2013 – The year of Social123

2012 has been a tremendous year for Socail123! First and foremost we received an initial investment of funding from outside investors of $500,000.  That really says a lot about how individuals see our company and the future we have in this space. Secondly, we pivoted from a social media management tool to a social sales enablement company. The impact of our strategic shift will be felt for years because we have found our niche.

Social123 has a marked competitive advantage in the social data appending space due to our strict compliance with the terms of service of our social media partners.  Social media providers are quite clear in stating that their data cannot be compiled and resold. We do not own any data nor do we have any data to sell. We act as a concierge by bringing back specific requests from our customers for social data.  Our customers benefit from our compliance in two ways:

  1. We ensure the privacy settings of the end user are respected
  2. There is no intermediary database to limit returns

That is very important because other companies append social data by compiling their own database from which to append.  This is an approach that lends itself to inaccuracy and privacy concerns. It is also impossible to replicate the sheer size of social media databases.

Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter together provide a 1.5 billion person database where the individuals themselves update their professional and demographic information. This is the most accurate and detailed contact database in the entire world. Social123 helps our customers access this data thus prioritizing, validating, and enriching their understanding of their own customers.

A recent study by LinkedIn found that 85% of sales reps trusted their data more than the data inside of their CRM. Hubspot studies reveal that the average marketing and sales database is 25% inaccurate. Nucleus Research reports that sales reps spend on average 1.3 hours a day outside of their CRM collecting contact data and preparing for sales calls.

At the end of the day – our customers want all the information available about their customers and prospects in one place, their CRM. We combine the confidence, depth, and accuracy of social media data with the proprietary and institutional knowledge of CRM. The result: Social123 customers report that their sale productivity has increased by 10% and the email open rates have increased by 20%.

We have taken the additional step of working with the world’s most popular sales and marketing tools to easily append social data inside of their solution.  Social123 is currently embedded with Sugar CRM through Performance Advantage and Eloqua through SureShot Media.  We are also very excited to announce that starting on Jan 1, 2013 – Social123 will be on the Salesfore.com AppExchange.  Salesforce.com has over 150,000 customers and an excellent vehicle for social data appending.

As we set sail for 2013 – Social123 is in a great position. We are the only company providing customized social scoring and we are adding another field – demographics. Our customers will be able to score a social contact’s title, company, industry, and geography. We are also providing hygiene tools that will inform our customers when their data is inaccurate.

Lastly, we will launch an entirely rebranded and SEO-enabled website for 2013. Look for the Social123’s social sales enablement message and unique value proposition prominently displayed.

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year

What’s the deal with Social CRM?

Social CRM has two meanings.

  1. We take our social contacts and create a CRM-like environment to manage them. Our friends at Nimble and SproutSocial do a good job of this.
  2. We take our CRM contacts and create a social-like environment to manage them.  This is where we are seeing a lot of interest.

First, let’s take some very fundamental concepts about social data and apply them to selling.

The information that individuals provide about themselves in social media is going to be the best possible data about them.  That’s because these individuals have publicly volunteered their professional, demographic, and contact information in an effort to be seen and heard in social media.

This information is also going to be the most accurate because the individuals make the update themselves. Unlike purchased third-party databases, there is almost no lag time from when an individual changes jobs to when it is reflected in LinkedIn.  This takes the popular concept of “crowd-sourcing” and applies it to the micro-level of “sole-sourcing.”

Most third party databases universally apply locations and industries to every individual in their employ – whereas social data accurately reflects these fields for the individual. Social media provides new and unique methods of communication in the form of twitter handles and Facebook updates.  We can also learn what influences our contacts by understanding who they follow and what they mention socially.  From a B2B perspective – content mentions and social influence can be a great way to understand our contacts better.

Now let’s take some fundamental concepts about CRM and apply it to selling.

Our friends at Hubspot report that data degrades at 25% per year.  Our own individual research finds that over 50% of sales reps trust the data inside of LinkedIn more than they do inside of their own CRM. This leads to a very staggering problem – the average sales rep spends 10% of their time working outside of their CRM either validating or correcting the data inside of it.

Savvy sales professionals realize that integrating social into their CRM not only provides the most accurate and detailed data available, it gives sales people more time to sell.  10% of a sales person’s workweek is 4 hours or a half a day.  What impact would 4 additional hours per rep per week have on your sales numbers?

We are helping our clients recover this time, prioritize their sales and marketing efforts, and enrich the understanding they have about the prospects – all though social.


Obama and Romney – Sales Advice

I learned two things about selling from this election cycle one came from Mitt Romney and the other form President Obama. This isn’t a political rant – this is a sales manager learning a valuable lesson about presentations and winning deals.

Remember if you will before the first debate, President Obama was far ahead in the polls. The political pundits were telling us that Romney had already been defined by his adversaries; the electorate had already made up its mind. Saturday Night Live had a skit about how the worst possible thing Obama could do to lose the election was to open his mouth. To make matters worse, Romney took significant chunks of time off from retail campaigning to prepare for the debates making him look even weaker.

Well that prep time was the best decision he could have made. Romney overcame two years of negative campaign ads in two hours. How? He realized there was one key moment to change the decision-makers mind and he put everything he had into that milestone.

The parallels are striking in a sales process. We have our own time to shine in an unfiltered environment when we demonstrate our service.  Realize, like Mitt Romney did, that if this is the largest deal you are ever going to sell – put everything aside to prepare for it.

President Obama taught me that no deal is closed until you have ensured that all of your votes are lined up. The last month of the campaign – both candidates had reason to believe that they were going to win the election. The national polls had both candidates at 50% a piece.  However, the election isn’t won on national polls – it is won in the Electoral College.

President Obama focused his get out the vote efforts in the eight states that were to decide the election – thus ignoring 42 states and their voters. He had a sophisticated get out the vote effort from people he knew were his supporters. In a tight sales process or election where there seems to be no advantage for one side over the other, sometimes the group that mobilizes its supporters with the right influence will be the group that wins.

From a sales perspective – we can acknowledge that all votes are not created equally. If we hone in on the people we know can influence the deal in our favor and simply drive our value proposition into their heads to the point of advocacy, then we can win an uneven share of 50/50 deals.

SocialPoints for Marketing Automation

The Marketing Automation space is rather well defined with Constant Contact, ExactTarget, and Responsys publicly traded and each generating over $100 Million in revenue last year. Other power players in this space are Genius.com, iContact, Vertical Response, HubSpot, SIlverPop, Cheetahmail, YesMail, Epsilon, Aprimo and Pardot.  Eloqua and Marketo put much of their emphasis on larger organizations.

Marketing automation tools have done a great job of facilitating what is now considered the norm for e-mail marketing. In most instances, these tools send e-mails en masse with a tracking cookie attached.  This cookie tracks the activities of the contact and assigns a point score based on who they are and what they have done with the e-mail or website. These behaviors can be as simple as opening an e-mail to downloading a white paper. By setting a threshold score based on behavioral frequency, relevancy, and recency of a lead, marketing automation tools are able to nurture contacts until they are prepared for a sales interaction.

Social123 takes this same scoring philosophy and applies it to the world of social media.  Marketing automation tools base their score on activities that a cookie can track, such as e-mail views and Websites visits.  However, marketing automation tools do not score contacts based on social characteristics or what is being said on social media.  Social123 is able to give a line of sight into the “social blind spot” and create a score based upon an individual’s social actions, attributes, and mentions. This compliments Marketing Automation’s lead scoring technique, giving a much more holistic view of the contact.

Actions: Social123 allocates a point value based on the actions contacts make with social media outlets. Our point score is based off Facebook likes, if the contact becomes a fan on Facebook, or connects with us on LinkedIn. For twitter, we allocate a point value for number of followers and following or if the contact retweets content our company has produced.

Attributes:  Social123 allocates a point value based on the attributes our contacts have with social media. This provides a customized social influence value instead of relying on standards that may not be as relevant to every organization. Our point value is based on the number of Friends you have on Facebook and Contacts in LinkedIn. For Twitter, the point value is based on the number of Followers, those Following you, and the tweets you produce.

Mentions:  There are over 1 Billion subscribers to social networking sites on this planet. Most of what they communicate has no relevance. However, there are certain keywords that are amazingly important and if our contacts are mentioning it we want to know about it. These are usually the same keywords we use for Google AdWords.  If it is worth paying per click, then it is worth knowing if your customers or prospects are talking about it on social media.

  • My Company
  • My Products
  • My Competitors
  • My Customers
  • Industry Keywords
  • Google AdWords

Today’ buyer rarely uses just one source of information to make a buying decision.  By combining Social123’s SocialPoints with Marketing Automation’s Lead Scoring – companies can finally get a full understanding of their contacts’ behavior and attributes.  This added feature provides the competitive advantage of buyer intelligence when the buyer isn’t in our direct line of sight.

Take the Guesswork out of Social Influence

With Klout making a lot of news for its employment policies recently – it is nice to see that social influence ratings are getting closer look.  I love Klout – my score is 41 which makes me a “networker” in their Style grid.  My score and others’ can help me find people that will communicate my service and value proposition so that my brand awareness is raised.  I can build a nice network of social chatter by targeting my most influential social networkers.  The marketing officer in me absolutely loves this capability.

As a sales officer however, I am looking for people that can buy my solution, not kick the can down the road so that someone else will buy it.  From a sales perspective – I need not only social influence but specific actions taken and I need to know exactly what is being said on social media relative to the product I am selling.  In other words, I need to score individuals based on their social actions, social attributes, and keywords that are important to me.

Actions: I want to know if my prospects have done anything specific with my company’s social media outlets.  As example, if my customer or prospect becomes a fan of my company on Facebook or LinkedIn  – that’s important to me. So would the knowledge of retweeting something my company or I put out, follows either of us on twitter, or connects with me on LinkedIn.

Attributes:  I would also want to know the online reputation of my prospects – similar to Kout – but I would want to make that relative to what I sell.  For example, if you are a company that sells to CFO’s, then you wouldn’t rely much on social attributes.  However, if you are in the daily deals space – then this would mean much more to you.

Mentions:  There are over 1 Billion subscribers to social networking sites on this planet. Most of what they communicate has no relevance to me. However, there are certain keywords that are amazingly important to me such as my company, my product, my industry, or my competitors. More or less it would be any Adword that you purchase from Google for paid search. If it is worth paying per click, then it is worth knowing if your customers or prospects are talking about it on social media.

Social123 has taken the concept of scoring the social actions, attributes and mentions of individuals to create SocialPoints+.  Our process allows the searcher to associate a point value to the various social criteria that generates a customized and relevant SocialPoints+ score.


From Cold Calling to Social Calling

There are two aspects about cold calling that make it an imperfect demand creation technique. 1. The cold caller hates to do it. 2. The prospect hates to receive it.

As someone that has put in his fair share of time interrupting busy executives with my solicitations, I can confess that this most unnatural of interruptions never really did live up its billing.  The problem is fundamental, cold calling is akin to finding a needle in a haystack.  We have to find the right person, in the right company, at the right time, who happens to be at their desk and willing to take an unsolicited call.

From a salesperson’s perspective, we are told that every NO leads to a YES and that selling is a contact sport – so make your dials! However, Einstein once famously told us that the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.  Eventually, the lack of success that cold calling produces leaves what would otherwise be a highly compensated member of your company surfing the Internet.  From a sales person’s perspective – waiting for a lead is just as productive as trying to produce one.

What if we could turn that paradigm around? What if we could provide sales people with the right person, at the right company, at the right time who is looking to buy? Triggering Event and Social Monitoring are demand creation tactics that provide business intelligence to sales people alerting them of buying events.  It can be as simple as a potential buyer announcing a need for a solution you sell on LinkedIn, a press release on Facebook announcing an corporate initiative your product can help facilitate, or a prospect exclaiming their dissatisfaction for your competition on Twitter.

Social Media is a viable median for lead sourcing. A recent report from the Social Media Examiner finds, “58% of marketers who have been using social media for more than 3 years report it has helped them improve sales. More than half who spend 11 or more hours per week find the same results and over 65% of those who spend 30+ hours earn new business through their efforts. Small business owners with 2 or more employees were more likely to see improved sales from social media (51.5%). “

“By spending as little as 6 hours per week, 61% of marketers see lead generation benefits with social media. A significant 65% of small business owners were more likely than others to generate leads, compared to the 58% average for all marketers.”

Death of a Salesman…..Updated

Slate has written an excellent article entitled, Death of a Salesman. Of Lots of Them, Actually. The main theme of the article is that sales people are becoming “disintermediated” by the internet. The author uses examples of how auto salespeople, travel agents, and stock brokers have lost their jobs to sites like AutoTrader, Expedia, and eTrade. There is no arguing that B2C sales careers have been severely crippled by the information age but what about B2B? Truly.

(Updated: Here is some reaction from the article!)

Steve Woods, CTO of Eloqua and author of Digital Body Language, argues that a B2B salesperson’s biggest competition is Google. I have to agree. Salespeople don’t get involved in the buying process until the prospect has thoroughly educated him or herself about our service. Our competitive differentiation, client case studies, even online demonstrations are available for the world to see on our website. Every piece of information we as salespeople once thought so sacred in the sales process has been reduced to a click of a mouse. If you are saying the same thing to your prospect that can be found online then you have added no value to the sales process.

To avoid the same fate as Willie Loman, we have to tailor our message specifically to the buyer. We have to give them something they can’t find online. Luckily, the information superhighway is a two way street.

  • The first step is to get out in front of the buyer by knowing when and where they were on your website. Most marketing automation companies will give this business intelligence as part of their offering. Were executives on your site or just functionaries? The pages they selected will give you the insight into their concerns.
  • The second step is to do a thorough search of the buyers. Search LinkedIn to see how long the buyers have been working in their present positions and where they worked before. Oftentimes we can get a glimpse of predisposition by understanding the landscape of previous employers.
  • The last step is to research the company itself. Try a Google news search on the company to see if there are any triggering events that prompted the call. Hoovers will give a brief overview of the company and the competitive landscape for free. Think competitive advantage in terms of how you can give it to your prospect – not against your own competition.

With these bits of information you can begin creating a talk track around specific intelligence that will compliment what the prospect already has learned about your solution.

Hungry Sellers

I created a new group on LinkedIn called Hungry Sellers http://www.linkedin.com/groups?mostPopular=&gid=3256714

I came up with the idea because I am being asked what MORE could our team do create demand for our organization. The challenge is simple – get more qualified appointments to spark an evaluation for our services. Then I thought what better way to get a warm introduction inside of potential client that from a peer sales person.  What potential sales person wouldn’t make the connection if there were reciprocity. Then the ball started rolling down hill. Why not open up this idea to all Hungry Sellers? After all, if you are as hungry as I am, you would try any ethical approach possible to win business.

Therefore I created a LinkedIn Group for likeminded salespeople to put their networking and creativity to the test. Let’s give an example.

Say that Harry sells hardware for a Fortune 1000 company. Let’s say that Lynda sells staffing services for a regional player.  Harry needs an appointment with the VP of IT at Lynda’s company but hasn’t had any success. Lynda could use a warm introduction to the hiring manager of Harry’s company. Lynda connects with Harry because they are both members of Hungry Sellers.  Lynda will introduce Harry to her contact and Harry will do the same at his. Voila – both get an appointment where none possible before. In this case, it’s not what you know but who you know.

 Think it hard to pull this feat? In this economy, we are all in sales and if you tell the decision-maker in your company that you are receiving an appointment in-kind, that should do the trick. If that still doesn’t work, start playing the org chart game until you hit someone in your organization that cares about revenue. If that still doesn’t work, I would be seriously worried about the direction of the company I work for.

I have seen this work on many occasions so I decided to create the group. Be careful though, only hungry sellers can pull this off.

Creating Demand – Why Senior Sales People Won’t do it (updated.)

frustratedIn this economy – we are finding that marketing alone is not enough to secure a healthy pipeline of business. In response, senior sales people are asked to go from reacting to demand to generating it on their own. With this new dynamic, I think the hardest thing for sales management to understand is that their BIG GAME Hunters are unprepared and unwilling to handle this new responsibility.

Without any direction outside of a mandate to gain more evaluations – senior sales people do what they do best. They think their industry knowledge, tenure, and high compensation requires them to craft lengthy and well researched correspondence to targeted executives. (Imagine the laborious process of researching, writing and rewriting the perfectly tailored e-mail and phone script?) The problem with this approach is that when these lengthy, targeted pieces of correspondence go unanswered – senior sales people get frustrated. They begin to take on the mentality that they are closers and setting appointments only prevents them from do what they are paid so handsomely to do. In truth – highly compensated / senior sales people rose to their station because they are very productive and demand creation activity that doesn’t generate demand is just……unproductive.

What we need to understand is that our buyers are very busy and even if we craft the perfect pitch to an individual, it could be the wrong time, the wrong person, or even the wrong median. Demand Creation in today’s hectic and busy world requires a different outlook and process. We need to switch from a hunting approach to a farming mentality.

A successful demand creation process allows senior sales people to use their tenure, experience, and status for demand creation – but instead of spending this time focusing on an individual – they focus on a group of individuals. This process takes the same amount of time as traditional targeted demand creation efforts but is wildly more productive because it generates results.

I wrote this e-book to help create demand for the senior sales people who just won’t do it.

P.I.C.T. Profile

We have to earn the right to be seen as a peer. Today’s buyer is skeptical of big-promising / know-nothing sales people that just want 20 minutes on their calendar. To be seen as a peer we need to know our buyer as well as can be expected without having met him in person. My team achieves this by creating a PICT profile; Person, Industry, Company, and Title.

Person: The old cliché is that companies don’t buy, people do. We want to know our buyers on a personal level to gain insight into who they are, what motivates them, where have they been.

LinkedIn is the perfect tool to understand how someone wants the world to see them. I ask my reps to (at the very least) know where their buyer went to school, where else have they worked and how long they have worked at their current job. If the buyer is a savvy LinkedIn user then he is part of LinkedIn groups, shares the books he has read, gives and receives recommendations, and links with other professionals. What a treasure trove of information to begin a conversation!

 Industry: Our buyers expect us to know macro-economic trends in their industry and First Research is a great tool to help us put it all into context. We want to know how governmental regulation, foreign competition, energy costs, and technological advancements impact our buyers.

Every company is subjected to their industry trends and having an understanding of them brings instant credibility to your first call. Being able to articulate how your solution can positively impact those trends sparks an instant evaluation.

Company:  Rick Page at the Complex Sale taught me that companies really only have 5 enterprise-wide issues they care about. Revenue is the byproduct of these issues.

  1. Competitive Differentiation
  2. Customer Acquisition and Retention
  3. Growth
  4. Governmental Regulation
  5. Good Press

When we are researching a first call we want to be not only armed with this information about our prospect but how our solution could potentially impact any of these 5 areas. I tell my team that this is what separates tellers from sellers. Our buyers can get our product portfolio, financials, and customer case studies off of the web.  Conversely, we can get the information we need to have a great first call from the web as well.

Title: Inherent in a value proposition is a keen understanding of the pains of the non-technical buyers and a linkage of our solution to solving those pains. Many organizations make the mistake of having one generic value proposition – when in fact the value proposition must be tailored to the individual with whom we are having the appointment.

Creating Demand in 8 Steps

“Clyde, you have three pistols and you only have one arm. Well I just don’t want to be killed for lack of shootin’ back.”  That quote is from Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven, where a one-armed deputy prepared to fight it out with a well-known gunslinger. 

I like that quote because it epitomizes my philosophy on demand generation.  I want to try everything I can to get in front of my buyers. After all, an unrequited solicitation isn’t a no – and interpreting it that way is like getting killed for lack of shootin back.

My team is no different from most sales teams. We have a finite number of prospects for our B2B solution and a CRM tool to help manage our activity. We can’t depend upon marketing to give us leads so we have to create our own. We have different levels of skills and enthusiasm when it comes to creating demand but like most, we have a deep reservation in picking up the phone and calling a stranger.  To overcome this obstacle I banged the war drums for cold calling with both stick and carrot. However our reports revealed a less than 1% return on traditional cold calling activity.

Our next approach was to stop cold calling all together and perform strictly targeted solicitations. We researched the hell out of a few select companies and wrote perfectly tailored correspondence – with an even worse result. All the energy and effort to craft these letters fell on deaf ears and left my sales team disillusioned.  We needed something new, effective, and could reverse the tide of apathy around demand creation.  

Our thought process was to understand the limitations of cold calling and targeted solicitation then try to build a system around their inadequacies.

  • Wrong Approach
  • Wrong Median
  • Wrong Message
  • Wrong Person
  • Wrong Time

Wrong Approach: There was a study from PWC that found a CFO receives an average of 57 solicitations a day. With all the e-mail automation tools and inside sales teams that have sprung up over the past decade, I bet that number is more like 100. So our challenge is to get above the noise. You could have the perfect solution for the perfect buyer at the perfect time, but if you are caught in a spam filter or the buyer never gets the message – what good does that do?

Our remedy is to ensure our message gets above the noise by a multi-touch campaign style prospecting effort.  Our friends in B2C marketing learned one and done marketing is just as effective as none and done long ago. They tell us we need to be simple, short, and persistent if we want to capture our buyer’s attention.  My goal is to “touch” our prospect eight times over the course of a three week campaign. That way we can feel somewhat comfortable he or she understands that we are trying to get their attention.

We also want to avoid the one-off targeted solicitation that will be written and re-written only to be ignored like a piece of spam. Our approach invests the same amount of time it takes to wordsmith a letter to one individual but we write correspondence to a group of individuals that have something in common.  For instance, instead of writing a specific letter to the CFO of one of our top prospects, we write a letter than would benefit any CFO. We then select 30 to 50 CFO’s from our CRM that will be the target of our campaign.

Wrong Median: There are numerous ways to contact today’s buyers. We can call them directly like most of the English speaking work will do. We can e-mail them; even put a read receipt so they know we mean business.  We can work with the executive assistant who is paid to keep us at bay. We can use snail mail that will sit in a pile of like solicitations in its own version of purgatory. Or, we can do all of them knowing that the whole, in some cases, is greater than the sum of its parts.

We know that busy executives actually do have a preferred method of communication. We just don’t know what it is yet.  Our campaigns start with a piece of snail mail – except we bypass mail purgatory by sending it in a FedEx or UPS envelope. These absolved pieces of literature are guaranteed to be opened and set the campaign off on the right note because you earned the buyer’s attention. Next, we follow up with a series of e-mails referencing the package. The next touch is a dial directly to the prospect, working with the executive assistant. Touch four is an e-mail, five a voicemail, six an e-mail, seven voicemail, and touch eight transitions the prospect to lead nurturing.

We use an e-mail aggregator called BuzzBuilder that sends the e-mails directly from the rep’s address, helping to build name recognition. We set the four e-mail touches up at the beginning of the campaign and notify the reps via Outlook when that e-mail will hit their prospect. We schedule two hour dialing sessions the day after the e-mails drop. What were cold calls are now much warmer with correspondence sent ahead of time, giving less phone reluctance.  BuzzBuilder will let us know who has opened the e-mail or forwarded it to a colleague. This helps triage the effort for the dialing sessions. There is much less pressure on these dials because we are only asking for a voicemail to help solidify the multi-touch campaign.  .

Wrong Message:  One of the fatal flaws in demand creation is that our message just isn’t compelling. Think, why would your decision maker want to see you because you are in town or you have free time? Where is the value in “checking in?” Along those same lines – cold callers make the mistake that their company’s credentials are going to get them in the door. Again, I fail to see how you rank in Gartner’s magic quadrant, product differentiation, or when your company was founded will compel someone to call you back. Those superlatives are only effective if there is an active evaluation – we are just trying to spark one.

To grab a decision-makers attention, you need to first change jobs. Put yourself in their position and forget every last thing you know about your robust product suite.  What are the top things that your stakeholders care about? If you don’t know – look it up. The CFO is a key stakeholder in our sale so they are often the target of our campaigns. If I wanted to understand and reference their top concerns I can Google CFO top concerns.  An article from CFO magazine comes up that states the Top 10.

Not all pains are created equally. If we want to gain traction in our accounts we need to take the most strategic pains and link out solution to help solve them.  For our demand creation campaign – we have to be generic enough to appeal to our entire targeted list but strategic enough in our messaging to attract their attention.  I wrote this blog about keeping messaging P.I.T.H.Y

We also want to evolve our messaging over the course of the campaign.  Again, take the CFO Magazine article that lists the top 10 concerns of the CFO.  Our strategy is to take 3 of those concerns to reference and link to solving over the course of the 8 touch campaign.  If one of those pains doesn’t resonate – then perhaps one of the remaining three will.

Wrong Time: The reason we selected 8 touches was found that was about the right number of times to guarantee you got the attention of your buyer. However, when we first started doing this, we tried to collapse the process into one week. We learned from multiple out of office auto responders or executive assistants telling us that our prospect was out of pocket for the week – we were not taking full advantage of the system.  

We chose to spread the multi-touch campaign over the course of three weeks to make us feel as though we were going to reach our prospect at a time of convenience. After all, we ask for a specific date to meet in our solicitation and it is just too easy for the recipient to ignore the e-mail if they know they can’t make that date.  That process will happen three different times with three different dates over a three week period. Our goal is for a more well-thought out decision to meet with us on a permission basis.

Our final solicitation (or touch 8) states that we have made multiple attempts to reach the prospect and the lack of response must be either one of two things. They were either not concerned about the pains we can help solve or they just don’t have time to discuss them. This is usually gets the best response with an apology from the buyer for being difficult to reach with a time they can meet.

Wrong Person:  Just like pains, not all organizations are created equally.  The CFO is a key stakeholder in our sale but so is the controller, the CIO, the VP of HR, and the HR Director.  When it comes to creating demand however, we let the law of gravity dictate how we navigate our prospects.  We equate it to the ease of pushing a bolder down a hill. Start at the top and get sponsorship all the way down the org chart until we find the eventual business owner of our solution.  By starting low and trying to cultivate an evaluation, you are doing the equivalent of trying to push a bolder up hill.  

To wrap it up in a nice little bow – our demand creation methodology looks like the below over the course of three weeks. We have seen results as good as 10% and as bad as 1%. We know for this to be effective, the reps have to make touch 3, 5, and 7. Otherwise, they will be treated as a spammer.

  1. Snail Mail Touch – In a Fed Ex envelope to ensure it gets to the recipient. Reference top 3 pains
  2. E-mail Touch – Referencing the letter and Pain 1
  3. Executive Assistant Touch – Referencing Letter, E-mail, and Pain 1
  4. E-mail Touch – Pain 2, second date to meet
  5. Voice Mail Touch – Pain 2, second date to meet
  6. E-mail Touch – Pain 3, third date to meet
  7. Voice Mail Touch – Pain 3, third date to meet
  8. Transitioning E-mail Touch

This process takes six hours out of three weeks of work to make the dials. Even then, phone reluctance is hard to overcome but the results should convince the biggest skeptic.

My shot at Implementing Sales 2.0

I have been asked to attend a Six Sigma Event around the new Oracle On Demand CRM we are implementing at my company. We aren’t going live until the fall (if then) but my company seems to be doing the right thing by actually inviting sales to the table for the scoping process. As many who follow this blog know – I am advocate of the Sales 2.0 concept; perhaps even a zealot.

Oracle On-Demand as a few cool tools that I am excited to learn more about, such as the Social CRM applications around sharing and scoring content. Most of my experience, however, with CRM implementation comes from Salesforce.com. When I worked at the Complex Sale, Inc., we had an application for opportunity management located on the App Exchange. That made the implementation process quite literally seamless. White Springs, the company that makes The Complex Sale’s App, also has pre-built integration with Oracle as well.

Oracle lists their feature partners on their website.

Inside View: I am very excited about offering my opinions on integrating the Inside View applications to our CRM instance. As stated on previous blogs, we employ a third party to set appointments from the West Group. They do a great job and allow us to focus on selling rather than prospecting. However, when we do get the appointment set – we need to be as prepared as possible. I tell my team they need to research five aspects of their prospect to be best prepared for a first call.

1. Industry
2. Company
3. Individual
4. Title
5. Geography

Inside View gives this data, pre-packaged on a company by company basis, embedded inside of the account tab inside of the CRM. It sours the blogs for triggering events, LinkedIn for the prospects themselves, and provides in-depth data on the company. It is a one stop shop for first call preparation – inside of the CRM.

Kadient: One of the first things I did as a new sales manager was to institute a Best Practices Sales Cycle for my team. This is the process of collaborating and documenting the client-facing milestones and tasks needed to successfully move a prospect to signature. I put the deliverable of this process on an excel spreadsheet. All my reps are expected to have a specific BPSC spreadsheet for every opportunity they have to show progress. The byproduct of this process is a common sales process, expectation, and vernacular.
The cells that comprise the BPSC spreadsheet are linked to other tabs inside of the excel document. These additional tabs share greater detail, links to other information, and templates.

Kadient takes this idea and integrates it inside of the CRM where quite frankly it should be. Kadient will attach the BPSC or playbook to the opportunity record where the rep can go for direction specific to the type of opportunity. The functionality gives a rep sales messaging that’s battle tested, competitive information, or PPT templates that have won business. Better yet, from a sales manager’s perspective, I can get a better line of sight into the deals I am forecasting and trends for training purposes.
I will keep you posted on my success in getting these tools integrated in the Oracle On-Demand.

The Three Best Sales Books You Need to Read

I have been asked what the best books on selling are on more than one occasion. Obviously I am predisposed to Rick Page’s Hope Is Not A Strategy, seeing that I worked for the man for over two years. That notwithstanding, it is perhaps the only primer you need on strategizing a multi-vendor, multi-decision maker, big ticket sale. Rick takes the concept of strategic selling from B2B to P2P or peer to peer. Not only should you understand the pains of the company – but the individual decision makers – then tailor your message to solving those pains on a one-off basis. Genius really – but Rick’s book strictly covers deal strategy. You can compliment it very well with these books – I humbly submit:

Selling to Big Companies: Jill Konrath. I love this book. Jill does an extraordinary job of getting you in the mind of the buyer. Your buyer is busy, he doesn’t return solicitations, and he doesn’t care about your solution. Trust me; now that I am literally on the other side of the desk I experience these truisms every day. What I care about, and your buyer as well, is how you can help me take one thing off of my plate and give me one more hour with my kids. How can you learn what’s on my plate, “use the news.” Jill introduces the concept of triggering event selling, meaning we can get a glimpse of what will entice our prospects to buy by linking into their press releases. Although written in 2005, read this book to get a primer on modern day demand creation. Schiffman, Boylan and Parinello write books that can help you get the appointment, but Jill’s book will help you get the deal.

SPIN Selling: Neil Rackham. This book introduces the tactic of probing for pain in that we first need to diagnose before we prescribe. Neil was hired in the 70’s to find the one common trait that all successful sales people had at Xerox. What he found was the sales people that were most successful listened two times more than those who were not. The SPIN Selling technique was introduced to replicate the art of listening. Situation, Problem, Implication, Need. We must first understand our buyer’s environment, the problems within that environment, the impact those problems cause and what is needed to solve those problems. Bosworth’s Solution Selling and Customer Centric Selling basically take the pain-based selling concept and retool it with additional steps. However, SPIN has four steps – the only four steps you need to probe for pain.

A Report from the Field

As many of you know – I went from sales consulting to sales management a couple of months ago. I thought I would take this opportunity to share my report from the field.

1. Senior Sales People won’t create their own demand. I have found this to be more the case than I originally thought. At my employer, we use a third party to create intro calls for the reps. This is extremely helpful and keeps my team focused on opportunity management. The drawback I am finding however is that these “leads” are generally outside of our ideal customer profile in terms of vertical and stakeholder. Therefore I have employed a multi-touch / multi-media demand creation campaign to ensure we are still marketing to all aspects of the territory

2. The Best Practices Sales Cycle is my coaching tool of choice. The first thing I did in my new role was to get buy in and alignment on the best practices of our sales process. That includes the stages and tactics that make up those stages. Now – we have a common vernacular on where we are in the sales process and expectations on next steps.

3. The 3 R’s of revenue distraction are alive and well. Refereeing internal disputes, Recruiting, and Reporting. I find that blocking time off on my calendar specifically for the reps in the form of one on one time and deal coaching helps me separate the urgent from the important. I also find that keeping that time sacred – just as important as an appointment with a prospect – helps ensure I get the time with the reps.

More reports from the field to come….

Help Wanted: Talented Sales Representatives

If you follow this blog and know anyone who might want to work for me in my new position as DVP of Sales at Ceridian – please let me know. I need some talented people! After reading some of my posts – it shouldn’t be hard to see what I am looking for….


Ceridian Corporation, a fortune 1000 provider of Outsourced Integrated Human Resources Solutions, is seeking a Professional Sales Executive to be part of an energetic sales team, with experience in complex strategic solution sales and hardware/software industry experience. This outside sales person will focus on our mid market client, selling to companies that have 300-1500 employees.

Job Description:
• Generate revenue by identifying new business through cold calling into assigned accounts, lead generation and networking.
• Meet with C-level decision makers to analyze their needs and identify areas for Ceridian to provide valuable products/services.
• Develop interactive sales strategies based on client needs and corporate guidelines.
• Collaborate with managers to achieve/exceed assigned sales quota.
• Maintain current knowledge of Ceridian products/services to execute sales.
• Work with other Ceridian sales teams to cross sell services/products across product lines.

• Minimum 3 years hunting, prospecting, developing and closing leads for new business.
• Demonstrated proven sales success as a “Top Producer” in B2B sales and/or software solution sales.
• Consultative sales background in selling software systems, application outsourcing, ERP and/or comprehensive technology solution sales to C-level executives preferred.
• Understanding of C-level business drivers, value expectations, business case and ROI assumptions.
• Demonstrated negotiation skills. Can negotiate skillfully in tough situations with both internal and external groups; can win concessions without damaging relationships; can be direct and forceful as well as diplomatic.
• Strong business acumen.
• Bachelor’s degree or equivalent combination of education and relevant experience.
• Excellent oral and written communication skills.
• Valid Driver’s license.

Ceridian Corporation is a business services company that grows every year by helping our customers maximize the power of their people, lower their costs and focus on what they do best. Come work with great people and be challenged to reach your potential at Ceridian. We depend on highly skilled and enthusiastic achievers like you to provide innovative solutions for thousands of companies and twenty five million employees worldwide. By fostering values that promote freedom and flexibility we encourage professional growth and offer rewarding career opportunities. Ceridian provides comprehensive benefits, effective your first day of employment. Benefits include medical, dental, vision, 401K with match, paid time off as well as a host of other world class benefits. Innovate, lead, and grow by doing what you love to do at Ceridian.

The New Untouchables

Thomas FriedmanThomas Friedman of the New York Times writes a very insightful column about the new untouchables in American Business. As unemployment soars around 10% and damned good sales people are looking for jobs – I found this quote to be quite prophetic, “In a world in which more and more average work can be done by a computer, robot or talented foreigner faster, cheaper “and just as well,” vanilla doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s all about what chocolate sauce, whipped cream and cherry you can put on top.” For Friedman – the New Untouchables have the ability to imagine new services, new opportunities and new ways to recruit work.

I thought about how the same concept applies to the noble vocation of selling. The Sales 2.0 story is well chronicled. New research shows that new corporate projects start with a Google search instead of a call to a vendor. Buyers are educating themselves on our solutions, via the web and social networking, and are less receptive to the “cold call.” Corporate websites are optimized and stacked with unique differentiation, third-party research, podcasts, and recorded demos. You can even get a video message from the CEO. Marketing employs savvy e-mail campaigns, targeted messaging, compelling hooks, blogs, webinars, micro-sites, and e-books to pique the buyer’s interest. Tools like Eloqua empower Marketing with results about the effectiveness of their campaigns and highlight individuals who show the right buying propensities.

I heard a statistic recently stating that selling used to be 30% marketing and 70% sales. With the new 2.0 shift in the buyer/seller paradigm – that percentage is now reversed. Sales leaders seem to be adjusting their go-to market strategy with this paradigm shift accordingly. Marketing’s role is going deeper into the sales cycle to the point of handling the entire transaction over the web in some cases. Value-added re-sellers and strategic partnerships are seen as a more effective alternative than inside sales forces. Outside sales forces have been pushed inside with web-conferencing and online demonstrations as cheaper vehicles for selling. Outside sales forces have been moved to named account representatives to hyper-focus on the most productive clients. Key account retention is now the responsibility of senior leadership with advisory councils and strategic liaisons. As one CEO recently told me – the days of the $100,000 doughnut-toter vanished in the wake of the recent recession.

Over the past two years, successful sales leaders survived doing more with less. These pioneers will only build on the lessons they learned – not return to unproductive habits of the past. Furthermore, as Software as a Service evolves into every aspect of business, it becomes less complicated for the buyer to understand, purchase, and even trial. The barrier of entry is just that much lower.

With this insight – it is no wonder that sales people are experiencing a “jobless recovery.” The question then is how do modern sales people make themselves untouchable? I think the answer is to adjust and evolve. Today’s buyer wants to buy from a peer. We must embrace the new technologies and lack of control we once had in the buying process.
If our buyers are searching for information on our solution on the web – then be on the web – in the form of blogs, webinars, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If our buyers can learn more about us online, then we should learn more about them. The information highway is a two-way street. Become an industry expert by reading the same whitepapers and joining the same social networks they do. Twitter is an amazing tool to keep your finger on the pulse of your industry. Set up an account and listen to what thought leaders are saying – for free! Finally, remember that your biggest competition is no longer tangible, it is Google. If you can’t offer value over and above what a buyer can find online, then you are “touchable.” Be untouchable, be connected, be a resource.

A Brave New World: Responding to Shifts in the Selling/Buying Model


Last week, The Complex Sale, Pedowitz Group, Eloqua, and Oracle hosted a luncheon designed to brief sales and marketing executives on how their worlds were changing.  It was a great turn out with even better insight into how buyers are changing their habits. At no time in history has Sales and Marketing seen as radical a shift in buying behaviors as in the last five years.  With tools like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, information is now quite literally at our buyer’s fingertips.

Organizations are having trouble adapting to this change.  The concept of the new “Sales 2.0” world has created more questions than answers as to how Sales and Marketing can leverage new technologies to drive messaging and sales effectiveness. 
Today, buyer “self education” renders Sales and Marketing blind to buyers’ interests, propensities, and levels of engagement in our typical Sales and Marketing plans.  Buyers are less likely to engage with sales teams or to read our messaging.  Instead, buyers leverage Webinars, Online Meetings, and interactive web sites and control the sales process themselves.

Steve Woods, author of Digital Body Language and CTO of Eloqua states, “a sales person’s biggest competition for an executive’s time is now Google.”  If we as sales people cannot bring more value to the conversation than what is available online, then we are not going to capture an executive’s time or imagination.

Rick Page, author of Hope is Not a Strategy and founder of The Complex Sale states, “lead generation used to be about a hammer, now it is about a hook.” The hammer was the telephone with endless cold calls beating executives into appointments by attrition.  The hook is an opportunity for the executive to learn something insightful about their own business, industry, or competition.

Debbie Qaquish, Chief Revenue Officer at the Pedowitz Group states, “Marketing is earning its way on sales incentives trips by first, collaborating with sales to create the definition of a lead and secondly, providing insight into buyer activity on the company website that will triage the sellers call efforts.

The session ended with the obvious question – what hasn’t changed in selling?

The evaluation process is still logical and rational where the decision making process is emotional and political.  By avoiding the three foot rule (being within three feet of the prospect) and handling the sale over the web and phone, sellers risk becoming a victim of the crucible concept. Sellers need to know the competitive and political landscape, source of urgency, and enterprise level issues to when complex deals.

Create More Demand – Keep it P.I.T.H.Y.


I’ve received a significant amount of response regarding my thoughts on why Senior Sales People won’t create their own Demand.  After all, if they won’t who will and what impact will this have of revenue production? The obvious answer is that successful sales organizations have to change how they structure themselves to reflect this new reality. It’s the classic stick vs. carrot argument; either make them do it or do it for them.

I have a client that has a one-to-one ratio of inside sales “demand creators” for the outside senior sales people.  Needless to say this division of labor works out well for the outside guys – however they have much more quota responsibility. I have another client that has the entire demand creation process automated through an e-mail aggregator and dialing responsibilities with ConnectandSell.  Those are great examples of carrots.  When it comes to sticks, I have a client that has created MBO’s and compensation around demand creation productivity.  

No matter how your organization chooses to go to market, if you use a multi-touch / multi-media approach to campaign, keep your messaging pithy. You will want all of your correspondence to be pithy or short, concise, and to the point. You will also want to use P.I.T.H.Y. as an acronym:

P. Pain solving

I.  Introductory

T.  Time Specific

H. Highly Strategic

Y. You 

Pain solving: When creating messaging for demand creation, we must first think of the person who we are selling to and the most pressing issues that individual faces.  We want to uncover where and why they are feeling this pressure  without any regard to what we sell. This is how we create empathy in our messaging and link our solution to solving these pains. Buyers want to hear from individuals who communicate with them in a langauge they understand. This is peer to peer selling.  

Introductory: As Jake Atwood, CEO of Ovation Selling once told me, when creating demand keep the purpose of the call the purpose of the call. What he means is that successful demand creation separates the activity of selling the solution from selling the appointment.  Our entire goal for demand creation messaging is to secure a short meeting to sell them on an evaluation of our solution.  Therefore, we are positioning ourselves for a first call – not to purchase our service.

Time Specific: When reaching out to busy executives for a first call, always give them two or more times when you would like to meet. This takes the guesswork out of their participation and fixates their attention to WHEN they will meet with you, not IF they will meet with you.  This isn’t a new concept to most of us because it has withstood the test of time.

Highly Strategic:  Empirically, we know our buyers are inundated with requests for an audience and do not have enough time to entertain every solicitation they receive. Therefore and just as we do, they triage their efforts in getting back to their suitors. Put yourself in their position; how would you decide to best utilize your time? Your messaging should be around the highest level of impact your solution can have on an organization. What sounds better; eliminating manual process or better client retention? What about best of breed vs. providing a competitive advantage?

You:  As in not you. The biggest mistake I see made in demand creation is when sellers leave their list of superlatives on a voicemail or e-mail.  Busy executives are looking for empathic solutions to their problems and original ideas from outsiders.  They do not and should not link your awards, financials, and even competitive differentiators to solving these pains.  Put yourself in their position; they are not evaluating your solution so why would talking about your company spark any interest?

In conclusion, even those this posting is not, keep your correspondence for demand creation P.I.T.H.Y.

A Tale of Two Sales Teams – Cogswell Cogs vs. Spacely Sprockets

 It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..

Cogswell vs Spacely


Cogswell Cogs and Specely Sprockets sell the exact same product, from the customers stand point that is.  Both are very high-tech companies, with impressive client lists, and make sizable investments in R & D and marketing. There is a healthy debate as to which one is higher on the Fortune 500 list. Both Cogswell Cogs and Spacely Sprockets claim they were first to market with a “Software as a Service” widget.  They have the exact same spot on Gartner’s magic quadrant and charge the same monthly amount for this widget.

Over the past 6 months, Cogswell Cogs has been killing Spacely Sprockets with the new SaaS widget selling 10 new units to their rival’s 1. The analysts have been quizzing the leadership at Cogswell – without any clear advantage in industry experience, pricing, technology, or fiscal stability, how can they explain such a discrepancy in sales?

6 months ago, the leadership at Cogswell examined their sales forecast and saw an alarming trend. Half of their forecasted deals were either lost to Spacely Sprockets or to no decision.  These were deals on the forecast.  The leadership decided that this trend that was no longer sustainable – they were a 6 sigma shop after all.  They decided they were going to start with the end in mind and uncover why a forecasted deal would ever fail to close.

Their research showed that when Cogswell Gogs lost a forecasted deal, it was due to one of or all of these three factors:

  1. The buyers couldn’t tell the difference between the two vendors, so they selected Spacely Sprockets for reasons having nothing to do with feature, financials, experience, or price.
  2. The buyers couldn’t justify the costs, so they didn’t make any purchase
  3. The buyers couldn’t come to a consensus on who to purchase, so an individual they hadn’t spoken to made the decision.

As a result Cogswell Cogs deployed a strategy to combat these three factors:

Competitive Strategy: Cogswell Cogs would make it a focus to find a point of competitive differentiation where none had existed before: the sales force.  The individual sales person would take a much more proactive role in the sales process.  They were held responsible for understanding the pains of every potential stakeholder impacted by their solution and linking specific benefits to solving those pains.

Closing Strategy: Cogswell Cogs made a point of withholding the proposal until they had collaborated with the prospect to build a business case for the widget. Also, no opportunity would make it on the forecast without first an understanding of the source of urgency, or a date when they could no longer go without the widget.

Political Strategy: Cogswell Cogs would make it a point to speak to every potential stakeholder, particularly the C-suite, and sell to them in a language they would understand: risk. The higher a sales person finds themselves in the org chart – the more a potential stakeholder has to lose (or gain)

Spacely Sprockets on the other hand hasn’t really changed how they sell.  They are more reactive in their sales process and cling to the operational stakeholders like a drowning person does a life preserver.  Their discovery process is focused on break / fix with no discussion on impact. The demo of the SaaS widget is the same canned presentation they have been doing for years.  Pricing is handed out without cost justification.  When the proposal was handed to the prospect an inevitable dead period would follow.

Six months ago, Spacely was winning about half of their deals. Now the dead period stays dead.

Cogswell Cogs has found a way to create competitive advantage where none had existed before – the sales force.

Caution: Whales in the Swimming Pool

no swimmingIt is right around this time of year when I start to get very anxious. The summer is winding down, my alma mater begins their football season, and our buyers are awakening from the summer doldrums. As sellers, our sense of urgency increases because the end of the year is within sight – and the same is true of our buyers.

Or is it?  Follow this link to read my thoughts on forecast accuracy.

Try this little exercise. Pull up the pipeline you have been working diligently to build over the first 9 months of the year. Sort it by revenue from highest to lowest. If you are like most sales professionals, you will find there is a correlation between the size of the deal and the proximity of the close date to December 31st. In other words – the largest deals are generally the ones the furthest pushed out. This is natural and stands to reason. After all, these deals aren’t fully scoped therefore we don’t want them gaining the attention of the powers that be. However, we still want the recognition that there is a whale or two swimming in our pool. Since we don’t know when this deal is going to close – we assume that the buyers will have the same source of urgency that we have and that it will eventually close by the end of the year.

We as salespeople need to realize that this, in fact, is not the case. Many of us have the high hopes that 2009 will be very different from 2008 and buyers will finally come off of their wallets. But just as Rick Page has taught us – Hope is Not a Strategy.

Three items we need to consider when we are thinking about these whales at the end of our pipeline for 2009 . Start doing these things now so you can be assured you are well positioned to close out the year strong:

1)    The global recession has made buyers much more cautious and conservative with their earnings. Therefore cost justification models are not enough to close a complex sale. CFO’s have been piling up proposals with ROI’s attached for two years.

To Combat this, Find the Powerful People: Align with the individual who can and will walk your proposal into the CFO’s office and say, “I need this signed because it is critical to the success of our business.”

2)   Our sense of urgency to close by the end of year is motivated by our internal pressures to make quota. Our buyers do not share this motivation.

Uncover their Source of Urgency: Find out what does motivate the decision-makers to buy and by what date they need this solution. If Jan 1 comes and goes without our solution in place – what are the negative ramifications to the organization?

3)   Many buyers have little knowledge about evaluating our solution and our implementation timeframes. Therefore by the time they get around to evaluating your solution it could be too late to have it up and running by the start of the year.

Closing Strategy: Through a position of empathy and experience, share with your buyer your normal evaluation, approval, and implementation process in the form of a timeline. Back it out from the source of urgency date for go-live and let them know the steps needed to start by that date.

Try this process to help feed the whales swimming at the end of your pipeline.

How to Find the Next A-Player

NeedleImageMany sales leaders ask me what’s the FIRST thing they should do to elevate the effectiveness of their team; train them up or move out the underperformers. Their initial inclination is to move out the C-players and then level set the team once the right players are in place. But that begs the question – what are the attributes of an A-player?

When creating a hiring profile, we need to realize there is no such thing as a universal A-player. Two factors first come into play – your industry and your sales force segmentation. Before we go down the path of letting anyone go, we need to understand how your buyers buy your solution.

• Do they have a long buying process with multiple decision-makers?
• Will they buy a solution over the phone / web?
• Is it an evangelical or highly competitive purchase?

From that understanding, I recommend creating a Best Practices Sales Cycle based upon the tactics of your most successful practitioners. We want to universally apply the stages and steps needed to put your company in the best position to advance every deal they are in. Creating a Best Practices Sales Cycle will also allow you the opportunity to create key performance indicators (KPI’s) in each stage to replicate the actions of our best practitioners. As an example:

Demand Creation

# First Calls with Decision-Makers
# First Calls translated into qualified evaluations

Opportunity Management

# Deals with access to Decision-Makers
# Deals with a Source of Urgency

Account Management:

# Accounts with Executive Contact
# Non competitive evaluations

If your sales force is segmented by demand creation, opportunity management, and account management teams – then we would only apply the pertinent KPI’s. If your sales force is segmented to reflect market size or vertical, then we would adjust the KPI’s as well. By creating these Key Performance Indicators, you will have objective criteria by which to create a hiring profile. You will want to have the applicant explain how they DID achieve similar activity metrics – not how they WOULD. From those responses you can begin to see if they are a good fit for your organization.

This is by no means the only factor to creating a hiring profile for an A-player. There is a lot of validity to testing for business and technical accumen, risk aversion, DiSC profiling, IQ and the rest.  But a word of caution – Sales people are at their best when they are selling themselves on a job interview. Far too often we look at W2’s as the mark of an A-Player – when in fact the skills that made them successful at their previous employer could have no bearing at all on your sales process. By understanding and quantifying the skills and activity of your best practitioners, you can truly find the hiring profile for an A-player to your organization.

How to guarantee a missed forecast

missed_targetThe sales managers I speak with tell me there is only ONE thing worse than not making your revenue target and that’s to forecast that you were going to make your number and then miss it. I am sure most that are reading this will agree. The problem with forecasting however is that most companies look at sales forecast in the macro and use the law of large numbers. The law of large numbers as defined by Wikipedia is a theorem in probability that describes the long-term stability of the mean of a random variable.  Therefore, when we look at a sales pipeline through the law of large numbers we can see why percentages are applied to forecasting.

If a VP of Sales commits $10,000,000 of revenue but historically only realizes 50% of that commit, then he weights his forecast accordingly to $5,000,000. Some companies get even more granular in that they apply a percentage to a deal when it is in a certain stage in the sales cycle. 

Discovery Stage                       15%     x          $1,000,000      =          $150,000
Qualification Stage                 35%     x          $1,000,000      =          $350,000
Demonstration Stage             45%     x          $1,000,000      =          $450,000
Proof of Concept Stage         70%     x          $1,000,000      =          $700,000
Negotiation Stage                    85%     x          $1,000,000      =          $850,000
Close Stage                            100%   x          $1,000,000      =          $1,000,000
Total Pipeline Value                                                                          $3,500,000

If you are using either one of these methods to forecast, then I have some very bad news. When you live by percentages you will die by percentages because no one wins a piece of a deal.

To forecast by the law of large numbers means that you are surrendering any insight into why you are going to win or lose a deal. After all, a forecast is merely the sum of every deal predicted to close. Every one of those deals has its own story and should be committed to close based upon the manager’s understanding of that story – not a coin flip. To take that concept even further, forecasting by stage in the sales cycle takes no account of the competitive nature of an opportunity. If you are in the negotiation stage of a deal and have 85% probability of close, wouldn’t your competitor also be in the same stage? You both are not going to get the deal, much less 85% of it.

At The Complex Sale, Inc., we recommend having qualitative deal review based upon objective criteria to forecast an opportunity. To view a recorded webinar on these 11 questions – please follow this link: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/794796552

Will it close on time?
 Do we know when they can no longer go without a solution?
 Do we know the decision-making process?
 Do we know the approval process?

Will we win?
 Have we linked our solution to solving enterprise-level pain?
 Do the decision-makers acknowledge our differentiation?
 Do we have enough votes of the decision-makers to win?

Will it close for the amount forecasted?
 Have we quantified the value based upon their criteria – not our ROI?
 Do we understand the political risk associated with this decision?

Have we prepared for the political nature of the decision making process?
 Are we anticipating counter-attacks of the competition?
 Are we aligned with powerful people to break a deadlock?
 Have we outlined the steps needed to get the deal signed?

Your confidence in winning should be based upon objective questions like these. The more you can answer “yes,” the more confident you feel that you can win and vice versa.

Do the Best Sales Reps Make the Best Sales Managers?


Most of us are aware of the Pareto Principle. Not to be confused with the Peter Principle – where employees are promoted to their level of incompetence. The Pareto Principle is the 80/20 rule and it applies to selling in that 80% of the productivity will come from 20% of the sales people. It is from that 20% where we find a pool of candidates to promote to sales management.  

This 20% is intuitively good at their job. They naturally understand the nuances of political navigation, strategic literacy, objection handling, building competitive preferences, probing for pain, and negotiating for value.  However, generally speaking, the 80% do not have this intuition. They need training, coaching, messaging, and process to help them win a complex sale.

This is why I love working with new sales managers! They are fantastic practitioners of their company’s sales process, tireless workers, and can pick apart the competition with surgical precision.  They also have a tremendous track record of success which provided them their opportunity for advancement. From my observations, the natural career path of most sales managers is one of internal promotion from the field.

When the 20% are promoted to manage the 80%, the process begins as such.  Being the eager leaders that they are and with fresh revenue production pressures, new managers hit the ground running. Without direction to do otherwise, new managers resort to what they do best – selling.  Their first instinct is to take ownership of ALL of the deals in their new territory. It is so apparent to them what needs to be done and yet their direct reports seem to be doing the wrong things. The 20% fail to understand why selling doesn’t come as intuitively to the 80% as it does to them.  Oftentimes, the new sales manager takes on the mantra, “if you want something done right, you do it yourself.” After all, that attitude worked so well for them when they were a rep.  

Over a short period of time, the new manager becomes the de facto new sales rep on every qualified opportunity in his/her territory.  This has a terrible impact on the team because the direct reports are getting no coaching and they have been relegated to a sales assistant on their own deals.  The impact is even worse on the new sales manager because eventually the enthusiasm for their new job fades into 80 hour work weeks and airport layovers. Disillusionment sets it in. They haven’t learned any new management skills but have taken on much more responsibility.  They begin to wonder if they are an example of the Peter Principle.

I see this cycle in many sales organizations. A-players are recruited, promoted, burned out, and leave.

How do we break this cycle? First, it should be the company’s responsibility to bring the new sales manager into the fraternity of leadership.  New sales managers need a beginner’s course for management just as they had when they became a new sales rep. Second, we need to realize the skills that make a good sales rep are not the same of a good sales manager. Good sales managers realize that they need to scale, coach, cultivate, and lead; not parachute in on every qualified opportunity.  They understand that the profession of sales is more foreign to their direct reports so they document the best practices that move a sale along the process.  They train their reps on how to handle a discovery call, give an effective presentation, and build a business case for their solution. Not do it for them. Good Sales managers coach every deal in their territory – they don’t cover every deal. 

To answer the question, do the best sales reps make the best sales managers, the answer is yes. If new sales managers understand that they weren’t promoted to use their skills to close more deals, they were promoted to coach their direct reports on how to be more like them.

What Closes the Deal? Sense vs. Source of Urgency


Isn’t it great when a month ends on a Friday? You get a chance to wrap up both the month and the week in the same day. If you are like most sales people you also get a chance to lean on your prospects just that much more to get the deal in. After all, that’s our source of urgency, making our number by the end of the month. We find ourselves much more motivated (as does the procurement department) because there are negative ramifications if we fail to deliver.

Let’s take that idea and turn it on its head. Do you think our prospects have a source of urgency? Do you think there are negative ramifications for our prospects if they don’t get a solution in place by a certain time? The answer is an unequivocal…..yes! Companies are a lot like individuals in that they won’t make a change until they absolutely have to. For sellers to know if they are in a qualified deal – they need to know why the buyers “have to” make a change.

Many sellers confuse the  “want to” or sense of urgency with the ” have to” source of urgency. A sense of urgency is more often than not tied to our value proposition. As an example:

  • Automating manual processes
  • Better reporting
  • Lowering total cost of ownership
  • Scalability / Flexibility
  • Mitigate Risk
  • Best of breed / Best practice
  • Consolidation
  • Streamline / Ease of use

All companies can benefit from the above and many have a sense of urgency to get them done. A source if urgency however has a date by which these benefits must be implemented because the company (and more importantly a specific individual) will feel a tangible effect if they do not. Examples of sources of urgency are as follows:

  • New facility / market / clientele
  • New executive strategy
  • Capital purchase
  • Board directive
  • Compliance effective date
  • Product launch
  • Merger / Acquisition
  • Negative Press / Federal Investigation
  • Quarterly / Annual Report

Therefore, to better understand if our prospects are going to buy from us we need to know why they will buy from us. Until then, we will continue to be befuddled by their lack of motivation even though we have a perfectly rational value proposition. Start tying your value proposition AND your forecast to a source of urgency. Then you will see your prospects leaning on you to get the deal done and the end of the month will be just another day on the calendar.

Guest Blogger: Phil Johnson on Why Sales Training Still Doesn’t Work

Bored Man

Phil Johnson is President of Revenue Revelation – a friend of mine and friend of the firm – The Complex Sale, Inc.  Revenue Revelation specializes in helping organization get the most out of their sales training and are experts on sales adoption / reinforcement.

PhilIf you read Scott’s first installment on this subject, you were probably not surprised by anything he said.  However, when confronted with the realities he cited, you may have gotten one of those “Ah Hah!” moments. More likely it was “DUH! Tell me something I don’t know.” Either way, he points out a problem that has been around for at least the 30 years I have been selling.  I’d like to address the same issue from a slightly different point of view.

It has been said that “People buy from people – people they like and people they trust.”  And to a large extent, I agree with that statement.  I would add that “people buy from people who help them achieve their personal and professional agendas.”  If there are more than one solution, the like and trust factors come into play, but when I am buying something, the main thing is that I spend my time and money on solving whatever issue I have determined to be important and expedient.  It gets very personal when I want it fixed.

Now, back to “Why sales training doesn’t work.”  When was the last time you heard a sales person say something like:

  • “I’m confused by what it takes to sell a solution rather than a product.”
  • “I really need a common vernacular.”
  • “Executives are a mystery to me.  I don’t know what to say to them.”
  • “On a day to day basis, I just don’t have a process to keep the deal moving forward.”

Or when was the last time you heard a sales manager say:

  • “I’m really inconsistent in the way that I manage my people.”
  • “I really don’t add that much value when I am coaching deals.”
  • “When we don’t win enough business – on time – it is mainly because I am not able to leverage my knowledge and apply my experience through clear investigative techniques.  In other words, it is just easier for me to take over the deal than it is for me to use it as a learning experience for my rep.”

Sales training fails at the most common denominator of selling.  It is not designed to solve the stated problem of the participants.  It is not specifically designed to solve personal problems.  The VP’s agenda gets met when the participants show up.  But the sales rep participants rarely confess that they have a problem at all, to do so is a kind of political suicide.  And the first line managers have rarely had enough exposure to the skill sets of leadership to see that they are anything more than “uber sales reps.” Especially now, when the dictate is to just get revenue in the door before the next round of layoffs.

Bottom line: Until the needs are fully defined, clearly articulated, and a desire to solve them is personally expressed by the participants, sales training will never have the impact – over time – that it should have.

6 Keys to Winning the Complex Sale

6 P'sI am often asked, “What separates a complex sale from a simple sale?” because working for a firm called – The Complex Sale, Inc. often sparks this line of questioning. The way I define it – a complex sale has multiple decision makers and multiple vendors. It usually is associated with a high price tag and a long, deliberative buying process.

Therefore, to win a complex sale on a consistent basis, we must first understand the organization as a single entity. I recommend we apply the 6 keys at the very beginning to understand what we are getting ourselves into. Consider this your first step in qualification.

  1. Pain:             Why Buy?          Will our solution help forward strategic initiatives?
  2. Prospect:      Why Now?         At what date can they no longer go without help?
  3. Preference:   Why Us?            Do they acknowledge our differentiators?
  4. Process:        Who Cares?        Do we know all the potential stakeholders?
  5. Power:          Who Matters?    Do we know the decision-making process?
  6. Plan:             What’s Next?     Is pursuing this opportunity the best usage of my time?

The best opportunities for us are the ones where we understand how our solution will forward a strategic initiative, which must have a solution, acknowledge our differentiators as important, where we know all the potential stakeholders, and understand the decision-making and approval process.  Anything less becomes more of a judgment call based mainly upon the other opportunities you are working. If you cannot get any of these answered the way you like, it might be better for you to continue prospecting.

The second step to winning a complex sale is to shed the idea that companies buy form us. They do not; individuals by from us. Therefore since we know all the potential stakeholders and the decision-making process, we want to apply the 6 P’s again to every stakeholder.

  1. Pain:             What pain will my product solve for this person specifically?
  2. Prospect:      What personal risk does this person have with this project?
  3. Preference:   Does this person acknowledge our competitive advantage?
  4. Process:        What role do they play in the decision-making process?
  5. Power:          How do they influence the decision?
  6. Plan:             How do we earn the stakeholder’s vote or live without it?

By taking a “Stakeholder Analysis” you get a 360 degree view of all the potential players in your sales process and now you can devise a plan sell to the people in power. Since the process is long, we get a chance to build preference with the decision-makers. Since it is competitive, we get a chance to link our differentiators to solving their pains. Since it has a high price tag, we create a strategy around the risk of making the wrong decision.

Sales Training Doesn’t Work


This might seam like a fairly unproductive point of view from someone who earns his living training sales people. However, that is precisely why I believe sales training – on its own – doesn’t work. I receive plenty of calls from sales leaders asking us to participate in their sales kick-off because they want one of the following:

•   Move from selling products to solutions
•   Gain a comfort level selling to executives
•   Create a common vernacular through out the sales force
•   Win more deals against the competition

These are lofty goals to accomplish over a 1 to 2 day workshop; so lofty that you can expect the impact to be short-lived and all but forgotten in 3 months. It is akin to going to the gym and asking the trainer to help you lose 10 pounds in one session. You will get a good workout – and most likely will be sore in the morning – but more or less the same weight the day after.

That is why we recommend a longer engagement that incorporates the 1 to 2  day workshop as the centerpiece but has the proper preliminary and follow up steps to hit your goals. I recommend this three step process:

Step One: Assess / Align / Define
We need to understand your sales effectiveness goals and their relative importance to other projects and participants. Sometimes a 24 hour workshop is all our clients have an appetite for. For those looking for sustained improvement, we then want to define the best practices in their sales cycle and incorporate our methodology to create a uniquely tailored process. This will give relevancy and buy-in needed for adoption.

Step Two: Deploy / Enable
This is the 1-2 day workshop where the newly tailored techniques and strategies are revealed to the sales force. We want to make sure that we have incorporated the best practices of the sales cycle / messaging / and methodology into the CRM. These workshops should always be taught using live deals because adults learn best through practical application.

Step Three: Reinforce / Measure
After the workshop has ended and the sales force is re-energized, we want to ensure the new techniques and strategies are transferred back to the office on a deal by deal basis. We test the students on their retention of the material, we track their usage of the tools via the CRM, and we coach their deals using the methodology. Adjustments in coaching and execution training are made based upon retention, application, and effectiveness.

As any good fitness trainer will tell you, you must make a habit out of a healthy lifestyle. The same is true for successful sales organizations. A one and done training event will fill space in a kick-off and will fire up the troops – but it won’t have long lasting impact. That is why sales training on its own doesn’t work.

Will we win? Will it close on time?

*** The Complex Sale, Inc. has recorded a webinar on this topic: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/794796552


Outside of your own personal expertise, the most valuable piece of information you can offer buyers is your pricing. In the Complex Sale 2.0 world, buyers are gaining more and more control because information is becoming more and more available. Therefore, you should only share pricing when / if you feel you have positioned yourself as best as you can to win the business. If there is information you still need, you will not get it AFTER you send a detailed proposal.

Before you hand over pricing, make sure you can answer yes to these 11 questions.

Will it close on time?
 Do we know when they can no longer go without a solution?
 Do we know the decision-making process?
 Do we know the approval process?

Will we win?
 Have we linked our solution to solving enterprise-level pain?
 Do the decision-makers acknowledge our differentiation?
 Do we have enough votes of the decision-makers to win?

Will it close for the amount forecasted?
 Have we quantified the value based upon their criteria – not our ROI?
 Do we understand the political risk associated with this decision?

Have we prepared for the political nature of the decision making process?
 Are we anticipating counter-attacks of the competition?
 Are we aligned with powerful people to break a deadlock?
 Have we outlined the steps needed to get the deal signed?

The biggest mistake we see sales managers make is to base a forecast on stages in the sales cycle. Just because you are 85% into a sales process doesn’t mean you are going to win 85% of the business – or any of it for that matter. If you are in a competitive deal, your competition should be in the same phase and somebody has to lose. You need to compliment this quantitative step of forecasting based upon where you are in the sales cycle with the qualitative step of the 11 question deal review.Our research shows that 25% of forecasted deals are lost to competition by not taking this factor into account.


Our research also shows that 25% of forecasted deals are lost to no decision. That is why it is imperative to have the business case established before you present pricing. If you don’t understand the quantifiable metric upon which your decision-makers are going to base their decision, then you have a good chance of losing to no-decision.

First, Start with a Point of View


You really never do get a second chance to make a first impression yet I hear so many sellers stumble out of the gate with questions such as: What keeps you up at night? As discussed in an earlier blog about peer 2 peer selling, a peer is seen as an equal with similar acumen and experience. A conversation with a peer is not a series of open ended questions but rather one with purpose and a path.  Successful first calls are executed by following a model that begins with what we call a “point of view” and follows a six step process.


 The point of view statement is an observation about the prospect’s industry or business followed up with a closed-ended question. As an example – I will use our own sales tool kit with a fictional VP of Sale:

“I read that your company is expanding your product offering to include a software as a service platform. We have seen that companies usually have a 6 month lag in revenue with this type of change because it takes marketing and sales that long to get on the same page with sales ready messaging. Is that something you have factored in?”

1. This starts the conversation on a path that will help us gather specific information. The prospect will either answer the question yes or no.

To prepare provocative point of view statements for a first call, I recommend InsideView. This tool can be embedded inside of your CRM on the account level to give everything available about the company, from the blogosphere, LinkedIn, Jigsaw, Facebook, and in Twitter. InsideView is offering a free version right now that is well worth the time invested. 

2. We want to understand the impact that a 6 month lag will have on the individual and their organization. We simply ask the question, “What impact will that have on your company?”

3. We want to confirm that impact in terms of metrics. If we are going down the right path –there will be a tangible repercussion. We will want to ask, “Just so I heard you correctly – a 6 month lag in revenue for this product line will mean $15,000,000 in lost revenue?” We would want to add some clarification as well to address a date by which this problem must be solved. “When is the product due to go-live?”

4. We want to create a mutual vision to address this pain. It is very important to align with their vision. We want to collaborate with them by asking, “What are your plans on getting sales and marketing aligned before product release.” We then follow up by sharing how we have helped similar organizations in similar circumstances.

5. Our next step is to offer a method of proof. Most complex sales will require some deeper discovery with individuals in the company. We want to get sponsorship of this discovery step but not without giving a “high-level” overview of what we are trying to achieve. “Our Sales Tool Kit will provide sales ready messaging at the time of product release to avoid the 6 month revenue lag”

6. We ask then for the prospect’s sponsorship on a deeper discovery and a time to demonstrate our proof of concept. “As a next step, you will introduce me to your VP of Marketing and Sales Operations department to tailor a proof of concept demonstration of the Sales Tool Kit. We can have something prepared for you by month end. Can we schedule a time for our next meeting then? ”

A Sales Tool Kit to Help with your Point of View

Selling like a peer means thoroughly researching all of your potential stakeholders to be well versed in their position and the challenges they face.  Successful companies take this research and put it into a sales tool kit for consistency throughout the entire sales force. It is vitally important to have a central repository available of best practices in messaging, competitive positioning, objection handling, and probing questions to prepare for a first call. Kadient offers a fully integrated content management tool with most CRM’s including Salesforce.com where the tool kit’s content should be housed.

Guest Blogger: Brent Holloway, Author of Sales 2.0

Measurements and Morale

Brent Holloway is a Sales Manager at Verint Systems and Co-Author of Sales 2.0: Improve Business Results Using Innovative Sales Practices and Technology

When it comes to sales management, opinions about what you should measure and how often should you measure them will vary, but generally I believe that companies should perform more sales related measurements with a goal of improving performance through the intelligence gathered through these measurements.  Sales related measurements can come from a wide range of CRM reports or other databases and business analytics systems.

Measurements are great, and I enjoy working with numbers, but I have yet to see anything written on the impact that measurements can have on the sales team’s morale. Morale is an important but difficult to quantify component of a sales team’s success. Admittedly I have not done any formal studies in this area, but I am a practicing sales manager with an opinion to share. 

Let’s start with a few points about measurements.  I believe that measuring salespeople or the team as a whole should include both the results (I.e. actual sales, number of products sold, average sales price, average discount, etc.) as well as the leading indicators that produce those results (I.e. weekly pipeline development, number of new opportunities added to the forecast, conversion rate from lead to demo, etc.)  The latter enables us to be better managers and to give targeted coaching in the areas that each salesperson needs the most.  For example, let’s assume that Karen and Joe have similar sales results over the last two quarters.  With good sales process measurements, a manager may see that Karen has a high close rate but poor pipeline growth.  Joe on the other hand may do an excellent job of adding new opportunities to his pipeline but he may be less effective in converting those opportunities.  At the end of the quarter their results may be the same, but armed with these more detailed sales process measurements a manager could focus more coaching time on closing with Joe and on pipeline development with Karen.

I also believe that the need to maintain good relationships with our salespeople can be at odds with a management approach with too many measurements that could make them feel like micromanaged call center agents.  To prevent this, it is important for us to measure only what really matters, and to link how these measurements can help each salesperson be more successful.  A friend of mine who works for a leading Software-as-a-Service company told me that he used to be measured on the number of phone calls and emails he made every week, and that each member’s results were posted publicly.  My friend had relatively poor numbers in terms of phone calls and emails, but he was a high performer and consistently exceeded his quota.  From his perspective the reports did little to motivate, especially since there did not appear to be a correlation between the individual’s phone and email activities and their quarterly bookings.  He is now a sales manager and these measurements are no longer performed, at least not regularly, and the results are not posted publicly.  This is not to say that measuring calls and emails would not make sense for other parts of a sales organization.  My opinion is that those types of measurements may make more sense for a sales development group whose primary responsibility is to prospect than it does for a quota carrying telesales or field sales team.  In addition to actual sales, I believe that measurements of pipeline development (measured by the number of new opportunities added, plus the value of those opportunities) and conversion rates are more interesting and more highly correlated to sales success for a quota carrying salesperson.  And when these measurements are shared at the rep level relative to their peers, it can create a positive form of peer pressure to improve results.  I believe salespeople want to know how they are doing relative to their peers not just in terms of the final results, but also in the key activities that lead to those results.

Another Sales Manager I know from a Software-as-a-Service company believes salespeople “step up their game” when results are posted publicly, and he agrees that results come from the right activities which should also be measured since stack rankings on revenue alone do not always represent effort and can be de-motivating. 

The data to perform certain types of pre-sales measurements such as pipeline development or sales process conversion rates may not be readily accessible.  Since many CRM systems show the forecast as a snapshot in time, it is difficult to measure weekly or monthly trends.  To manage this issue I developed a dashboard spreadsheet in which I copy and paste a weekly forecast report from our CRM system into the spreadsheet. It then automatically calculates and graphs, at the individual and team levels, the weekly changes in closed sales, overall pipeline changes, the number of new opportunities added, and the value of those new opportunities over the course of each quarter.  (If you would like a copy of this free spreadsheet template, please visit www.sales20book.com.)  I share this dashboard with my team once a week so they can see their trends and performance relative to the rest of the team.

Whether or not you agree with my point of view, I encourage you to share your perspective on this subject. 

Brent Holloway

Sales Manager – Verint Systems and Co-Author of Sales 2.0: Improve Business Results Using Innovative Sales Practices and Technology


A Sales Culture of Accountability


A recent survey from the Complex Sale found that 93% of Sales Leaders thought that having a Sales Culture of Accountability was the number one cause for success!

Oftentimes, sales organizations use revenue attainment goals as the key metric for success. The revenue attainment objective is owned by one person and divided amongst that individual’s direct reports. This process continues throughout the sales organizations down to individual sales representatives – thus representing their quotas.

Revenue however is a lagging indicator of success. The best practices we see implemented by the world’s greatest sales forces attach leading key performance indicators as goals as well. The goals start at the top and cascade down to the field just as revenue attainment quotas.

Leading Key Performance Indicators are specific to individual sales organizations based upon their clients buying cycles and revenue generation targets. Most successful organizations start with how much revenue they need to attain from the base of accounts and create metrics around account penetration and retention. An example of leading indicators for account management would be net new opportunities, renewal rates, and percentage of growth; as applied to each account. We prescribe other goals for opportunity management around executive access or understood sources of urgency.  These companies track the progress of these KPI’s on a continuous basis such as monthly or quarterly. 

We see that the most successful companies use this process to hold sellers accountable for the correct activity and management accountable to the sellers. If an account manager is hitting their metrics and still not making their revenue target, then the manager is held accountable for coaching or resetting the goals. This practice leaves out any uncertainty in expectations throughout the sales organization.

Peer 2 Peer Selling (P2P)

 Say the right thing

A new study by Forbes finds that 53% of C-level executives do their own research online – well before they delegate a project or contact vendors. Therefore, sales people need to add much more value than the standard discover, present, pricing method that permeates our business. Our buyer wants to buy from a peer – or someone who can add value well beyond our product offering.

How does one become a peer of an executive? We must speak to them in their language.

Successful sales forces are able to take their operational features and functionality and translate their benefits into a compelling value proposition for non-technical buyers. As we begin to sell more complex solutions, more stakeholders are involved in the decision-making process. These stakeholders often do not have the technical expertise to distinguish our solution from the competition or other in-house alternatives.  

Inherent in a value proposition is a keen understanding of the pains of the non-technical buyers and a linkage of our solution to solving those pains. Many organizations make the mistake of having one generic value proposition – when in fact it must be tailored to the individual to whom we are selling.

This is most apparent when we generate a sales process through our own demand creation efforts. Oftentimes, executives who need our solution the most, have no understanding of what we do and need it translated for them to sponsor an evaluation.

As a go-to-market strategy, successful sales organization take a census of every potential stakeholder in their sales process. They uncover every potential pain this individual could have and link their solution to solving that pain. They also take inventory of every potential competitor and create competitive position statements and ways to handle objections. They lean upon the expertise of their best parishioners and marketing departments to create an easy to access tool kit for the sales force.

We have seen messaging tool kits used to shorten sales cycles, ramp up new hires faster, and move lesser skilled reps up to the level of more skilled sellers. With this knowledge and confidence – they are more effective listeners and can sell Peer 2 Peer.

Survey Says…Getting-Buy In is the Highest Hurdle


Survey Results

Getting Buy-In is the only a hurdle because so many sales folks are forcing a process for sake of activity or to see what sticks. I would much more prefer we validate there is a need / pressing business issue that we can help as well as gain agreement on the front end that they are willing to change.” – Respondent

 The results are compiled from over 175 responses from varying industries and sales cycles. The below are the results from a typical sales process.

  • Creating a first call with a prospect…………………………19%
  • Translating a first call into an evaluation……………….. 13% 
  • Building Preference in a Discovery Meeting…………….11%
  • Compelling Demonstrations of Capability ……..………. 9%
  • Getting Buy-in on the Business Case…….………22%
  • Negotiating Price and Terms…………………………………. 6%
  • Successful hand-off to Implementation …………………..6%
  • Documenting the Value of the Purchase ……..………….13%
  • Retaining the Customer …………………………………………2%

Our research reveals that getting buy-in on the business case is the hardest hurdle to overcome in the sales process. The main reason for this phenomenon is that many sellers use a generic ROI tool as their main justification for action. ROI alone is not enough to push an economic buyer to purchase. (What solution doesn’t come with an ROI?)

To gain buy-in on the business case we need to work with the decision-makers early in the process to get THEIR justification for action, not ours. Our buyers have their own metrics for success and we need to work with them to link our competitive advantages to meeting those metrics. Without that collaborative process – we let the buyer create their own cost justification – which often includes doing nothing at all. We can also fall victim to commoditization if the buyers sees no discernable difference between vendors to meet their justification.

As a tactical step – insist on getting the cost justification from each decision-maker before you present a proposal; because they won’t give it to you after they receive pricing.

The Three Minute Rule


Complex Selling used to be about the three foot rule; meaning that you needed to be within three feet of your prospect to influence their buying decision. (Face to Face) Today, with Sales 2.0 technology empowering the buyer with information they need to make a buying decision, we might need the three minute rule. I define the three minute rule as the three minutes a seller needs to explain to the buyer why we need to trade the information they need for information we need.

As we know, complex sales stall for one of or all of these reasons:

  1. Vendors Look Alike
  2. They Consider the Cost of Doing Nothing
  3. Camps Divide

To avoid these pitfalls, we as sellers need to devise a plan early in the sales cycle.

When vendors start to look alike we need to devise a competitive plan where we link our competitive differentiation to solving the pains of the decision makers. Therefore, we must know who all is involved in the decision-making process and their pain.

When the committee starts to consider the cost of doing we must devise a closing plan equipped with the steps needed to get ink on paper. Companies make large purchases only as choice of last resort. Therefore we need to know at what date they can longer afford to do nothing and the help of the buyer to create a business case for our solution.

Camps divide because there is no consensus for next steps.  Therefore, we must devise a political plan based upon our understanding of the committee’s preference for us, the competition, and do nothing to influence the outcome.

I recommend creating a checklist of the things we need to know to best position ourselves to win.

  • The evaluation, decision making, and approval processes
  • Understanding of the decision-makers pains
  • Understanding of the competitive landscape
  • Acknowledged competitive advantage to solving those pains
  • A date they can no longer go without a solution
  • Acknowledged business case our solution provides
  • Decision-makers’ preference for us and the alternatives
  • Access to the decision-makers

Next I recommend creating a list of things we can negotiate in exchange for this knowledge

  • Discovery session
  • Demonstration of capabilities
  • Competitive differentiators
  • Technical resources
  • Statements of Work
  • Pricing
  • References
  • Access to our executives

This is where the true selling in a Complex Sale 2.0 world and the three minute rule comes into play.  We need to convince our point of contact that it is in their best interest to give us the things we need in return for what they need.  William Ury writes in his book The Power of a Positive No that we gain respect in negotiation when position ourselves from a point of experience and empathy. After all, we as sales people deal in these types of evaluations on a daily basis where this could be the only time the buyer has been in this position.  By following our process we will give them exactly what they want – a thorough evaluation with the best outcome.   Think of it as a series of small confrontations to avoid the big one at the end.

From my experience working with sales forces using Sales 2.0 technologies, it is far too easy to let the prospect dictate the sales process. First calls and demonstrations can be done virtually and pricing comes from a template.  We as sales people need to have the discipline to withhold these treasured bits of information in exchange for what we need. You will find that prospects that are willing to go down your process are much easier to win and those who won’t were inclined to go another direction to start with.  It is quite liberating when you focus your best efforts on companies that will buy from you.

Digital Body Language / Lead Generation for the Complex Sale


An amazing book has been written by fine folks at Eloqua and a follow up White Paper that you can download here called Digital Body Language. The premise is that by using Eloqua’s tracking capabilities, sellers can now know when their prospects hit their website, what pages they go to, and how often they do so. By creating an algorithm that weights all three – our prospects score themselves and sellers use that score to triage their selling efforts. As an example, pages on your website that indicate cursory interest like the home page result in a low score. Pages that reflect deep interest like an online demo and customer testimonials reflect a much higher score. The number of times that individual returns to these pages acts as a multiplier thus giving them their final tally.

Brian Carroll of InTouch writes a fantastic book and subsequent e-book entitled Lead Generation for the Complex Sale. You can download it here. Brain describes lead generation as multimodal in that successful companies are working in 9 different areas to create demand – and I will add a 10th for Social Media:

1. Branding – Advertising, Associations, and Sponsorships
2. Public Relations – Editorials, Public Speaking, Press Releases, and News Coverage
3. Web Site – Search Engine Optimization, Landing Pages, Blogs, Podcasts, E-books, and RSS Feeds
4. Events – Seminars, Workshops, Webinars, Tradeshows, and Conferences
5. Phone Calls – Cold Calls, Top-Down Dialing, and Voice Mails
6. E-mail – One to One, One to Many, and HTML updates
7. Online Marketing – Organic Search, Paid Search, Newsletter Sponsorships, Portals, and Banners
8. Direct Mail – White Papers, Post Cards, Invites, amd Personal Letters
9. Referrals – Vendors, Consultants, Customers, and Partners
10. Social Media – Twitter, Facebook, LinkledIn, YouTube, and MySpace

By using the multimodal approach we can ensure that we are engaging our prospects in a manner that they prefer and before they are ready to make a purchasing decision. Then, we can track their digital body language as they begin to show interest in our solution. As a longtime sales person who has driven blindly for so long – all I can say is Hooray! As Mike Scher of Frontline Selling has so aptly framed, “Successful demand creation should be a farming exercise, not a hunting event. After all, we as a society began to progress when went from hunter / gatherers to farmers.”

Revisiting the Death Valley Sales Canyon


The decision making and approval processes are the most important steps in a sale but perhaps the most often overlooked. What a waist of time to usher an opportunity all the way to the end only to see it stall in legal or finance. Or even worse, we allow our sponsor inside of the account to do the selling on our behalf when they have never sold a thing in their life – much less to the c-level.

The crucible is the part of the sale where the deal goes from rational in the evaluation to political in the decision-making and approval. For those who need a brief refresher on Rick Page’s death valley sales canyon, click this link for an e-book. The deal undergoes this transformation because, up until this point, there has been no risk involved just feature and functionality. At this point in the sales process the only thing left to evaluate is the impact. A recent study from the Complex Sale found that 50% of forecasted deals never come in; 25% to no decision and 25% to the competition. (Selling Power recently did a survey confirming these findings.)  Keep in mind; these are deals that made it on the forecast to close! Why is that the case?

Remember the three things that happen in the death valley sales canyon..

  1. Vendors look alike – We prepare for this by linking our unique differentiators to solving pains for stakeholders. This should have been done in the proof of concepts phase.
  2. They consider the cost of doing nothing – We prepare for this by withholding pricing until the decision maker has given a quantifiable cost justification in the proposal stage.
  3. Camps Divide – In this scenario, the most powerful people will exert their influence on the process to break the deadlock. Therefore, we must sell to those decision-makers in terms of risk mitigation to win their vote in the approval stage.  

Successful sellers make it a point to get access to the decision-makers early because you will not be introduced to them late in the process. You must have built a relationship in the discovery or territory coverage stage to come back and speak to risk mitigation in the approval stage. Just as Stephen Covey states, “Begin with the end in mind.” That is why we trade information for access.

Also in this stage, we are introduced to players who are not decision-makers but approvers. When forced into negotiating with procurement, legal, or buying committees, keep this acronym in mind TIP (Timing, Information, and Power)

Timing – Organizations will forgo a purchase until they simply cannot anymore. We must know that “source of urgency” that will spark a purchase.

Information – We must know all the stakeholders; their pain, preference, and part they play in the process to avoid the little white lies that will trick us into concessions.

Power – Those that have the most to risk in a decision will influence the decision-making process the most. We must be selling to those people and mitigating that risk.

Demand Creation for The Complex Sale (2.0)


Demand Creation in a Complex Sale 2.0 world can be summed up in one word: touches. We don’t know how our prospects want to be communicated with so we cast as wide of a net as possible. We also don’t know what message will resonate so we offer many. We don’t know when our prospects are ready to hear from us so our outreach is constant. The techniques that are available to us will not replace the telephone as the primary means of communication – it will enhance it.  Sellers don’t want to make a cold call as much as buyers don’t want to take them. We want buyers to tell us when the right time to contact them will be.

The Complex Sale uses an e-mail aggregator called Manticore Technology to communicate en mass with our clients and prospects. There are other aggregators available with great integration into Salesforce.com such as Eloqua. When used correctly, these tools place a cookie on the recipients computer that will then track what the recipient did with the e-mail you sent them and where they go on your website. I can’t express how efficient I have seen sales forces become by allowing the prospects themselves to express their level of interest in your service. Inside of Salesforce.com, we have created a marketing activities tab that allows me to see who was on our website and what pages they were on. Their activity is tracked at the contact record.

Forward-thinking salespeople also use the litany of tools available on LinkedIn. My LinkedIn profile is a virtual billboard about my accomplishments, people who network with and recommend me. LinkedIn allows you to view up to three degrees of separation to see the mutual contacts you have with your connections. It also allows you to communicate with your network individually or one-off. There are a number of applications one can add to their profile that raises awareness about what you are reading, shared presentations, polls, and personal blogs. LinkedIn also allows its members to form and become members of other liked-minded groups. The Complex Sale, Inc. has created its own group called the R.A.D.A.R. alumni association.  Our members are updated via e-mail on group discussions, shared best practices, news links, job openings, and Complex Sale points of interest.

Today’s buyer needs to hear from you before they need your solution. WebEx and Gotomeeting.com are both great tools to share thought leadership via a webinar or recreate a podcast. We also have created a company blog entitled the Sales Page to stay top of mind and a Twitter account for those that prefer communication in that median. For social-media to be effective it must be relevant and consistent. One must be willing to connect and follow people that connect and follow you. If you want people to comment on your blog you must comment on theirs.  

Jill Konrath in her best selling book, Selling to Big Companies, coined the phrase, “use the news.” What she is referring to is allowing your prospects to tell you when they are ready to buy. Organizations offer press releases about new appointments, quarterly earnings, partnerships, new initiatives, and many other reasons in an effort to generate positive public relations and investor interest. Lead411 offers daily e-mail showcasing trigger events on selected companies by using spider technology. Savvy sales people take this information to be the first knock on the door to help facilitate these enterprise-level issues.

Google allows its users to create a personalized home page to consolidate social networking sites and RSS feeds of industry content, all placed on one page. The Google reader feature allows for centrally located content to be catalogued under various headings without having to go directly to a variety of news, industry, or trade websites. The Google finance feature shows up to the minute stock price of your publicly traded clients and prospects.  I recommend setting the personalized Google page (called iGoogle) as your home page to be notified of “trigger events” every time you log onto the web.

Turning the CRM into a Strategic Tool


I had dinner with a client this past week and we were discussing adoption of his CRM, Salesforce.com. His company culture is that if isn’t in Salesforce.com – it didn’t happen. One of the unique aspects of my position is that we get so much exposure to sales leaders that I am constantly getting little nuggets of information to share. Salesforce.com is a great tool but one thing all sales leaders should know is that poor CRM adoption from the field is the rule – not an exception. It is seen as merely a management oversight device that brings no value to the rep – therefore unnecessary and extra work. With the rules of engagement changing by the minute with emerging technologies – we as sales leaders need to be prepared to equip our reps with the best possible tools available for success.

What we as sales leaders need to do is turn the CRM into a strategic tool to help reps create, win, and grow accounts. Justyn Howard of the Passive Pipeline has written a free e-book: Sell Smarter, Embrace the Sales 2.0 movement to Increase Sales and Outsmart your Competition.  I recommend this a great primer on how emerging technologies can be incorporated into the CRM. It is written from a sales person’s point of view. For a slightly shorter read that is more philosophical I recommend the CEO of Sales 2.0 LLC, Nigel Edelshain’s e-book: Don’t Cold Call, Social Call – Prospect with Sales 2.0 tools and Social Networks.

From a sales management point of view – I recommend Salesforce.com because of its ease of use and wide adoption among sales people. It also has the App Exchange where you can install tools to make the database into the strategic arm of your sales team.

For a CRM to work optimally, it needs to mirror your sales cycle. For example, every natural milestone in your sales process needs to be reflected as a stage in your CRM. Most complex sales have no less than 5 customer-facing milestones:

  • First Call
  • Discovery
  • Proof of Concept
  • Proposal
  • Approval  

Within each stage, we need to come to agreement upon and document the tactical best practices that will move the sale to the next stage. These best practices should be embedded inside of the CRM as reference points or even check points as to whether we qualify out of an opportunity. The Complex Sale offers our GPS RADAR tool off of the App-Exchange which facilitates the critical thinking sales rep needs to create a political, solution, and closing strategy for their opportunity. For our customers that use RADAR as their sales methodology – we transfer the learning from the class room to the opportunity on a deal by deal basis. This tool is embedded inside of the opportunity tab on Salesforce.com.

A new application that I see coming along strongly is InsideView. This tool can be embedded inside of Salesforce.com on the account level to give everything available online, from the blogosphere, LinkedIn, Facebook, and in twitter about the account. My time is cut in half and effectiveness of my research has doubled. That isn’t their pitch – that is my personal experience. InsideView is offering a free version right now that is well worth the time invested.

We also use an e-mail aggregator called Manticore Technology. There are others out there with great integration into Salesforce.com such as Eloqua. When used correctly, these tools place a cookie on the recipients computer that will then track what the recipient did with the e-mail you sent them and where they go on your website. I can’t express how efficient I have seen sales forces become by allowing the prospects themselves to express their level of interest in your service. Inside of Salesforce.com, we have created a marketing activities tab that allows me to see who was on our website and what pages they were on. Their activity is tracked at the contact record.

In conclusion, the world of selling is changing and the change is being wrapped up in a catch phrase called Sales 2.0. On the buyer’s side – information is more readily available and customer experience is easier to come by with social networking. Therefore, sales people cannot use traditional techniques such as leveraging information as effectively as they once did.  What forward-looking sales organizations are doing is embracing this change. As our partner Mike Scher, CEO of Frontline Selling often says, “You don’t have to out run the bear, just the other campers.” The CRM is the great equalizer for sales people in the Sales 2.0 world and its adoption is paramount to their success.

Know your market…….

This was sent to me by a good friend, Adam Fayne:  Thanks Adam

A disappointed Coca Cola salesman returns from his assignment to Israel. A friend asked, “Why weren’t you successful with the Israelis?”

The salesman explained, “When I got posted, I was very confident that I would make it.  But, I had a problem. I didn’t know Hebrew.
So, I planned to convey the message via 3 posters.
First poster : A man lying in the hot desert sand, totally exhausted.

Second poster : The man drinks Coca Cola.
Third poster : The man is now totally refreshed.

“These posters were pasted all over the place.”

“That should have worked!!” said the friend.

“The heck it should have!!, said the salesman. “I didn’t realize that Israelis read from right to left!!!”

The Knowing-Doing Gap

Knowing Doing Gap 2

The knowing-doing gap was originally defined by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton in their book, The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action.

Pfeffer and Sutton identify the knowing-doing gap as the most menacing phenomenon most organizations face. This phenomenon costs billions of dollars and failures of all kinds. Simply put, the knowing-doing gap addresses the idea that organizations are aware of the best practices, competencies, skills, and behaviors needed to make them successful, yet for some reason this knowledge is not implemented and executed upon. Common knowledge is not always common practice.

At The Complex Sale, we see this on every one of our engagements.  We have come up with a system to help companies uncover what their “knowing-doing” gap is by creating a best practices benchmark. Simply stated, as sales leaders, we can positively increase revenue by one of three ways, create more demand, win more deals, or sell more to the base of accounts. This is the Create, Win, Grow model. We have seen that the most successful companies best impact these three pillars of revenue by first implementing an effective and repeatable process, executing effectively upon that process, and drive success from the management level. A visual of what best practices in a sales organizations would look like is this 3 x 3 grid:


3x3 grid

From this understanding – we ask our clients this, “How important is this best practice to the success of your organization and how well are you doing it?” We find that it is easier to quantify these questions on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being the lowest and 5 being the highest on both questions). From the results we are able to get a great understanding of a client’s knowing doing gap. The chart at the top of the blog shows how we can extrapolate results from asking these questions and get a visual on where an organization should be focusing its efforts for process improvement.

I also wanted to let you know about Rick Page’s new blog http://complexsale.typepad.com/my_weblog/

Check it out!

Bad News Early is Good News



I was speaking to a sales leader yesterday and he was telling me the challenges his managers have in coaching deals. He tells me there are just too many of them to have an impact. My next question to him was, how many of those deals do you win – in which he replied, “About 25%.” He paused after that statement because he just realized his problem without me saying a word.


As sales leaders – we have two choices:


  1. Selectively chose the opportunities in which are winnable and impact that opportunity with best practices.
  2. React to all inquiry with the same discovery, presentation, and proposal then hope for the best.

Intuitively we all know we need to do the first; in practice most of us do the second. Before you blindly follow the rabbit down the rabbit hole on your next opportunity – ask yourself these questions:


  • Why Buy (What are the strategic business implications of making a change?)
  • Why Now (Why can’t they go on doing what they are doing today?)
  • Why Us (Is our competitive advantage a solution for a strategic pain?)
  • Who Cares (Do we know all the stakeholders involved with this evaluation?)
  • Who Matters (Do we know and can we have access to the decision-makers?)
  • What’s next (Is this account worth the time invested to win?)


These six questions are the essence of qualification. I would never recommend embarking on a 65 page RFP or flying in technical resources for a half-day demo-thon unless I knew the answers to these 6 questions.  If you cannot answer these questions because your access is limited – then congratulations! You have just saved an entire sales cycle’s worth of time to focus on deals you can win. In this case – bad news early is good news for you.

Creating a Winning Sales Culture




Roy Williams, Head Coach for North Carolina won a national title in 2005 and in 2009. Roy was quoted as saying, “Last time, three points a game was the highest scoring average we had coming back.” He was referring to the players he had returning from his national title run in 2005, yet was still able to rebuild and win it all again four years later. North Carolina was able to repeat because they have a winning culture.


At The Complex Sale – we help sales teams create a culture of winning by implementing best practices that can be repeated even if you experience turnover, market challenges, or lose product superiority. The following 8 step can help you create and sustain a winning sales culture in your organization.  


  1. Assess – Revenue attainment objectives should be S.M.A.R.T.
  2. Align  – Management prioritization, vision, and buy-in
  3. Define  – Best practice sales cycle and messaging
  4. Deploy   – Consistent and repeatable language / strategy
  5. Enable  – CRM with methodology, best practices, and metrics reporting
  6. Recruit   – Hiring based on skills of A-players, strategy, and metrics
  7. Build  – Reinforce the strategy with execution skills and coaching
  8. Measure  – Hold managers and sellers accountable to objectives



The most important sales goal we have as sales leaders is a revenue target and a date by which we must obtain that target. Revenue – however is a lagging indicator of success and we need to attribute more specific leading indicators of performance to enable us to hit our revenue targets.  Using Key Performance Indicators in the Create, Win, Grow model and prioritizing them in order of importance can help us focus on proactive areas of improvement. We recommend your goals to be S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Reasonable, and Timely) and be forward looking.



After you have assessed the needs of your organization and prioritized the key performance indicators you will need to improve sales effectiveness by gaining buy-in from the executives and your key lieutenants. After all, executives most certainly will want to be kept abreast of any changes to the revenue engine of the company and frontline management may have a completely different idea as to what is effective.


The number one rule of change management: if it isn’t reinforced by the frontline managers then it will not succeed. The Complex Sale’s management alignment survey will give you the insight needed to engage your colleagues, executives, and lieutenants.



A recent study from Forrester Research stated that over 90% of a B2B branding comes from sales people. While a message should be unique to the stakeholder, successful organizations have already defined the pains, benefit statements, positioning statements, and probing questions to every possible stakeholder a sales person could encounter. This uniformity creates consistency in message and objection handling.


Successful sales organizations also understand, document, and follow the best practices of their particular sales cycle. Common language, milestones, and expectations are created when an entire organization follows a defined sales process.



The deployment phase of an implementation is where your hard work is exposed to the field.  Successful deployments also have management prepared before the engagement so as to decrease any surprises on their part and to act as a vocal supporter.  Salespeople, however, are difficult individuals to win over and successful deployments are made up of four components:


  1. Credible Delivery
  2. Credible Content
  3. Relevancy
  4. Management Leadership



CRM adoption is difficult to obtain if the sale force sees the application as strictly a management tool. To maximize the investment in your CRM – successful sales teams embed their sales stages to mirror the ones defined as Best Practice. The sales methodology should also be embedded into the CRM to take the sales training out of the training room and into real-world practice.  Web 2.0 technologies have translated to Sales 2.0 technologies such as interactive medians for messaging, coaching, e-mail templates, and skill building.   If the CRM helps them make their goals – the sales force will adopt it.


We recommend also setting up a dashboard to report upon the Key Performance Indicators selected in the assessment phase. The success of your project will be measured by tracking the improvement of the KPI’s through your CRM.



Once we have an understanding of what traits make up an A player in your organization through the assessment, the key performance indicators critical for success, the defined best practices, and the methodology required to meet our revenue targets, the framework is set for a complete hiring profile. We recommend setting up this framework before top-grading your sales force because without this knowledge you are making an uninformed hire. You need individuals that execute your strategy based upon objective criteria.



Philosopher Aristotle famously wrote, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act but a habit.” What Aristotle knew 2300 years ago was that a onetime investment in improvement is a poor investment. The Complex Sale has found that working with frontline sales management is the key to sustained sales effectiveness and long-term success.


Frontline managers need to coach to the best practices and selected deployments at every opportunity. Once the sales force realizes this is no longer a fad and they will be judged by the Key Performance Indicators needed for everyone’s success, habits will soon form.  Adults learn through practical application and we provide the tools that enable frontline sales managers to reinforce the sales improvement changes. All sales cycles have natural milestones where strategy meets execution.



Process improvement is ongoing and continuous. The ultimate goal is to exceed our revenue target but as we mentioned before we want to measure the selected Key Performance Indicators to give us a predictive indication of success.  KPI’s should begin at the VP of Sales level and cascade down to every contributor. Every member of the organization should be held accountable for reaching their particular goal. KPI’s are objective and allow for transparency.

Measuring the Impact of Sales Training








I think the more you can narrow the scope to what the “training” is trying to improve, the more likely you are going to be able to correctly measure its impact. If you are just looking at revenue numbers, then there are far too many variables. I like to look at the revenue lifecycle and break into three parts – Demand Creation, Opportunity Management, and Account Management – and then ask, “Where does it hurt?”


This gives us a much better idea as to how to address the problem. Each area of the revenue lifecycle has certain key performance indicators that are normally associated with it. Demand Creation is perhaps the easiest to quantify because many executives have numbers associated with first calls, lead tracking, lead qualification and the first calls that translate into evaluations.  Opportunity Management usually requires a little deeper digging, but we are looking for numbers such as winning percentage vs. competition, winning percentage vs. no decision, average deal size, margins, and where deals stall in each stage of the sales cycle. On an even more micro-level are KPI’s with qualification criteria such as deals with executive level sponsorship, sources of urgency, and total cost of ownership calculations. Account Management typically has retention rate, revenue and reference-ability targets but can also have “non competitive evaluations” and “cross-sell” targets as well.


Once we understand which area of the revenue lifecycle needs attention and prioritize the most pertinent metrics that indicate success, we then have a good foundation for measurement. From there we like to see if there is a process problem, a people /skills problem, or a management / tools problem that is keeping the client from reaching their revenue targets.  It could be and often is a byproduct of all three, which requires significant change management in the sales organization. But despite the level of engagement – the numbers are the numbers and we let them guide us as to our level of effectiveness.    


If you are like many of our clients and don’t know how to drill down and understand if you have a create / win / grow problem or if you do and can’t uncover if it is a process / people / management issue – then we have a great assessment tool that can help. E-mail me if you want to take the survey.





 Scott Miller




Think Like Your Customer

I just finished reading Bill Stinnett’s book, “Think Like your Customer” and I was very impressed with how well he understands the customer’s side of the sales process. I recommend the book highly for a couple of key concepts:


A à B à C


The concept of your product or service being the means rather than an end isn’t new, however I haven’t seen it crystallized as well as Stinnett puts it in the A à B à C analogy. Where the company is today is the A, where the company wants to be tomorrow is the C, we as a vendor must provide the B vehicle to get the there. However, we must first understand the A and the C before we can recommend the B. What a simple but fantastic way to take the attention off of our product and put it back where it should always be – the customer.

Selling to the C-level



The above Youtube link is an interview with Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE on his vision of the future of his company and the world as a whole. Now this should come as a surprise to no one but think about this – what if he is wrong? Or even worse, what if he is right but he can’t capitalize on this vision?

The higher you rise in an organization the lonelier it gets. You are asked and well compensated to predict the future, read the tea leaves, and forge a vision into the great unknown.  Successful companies have boards of directors to guide the C-suite, talented VP’s to execute the strategy, and access to the best management principles available. But know this – ultimately the C-suite is held responsible for the decisions they make. Not only in the strategic direction of the company but how successful have they executed upon that direction.

Case in point:

GM quite correctly predicted the appetite of the world’s need for fuel efficiency when it created the EV-1 electric car. However the timing was wrong because oil became extremely inexpensive and the EV-1 was scrapped to make way for the Hummer.

Sony quite correctly predicted that family’s wanted to watch “recorded video” at home when it unveiled Betamax video cassettes: JVC cornered the market with its version of VHS video cassettes to make the Betamax obsolete.


On a very real, but smaller scale, your clients are judged by the same risk versus reward model for predicting the future of their industry and capitalizing on it. The question we as sales people must ask ourselves, “How do we tap into that risk vs. reward mindset to position our service as the best solution?”


We must first think like our customer.


  • As an individual, my very fate could lie in getting this decision right.
  • I don’t look at you as a vendor – I look at you as a means to an end.
  • Are we sure we even need to look outside the company to do this?
  • How can I trust this guy when I can’t even trust my own people to tell me truth?
  • I need a partner that has been down this road before.
  • I don’t want to be a product of the Peter Principle.

The average executives receive 57 meeting requests a week from sales people. Couple this barrage of requests with the average executive’s history of receiving “little to no value” with sales people they did meet – it is no wonder you aren’t getting access. The sales people the exec saw in the past did not understand how they thought and spoke about product, feature, and functionality.  


Reverse this trend – get sponsored by someone that the executive trusts to introduce to you. This will cut through the clutter. When you do get a meeting with them – tell them something they don’t know about their business, their competition, or their industry and then speak to them in the language of risk vs. reward.




Sales 2.0

I recently read Anneke Seeley and Brent Holloway’s new book Sales 2.0 – because just like many of you – I am fascinated by the topic.  Here is how the authors define the term:


Sales 2.0 is the use of innovative sales practices, focused on creating value for both buyer and seller and enabled by Web 2.0 and next-generation technology. Sales 2.0 practices combine the science of process-driven operations with the art of collaborative relationships, using the most profitable and most expedient sales resources required to meet customers’ needs. This approach produces superior, predictable, repeatable business results, including increased revenue, decreased sales costs, and sustained competitive advantage.”


Stu Shmidt, VP of WebEx was interviewed by AllBusiness and was asked the same, “what is Sales 2.0?”



We are seeing a lot of successful sales teams get it right.


1st Define your go to market strategy by how your customers buy

2nd Define the Best Practices of your Sales Cycle

3rd Automate tactical steps where applicable with emerging technologies

4thDisintermediate when necessary – But don’t take the strategy out of your sale


This fourth point is particularly important because we have seen a precipitous drop in FORECASTED deals recently because sales people are getting too far removed from the decision-making process.


Companies don’t buy anything, people make purchases. Many times there are multiple-decision makers each with their own agenda. We need to know the pain points of these decision-makers and their personal agendas to build competitive preference for our solution.  Without this knowledge – we have no idea why our solution is better than the alternative or not doing anything at all. How can anyone accurately forecast a deal without this information?


Sales 2.0 is not a license to usher more opportunities through the funnel with less impact on them. Sales 2.0 is a vehicle to get the right message, to the right person, at the right time to facilitate our sales strategy.  



By the way – I highly recommend the book Sales 2.0. Here is what LinkedIn members are saying about it   LinkedIn Book Review – Sales 2.0 !







Begin with the End in Mind

Stephen Covey writes The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People of which I consider a primer for any sales leader.  My favorite habit is the second one which is Begin with the End in Mind.  Covey frames this Habit in the form of a personal or organizational mission statement. We as sales leaders can take this statement and can create a vision of success for our prospects.

The typical buying process for an organization goes as such:

  • Re-tool and Define Strategy at the C-Level
  • Resources Allocated to Reinforce Strategy at the VP Level
  • Define Requirements at the Director Level
  • Vendors Selected & Present Solution at the Director / User Level
  • Vendor of Choice Selected at VP Level
  • Approval at the C-Level
  • Implement Solution at the Director / User Level
  • Incorporate Solution to Reinforce Strategy at the VP Level
  • Gauge Success of the Project at the VP and C Level

Many of you reading this are thinking, “if it were only that easy.” At no point in time does a company decide on a decision-making process or account for the internal politics that such a project will create.   That topic is for another time and there is a good book that I can recommend on navigating a complex sale.  The point in highlighting an organization’s buying process is the last bullet, “Gauge Success of the Project.”

When we as vendors are brought in (and after every person in the organization was able to add their wish list to the RFP) what is our goal when we present our solution?  Usually it is to become the vendor of choice of the users and directors.  However, if you want to make an impact early, get on the same page of your customers and sell the way that they buy. 

The strategy and resource allocation is coming from the VP and C-Levels along with the decision and the approval.  Even without beginning with the end in mind you should recognize the risk to the ones who win.  (Have you ever seen a don’t blame me bumper sticker?) However, to truly align yourself with your prospect we need to understand how our solution will reinforce the strategy of the C-level and by what metrics will our project be gauged successful.

By speaking to the decision-makers and approvers in a language they understand and linking our solution to reinforcing their strategy – we will differentiate ourselves and win big deals.

Take it away or Fade away

In this economic climate, organic opportunities are becoming harder to come by! I was speaking with a client this morning who told me that “no decision” wasn’t a factor in his sales process a year ago – it’s the only thing he loses to today. To accentuate that point, a recent survey in the Nashville Business Journal stated that 90% of companies were cutting costs. http://nashville.bizjournals.com/nashville/stories/2009/01/26/daily12.html?ana=e_du_pub


What does that mean to sales leaders?  We have to go where the money is still budgeted and that is usually with a product that is already in place. In other words – we have to take it away from an incumbent competitor or we might just fade away by not reacting properly to market conditions.


We speak often of segmenting our prospects – I recommend that we segment between prospects that are using our competitors and one’s where we are introducing the service. When unseating an incumbent, we need to look for two things – who made the decision and if any value whatsoever has been documented.


Many times, our competitors do a poor job of verifying their “ROI.” We want to raise doubt with the prospects that are using our competitor by asking for the ROI documentation. If the Decision Makers can’t produce this documentation, they will become uneasy and even dubious about their selection. As a disclaimer – we must tread carefully around this subject because there is political risk in exposing this lack of follow up.  


Taking away an incumbent competitor is hard because the pain of change is often political. However – if you can break that bond the decision-maker has with their selection by raising questions around the ROI that was promised – you might not fade away in this economic climate.

The Quick and the Dead

If not the most famous military mind then perhaps the most quoted, Sun Tzu, has been accredited with the following sage advice, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

At The Complex Sale, we teach the RADAR methodology to help our clients secure the votes needed to win a multi-vendor, multi-decision maker deal. This strategy prepares our clients for the inevitable do-nothing, comodifying, power struggle that occurs when buyers have to make a decision. We call this the crucible effect – when the buyers go from rational and logical to political and emotional. To successfully navigate the crucible and win Big Deals – we need to deploy “quick” tactics.

The First Call:  Why are they buying? Why now? Who cares about the operational capabilities? Who matters in the decision-making process? You have to be quick to qualify if this is a deal with urgency, the competition is entrenched, or if you can have access to the decision-makers. The dead avoid these uncomfortable questions and get the bad news after a lot of hard work.

The Discovery: By understanding the pain stakeholders feel by not having our solution and aligning with their vision od success, we begin to build preference with them. We will need that preference when camps divide in the crucible. You have to be quick for an executive to feel as though you empathize with their pain. The dead rarely secure a C-level conversation and if they do it is around product.

The Presentation: The Presentation is our chance to showcase our unique feature, functionality, delivery model, experience, and service packages.  The quick deliver a custom presentation linking unique differentiators to solving the pains of the powerful people in the audience. The dead do canned demos.

The Proposal: The pain of change must exceed the pain of staying the same. Your proposal must incorporate this concept in a return on investment to even make it to a CFO’s desk. You must also know the date by which the project has to go live and who is ultimately held responsible for the success of the project. The quick won’t hand over a proposal until they can articulate all three parts of a source of urgency. The dead hand over a proposal upon request.

Birth of a Social Salesman

My first sales manager asked me to keep a box filled with index cards with my prospects’ contact information on them.  She told me that web-based CRM was too unreliable for one and two, I shouldn’t be anywhere near a computer when you are on the road selling. Those were truly Spartan times for sales reps but we had an advantage back then – we had all of the information. If a buyer wanted to know what I knew – she had to meet with me.

Now that has changed – the buyer has all the data they need to make an informed decision on the products we sell.  It is truly difficult to bring more to the table than your corporate website, third parties review, customer endorsements, and online demonstrations. The question then has to be asked, how does today’s seller become more than someone who takes an order after the buyer has made a decision? How can today’s seller impact the sell?

I advocate that today’s seller needs to adopt the same tactics the buyers have employed – data; more specifically – social data.

Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter are more than just vehicles for content marketing. They are rich sources of data where potential buyers expose their interest – well before they reveal themselves to buyers.  Take for example the Twitter Directory Journal rationale as to of why one person would follow another person on Twitter: http://www.dirjournal.com/articles/5-reasons-to-follow-someone-on-twitter/.   A follow is a social expression of interest.  A twitter handle’s following is a group of people who, by and large, all have the same interest.  From a sales and marketing perspective that is extremely valuable if you are able to isolate the following of your competition or association.

Social123 https://www.social123.com/what-we-do/socialfollower/ levels the playing field for sellers by giving them this market intelligence. SocialFollowers+ shares the name, bio, domain, and location of every follower from any twitter handle.  This tool can also append an email address, search the social web for additional sales triggers, and find additional contact data from other social networks to provide a complete contact profile.  

Inbound and Down

For many sales and marketing leaders – Inbound marketing is the next big thing in lead generation.After all, the modern marketer will tell you that content drives relevance, relevance drives eyeballs, and eyeballs drive friends, fans, and followers.

A quick Twtpoll from Joel Harrison at B2B Marketing asks your opinion on Inbound Marketing: http://twtpoll.com/fd2tyj  and I encourage you to participate. From the early results – I am not the only one who feels that inbound marketing alone has left us unfulfilled in terms of cracking the lead generation code. I have a couple of ideas as to why that is the case:

I look at my own company as an example – writing thought leadership is time consuming. After all, every minute I spend writing a blog or commenting on someone else’s is a minute I could spend elsewhere. I could hire someone to do it – but I haven’t found anyone who understands the difference between theory and application. And then we are left with the ultimate question – now that I have friends, fans, and followers – how do I turn them to advocates, mavens, and customers?

Take your current opt-in list for marketing automation; the newsletter sign-ups that have been piling up year after year.  Lists such as these are the quintessential inbound lead nurturing target.  I recommend taking the intelligence we can obtain about these two disparate groups, our opt-in list and our social followers, and merge the two for better campaigning.

As example – someone that follows you, is part of the industry you service, a title that makes decisions on your solution and is part of your newsletter campaign campaign deserves a bit more attention in your next marketing drip.  Someone with these characteristics that isn’t on your campaign needs to be invited to do so.

I invite you to learn more about how social123 can help by looking into our socialdata+

Help Wanted – Inside Sales Rep

Location: Roswell, GA

Department: Inside Sales

Type: Full Time

Min. Experience: Entry Level

Salary: 30,000 annual, 15% commission

Social123 is currently hiring an Inside Sales Associate to successfully bring in new clients on a monthly basis.  Social123 helps companies monetize social media by delivering social leads and data enhancement services. We use our own lead generation tools to create business on our behalf.

This candidate must be comfortable and effective with cold calling, online demonstrations of Social123, as well as have excellent interpersonal & technical skills.


  • Inside Sales Office Environment
  • Deliver online product demonstrations via GoToMeeting
  • Respond to prospect inquiries
  • Cold-call on businesses and organizations
  • Follow up on inbound leads and sales inquiries
  • Update lead interaction in Salesforce


  • BA/BS degree
  • 1-3 years of inside sales experience
  • Comfortable cold-calling businesses
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • CRM / Marketing Automation experience
  • Web demo experience

Please email your resume to scott.miller@social123.com

Social Lead Generation

By now, most forward-thinking sales and marketing organizations are taking full advantage of enablement tools that provide real competitive advantage in their space. The B2B model is rather well defined with the core engine of CRM housing customer / prospect data, an e-mail aggregator pushing compelling messaging to drive traffic to the corporate website, then scoring that traffic to triage direct sales efforts.
Up until now, this market intelligence has proven to optimize business development efforts; not only had to create a lower cost per lead but a more qualified one as well. We know that buyers want to “self-educate” so we provide a content-rich website to help towards that end. Marketers have created a rather wide net with this model. However, that process is limited to the universe of individuals either contacted via the e-mail aggregator or find their way to the website through SEO or PPC efforts.
What about the buyer who consults their social network before they ever search Google? After all, today’s buyer not only wants to self-educate, they want recommendations and advice from credible sources. That is the essence of the “like” button and the comment section. That is why the modern buyer doesn’t first go to Google, they go to Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter for initial research.
Smart marketers are using social monitoring tools to fill the void that social networks have created. By using the very same Google Ad words that provide traffic on a pay per click basis, social monitors can be used to provide insight though various social media outlets in the same manner. These monitors provide real-time feedback in the form of sales leads, customer complaints, competitive intelligence, and unique industry insight where none existed before.
In a recent Forrester survey, 72% of respondents said social media helps them get answers to questions, 68% said it helps them find information they need to be successful, and 62% said it lets people know what kind of help is available. And large majorities of respondents said social media has a positive impact on brand reputation (86%), innovation (80%), and customer service (78%).
Social monitoring is the missing layer of market intelligence. It isn’t enough to have a Facebook fan page or send out press releases via a corporate Twitter account. The savvy marketer must also monitor social media with the same diligence we direct traffic with search engine optimization techniques and paid search.

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