurement and purchasing professionals will vary based on industry and product category, but being skilled working with procurement is often the key to moving your deal across the finish line in a timely way.

You might wonder whether there’s any need to negotiate differently when purchasing plays a role. The answer is yes—and no.

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TL;DR? Download the PDF and save it for later.

Many sellers assume buyers don't want or need to talk to them early in the buying process. 

This simply isn't the case.

In fact, our prospecting research reveals buyers want to hear from sellers early. 

When Do Buyers Want to Hear from Sellers in the Buying Process?


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Note: You can download this article as a PDF to save it for later! 

Developing relationships, collaborating online, leading virtual sales conversations, gaining and keeping attention, leveraging technology, making the ROI case, delivering value—these are hard to do regardless of the sales and economic environment.

But, do these become more difficult when selling virtually versus face-to-face? Are some areas more difficult for sellers than others? What influences buyers’ purchase decisions when buying virtually?

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Sales is about change. It’s about getting people to go from where they are—their current state—to a new and better place—their future state—or what we call the New Reality.

In our decades of work with clients globally and our proprietary research, we’ve identified 11 ways sellers can influence buyers throughout the sales process to guide them to their New Reality.

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For many, the transition to virtual selling went something like this: one minute you were a basketball superstar with pretty good moves and a decent field goal percentage. Then you were thrust into a baseball game, handed a glove, and told to win. On a completely different field. Requiring a completely different skillset.

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It's 2021 and now is the time to begin executing on your plan to blow the doors off your sales goals. But so much in sales has changed in the last year alone. 

Where should you begin? What’s going to make the biggest difference? What are others doing that's working today?

To answer these questions, we looked across our sales research studies and pulled out 6 key ways Top Performers stand out compared to The Rest.

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How do buyers make purchase decisions? Why do they choose one provider over another? Are there things you, as a seller, can do to influence their decisions?

As the world transitioned to virtual selling in 2020, we wanted to know how this was impacting buyers and sellers alike. We surveyed 528 buyers and sellers across the Americas, EMEA, and APAC. We asked buyers what influences their decisions the most when buying virtually. Their responses provide some interesting insights as to how buyers make decisions.

Below, we’ve compiled the top 9 factors that influence buyers’ decisions and share how you can be more influential in your selling efforts.

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“Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” – Seneca

If you want to generate the best opportunities and set yourself up for success in 2021, you need to prepare.

And there’s no better way to prepare than by using data-backed findings on what’s working (or not!) for the most successful sellers.

The RAIN Group Center for Sales Research has been leading proprietary research to discover the most effective strategies and tactics in sales for nearly two decades.

In this deck, we share ideas, tips, and resources to help you prepare so you can create your own luck this year.

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A productive sales team is a successful sales team.

Companies all over the world are struggling with sales productivity and the added pressure to hit their annual goals only exacerbates the problem. If your sales team isn’t continually assessing their strengths and weaknesses as strategies shift, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice.

Your sales team should always be in a state of growth—keeping existing skills sharp, developing new selling tactics, and maintaining strong bonds with your customers.

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Virtual meetings are now part of our everyday reality. Even in situations where you’re able to meet with some folks in person, you’re still likely to face a high number of virtual meetings on your calendar.

This isn’t going to change any time soon.

The way the world does business has shifted drastically in light of the pandemic. Even when it’s safe to do so, we’re likely to see many people continuing to work remotely because technology and processes have been put in place to make it a viable long-term option.

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A seller’s job is to drive change.

The best sellers lead sales conversations down the right path by asking strong questions, setting the agenda, sharing ideas, summarizing and communicating the impact of taking action, involving the buyer in creating a solution, and inspiring action.

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As a classic advertising slogan once reminded customers, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. That’s true now more than ever.

When we could interact face-to-face at events or in meetings, it was easier to attract the attention of a potential buyer and begin making connections naturally. But as a virtual seller, you don’t have the luxury of allowing relationships to unfold organically.

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As a seller, you’re trying to build relationships with potential buyers. People buy from people they know, like, and trust. The more you get to know your buyers, and let them get to know you, the easier it is to sell to them.

But first, you have to break through the noise, capture their attention, and create conversations with them. This is easier said than done.

To do this, you need to engage in what we call an Attraction Campaign. An Attraction Campaign is a coordinated series of messages with strong value-based offers deployed across multiple channels that'll get you on your buyer’s radar and make that buyer more likely to want to start a conversation.

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A lot goes into successful prospecting: targeting, offers, outreach, personalization, research, follow up, and more.

At the RAIN Group, we’ve found the most effective way to prospect is using the WAVE method:

  • Having a Winner’s mindset
  • Deploying a strong Attraction Campaign
  • Offering great Value
  • Execution
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2020 has been marked by a lot of changes, distractions, and new challenges. If it were up to us, we’d title it, “The Year Sellers Plugged In.” Not only literally, with the wholesale shift from live to virtual selling, but also figuratively in the sense sellers had to become even more keenly aware of buyer wants and needs to be successful in a virtual environment.

Each year, we release a “best of” collection of content that has resonated deeply with sellers over the previous 12 months.

2020’s list reflects sellers’ hunger for knowledge and skill development in all areas of virtual selling, from leading effective virtual meetings and asking strong questions to tackling challenges and developing strong virtual relationships.

We hope you'll find this list to be a valuable resource as you prepare for 2021.

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Stop. Collaborate. Listen.

Sellers of a certain age know that rapper Vanilla Ice was actually onto something when he uttered those words at the start of his song, "Ice Ice Baby." Years later, the concept of collaboration and a seller's ability to work with buyers, instead of speaking at or simply selling to them, to close a deal has become more important than ever.

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As we near the end of the year, we’re left wondering what the world will look like in the next stages of pandemic recovery.

One thing that’s for certain? Virtual selling is here to stay.

In fact, 89% of B2B decision makers say they’re likely to sustain the new sales model beyond the next year, according to McKinsey & Company.

If you want to succeed in 2021, you must master this new medium of sales.

But virtual selling isn't just selling via phone. Seventy-seven percent of decision makers prefer to use video over phone when meeting with sellers.

In this infographic, we share the 4 Virtual Selling ImperativesSM—the critical areas where sellers must Take the Lead if they want to develop stronger relationships, create comprehensive solutions, increase buyer satisfaction, and secure more business virtually.

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The in-person buying and selling experience usually goes something like this:

You show up to your buyer's office, where they greet you and offer you coffee. You accept, and walk together to the kitchen, discussing your trip in and how the day's going. You chat around the coffee pot for a few minutes about the local restaurant you visited last night. You walk to the conference room together, chatting about the scores from the big game last week.

During your meeting, you're able to gauge the buyer's interest and match their energy and intent. After your meeting, you head to lunch, where you chat about your plans for the upcoming weekend. By the time you're on your way home, you know your prospect's favorite sports teams, number of kids, food preferences, and you've built a solid foundation for your relationship and future conversations.

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Most people who enter the discipline of sales training and enablement have an intrinsic motivator to help people. They are teachers, inspirers, coaches, and cheerleaders. But sometimes, even the most skilled trainers are faced with obstacles that are difficult to overcome.

Training is inherently challenging. Research on The Forgetting Curve shows that within one week, people will have forgotten an average of 90% of the information presented. What's more, training is difficult to facilitate, reinforce, and measure. This reality contributes to more than 25% of salespeople reporting that their training has little or no effect.

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Experts—including us!—keep touting the need to transition to virtual selling.

But virtual selling isn’t a switch you flip on and off, nor is it your in-person sales process delivered via Zoom. It’s an integrated approach to meeting buyers where they are and when they are in world that looks vastly different than it did just a year ago.

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Emotions are powerful motivators of buying.

Consider that, in 2019, total U.S. spending in the weight loss category was $72.7 billion according to marketresearch.com. That's a lot of money spent on products and services that help people eat well and exercise more.

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At their core, top-performing salespeople are change agents. They recommend, advise, and assist buyers (what is typically known as consultative selling), and they aren't afraid to push when it's in the best interest of their buyers. Indeed, top sellers are Insight Sellers.

These people make five cases to ensure the value proposition for each buyer is as strong as it can be. They inspire buyers with new ideas and perspectives, and influence how buyers tackle their priority initiatives. They question the status quo and don't let buyers accept it, thus redefining reality.

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To succeed in sales, you need a steady stream of new opportunities entering the pipeline, whether it's with new clients or existing accounts.

That's not as easy as it used to be, given that people are now working, buying, and selling virtually, and many organic opportunities to create sales opportunities have disappeared.

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How sales happen has changed significantly in just the last several months, and these changes are here to stay.

Selling virtually has proven to be a challenge for even the most seasoned sellers. It requires sellers to be more strategic, more deliberate, and more proactive than ever before. It requires a refocused approach because the rules have changed.

Our client work around the world, and our research in the area of virtual selling, has revealed a set of four keys that are most critical for virtual sales success:

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Imagine this: You're in a live sales meeting in a conference room with three decision-makers, and one of them, while you're talking, pulls out their phone and starts responding to text and email messages. They continue to check the news and start fiddling on social media. You even hear a light snicker.

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Prospecting is a challenge for even the most experienced sellers, and with the shift to working, buying, and selling virtually, organic opportunities to make new connections and create conversations have disappeared.

There aren't any in-person networking events, tradeshows, travel, or opportunities to grab dinner, a cup of coffee, or attend a sporting event together.

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How many times have you received a prospecting email or phone call and said, "Sure, let's meet right away?"

If you're like most of us, it probably doesn't happen very often.

If you're on the other side and the one sending emails or making calls, what's your success rate?

Probably pretty dismal.

Congratulations! You're like most of the people we surveyed.

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To succeed in sales, you need to have the right skills. You have to be able to lead masterful sales conversations, manage opportunities, uncover needs, negotiate the best deals, fill the pipeline, develop relationships, and manage sellers. And today, you need to be successful in doing all of this with no face-to-face interaction. 

That's a lot to have to master.

With the laundry list of sales skills needed, which are most important?

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Salespeople everywhere are struggling as they navigate changed budgets, new targets, and selling virtually.  Some are even trying to force their in-person processes to work in a virtual world (spoiler: they don't).

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Sales negotiation is a critical part of the sales process. It moves the deal to a close, and it's where both parties come to agree on the terms of the initiative, including the price. However, many sellers and organizations struggle with negotiating successfully.

Seventy-seven percent of sellers report that negotiating with buyers virtually is challenging, and only 27% of buyers say that sellers are very effective at negotiating with them (from our Virtual Selling Skills & Challenges report). That means that less than one in three sellers does well in their virtual negotiations.

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When the team at the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research surveyed 528 sellers and buyers on their virtual buying and selling experiences earlier this year, we uncovered significant gaps between what influences buyer purchase decisions and seller effectiveness.

The sad truth? Only two or three in 10 sellers do well in the four areas that most influence purchase decisions. 

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The RAIN Group Center for Sales Research has kept its finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the world of sales as we transition to virtual selling.

Since beginning our research in Q2 2020, we’ve surveyed 528 sellers and buyers on their virtual buying and selling experiences.

Our analysis has uncovered the top challenges of virtual selling, many of which buyers themselves have said are a deciding factor for purchase decisions.

In the presentation below, we share the top challenges sellers face as they transition to virtual selling and how to tackle them.

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"Willy: I don't know why—I can't stop myself— I talk too much. A man oughta come in with a few words. Charlie's a man of few words, and they respect him.

Linda: You don't talk too much, you're just lively."

Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

We all have sympathy for poor Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman. He knew he talked too much, but he couldn't figure out why. And he couldn't stop talking too much even though he wanted to be like Charlie, a man of few words who was respected by all.

Let's face it: salespeople talk too much.

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In a meeting with a top sales officer at a large company just before Coronavirus, we were discussing virtual training. He said, “I’m just not into virtual training.”

I asked, “Why’s that?”

He responded, “It can be really challenging, from a seller’s perspective, to make it relevant in their world. Having them sit in front of a computer screen with content fed at them isn't a dynamic learning experience. I don’t see our sellers doing that or getting anything out of it.”

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2020 has flipped sales on its head and driven unprecedented levels of virtual interaction. Sellers are faced with more challenges than ever.

You can’t sell the same way you did before. You need to adapt, pivot, and change almost everything you did previously. If you want to thrive in sales today, it'll require you to transition to the new world of selling virtually, and take the "new norm" by storm.

Whether you’ve been in sales for years or you’re just starting out, learning how to sell remotely can feel intimidating.

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Value is at the center of all sales activities, including prospecting.

Often, discussions with our clients about buyers value focus on the reasons that buyers ultimately buy from you, using the 4 Whys:

  • Why act?
  • Why now?
  • Why us?
  • Why trust?
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Developing relationships, collaborating online, leading virtual sales conversations, gaining and keeping attention, leveraging technology, making the ROI case, delivering value—these are challenging regardless of the selling and economic environment.

But are they more difficult in a down economy while many sellers are transitioning to virtual sales? Are some sales skills more difficult to apply than others in a virtual environment? Where are sellers succeeding and failing according to buyers today?

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88% of sellers find developing relationships virtually challenging. It’s one of the biggest challenges sellers face today.

Many sellers lament that it’s just not the same as meeting someone face-to-face. They struggle to connect and build trust.

Fortunately, it’s possible to develop strong relationships even when you can't connect with buyers in person. 

One of the easiest ways?

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Engagement Threshold (noun): The point at which attention is captured and maintained, and below which is lost.

We teach the concept of the engagement threshold to sellers that need to hold buyers’ attention in virtual sales meetings.

When we teach it to sellers, we need to gain and keep their attention.

It’s never been easy, but in a virtual environment, it’s significantly more difficult.

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What are the top challenges sellers face as they transition to virtual selling?

How effective are sellers in the virtual space?

What factors have the greatest influence on buyers' purchase decisions when buying virtually?

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Since the global pandemic of 2020 began, virtual training has become imperative. But designing and delivering effective virtual training is the exception more than the norm.

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We’re asked all the time about which platform for use for virtual instructor-led training (VILT). With all of the choices out there—Zoom, Adobe Connect, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, GoToWebinar, On24, etc.—which one is best?

Like any good consultant, my answer to this question is, “It depends.”

There isn't a straightforward answer because different platforms excel at different things. At RAIN Group, we’re platform agnostic and don't promote one platform over another. We partner with our clients to determine which platform is right for them and what they're looking to do.

There are, however, three key considerations for platform selection.

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This article originally appeared in Entrepreneur and has been updated given the current sales environment. 

The first half of 2020 proved to significantly alter the way every single industry operates. Businesses have been forced to become more nimble and sellers have had to learn to sell virtually and remain productive while working from home. 

While this new environment has presented new challenges, many companies and individuals are adapting and succeeding even in tough times. 

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There are many mistakes to avoid when it comes to virtual selling.

Although we all make—and learn from—our mistakes, they're often magnified in a virtual environment, which makes awareness and preparation paramount to success.

Avoid these 17 common mistakes to impress your buyers and stand out from the competition:

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There’s a lot to think about when it comes to selling virtually. Projecting a professional image in your virtual meetings is an important (and often overlooked) factor to consider.

Here we provide guidelines and tips specifically focused on projecting a professional image in your virtual sales meetings grouped in the following five categories:

  1. Video
  2. Audio
  3. Lighting
  4. Background
  5. You

With a little forethought and preparation, you can make a great first impression with your buyers.

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Ask the question, “What needs to happen at your company for successful virtual training now that sellers are working remote?” and you’re likely to get answers like this:

  • Facilitators need to engage participants
  • Content needs to be relevant to the buyers and scenarios sellers face
  • Sellers need to practice the new skills
  • Training needs to be dynamic and interactive

It's a nice list, but not unique to virtual instructor-led training (vILT).

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Selling virtually is a challenge for even the best sellers.

The Virtual Selling Checklist below will help you make the transition to virtual selling as you wrap your head around three key components to success:

  1. Selling: While many of the principles remain the same (i.e., building rapport, uncovering needs, inspiring with new ideas, building an impact case, etc.), how you go about doing these in a virtual environment is drastically different.
  2. Meeting technology and experience: From audio and video to lighting and background, you need to manage the experience to make it as seamless and pain-free as possible for your customers.
  3. Productivity: Working from home opens the door to distractions and disruptions, so it's important to proactively manage your time, environment, and goals. 
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Since the Coronavirus pandemic began, virtual training has become an imperative. But designing and delivering effective virtual training is more the exception than the norm. 

Virtual training failure is all too common.

That’s because virtual training that works is still in its infancy, and most organizations struggle to convert what works for in-person training to a virtual environment.

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Selling virtually is a challenge for even the best sellers.

You have to change the way you sell and use different technologies to maximize your success. While many of the principles of consultative selling remain the same (i.e., you have to build rapport, uncover needs, inspire with new ideas, build an impact case, etc.), how you go about doing these in a virtual environment is drastically different.

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We're weeks into stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders in an attempt to #flattenthecurve. This has caused millions of people to work from home—many for the first time—while also dealing with children being homeschooled, spouses and roommates working (or not!) in the same environment, pets, and all of the other distractions available at home. When working from home, it's imperative that you motivate yourself, focus, and learn to execute in the zone to be productive and get the most done.

Becoming more productive, maximizing motivation, and achieving results is about employing the right habits and routines. It's not something you do some of the time; it becomes part of the way you approach your work.

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It’s never been more important for your sales organization to be firing on all thrusters. As buyers are tightening their purse strings and uncertainty in both health and economic spheres are plaguing companies, you need an optimized sales organization.

In our Top-Performing Sales Organization research, we studied what the organizations with the highest win rates, revenue growth, and sales goal achievement do differently that allow them to achieve these results.

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As the global economy teeters on the edge of uncertainty, companies are already canceling engagements, dropping vendors, and tightening their purse strings.

They’re looking for any way to make their dollar stretch, and there’s no better time to do that than in contract negotiations.

For industries still in buying mode, negotiations pose a unique opportunity to take advantage of desperate sellers struggling to meet their numbers.

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As businesses shut down and stock markets plummet during this global crisis, buyers are more money conscious than ever. In most industries, sales are stalling. Buyers are cutting spend and pushing vendors for deep discounts. 

This is an unprecedented time. 

It's essential that sellers are the best they can be, and that includes in sales negotiation. In fact, every dollar preserved in a negotiation goes straight to your bottom line. How much of a difference can it make?

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COVID-19 has rapidly accelerated changes in how business is done around the world. With employees working from home, travel bans, and new developments daily, virtual training has become an imperative.

But many organizations have never done virtual training, and many L&D and sales enablement professionals are looking for new ideas and approaches. It’s easy for virtual training to fail, so how do you make it truly successful with so much riding on it?

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Reinforcement has been a trend in the world of sales training for a while now. All the research data in sales training—and learning and development in general—supports the need for robust reinforcement.

But it’s still not happening often enough.

According to Aberdeen, fewer than half (44%) of companies formally follow-up initial sales training with reinforcement. At the same time, the companies that do reinforce training see 20% more sellers achieve sales quotas.

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Many sales managers and coaches are never taught how to lead effective sales coaching conversations. 

So they start with, “What’s up?” 

Then they listen to sellers for an hour with a bit of back and forth about this opportunity or that one. They may talk about the need to fill the pipeline or come up with an idea to move one of the opportunities forward. And then the hour is up.

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"Can you send me a proposal?"

Sellers love to hear these six words from buyers. Once you submit a proposal, you can move forward to the win.

While a good proposal summarizes what you've already discussed and agreed to, a proposal is, at its core, a persuasive document that communicates to buyers why they should buy, and why they should buy from you.

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Seller: “Based on your requirements X, Y, and Z, with setup and 90 days of consultation time, the price for the project will be $475,000.”

Buyer: “Is this the best you can do? It’s more than I was expecting. While I’d prefer to go with you, [competitor] said they can do it for less.”

Seller: “We are pretty confident in our pricing, but let me see what I can do and get back to you.”

This is oversimplified, but it’s an all too common scenario in B2B selling. 

When you’re buying something big, you likely ask for discounts. If you do, it makes sense that others do, too. If you don’t ask for discounts, guess what? You’re in the minority. 

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What are the best strategies for success in sales negotiations? What do buyers really want? Which tactics work best for buyers? For sellers? How is negotiating with procurement different?

The RAIN Group Center for Sales Research recently studied 713 buyers and sellers in a major global study to answer these questions and more. We analyzed data from 449 buyers representing $2.59 billion in annual purchases and 264 sellers in over 26 industries across the Americas, EMEA, and APAC.

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Whether you work on a sale for 9 days, 9 weeks, or 9 months, you can lose it in an instant during the negotiation.

Even if you win, you may watch your margin slip away, the buyer piecemeal the product or solution set, or find yourself fighting against any number of hardball tactics. 

Plus, many sellers make serious negotiation mistakes that drive down profits and damage customer relationships.  

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Win-win negotiation is the way to go…except in one situation: when the buyer has their hand in your pocket. Whether they're doing it intentionally or just out of habit, sometimes buyers try to push down seller prices just to see if they can.

When they do, you should counter with value, but you also have to signal as you respond, "That won't work. I know what I'm doing." (Without, by the way, saying it like that.) You need to respond in a way that gets this message across and gets the discussion back on track.

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Everyone says, "Sell value, drive value, make sure buyers both perceive and receive exceptional value from you, and your sales teams will be more successful."

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When sellers lose a sale, we often hear something like:

  • The other vendor had an in.
  • Our competitor offered a lower price.
  • We didn’t have the best solution.
  • They decided to do nothing at all.
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Wishing our clients, friends, readers, and followers a very happy holiday season and joyful New Year.

It’s truly an honor to be a part of your journey as you and your team unleash your sales potential and achieve your goals. Your success is our success, and we look forward to working together in 2020 and beyond.

From all of us at RAIN Group: Happy Holidays!

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With 2020 less than a month away, it’s time to think about what sales success looks like for you in the new decade.

Are changes in buyer behavior affecting your sales success? Are your accounts buying as much or as often as they could be? Are you losing big in negotiations?

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Picture this: You're meeting with your prospect after months of discussions. You have a great relationship. You did facilitated sessions, interviews, and organized a global team for the roll out. If you win, this will be your biggest close of the quarter.


All signs look a-go, but you still have one remaining meeting to work out, according to your prospect, "the key terms and conditions."

You walk into the room and hear…

  • "I've brought along my colleague, Darth CFO…"
  • "I can get that signed today if you give us this one last thing…"
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Preparation is often the greatest determinant of negotiation success.

Across negotiation studies and surveys, sellers who get the best outcomes:

  • Know what they sell
  • Research buyer wants and needs through sources other than the buyer
  • Have a keen understanding of the buyer’s day-to-day life and concerns
  • Prepare for each negotiation with trades, counteroffers, and knowledge of their walk-away points
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Who should go first in a negotiation when it comes to offering a price, solution, and agreement to key terms?

Do you ask for a budget and then craft what you do from there?

Or do you, once you know what the needs and major parameters might be, suggest a solution and a price before talking about budget?

It’s a common question, one that continues to baffle many sellers. They fear that if they go first, they will leave money on the table, or risk going too high and having the buyer say, “That’s nowhere near what we were thinking,” or anything in between.

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There are few areas of selling filled with more uncertainty, challenges, and conflicting advice than prospecting.

Success in sales prospecting requires breaking through the noise to capture buyers' attention and influence them to meet with you. Which begs a few questions:

  • What does capture buyers’ attention?
  • Do buyers want to hear from sellers, and if so, when?
  • How should sellers reach out and connect with buyers?
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Finding and hiring new sales talent is a long and expensive process. Once the new rep is hired, it takes time to onboard them. Especially challenging during the ramp-up period is building their knowledge in:

  • Your customers' businesses—their markets, industries, customers, regulations, etc.
  • The needs you solve and how to identify those needs
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In most organizations, it’s easy to make the case that millions, hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars in financial gain can be had through sales improvement. You can affect growth. You can affect competitiveness. You can affect stock price. These are common items on leadership top priority lists.

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Sellers who win more often bring new ideas and perspectives to their buyers. In fact, 71% of buyers report that they want to talk to sellers early in the sales process when they are looking for new ideas.

But what ideas inspire buyers? How can you shape buyer agendas for action? How can you differentiate in sales?

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The cliché of clichés to open an article like this is to say change is afoot. So I won't open with "change is afoot."

In the world of sales training and enablement, change is explosive.

There's a revolution going on in training and sales enablement that organizations can no longer ignore.

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Everybody's brain has two different processing centers: emotional and rational. The emotional brain is old. It developed millions of years ago, first with raw instincts—like fight or flight—that all animals have, and then into more complex emotions for us humans like anger, aggression, desire, fear, hatred, passion, love, disgust, sympathy, and so on.

Then there's the rational side, which developed more like tens of thousands of years ago. This part of the brain is more deliberate, analyzing and studying, and thinking about the future consequences of various possible actions.

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Sales training is often approached with a car wash mentality: You're in, you're out, and you're ready to sell.

But this isn't how real learning happens. This isn't how you help sellers raise the bar and change how they sell.

It's time for an entirely new approach to sales education; an approach that overhauls the way sales training is conceived, designed, and executed over the long-term.

An approach that drives real behavior change and results.

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Show them the impact.

Make a strong ROI case.

Sell the value.

Sales pros tout the benefits of making a strong ROI (return on investment) case all the time. Yet we see sellers time and again who don't know how to calculate and communicate the impact of their solutions.

They focus on features in their conversations and highlight the benefits, but don't convey what it means for each individual buyer and the difference it can make for them—financially, personally, and emotionally.

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This RAIN Group article was first published on Selling Power.

Sales managers face a myriad of challenges managing remote sales teams.

When seller and manager are in different places, though, one challenge stands above all else: ensuring sales productivity.

Seventy-one percent of companies don't believe their sellers manage their time and days effectively. If you want your remote sales team to be productive, this has to change.

Here are three habits from our Extreme Productivity System (XPS) to help your remote sales team control its time, get in the zone to be highly productive, and achieve the best possible results.

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How would you rate your organization's sales process?


  1. Ad-hoc: No consistent process
  2. Emerging: Some consistency and planning framework
  3. Defined: Guides sellers to plan for—and win—opportunities
  4. Managed (adoptive): Well-defined and easy to use, offering specific details and guidance for selling
  5. World-Class (adaptive): All of the above—and then some!


World-class sales processes aren't built overnight. And they never remain stagnant.

They are measured and improved regularly, with best practices for strategies and tactics outlined clearly across all six phases of the sales cycle.

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This RAIN Group article was first published on Selling Power.

When it comes to sales prospecting, sellers are frequently told the following:

  • "Cold calling doesn't work."
  • "It's impossible to get through to buyers cold."
  • "With all the information on the Internet, buyers do their own research and reach out later in the sales process."
  • "You shouldn't pitch your capabilities."

But rarely do sellers stop and think, "Is any of this true?"

According to 488 buyers (who get prospected to all the time) and 489 sellers who outbound prospect, these generally accepted-to-be-true statements are, in fact, false. They're sales prospecting myths that too many sellers follow, and it's hurting their results.

Here are the facts when it comes to sales prospecting:

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Everyone is a periodic procrastinator. Twenty percent of people are chronic procrastinators.1


We all have something we want to do or know we need to do, but it seems difficult, so we avoid it.

Often, that seemingly difficult task is the same activity that would provide you the greatest feeling of accomplishment, productivity, and return on your efforts. It's your Greatest Impact Activity.

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Productivity is often misunderstood.

One person might think being productive is conquering their never-ending inbox by the end of the day, while another perceives it as working as many hours as possible.

Here's the thing: it's not about getting through your email, and it's not about being a workhorse and cranking out eight or more hours of work every day.

It's about working smarter. (Cliché, yes, but still true.)

How can you take your productivity to the max?

Meet Extreme Productivity.

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What challenges do sales enablement and sales leaders encounter most often? Which ones are most difficult to tackle?

What are the top sales priorities for the next 12 months? How should they be addressed to ensure they're achieved?

To find out the answers to these questions, we surveyed 423 sales, enablement, and company leaders.

The results are fascinating. As sales researchers and analysts, it helps us to see not only what's changed, but also what's changing right now and where the industry is going.

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Delivering value, making the ROI case, retaining customers, growing accounts, recruiting top talent, forecasting, implementing a sales process, utilizing sales technologies, winning against the competition, developing sales managers, coaching sales teams, generating leads, onboarding, productivity, compensation...

There's no shortage of challenges sales leaders face.

Recently, we surveyed 423 sales, enablement, and company leaders to uncover their top challenges and priorities, and how they approach them.

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What are the top challenges sales enablement and sales leaders face today? What are their top priorities?

Which are most difficult to tackle? How should they be tackled?

To find out, we asked 423 sales, enablement, and company leaders these questions.

This report contains our findings, including 3 initiatives that will help sales and enablement leaders address their challenges and achieve their priorities.

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Want to succeed in sales?

Need a little extra motivation?

Looking for inspiration and best practices?

You're in luck.

We've compiled 54 of our favorite sales quotes from RAIN Group's best-selling books, research reports, white papers, and award-winning blog that will inspire you and your sales team to reach top performance.

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Fitness centers are packed in January—everyone's motivated to lose those holiday pounds. Then, a month later, the place clears out.

What happened? Where did everyone go?

I can tell you: their motivation crashed and burned. There one month, gone the next.

Is it gone forever? Thankfully, no.

What happens, though, is that most people wait for motivation. They don't do what they can do, at any time, to bring it forth.

They don't do what they can do to manufacture their own motivation.

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While there are many definitions of motivation, I like Business Dictionary's best:

/,mōdә΄vāSH(ә)n/ • noun

Internal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in people to be continually interested and committed to a job, role or subject, or to make an effort to attain a goal.

Let's break it down.

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There's abundant advice on how to be more productive. Endless hacks, tips, motivational quotes, trainings, apps, and tools all promising to increase your productivity.

It's enough to make your head spin. It definitely made our heads spin over the years as we tried to help our clients increase execution and accountability after training programs. So, we asked the question, "What actually helps people be more productive?"

To find out what really makes a difference in productivity, we studied and analyzed the work habits of 2,377 business people, performing a statistical test called a key driver analysis.

A key driver analysis seeks to discover and demonstrate whether a factor (the key driver) causes a particular outcome. For this study, we analyzed work habits and behaviors to determine whether or not they impact the outcome of productivity (as well as performance, happiness, and job satisfaction).

When you run an analysis like this, sometimes you find something, sometimes not.

We certainly found something this time around. In fact, we found that 12 of the behaviors we studied were key drivers of Extreme Productivity.

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Something new vies for your attention every few minutes: emails, text messages, collaboration tools, phone calls, co-workers, meetings, customers, and the list goes on. The result? Productivity suffers.

But with discipline and preparation, you can defeat these productivity dragons.

We know it's possible because we recently surveyed 2,377 professionals to find out which habits and hacks, when applied in different combinations, drive not only productivity, but also top performance versus peers, job satisfaction, and happiness. With only 14% of people rating themselves Extremely Productive (The XP), there's a huge opportunity for 86% of people to take control of their time, achieve top performance, and slay their productivity-killing dragons.

This infographic teaches you how to take advantage of that opportunity.

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Buyer and seller negotiations are a fun dance. While these negotiations are usually partner-focused (win-win), buyers often use standoffish tactics to gain an advantage in the negotiation at the seller's expense. Even if you—as the seller—have a win-win mindset and approach, you need to know how to maneuver the situation when buyers throw you curveballs. You need the right negotiation skills to bolster your success.

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This RAIN Group article was originally published on the ATD Blog.

I always considered myself a productive person. I work quickly, type fast, and get a lot accomplished. Or so I thought.

One day, I came across a time-management book that talked about "time boxing." With time boxing, you assign a fixed amount of time to a specific activity. The idea is to work on the task and stop when you reach the time limit.

Since this strategy reduces distractions by forcing you to concentrate on one task—and one task only—for a set amount of time, I decided to give it a try.

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There's no denying that having a highly motivated sales team ready to give their full energy and effort day in and day out has a huge impact on your organization's success.

But how exactly can you increase your motivation and that of your team?

In this on-demand webinar, RAIN Group President John Doerr will share 3 Habits and 9 hacks proven to boost
sales motivation.

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Sales compensation is typically the first topic discussed when looking for ways to boost sales motivation.

Want to increase motivation? Create a compensation plan focused on driving the actions that will create results.

The thought process goes like this: incentivize the right areas, see motivation increase, get the best results.

Sounds simple, right?

Not quite.

It's simple in concept, but exceptionally difficult to achieve.

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This RAIN Group article was originally published on the Heinz Marketing Blog.

Isn't it amazing how some days just start off better than others? You wake up feeling refreshed, the kids practically get themselves ready, and when you show up at work, you accomplish a lot within the first hour. It feels like everything is going your way.

Then there are days when it's a struggle to get out of bed and get to work. Even your computer fights you by turning on slowly or running virus scans. When the day starts, nothing goes your way. Then it gets worse.

Wouldn't it be nice to have more of the former and less of the latter? How much more productive would you be?

This can be your reality.

You can control how the day starts.

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This RAIN Group article was originally published on the LinkedIn Sales Blog.

Some sales leaders believe that a quota and an attractive compensation plan are enough to ignite the hustle, passion, and intensity in a seller.

It makes sense they think this way given recent Harvard Business Review articles with titles like "Motivating Sales People: What Really Works" that focus 100% on compensation.

But there's much more to motivation than compensation. As Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, said in the Washington Post:

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This article was originally published on the Sales Enablement Society.

Sellers often complain that it's impossible to get through to buyers. Gatekeepers are tough. Buyers are busy. Calls go to voicemail. Email goes to junk. The list goes on.

While getting through certainly isn't easy, sellers who work at it do get through. In fact, 82% of buyers say they accept meetings at least sometimes with sellers who reach out to them.

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"Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach him to fish, and he'll eat for a lifetime."

This is a popular axiom in the coaching world.

You'll find it everywhere. Here it is in a CBS News story:

"Myth 8: Professional coaches tell their clients what to do and give them advice.

Fact: Bad or inexperienced coaches tell their clients what to do and are constantly giving advice. Good coaches do not…Instead, coaches help their clients explore and come up with the best choices for them based on where they are and the client's vision for their future. Coaches are experts at the process of changing behavior, which is much more valuable than giving instructions."

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This article was originally published in the Inside Sales Blog.

One of the biggest mistakes sellers make in a sales negotiation is letting buyers take control of the negotiation, leaving you to play defense. If you want to come to a great agreement (and you do), you need to lead the process.

In our white paper, 6 Essential Rules of Sales Negotiation, Rule #3 is: Lead the Negotiation. A key part in leading a sales negotiation is teeing up the meeting properly with an agreed to agenda ahead of time.

When you write the agenda, you can more effectively lead the conversation. 

Nearly all meetings in any given negotiation are unique, so you'll need to plan for each one specifically. Start by creating an agenda to determine what information will and won't be discussed.

If you bypass this step, the meeting could start off on the wrong foot with the buyer making demands or pressuring you on price.

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There are common competencies every organization needs to build a truly successful sales organization.

At RAIN Group, we organize these competencies around the Sales Competency WheelSM.

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The most popular and effective diets and workout routines—ones that lead to the most dramatic changes—have specific guidelines and rules for how to follow the system.

No such system existed for sales—until now.

And, it works.

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Most leaders agree the opportunity to improve sales performance through coaching is tremendous, including:

  • Maximizing sales wins for their most important opportunities
  • Filling the pipeline with new, qualified opportunities
  • Maximizing sales to key accounts
  • Focusing sellers’ time on the most important activities
  • Developing skills, knowledge, and attributes to get to the next level of performance
  • Keeping sales activities and motivation at the highest sustainable level

These leaders are turning to coaching because coaching is an increasingly popular—and increasingly proven—method of improving performance.

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The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different.
-Peter Drucker

With the New Year less than a month away, it's time to think about what will be different in the year ahead.

Where will you direct your focus to reach your goals and grow your sales? What are the opportunities for your organization? What do you need to do to seize them?

In this webinar, RAIN Group President Mike Schultz shares data from the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research on sellers, sales leaders, and buyers, uncovering the biggest opportunities for sales growth in the year ahead.

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Consider this: a CBS News / New York Times poll asked, "What percent of people in general are trustworthy?" 1

The answer: 30%. We're all pretty skeptical, right?

Not necessarily. At the same time, the CBS News / New York Times poll asked a similar group the same question, but with a slight difference. "What percent of people that you know are trustworthy?"

The answer: 70%.

This goes to show: when people get to know and like you, people begin to trust you.

Of course, there's a lot more to building rapport and trust than making a positive initial connection with someone, but it sure is a good start. Having a strong connection with someone makes them more comfortable sharing their aspirations and their afflictions with you, two things you need to know about your buyer if you want to succeed in sales.

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Setting goals is relatively easy. You think about what you want to achieve in a certain period of time and set a specific and measurable metric around it. For example:

  • Meet sales quota of $450,000 this quarter
  • Lose 5 pounds in 4 weeks
  • Exercise 4 out of 7 days
  • Launch the new product by May 15
  • Grow a specific account by 3x this year

Reaching your goals, however, is a bit more complicated.

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There are only 24 hours in each day. Some people are able to achieve incredible amounts in that time seemingly effortlessly. Others put in massive amounts of effort, but don't seem to get where they want to be.

What are those in the more productive group doing differently? How are they able to achieve so much more?

We have found those who achieve more and whose work seems to come effortlessly have mastered the 3 time management strategies below:

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This piece originally appeared in the August 2018 edition of Independent Agent magazine and is reprinted here with permission.

Word of mouth, repeat business and referrals used to be enough to maintain a thriving sales organization. But today, buyers have more options than ever before, they're more educated, and the phone doesn't ring like it used to.

That means sellers need to be proactive in growing their pipelines and securing meetings with buyers. Here are five ways to get started:

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Sales Training Defined: Sales training is the process of improving seller skills, knowledge, and attributes to drive seller behavioral change and maximize sales success. To be most effective, sales training should be viewed, designed, and executed as a change management initiative.

The global market for sales training is approximately $4.6 billion.

Yet most sales training fails to deliver lasting results.

This is because most companies do not define and approach sales training properly.

To deliver effective sales training, you need to redefine what sales training is. You need to focus on changing your sellers' behaviors to drive sales results and support this change as a change management initiative.

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If you've worked in sales for any length of time, you've likely heard the phrase, "Sales is a numbers game." It's true. A profitable sales organization relies on the careful analysis of success metrics, performance data, and sales reports.

If your sales reports are incomplete, inaccurate, or just plain wrong, the outcome is simple: misguided and ineffective selling.

Fortunately, there are ways to prevent reporting mistakes before they impact your sales team. Following are 3 factors to consider that will help you generate more accurate sales reports and execute a more profitable sales strategy.

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To find and win business consistently, your sellers need to have the right mix of sales skills across the sales process, from filling the front-end of the pipeline to growing accounts. Too many sales teams have significant skill deficits preventing them from turning their potential for sales growth into reality.

In The Top-Performing Sales Organization research initiative, we looked at the differences between Top Performers and The Rest across sales skills and knowledge needed to drive sales performance. The gaps in skills are eye-opening.

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Written by: Mike Schultz and Gord Smith

When it comes to selling financial services, professionals are usually faced with three common challenges:

  • Creating new conversations with potential clients
  • Leading conversations and winning business against stiff competition
  • Maximizing business with current clients

The good news is that you can overcome these hurdles. There are specific things you can do in each of these areas to be more successful. 

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Technology sellers lament how impossible it is to get their buyers on the phone more than any other industry.

Phone is one of the top ways sellers say they connect with buyers, yet sellers in the technology industry report extreme difficulty using it to reach their buyers.

In our study on Top Performance in Sales Prospecting, we studied 488 buyers responsible for $4.2 billion of purchases and the prospecting habits of 489 sellers. We looked at results across buyer and seller sets, top performers, and industry. As part of our research, we compared how buyers prefer to be contact by sellers across multiple industries.

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The most successful sellers are motivated, proactive, focused, and goal-oriented. Indeed, they get the most done and achieve the best results in less time.

So what makes these sellers significantly more productive? We all have the same number of hours in a day, yet some sellers achieve considerably more than others.

The answer: They're systematic. They attack each day with a similar mindset and process to drive their productivity.

After years of study, we've boiled down what these extremely productive sellers do to just 3 keys.

By applying these 3 keys, almost anyone can achieve great leaps and improvements in productivity.

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Becoming more productive can make a dramatic difference in your work, sales success, and overall happiness.

Think about it. How do you feel after a day where you've been exceptionally productive and pushed important projects forward?

You feel invigorated, motivated, engaged, and ready for the next challenge.

Compare that to an unproductive day where you couldn't focus or spent the entire day working on tasks for others. You feel drained, overwhelmed, frustrated, and irritable.

The good news is you can control how productive you are and in turn how you feel at the end of each day.

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There is no magic way to achieve sales success.

However, there is one significant concept that helps the companies and sellers who embrace it—those who make it part of the fabric of who they are and who their sales organization is—experience wildly successful sales results.

If you want to boost sales and join their ranks, you must become a Value-Driving Sales Organization.

Value-Driving Sales Organizations have significantly higher win rates and revenue growth, and lower undesired turnover. They not only win more at higher margins, but also retain top sales talent.

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Sales prospecting has changed more than any other facet of sales in the last 10 years. There are a lot of clickbait articles with radical advice popping up and leading sellers astray.

In our new benchmark report, Top Performance in Sales Prospecting, we undertook a study of 488 B2B buyers and 489 sellers to find out what's working and what's not in sales prospecting.

In this infographic, we contrast 5 popular assumptions about prospecting with facts from the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research.

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Too many sellers have the following problems:

  • Bloated pipelines filled with dead wood
  • Lack of clarity on what opportunities to focus on

In "How to Clear Your Pipeline of Dead Wood," we shared how to make your pipeline real and manageable. Here, you’ll find a framework that will allow you and your colleagues to define and focus on the best sales opportunities with clarity and confidence.

Sellers often treat their pipeline opportunities the same. They define need, qualify, propose, present, and wait for a win or loss. Maybe a few bubble up for more focus, but it's not always the right ones.

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There are a lot of opinions on what to do to drive sales success. I Googled the topic and found over 60 distinct pieces of advice for what to do and not to do, but most of the advice was, indeed, just opinions. Any references to research or proven success was tangential at best.

You deserve better!

Based on our work with B2B sales teams around the globe, as well as data from the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, where we relentlessly study what the top sellers do and what buyers are looking for, we have gleaned 9 keys to achieving success in today's B2B sales environment.

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How many attempts does it take to break through to busy buyers?

What offers are most accepted?

Do cold meetings convert to new business?

In our new benchmark report, Top Performance in Sales Prospecting, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research uncovered the answers to these critical prospecting questions. With data from 488 B2B buyers and 489 sellers, we've cracked the code on what works in prospecting today.

This infographic highlights 30 must-know stats from our research and analysis and what they mean for sellers in today's world.

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Challenges abound when it comes to sales prospecting. From targeting and using the right outreach methods to maintaining motivation and energy, there are plenty of ways to outbound prospect and fail.

Download: 5 Sales Prospecting Myths Debunked

For our Top Performance in Sales Prospecting research, we asked 489 sellers who outbound prospect about the biggest prospecting issues they face. The top 10 prospecting challenges can be grouped into 4 categories:

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Put me in front of 10 buyers and I'll close 7 of them. All I need is more meetings.

I hear this from sellers all the time. Get me more "at bats" and I'll get the hits.

To succeed in sales, you need a consistent stream of new leads to fill the front end of the pipeline.

You can't, however, just sit back and wait for the phone to ring or email to ding.

You need to be proactive in filling your own pipeline if you're going to succeed with prospecting.

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How many touches does it take to make a sale?

The simple answer is: more than most people think!

According to our Top Performance in Sales Prospecting research, it takes an average of 8 touches to get an initial meeting (or other conversion) with a new prospect. But the initial meeting is just the beginning. It takes a lot more to make the sale.

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There are 2 stats that are cited in sales articles all the time:

  • 57% of the purchase decision is made before a customer calls a supplier
  • 67% of the buying journey is now done digitally

The question, however, is so what?

Sellers and sales leaders often interpret this to mean that buyers don't want to hear from sellers.

This is far from the truth.

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Buyers are awash with information, bombarded with sales and marketing messages, crazy busy, and tasked to do more with less.

Yet they still want to hear from sellers and they still accept meetings with sellers who reach out to them proactively.

82% of buyers will accept meetings with sellers who reach out.

The sellers who secure these meetings achieve significantly greater success with a much different approach.

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When you're considering sales training, it's important to know what results you want to drive. Before any initiative, you need to answer one simple question:

What do we want to achieve?

There are many possible targeted outcomes of sales training from growing revenue and improving margins to increasing the average size of sale and growing accounts. Make sure whatever sales training initiatives you choose match up with your desired outcomes.

As you think about your own sales training efforts, consider these possible results and how to achieve them.

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Reverse auctions (also called e-auctions) are a common negotiation technique used more and more frequently by large organizations. For the most part, sellers don't dislike reverse auctions—they loathe them.

The point of a reverse auction is to drive down supplier prices to their absolute lowest while driving expectations of suppliers to their highest. As the process (typically) removes human interaction from the equation, sellers often feel at a complete loss to do anything but participate in the auction or walk away.

There's a lot more to it. Below you'll find negotiation strategies you can use before and during the reverse auction process to get the best results for you and your buyer.

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A proper sales and marketing strategy involves more than just running some ads and cold-calling a list of prospects. Developing the right strategy is a process that requires research to discover who your prime sales prospects are, what motivates their purchasing, and how your firm fits in the marketplace. The data your research provides is what will drive your sales and marketing strategy. With the right plan, growth and profitability are predictable and controllable.

Effective sales and marketing requires talent, expertise, effort, and consistency. If that doesn't exist inside your organization, then it's important that you find an outside resource that can help you develop and implement your strategy.

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The state of sales management in many companies is disturbing. Consider these stats from our Top-Performing Sales Organization study:

  • 66% of companies do not believe their sales managers have the skills needed to manage and coach sellers.
  • Elite performers are 2.4x more likely to agree that sales managers and leaders are effective at maximizing selling energy.
  • 71% of companies do not believe people in selling roles manage their time and day effectively.

Almost 7 out of every 10 sales managers do not have the skills they need to do their jobs effectively! Astounding. It's certainly understandable, though. Sales managers are directed, by the very definition of sales management, down the wrong path.

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Each year, our goal for the RAIN Group Sales Blog is to provide you with research, ideas, and insight to help you unleash your sales potential.

From regular blog posts to new white papers, ebooks, webinars, and research, we have, and will continue to release valuable insight on what you as a seller can do to set yourself apart from the rest.

In case you missed some of our new sales content this year, we've compiled a list of our top 10 most popular content pieces from 2017 that will guide you on your path towards sales success.

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"Unfortunately, there seems to be far more opportunity out there than ability...
We should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation."

Thomas A. Edison

Preparation is often the greatest determinant of negotiation success. Across negotiation studies and surveys, we see sellers who get the best outcomes: know what they sell, research buyer wants and needs through sources other than the buyer, have a keen understanding of the buyer's day-to-day life and concerns, and prepare for each negotiation with trades, counteroffers, and knowledge of their walk-away points.

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To optimize your sales force, you need to have a highly-motivated team bringing their "A game" day in and day out.

Often times, it's up to the sales managers to make sure their team maintains this positive and results-driven attitude on a daily basis. According to our Top-Performing Sales Organization research, 55% of Top Performers agree that managers are effective at creating and sustaining maximum selling energy, compared to only 32% of The Rest.

But management is not the only key influence on sales motivation.

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Most sales are won and lost based on one key factor: You.

You hold the keys to your sales success. Competitors don’t win because their offerings are more impressive. They win because they deliver a superior sales experience. 

You can too.

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My grandfather Sidney was raised during the great depression. Often hungry growing up, he learned the value of a dollar the hard way. It stuck with him the rest of his life. When I was in college, he never let me call him because he would say it was long-distance.

I told him that the distance was long, but the call didn't cost anything. Still, he could barely stay on the phone for 5 minutes. I could visualize the nickels clinking in his mind, making him uncomfortable with the cost of the call.

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It's common advice to minimize emotions in a negotiation. For example, the reading line of the article "Emotion: The 'Enemy' of Negotiation" is "To succeed in negotiation, says one Wharton expert, one must take emotion out of the equation."

We disagree. Emotions are primary drivers of decision making in buying, and primary drivers in negotiation outcomes. Emotions shouldn't be minimized. Instead, they should be guided and managed for both buyer and seller so that the best outcome can be achieved by all.

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"Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality."

Warren Bennis, Author, On Becoming a Leader

When it comes to sales negotiations, all too often sellers:

  • Don't plan for successful negotiated outcomes
  • Let the buyer define the negotiation process and venue
  • Allow the buyer to set the agenda for negotiation-focused meetings
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In our research report, The Value Driving Difference, we studied almost 500 organizations' practices regarding how focused they are on driving value for buyers. Companies that rose to the top as Value-Driving Sales Organizations had higher sales win rates, were more likely to grow revenue, had lower undesired sales staff turnover, and much more highly motivated sellers. They were also two times more likely to agree that they capture maximum prices in line with their value.

There's no question: If you want to succeed in sales, you should focus on driving value.

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If you want to maximize time, you must find more of it, and choose what you do with it carefully. We all have the same 168 hours a week to work with. Some people make the most of them, others don't.

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Alison Brooks and Maurice Schweitzer, two researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted an experiment to induce varying levels of anxiety among negotiators.

One group was subjected to the not-so-melodious screeching strings from Psycho. The other group was treated to calming Water Music by Handel. After listening for a while, the groups were sent off to conduct simulated negotiations.

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It's an all too familiar story. A seller's pipeline looks full! Bursting. Exciting. It stays like that for 2 months, 5 months, 10 months… more keeps going in. Nothing comes out.

It looked great, but it wasn't great. Not even good. Too many sellers have lots of opportunities in their pipelines that shouldn't be there. Neither managers nor sellers want mirage pipelines with visions of promised lands that simply aren't there.

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Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.
- Henry David Thoreau

Almost everyone at some point in their career will toy with adopting some kind of time-management system. Few stick with it. The challenge is that too many time-management systems focus too deeply on the activity level—what to do first, what to do next, what the priority order is—without paying enough attention to the bigger picture. Simply viewing the world through the lens of urgent vs. important is not enough.

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By: Mike Schultz and Jason Murray

After three months of talking and promises of moving forward, your fully qualified, enthusiastic champion is ready to pull the trigger. You send them a proposal and…silence.

It's frustrating when buyers go cold. Whether late in the process or after one good meeting, most sellers at least want to hear, "No," or, "Here's what happened," or, "I'm still interested, but something happened…"

Unfortunately, sellers often don't get the high sign from buyers, just the cold shoulder.

Before we cover tactics you can use to resurrect opportunities with buyers who go cold, it helps to understand why buyers go cold.

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Executives are always on a mission to prove Kirkpatrick Level 4 measurement of training: Results. Specifically, they want to know to what degree targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training event and subsequent reinforcement.

There is relatively little data on how sales training correlates to business performance and results.

That is, until now.

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When you look at your pipeline, do you see opportunities that just won't move?

Do days, weeks, and even months go by with the same opportunities staring back at you?

Worse yet, are you losing more of your opportunities than you'd like?

No doubt, these are the same opportunities that would make the biggest difference to your quarterly results if only you could crack the code.

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In our recent Top-Performing Sales Organization study, we were particularly interested in the sales skills that stood out when sellers not only met their goals, but also believed their goals were challenging.

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By now you know that teaching people how to sell and become Top Performers takes more than a one- or two-day event. It takes ongoing reinforcement.

Sales training is a change initiative. Going through a single class in two days does not change the way sellers sell. Change happens over time, once sellers get back to work and start implementing newly learned skills.

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There's no denying that having a highly motivated sales team ready to give their full energy and effort day in and day out has a huge impact on your organization's success.

When it comes to sales motivation, companies commonly focus on compensation, bonuses, and incentives to get top performance out of their sales team. While compensation is important, it certainly is not the only, or even the main factor that drives sales motivation.

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Everyone needs motivation to tackle different types of tasks/challenges. Whether it's hitting your personal sales goals or achieving your weight loss goals, people can't do it without some type of driving motivation.

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Sales enablement is one of the eight categories of the Sales Performance WheelSM that we study when analyzing what drives sales performance. This category focuses on the different ways in which supporting sellers to be most effective allows them to reach their full potential, thus improving the organization's sales performance.

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When watching sellers negotiate, perhaps the easiest things to see are the mistakes. Having now spent two decades studying sales negotiation, observing negotiations, and coaching and training sellers to improve their negotiation skills, we've distilled the common areas that the best sales negotiators consistently get right.

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Selling like it's 1987 (or even 2007) doesn't work like it used to. The way buyers and sellers interact—and will interact—is changing significantly.

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It may not be considered the most glamorous aspect of sales management, but as business and technology have evolved, it’s widely acknowledged that getting sales operations right is imperative for a smoothly run, effective sales organization. On his blog, Matt Heinz of Heinz Marketing even hails it as “THE most important and unsung hero for sales teams.”

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While quite a bit of research has been published on what sellers need to do to achieve top sales performance, there’s relatively little on what separates top-performing sales organizations from the rest. To find out, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research gathered data from 472 respondents representing companies with sales forces ranging in size from 10 sellers to 5,000 plus and published the results in the Top-Performing Sales Organization Benchmark Report.

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In our Top-Performing Sales Organization research, our goal was to assess what the Top Performers do differently than The Rest to achieve the best results. Top Performers have higher win rates, meet their annual sales goals, are more likely to set challenging sales goals, and are more likely achieve maximum prices in line with the value they provide.

We analyzed data from 472 sellers and executives representing companies with sales forces between 10 and 5,000+ sellers. Top Performers represent the top 20% of our database. The Rest—the bottom 80%.

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In sales forces of any size, changing the sales organization structure is an uphill battle. Structure relates to the organization of selling at the company, including sales compensation, territory design, account and lead assignments, and more.

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Since Mack Hanan coined the term in 1970, consultative selling has been the most widely accepted—and most pursued—sales approach. The approach is characterized as understanding buyer needs and positioning offerings as solutions to problems.

While this has been the go-to approach for many sellers, massive changes in buying technology and the vast amount of information on the internet is significantly changing how buyers buy at an unprecedented pace.

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As they say, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. If you want to drive sales performance at a company, you can focus on all sorts of tactical areas—from people and training to enablement and operations—but none of these address the fundamental questions: Where are we going? What are we doing to achieve our goals? Who will lead us there?

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For the last 50 or so years, consultative selling has been the go-to approach for most sellers.

In traditional consultative selling, the buyer states a need and the seller positions their offerings as solutions to problems. This used to be enough to win the sale. But today’s buyers often perceive sellers and their capabilities to be somewhat interchangeable.1 This leaves sellers stuck in a capabilities battle, fighting price pressure.

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Since the term was coined in 1970, consultative selling has been the most widely accepted—and pursued—sales approach. For the following forty years, advice for how to sell had mostly been a variation on the consultative selling theme.

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Two sellers are talking at the end of the day. One turns to the other and asks, “How was your day?”

“I had a great day,” the second seller says. “I sent out two proposals this morning, had a great first meeting with a new potential buyer, and finally got a meeting with a decision maker I’ve been trying to reach for a year!” Feeling proud, he asks the first seller, “How was your day?”

He answers, “I didn’t sell anything either.”

This is one of the challenging-yet-great things about sales. It’s measurable. At some point, you have to bring in the wins or you fail. Which begs the question, “What brings in the wins?” A few years ago we studied this from the buyer perspective and published the results in our book Insight Selling.

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People often ask us, “What should we do to drive our sales success?”

It’s a complicated question. It’s not easy to decide what to tackle, when to tackle it, what results the organization should be targeting, where you can get the biggest bang for your buck, and what it really takes to get those results without further analysis.

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Sales performance analysis is typically quite involved and complex. It’s no easy task to figure out how to improve, change, or build a sales strategy. But for those sales leaders who are taking a longer-term view and looking into sales performance optimization, a performance analysis is a necessary precursor.

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Most sellers and sales leaders often ask themselves: "Is my win rate any good?"

Win rate is one of the most basic measures of your sales success, so it’s only natural to want to benchmark your performance against the average to see how you stack up.

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At some point or another, you've probably heard of the ABCs of selling: Always Be Closing. The mantra was popularized by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross (warning: strong language).

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In the mid-1990s, a fairly common sales strategy was to give a seller a desk, a phone, a business directory, and say, "Go."

Fast forward to today, and selling has become significantly more complex. Companies report ever-increasing challenges regarding product and service commoditization, proliferation of competition, and more informed and sophisticated buyers.

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Even small improvements in win rate can have a huge impact on revenue.

Based on findings from The Top-Performing Sales Organization Benchmark Report, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research has identified 8 key areas that contribute to higher win rates that will help you beat your sales goals and reach Top Performer status this year:

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What images come to mind when you see this word? Close your eyes and say the word out loud.

How does it make you feel?

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Cold calling—what an appropriate name for calls to prospects unfamiliar with you. More often than not, the people you call are so chilly toward you that you feel like you should put on a parka. Previous bad experiences with sellers cause them to immediately erect a wall of ice when they receive such a call.

Fortunately there are ways to warm prospects up, get them to talk with you about their concerns, and get them interested in hearing what you have to say. You must, however, do it within the first few seconds of the conversation.

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Here's the situation: it's the first, maybe second, serious conversation with a prospect. You're asking questions, you're building great rapport, you're uncovering a slew of needs, and you're already seeing how you can help this prospect in 10 different ways. The conversation is going great. That is until the prospect says, "Wow, this all sounds good. So, what's something like this going to cost?"

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Brrrr... I've just been cold calling and boy could I use some hot chicken soup!

Just those two words together—cold calling—puts many people far away from warm and happy. Given that it's so much fun for so many people, and that I have heard a number of times recently that the last nail has been banged into the cold calling coffin, why is cold calling still even on our radar screens?
Because it works.

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We all love repeat business, referrals, and inbound warm leads. The problem is you can’t scale warm leads. When these run out, so does your ability to grow your revenue, unless, of course, you prospect and drive new leads in the pipeline yourself.

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I had a conversation recently with a client who was struggling with his sales efforts. The conversation went something like this:

Me: How has your selling effort been going?

Client: Unbelievable. I sent out four proposals last week and three more this week.

Me: That's great. How many new deals have you closed?

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Challenges abound when it comes to generating leads for professional services firms: selecting the right tactics to generate quality leads, implementing lead generation activities consistently, breaking through the noise and getting the attention of busy decision makers, measuring and tracking what's working for you, and the list goes on.

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The first sales conversation with a new prospect can be tough. After all, prospects tend to distrust sales people, they're guarded with their information, and they're extremely busy. The fact that they agreed to meet with you in the first place is a great sign. But much of your selling success hinges on your ability to lead an effective first conversation and get them to agree to a second conversation with you.

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Leads, leads, leads. Once the referrals and the circle of family and friends aren't enough to keep your firm growing, it's all about the leads. Yet, when it comes to generating leads, consulting firms get it all wrong in 10 very common ways.

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Many people want to believe that cold calling doesn't work because they don't want to have to do cold calling. Indeed, there are many ways to do it wrong and fail. There are many cold callers out there using deceptive tactics to get through, which leaves a bad taste in buyers' mouths.

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Top-Performing companies are winning 62% of their sales opportunities. The Rest? Only 40%.

While quite a bit of research has been published on what separates top sellers from the rest, there’s relatively little on what organizations are doing to achieve high win rates.

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In my Twitter activities I came across an excellent post about price objections on Tom Searcy's Hunting Big Sales blog, Price is No Object.

In this post Tom writes, "A lot of the time, however, price is not the only issue and it's merely being used as a smoke screen."

I couldn't agree more. Price often is not the heart of the issue but an indicator that something else is going on. Clients will use the price objection because it's a convenient excuse.

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Referrals are among the top ways sellers get leads and new business, but many struggle with generating them consistently.

We know our buyers rely on colleagues, associates, and friends to recommend providers. So when a prospect comes to us via this route, some of the work is already done for us. Referrals build a seller's trustworthiness and credibility—two cornerstones of effective selling.

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Much of sales is about making connections.

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Most people's sales conversations could be better. Not a little better, significantly better. I see too many sellers fall into the same traps:

  • You talk too much, leaving the buyer with the impression that you don't understand their business, their industry, or their needs.
  • You grill the buyer with questions, making them feel like they are a part of an interrogation.
  • You talk too little, letting the buyer control the conversation.
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If you've spent any time in complex sales, you know there's been a significant shift in how you win sales opportunities and grow accounts.

In our client work and studies through the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, we've seen that:

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Sellers who win consistently plan to win from the start. They're methodical. They carefully match their sales process to the buyer's, set goals for every meeting, and do an exceptional job of communicating value.

Top sellers build strategies to drive sales opportunities, and use planners to help guide them through to the win.

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Imagine it's the end of a long, important sales process. Your buyer has given you the verbal 'yes' to buy, but he has to deliver a summary of the value proposition case—why he's made the decision to move forward with you—to his peers and the board of directors. And no, you can't attend the meeting and speak alongside him. He must make the argument himself, and it has to be good.

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When it comes to winning big sales opportunities, sales leaders often share 2 complaints:

  1. Sellers aren't proactive. They fail to drive their most important sales opportunities forward with determination and rigor.
  2. Even when sellers are proactive, they don't follow a consistent process to put themselves in the best position to win the sale.
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Big plays are major actions you can take to win your most important sales opportunities and grow your most important accounts.

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