Archive for the ‘Learning’


Realtime (Honest) Feedback on your Sales Proposals?

As you may know I published my most recent book – Account Planning in Salesforce - earlier this year. I am always nervous when I am launching a book.  I put a lot of myself into it and, even with a topic like Account Planning, I find that my writing always seems to become infused with my values, my opinions and my beliefs.  I really just don’t know any other way and I wanted the readers to get value from the book. I want them to feel that the time they spent reading it was worthwhile.

So, as you can imagine, when Account Planning in Salesforce went to #1 Bestseller in its segment on Amazon I was really pleased.  And the reviews were pretty good too – even the ones from people I don’t know!

But what I did not realize was that as people read the book on their Kindle devices, they were highlighting the passages of text that resonated with them. Meanwhile, the elves in the background at Amazon are continually collating and analyzing the highlighted areas and can provide a summary of what people care about. (See below the top 5 highlighted passages – I am really thrilled with the one that came in at #1.)

These insights are hugely valuable to me and I plan to use what I have learned from Amazon’s analysis in a webinar I am delivering on Account Planning in Salesforce for 2014 later this month.

But also this whole process got me thinking,  what if …

Wouldn’t it be great if you could do this for all sales proposals, PowerPoint presentations or marketing collateral?  It would be like having someone watch your customers as they read through your documents; highlighting, underlining, adding ? and X marks, circling paragraphs of interest or drawing lines through parts that they disagreed with.  Then you’d really know what they really think. (Scary? Maybe!)

At The TAS Group, we do a lot of micro-analysis on the effectiveness of our digital marketing, and of course that is really helpful in making sure that we are presenting the messages and content that add most value to our customers.  But we can’t micro-analyze on a personal emotional level … but thoughts are percolating here …

In the meantime, here are the Top 5 Most Highlighted passages from Account Planning in Salesforce.  (If you are interested, in an upcoming webinar, I will be discussing these comments and other issues that I think we should all be caring about as we plan for 2014).

Top 5 Most Highlighted

1

The impact on a customer of a poor buying decision is usually greater than the impact on a sales person of a lost deal. 

2

You need to be a specialist and expert in the business, strategy and market of those few customers with whom you are working. 

3

Research for Insight. Integrate for Velocity. Focus for Impact. 

4

Remember, customers don’t need you to learn about your product: they can get all of the information they need from the Internet. They don’t need you to recommend solutions: they can get that from their peers. Your opportunity is to help them shape their needs, identify or suggest initiatives, and then to figure out how you can apply your solutions to those initiatives. If you don’t know how to do that you should look for outside assistance. 

5

The cost of new customer acquisition is 500% that of customer retention. Increasing customer retention by 2% equates to decreasing costs by 10%. Reducing customer defections by 5% can increase profitability by up to 125% (depending on industry). (Source: Leading on the Edge of Chaos, Emmet C. Murphy and Mark A. Murphy)

If there were particular parts of the book that you enjoyed I’d love to hear from you.  If you have not read it you can get an extract here.

 

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20 Facts about Sales Performance

At The TAS Group, we just recently completed a global study of sales performance.  The full report will probably be available by late April.  If you want a copy email me ddaly (at) the tasgroup (dot) com.

The statistics are pretty revealing – so I thought I would share them with you now.

  1. 33% of sales people made quota in the last reporting period

  2. Only 52% of sales people say they can access the key players for a sale

  3. 39% of sales professionals say they are not able to effectively uncover customer problems, and

  4. 35% struggle with designing customer focused solutions

  5. 59% of sales close as originally forecasted

  6. Sales forecast accuracy jumps to 76% when sales methodology is applied well

  7. When the Sales function contributes to company strategy, quota attainment is 15% higher than when Sales is not involved

  8. Quota attainment is 25% higher when Sales and Marketing are aligned, and

  9. Win Rate is 15% higher when Sales and Marketing work well together

  10. 59% of sales reps are good at opportunity qualification

  11. 32% of sales professionals do not develop competitive strategies for their opportunities

  12. When competitive positioning is part of a company’s sales strategy, revenue increases by 30%

  13. 44% of reps are able to maximize the value of a sales opportunity

  14. Only 36% can maximize the value of their key accounts

  15. Salesforce.com has the highest % of CRM users with adoption > 50%

  16. TAS has the highest % of methodology users with adoption > 50% (We are very happy about this!)

  17. When methodology is integrated with CRM sales teams are 35% more likely to achieve average quota over 75% (As you know this has been my mantra for a long time!)

  18. The #1 reason why sales methodology is not used is that only some people use it.

  19. 60% of companies use a defined sales process

  20. Companies are 33% more likely to achieve average quota over 75% if they use a sales process.

We have analyzed all the data that we gathered – and it was a lot – and some of the insights are fascinating.  We are looking forward to getting this finished and published to share.

As I mentioned above – If you want a copy email me ddaly (at) the tasgroup (dot) com.

 

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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.

Conclusion

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]

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6 Factors that are transforming B2B Sales – Part 1

I recently had the privilege of speaking at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco.  My session – entitled Six Factors that are Transforming B2B Sales – seemed to strike a chord.  Over the next few posts I want to recount the thoughts I shared and get your views.

I started my presentation with a perspective on the current landscape and the environment in which we all seek to survive and thrive.

– o – o – o – o – o –

Do you ever have one of those days when you get up and hope that just for one day nothing changes?  Sometimes it feels as if we are barely hanging on, buffeted by a torrent of innovation and evolution.  But maybe today will be the day when you won’t have to adjust or adapt, reorganize or rework …

But, I don’t think so.

Things are happening more quickly than ever.  In the next 30 minutes;

  • 700,000 apps will be downloaded from the AppStore,
  • Users will spend 146 days on Facebook – yes, in the next 30 minutes – think about that, and
  • 21,000 new Twitter accounts will be created

“But wait”, I hear you say, I’m concerned about B2B sales – should I care that Lady Gaga has 20 million followers on Twitter? (That’s about one person for every 20 people in the US, or one for every 400 in the world.)

I think we can learn from this – not just from the fact that Lady Gaga has 20 million Twitter followers – but the overall metamorphosis of human interaction that we are witnessing first hand. Because, if we observe carefully, we will see that consumers are often the first to travel the journey that businesses subsequently follow.

Consumer Behavior is a Predictor of Business Behavior

Consider the changes you’ve seen in business over the past 10 years – particularly when it comes to technology – and you will notice that consumer behavior is always a good indicator of what will happen in the business world.  Trends that you see in B2C interactions are usually followed by similar engagement in the B2B world.

As an example: Consumers were the first players in the App Economy, downloading applications from Apple’s  AppStore, only to be followed by businesses that are now both distributing and consuming applications in this self-service model.

In the software world, online application stores from new-economy players such as the AppExchange from salesforce.com, and Google’s Marketplace, now sit alongside offerings from the traditional software companies.  SAP provides the Ecohub that it describes as ‘the community-powered online solution marketplace that is your trusted source for discovering, evaluating, and buying solutions from SAP’.  Microsoft – who for a long time might have been accused of fighting the subscription economy – now has it’s own Marketplace where, as of March 2012, provided 70,000 apps, and looking to one of its main business application areas, Microsoft has made considerable investments in the Microsoft Dynamics Marketplace where it serves up ERP and CRM solutions.

HP and Oracle also jumped on the appstore bandwagon, both unveiling platforms (in late 2011) designed to help others get their own app store initiatives underway.  HP’s Storefront Portal offers a framework capable of enabling two-sided business models: wholesale and retail.  Oracle announced its own Digital Store platform, designed to help service providers manage the complete content lifecycle, spanning content submission, test and approval and storefront management of their app stores.

In April 2012, Amazon.com’s Amazon Web Services business, facing looming competition for its business of renting online data storage and computing, announced a store where customers will be able to rent business software from a number of third-party providers, including I.B.M., Microsoft and SAP. The offering appears to be something of a blend of the software as a service, or SaaS, business of companies like Salesforce.com and NetSuite, and the mobile app stores popularized by Apple and Google. Like SaaS, customers are renting their software, and can easily discontinue use in favor of another vendor, something much more difficult using traditional packaged software. And like an app store, the AWS Marketplace has several vendors, plus a means of discovery and comparison among products.

Think about this: Not all consumers are B2B buyers, but all B2B buyers are consumers. As if by osmosis, people are conditioned to new ways of thinking by the interactions they have as consumers, and begin to expect similar capability or convenience in their business connections and interplays. And it happens without any one noticing; incremental changes in behavior and expectation, satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

The fact remains that all business people – including both sellers and buyers – are consumers, and the lessons they learn in ‘consumer-land’ shape their thinking and expectations in “business-land’.

Consumers, salespeople and B2B buyers are changing, and not just in a small way. It’s almost as if we are seeing a remodeling or metamorphosis of the rules of both intrinsic and extrinsic behaviors before our eyes.  If we take the time to step back for a minute we can observe continuous evolution.  It is evident in how people connect, communicate, and collaborate, their quest for visible progress and feedback, their limited attention span, changing personal motivations, unusually peripatetic career paths, a desire for increased autonomy and self-mastery, actions more redolent of entrepreneurialism than traditional workplace obedience, a preference for where and how they work, an expectation or demand for an array of tools to apply, an acceptance of disruption and interruption, and a predilection to disrupt and interrupt.

If you’re hoping that today will be the day it doesn’t change, then I expect you are out of luck, and the best you could hope for is that the rate at which change is happening will find cause for pause, and you might get a chance to catch your breath.

On the other hand, you could choose to embrace the change, and be part of it, seeking new ways to do the tasks that are perhaps mundane or not operating optimally, and then – and here is the exciting part – you might find that there are new opportunities emerging that you never thought possible.

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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: Salesforce.com, 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?

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Dealmaker Index Example Report

The Dealmaker Index has been running now since early November 2011 and we have been learning a lot from all of the participants. Here is sample report so that you can see the kind of information you can get if you participate in this free study. The report comes in four parts: Summary Infographic, Executive Summary, Detailed Analysis and Personal Dealmaker Index Report. The Executive Summary and Detailed Analysis components each relate to the company Dealmaker Index score, and the Personal Dealmaker Index Report is tailored to the individual who completed the study.

Summary Infographic

Dealmaker Index - Sample Report Header

The infographic is a quick summary or dashboard of the results for each participant and their company.  On the left you can see the results for the participant’s company, starting with their Dealmaker Index overall score. In this example, the company scored well, and was graded at 77%, placing them in the High performers category.  This is an absolute score.  Below that Sample Co received 70% on the Peer Group Relative Performance scale. This means 30% of the peer group who participated in the study scored better. Immediately below that are the four sub-indices that together make up the overall Dealmaker Index score. As you may know, we measure sales velocity (i.e. the amount of revenue achieved per day) by more factors; the average deal Value, the Number of qualified opportunities, the Win Rate of those opportunities and the Sales Cycle.  The four sub-indices measured here, represents how well the participant’s company performs against the elements that determine whether they are optimizing their performance in each of these areas.

On the right hand side of the graphic are the absolute and relative personal Dealmaker Index scores for the individual who participated in the Dealmaker Index study.  Jane Smith did really well (89%), and is classified as a Dealmaker Ace.  Consequently she is at the top of her peer group.

You can participate in the Dealmaker Index Global Sales Benchmark Study yourself for free here.


Executive Summary

Based on the data provided, Sample Company has an overall Dealmaker Index of 77% which places the company in the High Performer category of participants in the Dealmaker Index study.

  • Dealmaker Value Index: 76%
  • Dealmaker Number Index: 76%
  • Dealmaker Win Rate Index: 75%
  • Dealmaker Sales Cycle Index: 80%

The level of revenue that is generated by any company in any sales period is a function of the number of deals or qualified sales opportunities that are being worked; the value of each sales opportunity; the percentage of those deals that are closed; and the inverse of the length of the sales cycle.

In the case of Sample Company, based solely on the information provided, the analysis of the attributes that contribute to the performance across each of the sub-indices provided the following insight. The initial analysis here is supplemented by detailed analysis later in the report.

Many factors influence the effectiveness of your sales organization, or the sales velocity you can achieve. If you can increase your performance in each of the metrics above the line by just 10%, i.e. grow the number of deals, the average value per deal, and the percentage close rate by 10%, and decrease the length of the sales cycle by 10%, you will increase your sales effectiveness by 48%. That’s equivalent to increasing your number of sales representatives by half, without making one additional sales hire.

Dealmaker Value Index: Value optimization doesn’t appear to be a major problem for your company. This of course means that you need to close fewer opportunities to achieve your revenue goal, and it is likely that the profitability of your deals is pretty good. Bear in mind – I’m making this assessment based on the information you provided me. Check that real differentiation is being well articulated consistently – particularly in a competitive situation. Look for avenues of expanded value offering to further optimize the return from each customer. [Minimal revenue increase potential]

Dealmaker Number Index: Based on the information you have provided, you’re better that average at finding good opportunities. Stay on it. Make sure the value you articulate is mapped to the buyer’s needs. Develop and replicate refined qualification processes. Shorten the ramp-up time for your new sales hires by incorporating – in an optimized sales process – the ‘best practices’ that are working. Look to the detailed analysis later to see areas where you might improve further. [Minimal revenue increase potential.]

Dealmaker Win Rate Index: The company would appear to have ingrained ‘closing’ behaviors, practices, and departmental interrelationships that support above average close ratios. Your company’s score – based solely on the information you provided – place you well above average for your ability to close deals. Make sure that the factors that govern this performance are further institutionalized in your company. [Minimal revenue increase potential.]

Dealmaker Sales Cycle Index: Now is the time to institutionalize the best practices you have developed to manage the length of your sales cycle. It would appear that your company’s performance in this area is quite a bit better than average. Make sure you have a living sales methodology, a buyer-centric sales process – all supported by technology to maintain your above average performance in this area – and facilitate continuous improvement. This will keep you at the top of the pyramid. [Minimal revenue increase potential.]

First Action: 5 Key Areas to Focus On: Keep, Change, or Stop

KEEP: I’m pleased to see that you have a well defined sales process. Hopefully it reflects the customer’s buying process. Our experience, and that of our customers, would suggest that having a well defined sales process, mapped to the customer’s buying process, and then executing well on the process, is a powerful accelerant to any company’s progress. Stay on it.

STOP: As the saying goes – companies don’t buy, people buy. Failing to gain access to key influencers in a deal is definitely one of the main reasons why deals are lost – and unfortunately it seems your company has some work to do here. You’ve said you’re not effective at gaining access. First, you need to identify who the real influencers are; and then consider things from their perspective. If you were in their shoes, why would you spend the time? Usually senior executives – who are often the key influencers – will only take a meeting if someone in their internal organization asks them to. The second key most likely to open the door is a referral from someone in their industry, perhaps a peer at a similar company. Unless you figure out how to gain access your win rate will definitely be sub-optimal.

KEEP: You’ve said that you are confident that your sales team is good at uncovering the customer’s business problem. That’s really good, and the alternative is not pretty. As you know, without understanding the customer’s business problem, there is no way you can know the value your offering will provide, or indeed even how to apply your solution to solving the problem. Then it becomes a feature or price battle, and that’s an abyss that, thankfully, you seem to be able to avoid.

KEEP: It’s evident from your input that you’re comfortable that the sales team is effective at differentiating against the competition. You seem to have this in hand, but is possibly worth revisiting the factors that would get in the way of this being untrue. There can be only three reasons for a sales team to fail this effectiveness test. (1) You don’t understand the Unique Business Value (See above) you provide, (2) You don’t know your competition – a grievous sin, or (3) You can’t position competitively. You have to be competent in the first two before you address the third. One more thing – I’m assuming that you understand the specific problem the customer is trying to solve (See above) because without that any effort spent on competitive differentiation is a waste of time.

KEEP: Our research suggests that sales people spend on average two and a half hours a week on sales forecasting. Yes, that’s right -150 selling minutes. And then the deals that are forecasted don’t close as forecasted. Thankfully you’re bucking the trend. That is really valuable to your company, as the alternative is one of the most damaging aspects of some sales teams’ behavior. You’re probably aware that there are evidence based sales forecast tools available, and you might be already using one. As you know you will achieve much greater sales forecast accuracy if the team follows a well defined sales process – one that is designed to map to the customer’s buying process (See above). Good work.


You can participate in the Dealmaker Index Global Sales Benchmark Study yourself for free here.


Detailed Analysis

Strategic Alignment
It’s good that you think that sales and company strategies are aligned. Selling against the corporate direction is hard, but it doesn’t seem like that is the case here. ~ It would be better if there was enough evidence for you to be clear that the sales and marketing functions worked well together. You’re saying you’re not sure about that. Sales and marketing alignment is crucial. Think of it this way: You’re supposed to be working together to beat the competition. Get everyone behind that goal with a shared purpose and common resolve. ~It’s good to see that you believe that the leadership of your company looks for strategic input from the sales organization. This is one up for the good guys. Nothing happens until someone sells something. The sales function is strategic, and so must be part of the overall strategic picture. Make sure those who need to know this, actually know this, and always consider what is going to ease the buyer (your customer) / seller (your sales organization) relationship. ~ When a company’s culture encourages support of the sales organization, it usually means that the focus is right on target. Congratulations, you’re in a good place, as it seems that the sales function is getting the support it needs. The sales team needs to hold up its end of the bargain and make sure that reciprocal respect is forthcoming.

Sales Process Analysis
I’m pleased to see that you have a well defined sales process. Hopefully it reflects the customer’s buying process. Our experience, and that of our customers, would suggest that having a well defined sales process, mapped to the customer’s buying process, and then executing well on the process, is a powerful accelerant to any company’s progress. Stay on it. ~ Read again what I said earlier regarding the importance of a well defined sales process. I’m pleased to see that you believe that your sales process is well understood and executed by the sales team? Assuming it is a well defined process – one that is mapped to your customer’s buying process – then you’re optimizing your chance of success. Well done. ~ Sometimes it is hard to get all of the company to understand that they are a critical cog in the sales machine, so I can understand why you’re uncertain about the ‘non-sales’ people’s understanding of their role in supporting the sales team’s execution of the sales process. Perhaps you might try this. Take out a piece of paper, or get to the white-board, and sketch out all of the touches a customer has with your company; this should cover how the phone gets answered when the customer calls; the product or service being used, the response time on queries; the stories in the press; your presence in the Social Universe, and so on. Then think about the steps in the sales cycle, and consider how each of these interactions might impact the execution of each step. That might help everyone understand the role they play. Understanding is usually the hardest part of this task. ~ Understanding sales process is fundamental. It’s as simple as that. The only long-term alternative is organizational pain. I’m glad that you recognize this. How can you arrive at the right destination if you don’t have a map? You’ve indicated that you think this is a Very Important competency for your company. I’d probably like to see it in the Essential category.

Sales Velocity
It is very positive that you feel good about the sales team’s ability to effectively qualify opportunities. I remember a wise experienced sales professional asking me one time why I was working on unqualified opportunities, when I could be making money. It is good that the team is focused on the latter. Continue to make sure that the definition of a qualified opportunity is clear to everyone and that the sales team has the skills, and inclination, to ask the hard qualifying questions. ~ You’re not confident that your sales close ratio is satisfactory. You need to ask yourself three questions. What is the underlying cause? What is the impact? What can you do to improve it? And then perhaps consider how you define win rate. Close ratio is one of the four main factors in the Sales Velocity Equation and a critical component of profitability. It costs real money (and of course time) to pursue each deal, and when you’re not achieving an acceptable win rate, both revenue and profitability suffer. There are really only two reasons why you ever lose a deal; (1) You shouldn’t have been in the deal in the first place – in other words you did not qualify correctly, and perhaps your offering is not suitable. See comments above on qualification. (2) This was a qualified opportunity, but you were outsold. Think about it and consider whether your sales process is truly aligned to the customer’s buying process, and whether the sales team has the right supporting tools to present the right value proposition to the customer at each stage in the buying cycle. Only then will you be able to guide the sale in the direction you need, thereby increasing your win rate. ~Being comfortable with the sales cycle duration is a very healthy indicator. You said that you think the sales cycle is about the length you think it should be. This is one of the fundamental factors in the Sales Velocity Equation, and a strong predictor of success.

You’ve been non-committal in your assessment as to whether your company is effective at maximizing the potential from your major accounts, or maybe you’re just unsure, or you don’t think it is applicable. If your major accounts are indeed ‘major’ then you can’t do this on your own, and you need corporate level buy in, and sustained commitment. Major account development takes time before it provides the return, and there is no point in trying to develop major accounts unless your company has the infrastructure, inclination and ability to apply the necessary resources to make it work.

Coaching and Getting the Basics Right
The first line sales management job is really difficult. But it is also particularly important. Managers should most of their time coaching. The answer you selected would suggest that this is the case. There is abundant research that supports the fact that sales teams who are frequently coached will dramatically over perform those who don’t receiving that kind of guidance. If the managers are spending their time chasing details of sales opportunities, there is very little value added to the sales person. Make sure that your company continues to do what it takes to make this embedded practice in your company. ~ It was Albert Einstein who said – never stop questioning. He might not have known it at the time but he was articulating one of the key commandments of the sales profession. Alongside listening and presentation skills, these are really basic skills that every salesperson should master. You’ve indicated that you’re pretty happy with this, and that is great. The good news is that if competencies begin to slip, this is one area that is pretty easy to fix. Keep up the good work. ~Efficient utilization of company resources is always important. You are in the happy position where you believe that the company efficiently allocates resources to well qualified opportunities. This means that resources are applied to the ‘most-deserving’ opportunities, and investments that you would like to see in other supporting functions, such as product development, marketing or support, are not being wasted. The sales organization should care deeply about this. ~ It is always healthy to retain an adequate focus on the basic skills. I am pleased that you view Level 1 Individual Selling Skills as Very Important. These skills are foundational. ~ Demonstrable Level 2 Selling Skills (Gaining Executive Access, Discovery, and Understanding Customer Needs etc.) are some of the most common skill deficits that lead to missed revenue. Recognizing the importance of this is crucial, and I’m pleased to see that you share this perception. Now, just be sure that your program to embed these skills is sustained.

Social Media
Whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, company blogs, YouTube video channels, self-service capabilities on the Internet like Dealmaker Genius and Dealmaker Index, and community sites are examples of just some of the facilities in the Social Universe being used by your customers, and your competitors – and it’s not just for consumer focused businesses. If your company is not really leveraging social media it is undoubtedly developing a competitive disadvantage for itself. Not all social channels need to be used, but to use an off-line analogy, this is where your customers are ‘hanging-out’. This is an increasingly important destination for your customers, and it’s where they are increasingly having conversations. If you’re not part of the conversation, then it is less likely that you will be the person they call when a business opportunity arises. It’s that simple.

Keeping Customers
You’re not ready to say that your customer retention rate is satisfactory, and that is a concern for me. Customer retention is an issue you must address if you’re to pursue a sustainable growth strategy, or even if you just need to achieve a healthy profit margin. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, customer retention is not usually a result of price pressure or product features or capability. More often customers switch to an alternative supplier because they are unhappy with the service being provided. Now armed with that knowledge, what actions can you take to improve your customer retention rates? ~ You must be pleased that your company understands that effectively developing and maintaining long term customer relationships is the key to achieving an optimum renewal rate for your recurring business. You’ve said that you believe renewal rates are satisfactory. Keep effectively communicating with your customers and continue to elevate the renewal conversations to a business level, demonstrating the true benefits of renewing from a customerÆs perspective.

Competitive Differentiation
Differentiation is key. There is just so much noise out there. And clearly your company has figured it out. You said that your sales team finds it easy to differentiate your offering. While everyone else is talking about USPs or Unique Selling Proposition, your team is more likely thinking in terms of a Unique Buying Proposition, or a Unique Business Value, or they might call it a Unique Value Proposition. In any case, you’ve figured out that it should be considered from the buyer’s perspective. That works. ~ As the saying goes – companies don’t buy, people buy. Failing to gain access to key influencers in a deal is definitely one of the main reasons why deals are lost – and unfortunately it seems your company has some work to do here. You’ve said you’re not effective at gaining access. First, you need to identify who the real influencers are; and then consider things from their perspective. If you were in their shoes, why would you spend the time? Usually senior executives – who are often the key influencers – will only take a meeting if someone in their internal organization asks them to. The second key most likely to open the door is a referral from someone in their industry, perhaps a peer at a similar company. Unless you figure out how to gain access your win rate will definitely be sub-optimal. ~ You’ve said that you are confident that your sales team is good at uncovering the customer’s business problem. That’s really good, and the alternative is not pretty. As you know, without understanding the customer’s business problem, there is no way you can know the value your offering will provide, or indeed even how to apply your solution to solving the problem. Then it becomes a feature or price battle, and that’s an abyss that, thankfully, you seem to be able to avoid.

Your company clearly understands that the key to crafting solutions aligned with the customer’s need is to first understand the customer’s business problem. (See above) You’ve indicated that the sales organization is good at designing solutions. This is a very valuable asset in your company. To ensure that you maximize this advantage, you might consider using collaborative techniques with the customer to ascertain specific, and I mean very specific, features or attributes of your product/solution/offering that can be applied to solve very specific aspects of the customer’s problem. I know you would never do this, but the temptation is often to pitch your entire solution to solve the customer’s entire problem, and that approach rarely provides adequate insight for the customer as to how you bring real differential advantage. ~ It’s evident from your input that you’re comfortable that the sales team is effective at differentiating against the competition. You seem to have this in hand, but is possibly worth revisiting the factors that would get in the way of this being untrue. There can be only three reasons for a sales team to fail this effectiveness test. (1) You don’t understand the Unique Business Value (See above) you provide, (2) You don’t know your competition – a grievous sin, or (3) You can’t position competitively. You have to be competent in the first two before you address the third. One more thing – I’m assuming that you understand the specific problem the customer is trying to solve (See above) because without that any effort spent on competitive differentiation is a waste of time. ~ Harking back to an earlier comment, we know how important it is to be able to effectively describe the value that you can bring to a customer. You’re clearly comfortable enough to say that this is something that your sales team can do well. That’s not as common as you think – so, well done. Many organizations struggle with this. I’d strongly recommend that you maintain a deep focus on this. Here’s what I would suggest. Go to your CEO, Head of Product Development, or Head of Marketing, and ask them a question in two parts. Firstly – would your customers care if your company went out of business? Next – what is it about the products or service you offer that they would miss most? If the answer to the first question is no, then you’ve got a bigger problem than I can help you with here; but if it’s not, then the answer to the second question should be illuminating.

Sales Methodology & CRM
Most sales methodologies are poorly implemented, the training books gathering dust on the shelf. One of the ways to address this problem is to tightly integrate the sales methodology into your CRM System. When I say tightly integrate, I mean surfacing the methodology in context when the deal is being worked. I don’t mean just adding the fields to the CRM or adding a ‘dumb’ (read not intelligent) data entry form. The integration should be smart enough to identify for you vulnerabilities in the deal, acting like a sales coach always there to help while proactively offering suggestions. You say that your sales methodology is effectively integrated with your CRM. Does the integration provide you with all of these benefits? If not, it is a missed opportunity (pun intended). ~

You can refer to them as Key Accounts, Strategic Accounts, or Major Accounts, or whatever you want; but when a company is successful at penetrating large accounts, it is usually because they’ve followed a structured account planning methodology. Based on the level of importance you’ve assigned to this competency, you’ve clearly identified this. But, as you know, Key Account Planning and Management is not for every company, or sales person, as it requires significant resources and a certain type of business model or level of product maturity. Make sure that this is the optimum time for your company to allocate resources in this area, or if other areas should receive your focus. ~ It’s a positive statement that you’ve selected a sales methodology. I’m not going to comment here on the usage levels of the methodology in your company, as I want you to step back with me for a second and make sure that we’re setting the bar high enough. Implementing a sales methodology is not a trivial initiative. It is expensive to do and expensive to sustain. But when it is done well (an all too infrequent occurrence) it can deliver dramatic benefits. Here are a few principles to consider: Don’t think that a tactical sales training event will have a strategic impact on your business; Do give your sales team the credit that they deserve – they do want to apply sales methodology to be more successful, it’s just that in many cases in the past it’s just been too hard to do; Don’t waste your money on sales methodology/sales training unless you’re prepared to set quantifiable business results that you want to achieve; Do measure yourself against those goals; Give adequate time to consider the role that technology has to play in sustaining the effectiveness of your sales methodology. Recent developments in this area are very exciting.

As your business develops you might give some thought to the strategic nature of the CRM, and examine whether your current CRM system approach will get you to where you need to be. Consider the reason why you purchased the CRM in the first place. Less than one in five CRM installation succeed in driving revenue for the customer. When intelligent sales process, sales methodology and CRM are well integrated, significant revenue advances occur. As you probably know, there have been considerable advances in CRM capabilities in recent years – particularly in respect of integration capabilities. Make sure you are taking full advantage. ~ Now that you’ve had the CRM in place for more than five years, you’ve had the opportunity to get all of the best practices embedded, and, in terms or organizational effort, there are really no excuses for a sub-optimal implementation.

Revenue Performance Management
Our research suggests that sales people spend on average two and a half hours a week on sales forecasting. Yes, that’s right -150 selling minutes. And then the deals that are forecasted don’t close as forecasted. Thankfully you’re bucking the trend. That is really valuable to your company, as the alternative is one of the most damaging aspects of some sales teams’ behavior. You’re probably aware that there are evidence based sales forecast tools available, and you might be already using one. As you know you will achieve much greater sales forecast accuracy if the team follows a well defined sales process – one that is designed to map to the customer’s buying process (See above). Good work. ~ Congratulations on the fact that you have and use a clearly defined process for managing your sales forecast. If you don’t have a defined process, then any degree of accuracy you achieve is pure chance and down to the individuals who are the component parts of the rolled-up sales forecast. The subjectivity inherent in that approach is your enemy. It is not an approach you can trust, and it’s certainly not an approach that can scale if your business grows. Stay true to the discipline. It will serve you well.

I’m not sure I even know why I asked this question – but there were many that disagreed. It defies me to understand how a company could operate in today’s fast moving world if sales forecasting is not at the heart of the business. You strongly agreed with the statement ‘Our sales forecast is a critical component of the overall business planning’. It just has to be. ~ There are a lot of myths around pipeline management. The most dangerous one is that bigger is always better. People talk about the need for 3x, or 5x, but in reality that rarely considers sales cycle duration or funnel velocity. One of the most important attributes of a pipeline is its integrity. The opportunities in the pipeline need to be real and active. That’s the only way for the pipeline to give an accurate picture of future business. Thankfully in your case, you agreed with the statement that the sales pipeline gives an accurate picture of future business. Continue with your pipeline management practices. Continue to qualify hard and clean out dead deals.

The hardest thing to deal with in business is a surprise. There are revelations, bluebirds and bombshells, but whatever the form, any surprise usually causes business disruption. When one materializes in the form of missed revenue, or inaccurate sales guidance, then the pain can be severe. You can end up with too much inventory on the shelves, too little stock in the stores, disgruntled shareholders, or dissatisfied customers; all because your sales forecast was inaccurate. And that’s without considering the productivity impact on the sales organization referenced elsewhere in this report. Clearly you understand this, and I’m thrilled to see that you think that a competency in sales forecasting is Essential. ~ While many companies’ financial quarters force measurement in four financial quarters, few customers’ buying cycles maintain a similar rhythm. Focus on this competency is all too rare, and you should be proud that it’s getting the attention that it is at your company. Maintaining a strong pipeline is the only way to constantly have enough deals in hand to avoid a sinusoidal revenue profile. Pipeline management can be a complex endeavor, but, as you know, it merits prioritized attention, as without it you end up in what feels like an almost circadian pattern of surprises. And you know what that means.

You can participate in the Dealmaker Index Global Sales Benchmark Study yourself for free here.

Personal Dealmaker Index Report

Based on what you’ve told me, I’ve calculated you have a Personal Dealmaker Index of 89%. I’ve assessed both your approach to sales and your execution ability, and you’re in the Dealmaker Ace category.

There are a number of elements that are factored into this analysis, but clearly there are some things that I have not been able to consider. I hope that as you review the analysis you will get some ideas that will prompt action and will help you increase your sales performance and reach your full potential.

Sales Engagement
You will generally make more progress and gain more insight talking to customers than in any other activity. I’m not entirely sure you are having enough customer meetings. Step away from the computer and call someone. ~ Analyzing why you won or lost a deal is possibly the most valuable insight you can get to what you should change (or keep) about your approach to a customer. How else can you uncover such deep market insight? If you’re doing it less than half of the time – you said 25-50% – you’re missing out on more than half of the insight. That’s not my recommended approach. ~ As you know, I’ve said before that a sales process is fundamental, and I’m glad to see that you’re on the same page. If you could nudge your application of this discipline from ‘Most of the time’ to ‘All of the time’ I believe you will see a noticeable difference in your results. ~ There is conclusive evidence that a referral from a peer is one of the most effective ways to gain access to busy executives, and get the chance to explore business opportunities. If you have delivered value to one customer and built up some credibility, then you’ve earned the right to ask for a referral. You say you are asking for referrals more than half of the time. If so, you know that this is one of your most valuable sources of leads and opportunities. Try to improve on the ratio. ~ You’ve selected ‘Needs Analysis’ as the most important stage of the sales cycle, and you are absolutely correct. Well done. Unless you can figure out what the customer really wants, all of the rest of the steps are less valuable. ~ I’m glad you selected ‘Needs Analysis’ as the most difficult stage in the sales cycle. Based on my experience it is the area where most sales people fail – and then everything else falls apart. In my opinion, Needs Analysis is both the most important and the most difficult. Getting behind the customer’s business problem is a skill very few have mastered.

Personal Perspective
So, you’ve figured out that in most cases customers will only buy from you when that is a best choice for them. Usually that means you need to be able to differentiate your product from your competitor’s offering. You’ve indicated that you’re pretty effective at this. It is always good to check that you are doing the best job you can here. Perhaps you might take the time to validate your perspective with your customers or colleagues. You may well learn something. ~ In a competitive situation most sales people fail. That is a mathematical certainty. Developing a competitive strategy for an opportunity means that you consider the people involved, the problems they have and the relative strength of your solution compared to your competitors’ – all in the context of the customer’s decision criteria. Most sales people don’t craft a competitive strategy, though – based on your input – I’m pleased to see that you are an exception. Keep it up. ~ You really only have control of two things; who you meet, and what you do when you meet them. It’s clear that you appreciate this. You’ve said that you’re always clear about what you want to achieve in advance of a meeting. That’s great. You might also think about considering why you might not achieve your call objectives, and develop a ‘Plan B’.

You have indicated that your negotiation skills are well developed. Make sure that you are not just negotiating at the ‘negotiation stage’ in the sales cycle. In truth, how you position your solution right through the sales cycle sets up the negotiation landscape. ~ As you know, you need to be having business conversations with business leaders if you are to be a successful sales professional. Based on your input it would appear that you know that this means you need to understand how to read an Income Statement, understand a company’s 10K filing, and look for strengths and weaknesses in a Balance Sheet. When executives want to discuss ROI, understanding the underlying fundamentals that the financial calculations are based on is the key. Perhaps you might check your skills level with your CFO or other executives. ~ Communication with your peers enriches the fabric of your knowledge – always. I’m glad that you understand that your success is tightly linked to how well you communicate with your peers. We all need help. ~ Your job as a sales person is to deliver value to your customer. At least that is my opinion. It’s the only way I know how to maintain long term relationships and build a personal business portfolio. Sometimes that requires tough love. I take it from your answer that you’re in agreement with that. I’m pleased to see that. It underpins the integrity of the relationship.

Leveraging Infrastructure and Systems
You seem to have a healthy relationship with your CRM. It is not always fun, but effectively used it should help you to better manage your personal business. ~ There is a direct correlation between consistent usage of a (good) methodology and revenue performance. You seem to be on the right track here. ~ LinkedIn is a good source of networking insight. With the recent additional capability (following etc.) it can be a valuable resource. Your usage appears to be quite healthy. ~ Facebook has not yet penetrated the business world enough for it to deserve the same focus as LinkedIn. In my opinion, it has value in a pure social networking sense, but you need to manage the noise levels well. To get the ‘network benefit’ you probably need to participate a little more than you are currently doing I think. ~ If you’re looking for up to date information on what is happening in you marketplace, Twitter is the place to ‘hang out’. If you do nothing else except listen to the conversation it can be a truly valuable resource. You’ve recognized that, and that’s a plus. Remember the shelf life of a tweet is really short, so frequent visits are necessary.

You can participate in the Dealmaker Index Global Sales Benchmark Study yourself for free here.


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The Value of Standards or Benchmarking in Sales

Nearly every professional sales manager or sales executive that I’ve ever spoken to bemoans the fact that it is really hard to quantitatively assess the likelihood of success of a new sales hire.  Equally, they are frequently exercised with determining, on some relative scale, whether their sales team is as good as it could be or better or worse than other sales teams in competitive organizations.

When I speak about this topic to professional sales trainers or consultants the response is the same.  There are no easily accessible standards, benchmarks or measures that can be used as a reference point.

One of the fundamental problems of course that creates this shaky foundation is that there are few recognized professional qualifications for sales people or sales management or standards with which the sales profession must comply. Most professions have accredited qualifications and standards. Lawyers can’t practice without sitting their bar exams and then they must follows the rules set out by the ABA.  An accountant may qualify as a CPA and then rigorously adopt the principles of GAAP.  Doctors toil their way through medical school and are subsequently governed by the AMA.

But for the sales professional or sales organization there are no quantifiable measures by which they can be judged, or measured by their peers.  Quota achievement, though important, does not cut it as a yardstick of an individual’s professionalism, or as a solid predictor of future execution. Relative, rather than absolute performance of a company’s sales team is a more secure indicator of company success.  Current available metrics are a little bit all over the place.  I’m trying to change that.

For standards to emerge in any ecosystem, there must be some cooperation between numerous parties, an agreed metric by which professionalism can be measured.  With one or more entities acting as the Initiator, who create an easily accessible engagement mechanism, possibilities emerge.  That was the vision behind the creation of the Dealmaker Index – an automated sales benchmarking and advice service that is free to all – and I’m grateful for the support of my fellow travelers on this journey.

We are in search of a starting point, a place where the conversation can begin, and the sales profession can engage to begin to develop a recognizable standard, that for both individuals and companies can, in a self-regulating manner, establish a benchmark for the-best-of-the best.

I will describe the Dealmaker Index in more detail later, but first I’d like to present my thoughts on the benefits of benchmarking, and the main steps in a benchmarking process. [Some of these thoughts are informed by a paper by Accenture – Achieving High Performance – The Value of Benchmarking]

The Benefits of Benchmarking For Sales

Benchmarking delivers five primary benefits for companies looking to improve the performance of their sales organization.

  1. The first benefit is a current-state assessment of the function that goes beyond the typical lagging indicators or win-rate, quota achievement, deal size, or market penetration.  These lagging indicators are a consequence of the efficacy of leading behaviors in the sales team, how effectively the sales team interacts with the entire company, and the depth of its interaction with the marketplace, including its customers, partners and competitors.  But those leading indicators are rarely measured.
  2. Having achieved a comprehensive assessment of the current–state, a company can develop a foundation for transformative programs.  It is enabled to more easily identify and prioritize opportunities for improvement.
  3. The third reason to invest in benchmarking is as a basis for continuous improvement.  By definition this is on-going and only practical when the system that underpins the benchmarking process allows for evolution of ‘the current state’, and also permits iterative measures of progress.
  4. Perhaps one of the most impactful benefits of the benchmarking process is that everyone involved gains a shared understanding of the current state; and vision of the journey upon the enterprise must embark.
  5. Diagnosis without prescription is sub-optimal, and while the preceding benefits I’ve outlined above have inherent worth, without effective prescription, the patient remains ill.  However, when a benchmarking process can dig into an informed knowledge source, and apply that knowledge in the context of the company’s current state, true value transfers to the organization and quantifiable value emerges.

The Main Phases in the process of Benchmarking For Sales

At a high level, the four steps in the benchmarking process are:

  1. Data Collection
  2. Quantitative and qualitative assessment
  3. Absolute and relative performance analysis
  4. Comprehensive prescriptive advice

Benchmarking is only valuable if you can turn insight in to action, and that what we have tried to help you do with the Dealmaker Index free service.

The Dealmaker Index Sales Effectiveness Benchmark

Based on an analysis of 92 sales performance factors, mapped against proven successful approaches, the Dealmaker Index measures the effectiveness of sales organizations and sales individuals. It analyzes their activities, behaviors and attitudes and their strategic alignment with their companies and the resulting sales velocity they can achieve.  Using this data the engine behind the Dealmaker Index assesses the impact across areas such as deal close rates, sales cycle management, value creation and sales opportunity development. It then produces a detailed custom sales performance success roadmap for both individuals and companies.  This has been extensively reviewed by leading independent analysts as well as by the Dealmaker Index distribution partners (The TAS Group, ES Research, InsideView, DurhamLane, Inflexion Point, and The Bee Group) – so I’m pretty confident that it provides real value to the participants, and is a good foundation we can build on to create a standard global index of sales performance.

Absolute Performance Scores and Peer Comparison: Every participant in the Dealmaker Index study receives a Dealmaker Index score for their company, and a Personal Dealmaker Index as well as a ranking relative to their peers.

Actionable Data: The Dealmaker Index provides:

  • The Executive Summary Report identifies 5 key action areas for immediate improvement, as well as an overview of the company’s Dealmaker Index.
  • The Company Detailed Analysis and Recommendations Report, provides guidance to the company on Strategic Alignment, Sales Process Analysis, Sales Velocity, Sales Coaching, Social Media, Customer Retention, Competitive Differentiation, Sales Methodology, CRM and Revenue Performance Management. This comprehensive report, tailored for the individual company typical exceeds 3000 words of in-depth advice.
  • The Personal Dealmaker Index Report looks at the performance of the individual sales professional, analyzing his or her capability, how he or she approaches a sales engagement, his or her personal sales perspectives and the efficacy of his or her use of sales systems and infrastructure.

Your participation and support is important

Benchmarking can be a powerful tool for helping a sales organization ensure that it is not way behind its competitors.  It quantifies the current state, analyzes the situation and can define the roadmap to optimal sales performance.

But my aspirational goal is higher than that.  With your help I think we can raise the standards in the industry, and provide a measure we can all turn to. Think what that might do for the economy.

So, here’s my ask.  Head on over to the Dealmaker Index to get your own score, your position relative to your peers, and your own personalized advice.  But more importantly, tell other people about it.  Tweet this blog post.  Email your colleagues the link to Dealmaker Index, and next time you meet a sales person – ask her for her Dealmaker Index score.

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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.

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We are all individuals. We are all different. I’m not!

Broad sweeping statements are always entirely without value. (Yes, inherent contradiction intended.) The same goes for a marketing or sales message cooked in a pot of homogeneity, without any spice of individualization.  If I’m the recipient of this mediocre melange, I’m bored already.  It is bland, banal, and bromidic and takes no account of my personal preference. It doesn’t work for my palate. (Enough food metaphors!)

I’m reminded of a scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian.  It goes like this …

Brian: Please, please, please listen! I’ve got one or two things to say.
Crowd: Tell us! Tell us both of them!
Brian: Look, you’ve got it all wrong! You don’t NEED to follow ME, You don’t NEED to follow ANYBODY! You’ve got to think for your selves! You’re ALL individuals!
Crowd: Yes! We’re all individuals!
Brian: You’re all different!
Crowd: Yes! We ARE all different!
Man in crowd: I’M not.
The Crowd: Shhhh

The truth of course is that we are all very different.  We all have different tastes, predilection or penchants, wants and needs.  The mass customization that we see taking place all around us is testament to that. Each one of us can decide how we order our coffee at Starbucks, what apps we use on our iPhones, how we set our personal music preferences on Pandora, what privacy settings we apply on Facebook (no oxymoron intended), who we choose to follow on Twitter, or even what color we want in our pack of M&Ms.

For the most part, these are all consumer based examples. But while all consumers are not our customers, all of our customers are consumers. History tells us that consumer behavior is always a predictor of  B2B behavior.  (Yes, there’s another broad sweeping statement.) Personalization demands are extreme – with few exceptions.

So, why do so many marketing consultants and practitioners espouse standard Value Propositions and ‘Sales Ready Messaging‘?  Such messaging, born in market segmentation sessions, or focus groups, is anything but sales ready.  Bereft of individualization, this cookie cutter approach reduces the salesperson’s role to that of a carrier pigeon, delivering the message, but not creating any value for the individual customer.

For the information starved customer, message or information delivery had its place – but that time is long past.  When customers evolved to adopt the sophisticated, informed, and discerning profile that they have today, this approach stopped working.  In fact, suppliers who adopted the Credo of the Sales Ready Messaging wallow in a misguided comfort that their marketing collateral and sales documents are on message and so their work is done.

But the customer species has moved on, and many mutations later, has evolved into a multitude of sub-species, each requiring different care and feeding. Each of us (suppliers) needs to focus on each of them (customers) and understand that the quantum of value that we can provide is directly proportional to the specificity of the Unique Business Value that we can bring to them.  This is achieved by applying the specific attributes or sub-components of our solutions to the specific elements of the problem they are trying to solve.  Anything else is (in most cases) an extreme disservice.

Trying to apply principles defined as credo in the Information Age to customers in the Intelligence Age (what I call the current stage of evolution) is as purposeless as applying principles of the Industrial Age to customers in the Information Age.  It just doesn’t work.  Our customers have access to all of the information they need.  [Broad Sweeping Statement]. There is little value that we can provide by just being conduits of information, or the carrier pigeon delivering the message.  Applying information heuristically in the context of the customer’s challenge, and appropriate to the nature of your interaction with them, is the essence of sustained differentiation and long-term customer relationships.

But it is not easy to do, and even harder to scale. Today’s generation of CRM systems do nothing to help.  In most cases it would be generous to even use the term information to describe the data most CRM systems collect.  To infer intelligent outcomes and recommend intelligent actions, data must be much more cleverly structured to deserve to be called information, and only then unless smart reasoning based on engineered knowledge can be applied, we fall short of intelligence.

The individual nature of our demands necessitates a smarter (read intelligently automated) approach from the sales person who comes to call.  Predictive systems are getting better at this in the consumer world, where, for example, Amazon will make buying recommendations based on purchasing history and what other ‘people like me’ bought.

In a B2B sales world, what would it be like if when you were reviewing a sales opportunity, your intelligent sales system could look into the future and predict the vulnerabilities in the deal, based on the information you provided, and reasoned (not analyzed) through a smart knowledge base to recommend a winning way forward?  Those of you who use Dealmaker Coach Me know how close we are to that today.

And what if when you are planning a sales call, you could click on your laptop or tap on your iPad, to learn what you should achieve on that call, what the plan should be, and how you might execute the plan?

Applying technology in this way is all about profitably scaling the confluence of supplier and buyer individuality - and this in my opinion, will become a baseline of sales performance.

As Brian said: “You’re all individuals. You’re all different.

And your customers are too; – well most of them anyway.

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We want to hear from you and give you an iPad 2 for your trouble

We can all get so excited by our products that we forget that the customer doesn’t really care.  When we’re looking elsewhere, we overlook what the customer really cares about.  We’re aimed at what’s possible while the customer is focused on what’s broken.  More often than not, we just need to shut up about the vision, and just help the customer fix what’s broken – and address whatever is causing her pain today.

Never before has it been so important to understand why a customer buys your product. What pain are you curing? Well there is one way to find out. Go ask your existing customers how they use your product and what benefit they believe they receive.  It’s amazing what you can learn.

Just recently The TAS Group launched the ‘Win an iPad2 Project’ to learn how end-users are benefiting from Dealmaker or TAS – and each month the user who gives the best example of how they used our products to win a sale,  manage their sales team, or increase their sales forecast accuracy, wins an Apple iPad 2.

We were prompted to do this because our interaction is usually with the business buyer, or the project manager who is responsible for implementing our solutions, and we don’t get enough sustained direct engagement with our end-users.  There are also some TAS aficionados out there who are no longer with their original company but who still are using Target Account Selling (TAS) to win deals – and we are very happy about that. When we do meet them and they see where we have taken TAS – they are usually very excited, if a little surprised that we are now provide the Dealmaker intelligent software application with TAS embedded.

In any case, what we have found is that when the user base is as large as ours now has become, it is just not possible to hear from everyone.

We do invest considerable resources in deep engagement with our customers – long after the sale. (You will perhaps have seen my recent blog post about how ITS improved their win rate by 58% using Dealmaker), and we were very pleased when Aberdeen Research published its independent study (sorry, registration required to get this) that shows that customers of The TAS Group attain 21% higher quota achievement.  But it is just not the same. Don’t get me wrong – these are clearly very gratifying stories.  I just don’t think it is quite the same as hearing about how Jane or John won that critical deal because our solutions helped. I have to believe that we are missing out on pearls of wisdom.

So, when this Tell Us Your Story and Win an iPad project was proposed, it was clearly a no-brainer.  (BTW, depending on how much this version of the project resonates with our customers, we may well step up the activity, and perhaps launch a Dealmaker of the Year competition with a nice juicy prize. Anyone fancy joining me in an all-expenses-paid golf-trip to Ireland?)

I think we are unique in the industry because our company is in effect the amalgam of two distinct disciplines: intelligent software applications and deep sales methodologies. And, I believe, we are the only company in our space who invests millions of dollars every year in a dedicated R&D center.  We listen to our customers through our on-going support forums and heavily use our Customer Success Charter to maximise the return for our customers , but yet I’m not satisfied that we hear enough from the end-users; and unless we are super-clear as to the problems they have and the benefits they receive then we are not learning all that we should.

In our case, our future product direction is a combination of customer input, market research, and vision.  The last of these is important, as it always is for a company providing a disruptive solution.  Before Dealmaker was built no one would have known to ask for an intelligent software application to guide the sales person to win a deal; so that’s where the vision piece comes in.  But vision informed by stories from the coal-face is always the optimum solution.

So, we do want to hear from you.  I know you have valuable stories to tell.  And we are all ears.  Who knows you might even win an iPad.

(Phew – I didn’t even mention social media or Google+ once.  Oh nuts, I just did.)

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