RAIN Group Sales Blog

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

In the competitive arena of sales, the true game-changer is having a well-trained sales team whose behaviors result in the desired outcomes. Consider the case of a technology firm that revamps its sales strategy to focus on consultative selling. During training, a conversation planning tool is shared that helps reps prepare for needs discovery meetings.

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Unless you’ve been on an extended media break, you’re aware that artificial Intelligence (AI) is making a splash across all industries of business. I’ve seen this as a practitioner. I work closely with client organizations and collaborate with senior executives, and I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about AI. What’s RAIN Group’s position on AI? What’s working for sales teams in terms of applying AI? How do we make AI work for us?

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For the best sales results, you need to have a highly motivated team bringing their A-game day in and day out. Often, it's up to sales managers to make sure their team maintains this positive and results-driven attitude.

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If you're part of a sales enablement team, you know the pressure that comes with shaping a sales force into a team of top performers. To facilitate this transformation, a well-thought-out sales training program is essential. And when it comes to the logistics of running a successful program, there are a lot of moving pieces you must attend to. Here's a helpful summary (and checklist) to ensure you launch a training program that isn't just good, but exceptional.

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Every buyer has personal preferences for how they like to buy. There are multiple buying styles and preferences to consider, but the number isn't infinite. It’s six.

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2023 has seen sellers and sales organizations adapting to longer sales cycles and more deals lost to no decision. More than ever, sellers were challenged to be resilient while maintaining a tight focus on value, building relationships, and being responsive to buyers’ changing needs. Sales managers had to be proactive in supporting and coaching their teams. And sales enablement was tasked with ramping up new hires and boosting sales force productivity.

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As AI technologies advance, becoming more sophisticated and intuitive, they’re reshaping the sales landscape: from AI-driven chatbots providing real-time support to predictive analytics revolutionizing lead generation. According to Gartner, within four years, 60% of the B2B seller’s work will be done using generative AI sales technologies. And McKinsey predicts that a fifth of the sales teams’ functions could be automated with AI. While estimates vary, the view shared is similar: AI sales technologies will have a revolutionary impact on sales.

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As we approach the new year, we reflect on 2023 with gratitude for our friends, families, and clients. In a year marked by many challenges, you have filled us with joy, laughter, and hope. Thank you.

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Recruiting and hiring strong sales talent isn't for the faint of heart. It is, in fact, the top challenge facing sales and enablement leaders (cited as “very challenging” by 52%). It's not only challenging, but also takes a significant investment of resources to find, hire, and retain talent.

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In the competitive landscape of B2B sales, organizations are constantly seeking ways to improve their sales training to drive better results. One highly effective approach we’re seeing gain traction among our clients is the establishment of field advisory boards.

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TL;DR? Download a PDF of these questions to use in your sales interviews. As a sales leader or sales enablement executive, you know just how important it is to hire the right sales reps for your team. The key to raising your hiring success rate, as we’ve written elsewhere, is to follow a process built on strategy, sourcing, screening, scoring, and selling. But how do you conduct engaging recruiting interviews that help you assess candidates’ skills, personality, and fit for your company culture? What questions should you ask? How can you gauge candidates’ actual abilities?

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Sales enablement teams regularly struggle to provide sellers with the skills and tools needed to get results like building pipelines, closing sales, growing accounts, and increasing win rates. It's a challenge to ensure sales training achieves desired outcomes, whether sales enablement is a team of one or many. Training programs must be developed, facilitators prepped, and programs delivered. Ongoing reinforcement and support must be supplied so learning sticks and sellers apply what they’ve learned to get results. And all this upskilling needs to be repeated when new sellers join the team.

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Assume you’re a sales manager for a mid-sized enterprise. You’ve just received a call from your chief revenue officer who wants to know how much revenue you expect your team to produce between now and the end of the year. You pull up your spreadsheet and start reviewing the numbers, but the forecast just doesn’t look right. Sales have been consistent, but there are so many variables at play and it’s hard to predict what the future holds. Market conditions are volatile, sales cycles are getting longer, and your team is experiencing turnover. To make matters worse, the data you’re working with is incomplete and outdated. You're feeling the pressure to get it right but you’re not confident you can.

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Sales training is an essential part of any successful sales enablement program. However, not all sales training initiatives are created equal. While some programs may produce short-term results, they often fail to deliver long-term success.

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Wouldn’t it be great if there were a silver bullet that would help you close more deals and make the most of your selling efforts? I hate to disappoint, but there isn't one. Sales success takes hard work and commitment along with skill and savvy. The best sellers are fluent in every part of the sales process. While there isn’t a single secret to selling, there are steps you can take to better engage with buyers and boost your win rate. You can start by following these sales tips.

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No two deals are ever quite the same, but every seller needs the same set of core skills to win sales. From the first outreach to closing a deal, each of these skills is necessary to move the sales cycle forward.

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More than ever, sales teams are struggling with unqualified leads, missed sales goals, and lost opportunities. Increasingly, company and sales leaders are turning to coaching as a solution. And why not? Executive and personal-effectiveness coaching have historically yielded great results. According to the International Coaching Federation, the average company can expect a return of 7 times the initial investment in coaching.1 Shouldn’t the same be expected from sales coaching?

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Good negotiators recognize the negotiating tactics and style of the other party. While sales negotiations are usually partner-focused (win-win), buyers often use standoffish tactics to gain an advantage at the seller's expense. Even if you have a win-win mindset and approach, you need to know how to maneuver when buyers throw you curveballs. You need the right negotiation skills to bolster your success, stay confident, and avoid caving.

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If you’re a sales or enablement leader charged with training sales managers, you’ve likely been asked, or asked yourself, “What are the core skills and competencies our sales managers need to effectively coach and develop our sellers?” As you dig into this question, developing effective sales managers can seem like a daunting challenge.

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Are you finding the sales cycle is getting longer? Increases in loss to the dreaded “no decision”? Difficulty selling in an uncertain economy? You're not alone.

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Selling has changed significantly in just the last few years, 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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Don’t be surprised to bump into discussions around metrics at any gathering of sales enablement professionals. Measuring the success of sales training and enablement initiatives is top of mind for these folks, and rightly so.

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Meet Morgan. A hard-working seller. Focused and productive. Morgan’s developed strong sales skills and knows what it takes to sell. At the end of the year, does Morgan hit target? Beat it by 20%? Fall short by 30%? Does Morgan know: How many sales they need to win?

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I received a call the other day from someone selling website tracking software. We already use a marketing automation tool like this. I mentioned it to the seller, who went on a rant about how he visited our website, recognized the tool we use, and how we weren't doing it right. I didn’t know this guy. He knew nothing about our marketing and sales process or the types of customers we're trying to reach. Yet he felt he knew enough to tell me we're doing it all wrong. There are always ways to improve, but this seller called me out of the blue—without knowing anything about my business—to tell me I was doing it all wrong. The seller was soon speaking to a dial tone.

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Closing sales in today’s environment is a real challenge. If you’re in sales or sales leadership, I expect you’re nodding your head. Sales cycles are getting longer, more opportunities are being lost to no decision, and the economy is unpredictable at best.

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There's such a thing as being too close to a problem, and we see that as a frequent challenge when it comes to improving sales performance. In our recent study of nearly 400 sellers and sales leaders, we asked sellers how challenging they find various selling skills/behaviors. For the 16 skills we asked about, less than 55% of sellers found each very challenging. And when we take out the two outliers (prospecting and winning large deals), that number drops to less than 38%. Is it simply that these skills come easily to sellers? Are they so well trained that they're able to overcome obstacles and excel? Not exactly. When juxtaposed with buyer survey data, we see a significant gap between what sellers find challenging and how effective buyers believe they are.

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You’ve worked on building rapport with your prospect and you’ve uncovered their aspirations and afflictions. The question then becomes, "So what?" If your afflictions don't get solved, so what? What won’t happen? Will they get worse? How will they affect the bottom line of your company, division, or department? How will they affect your life?

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Have you met Morgan? A terrific sales rep. Except recently, Morgan has slipped out of the top tier of the leaderboard and I think I know why: she struggles to adapt to the new selling environment.

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How is the current state of the sales environment impacting sales organizations? Which sales and enablement issues are most challenging for leaders 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 322 sales, enablement, and company leaders globally, following up on our original research conducted in 2019.

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People often ask us, “What should we do to drive sales success?” It’s a complicated question. You’ll need to consider the following factors, among many more: What to tackle When to tackle it What results the organization should be targeting Where you can get the biggest bang for your buck What it really takes to get those results

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You’d be hard-pressed to find an organization that didn’t want its sellers and sales teams to meet their goals in the face of challenging conditions and do so with high win rates and strong pricing. Sales training is one obvious way for organizations to build such teams. While sales training often fails to meet its promise, our research shows that highly effective sales training is correlated with higher win rates, sales goal attainment, and premium pricing.

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Ask 100 sellers at 100 companies why their customers buy from them, and you’re likely to hear 100 answers with the same underlying theme: the value we provide. Sellers describe their value to us in several ways: we get results. Our relationships are very close. They get from us what they’ve always wanted (but never gotten) from other companies. We bring innovative solutions to the table. And so on. Pretty obvious, right? To win sales you must maximize value.

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One of the first things sellers learn is to keep it simple. Yet when it comes to a particularly hot topic in our industry, sales leaders do anything but. Rather than apply the K-I-S-S principle to sales productivity, many leaders instead turn to technology, tracking, and top-down governance.

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Sales leaders with a finger on the pulse of B2B sales know that marked change is underway. Some changes have been spurred by the global pandemic, with others hastened by the uncertainty of the economy. For their new report, Future of B2B Sales: The Big Reframe, authors at McKinsey & Company spoke to more than 50 heads of sales across a range of industries and geographies to better understand the shift in the B2B sales environment. They identified 5 key themes:

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When it comes to business development for professional services, one of the biggest challenges professionals face is finding time to do it all. After all, you don't sell full-time. Your work, whether it's consulting, accounting, IT, financial services, or engineering, is what you do full-time. It can be very difficult to find time to create and develop the relationships necessary to bring in new business.

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The world of B2B selling looks far different than it once did. Top sellers know they must go well beyond discussing features and benefits. They need to be closely tuned in to the buying process for each member of the buying committee while consistently meeting buyers where they are throughout the cycle. That’s a tall ask, as it turns out. According to Gartner, as many as ten decision makers might make up a B2B buying center. Additional data from CMO Council shows that B2B customers actively research and compare solutions, often completing 50% to 90% of the work before contacting a sales rep. Long story short: complexity is a hallmark of B2B sales.

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Given the investment companies make in hiring, training, and managing their sales force to get maximum results, it’s imperative sales and enablement leaders understand how they can make the most of that investment and retain the best sellers once hired. Our Top-Performing Sales Organization research, in which we analyzed data from 472 sellers and executives, revealed that the process for onboarding new sales hires and getting sellers to full productivity is strongly correlated to key measures of a well-functioning sales organization.

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Too many sellers have similar problems: Bloated pipelines filled with dead wood Lack of clarity on what opportunities to focus on No plan to win their biggest, most important opportunities Losing too often to the competition

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When you invest in sales training, you’re committing time and resources with the distinct possibility of failure. From misaligned goals to lackluster adoption, there are many reasons why sales training doesn’t achieve desired results. Proper planning is a must for sales training that works. That means doing your research and finding an effective training provider to partner with and guide you through the process. Fortunately, you can set up your organization for success when it comes to sales training. The 22 green flags in this checklist give you a rubric to analyze potential providers, ask good questions, and form the foundation of your decision making. Download it as a quick reference or refer to our more detailed rationale below.

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Most sellers want to have better meetings with senior executives but don’t know how to do so. They want to get away from surface-level pitches and have actual conversations. They envision meetings that build deeper relationships and uncover more ways they can help their clients. Speaking to senior executives can be intimidating. Many sellers, when asked what’s holding them back from talking with the C-suite, say things like, "I don't feel comfortable," "I have nothing to offer to them," or "I'm not at their level."

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Sometimes, talking to the C-suite is easy. Conversation flows. You find common areas personally and professionally. Ideas bounce back and forth. Before you know it, work is underway. But sometimes, it isn’t easy—even if you’ve been following the tips for selling to the C-suite. Maybe the executive is all business, guarded, and hesitant to share. When faced with a skeptical executive, you might be tempted to give up and invest your time and effort elsewhere. In some cases, moving on may be the right answer. But often, building a close, trusting relationship with a skeptical executive can be a catalyst to your success.

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What Is a Sales Kickoff? A sales kickoff (SKO) is an event, often held at the start of a fiscal year or quarter, during which an organization shares goals and strategy for the upcoming year and motivates their sales teams. During the event, sellers might receive training on new skills, tools, or products and services.

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Once upon a time, there was a notion that social media was unnecessary for selling; it was a novelty and not a staple. At the time, some believed that enterprise-level decision makers couldn’t be reached on social platforms. Now, social media is a necessity to establish credibility with potential buyers.

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It seems like the world of sales is moving at a breakneck pace. Between new digital tools, hybridized sales teams, and economic shifts, it can feel overwhelming to keep up with everything. And it can be tempting to try to be everywhere and do everything at once just to stay competitive.

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As we enter the holiday season with the New Year right around the corner, it’s easy to think about next year and beyond—to a future lead by our children. And though they’re resilient, no one has felt the effects of the last few years more than our world’s kids. Limited, reduced, and eliminated resources means many are without the tools and support they need to thrive and grow into happy and healthy teens and adults.

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When economic uncertainty leads to organizations everywhere tightening their belts, sellers are hard-pressed to stay efficient and keep revenue flowing. So how can you and your sellers stay on track and cross the finish line strong? There are plenty of ways to get the most out of the team you already have. In this infographic, you'll find 8 areas of focus to keep winning sales, each a category where Top-Performing Sellers excel compared to The Rest. Only 18.7% of sellers qualify as Top Performers, so there's always room for improvement!

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Want to take this article with you or share with a colleague? . With the rise of virtual training, hybrid workforces, and self-directed learning, what is the role of in-person training? Is in-person sales training dead? Yes and no. It’s true the global pandemic radically changed how sales organizations think about live events, including salesforce onboarding, education, and SKOs that were once the norm. The pandemic challenged sales teams to try new and creative solutions for training, most of them digital-first.

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Interesting tidbit: the concept of a sales funnel dates back to Chicago meatpackers in the late nineteenth century. Even then, the Armours, Swifts, and Morrises of the world were tinkering with the best strategies for selling their products to other businesses. In many ways, the fundamental challenges of selling remain the same for the modern B2B sales funnel. That is, how to strike a chord with potential buyers—how to find alignment, create value, and deliver—instead of putting them through the same generic steps.

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Many people want to believe that cold calling doesn't work because they don't want to have to get on the phone. Indeed, there are many ways to do it wrong and fail. Many cold callers use deceptive tactics to get through and leave a bad taste in buyers' mouths.

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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. Effective sales training should be viewed, designed, and executed as a change management initiative.

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During a now-famous interview on the Pierre Berton Show in 1971, Bruce Lee shared a simple philosophy: “be like water.” As fitting as Lee’s advice is for sellers, “be like a sponge” works just as well. To stay ahead, sales teams must continuously absorb new information and develop skills. Ongoing training and coaching and sustained effort over time is crucial. Otherwise, sellers (and their managers) risk not reaching their potential. Fortunately, there are sales training techniques that even the most experienced teams will soak up.

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For sellers, routine can be a blessing and a curse. It’s true that doing the same things day in and day out provides structure. It requires discipline, too. But it can also turn into a comfort zone in which many sellers stagnate. This is what makes recurring sales training programs so valuable. Yet even after the most engaging, resonant sales training programs, sellers tend to revert back to what they’re accustomed to doing. Which puts a heavy onus on sales managers.

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TL;DR? Download the PDF and save it for later. If you’re responsible for designing or implementing sales training for your organization, you know the effectiveness of training varies greatly. It might not be implemented properly, land well with participants, be relevant to sellers’ daily work, or it might be forgotten completely in the days and weeks following the training. Sales training fails more often than it succeeds. But, for those who get it right, the payoffs are substantial.

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Differentiation often starts with marketing, but it truly comes alive in the selling process. Even if your company’s products and services are superior to all others, this means nothing if you can’t convey that to your buyers. Differentiating in sales is more than a good pitch—you need to differentiate in the right areas, adapt to your buyer’s needs, and build value.

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It’s always important to remember: if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. If you want your sellers to perform at the peak of their potential, it’s essential to know the specific objectives you need to help your team achieve, and to map out the road that will help them achieve those objectives.

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In a RAIN Group Center for Sales Research survey, we asked 423 sales and enablement leaders what their top priorities were for the year ahead. Their responses offer insight into the areas sales teams are actively trying to improve.

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Sales tools can help you standardize processes, improve your skillset, and make the best use of your time. We’ve compiled all our free tools to help you succeed—browse below for resources covering every topic of sales.

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There’s simply not enough time in the day to focus on every essential skill needed to succeed in sales. While sales teams must prioritize skills development, it’s important to identify which skills could have the biggest impact on your sales results.

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Do you know what it’s going to take to reach your sales target? It’s not enough to have a quota or even set goals for yourself—you need to know exactly what to do daily to accomplish your goals.

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

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Whether you're trying to get better at running or improve your sales skills, you need to choose what to focus on to get the best results. We can't give you the skills to run a marathon, but we can share the 11 skills that represent the largest skill gaps between Top Performers and The Rest to help you improve your sales efforts. We uncovered these skills and behaviors in a recent global study of 1,004 sellers and sales managers.

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What Is Sales Prospecting? Prospecting is the first stage of the sales cycle in which sellers identify potential buyers. The goal of prospecting is to create interest and then convert that interest into a sales meeting.

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The best sellers do more than just close sales. They reshape buyer thinking and drive change through the value they provide. We call this insight selling, and it hinges on the concept of cognitive reframing.

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As one of the final steps to close a sale, the proposal presentation is essential to answering lingering questions, demonstrating impact, and connecting with decision makers. While there are several things to keep in mind for the presentation itself, just as important is the preparation you do before the meeting. Asking key questions of your buyer and working with your internal team will give you the edge you need to outshine your competition.

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You can be spot-on building rapport with your buyers and uncovering their needs, but without communicating the impact of what you’re selling, you—and your initiative—won’t be a priority. When you’re able to understand and articulate the impact of your solutions, you can help buyers start thinking differently.

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66% of respondents agree that people in their organization don’t dedicate enough time or energy to prospecting, according to our Top Performance in Sales Prospecting research. Beyond that:

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When it comes to solving what may appear to be an intractable problem, sellers and sales managers are often at a loss for how, exactly, to lead the problem-solving process.

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Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: “Put me in front of ten buyers and I'll close seven of them. All I need is more meetings.” I hear this from sellers all the time. They're convinced they'll get the hits if they just get more at-bats. But where are those at-bats going to come from? No salesperson ever hit home runs by sitting back and waiting for the phone to ring or their email to ding. To succeed in sales, you need to proactively generate a consistent stream of new leads to fill the front end of the pipeline.

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In a hybrid sales environment, you need to be able to meet and engage buyers wherever they are. If you want to generate the best opportunities and set yourself up for success, 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.

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In What Sales Winners Do Differently, we studied over 700 purchases from the perspective of business-to-business buyers to find out what really happened in their buying experiences.

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Wouldn’t it be great if there was a silver bullet that would make you more successful in your sales efforts? Or if there was one thing you could do to really boost your sales results? Here’s the bad news: there’s no silver bullet. Sales success takes hard work and commitment, along with skill and savvy. There’s no shortcut to success.

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Negotiations may be more competitive than ever, but the best negotiators are still confident, able to achieve target pricing, and more satisfied with the results of negotiations. But where do these negotiators excel?

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Some buyers are conditioned to try certain tactics to lower your price. Maybe they've read about negotiation in books or were trained to use pressuring strategies.

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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. With a little forethought and preparation, you can make a great first impression with your buyers. Read on for guidelines and tips specifically focused on projecting a professional image in your virtual sales.

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The #1 essential rule of sales negotiation is Always Be Willing to Walk Away. You know when you should walk when you know your BATNA, or best alternative to a negotiated agreement. When you’re feeling calm, clear-headed, and confident, you’re more likely to be a successful sales negotiator. Yet, anxiety is the most common emotion associated with negotiations, and anxious negotiators don’t perform well.

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Whether you work on a sale for 9 hours, 9 weeks, or 9 months, when you get to the negotiation phase of the selling process, you can lose the sale in an instant. And even for those sellers who win the sale, the negotiated outcome may not be the best.

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Wouldn’t it be great if every single new prospect trusted you and your organization? Referrals are among the top ways sellers get leads and new business, but many struggle with generating them consistently. Often, this is because they haven’t thought about why buyers should refer them. They don’t have a system in place for generating referrals. If you’re providing a quality experience for your buyers, you’re already halfway there. Word of mouth is bound to generate new business, but a deliberate referral marketing plan will drastically improve the frequency and quality of the referrals you receive.

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Insight selling is the process of creating and winning sales opportunities and driving change with ideas that matter. There are two applications of insight selling: interaction insight and opportunity insight.

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The following is an excerpt from our new toolkit for sellers, How to Change the Buyer Conversation with Insight. Click here to access it. >> Think about buyers you've worked with who were trying to move an initiative or agenda forward. You probably heard something like: "We only need support in these areas from you." "The team has decided to engage an outside provider to deliver on X." "We're open to ideas about Y, but don't want to talk about Z." These buyers are in their comfort zone: either comfortable with what they're trying to accomplish or how they're trying to accomplish it. In some cases, there may be a good reason for it. It's possible they've already invested a great deal of time and resources into what they believe the solution should be. But many buyers are headed down paths that won’t serve them well. This is because they don’t know what you know or that something better might be possible. Your job is to help buyers make the best decisions, which often means making different decisions.

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If you want to be a successful salesperson, you need to get comfortable with skepticism. Why? Because people have doubts about one another. In its Trust and Distrust in America report, Pew Research Center found that 71% of Americans think interpersonal confidence has worsened in the past two decades. Nearly half of Americans think the reason is unreliability. For salespeople, it’s safe to assume that a certain level of skepticism is the norm.

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Take a moment to think about a time when you had a period of deep focus in which your work performance and productivity were at a high. Everything clicked. You nailed the deadline. Made the leap. Produced 10X. Everything came into focus. Wouldn’t it be great if you could have that level of focus and achieve that extreme productivity all the time—or even most of the time?

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By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.  - Benjamin Franklin We acknowledge that sometimes you can't prepare for a sales call or—hallelujah—a buyer calls you out of the blue. It's reasonable to suggest that, on occasion, sales calls are appropriately deemed 'exploratory discussions'; the kind of discussion in which we just talk and 'see where it goes.'

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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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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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Get these questions to go. 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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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know social media, especially LinkedIn, plays an important role in sales. But you may be surprised by just how big that role is. According to LinkedIn research, 89% of top sales professionals find social networking platforms such as LinkedIn important to closing deals. Indeed, our own research reveals the majority of buyers—82%—will review your LinkedIn profile, and, yes, judge you, before accepting a meeting or otherwise connecting with you.

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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 skillfully 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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In the past several years, so much has changed in the world of sales. 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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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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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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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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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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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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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.

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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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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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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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Virtual training has become a necessity for remote teams. But designing and delivering effective virtual training is the exception more than the norm.

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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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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: 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. 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. 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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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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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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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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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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LinkedIn is a powerful prospecting and sales tool. It’s a great way to connect with new buyers, stay top of mind, and engage with your network. The vast majority of buyers, especially company execs, engage with sellers on LinkedIn before making a purchase decision. In fact, we were shocked to discover that C-level executives consult LinkedIn more often than any other demographic.

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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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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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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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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 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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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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I’m in sales and I’m really proud of it. I find that most full-time sellers, working for a great company or delivering a great product or service, usually are. However, when you move into the realm of seller-doers, it’s a whole different story.

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In our Goal Setting Worksheet, we outline a 5-step process that not only helps you set goals, but also gives you the best chance to reach them. Here we provide some goal setting examples, accompanied by visuals from the worksheet, to give you a sense of how to set goals and put actions in place to achieve them.

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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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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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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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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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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 loathe reverse auctions. 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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"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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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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"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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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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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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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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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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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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LinkedIn can be a powerful sales tool for connecting and building relationships with buyers, but many sellers don't know where to start when it comes to using LinkedIn for sales. To help you optimize your LinkedIn profile, and get started using it as a sales tool, we offer these 31 tips.

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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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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.

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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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For years, traditional consultative selling was the approach many sellers used to successfully compete and consistently win sales. Today, it’s no longer enough.

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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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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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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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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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Selling. 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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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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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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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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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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When it comes to winning big sales opportunities, sales leaders often share 2 complaints: Sellers aren't proactive. They fail to drive their most important sales opportunities forward with determination and rigor. 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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"What gets measured gets managed." – Peter Drucker Only when you have a good sense of what's going on in your organization can you decide which buttons to push to make the greatest improvements. Even small efforts to track key sales metrics can quickly drive better results.

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The world around us is shifting—in virtually every way. Savvy sellers have caught on to the fact that B2B buying behavior is changing as well.

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We've written a lot about our What Sales Winners Do Differently research, in which we studied more than 700 B2B sales purchases by buyers representing $3.1 billion in annual purchasing power. We've shared with you how sales winners don't only sell differently, they sell radically differently from second-place finishers.

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"It was like a phantom swooped in in the eleventh hour and killed the sale." We've all been there...You had a series of great meetings. You built rapport and developed a strong, trusted relationship. You uncovered (and got agreement) on the buyer's needs—needs that they didn't even know they had. You spent days working with your delivery team to scope the project and write the proposal. You sent it off to your contact and called him at the time you had scheduled to review it:

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There's one question I wish I got asked more when working with leaders looking to invest in B2B sales training. That question is, "What will it really take to get the best results?" If you're a seller, you can probably relate to the experience of a well-meaning trainer giving examples from an industry that had nothing to do with yours. Or maybe they didn't have a credible track record to back up their claims. And when the training was over, it was back to business as usual the next morning.

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Like anything, insight selling comes with its own potential pitfalls. To help you avoid them, we have outlined the most common insight selling mistakes. Some points are tactical, and others strategic. Download: Your Guide to Insight Selling Success.

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What makes a great negotiator? Negotiation is a craft that can be learned by just about anyone. There are, however, certain characteristics of great negotiators that are difficult to develop through the even the most rigorous of training initiatives. They are qualities you either have or don't or that develop over years of experience, coaching, training, and self-reflection. If you have them, you're ahead of the game. If you don't, negotiation success may be elusive.

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You've been working on a sale for 4 months and everything's going great. Your potential customer, the decision maker, is talking as if the deal is done. But before final sign off, you must meet with the CFO. You get to the meeting.

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There’s a revolution underway in sales. What used to work, even just a few years ago, is no longer enough to win major sales today. As a result, a new breed of seller, who's beating out the competition and winning the sale, has emerged: the insight seller. Insight sellers share new ideas and perspectives with their buyers, and they collaborate with buyers to develop the best solutions. They don’t just sell the value of their products and services, they become the value.

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There's been a lot of noise the last couple years declaring relationship selling dead. "The Internet has changed everything." "Personal connections don't matter anymore." "Selling is not about relationships." "Throw out everything you thought you knew about sales, Armageddon is coming!" Blah, blah, etc.

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As a seller, one of your most difficult tasks will be breaking into new accounts and setting meetings. Most of us have some form of cold prospecting in our past, so we all know how lonely it can sometimes feel. But if you want to be successful in sales, you need to be able to build your own pipeline and drum up your own business.

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In Insight Selling: Surprising Research on What Sales Winners Do Differently, we reveal the results of our extensive analysis of over 700 B2B purchases from the buyer’s perspective. In our research, we found that sales winners consistently exhibit behaviors on three levels: they connect, convince, and collaborate.

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You finally got the meeting! Now what? While getting a buyer to say "yes" to an initial sales meeting is a battle in and of itself, much success is determined by what happens in that first meeting. There are many mistakes to avoid, especially when you’re the one setting the meeting, driving the demand for your offerings and when you're hosting virtual sales meetings.

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I recently returned from an industry conference. The speakers were excellent and it was great to get away from my desk, connect with the attendees, and have the opportunity to step back and think big picture about what I need to be doing to drive success in my position. I returned with all sorts of notes, to-dos, and grand visions for change.

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In our What Sales Winners Do Differently research, we found that the number one factor separating sales winners from second-place finishers is this: Sellers educated buyers with new ideas or perspectives. In other words, the seller became known as a source of insight.

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Insight selling is an old concept that has recaptured the fancy of the sales world, and rightly so, because it’s about adding value. Specifically, it’s about the seller adding value over-and-above the product or service. Too many folks, however, think insight selling is about educating buyers through presentations. They’re about half right, but without the other half, they’re missing out on the full impact of insight selling.

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Sales coaching has become a hot topic in business as more and more companies see a significant return on investment. However, where executive coaching and personal-effectiveness coaching yield positive results, sales coaching lags behind. Whether it's a lack of time, inconsistent coaching conversations, unavailability of tools and resources to succeed, or weak coaching skills, sales managers and leaders simply aren't producing strong results.

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Sales coaching—working one-on-one or in small groups with firms and individuals in a highly focused manner to help them increase effectiveness, revenues, and sales—is a large part of what I do on a day-to-day basis. Done right, it’s one of the most powerful, impactful ways to increase revenue and boost individual or group performance.

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I spend a good percentage of my time selling. I also spend a lot of time coaching and training sales teams. One question that comes up time after time is, "How do I shorten the sales cycle?" My quick response is usually, "Have more in each stage of your pipeline at all times, so the sales cycle just seems shorter." Of course, that rarely makes anyone feel better. So based on our experience, here are 10 rules that will help make your sales process move more quickly:

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CONVINCE con•vince Cause (someone) to believe firmly in the truth of something. Persuade (someone) to take action. Building confidence in the validity of an idea. Inspiring action. The sellers who do these best sell the most.

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It’s 4 PM on a Thursday. You’re about to meet the CEO of a large company you’d like to win as a client. The conversation starts as you walk into the office, approach the CEO, stretch out your hand, and say, “Nice to meet you, Jill. I’m Steve Webb.” Fast forward 7 months later. It’s 3 PM on a Wednesday. You head into the office. Jill gets out from behind her desk and says, “Good to see you again, Steve. Here’s the signed contract for the initial $1.2 million. Let’s get started.” Suffice it to say, a lot has to happen between “hello” and “let’s go.” Yet two things are true. 1) This is how it happens. And, 2) how to lead sales conversations, influence your prospects to want to buy, buy from you, buy a robust solution, and pay full price for it confounds many people. But it doesn’t have to.

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For our What Sales Winners Do Differently research, we studied over 700 major purchases from buyers who represented $3.1 billion dollars in annual purchasing power. One question we wanted to answer was, “Is it the company and offerings that make the biggest difference in the buyer’s purchase decision, or is it the seller and how they sell?” Guess what: it’s the seller and how they sell that most separates sales winners from the rest. The following list reveals what buyers say are the top 10 areas where sellers who win outperform those who come in second place.

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In this post we noted we often get questions about The Challenger Sale. Perhaps the most common question we get is, “What do you think of the five seller profiles?” The five seller profiles, as defined by the authors of The Challenger Sale in “Selling Is Not About Relationships,” a Harvard Business Review blog post, are as follows. We list them in order by what they found in their study to be least to most likely to be a top performer in sales.

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What is the #1 challenge or issue you face when it comes to growing sales for your business? When I recently reached out to my network and asked that same question, 75% mentioned sales prospecting as their #1 challenge. The problem isn’t that people don’t know what to do; it’s that what they’ve always done no longer works. Want proof? Think about the last time you met an actual decision maker at a networking event, and that conversation led to a sale. How about from a cold call? Trade show? Advertisement? The simple truth is this: if you do what everybody else is doing, you’ll get the same results everybody else is getting.

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How selling is changing? What do sellers need to do to maximize their success? To find out, we studied more than 700 business-to-business purchases made across industries by buyers who represent a total of $3.1 billion in annual purchasing power, and posed the question: “What are the winners of actual sales opportunities doing differently than the sellers who come in second place?” After many months of significant effort, we revealed the data and insight from our research in our What Sales Winners Do Differently research report. This report reveals data and insight from our in-depth sales research on what sellers do to win sales opportunities. The results are both surprising and fascinating.

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"It's impossible to get serious face time with senior executives." “Even getting 15 minutes with a senior executive can take 15 months.” I hear things like this all the time from professionals, sellers, and other business leaders who want to get more time with decision makers, but haven’t yet cracked the code.

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According to ES Research between 85% and 90% of sales training has no lasting impact after 120 days. At the same time, companies are spending billions of dollars on sales training each year. That’s billions of dollars being wasted on limited sales performance impact and only short-term boosts in sales at best. Training can be a disappointment right away when it just doesn’t go well, or it can be a disappointment months later when results don’t materialize. Regardless, sales training strikes out a lot. When it does, it’s usually because of common and predictable reasons. But if you can avoid these mistakes, you can set yourself up for a successful training initiative that leads to increased sales performance and long-term revenue growth. Here are 7 reasons why your sales training might be failing:

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Salespeople know what they sell, and they sell what they know. When it comes to salesperson knowledge, people know too little about their particular industry, their customers’ needs, and their company’s products and services to be able to sell the full suite of solutions. Without this knowledge they can’t: Ask the right questions to uncover the complete set of customer needs Match the right products and services to those needs Position the value of their company as superior to other options available to the customer

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Achieving your goals isn't a slam dunk. Can you do what it takes to meet them? I recently started going to a personal trainer. At the beginning of our very first session, she asked, "So, what are you trying to accomplish?" "To get in better shape?", I hesitantly answered. "Well, without a clear goal, you will not be able to see your progress, you will lose momentum, and we won't be able to see if the training is paying off."

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There are thousands of ways to kill a sale. Some are obvious like not showing up to a meeting prepared, not following up, not listening, not establishing trust, going to proposal too early, not speaking to decision makers... the list goes on. These are all pretty easy to see and with some work and practice can be overcome. Then there are the killers that hide beneath the surface that many sellers and sales managers do not even know exist. They are the sales weaknesses that are a part of an individual salesperson’s makeup that act like weights pulling them down.

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Cold prospecting – reaching out to targets you don’t know to generate an initial meeting – is one of the hardest parts of sales. Partly, it’s a numbers game. With decision makers more insulated than ever, it’s getting harder and harder to get past gatekeepers and beyond voicemail. But what happens when you do get a cold prospect to pay attention – whether it’s because they picked up the phone, or responded to an email or a direct mail piece? Do you feel like you nail it every time? Much prospecting success is determined in this first interaction. Many opportunities die here before you have a chance to engage.

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The following is expanded content from our new book Rainmaking Conversations: Influence, Persuade, and Sell in Any Situation. In this piece, co-authors Mike Schultz and John Doerr discuss the concept of a value proposition, and how to communicate your value to someone you are meeting for the first time. Read more about the book here.

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The following is expanded content from our new book Rainmaking Conversations: Influence, Persuade, and Sell in Any Situation. In this piece, co-authors Mike Schultz and John Doerr explain how to get at the root causes of need so you can solve prospect challenges in the most permanent and helpful way. Read more about the book here.

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The following is expanded content from our new book Rainmaking Conversations: Influence, Persuade, and Sell in Any Situation. In this piece, co-authors Mike Schultz and John Doerr explain that to improve sales persuasion skills, the underlying components of influence must be understood and applied. Read more about the book here.

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Confused why your value prop doesn't work? You shouldn't be. “We build brands…” Back in the late 90's when I was a running a marketing firm, this was the beginning of our value proposition. We thought it was brilliant… until we started using it.

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Are you giving yourself a chance of a bullseye? “Like a poor marksman you keep…missing…the target. Kaaahhhnnn!!!” - Admiral James T. Kirk There's one sales person I know that worked very hard, but he always seemed to be middle of the pack when it came to results. He had good skills and he was a good guy, but the results just weren’t there.

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Prospecting and setting appointments via cold call is not easy. But learn to overcome these objections, and you'll instantly find more success in it. A recent business-to-business client of ours closed a mid-six figure deal that started with a cold call. But it started out rocky. Indeed, about 20 seconds in to the cold call it almost fell apart.

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“If I could just get a meeting with my target prospects I am certain I could close five (or six or eight) out of every ten.” How many of you think the same thing? You know that when you get in front of the prospect you can wow them. Every time a lead comes into the firm and you go on the sales meeting, it's a slam dunk. Made-in-the-shade. Can of corn. You know you'll get the gig. Let's assume you set a meeting with someone you believe will be a good prospect. It's not from a referral – they neither know you nor have they heard of you beforehand. Thus there is no transferred trust as when you are referred in. It's also not from a client who's sought you out, thus there's no hot need. You targeted them, and you asked them for a meeting.

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If you don't know your destination, any road will get you there. When prospects ask for a formal proposal, they are telling you their desired destination: a business relationship with you. And they're asking you to answer the question, “What road do we take to get there?” Since it's your job to give directions, you want to tell them the straightest, shortest, and easiest route. After all, you don't want them to get lost along the way, or so tired on the path that they give up before they get to the end.

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It's 2001. You work for a new company in the search engine space. Let's call this company Shmoogle. Shmoogle has this huge new idea—businesses are starting to grow based on getting found on the Internet. Why not have businesses pay per click to get found? Brilliant! You're a sales person at Shmoogle, and you know pay per click will be huge. You start prospecting on the phone.

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"Your fees are too high; can you do it for less?" In the highly competitive marketplace we hear dreaded phrases like this all of the time. The easy thing to do is to offer a discount, but that cuts into your profit margins and sets a precedent for the future. You don’t want to become a victim of discounting gone wrong. So what do you do when clients push back on your fees?

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