RAIN Group Sales Blog

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

Take a moment to think about a time when you had a period of deep focus in which your work performance and productivity were at a high. Everything clicked. You nailed the deadline. Made the leap. Produced 10X. Everything came into focus.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could have that level of focus and achieve that extreme productivity all the time—or even most of the time?

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The best sellers understand how important it is to develop the ability to adapt. But how do you continue to adapt and stay motivated over the long haul?

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.” – Seneca

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

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

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

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

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A seller’s job is to drive change.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of the easiest ways?

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

How effective are sellers in the virtual space?

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

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

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Selling virtually is a challenge for even the best sellers.

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

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

Virtual training failure is all too common.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Wishing our clients, friends, readers, and followers a very happy holiday season and joyful New Year.

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

From all of us at RAIN Group: Happy Holidays!

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

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

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


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

You walk into the room and hear…

  • "I've brought along my colleague, Darth CFO…"
  • "I can get that signed today if you give us this one last thing…"
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Sellers who win more often bring new ideas and perspectives to their buyers. In fact, 71% of buyers report that they want to talk to sellers early in the sales process when they are looking for new ideas.

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

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

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

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

An approach that drives real behavior change and results.

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

There's no shortage of challenges sales leaders face.

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

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

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

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

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

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Want to succeed in sales?

Need a little extra motivation?

Looking for inspiration and best practices?

You're in luck.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What offers are most accepted?

Do cold meetings convert to new business?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • You talk too much, leaving the buyer with the impression that you don't understand their business, their industry, or their needs.
  • You grill the buyer with questions, making them feel like they are a part of an interrogation.
  • You talk too little, letting the buyer control the conversation.
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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.

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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.

But what about when your buyer takes a different approach? What if your buyer is just trying to get the price reduced, get more from you for less, or something else altogether?
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In Insight Selling: Surprising Research on What Sales Winners Do Differently, we reveal the results of our extensive analysis of over 700 B2B purchases from the buyer’s perspective.

In our research, we found that sales winners consistently exhibit behaviors on three levels: they connect, convince, and collaborate.

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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.

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

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Cold prospecting – reaching out to targets you don’t know to generate an initial meeting – is one of the hardest parts of sales. Partly, it’s a numbers game. With decision makers more insulated than ever, it’s getting harder and harder to get past gatekeepers and beyond voicemail.

But what happens when you do get a cold prospect to pay attention – whether it’s because they picked up the phone, or responded to an email or a direct mail piece? Do you feel like you nail it every time?

Much prospecting success is determined in this first interaction. Many opportunities die here before you have a chance to engage.

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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 boost your overall success. You can start by following these 10 sales tips.

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