RAIN Group Sales Blog

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

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

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

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 To make matters worse, the data you’re working with is incomplete and outdated.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

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

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

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

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

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

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How is the current state of the sales environment impacting sales organizations? Which sales and enablement issues are most challenging for leaders to tackle? What are the top sales priorities for the next 12 months? How should they be addressed to ensure they're achieved? To find out the answers to these questions, we surveyed 322 sales, enablement, and company leaders globally, following up on our original research conducted in 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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There’s a lot to think about when it comes to selling virtually. Projecting a professional image in your virtual meetings is an important (and often overlooked) factor to consider. With a little forethought and preparation, you can make a great first impression with your buyers. Read on for guidelines and tips specifically focused on projecting a professional image in your virtual sales.

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

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

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

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

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

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The word "no" can be a tough pill to swallow. In selling, when you're trying to meet a quota, squeeze in an extra deal before the end of the quarter, or get your bonus, the word "no" is too often interpreted as a sign to run for the hills. Worse, some salespeople see most objections as a call to battle. With this attitude, it’s no wonder they handle sales objections poorly. However, when we break it down, you can see that objections can actually be a good thing.

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Almost all sellers at some point in their career will consider adopting a time management system to improve their productivity. Few stick with it. The challenge is that many time management systems focus too deeply on the activity level—what to do first, what to do next, what the priority order is—without paying enough attention to the bigger picture. We studied the habits of extremely productive people—we call them The XP—in a global productivity research study with more than 5,000 participants to date. Not only did we learn their habits, we found that the most productive people are also more satisfied with their jobs, more likely to be top performers, and are happier.

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Get these questions to go. Great sales questions help you find out what’s going on in your buyer’s world. They help you connect with buyers, understand their needs, understand what’s important to them, and help them create better futures for themselves. They help you disrupt buyer thinking and change buyers’ perception of what’s true and what’s possible. They help you drive the sale forward and avoid pitfalls that can derail the sale along the way. Great sales questions help you win sales.

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

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TL;DR? Download the PDF and save it for later. Many sellers assume buyers don't want or need to talk to them early in the buying process. This simply isn't the case. In fact, our prospecting research reveals buyers want to hear from sellers early. When Do Buyers Want to Hear from Sellers in the Buying Process?

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Note: You can download this article as a PDF to save it for later! Developing relationships, collaborating online, leading virtual sales conversations, gaining and keeping attention, leveraging technology, making the ROI case, delivering value—these are hard to do regardless of the sales and economic environment. But, do these become more difficult when selling virtually versus face-to-face? Are some areas more difficult for sellers than others? What influences buyers’ purchase decisions when buying virtually?

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Sales is about change. It’s about getting people to go from where they are—their current state—to a new and better place—their future state—or what we call the New Reality. In our decades of work with clients globally and our proprietary research, we’ve identified 11 ways sellers can influence buyers throughout the sales process to guide them to their New Reality.

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

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At their core, top-performing salespeople are change agents. They recommend, advise, and assist buyers (what is typically known as consultative selling), and they aren't afraid to push when it's in the best interest of their buyers. Indeed, top sellers are Insight Sellers. These people make five cases to ensure the value proposition for each buyer is as strong as it can be. They inspire buyers with new ideas and perspectives, and influence how buyers tackle their priority initiatives. They question the status quo and don't let buyers accept it, thus redefining reality.

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

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Developing relationships, collaborating online, leading virtual sales conversations, gaining and keeping attention, leveraging technology, making the ROI case, delivering value—these are challenging regardless of the selling and economic environment. But are they more difficult in a down economy while many sellers are transitioning to virtual sales? Are some sales skills more difficult to apply than others in a virtual environment? Where are sellers succeeding and failing according to buyers today?

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It’s never been more important for your sales organization to be firing on all thrusters. As buyers are tightening their purse strings and uncertainty in both health and economic spheres are plaguing companies, you need an optimized sales organization. In our Top-Performing Sales Organization research, we studied what the organizations with the highest win rates, revenue growth, and sales goal achievement do differently that allow them to achieve these results.

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Reinforcement has been a trend in the world of sales training for a while now. All the research data in sales training—and learning and development in general—supports the need for robust reinforcement. But it’s still not happening often enough. According to Aberdeen, fewer than half (44%) of companies formally follow-up initial sales training with reinforcement. At the same time, the companies that do reinforce training see 20% more sellers achieve sales quotas.

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Many sales managers and coaches are never taught how to lead effective sales coaching conversations. So they start with, “What’s up?” Then they listen to sellers for an hour with a bit of back and forth about this opportunity or that one. They may talk about the need to fill the pipeline or come up with an idea to move one of the opportunities forward. And then the hour is up.

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Win-win negotiation is the way to go…except in one situation: when the buyer has their hand in your pocket. Whether they're doing it intentionally or just out of habit, sometimes buyers try to push down seller prices just to see if they can. When they do, you should counter with value, but you also have to signal as you respond, "That won't work. I know what I'm doing." (Without, by the way, saying it like that.) You need to respond in a way that gets this message across and gets the discussion back on track.

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

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

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Who should go first in a negotiation when it comes to offering a price, solution, and agreement to key terms? Do you ask for a budget and then craft what you do from there? Or do you, once you know what the needs and major parameters might be, suggest a solution and a price before talking about budget? It’s a common question, one that continues to baffle many sellers. They fear that if they go first, they will leave money on the table, or risk going too high and having the buyer say, “That’s nowhere near what we were thinking,” or anything in between.

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There are few areas of selling filled with more uncertainty, challenges, and conflicting advice than prospecting. Success in sales prospecting requires breaking through the noise to capture buyers' attention and influence them to meet with you. Which begs a few questions: What does capture buyers’ attention? Do buyers want to hear from sellers, and if so, when? How should sellers reach out and connect with buyers?

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Finding and hiring new sales talent is a long and expensive process. Once the new rep is hired, it takes time to onboard them. Especially challenging during the ramp-up period is building their knowledge in: Your customers' businesses—their markets, industries, customers, regulations, etc. The needs you solve and how to identify those needs

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

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The cliché of clichés to open an article like this is to say change is afoot. So I won't open with "change is afoot." In the world of sales training and enablement, change is explosive. There's a revolution going on in training and sales enablement that organizations can no longer ignore.

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Everybody's brain has two different processing centers: emotional and rational. The emotional brain is old. It developed millions of years ago, first with raw instincts—like fight or flight—that all animals have, and then into more complex emotions for us humans like anger, aggression, desire, fear, hatred, passion, love, disgust, sympathy, and so on. Then there's the rational side, which developed more like tens of thousands of years ago. This part of the brain is more deliberate, analyzing and studying, and thinking about the future consequences of various possible actions.

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Show them the impact. Make a strong ROI case. Sell the value. Sales pros tout the benefits of making a strong ROI (return on investment) case all the time. Yet we see sellers time and again who don't know how to calculate and communicate the impact of their solutions. They focus on features in their conversations and highlight the benefits, but don't convey what it means for each individual buyer and the difference it can make for them—financially, personally, and emotionally.

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Fitness centers are packed in January—everyone's motivated to lose those holiday pounds. Then, a month later, the place clears out. What happened? Where did everyone go? I can tell you: their motivation crashed and burned. There one month, gone the next. Is it gone forever? Thankfully, no. What happens, though, is that most people wait for motivation. They don't do what they can do, at any time, to bring it forth. They don't do what they can do to manufacture their own motivation.

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This RAIN Group article was originally published on the Heinz Marketing Blog. Isn't it amazing how some days just start off better than others? You wake up feeling refreshed, the kids practically get themselves ready, and when you show up at work, you accomplish a lot within the first hour. It feels like everything is going your way. Then there are days when it's a struggle to get out of bed and get to work. Even your computer fights you by turning on slowly or running virus scans. When the day starts, nothing goes your way. Then it gets worse. Wouldn't it be nice to have more of the former and less of the latter? How much more productive would you be? This can be your reality. You can control how the day starts.

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This article was originally published on the Sales Enablement Society. Sellers often complain that it's impossible to get through to buyers. Gatekeepers are tough. Buyers are busy. Calls go to voicemail. Email goes to junk. The list goes on. While getting through certainly isn't easy, sellers who work at it do get through. In fact, 82% of buyers say they accept meetings at least sometimes with sellers who reach out to them.

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Most leaders agree the opportunity to improve sales performance through coaching is tremendous, including: Maximizing sales wins for their most important opportunities Filling the pipeline with new, qualified opportunities Maximizing sales to key accounts Focusing sellers’ time on the most important activities Developing skills, knowledge, and attributes to get to the next level of performance Keeping sales activities and motivation at the highest sustainable level These leaders are turning to coaching because coaching is an increasingly popular—and increasingly proven—method of improving performance.

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

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To find and win business consistently, your sellers need to have the right mix of sales skills across the sales process, from filling the front-end of the pipeline to growing accounts. Too many sales teams have significant skill deficits preventing them from turning their potential for sales growth into reality. In The Top-Performing Sales Organization research initiative, we looked at the differences between Top Performers and The Rest across sales skills and knowledge needed to drive sales performance. The gaps in skills are eye-opening.

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Written by: Mike Schultz and Gord Smith When it comes to selling financial services, professionals are usually faced with three common challenges: Creating new conversations with potential clients Leading conversations and winning business against stiff competition Maximizing business with current clients The good news is that you can overcome these hurdles. There are specific things you can do in each of these areas to be more successful.

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There is no magic way to achieve sales success. However, there is one significant concept that helps the companies and sellers who embrace it—those who make it part of the fabric of who they are and who their sales organization is—experience wildly successful sales results. If you want to boost sales and join their ranks, you must become a Value-Driving Sales Organization. Value-Driving Sales Organizations have significantly higher win rates and revenue growth, and lower undesired turnover. They not only win more at higher margins, but also retain top sales talent.

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There are a lot of opinions on what to do to drive sales success. I Googled the topic and found over 60 distinct pieces of advice for what to do and not to do, but most of the advice was, indeed, just opinions. Any references to research or proven success was tangential at best. You deserve better! Based on our work with B2B sales teams around the globe, as well as data from the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, where we relentlessly study what the top sellers do and what buyers are looking for, we have gleaned 9 keys to achieving success in today's B2B sales environment.

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How many touches does it take to make a sale? The simple answer is: more than most people think! According to our Top Performance in Sales Prospecting research, it takes an average of 8 touches to get an initial meeting (or other conversion) with a new prospect. But the initial meeting is just the beginning. It takes a lot more to make the sale.

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There are 2 stats that are cited in sales articles all the time: 57% of the purchase decision is made before a customer calls a supplier 67% of the buying journey is now done digitally The question, however, is so what? Sellers and sales leaders often interpret this to mean that buyers don't want to hear from sellers. This is far from the truth.

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Reverse auctions (also called e-auctions) are a common negotiation technique used more and more frequently by large organizations. For the most part, sellers loathe reverse auctions. The point of a reverse auction is to drive down supplier prices to their absolute lowest while driving expectations of suppliers to their highest. As the process (typically) removes human interaction from the equation, sellers often feel at a complete loss to do anything but participate in the auction or walk away. There's a lot more to it. Below you'll find negotiation strategies you can use before and during the reverse auction process to get the best results for you and your buyer.

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"Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality." Warren Bennis, Author, On Becoming a Leader When it comes to sales negotiations, all too often sellers: Don't plan for successful negotiated outcomes Let the buyer define the negotiation process and venue Allow the buyer to set the agenda for negotiation-focused meetings

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"Unfortunately, there seems to be far more opportunity out there than ability... We should remember that good fortune often happens when opportunity meets with preparation." Thomas A. Edison Preparation is often the greatest determinant of negotiation success. Across negotiation studies and surveys, we see sellers who get the best outcomes: know what they sell, research buyer wants and needs through sources other than the buyer, have a keen understanding of the buyer's day-to-day life and concerns, and prepare for each negotiation with trades, counteroffers, and knowledge of their walk-away points.

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My grandfather Sidney was raised during the great depression. Often hungry growing up, he learned the value of a dollar the hard way. It stuck with him the rest of his life. When I was in college, he never let me call him because he would say it was long-distance. I told him that the distance was long, but the call didn't cost anything. Still, he could barely stay on the phone for 5 minutes. I could visualize the nickels clinking in his mind, making him uncomfortable with the cost of the call.

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It's common advice to minimize emotions in a negotiation. For example, the reading line of the article "Emotion: The 'Enemy' of Negotiation" is, "To succeed in negotiation, says one Wharton expert, one must take emotion out of the equation." We disagree. Emotions are primary drivers of decision making in buying, and primary drivers in negotiation outcomes. Emotions shouldn't be minimized. Instead, they should be guided and managed for both buyer and seller so that the best outcome can be achieved by all.

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In our research report, The Value Driving Difference, we studied almost 500 organizations' practices regarding how focused they are on driving value for buyers. Companies that rose to the top as Value-Driving Sales Organizations had higher sales win rates, were more likely to grow revenue, had lower undesired sales staff turnover, and much more highly motivated sellers. They were also two times more likely to agree that they capture maximum prices in line with their value. There's no question: If you want to succeed in sales, you should focus on driving value.

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Alison Brooks and Maurice Schweitzer, two researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, conducted an experiment to induce varying levels of anxiety among negotiators. One group was subjected to the not-so-melodious screeching strings from Psycho. The other group was treated to calming Water Music by Handel. After listening for a while, the groups were sent off to conduct simulated negotiations.

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By: Mike Schultz and Jason Murray After three months of talking and promises of moving forward, your fully qualified, enthusiastic champion is ready to pull the trigger. You send them a proposal and…silence. It's frustrating when buyers go cold. Whether late in the process or after one good meeting, most sellers at least want to hear, "No," or, "Here's what happened," or, "I'm still interested, but something happened…" Unfortunately, sellers often don't get the high sign from buyers, just the cold shoulder. Before we cover tactics you can use to resurrect opportunities with buyers who go cold, it helps to understand why buyers go cold.

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Executives are always on a mission to prove Kirkpatrick Level 4 measurement of training: Results. Specifically, they want to know to what degree targeted outcomes occur as a result of the training event and subsequent reinforcement. There is relatively little data on how sales training correlates to business performance and results. That is, until now.

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

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

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

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In our Top-Performing Sales Organization research, our goal was to assess what the Top Performers do differently than The Rest to achieve the best results.

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

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

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For the last 50 or so years, consultative selling has been the go-to approach for most sellers. In traditional consultative selling, the buyer states a need and the seller positions their offerings as solutions to problems. This used to be enough to win the sale. But today’s buyers often perceive sellers and their capabilities to be somewhat interchangeable.1 This leaves sellers stuck in a capabilities battle, fighting price pressure.

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Two sellers are talking at the end of the day. One turns to the other and asks, “How was your day?” “I had a great day,” the second seller says. “I sent out two proposals this morning, had a great first meeting with a new potential buyer, and finally got a meeting with a decision maker I’ve been trying to reach for a year!” Feeling proud, he asks the first seller, “How was your day?” He answers, “I didn’t sell anything either.” This is one of the challenging-yet-great things about sales. It’s measurable. At some point, you have to bring in the wins or you fail. Which begs the question, “What brings in the wins?” A few years ago we studied this from the buyer perspective and published the results in our book Insight Selling.

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Most sellers and sales leaders often ask themselves: "Is my win rate any good?" Win rate is one of the most basic measures of your sales success, so it’s only natural to want to benchmark your performance against the average to see how you stack up.

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

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Selling. What images come to mind when you see this word? Close your eyes and say the word out loud. How does it make you feel?

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If you've spent any time in complex sales, you know there's been a significant shift in how you win sales opportunities and grow accounts. In our client work and studies through the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research, we've seen that:

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When it comes to winning big sales opportunities, sales leaders often share 2 complaints: Sellers aren't proactive. They fail to drive their most important sales opportunities forward with determination and rigor. Even when sellers are proactive, they don't follow a consistent process to put themselves in the best position to win the sale.

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"What gets measured gets managed." – Peter Drucker Only when you have a good sense of what's going on in your organization can you decide which buttons to push to make the greatest improvements. Even small efforts to track key sales metrics can quickly drive better results.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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