RAIN Group Sales Blog

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

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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A productive sales team is a successful sales team.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's a lot to have to master.

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

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

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

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

This is an unprecedented time. 

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

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

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

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

/,mōdә΄vāSH(ә)n/ • noun

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

Let's break it down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sounds simple, right?

Not quite.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do we want to achieve?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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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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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