Archive for the ‘Training’

Gartner: Cool Vendors in CRM Sales

Gartner just released their 2013 Cool Vendors in CRM Sales report and are selling it on their site for $495.  You can get it  here for free.

According to Gartner, the 2013 Cool Vendors in CRM Sales offer new technologies that improve sales performance and effectiveness. They use mobile, social, big data analytics and the cloud to help salespeople improve their selling skills and find new prospects. We are delighted to be included in the list of just three companies that made it through Gartners diligence.

Key Findings

  • Cloud applications combined with mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) are enabling salespeople to be more engaged in the sales cycle in real time at the source of the interaction with the customer, thus making them more effective and efficient in capturing, managing and updating information throughout the sales process.
  • Internal and external social network intelligence applications are emerging to assist salespeople with finding and developing new sources for lead generation and moving these newfound contacts and opportunities to a quicker close and with greater certainty.

Discontinuous, or sporadic, classroom sales training is approaching a fast demise; sales technology applications that help salespeople use sales methodologies and automate sales processes are showing great promise.

Enjoy the read.  You can get the report here.


8 Steps to Effective Sales Methodology Implementation

There is good news and there is bad news. The good news is that a sales methodology can dramatically increase the sales effectiveness of your entire sales organization, significantly increasing your sales revenue. The bad news is that not all sales methodology solutions are implemented well. There are few distinct topics in the world of the Sales VP that raise such polarized views as the effectiveness of sales methodologies. Sometimes the very phrase ‘Sales Methodology’ is enough to make Sales VPs reach for the Pepto-Bismol. On other occasions, sales leaders can point to successful implementations that delivered consistent revenue increases, and improved sales effectiveness.

In most cases where stellar (or steady) sales performance exists it is founded on well crafted and institutionalized selling processes, founded on a strong methodology, and customized to a company’s business. In other cases we’ve seen well intentioned executives make significant investments in Sales Methodology, Sales Process or Sales Training Programs, only to find sales representatives burdened by onerous processes that are too hard to use, and eventually just fall away.

We’ve put together this guide to help you become part of the winning crowd. Whether you choose to use the TAS Group’s methodology (which of course we’d prefer), or not, we do believe that you will achieve considerable benefit by adopting a sales process or methodology – but only if you are clear as to your objectives, what success means to your company, and what measurable benefits you plan to gain as a result of your investment.

Here we provide a list of what we believe to be some of the Critical Success Factors when adopting a sales methodology, including why we think they’re important. Also we have outlined a mechanism for you to consider them, and reflect on what achieving these CSFs would mean to your organization. We would encourage you to use this with your colleagues to score (and later rank) these for your own business and use them as you choose how to adopt a sales methodology. This is not an exhaustive list, but if you’re on the mark with all of these; then you’ve a much greater chance of success.

1. Better Qualification and Sales Effectiveness

Any good methodology should help your sales team enhance their selling skills, shorten the sales cycle, and close more of the right kind of deals. Sub-optimal performance usually happens because of poor or late access to key decision makers, a failure to create value in the mind of the buyer, and/or when resources are wasted on opportunities that are not adequately qualified. If these issues resonate strongly with you, the methodology you select should have demonstrable models to show how they can be addressed.

Think about the impact that Better Qualification and Sales Effectiveness could have on your organization and decide how important you think it might be as you choose your methodology solution.

2. Standard Sales Process and Common Language

Uncommon productivity results when a sales organization adopts a common way of selling that is understood, not just by the sales team, but by the rest of the departments that support the sales team. Sales representatives are speaking the same language as sales management. Marketing and customer support understand what is happening in the sales cycle, and there is a common understanding of when a sale will close.

How important do you think a Standard Sales Process and Common Language is for your organization?

 3. Adoption Rate: Ease of Use and Level of Sustained Usage

To achieve any real sustained benefit from a sales methodology it’s important that the sales person uses it consistently. We think the sales person’s perspective is as important as that of sales management to make this happen. Perhaps the question should be “What’s good for the sales person, what helps him increase his sales?”, rather than “Wouldn’t it be good if you got your sales team to do this?” If the sales person wants to use the sales methodology; isn’t it more likely that it would truly deliver value to him, and by extension his sales management. Spend some time on this issue. Seek out the average adoption rates of the methodology vendors’ customers. Look for tools that are powerful – yet easy to use. Seek out easy-to-use reinforcement tools that keep the methodology alive and part of the sales person’s everyday life.

Reflect on how important Adoption Rate, Ease of Use, and Level of Sustained Usage is to you as you consider investing in a sales methodology and score its importance to your organization.

4. Leverage Existing Investments: Integrate with your CRM system [Fully!]

If you use a CRM system, you’re already asking your sales team to enter their opportunity information. You’re asking them to work their opportunities in the CRM system.  We would suggest that it would then make sense that the methodology that you choose should integrate tightly with the CRM system, to amplify the benefits of both.  Let’s say you are using Salesforce.  You probably want to make sure that all of the data captured in the methodology application is inherently accessible to Salesforce reports, dashboards, and other applications.  When properly integrated, you do not have to worry about the security of a third party cloud, the data transfer issues that occur with non-native solutions, or the reliability of a third party hosting infrastructure.  Examine the relationship between the methodology vendor and the CRM vendor. Make sure they are strategically aligned – so that as you grow with your CRM system, your methodology integration can keep pace. This means that the learning and methodology can be available just-in-time and in context. As the sales person works with an opportunity in the CRM system, the methodology should be always present, just where the sales person needs it.

For your organization, how important do you think it is to Leverage Existing Investments and Integrate with your CRM system as you deploy a sales methodology?

5. Improve Sales Forecast Accuracy: Know when deals will close

One of the results of deploying a sales methodology should be a consistent sales process used throughout the sales team. When that happens you can remove much of the subjectivity from trying to assess when a deal will close if the methodology provides tools to convert qualitative progress into meaningful quantitative forecast data. Inaccurate forecasts can cause credibility problems for the sales organization, and real operational difficulties (cash management, production, etc.) for the business. If this is important to you we would recommend that you examine how the methodologies that you are evaluating meet this requirement.

What is the impact of inaccurate sales forecasts on your business? Is this a problem that you want to have fixed as part of the sales methodology implementation?

6. Gain Control of the Sales Process by Creating Value for the Customer

If a sales opportunity is real, the customer understands the need to change. He may not, as yet, have figured out the transformation that may be necessary, but an effective sales person, with the right tools, will guide him through that discovery and, through that journey, demonstrate evidence of his understanding of his customer’s business and his ability to create value for him. The methodology you select should provide your sales team with tools to support them gain control of the sale.

More than just assessing the health of the opportunity or defining the appropriate strategy, is your new methodology/process going to help you move deals through the funnel faster?

7. Customized to (the multiple sales functions in) your Business

Is the methodology you are adopting flexible enough to allow customization to your company’s way of doing business, or do you have to adapt what you do to fit in with the methodology? It’s important that a methodology brings structure, but not at the expense of how you want to run your sales team. The methodology needs to be prescriptive enough to optimize sales effectiveness while still being flexible enough to fit your business and support your business objectives. Ideally you should be able to have a common base methodology for your entire sales function, but yet be able to substantially tailor it to reflect the different needs of, for example, an inside sales team as well as a field sales teams, or a new business team alongside existing customer account management.

One of the strengths of a methodology is that it provides a structured approach. But can it be adopted to the rhythms of the different part of your business while maintaining that structure? You should rank this as important if you have small and large sales, new business and renewals etc.

8. Track Record of the Methodology Vendor’s Previous Implementations

The sales methodology market is very fragmented and served by a myriad of vendors. The success of an implementation is a function of the core methodology, how it is applied to your business, the implementation and after sales support, as well as the consultants or trainers who engage with you. We think there is always considerable merit in checking out the past record of your supplier, just as you should do when you are hiring a sales person. Ask about the preparation in advance of the engagement, the actual delivery and training, the experience post implementation, how well what was implemented is being used, and most importantly how it supports the core business objectives.


Where Next? – Get Internal Alignment

To really focus on what’s important to your organization, you might like to list the scores that you recorded for each of the questions, and then in the summary table rank which is most important to you. Pick the CSF that you want above all others and place 1 in the Rank column, then move on to the next most important and place 2 in the Rank column, and so on. If you share this exercise with others involved in the project it will help you achieve alignment, uncover what’s really important, and make success more likely.


Sales Methodology Implementation Critical Success Factor Summary




Better Qualification and Sales Effectiveness


Standard Sales Process and Common Language


Adoption Rate: Ease of Use and Level of Sustained Usage


Leverage Existing Investments: Integrate with your CRM system


Improve Sales Forecast Accuracy: Know when deals will close


Gain Control of the Sales Process by Creating Value for the Customer


Customized to (the multiple sales functions in) your Business


Track Record of the Methodology Vendor’s Previous Implementations






Business, Customer, Method, or Quota?

I have observed something very interesting lately, that you may find enlightening. I think I always knew it – but only recently did I start to formalize it. It is a critical area of focus for successful sales people, and it might not be the one you expect.

Over the past year, I have been privileged to spend a lot of time speaking at sales meetings and other customer events.  During these sessions I always try to spend as much time as I can chatting with the sales people in the room.  These people are the reason why I am there in the first place.  Nearly every person I meet teaches me something about the realities of selling in their particular industry. As I move from company to company and industry to industry there are may differences in how buyers buy and consequently how good sellers sell.  However, as you would expect there are also many similarities.

As I observed some of those similarities I started asking the sales professionals I met how they thought about their job.  What was the one thing they focused on everyday? I gave them four options:

  1. Building their (personal) business
  2. Making their customer successful
  3. Applying a sales methodology
  4. Achieving their quota

Then I correlated their answers with their actual sales performance in the preceding year. I was trying to establish which mindset was most closely related to top performance, and whether one could indeed make a meaningful correlation.

Tom, Karen, Steve and Jim are good examples of each mindset.

  • Tom is an example of a rep who looks at his sales job as his own business. Every year he builds out his plan, sets out some goals and objectives, looks to identify obstacles and what resources he might need to succeed.  He updates his plan every quarter adjusting his strategy and tactics as he goes.  Part of his week is business development, he spends time working on the deals in his pipeline, and he leverages the other functions in his company to support his activities.  Tom is a reliable contributor to his company and is viewed as part of the team.
  • When a customer deployment clashed with President’s Club, Karen chose not to go to Club.  She wanted to be with her customer.  “It was the least I could do – they had trusted me with their business.”  Karen is completely focused on her customer’s success – sometimes to the frustration of her sales manager. “Karen will never push the customer to sign a deal at the end of a quarter if she feels the customer is not ready to do so.  But, her customers love her, and she is our number one or two sales person every year.”  Karen, like Tom, also manages her business in a very organized manner, but the customer is the absolute center of her universe.  She makes sure that she has enough in her pipeline that she never has to pressure a customer for a deal – and she always takes the long-term view.  “If I do right by them, they will do right by me.”
  • Steve is a methodology zealot – a true TAS fanatic.  He qualifies rigorously and is very disciplined in his pursuit of each sales opportunity. He will never be found chasing deals where he does not have a good Solution Fit for his customer and works hard to make sure that he has appropriate access to all of the influencers.  He defines a Competitive Strategy for every encounter and, because he works hard on researching his customers’ business he brings valuable Insight to every conversation.  When Steve pursues an opportunity his Win Rate is greater than 50%.  He joins Tom and Karen at Club most every year.
  • Jim knows his goal. He knows his compensation plan, and he knows his quota, and that is where he is focused.  He is a very capable sales person. “When I get enough opportunities from marketing, I can make my number. Without that, what am I supposed to do?”  Ken tries to ensure that is working on enough deals to make his quota every quarter, but will do little to find deals himself. He actively engages with the person in the buyer’s organization who ‘owns the project’ but does not sell wide or invest enough time in understanding the customer’s business.  He will frequently be found debating his targets and goals – though often will not make the Club trip.

In truth, Tom and Karen are very similar.  These are not sales people – they are in fact sales entrepreneurs. They too exhibit ‘role model’ behavior when it comes to disciplined application of sales methodology.  In nearly every case, Tom and Karen are the ‘A Players’ in their companies’ sales teams and need little external stimulus to succeed.

Steve is a great example of a “B Player” who has benefited from the investment his company has made in sales methodology.  There are many ‘Steves’ out there – in fact they are the majority of most sales organizations. Those who apply methodology achieve steady if unremarkable success.  Those who don’t, don’t.  This is an important coterie of contributors who deserve attention.

Unless something changes, Jim is past his sell-by date.   His innate selling skills are being applied in the wrong way. He can close deals – but only where a Frontal Strategy works.  He will sometimes convince himself that he is adopting a Flanking Strategy – because that makes him feel like he is being strategic.  In fact he usually does not follow through on the Flanking Strategy as it requires a change of relationship strategy as well as a repositioned solution. A singular focus on quota attainment without the requisite ‘business-person focus’ is no longer close to enough to survive (if it ever was.)  The sad thing is – Jim is really very capable, but without a change in his behavior he will at best be a ‘C Player”.  If Jim works for you, then it is time to help him,  He needs structure, discipline, coaching, and a guiding hand to help him build his confidence.

All of this points to a need to understand that there are many ways to succeed.  A focus on Business,  Customer or Methodology works. A singular focus on Quota without the other attendant behaviors doesn’t. You might want to ask my ‘focus question’ of  your sales team and act accordingly. The results could be very rewarding.

The Challenger Sale Debate – Is it missing the point?

There has been a lot a debate among the sales training / sales enablement community about The Challenger Sale from CEB’s Sales Executive Council.  Some of it has been cogent and balanced, but unfortunately a lot has been mud-slinging and poorly articulated or uninformed specious commentary that does not reflect well on the sales training industry. Most of the latter type has, probably predictably, come from those who might have good reason to be threatened by the seeming ubiquity or pervasiveness of TCS.  On the other hand, where measured arguments have been put forward, it seems that these originate more often from users, practitioners, or observers who acknowledge the value of TCS while wondering about its place in an overall sales eco-system.

I have read commentary from Linda Richardson, HRChally, Jonathan Farrington, Dave Stein, Tamara Schenk, Solution Selling, and others, and you can look at the links and judge for yourself who is engaging in productive debate, who is posturing to protect their own patch, and who is being downright unprofessional.   Methinks the latter doth protest too much!

Most of the anti-Challenger rhetoric seems to rail primarily against how the Sales Executive Council has presented Challenger to the market, and less about the substance of the TCS model, or the research behind its findings.  Many of the commentators take umbridge at SEC’s positioning of the findings as being new or noteworthy.  “There is nothing new or unique here” is a common cant.  Well, clearly that is not true: Otherwise TCS would not have captured the attention that is has, resonated as strongly with the marketplace, or evoked such a – sometimes vitriolic – response from those who feel threatened by it.

At The TAS Group, we faced similar criticism from some of the traditional sales training players when we introduced Dealmaker to the market.  We presented a view that effective adoption of methodology could only happen when supported by intelligent software and integrated into the daily workflow of the sales professional by combining the application of methodology with usage of the CRM. We were subsequently positioned by our competitors as only focused on technology, and we were questioned by the analysts as how we could maintain deep research in methodology and technology at the same time.  Well, that was six years ago, and the evidence suggests that we were not as misguided as some would have thought.   Now, although not everyone has the depth of technology resources that we do, everyone recognizes the need for software as an integral part of a sales performance system.  And, the advancements we have made in methodology during that time has served our customers very well.

I don’t think TCS is either perfect or a complete sales system, or a one-size-fits-all solution; nor do I believe that the folks at the Sales Executive Council think so either.  (By the way, I am struck by the fact that it is evident that many of those who are criticizing TCS had not spoken to the SEC before they expressed their views.)  A complete sales performance system requires everything from market planning to territory segmentation, account stratification, account management, opportunity management and sales process, all supported by skills and technology.

But TCS has a number of undeniable strengths.  It has done a better job of highlighting the need for greater sales and marketing alignment than many of its forerunners.  (I have written about that problem here, here, here, here, here, and here.)  With a level of clarity all too rarely seen in the industry, it has debunked the myth of the Relationship seller.  Where others represent it as arrogant that a sales person should bring insight, or being able to ‘teach’ the customer as being arrogant, I see it as a customer focused approach, and an acknowledgement that buyers are more informed and therefore the sales person has to prepare much more diligently.  It demands that the sales person work hard to understand their customer and the customer’s industry, and requires a level of intellectual capital that all customers should look for from their suppliers.   In my opinion, any effective sales person should be able to bring insights to her customer of what has worked elsewhere.  I think that is table stakes.

Through its membership community, SEC has an effective petri dish to test its approaches, before unleashing them on the market.  Their heritage in research is a matter of fact – not of opinion. While they still have a way to go, I would have hoped that constructive inclusion, a recognition of how TCS complements other methodologies, would have been the response, but sadly …

More importantly though, the success of Challenger – and it is unquestionably successful – points to a failure of traditional providers, particularly those who focus on sales skills.  The fact that TCS has been so quickly embraced points to a deficiency in the alternatives.  Otherwise why would there be a gap in the market for SEC?

Make no mistake.  SEC has done a remarkable job of positioning TCS in the market, and indeed is using the principles espoused by Dixon and Adamson in their book to effectively challenge the status quo.  Something is working – and the response of the detractors only validates the approach.



Carpe Tabulam – Seize the Tablet: The mobile sales force

[This is the second in a series on 6 Factors that are transforming B2B Sales in 2012.]

The inexorable rise of mobile device ownership is one of the most significant changes in the business landscape that any of us has witnessed in our lifetimes.  In most developed economies in the world, practically everyone has a cell phone, an increasing number of which are smartphones, and the rapid growth of tablet ownership, pioneered by Apple’s iPad, is the fastest market penetration of any device we have ever seen.

The Mobile Landscape

Unless mobile is a core element of the strategic plan of any business, the business will face severe challenges over the next few short years.  For business strategists, marketers, sellers and buyers alike, mobile is becoming the hub around which business revolves.  And within the mobile landscape, we are seeing pointers to an app-centric (native or web-app) smart device with a slick user interface and multi-touch gestures as the horizon to which we are all heading.

As I write this in early 2012, it is not unreasonable to ask whether Nokia or Research in Motion (the makers of Blackberry) will survive the hyper-competitive environment that has been thrust upon them by Apple and Google (Android) devices.  Formerly titans of the cell phone market, Nokia and RIM are struggling to match the ingenuity and velocity of their more inventive competitors.

Nokia, struggling to reinvent its smartphone business around Microsoft’s Windows software, had a loss of €929 million in the first quarter of 2012 as sales plunged 29 percent because of flagging demand for its older Symbian smartphones. The loss, equivalent to $1.2 billion, contrasts with a €344 million profit a year earlier. Sales fell to €7.4 billion in the quarter from €10.4 billion a year earlier. The Nokia president and chief executive, Stephen Elop, said Nokia would accelerate its cost-cutting efforts amid what he described as a mixed response to its new Lumia smartphones with Microsoft.

For Research in Motion, it is difficult to see how they will survive as a standalone entity.  RIM’s stock declined 75% in the twelve months to April 2012, and in the enterprise, its core market, it is losing market share at a very damaging rate.  While email, instant messaging, and the other network services RIM provides its customers remain extremely popular with users and respected as first-rate technology, the company has struggled mightily to keep its BlackBerry smartphone and PlayBook tablet products relevant in the face of increased competition from Apple and Google.

The other major casualty of the rise of Apple has been Adobe’s Flash. Flash is a multimedia platform produced by Adobe.  Flash has been the standard for adding video, interactivity, and animation to websites.  According to Adobe:

  • 98% of enterprises rely on Flash Player.
  • 85% of the most used sites use Flash.
  • 75% of web video is viewed using Flash Player.
  • 70% of web games are made in Flash.

But in 2010, Steve Jobs had the courage to question the applicability of the Flash technology going forward.  Jobs made waves and enemies when he banned Flash from use on all iOS devices.  iOS is the operating system from Apple.  Jobs was almost unanimously criticized by the industry.

After a largely public battle between Apple and Adobe, the latter capitulated in November 2011 announcing that Adobe is stopping development on Flash Player for browsers on mobile and increasing their investments in HTML5, Apple’s recommended platform.

When you combine all of these data points, you can derive your own picture of how the short-term mobile landscape will evolve.  If you accept my hypothesis that mobile is in fact one of the most significant changes in the business landscape that any of us has witnessed in our lifetime, then you should consider what that might look like in terms of required capabilities for your business and the mobile platforms that will dominate.

In our own business, we’ve committed to delivering our Dealmaker sales performance application solutions in a mobile world; and, it is possibly interesting to relate how our customers’ opinion changed during the lifecycle of our mobile project.

In late 2010 and early 2011, when we first discussed with our customers their need for an iPad enabled Dealmaker, the interest level was only moderate.  Our customers indicated that they would indeed be looking at it in the future – but that it was not generally a topic that was urgent.  We listened to our customers, but also listened to our gut instincts. We took a view that if we wanted to maintain our leadership in the sales performance application marketplace, that we should invest ahead of the (mobile) market demand, and trust our instincts.  So we ploughed ahead with the technology investment to deliver a HTML5 based web-app that would operate equally well in a web browser on a laptop as well as on iOS (from Apple) and Android (from Google) mobile platforms.

Dealmaker is a complex product with a broad range of capabilities that help sales organization to sell smarter – to win more sales opportunities – through intelligent sales process, automated deal coaching and collaboration tools, and to manage better – through accurate sales forecasts, predictive sales analytics and deep account planning and management methodologies embedded in the software.  We decided that if we were to deliver Dealmaker on a mobile platform, then should go “all in” and provide all of these capabilities in the hands of the mobile sales worker.  This was not an insignificant task.

When we first showed Dealmaker on an iPad at a customer event in November 2011, our customers were very impressed with the capability, but were singularly unimpressed or surprised by the fact that we had undertaken this initiative.  These were many of the same people who, just nine or twelve months earlier, had expressed just tepid interest in mobile solutions for their sales teams. It was a  lesson in product management and the need to balance customer input and market research with informed vision – and we were happy that we had made the right decision.  During 2011, mobile solutions, almost surreptitiously, became a baseline requirement – fueled by a ubiquity that caught many people by surprise.

The evolution of the mobile-centric economy

At the end of 2011 there were just over 327m mobile subscribers in the US.  That’s in a country of 315m people.  What are they doing with those devices, (apart from following Lady Gaga on Twitter)?

Well, for most of us, our mobile device has become an extension or part of who we are, plugged in, and always on, in an increasingly connected network.

In the first three months of 2012, Verizon Wireless, the largest cellphone services in the US, reported that fewer customers joined its service compared to the same period in 2011.  The predicament for carriers is that because most people who want a cellphone already have one, their subscriber growth has been anemic. That was the case for Verizon, which said it added 734,000 subscribers in the first quarter, 16 percent fewer than a year earlier.  However, Verizon still managed to post a profit of $1.7 billion for the quarter, largely because of the fees that customers pay to watch videos, browse the Web or play music over Verizon’s network on their smartphones and tablets. Revenues generated from mobile data services were $6.6 billion, up 21.1 percent.

According to estimates by Cisco, by 2016 there will be 10 billion mobile Internet devices in use globally in a world where the population is projected to be 7.3 billion.  In that same time-frame, smartphone traffic will grow to 50 times the size it is today, according to Cisco. To cope with this increasing demand, all the carriers say that they need more spectrum, the government-rationed radio waves that carry phone calls and wireless data.

As an example, in Verizon’s case, to get more radio waves, they made a deal in December 2011 to buy spectrum licenses from a consortium of cable companies including Time Warner, Comcast and Cox Communications, for $3.6 billion. (T-Mobile USA and Metro PCS, smaller wireless carriers, have urged the Federal Communications Commission to block the deal, claiming it would put too much spectrum in the hands of the nation’s largest carrier.)

And just in case we were unsure about mobile being the hub of future Internet traffic, Facebook paying $1 Billion dollars for Instagram is another data point to consider.  The three-day sprint to the deal started on April 5, 2012 when Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, picked up the phone and asked Kevin Systrom, CEO of Instagram to meet. At the time, Systrom was just hours from signing a deal for a $50 million venture-capital investment that would put a $500 million value on his company, which had just 13 employees and no revenue.

Instagram makes a smartphone “app” that lets people take photos, dress them up with special effects, and easily share them with friends. In the first three months of this year, its user base nearly doubled, to about 30 million, the company said at the time. After Instagram released a version of its app for phones powered by Google’s Android software on April 3, the user base shot up again, to around 35 million at the time of the Facebook deal.

Mark Zuckerberg was particularly concerned when he saw millions of people signing up for the Android app, people familiar with the matter said. One concern: Facebook was falling behind in mobile as younger start-ups were innovating more quickly.

Knowing your mobile customer

The market that we serve is business-to-business (B2B) sales organizations. The promise we make is that we can help our customers to increase revenue and gain more predictability in their business through our Dealmaker solution.  We believe the unique value we deliver is the result of combining two disciplines; (1) intelligent software applications and (2) deep sales methodologies. Innovation is at the core of our efforts and the Dealmaker intelligent software platform is the engine driving revenue growth for our customers.

To deliver on our promise, it is critical that we can view the market through the eyes of our customers – and in the context of mobile, we need to understand how our customers themselves can deploy mobile solutions, and how their customers are using mobile in their day-to-day interactions.

If you are a sales person, sales leader or business leader, then you should join me in seeking a deep understanding of how to make your sales person’s interactions with their customers more effective. How will she and her customer communicate, learn, and engage, both internally and externally?

The short answer is that the business world in which they operate is: always on, increasingly connected, and peppered by frequent interruptions.

Attention span is short.

Instant gratification carries a premium.  Information is plentiful, but effective analysis of that information is lacking.

Yesterday’s news is a valueless currency as we use our mobile devices to learn about business happenings, world events, and personal activities in a torrent of up-to-the-minute information flow.

- o – o -

A business thrives when it can influence its customers’ thinking in a positive way.  In order to do that, the business must first understand how the customer wants to interact, before the sales cycle, during the sales cycle and after the sale. To change the mind of the customer you first need to get inside it, and understand what is important to the specific profile of target buyer that you seek to influence.

According to Pew Research, smartphone usage in February 2012 is most prevalent among the 18-29 age group, 66% of whom own a smart phone, followed closely by the 30-49 age group (59%).  Other key indicators of smartphone usage are the level of household income where smartphone penetration is at 68% among the $75,000+ income group; 60% where users are college educated; and men (49%) slightly outpace women (44%) when it comes to smartphone adoption.

The accelerating pace of change

And as I mentioned earlier, the pace of change continues to accelerate. Looking just at the last ten years, we can observe the rate at which different technologies were adopted.

Starting with Apple’s iPod in 2002, it took nearly a year for Apple to reach the milestone of a million units shipped. RIM’s Blackberry actually outpaced the iPod in 2002 reaching that threshold in 300 days.  In a continuing move towards increased mobility, the world embraced netbooks in 2007 and bought one million units in just six months.  The time to achieve this level of penetration has continued to shorten and Apple’s iPhone took just 70 days in 2007.

When the iPad was released a whole new market opened up and in just one month, a million users were experiencing  new ways to consume information, browse the web and interact online.

The tablet phenomenon has outstripped everyone expectations. At this point in time (April 2012), 20% of all US adults own a tablet device. Propelled by an unparalleled user experience, increased bandwidth availability, and a drive for instant access everywhere, tablet ownership almost doubled between December 2011 and January 2012.

When the iPad 3, or New IPad as it was called, was released in March 2012, Apple shipped three million units in the launch weekend, making the time to reach a million less than one day!

The number of iPads now been sold by Apple is outstripping laptops sales from any of the traditional manufacturers.


As we reflect on how to equip our sales teams to interact with their increasingly mobile customers, we need to consider how they learn, how they use our business systems, collaborate, and communicate; all through the lens of a mobile worker.  Using an iPad (or other tablet) in a sales meeting changes the dynamic of the meeting. The psychological barrier that accompanies the traditional sales person presenting from behind the lid of a laptop goes away. Customers become involved and reach for the sales person’s iPad to run the presentation themselves, or, in a software demonstration, they often want to take control and see what happens as the swipe, tap and pinch.

Workers leave their iPad sitting around on their kitchen table, always on, always connected, a portal to their corporate information systems, their daily news sources, or their learning environment.  Skype or Facetime calls from iPads, iPhones or other similarly equipped devices puts video interactivity just a tap away, and new and more intimate communication norms are emerging.

As you develop your strategies for your sales force in 2012 and beyond, I’d encourage you to ask yourself if you’ve considered whether you’ve adequately factored in this unstoppable force.  Are all of your systems fully mobile-ware? Can new hires learn about your company, your products, your customers, and your target market from their mobile device?  How much have you thought about the shortening attention span of learners and users alike that accompanies the mobile mindset? When your managers seek to support and coach their direct reports, can they find the information they need on their mobile device, and collaborate with them in that mode?

Most new technologies go through two phases of adoption; the first is when we find new and better ways to do things that we already do, and the second – and definitely more exciting phase – is when we uncover things that we can now do that we could never do before.

Now is the time to Carpe Tabulam – seize the tablet.  (I’m sure the Latin scholars out there will correct any inaccuracies in my grammar.)

As ever, I’d welcome your comments.

[The next post in this series will explore the impact of Social Networks on selling.  If you want to be notified of new blog posts you can always subscribe at the top right of the blog here, or follow me on Twitter @dealmaker365]

Embrace Change: A response to a dangerous post

I read a blog post from the CEO of one the leading brand names in sales training and it bothered me greatly. If this is representative of what is being taught in sales training classes today it is not only worrisome, but plainly wrong on a number of counts.

The post talks about the frustration that a sales person may experience when the Economic Buyer – a truly outdated concept, in my opinion – supports the sales person’s solution but can’t proceed because his team wants to go in a different direction.  The post goes on to suggest a framework to “put the power of the decision into the hands of the leader.”

This is dangerous advice.

The world where ‘top down’ decisions rule has changed, and rightly so. Finally, there is a recognition (among the enlightened) that unless any initiative has the support of those who will implement the initiative and be most impacted – then the initiative will fail.  There is great research from the Sales Executive Council that not only supports this, but also recommends that consensus driven selling is far more effective that the archaic relationship-based top-down approach. This advice is based on deep research – not just opinion.

But ‘putting the power of the decision into the hands of the leader’ is not the worst part of this blog post – not by a long way.

The proposed framework in the post suggests an evaluation platform to ‘create some structure’ and provides some examples:

  1. They have a good understanding of our business
  2. They have experience in our industry
  3. They have a successful track record with their solutions
  4. 4. Their solution is non-disruptive (the highlighting is mine)
  5. They listen well and tailored the solution to our requirements
  6. They have the expertise to provide a lot of additional value

What on earth is number 4 doing here? The rest are fine, but are way too generic to have any deep value.  These are basic table steaks. But number 4 is a stick out – and suggests to me that the writer of the post must be deeply concerned about disruptive solutions disrupting his own business, and is running scared, while trying to ‘keep things the way they always were’.

There is a long list of companies who have brought disruptive solutions to the market and have delivered benefit to the customer that is orders of magnitude greater than the traditional worn-out approaches.  If the old way worked, there would be no need or opportunity for the disruption.

Examples:, Google, RIM, Wikipedia, Expedia, Workday, Successfactors, Southwest Airlines, Uber, and, of course, Apple. Each of these delivered more value to the customer than the traditional approach they replaced – precisely because they were disruptive. And, the opportunity was there to exploit because the traditional approach was worn-out or flawed.

But when you think about the business of the sales trainer who posited the value of non-disruption, the crime runs even deeper.

I have long argued that sales training, as an event, is a waste of money.  For any sales effectiveness initiative to be successful, it has to disrupt the status-quo.  You should be looking to change how you do business.  Event based sales training without a focus on behavior change and disruption to the status quo, and a mechanism to support such activity, is fruitless, and unfortunately has been the norm in the industry for a very long time.  This alone could explain why 87% of the investment is wasted. Yes, it is true. On average 87% of the recipients of sales training no longer practice what they learned just 30 days after the sales training event.

Now, I am entirely biased.  When I first got involved with this industry I came from the wonderfully unencumbered position of total ignorance.  I did not have the shackles of ‘how it was always done’.  So, we had the freedom to design a new way, one that would disrupt the traditional approach to deliver long-term sustainable value to the customer – and that was the genesis of the idea that delivered Dealmaker.

I’m glad to say that our disruptive approach works.  According to Aberdeen, our customers achieve 21% greater quota attainment than all others.  But that is an example of the value of well-crafted disruption.  Investments in sales training without disruption to the status quo are entirely without merit – and so it is with most business initiatives.

You must embrace change to change.  It is as simple as that.

Now, should I call out the CEO and ask him to respond – or let him continue to advise young sales people that disruption is bad? What do you think?

The Challenger Sale: Challenging Conventional Wisdom – Book Review

The Challenger Sale
If you read one sales book this year, The Challenger Sale should be the one.  Actually, if you don’t generally read sales books at all, you should make an exception in this case and read this one.

The Challenger Sale comes from Matthew Dixon and Brent Adamson of the Sales Executive Council, part of the Corporate Executive Board.  The hypothesis it sets out flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that suggests that complex B2B selling is all about relationships.  Instead it describes a new kind of  B2B sales winner – the Challenger – who has six specific attributes.

The Challenger …

  1. Offers the customer unique perspectives
  2. Has strong two-way communication skills
  3. Knows the individual customer’s value drivers
  4. Can identify economic drivers of the customer’s business
  5. Is comfortable discussing money, and
  6. Can pressure the customer

Now, this hypothesis is not conjured up in a vacuum.  It is based on original research with 700 sales people, followed by a global analysis of 6,000 sales professionals involved in large-scale, complex, B2B sales.  This is not trivial work, and the conclusions drawn from the data are not to be ignored. Challengers are able to teach for differentiation, tailor for resonance, and take control of the sale.

When the analysis was completed by Dixon, Adamson and their colleagues, five different types of sales reps emerged: the hard worker, the challenger, the relationship builder, the lone wolf and the reactive problem solver. The results of the analysis are striking, and some may be surprised by the main thesis, viz., When selling complex solutions the highest-performing reps were challengers and the lowest-performing reps were relationship builders.

I wrote a blog post back in August 2010 called Why Customers and Suppliers collide. It opens with the following:

You’d be forgiven for thinking that being a customer is easier than being a sales person.  All the customer’s got to do is pick a supplier, right? But when the customer makes that buying decision, the risk shifts from the supplier to the customer, and the impact on the customer of a poor buying decision is usually greater that the impact on the salesperson of a lost sale.

The core premise in that post is that the customer does not always know the best decisions to make for their own business, and it is the salesperson’s job to point the way.  The Challenger Sale gives really pragmatic advice on how to navigate that journey.

I had an opportunity to discuss the book in detail with one of the authors, Matt Dixon, and the attention to detail he exhibited, the passion shown for the topic, and the care taken in drawing conclusions, are uncommon in the sales world.  Many other publications on this matter are based on anecdote and war stories, whereas the research behind The Challenger Sale gives depth to the unassailable inferences that are clearly drawn.

As I reflected on the excellent points in this book, I looked to other references that might bring additional measurable insight to its core hypothesis.

The Impact on Quota Achievement of Designing Customer Focused Solutions

As you can see from this chart here – quota achievement can be directly correlated to the extent to which sales organizations can effectively design customer focused solutions aligned with the real needs of the customer. The source of this data is the Dealmaker Index – a free global sales benchmarking service that is free to all, where you can score your sales effectiveness. The correlation between this and the findings from the Sales Executive Council’s research is not a linear one, but it further supports the hypothesis.

The book itself is extremely well written and it is very consumable. The ideas are presented cogently, and it is replete with though-provoking and prescriptive advice.   Interestingly, the foreword of the book is written by Neil Rackham, a fact that proponents of SPIN Selling might find surprising.  In fact Rackham suggests that this is “The most important advance in selling for many years.” The challenge (pun intended) for those who wish to adopt the principles in this valuable book will be how to embed the Challenger discipline in the daily operation of the sales organization.  Perhaps there will be an app for that.

As I said at the outset, this is book well worth reading. If you’ve been focused on hiring relationship sellers, or trying to develop your own relationship skills, you will find that The Challenger Sale gives you pause for thought, and that is always a good thing.


The Reasons Why Sales Methodologies Are Not Used: Survey Results

Most sales professionals accept that effective and consistent use of a sales methodology is a predictor of better sales results. However, many (if not most) investments in sales methodology are simply wasted dollars.  In fact less than 40% of sales people who have been trained in a sales methodology use it most of the time (Tweet this stat). (Source: Dealmaker Index).  This is considerably less than the 66% of folks who use a CRM consistently.  It is time for the methodology vendors to look in the mirror and stop criticizing poor adoption of CRM.  But that is for another post. I wonder however if it is really understood just how much difference using a sales methodology can make.
Impact of sales methodology on win rate

As you can see from the first chart here – Win Rate can vary by as much as 52% between those organizations where methodology is really embedded in their organizations and those who pay partial attention to the discipline.  As mentioned above, Dealmaker Index – a free global sales benchmarking service that is free to all, where you can score your sales effectiveness relative to your peers and gain advice on how to improve – is the source of this data.

So, if methodology is so great – why are people not using it?   Well, you can see from the following chart the main culprits; and they are real culprits.  Let’s look at the top three reasons.

According to the results from the Dealmaker Index, the main reason why sales people choose not to use the methodology is that Only some people in the company use it.   When I have been asked to look at  failed methodology implementations I’ve often seen situations where the sales person is asked to use the methodology, but sales management, or sales leadership didn’t even attend the training on the methodology.  If management is only focused on the reports from the CRM rather than walking the walk of the methodology then the methodology will definitely die on the vine. This is a recipe for failure.

Why methodology is not used

On to the second reason:  What was learned has been forgotten. About two years ago, I wrote a post called What Happens When The Sales Trainer Leaves? The reality unfortunately, is that not much happens at all.  Very few sales methodology implementations have sustainment and measurement as part of an on-going program to keep the methodology alive.  We believe that the majority of learning comes from on-going application; not from event based training, or even training supported by online learning that can be accessed after the training event.  True results are achieved only when the methodology is embedded in to how the sales person works her opportunities. That’s what we try to deliver to our customer with Dealmaker – the sales performance software application, that is integrated into the CRM. And that brings me to the third point.  (This might seem a little self-serving – but the data support the hypothesis.)

The third reason that sales people cite for not using their methodology, is that it is Not integrated with the CRM. Methodology – to be most effective – should be delivered in context, at the point of the sale where the sales person needs it.  Most of the time that data is in the CRM, and the methodology must, I repeat, must – use the CRM’s data intelligently.  If you are forecasting a deal to close in the near term, but you’ve not yet identified the Decision Maker, or have not selected a Competitive Strategy in a competitive deal – the methodology should know that and advise accordingly.  My contention is that even though this is the third ranked point – it is actually the most important and, if addressed, will go a long way to resolve the first two.  If the methodology is baked into the CRM, then more people will use it, and what has been learned will not be forgotten.  Think about it.  But, if you are a sales leader who has not yet embedded intelligent methodology software into your CRM, don’t think too long.  You’re missing out on one of the most impactful things you can do.

If you disagree (or agree), I’ve love to hear your thoughts.

If you want to figure out how you rank against your peer; participate in the Dealmaker Index benchmark study and see how you score and rank against your peers, and you might get some advice on how you might improve.

Why Shooting 100+ in Golf is like Selling Badly

Guest Post: Paul Dilger, Director Product Marketing, The TAS Group.

When it comes to sales, I like golfing analogies and imagery, so please excuse the slightly self-serving title to this post.

I was reminded of the vivid connection this morning, when I shot what was – I think – my fifth consecutive 100+ round. For those of you who don’t play, this is not good golf, by any stretch of the imagination. I’ve been playing golf for about 30 years, but in the last 15 or so I’ve been consistently awful at it. When I look back at today’s round, I drove fairly well, only lost 2 balls, putted very well and yet failed to make a single par. The conditions were heavy but not too bad, I wasn’t tired, and had been looking forward to playing most of the week. So why the poor show?

Part of the problem lies in the fact that I had no real plan. I knew I wanted to drive onto the fairway, and once I was on the green I was fine, but I had no plan for getting from tee to green, how many shots were achievable for me, which clubs I wanted to use along the way (and which not to use), which parts of the hole I wanted to avoid, and so on. Selling without a plan is similarly almost always fatal, and indeed, if you’re a customer of TAS sales methodology, you’ll know we use a golfing picture to describe the benefit to planning, and it features prominently in one of our virtual learning video segments. It goes like this:

“Every sale needs a plan. They say that when you fail to plan, in fact you plan to fail. Developing a plan, a set of tactics, or a line of attack, can provide you with a framework for developing a winning strategy. Your plan should provoke honest thought, as you assess the prospective sales situation. It provides the momentum to help you decide what you want to achieve, and to visualize the journey you want to take. When asked about his incredible shot-making ability, Jack Nicklaus, possibly the greatest golfer of all time, described his thought process:

“I start by assessing where I am, looking at the lie of the ball, figuring out the terrain, gauging how far I am from the hole, and thinking about the wind and other elements of the weather. Then I decide where I want the ball to land so that it ends up near the hole or at the right place on the fairway. Next I visualize the flight-path of the ball and see in my mind the kind of swing I’m going to have to make to get the ball to travel on that flight-path. Then I make that swing.”

“…Just like Jack, you need to visualize each bounce of the ball before you make your next swing. You need to assess the terrain. Figure out where you’re starting from. Decide what you want to achieve, where you want the ball to land, always being sure that you avoid the traps or hazards. Like golf, a lot of what effective selling is about happens before you take your first action. Before you put your mouth or pen in gear, you need to exercise your mind. The other thing about Jack – he practiced a lot.”

But the more I thought about this, the more I realized that it wasn’t just that I had no plan, it was that I had no anything. If I had been selling, you could say I had no sales process, I had no sales methodology, I had no sales skills, and I had no sales software to reinforce me. Sales process is about following an optimized set of sales activities, as you manage your way around the course in a thoughtful, linear way. Nope, didn’t do that. Sales methodology is about assessing where you are in the opportunity, based on the information you’ve uncovered. The kind of stuff Jack is talking about above. Nope, didn’t do that either. Sales skills are about executing on the process and methodology, clearing the mind and then focusing on the task at hand. No, 0 for 3 so far. Reinforcement is all about learning, repeatedly practising the right behaviors, and using resources like software to make sure your sustaining them. I haven’t been practising either, I’ve just been turning up expecting all the golfing stars to be miraculously aligned for me.

If you’re in sales and you’re not working hard to fine-tune your process, your method, your execution, and your behaviors, then you’re probably missing quota by a good way, and shooting the equivalent of 100+. As for me, I need to golf smarter, and manage my game better, to borrow from The TAS Group’s strap-line.

Tales from the front line: Applying sales methodology to win deals

Do you actually know how your product / service/ solution makes a real difference to your customers?  If you suggested taking it away from them, would they really care? No matter how many times your internal strategists brainstorm on how the product will be used, or the product management team dream up user scenarios, or the marketing team test out various ‘features and benefit’ statements, there is nothing to compare with actual user stories. Tales from the front line can inform better than any other source what you’re doing right and where you might focus.

When a customer gets real value from your product or solution, and they are proud of what they achieved – to the extent that they are happy to let you publish their story – then the momentum you can realize can be much greater than any impact from marketing campaign.

In July of this year we kicked off an initiative to hear real stories from real front-line sales people.  How would the sales person describe how they used sales methodology – in this case TAS in Dealmaker – to win deals. Many of the folks in our industry focus on what benefits can be delivered to sales management, but, in my opinion, there is insufficient attention paid to the people who really make a difference to a sales organization – the front line sales professional.

Each month we provide an iPad to the best story we hear.  Our last contest period ended on August 15.  The story that follows was the winner in that period and I share it here so that you might benefit from the lessons learned. These real life front-line stories are always intriguing and I know I always learn a lot – so I hope you will too.  Whether you are a TAS/Dealmaker user or not, I think these stories will be of value to you.

This story, in his own words, is from Ken Durham – National Sales Director Energy Systems Group

SCENARIO: Our organization had a large opportunity which began prior to our utilization of TAS. As a result of NOT having a TAS platform to develop the opportunity from the beginning, we were playing catch up in formation of a unified sales strategy. However, with TAS in place, we developed a Fragment Strategy to salvage our project by correctly identifying spheres of influence – testing our contacts to determine where we were weak and where we were strong.
Our team had the perfect test case to prove the value of TAS/ Dealmaker—an opportunity that started without TAS and finished with it. Without a doubt, everyone on the pursuit team clearly saw the weakness in not having a clearly identified methodology to guide them through the sales process.

APPROACH: Arriving late to the scene, we deployed the terminology and methodology of Dealmaker—identifying the compelling event, competitive strategies as well as mapped the organizational chart and action plan. By mapping the buying roles and correctly assessing our status, we identified our non-supporters, enemies and those who were neutral.    As a result, we zippered several relationships within our organization with the customer’s, and utilized our strength to position ourselves for the part of the contract we were certain to win.

RESULTS: Our sales team was able to successfully gain a portion of the deal by successfully executing a Fragmenting Strategy!
While the team worked hard, early on they did not have the benefit of testing the sales plan, scoring our competitors strengths and weaknesses and developing a strategy. A key relationship was misread, weakening our position as the sales cycle progressed. We identified a neutral person as a mentor or coach. Without a TAS plan or TAS process, we did not have a structure to “test” this identification.

Using TAS, with only a few weeks to go before selection, we used the plan as a roadmap. We altered our thinking and changed our strategy from Frontal to Fragment and the result was an award in revenue we would not have had without TAS. We correctly identified our value within a narrower scope of the project, and also correctly identified the strengths and weaknesses of our competitor. The results and historical comments from the customer validated this.

FEATURE FOCUS: Mapping the customer organization and identifying a specific, tested sales strategy was most helpful. For the portion of the deal that went to a competitor, we used TAS to debrief and assess the sale. There is no doubt, that if our team had access to TAS earlier, our relationship development, pre-call planning and tactics would have been entirely different. TAS clearly showed us with anecdotal information what we would do differently next time. This project has proven to be a showcase to our sales organization on the value of TAS/Dealmaker!

If you have a story to tell, and you’re prepared to share it, remember that each month we provide an iPad to the best story we hear.


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