"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.
In a meeting with a top sales officer at a large company just before Coronavirus, we were discussing virtual training. He said, “I’m just not into virtual training.”
I asked, “Why’s that?”
He responded, “It can be really challenging, from a seller’s perspective, to make it relevant in their world. Having them sit in front of a computer screen with content fed at them isn't a dynamic learning experience. I don’t see our sellers doing that or getting anything out of it.”
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.
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?
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?
Engagement Threshold (noun): The point at which attention is captured and maintained, and below which is lost.
We teach the concept of the engagement threshold to sellers that need to hold buyers’ attention in virtual sales meetings.
When we teach it to sellers, we need to gain and keep their attention.
It’s never been easy, but in a virtual environment, it’s significantly more difficult.
What are the top challenges sellers face as they transition to virtual selling?
How effective are sellers in the virtual space?
What factors have the greatest influence on buyers' purchase decisions when buying virtually?
Since the global pandemic of 2020 began, virtual training has become imperative. But designing and delivering effective virtual training is the exception more than the norm.
We’re asked all the time about which platform for use for virtual instructor-led training (VILT). With all of the choices out there—Zoom, Adobe Connect, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, GoToWebinar, On24, etc.—which one is best?
Like any good consultant, my answer to this question is, “It depends.”
There isn't a straightforward answer because different platforms excel at different things. At RAIN Group, we’re platform agnostic and don't promote one platform over another. We partner with our clients to determine which platform is right for them and what they're looking to do.
There are, however, three key considerations for platform selection.
This article originally appeared in Entrepreneur and has been updated given the current sales environment.
The first half of 2020 proved to significantly alter the way every single industry operates. Businesses have been forced to become more nimble and sellers have had to learn to sell virtually and remain productive while working from home.
While this new environment has presented new challenges, many companies and individuals are adapting and succeeding even in tough times.
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:
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to selling virtually. Projecting a professional image in your virtual meetings is an important (and often overlooked) factor to consider.
Here we provide guidelines and tips specifically focused on projecting a professional image in your virtual sales meetings grouped in the following five categories:
With a little forethought and preparation, you can make a great first impression with your buyers.
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:
It's a nice list, but not unique to virtual instructor-led training (vILT).
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:
Since the global pandemic of 2020 began, virtual training has become an imperative. But designing and delivering effective virtual training is more the exception than the norm.
Virtual training failure is all too common.
That’s because virtual training that works is still in its infancy, and most organizations struggle to convert what works for in-person training to a virtual environment.
Selling virtually is a challenge for even the best sellers.
You have to change the way you sell and use different technologies to maximize your success. While many of the principles of consultative selling remain the same (i.e., you have to build rapport, uncover needs, inspire with new ideas, build an impact case, etc.), how you go about doing these in a virtual environment is drastically different.
We're weeks into stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders in an attempt to #flattenthecurve. This has caused millions of people to work from home—many for the first time—while also dealing with children being homeschooled, spouses and roommates working (or not!) in the same environment, pets, and all of the other distractions available at home. When working from home, it's imperative that you motivate yourself, focus, and learn to execute in the zone to be productive and get the most done.
Becoming more productive, maximizing motivation, and achieving results is about employing the right habits and routines. It's not something you do some of the time; it becomes part of the way you approach your work.
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.
As the global economy teeters on the edge of uncertainty, companies are already canceling engagements, dropping vendors, and tightening their purse strings.
They’re looking for any way to make their dollar stretch, and there’s no better time to do that than in contract negotiations.
For industries still in buying mode, negotiations pose a unique opportunity to take advantage of desperate sellers struggling to meet their numbers.
As businesses shut down and stock markets plummet during this global crisis, buyers are more money conscious than ever. In most industries, sales are stalling. Buyers are cutting spend and pushing vendors for deep discounts.
This is an unprecedented time.
It's essential that sellers are the best they can be, and that includes in sales negotiation. In fact, every dollar preserved in a negotiation goes straight to your bottom line. How much of a difference can it make?
COVID-19 has rapidly accelerated changes in how business is done around the world. With employees working from home, travel bans, and new developments daily, virtual training has become an imperative.
But many organizations have never done virtual training, and many L&D and sales enablement professionals are looking for new ideas and approaches. It’s easy for virtual training to fail, so how do you make it truly successful with so much riding on it?
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.
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.
"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.
Seller: “Based on your requirements X, Y, and Z, with setup and 90 days of consultation time, the price for the project will be $475,000.”
Buyer: “Is this the best you can do? It’s more than I was expecting. While I’d prefer to go with you, [competitor] said they can do it for less.”
Seller: “We are pretty confident in our pricing, but let me see what I can do and get back to you.”
This is oversimplified, but it’s an all too common scenario in B2B selling.
When you’re buying something big, you likely ask for discounts. If you do, it makes sense that others do, too. If you don’t ask for discounts, guess what? You’re in the minority.
What are the best strategies for success in sales negotiations? What do buyers really want? Which tactics work best for buyers? For sellers? How is negotiating with procurement different?
The RAIN Group Center for Sales Research recently studied 713 buyers and sellers in a major global study to answer these questions and more. We analyzed data from 449 buyers representing $2.59 billion in annual purchases and 264 sellers in over 26 industries across the Americas, EMEA, and APAC.
Whether you work on a sale for 9 days, 9 weeks, or 9 months, you can lose it in an instant during the negotiation.
Even if you win, you may watch your margin slip away, the buyer piecemeal the product or solution set, or find yourself fighting against any number of hardball tactics.
Plus, many sellers make serious negotiation mistakes that drive down profits and damage customer relationships.
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.
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."
When sellers lose a sale, we often hear something like:
It's 2020 and now is the time to begin executing on your plan to blow the doors off your sales goals.
But 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 5 key ways Top Performers stand out compared to The Rest.
Wishing our clients, friends, readers, and followers a very happy holiday season and joyful New Year.
It’s truly an honor to be a part of your journey as you and your team unleash your sales potential and achieve your goals. Your success is our success, and we look forward to working together in 2020 and beyond.
From all of us at RAIN Group: Happy Holidays!
Throughout the year, our goal is to provide you with research, ideas, and insight to help you unleash sales potential and crush your sales goals.
From blog posts to new white papers, ebooks, infographics, webinars, and research, we've published an abundance of content in 2019 to help sellers, sales managers, and sales leaders reach top performance.
Below we've rounded up our most popular content from the year that will guide you on your path towards sales success.
With 2020 less than a month away, it’s time to think about what sales success looks like for you in the new decade.
Are changes in buyer behavior affecting your sales success? Are your accounts buying as much or as often as they could be? Are you losing big in negotiations?
Picture this: You're meeting with your prospect after months of discussions. You have a great relationship. You did facilitated sessions, interviews, and organized a global team for the roll out. If you win, this will be your biggest close of the quarter.
All signs look a-go, but you still have one remaining meeting to work out, according to your prospect, "the key terms and conditions."
You walk into the room and hear…
Preparation is often the greatest determinant of negotiation success.
Across negotiation studies and surveys, sellers who get the best outcomes:
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.
What do sellers see as challenging?
What do sales leaders see as challenging for sellers?
Where are these two groups aligned in their thinking and where are they divided?
Do these differences matter?
To find out, we asked 423 sales leaders and 129 sellers about the challenges sellers face and compared their answers.
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:
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:
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.
Sellers who win more often bring new ideas and perspectives to their buyers. In fact, 71% of buyers report that they want to talk to sellers early in the sales process when they are looking for new ideas.
But what ideas inspire buyers? How can you shape buyer agendas for action? How can you differentiate in sales?
Sales success doesn't just happen. Sales winners aren't born with special knowledge or abilities that others don't have. Maybe it looks that way when you watch top performers from the outside, but they've worked to hone their skills, constantly learning and improving.
And guess what? The secret to sales success isn't, as Blake says in Glengarry Glen Ross, to "Always be closing."
The secret to success is all in the preparation.
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.
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.
Sales training is often approached with a car wash mentality: You're in, you're out, and you're ready to sell.
But this isn't how real learning happens. This isn't how you help sellers raise the bar and change how they sell.
It's time for an entirely new approach to sales education; an approach that overhauls the way sales training is conceived, designed, and executed over the long-term.
An approach that drives real behavior change and results.
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.
This RAIN Group article was first published on Selling Power.
Sales managers face a myriad of challenges managing remote sales teams.
When seller and manager are in different places, though, one challenge stands above all else: ensuring sales productivity.
Seventy-one percent of companies don't believe their sellers manage their time and days effectively. If you want your remote sales team to be productive, this has to change.
How would you rate your organization's sales process?
World-class sales processes aren't built overnight. And they never remain stagnant.
They are measured and improved regularly, with best practices for strategies and tactics outlined clearly across all six phases of the sales cycle.
This RAIN Group article was first published on Selling Power.
When it comes to sales prospecting, sellers are frequently told the following:
But rarely do sellers stop and think, "Is any of this true?"
According to 488 buyers (who get prospected to all the time) and 489 sellers who outbound prospect, these generally accepted-to-be-true statements are, in fact, false. They're sales prospecting myths that too many sellers follow, and it's hurting their results.
Here are the facts when it comes to sales prospecting:
Everyone is a periodic procrastinator. Twenty percent of people are chronic procrastinators.1
We all have something we want to do or know we need to do, but it seems difficult, so we avoid it.
Often, that seemingly difficult task is the same activity that would provide you the greatest feeling of accomplishment, productivity, and return on your efforts. It's your Greatest Impact Activity.
Productivity is often misunderstood.
One person might think being productive is conquering their never-ending inbox by the end of the day, while another perceives it as working as many hours as possible.
Here's the thing: it's not about getting through your email, and it's not about being a workhorse and cranking out eight or more hours of work every day.
It's about working smarter. (Cliché, yes, but still true.)
How can you take your productivity to the max?
Meet Extreme Productivity.
What challenges do sales enablement and sales leaders encounter most often? Which ones are most difficult to tackle?
What are the top sales priorities for the next 12 months? How should they be addressed to ensure they're achieved?
To find out the answers to these questions, we surveyed 423 sales, enablement, and company leaders.
The results are fascinating. As sales researchers and analysts, it helps us to see not only what's changed, but also what's changing right now and where the industry is going.
Delivering value, making the ROI case, retaining customers, growing accounts, recruiting top talent, forecasting, implementing a sales process, utilizing sales technologies, winning against the competition, developing sales managers, coaching sales teams, generating leads, onboarding, productivity, compensation...
There's no shortage of challenges sales leaders face.
Recently, we surveyed 423 sales, enablement, and company leaders to uncover their top challenges and priorities, and how they approach them.
What are the top challenges sales enablement and sales leaders face today? What are their top priorities?
Which are most difficult to tackle? How should they be tackled?
To find out, we asked 423 sales, enablement, and company leaders these questions.
This report contains our findings, including 3 initiatives that will help sales and enablement leaders address their challenges and achieve their priorities.
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.
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.
While there are many definitions of motivation, I like Business Dictionary's best:
Internal and external factors that stimulate desire and energy in people to be continually interested and committed to a job, role or subject, or to make an effort to attain a goal.
Let's break it down.
There's abundant advice on how to be more productive. Endless hacks, tips, motivational quotes, trainings, apps, and tools all promising to increase your productivity.
It's enough to make your head spin. It definitely made our heads spin over the years as we tried to help our clients increase execution and accountability after training programs. So, we asked the question, "What actually helps people be more productive?"
To find out what really makes a difference in productivity, we studied and analyzed the work habits of 2,377 business people, performing a statistical test called a key driver analysis.
A key driver analysis seeks to discover and demonstrate whether a factor (the key driver) causes a particular outcome. For this study, we analyzed work habits and behaviors to determine whether or not they impact the outcome of productivity (as well as performance, happiness, and job satisfaction).
When you run an analysis like this, sometimes you find something, sometimes not.
We certainly found something this time around. In fact, we found that 12 of the behaviors we studied were key drivers of Extreme Productivity.
This RAIN Group Article was originally published on the InsideSales Blog.
Asking incisive sales questions is essential for success.
The questions you ask help you uncover buyer needs and desires, connect with buyers, and demonstrate your expertise.
By asking questions, you can discover the buyer's buying process, learn about the key decision makers involved, and qualify the opportunity. Questions allow you to ensure that you and the buyer are on the same page.
A lot of sellers do too much talking and presenting, and when they do ask the buyer questions, it's the same old "What keeps you up at night?" clichés.
Asking your buyer the right questions not only provides you with a treasure trove of important information, but it can also differentiate you from the sea of sellers vying for the buyer's attention.
To help you make the most out of your meetings, we've outlined different types of questions you can ask and why they're important to use in your sales conversations.
Something new vies for your attention every few minutes: emails, text messages, collaboration tools, phone calls, co-workers, meetings, customers, and the list goes on. The result? Productivity suffers.
But with discipline and preparation, you can defeat these productivity dragons.
We know it's possible because we recently surveyed 2,377 professionals to find out which habits and hacks, when applied in different combinations, drive not only productivity, but also top performance versus peers, job satisfaction, and happiness. With only 14% of people rating themselves Extremely Productive (The XP), there's a huge opportunity for 86% of people to take control of their time, achieve top performance, and slay their productivity-killing dragons.
This infographic teaches you how to take advantage of that opportunity.
Buyer and seller negotiations are a fun dance. While these negotiations are usually partner-focused (win-win), buyers often use standoffish tactics to gain an advantage in the negotiation at the seller's expense. Even if you—as the seller—have a win-win mindset and approach, you need to know how to maneuver the situation when buyers throw you curveballs. You need the right negotiation skills to bolster your success.
This RAIN Group article was originally published on the ATD Blog.
I always considered myself a productive person. I work quickly, type fast, and get a lot accomplished. Or so I thought.
One day, I came across a time-management book that talked about "time boxing." With time boxing, you assign a fixed amount of time to a specific activity. The idea is to work on the task and stop when you reach the time limit.
Since this strategy reduces distractions by forcing you to concentrate on one task—and one task only—for a set amount of time, I decided to give it a try.
I recently switched financial advisors for both my business and personal finances. In order to make an informed decision, I interviewed three different advisors before choosing. The approaches taken by each of them both before and during the meetings were wildly different and greatly influenced my overall choice.
There's no denying that having a highly motivated sales team ready to give their full energy and effort day in and day out has a huge impact on your organization's success.
But how exactly can you increase your motivation and that of your team?
In this on-demand webinar, RAIN Group President John Doerr will share 3 Habits and 9 hacks proven to boost
Sales compensation is typically the first topic discussed when looking for ways to boost sales motivation.
Want to increase motivation? Create a compensation plan focused on driving the actions that will create results.
The thought process goes like this: incentivize the right areas, see motivation increase, get the best results.
Sounds simple, right?
It's simple in concept, but exceptionally difficult to achieve.
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.
This RAIN Group article was originally published on the LinkedIn Sales Blog.
Some sales leaders believe that a quota and an attractive compensation plan are enough to ignite the hustle, passion, and intensity in a seller.
It makes sense they think this way given recent Harvard Business Review articles with titles like "Motivating Sales People: What Really Works" that focus 100% on compensation.
But there's much more to motivation than compensation. As Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, said in the Washington Post:
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.
"Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach him to fish, and he'll eat for a lifetime."
This is a popular axiom in the coaching world.
You'll find it everywhere. Here it is in a CBS News story:
"Myth 8: Professional coaches tell their clients what to do and give them advice.
Fact: Bad or inexperienced coaches tell their clients what to do and are constantly giving advice. Good coaches do not…Instead, coaches help their clients explore and come up with the best choices for them based on where they are and the client's vision for their future. Coaches are experts at the process of changing behavior, which is much more valuable than giving instructions."
This article was originally published in the Inside Sales Blog.
One of the biggest mistakes sellers make in a sales negotiation is letting buyers take control of the negotiation, leaving you to play defense. If you want to come to a great agreement (and you do), you need to lead the process.
In our white paper, 6 Essential Rules of Sales Negotiation, Rule #3 is: Lead the Negotiation. A key part in leading a sales negotiation is teeing up the meeting properly with an agreed to agenda ahead of time.
When you write the agenda, you can more effectively lead the conversation.
Nearly all meetings in any given negotiation are unique, so you'll need to plan for each one specifically. Start by creating an agenda to determine what information will and won't be discussed.
If you bypass this step, the meeting could start off on the wrong foot with the buyer making demands or pressuring you on price.
The most popular and effective diets and workout routines—ones that lead to the most dramatic changes—have specific guidelines and rules for how to follow the system.
No such system existed for sales—until now.
And, it works.
This article was first published on PropertyCasualty360.com and is republished here with permission. All rights reserved.
The way millennials purchase insurance is worlds apart from the approach taken by baby boomers.
A Gallup Panel Study revealed that millennials are more than twice as likely to buy insurance online, and are the least likely to be engaged with insurers.
So what happens when millennials, the largest generation in the U.S., are the ones now selling insurance? How do you sell to baby boomers who don't buy and think the same way you do?
Most leaders agree the opportunity to improve sales performance through coaching is tremendous, including:
These leaders are turning to coaching because coaching is an increasingly popular—and increasingly proven—method of improving performance.
Each year, our goal for the RAIN Group Sales Blog is to provide you with research, ideas, and insight to help you unleash sales potential.
From blog posts to new white papers, ebooks, infographics, webinars, and research, we've published a treasure trove of content in 2018 to help sellers, sales managers, and sales leaders reach top performance.
Below we've rounded up our most popular content from the year that will guide you on your path towards sales success.
The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different.
With the New Year less than a month away, it's time to think about what will be different in the year ahead.
Where will you direct your focus to reach your goals and grow your sales? What are the opportunities for your organization? What do you need to do to seize them?
In this webinar, RAIN Group President Mike Schultz shares data from the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research on sellers, sales leaders, and buyers, uncovering the biggest opportunities for sales growth in the year ahead.
Seventy-five percent of purchases are strategic, meaning the buyer is making an investment and not required to buy.
Yet only 14% of buyers discover these strategic opportunities from sellers.
If you want to grow your sales this year, the opportunities are out there and very few sellers are taking advantage.
How can you build a team that closes this gap?
In this infographic, we share the biggest opportunities—according to our research from both buyers and sellers—for B2B sales growth in the year ahead.
Consider this: a CBS News / New York Times poll asked, "What percent of people in general are trustworthy?" 1
The answer: 30%. We're all pretty skeptical, right?
Not necessarily. At the same time, the CBS News / New York Times poll asked a similar group the same question, but with a slight difference. "What percent of people that you know are trustworthy?"
The answer: 70%.
This goes to show: when people get to know and like you, people begin to trust you.
Of course, there's a lot more to building rapport and trust than making a positive initial connection with someone, but it sure is a good start. Having a strong connection with someone makes them more comfortable sharing their aspirations and their afflictions with you, two things you need to know about your buyer if you want to succeed in sales.
Setting goals is relatively easy. You think about what you want to achieve in a certain period of time and set a specific and measurable metric around it. For example:
Reaching your goals, however, is a bit more complicated.
You need to create a goal and action plan to set expectations and to hold yourself accountable.
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.
There are only 24 hours in each day. Some people are able to achieve incredible amounts in that time seemingly effortlessly. Others put in massive amounts of effort, but don't seem to get where they want to be.
What are those in the more productive group doing differently? How are they able to achieve so much more?
We have found those who achieve more and whose work seems to come effortlessly have mastered the 3 time management strategies below:
Broad, open-ended sales questions are great for helping you find out what's going on in your prospects' and clients' worlds. They are essential to sales success. In fact, "listened to me" and "understood my needs" are two of the top five factors most separating sales winners from second-place finishers.
Sales questions also help you connect with buyers personally, understand what's important to them, reshape their thinking, and create better futures for them. The importance of asking the right sales questions cannot be understated. (Hint: you need to ask more than "what keeps you up at night?")
Following are 21 open-ended sales questions you can use that will help you complete the picture of your clients' needs.
This piece originally appeared in the August 2018 edition of Independent Agent magazine and is reprinted here with permission.
Word of mouth, repeat business and referrals used to be enough to maintain a thriving sales organization. But today, buyers have more options than ever before, they're more educated, and the phone doesn't ring like it used to.
That means sellers need to be proactive in growing their pipelines and securing meetings with buyers. Here are five ways to get started:
Sales Training Defined: Sales training is the process of improving seller skills, knowledge, and attributes to drive seller behavioral change and maximize sales success. To be most effective, sales training should be viewed, designed, and executed as a change management initiative.
The global market for sales training is approximately $4.6 billion.
Yet most sales training fails to deliver lasting results.
This is because most companies do not define and approach sales training properly.
To deliver effective sales training, you need to redefine what sales training is. You need to focus on changing your sellers' behaviors to drive sales results and support this change as a change management initiative.
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.
One of the greatest difficulties in sales is helping buyers understand what outcomes they will achieve when they work with you.
Creating a picture of what outcomes are possible with the solution you present is imperative for two reasons:
Helping buyers to understand the value of the solutions you provide is an exercise in teaching and learning. Buyers need to understand what will be different for them and their organization if they purchase from you versus not doing it at all or buying from a competitor.
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.
Asking incisive questions is an essential part of any sales conversation.
Great sales questions help you find out what's going on in your buyer's world. They help you connect with buyers, understand buyer needs and what's important to them, and help you drive the sale forward.
In this guide, we share 50 of the most powerful sales questions you can use in your conversations.
Written by: Mike Schultz and Gord Smith
When it comes to selling financial services, professionals are usually faced with three common challenges:
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.
Technology sellers lament how impossible it is to get their buyers on the phone more than any other industry.
Phone is one of the top ways sellers say they connect with buyers, yet sellers in the technology industry report extreme difficulty using it to reach their buyers.
In our study on Top Performance in Sales Prospecting, we studied 488 buyers responsible for $4.2 billion of purchases and the prospecting habits of 489 sellers. We looked at results across buyer and seller sets, top performers, and industry. As part of our research, we compared how buyers prefer to be contact by sellers across multiple industries.
Email is one of the top ways to break through and secure meetings with targeted buyers. In fact, 80% of buyers say they prefer to be contacted by sellers via email. It's an essential part of any prospecting plan.
However, too many prospecting emails fall victim to common mistakes that kill response rates. Recently, we shared 13 email prospecting best practices. Here are 7 email makeover ideas to help you improve your emails and work toward those best practices.
Email is an essential part of the prospecting process. In fact:
So, what can you do to get more of your buyers to accept meetings via email?
Below we outline 13 email prospecting tips to help you do just that. (Note: It takes more than 1 or 2 emails to break through and secure a meeting. On average, it takes 8 touches to break through and typically these touches include a mix of media.)
The most successful sellers are motivated, proactive, focused, and goal-oriented. Indeed, they get the most done and achieve the best results in less time.
So what makes these sellers significantly more productive? We all have the same number of hours in a day, yet some sellers achieve considerably more than others.
The answer: They're systematic. They attack each day with a similar mindset and process to drive their productivity.
After years of study, we've boiled down what these extremely productive sellers do to just 3 keys.
By applying these 3 keys, almost anyone can achieve great leaps and improvements in productivity.
Becoming more productive can make a dramatic difference in your work, sales success, and overall happiness.
Think about it. How do you feel after a day where you've been exceptionally productive and pushed important projects forward?
You feel invigorated, motivated, engaged, and ready for the next challenge.
Compare that to an unproductive day where you couldn't focus or spent the entire day working on tasks for others. You feel drained, overwhelmed, frustrated, and irritable.
The good news is you can control how productive you are and in turn how you feel at the end of each day.
With more sales going through purchasing departments, you're bound to face price pressure on almost every opportunity. They'll expect you to discount.
Nearly all organizations negotiate or discount their stated list price to some extent. In fact, in our Top-Performing Sales Organization study, we asked about the frequency in which companies discount.
Results showed that only 7% of organizations never discount.
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.
Sales prospecting has changed more than any other facet of sales in the last 10 years. There are a lot of clickbait articles with radical advice popping up and leading sellers astray.
In our new benchmark report, Top Performance in Sales Prospecting, we undertook a study of 488 B2B buyers and 489 sellers to find out what's working and what's not in sales prospecting.
In this infographic, we contrast 5 popular assumptions about prospecting with facts from the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research.
Too many sellers have the following problems:
In "How to Clear Your Pipeline of Dead Wood," we shared how to make your pipeline real and manageable. Here, you’ll find a framework that will allow you and your colleagues to define and focus on the best sales opportunities with clarity and confidence.
Sellers often treat their pipeline opportunities the same. They define need, qualify, propose, present, and wait for a win or loss. Maybe a few bubble up for more focus, but it's not always the right ones.
Atul Gawande, a surgeon at Brigham and Women's hospital in Boston and writer for the New York Times, told a story of a man who came into the emergency room with a stab wound, "It was a single wound, about an inch in size, in his belly."
The wound didn't appear life threatening, but after about 10 minutes his condition worsened.
When they got him on the table and opened him up, they found the wound was a foot deep (he was a pretty big guy) and cut his aorta. When they asked how the stabbing occurred, he told them it happened at a Halloween party and the other guy had a bayonet.
The doctors reflected and determined that if they knew it was a bayonet, they would have acted differently from the start.
Gawande uses this example—a simple miscommunication with big implications—to illustrate the central case in his book, The Checklist Manifesto. Even after 20 years of practice, doctors miss things. They make mistakes. And it's all due to complexity.
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.
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.
In sales, you have a finite number of hours in a day. Most of those hours are spent on the immediate sales opportunities in your pipeline—those buyers who have a need they are looking address and a timeline to act. These buyers receive the majority of your time and attention, and rightfully so.
But what about the buyer you met at a conference or have had an initial sales call with that was "interesting" and "valuable" but goes nowhere? Or the buyer who downloads something from your website but is just "seeing what's out there?" What do you do with buyers who are a perfect fit for your company, but don't have an immediate need?
This is where lead nurturing comes into play.
Challenges abound when it comes to sales prospecting. From targeting and using the right outreach methods to maintaining motivation and energy, there are plenty of ways to outbound prospect and fail.
For our Top Performance in Sales Prospecting research, we asked 489 sellers who outbound prospect about the biggest prospecting issues they face. The top 10 prospecting challenges can be grouped into 4 categories:
Put me in front of 10 buyers and I'll close 7 of them. All I need is more meetings.
I hear this from sellers all the time. Get me more "at bats" and I'll get the hits.
To succeed in sales, you need a consistent stream of new leads to fill the front end of the pipeline.
You can't, however, just sit back and wait for the phone to ring or email to ding.
You need to be proactive in filling your own pipeline if you're going to succeed with prospecting.
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.
There are 2 stats that are cited in sales articles all the time:
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.
Buyers are awash with information, bombarded with sales and marketing messages, crazy busy, and tasked to do more with less.
Yet they still want to hear from sellers and they still accept meetings with sellers who reach out to them proactively.
82% of buyers will accept meetings with sellers who reach out.
The sellers who secure these meetings achieve significantly greater success with a much different approach.
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.
Reverse auctions (also called e-auctions) are a common negotiation technique used more and more frequently by large organizations. For the most part, sellers don't dislike reverse auctions—they loathe them.
The point of a reverse auction is to drive down supplier prices to their absolute lowest while driving expectations of suppliers to their highest. As the process (typically) removes human interaction from the equation, sellers often feel at a complete loss to do anything but participate in the auction or walk away.
There's a lot more to it. Below you'll find negotiation strategies you can use before and during the reverse auction process to get the best results for you and your buyer.
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.
Whether your sales and marketing strategy is developed internally or externally, these 5 tips will help ensure that it is both effective and efficient:
The state of sales management in many companies is disturbing. Consider these stats from our Top-Performing Sales Organization study:
Almost 7 out of every 10 sales managers do not have the skills they need to do their jobs effectively! Astounding. It's certainly understandable, though. Sales managers are directed, by the very definition of sales management, down the wrong path.
Solution engineers, technical consultants, solutions consultants—whatever you choose to call the technical expert on your sales team—they play a significant role in the sales and account-development process.
In our research, Top Performance in Strategic Account Management, we analyzed data from 397 executives, strategic account managers, and sales professionals to learn what sets the companies that are best at growing their strategic accounts—Top Performers—apart from The Rest.
Overall, we assessed 32 skills comprising six roles strategic account managers play: Results Driver, Project Manager, Technical Expert, Innovator, Collaborator, and Relationship Lead.
In our Top-Performing Sales Organization research, we studied 75 factors related to the sales organization. We wanted to know what Top Performers do differently than The Rest to achieve superior results.
We've shared what separates the best sales organizations from the rest, but what we haven't shared is what most sales organizations neglect, and the impact it can have on your results. One factor in particular was most apparent: effective sales training.
Each year, our goal for the RAIN Group Sales Blog is to provide you with research, ideas, and insight to help you unleash your sales potential.
From regular blog posts to new white papers, ebooks, webinars, and research, we have, and will continue to release valuable insight on what you as a seller can do to set yourself apart from the rest.
In case you missed some of our new sales content this year, we've compiled a list of our top 10 most popular content pieces from 2017 that will guide you on your path towards sales success.
"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.
To optimize your sales force, you need to have a highly-motivated team bringing their "A game" day in and day out.
Often times, it's up to the sales managers to make sure their team maintains this positive and results-driven attitude on a daily basis. According to our Top-Performing Sales Organization research, 55% of Top Performers agree that managers are effective at creating and sustaining maximum selling energy, compared to only 32% of The Rest.
But management is not the only key influence on sales motivation.
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.
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.
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.
"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:
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.
If you want to maximize time, you must find more of it, and choose what you do with it carefully. We all have the same 168 hours a week to work with. Some people make the most of them, others don't.
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.
It's an all too familiar story. A seller's pipeline looks full! Bursting. Exciting. It stays like that for 2 months, 5 months, 10 months… more keeps going in. Nothing comes out.
It looked great, but it wasn't great. Not even good. Too many sellers have lots of opportunities in their pipelines that shouldn't be there. Neither managers nor sellers want mirage pipelines with visions of promised lands that simply aren't there.
Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains.
- Henry David Thoreau
Almost everyone at some point in their career will toy with adopting some kind of time-management system. Few stick with it. The challenge is that too many time-management systems focus too deeply on the activity level—what to do first, what to do next, what the priority order is—without paying enough attention to the bigger picture. Simply viewing the world through the lens of urgent vs. important is not enough.
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.
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.
When you look at your pipeline, do you see opportunities that just won't move?
Do days, weeks, and even months go by with the same opportunities staring back at you?
Worse yet, are you losing more of your opportunities than you'd like?
No doubt, these are the same opportunities that would make the biggest difference to your quarterly results if only you could crack the code.
By now you know that teaching people how to sell and become Top Performers takes more than a one- or two-day event. It takes ongoing reinforcement.
Sales training is a change initiative. Going through a single class in two days does not change the way sellers sell. Change happens over time, once sellers get back to work and start implementing newly learned skills.
Attracting and retaining top sales talent is a huge challenge for many companies.
If you want to take your sales results to the next level, your organization must have the right people in the right roles, performing at a high level day in and day out. You also need the right management team with an effective process in place to ensure this all happens.
For our Top Performance in Strategic Account Management Benchmark Report, we studied two specific processes for driving value with accounts.
There's no denying that having a highly motivated sales team ready to give their full energy and effort day in and day out has a huge impact on your organization's success.
When it comes to sales motivation, companies commonly focus on compensation, bonuses, and incentives to get top performance out of their sales team. While compensation is important, it certainly is not the only, or even the main factor that drives sales motivation.
Ridiculous Upside is the name of a well-known blog that covers up-and-coming basketball players that could make the NBA, but need further development to reach their potential. Too bad that the basketball bloggers took the name, because ridiculous upside is a great way to describe the untapped potential hiding in most every company's existing accounts.
Why are some companies able to consistently grow their strategic accounts and maximize value while others struggle? This is a question that confounds many a sales leader.
Some think it is largely related to the strength of product and service offerings. The companies that grow their accounts the most must have superior offerings that keep customers coming back for more, right?
Leaders at nearly every company we speak to agree that there is significant opportunity to grow their accounts, and they are looking for ways to capitalize on this opportunity.
In fact, growing your accounts is one of the fastest and most profitable ways to grow sales. The first and most basic step to growing accounts is reaching out to them to proactively create new sales opportunities.
Ask leaders at companies how much more they believe they could be selling to their strategic accounts and you don't hear 5%, 10%, or 20%.
It's usually more like, "We should be selling 2 times…3 times…even more."
Ask what's in their way and you'll often get this answer, "Our strategic account managers just aren't doing what they need to do to penetrate the account, cross-sell, and keep the competition out so we can truly grow our accounts to their potential."
Everyone needs motivation to tackle different types of tasks/challenges. Whether it's hitting your personal sales goals or achieving your weight loss goals, people can't do it without some type of driving motivation.
Here's the situation: You get an introductory conversation with a great buyer—someone who fits your target profile to a T.
Not long into the conversation, however, the buyer says, "We already work with one of your competitors to do this."
What do you do next?
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 when, in fact, it should be the exact opposite.
A sales objection is an explicit expression by a buyer that a barrier exists between the current situation and what needs to be satisfied before buying from you. Beyond that, it's an indication that the buyer is engaged, which sure beats apathy.
However, you still have work to do.
When a buyer indicates that he is not ready to buy, don't get discouraged. Use the following 4 steps to overcome sales objections and move closer to the sale.
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.
As part of our research this year, we have learned:
When watching sellers negotiate, perhaps the easiest things to see are the mistakes. Having now spent two decades studying sales negotiation, observing negotiations, and coaching and training sellers to improve their negotiation skills, we've distilled the common areas that the best sales negotiators consistently get right.
The classic selling model has taught sellers to uncover needs and craft compelling solutions. It goes something like this: the buyer needs something and asks for it. You provide it. It's straightforward, but buyers are operating in their comfort zone.
In our Top-Performing Sales Organization research, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research assessed what the Top Performers—those with the best sales results—do differently than the Rest. We analyzed data from 472 sellers and executives representing companies with sales forces between 10 and 5,000-plus sellers.
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.”
While quite a bit of research has been published on what sellers need to do to achieve top sales performance, there’s relatively little on what separates top-performing sales organizations from the rest. To find out, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research gathered data from 472 respondents representing companies with sales forces ranging in size from 10 sellers to 5,000 plus and published the results in the Top-Performing Sales Organization Benchmark Report.
In our Top-Performing Sales Organization research, our goal was to assess what the Top Performers do differently than The Rest to achieve the best results. Top Performers have higher win rates, meet their annual sales goals, are more likely to set challenging sales goals, and are more likely achieve maximum prices in line with the value they provide.
We analyzed data from 472 sellers and executives representing companies with sales forces between 10 and 5,000+ sellers. Top Performers represent the top 20% of our database. The Rest—the bottom 80%.
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, manage sellers, and the list goes on.
With the laundry list of sales skills needed, which are most important?
In our recent Top-Performing Sales Organization study, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research asked 472 sales executives and sellers representing companies with sales forces ranging from 10 sellers to 5,000+ if sellers have the skills they need to find and win business consistently and at a high level.
We then looked at the correlation between sales skills and whether or not a sales organization met its sales goal or quota.
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.
Most sellers have a quota, or a sales performance target, that is set by the sales leaders at their organization.
When it comes to setting these sales goals, there are two general philosophies organizations tend to take:
Since Mack Hanan coined the term in 1970, consultative selling has been the most widely accepted—and most pursued—sales approach. The approach is characterized as understanding buyer needs and positioning offerings as solutions to problems.
While this has been the go-to approach for many sellers, massive changes in buying technology and the vast amount of information on the internet is significantly changing how buyers buy at an unprecedented pace.
As they say, if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there. If you want to drive sales performance at a company, you can focus on all sorts of tactical areas—from people and training to enablement and operations—but none of these address the fundamental questions: Where are we going? What are we doing to achieve our goals? Who will lead us there?
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.
Since the term was coined in 1970, consultative selling has been the most widely accepted—and pursued—sales approach. For the following forty years, advice for how to sell had mostly been a variation on the consultative selling theme.
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.
People often ask us, “What should we do to drive our sales success?”
It’s a complicated question. It’s not easy to decide what to tackle, when to tackle it, what results the organization should be targeting, where you can get the biggest bang for your buck, and what it really takes to get those results without further analysis.
Sales performance analysis is typically quite involved and complex. It’s no easy task to figure out how to improve, change, or build a sales strategy. But for those sales leaders who are taking a longer-term view and looking into sales performance optimization, a performance analysis is a necessary precursor.
Most sellers and sales leaders are often asking 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.
In the mid-1990s, a fairly common sales strategy was to give a seller a desk, a phone, a business directory, and say, "Go."
Fast forward to today, and selling has become significantly more complex. Companies report ever-increasing challenges regarding product and service commoditization, proliferation of competition, and more informed and sophisticated buyers.
Everyone wants to know: what is the silver bullet to sales success? What's the one thing that will magically bring in more sales and grow your accounts?
Well, there is no one silver bullet. Many factors influence top sales performance. But there is one word that can transform your sales results: Value.
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:
In our study, The Top-Performing Sales Organization, 40% of respondents said "Improving sales opportunity approach and planning" is a top priority for the next year. Along with two related initiatives—improving ability to communicate value (41%) and optimizing sales processes (32%)—these represented three of the top four sales initiative priorities altogether.1
You know you need to differentiate yourself from your competition. And having a strong value proposition can help you do so. But sometimes buyers might consider your services to be the same as those from other providers. What do you do in that situation? It actually comes down to the relationship-whether the buyer likes you-says RAIN Group President Mike Schultz.
Fortunately there are ways to warm prospects up, get them to talk with you about their concerns, and get them interested in hearing what you have to say. You must, however, do it within the first few seconds of the conversation.
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?"
Brrrr... I've just been cold calling and boy could I use some hot chicken soup!
Just those two words together—cold calling—puts many people far away from warm and happy. Given that it's so much fun for so many people, and that I have heard a number of times recently that the last nail has been banged into the cold calling coffin, why is cold calling still even on our radar screens?
Because it works.
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?
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.
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.
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.
Many people want to beleive that cold calling doesn't work because they don't want to have to do cold calling. Indeed, there are many ways to do it wrong and fail. There are many cold callers out there using deceptive tactics to get through, which leaves a bad taste in buyers' mouths.
The 4th of July has always signaled the beginning of summer to me. Fireworks, parades, barbecues, picnics, and baseball games-what better ways to celebrate the kickoff of the short-lived, New England heat?
The holiday also brings back memories of my childhood. I grew up in a small tourist town in southern Maine where my parents owned and managed a motel. Growing up living at a motel made for a pretty interesting childhood where I got to meet new people every day and make friends all over the world.
Top-Performing companies are winning 62% of their sales opportunities. The Rest? Only 40%.
While quite a bit of research has been published on what separates top sellers from the rest, there’s relatively little on what organizations are doing to achieve high win rates.
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.
In his article, Tom provides 4 excellent thoughts to help you get control of the price discussion. Check them out here.
I'd add a few more to his:
Referrals are among the top ways sellers get leads and new business, but many struggle with generating them consistently.
We know our buyers rely on colleagues, associates, and friends to recommend providers. So when a prospect comes to us via this route, some of the work is already done for us. Referrals build a seller's trustworthiness and credibility—two cornerstones of effective selling.
Most people's sales conversations could be better. Not a little better, significantly better. I see too many sellers fall into the same traps:
Sellers who win consistently plan to win from the start. They're methodical. They carefully match their sales process to the buyer's, set goals for every meeting, and do an exceptional job of communicating value.
Top sellers build strategies to drive sales opportunities, and use planners to help guide them through to the win.
Imagine it's the end of a long, important sales process. Your buyer has given you the verbal 'yes' to buy, but he has to deliver a summary of the value proposition case—why he's made the decision to move forward with you—to his peers and the board of directors. And no, you can't attend the meeting and speak alongside him. He must make the argument himself, and it has to be good.
Just because a buyer is in a position of authority—and has the financial ability to buy—doesn't mean they will, in fact, buy. They have to be in the right mindset.
We call the right mindsets "buying modes." The wrong mindsets, "non-buying modes." When you understand which mode someone is in, you'll know whether they’re inclined to make a purchase or not.
When it comes to winning big sales opportunities, sales leaders often share 2 complaints:
Big plays are major actions you can take to win your most important sales opportunities and grow your most important accounts.
Most sales training and advice is based on a fundamental premise: the seller is in control.
Think about it: a lot of what's taught focuses on what sellers should be doing to persuade, convince, and drive buyers toward closing a sale. The seller is responsible for bringing the deal to a close. Therefore the seller must be in control.
Sellers that win big sales go over-and-above to win them. When the impact for you is potentially huge, you want to do everything possible to get the win. Anything less and you essentially serve up the win to your competition.
When you need to win and win big, you need a Big Play.
In studying, researching, and practicing in the field of strategic account management, we've found 6 areas can almost universally be improved.
Client loyalty is tough to earn.
Fred Reichheld, author of The Loyalty Effect and creator of the Net Promoter System, found that most corporations lose 50% of their customers every 5 years, 50% of employees in 4 years, and 50% of investors in less than one year.
I worked with a company recently whose sellers had to drive their own demand. In one case, a seller engaged a buyer in a discussion about an opportunity, and the buyer was interested. They had a few meetings, but then the sale fizzled out.
When the seller asked why, the buyer told him that they simply weren't going to pursue it further.
The seller said to me later, "The business impact story here was tremendous; more than a 10 times return on investment was easy to see. That this sale didn't move forward...I can't believe they just didn't see it."
We then talked to the buyer as a part of our analysis of the lost sale. When we mentioned the ROI case to the buyer and asked him about it, he said, "Oh, I saw the ROI case. I got it. I would have loved to achieve it. I just didn't believe it would come true."
The buyer saw the ROI; he just didn't believe it. There was too much risk.
Ask most people about the strength of their core client relationships and they'll say, "Great. Rock solid."
Yet these comments usually refer to how much rapport or trust sellers feel they have with the client. They don't answer the question through the lens of business value the client receives from them.
Editor's note: We recently asked 5 sales experts, "What is the one piece of advice you would give a seller to help them exceed their sales targets this year?" The following is Mike Schultz's response.
"Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in." - Napoleon Bonaparte
I've seen more people intend to crush their goals than I have seen people actually crush their goals. They talk about how they're going to make it to the top. They read books and attend seminars. They talk a good game.
"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.
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.
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.
"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:
Retaining current customers costs 6-7x less than acquiring news ones,1 and improving customer retention rates by a mere 5% can increase profit per customer by 25%-95%.2 So it makes sense that top companies focus on building relationships, increasing loyalty, and selling more to current customers as a growth strategy.
When it comes to growing accounts, challenges abound. In our Benchmark Report on High Performance in Strategic Account Management, we asked:
Consider the challenges your company faces in strategic account management. For each factor indicate how challenging it is to your company's SAM efforts.
Companies take lots of actions to grow accounts. Some work better than others.
However, none of them work very well if you don't take care of one important action up front.
One of the biggest untapped opportunities to increasing sales and profit is growing your existing accounts. Consider:
57% of the purchase process is complete before buyers have their first interaction with a seller.1
This is one of the most cited statistics in the sales world these days—as if it's some kind of big news.
Wait...so you mean buyers do research and talk internally before they bring in outsiders? No way, dude! That's, like, revolutionary!
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. He then went on a rant about how he visited our website, recognized the tool we use, and how we weren't doing it right.
There's been a bit of a gold rush around the term "insight selling" in the last several years. Research from a variety of sources, including RAIN Group, has confirmed a simple fact:
Buyers buy from sellers who are sources of ideas.
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. And that makes it very difficult to find time to create and develop the relationships necessary to bring in new business.
One of the major findings of our research on What Sales Winners Do Differently is that today's sales winners don't just sell the value of their products and services, they are the value. They are knowledgeable experts who bring ideas and new perspectives to the table. Essentially, they harness the power of ideas when selling, and it gives them the winning edge.
Good negotiators have the ability to recognize the negotiation tactics and style of the other party.
When a buyer comes to the negotiation in partner mode, it allows you to work collaboratively to create possibilities that expand the pie and result in the best possible agreement for both sides.
A long time ago, I was fly fishing with a grizzled, old, big company leadership consultant. I asked him what he thought differentiated good consultants from great consultants—those at the pinnacle of the game.
He said, "Let me think."
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.
What do James Franco, Daniel Craig, and Mo'Nique all have in common? They're described as actors who bring gravitas to their roles on the big and small screens.* Another is Sir Patrick Stewart, who embodied gravitas as Capt. Jean-Luc Picard on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Picard had power and authority. He commanded respect. When he spoke, the Enterprise—and everyone else in the universe—listened.
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.
A couple of years ago, I was involved in a major rebranding effort for a Fortune 100 financial services firm. Based on extensive research, their chief marketing officer decided their new brand positioning should be focused on "easier."
Easier to do business with. Easier to conduct banking transactions. Easier to get a mortgage, car loan, or business investment from.
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.
Breaking into new accounts and setting meetings is one of the most difficult tasks sellers face. 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. You need to be able to prospect for new business with great success.
To increase your odds of landing initial meetings, follow these five appointment-setting tips:
In the latter half of the 1700s, German astrologist and physician Franz Anton Mesmer treated his patients by looking deeply into their eyes and waving magnets in front of their faces. Mesmer believed barriers in our bodies disrupted the natural flow of the processes that gave us life and health. He further believed his penetrating eye gazing and object waving restored natural order inside his patients and relieved all sorts of maladies.
Lots of things have changed in the world of sales, but some things have not. Building trust was important 50 years ago, and it's just as important today.
When buyers trust sellers, they depend on them, listen to them, give them access, and spend time with them.
Call it what you like: solution sales, consultative sales, consultative selling—at the core of each of these concepts is diagnosing and connecting the "pain" of the buyer with the products, services, and overall capabilities of the seller as "solutions."
Pain + Diagnosis + Offerings as "Solution" = WIN!
Insight-Based Selling Defined: 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.
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.
In The Benchmark Report on High Performance in Strategic Account Management, we analyzed data from over 370 companies that engage in formal strategic account management. We asked about the top challenges that limit account growth and found the number one difference between high performers and the rest is: having an effective strategic account planning tool.
Only 19% of high performers reported having an effective account planning tool as challenging compared to 53% of everyone else (see graph below).
The challenge of having an effective tool does not, however, exist in a vacuum.
You finally got the meeting!
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 and driving the demand for your offerings.
Bringing in new customers is expensive. According to research by Fred Reichheld of Bain & Company, it costs 6 to 7x more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing customer.
In our own work, we regularly find companies have significant, untapped opportunities for growing existing accounts.
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.
In the Benchmark Report on High Performance in Strategic Account Management, we studied more than 370 companies that engage in formal strategic account management. We looked at what sets High Performers apart from the rest, and what you need to do to become a high-performing organization.
Sales training is a multibillion-dollar business. In the U.S. alone, it is estimated to be more than $5 billion (according to Dave Stein in Sales Training: The 120-Day Curse from ES Research Group). Yet, also according to Stein, between 85% and 90% of sales training has no lasting impact after 120 days. If we do the math, that amounts to somewhere north of $4.25 billion of unproductive training.
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.
In our research, we looked at the factors that most separate sales winners from second-place finishers. These are the essential selling skills you need to find yourself in the winner's circle.
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.
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 Coach Federation, the average company can expect a return of 7 times the initial investment in coaching.*
Shouldn’t the same be expected from sales coaching?
Ask a group of professional services providers how much of their business comes from existing clients and the answers usually will be 60%, 70%, 80%, or even more. Then ask them how much time they put into nurturing those same clients and the answers will be a little, not much, or none. Finally, ask why they spend so little time building relationships when there is potential for so much new business and the answers will be:
"Don't want to be a pest."
"Don’t have the time."
"I am not sure what to do to keep in touch."
"I feel like a stalker."
Obviously, doing great work is the first step in keeping in the best graces of your clients. But client loyalty can be fleeting and is not something you should take for granted.
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.
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.
In our Benchmark Report on High Performance in Strategic Account Management research study, we learned that high performers—those companies that had much greater revenue and profit growth in their strategic accounts than the rest—were 2.8 times more likely to have an effective process for planning ways to add value to accounts.
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:
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?
If your aspirations don't become reality, so what? Will your competition get ahead of you if you don't innovate? Will you lose market share if you aren't aggressive in your strategy? Will you never be able to grow your business to a point where you can sell it and reach your personal financial goals? Will the promotion you desire continue to elude you?
Your ability to quantify the impact and paint the "so what" picture is the foundation for how important it is for the decision maker to buy from you. If you don’t answer the "so what" question, the initiative will fall to the bottom of the priority list.
Building confidence in the validity of an idea. Inspiring action.
The sellers who do these best sell the most.
Most of my clients want to have better meetings with senior executives. Meetings that feel like conversations, not pitches. Meetings that build deeper relationships. Meetings that uncover more ways in which they can help their customers.
Behind closed doors, when I ask what's holding them back, many will tell me things like, "I don't feel comfortable," "I have nothing to offer to them,"" or "I'm not at their level."
Selling to the C-suite can be difficult, and getting a first meeting can be a real challenge. But, in my experience, the most difficult part is not getting the first meeting. It's getting the second one. Or the third one.
It's keeping the relationship going.
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.
When buyers buy something, one of two things must be true:
How you run a sales meeting depends fundamentally on who set it.
Imagine for a minute you’re the COO of a mid-sized manufacturing company. You’ve been reading quite a bit about how to decrease costs in a supply chain. You do a little research and find supply chain consulting firms. You call a few that happen to be in your area and set up a series of sales conversations with them. In this case, you’re the buyer.
You are driving the demand.
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.
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.
Most people think of prospecting as reaching out to people they don’t know, with an over-the-top approach, to interest them in buying something they’re not thinking about. This isn’t the only way to generate more leads.
Prospecting isn’t just a cold activity, and you don’t need a sledgehammer approach to make it work.
How many of us have heard from prospects, "Your fees are too high," "Someone else will do it for less," or "I don't see why I have to pay all that money just to have you do an audit, write a brief, create a marketing plan, etc.?" And, more important, how many resist the urge to simply lower our fees to get the work?
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 prospect 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.'
Take this approach in most sales situations, however, and you'll lose more than your share of sales that you should have won. Interestingly, whether you have a two-thousand- or two-million-dollar price point, to increase your odds of winning new customers, you still need to do the same basic planning and know the same essential information before your sales calls.
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 a number of 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 have to maximize value.
Want to make more sales? Start by having better conversations.
Think about it. You spent months chasing a senior decision maker or prospect, making calls, and sending e-mails, and they finally agreed to sit down with you. You invested significant amounts of time, effort, energy and—sometimes considerable—resources to win them over.
And now you find yourself in a room with a senior executive. Now what?
Having spent two decades in the sales training and consulting world, I get asked all the time what I think about this or that sales approach or book. When I do, it tends to make for productive discussion and learning. Importantly, it helps people decide what’s right for them when it comes to selling.
See an article about differentiation and it’s likely to be about marketing. Differentiation often starts with marketing, but it’s in the selling process that it truly comes alive.
Here at RAIN Group, we recently analyzed just over 700 business-to-business sales made to buyers who represent $3.1 billion in annual purchases from industries with complex sales.
The purpose of the research was to find out what sales winners do differently in the selling process compared to the sellers that didn’t win, but who came in second place.
Imagine for a minute you sold everything you should be selling across all of your firm’s capabilities to your existing clients. If all the buying centers bought all of the capabilities they should be buying, how much would your key account sales increase?
When people spend time analyzing this carefully, they find the potential to expand sales to existing clients is huge.
Given the great potential for growth, many companies give proactive key account sales quite the effort, but few achieve the results they should. The problem is they can’t, or for some reason simply don’t, create their own opportunities.
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.
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.
Sometimes it’s just easy. You meet a person and connect. Conversation flows. You find common areas professionally and personally. Ideas bounce back and forth, and you start talking about how you can work on something together. Before you know it, work is under way, and the collaboration is the definition of one plus one equals three.
Sometimes it ain’t easy. You meet a person, and they’re all business. Getting them to engage with you in any sense is slow. Painful. You open up and share, provide great ideas, and work hard to get the other person to see the value in working with you. It should be plain to see, but it’s not. You’re met with aloofness and suspicion.
You try to engage on a personal level and ask, "How was your weekend?" His reply, "Fine." Then dead air.
"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.
In our white paper Why Strategic Account Management Fails, we noted that high performers in strategic account management were significantly less likely to face 16 of 19 common challenges in Strategic Account Management. We didn’t, however, have space to go into much detail in this specific area. Since publishing the white paper, we’ve been asked quite a bit for more detail on the specific challenges faced by companies that engage in formal strategic account management, and the differences between high performers and average / below-average performers.
Though access to the full Benchmark Report on High Performance in Strategic Account Management is reserved for one-on-one interactions and for our work with clients, we are happy to share this more in-depth look at some of the challenges that stood out to us.
You're at an industry event mulling over which cheese will go best with which crackers at the buffet. The person next to you introduces himself. You introduce yourself. Then he says:
"So tell me, what do you do?"
Ask the question, “What needs to happen at your company to maximize your success with your strategic accounts?” and you’re likely to get answers like this:
Nice list, but not unique to strategic account management.
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:
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:
Indeed, they can’t and don’t hold masterful sales conversations with customers.
The result: Lost sales and missed cross-selling opportunities.
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."
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.
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.
Master the 4 types of sales objections, and you'll be on the road to much greater sales success.
An objection is not a rejection; it is simply a request for more information. - Bo Bennett
Are you the type of person who quickly deals with sales objections, providing answers immediately, trying to overcome them as quickly as possible and move towards the close?
Wouldn’t it be great if there were a silver bullet that would make you more successful in your sales efforts? One thing you could do to really boost your sales success?
I hate to disappoint, but the reality is, there is no silver bullet. Sales success takes hard work and commitment along with skill and savvy.
While there is no one thing that will work for you, there are a number of things you can do to help