Archive for the ‘Technology’

What Customers Should You Pursue in 2015?

US Map


In business, there are really only two things that you control; who you call on, and what you say when you get there. If you put the effort into deciding what customers you call on, you are much likely to be effective when you get there. This applies as much to individual sellers as it does to those responsible for developing the company’s strategic sales or marketing approach.

So, how do you decide where to spend your selling time in 2015? You need to decide where to prioritize your time, because not all account or opportunities (or markets) are equal.

How to Get Started

In the simple graphic here I have listed 10 companies that I am considering for my 2015 sales plan. Some of these will be existing customers and some are prospects. There will likely be a broad span of company types (and opportunity size) spread across these accounts. When I encounter a large account with a lot of potential I will likely want to develop a complete account plan for that specific account, but I will get to that in a separate post. In the first instance I should prioritize these 10 accounts based on Current Revenues and Future Revenues.

If you have read my book Account Planning in Salesforce you will know that I always view an account or a set of accounts as a market(place). In that market, you want to be the market leader, and you want to cover as many market segments as possible, but only where the return justifies the effort, and where you can achieve meaningful segment penetration. ?In an ideal world you would like to cover 100% of the market. Realistically, because resources are scarce and your time is at a premium, you have to make choices and prioritize your efforts in areas that will generate the most opportunity. Plotting each of these accounts using Current Revenues and Futures Revenues as your guide will help you to determine your prioritized areas of focus.

Current Revenues: This is a picture of the business you are currently doing with your existing customers. Obviously you want to record the sales you achieved in this account over the past year, but you should also be mindful of the profitability of that business and the level of sales resource required to win or service those deals.

Future Revenues: This is much harder to assess than Current Revenues because much of the data required is subjective. In the chart above I have created a simplified version of Future Revenues so that if you don’t have an automated tool to help you it may provide you with a framework to get started.

You need to understand the profile of the customer’s business; how are they performing? Is the market growing? Equally well, you should obviously pay attention to the Opportunity Profile in that account; is there a good solution fit? What is the strategic value? Are there known short-term needs etc.? Finally, you might also consider your Relationships in each of these accounts.

Where to Focus?

For my sample 10 companies I have plotted Current Revenues and Future Revenues for each. Based on this analysis I have categorized each into separate quadrants.

  • In the A Quadrant, I have three accounts (Company 3, 4, and 7) where there are both high Current Revenues and an expectation of high Future Revenues. There is, in fact, a significant “gap” between our current situation and the revenue we could realize. If we don’t invest in these accounts it is likely that there will be a drop off in revenue. I should complete a full Account Plan for each of these accounts.
  • You can see in the B Quadrant, there are also three companies, and here I expect that there will be high Future Revenues for each of them. Once more, as in the A Quadrant, there is a significant “gap” between our current situation and the revenue we could realize.  These should be part of my 2015 sales plan.
  • How I manage the accounts in the C Quadrant should now be a little different based on my analysis. The lower right-hand quadrant indicates there is no future potential over and above what we are currently getting. But you should consider how to protect your current revenue level and evaluate the consequence or impact if you don’t?
  • The lower left-hand D Quadrant is an easy one. There is a little current revenue and little or no future potential and these two accounts (Companies 2 and 8) might best be left to the marketing department to manage and nurture.

Standardizing Your Approach

It is always best to have a clear definition in your company as to what determines the fate of each account. The elements I used to assess Future Revenues are likely to be a little different in your own company. (See below a screen shot from Dealmaker Smart Account Manager that shows a more detailed example.)

You should consider the elements that you care about for Current Revenues and Future Revenues and be clear on definition of each of the elements. For example, you might have an internal debate to determine what High, Medium, or Low means in the context of last year’s closed revenue. Depending on your current go-to-market strategy you make not be as focused on the Opportunity Profit History as others, and might want to weight it accordingly. Make a conscious decision and then apply it consistently across all your territory or portfolio assessments.

As I said at the outset; there are really only two things that you control; who you call on, and what you say when you get there. As you plan for 2015, I strongly suggest you apply the adequate effort in selecting what accounts you pursue. It is worth the effort and will free you up to spend your time wisely on accounts where you can maximize the return on your effort.

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(Sales) Interaction Design

idI had an interesting discussion just the other day about the [putative] rise of social selling; increase in virtual, rather than physical, sales engagement; and the rush to redeploy field sales resources to inside sales. The topic being discussed was how, or if, a company should adjust its sales strategy to accommodate or leverage these new capabilities. I have a few thoughts about this and I would welcome your opinion.

There is a growing body of opinion that these “trends” (social, virtual, inside) are the ‘new normal’, and unless you quickly adopt them, and switch your investments from other (possibly successful) models, that you are doomed to failure. I shudder at the thought of this.

With any ‘new paradigm’ in sales and marketing there is a need to consider why the paradigm is emerging and how this new facility, or modality of engagement, impacts the blueprint for the interaction between buyer and seller.

I refer to the creation of this blueprint as Interaction Design, a term perhaps more frequently used by UX or other professionals who concern themselves with how a user will interact with technology.

Interaction Design focuses on creating engaging interfaces with well thought out behaviors. Understanding how users and technology communicate with each other is fundamental to this field. With this understanding, you can anticipate how someone might interact with the system, fix problems early, as well as invent new ways of doing things. (Ref:

Shouldn’t sales and marketing professionals be concerned with understanding the communication with their customers? Isn’t there great value to be had if you could anticipate how a buyer might interact with the [sales and marketing go to market] system, fix problems early, as well as invent new ways of doing things?

Interaction Design should be applied to how a sales person, or a whole company’s sales and marketing organization, interacts with customers throughout all of the phases of a selling or buying cycle. We know that the combination of company, brand, or product impacts customer loyalty less that the sales experience – the actual interaction with the seller. So shouldn’t we be looking to provide our buyers with a great ‘user experience’?

I am not saying that there is not value in social, virtual and inside – not at all. But in the absence of deeply considered deployment, we run the risk of damaging the buyer’s user experience. We first need to design the sales interaction in painstaking detail. Otherwise we will burn cycles, prospects, customers, and the careers of our sales people, in pursuit of these latest trends.  Thinking long and hard about how the customer will want to engage in the buyer/seller interaction is not necessarily easy, but as a carpenter, tailor or surgeon will tell you, it is always better to measure twice and cut once.

The challenge we now face is that with the proliferation of automation fueling social, inside and virtual, we have an opportunity to screw up our sales efforts really quickly. Just because it scales, doesn’t mean we should do it – at least not until the design work has been done. The corollary of this of course is that if your competitors have figured it out before you before you do, then you will be a competitive disadvantage. That’s one of the conundrums we face in a world with such advances in technology and rapidly evolving dynamics. Still, better to be late than to destroy what you have while trying to be early.

Interaction Design, when applied to the sales engagement, is something we at The TAS Group consider to be part of Smart Sales Transformation, and can be something as fundamental as building a smart sales playbook that guides the sellers to anticipate buyer actions, or a system that connects your solutions to the customers business problems.

Taking a customer-first perspective in all that you do helps to ensure that your buyer has a better user experience. Once the ideal interaction has been designed, you can visualize how the engagement happens – from the customer’s perspective – see what outcome you want at each point in the interaction, and then see how social, virtual and inside can help accelerate the velocity of the interactions for increased effectiveness or equal effectiveness with greater efficiency.

At one time while Ron Johnson was Senior Vice President of Retail Operations at Apple he challenged Steve Jobs with an Interaction Design problem. As the company was just about to open its first retail store in May 2001, Johnson was riding with Steve Jobs to a weekly planning meeting. “We’ve organized it like a retail store around products, but if Apple’s going to organize around activities like music and movies, well, the store should be organized around music and movies and things you do,’” Johnson confessed. Jobs turned to him and said, “Do you know how big a change that is? I don’t have time to redesign the store.”

Ten minutes later, Jobs walked into the meeting and said, “Well, Ron thinks our store is all wrong. And he’s right, so I’m going to leave now. And Ron, you work with the team and design the store.” That lesson of doing things well “carried through to so many things I’ve done,” recalls Johnson. “It’s not about speed to market. It’s really about doing your level best.”

Well said. “It’s not about speed to market. It’s really about doing your level best.”

Sometimes starting over can be the best place to begin, and sometimes you can leverage what you have already in place. You just have to design for the interactions you are looking to accelerate, and understand the capabilities (or deficiencies) in new technologies or trends. The story begins and ends with the customer.

Executing your 2015 Account Plan

success 650One of my early observations of sales methodology was that it was very hard for sales professionals to execute on their Account Plan. There was lots of valuable strategy to use, but very little support on the practical execution. (That was why we developed Dealmaker). Developing a plan has limited benefit unless you have the requisite tools and action plan to help you follow through. In this post, I give a short summary of an account planning approach and detail how you might think about your action plan.

In my book Account Planning in Salesforce, I set out three basic themes or phases for your account plan, and ifyou are developing your plan for next year, you should keep these themes in mind.

Research for Insight: Account Planning is strategic business planning applied on an individual customer basis. Research, as you know, is not limited to the customer. It must also encompass all of the Three Cs: Customer, Competitor and Company. If you do your homework on the Account, and apply the experience you have gained from working with other customers, you should be able to bring insight to the customer. If you don’t do the research, then you won’t have the knowledge, and then you can’t bring insight – and that is a missed opportunity.

Integrate for Velocity: There are four primary sources of input to your Account Plan that you needed to integrate to achieve maximum velocity.

  • Existing CRM data in Salesforce (or other CRM).
  • Knowledge of the Account Team.
  • Information shared by the customer.
  • Supplementary data from research sources such as

Without a centralized way to manage the plan, velocity and effectiveness suffer. Integrating your team and the customer with the data in Salesforce and the pertinent data from supplementary data sources is the only way to provide a single sharable resource.

Focus for Impact: Focus is the parallel thread that runs alongside Mutual Value from the beginning to the end of Account Planning. It is in fact the catalyst for Mutual Value as you prioritize the Plan Units in your Account Plan and target the opportunities on which to focus where you can uniquely and competitively deliver maximum value.

As you become master of your plan, you’re also on your way to becoming a leader in your own marketplace. You understand business goals and pressures, initiatives the customer might consider, and the obstacles they must overcome to be successful.

Winning account teams respond to these goals and pressures, initiatives and the obstacles and work collaboratively to discover or deliver:

  • Information to create alignment between your actions and the customer’s business objectives.
  • Insight to see where the new opportunities are within the account, and to track the actions taken to pursue those opportunities.
  • Demonstration of professionalism through deep understanding of the customer’s needs.
  • Justification to secure scarce resources from  management.
  • Co-ordination among the team in a goal-oriented fashion.
  • An action plan.

This last piece, the action plan, comprises the directional signposts that point to the attainment of your goal. Experienced practitioners develop Objectives, Strategies and Actions that transform the plan into a sequence of actionable steps that you can be progressed.

It is best to think about objectives in three categories:

Revenue Objectives: Current opportunities that you are pursuing need a Revenue Objective. You should have one for each Plan Unit (Division or Account) that you have selected, focusing on the combined revenue from your current opportunities in that unit over the duration of the plan.


Business Development Objective: Every Plan Unit that has a Potential Opportunity needs a Business Development Objective that focuses on qualifying, in the short term, your future opportunities.


Account Objectives: In addition to Revenue and Business Development Objectives, you also might require broader objectives that apply either to the Plan Unit, or to all of the Plan Units that you have included in your plan. These objectives – that might include Marketing, Partnering, Relationship, etc. ensure that you utilize all of the resources available to you to effectively maximize your position.

Planning on its own can be valuable to help you to frame your thinking, but the execution of the plan is where you will derive the most benefit.








12 Steps to Account Planning in 2015

It’s that time. As you prepare for 2015 you need to be thinking about how to maximize revenue from your existing customers. I’m sure you know acquired business from an existing customer is six times more profitable than pursuing new customers. But, did you also know that you are seven times more likely to win business from an existing customer than you are when you are trying to capture that new logo? I have written about this extensively in my book Account Planning in Salesforce, but to get you started, here are 12 things you should think about as you look to how your existing customers can contribute to your 2015 revenue goals (with a focus on Salesforce users).

12 Steps to Account Planning in 2015

1. Research

If you are hoping to maximize revenue from your large accounts, it is really all about research, research, and research. You need to slow down your natural inclination to focus solely on pursuing deals now. Account planning is a long-term play. If you do your homework on the account, and apply the experience you have gained from working with other customers, you should be able to bring insight to the customer. If you don’t do the research, then you won’t have the knowledge, and then you can’t bring insight – and that is a missed opportunity

2. Customer Focused

Remember that the impact on a customer of a poor buying decision is usually greater than the impact on a sales person of a lost deal. Your role is to create value for the customer, not just to communicate information about your company or your solutions. Before you position your value, a prerequisite is having a deep sense of what the customer values. When you have done your research, you can begin to feel comfortable in the customer’s shoes, and begin the walk together toward Mutual Value.

3. Integrate

A single Account is a subset of your overall market, and a composite representation of all of the individual real and potential prospective opportunities within that Account. You must recognize it as an integrated component of the market ecosystem. You also need to integrate data, knowledge and information to achieve velocity. The data already exists in Salesforce – so your Account Plan must be integrated with CRM. Your Account Team has the knowledge and everyone needs a common platform to work together, and the customer has the information, so you need to integrate that into your plan.

4. Targeted

Focus is the parallel thread that runs alongside Mutual Value as a key aspect to Account Planning. It is in fact the catalyst for Mutual Value, driving you to uncover areas that benefit you and the customer. You will need to select which divisions or Business Units in an account are in your ‘sweet spot,’ that area where you can uniquely and competitively deliver true value, and then make some hard choices as you target the opportunities on which to focus – those that deliver Mutual Value – while at the same time choosing not to apply resources to less attractive opportunities.

5. Map People and Influence

As we know companies don’t buy – people buy, and the same is true of business issues, they are always owned by people and it is important understand the political landscape in the organization.

6. Aligned to Business Strategy

You’d be forgiven for thinking that being a customer is easier than being a sales person. All the customer’s got to do is pick a supplier, right? But when the customer makes that buying decision, we now know that the risk shifts from the supplier to the customer, and the impact on the customer of a poor buying decision is usually greater than the impact on the salesperson of a lost sale. Your job is to align your account planning efforts with the customer’s Goals, Pressures, Initiatives and Obstacles.

7. Trust

Trust is the foundation on which you create, develop, pursue, and win business that delivers mutual value for you and your customer. It is fundamental to business, and built one truth a time, promising what you can deliver, and delivering on what you promise.

8. White Space

Your objective is to maximize your penetration in the account in a way that maximizes Mutual Value. Once you understand the people and the problems and have developed a trusted relationship with your customer you can identify areas of opportunity – the white space in the account – where your solutions can add value to the customer. This is a key way to develop new opportunities. In our case we use the Opportunity Map in Dealmaker to visually represent this.

9. Collaborative and Social

At its core, Account Planning is a team sport; one where you can collaborate with the team and the customer. We recommend attaching a Chatter group in Salesforce to each account plan so that the team that is working the account plan can also use Chatter to make sure they are all kept up to speed on all changes as they happen. Also, by having a collaborative application integrated with Salesforce all information is available to everyone at the same time so that there is no loss of productivity.

10. Regular Cadence

Account Planning should not be an annual event. It is not about reporting what you know; it is about discovering what you don’t know, and then acting to uncover the missing information to inform your subsequent activity. Account Planning must live and breathe as part of how you run your business. It needs to become part of your culture, and should be integrated into your overall business cadence.

11. Measurable

How do you know if your account plan is working? In the first instance you need to be able to measure that the plan is complete, and we recommend automating this measure. Secondly, you need to be able to create a scorecard that will help you to assess whether the objectives you set for the plan – the target revenue, the pipeline goal, the penetration of the strategically important Business Units in the account, etc. – are all on track. Without measurement it is hard to know if you are making progress.

12. Action Oriented

While the plan in itself can be hugely valuable – it all comes to like when you define Objectives, Strategies and Actions that define the tactics that you need to execute everyday to make progress. Planning is important, but it is the execution of the tasks and actions everyday that determines the level of progress you make.

I hope you found this helpful. Let me know if you think I missed anything.






Will all Future Presidents be White Men? -The Predictive Analytics Problem

The answer to the question in the title is of course almost certainly No. But that’s not what the data said.  If you look at the records from 1789, when George Washington’s presidential term began, to 2009 when Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States, the data would suggest otherwise.

If you examined the data in 2008, with a sample size of n=43, and a test on gender and ethnicity, the patterns in the data would show a correlation that would predict that all future presidents would be white males. We know of course that the prediction would have been wrong.  Of course there are other factors at play, and I use this example only to call out my concern about the dangers of the hype around big data and analytics as a panacea for all (or many) ills.

Over the past nine years my company has recorded and analyzed millions of sales cycles through our Dealmaker Smart Sales Application. We have looked at the effectiveness of certain actions in the sales cycle and their impact on the outcome of the sale.  There are certain signals that appear to be reliable indicators of the sales outcome (win or loss) but only when the context is considered.

For example: Budget is a key indicator when the level of organizational change for the buying organization is small, but far less so when, alongside the actual purchase of the solution, the buying organization has to undertake a material change management exercise. This is where the data can be misleading.  You need the domain knowledge to know what questions to ask.

One of the problems we have observed is that many proponents of big data don’t take enough care to distinguish between correlation and causality, the former being an extrapolation of past data as an indicator of the future, and the latter being an analysis of the real reasons behind past outcomes as a guide towards a future, heuristically determined, prognosis. It is more important to understand why certain patterns emerge than it is to just uncover the patterns.

In most cases, the missing ingredients are domain knowledge, context and applied reasoning.  Without domain knowledge, it is not possible to know what questions to ask of the data, and when you don’t have any context it is hard to know when to ask those questions.  Without applied reasoning (emphasis on applied) you don’t know what to do with the patterns and uninformed algorithms will lead you astray.

As with any other smart system, effective big data/analytics happen only when there is a combination of knowledge, context, data and applied reasoning.  All four components are essential.  Big questions are more valuable than big data.

Two Examples: One Bad, One Good.

Let me give you two examples from Google, one good, one bad, to highlight the difference between a prediction that is simply powered by big data versus another that uses knowledge and context as the core of its prediction.

Bad: Google Flu Trends

Google’s data-aggregating tool Google Flu Trends (GFT). The program is designed to provide real-time monitoring of flu cases around the world based on Google searches. Seems like a perfect use of the 500m Google searches made each day. But there’s just one problem: as a new article in Science shows, when you compare its results to the real world, GFT doesn’t really work.

GFT overestimated the prevalence of flu in the 2012-2013 and 2011-2012 seasons by more than 50%. From August 2011 to September 2013, GFT over-predicted the prevalence of the flu in 100 out 108 weeks. During the peak flu season last winter, GFT would have had us believe that 11% of the U.S. had influenza, nearly double the CDC (Center for Disease Control) numbers of 6%. If you wanted to project current flu prevalence, you would have done much better basing your models on 3-week-old data on cases from the CDC than you would have been using GFT’s sophisticated big data methods.

Google had data (copious amounts of it) but CDC had knowledge.

Good: Google Maps

Most everyone has used Google Maps at some point.  If you are like me, then you didn’t really think a lot about the smarts underlying that app on your phone.

Google Maps is a great example of a big data / analytics application that works well.  It uses a combination knowledge, context, data and smart applied reasoning to direct you to your chosen destination.

Here’s a little insight into how it works:

The maps you see in Google Maps are compiled by a private company with whom Google has a partnership. This company is called Tele Atlas and they are a world leader in navigation and location-based services. The maps are highly accurate and have been hailed for recording extremely rural areas and mapping the terrain correctly. [Knowledge / Data]

Google Maps also offers real-time views of how congested the roads were. But how does it know what traffic is like on the roads? Google realized that as more and more people continued to switch to smartphones, they had a miniature army of traffic monitors. Other phones that are on the same journey inform the traffic flow. Like it or not, you are part of the solution. Of course, Google uses its own algorithms to exclude anomalies, like a postman who chooses to stop much more frequently than the average driver. [Data/Knowledge/Context]

To calculate your ETA Google things like official speed limits and recommended speeds, likely speeds derived from road types, historical average speed data over certain time periods (sometimes just averages, sometimes at particular times of day), actual travel times from previous users, and real-time traffic information. That’s a lot of data. They mix data from whichever sources they have, and come up with the best prediction they can make. [Data/Applied Reasoning]

Google Maps just needs you to tell it where you want to go (small data), and because it knows where you are (context) it can use all its own knowledge, context, data and applied reasoning to get you there on time.

A Final Thought

If Google can provide me with the directions to my customer meeting, shouldn’t there be a smart app that can help me navigate the twists and turns in the sales meeting with the customer?






5 Key Dreamforce Sessions and 3 Tips

5keyThere is a lot going on at Dreamforce. How do you choose which sessions to attend? This year there are many overlapping sessions, and conflicts between the keynotes and some fabulous breakout sessions.  It is not possible to cover everything, so you need to be judicious in your selections.

Tip: Remember that Salesforce make most of the keynotes available on YouTube very shortly after the event – so you will be able to catch up on these later.


My 5 Key Dreamforce Sessions for Sales Professionals

Tip: To get straight to these sessions in the Dreamforce Agenda Builder, first login to Dreamforce and then click on the title of the sessions here.


1. Sales Summit @ Dreamforce 2014: Mon 10/13 @ 10:00am

This is one mega event really. One day. Five sessions. Twelve of the world’s most respected sales minds. This promises to be one of the most educational (and entertaining) days at Dreamforce for sales executives. Bring your toughest questions. Walk away with answers — and a million new ideas on how your company can motivate sales teams and win more sales.

2.  How BMC Software Achieves Smart Sales Transformation: Wed 10/15 @ 8:30am

I am part of this session. BMC’s sales transformation story is amazing – a complete look at how to prepare a sales organization for our increasingly pressurized world.

3. Social Selling: A Live Conversation with Jill Rowley and Koka Sexton: Tue 10/14 @ 4:00pm

Two of my favorite social selling gurus, Jill and Koka think your sales team is on the brink of extinction! They will talk about the why, what and how to do Social Selling.  This session will not be boring!

4. How uses Account Planning: Wed 10/15 @ 10:00am

If you use Salesforce, and you care about maximizing revenue from your key accounts this is the session to attend. I am thrilled to host two charismatic leaders from to tell their story.  Everyone who attends this session also gets a free copy of Account Planning in Salesforce.

5. Triple Your Revenue With a Dedicated Sales Development Team: Wed 10/15 @ 2:00pm

There is a strong body of opinion on the rise of Inside Sales or Business Development.  This panel of 7 thought leaders in the area has a lot of insights to share.  Not to be missed.


3 Tips to Get The Best Out of Dreamforce

1. Attend the Early Sessions

Early sessions are better – energy level is higher and generally you get presenters who are at the top of their game.  Attend breakout sessions in the morning and visit the Cloud Expo in the afternoon.

2. Appropriate Clothing – Leave the Laptop

Ladies – leave the fancy shoes at home.  There will be a lot of walking. I am told that heels are a no-no. I wasn’t planning on wearing heels anyway :).

Ignore the forecast. It rains in San Francisco – so pack some light rain gear or a small foldable umbrella.

Don’t try to carry your laptop – it will get heavy really quickly. Ideally get a keyboard for your tablet, or carry an old-fashioned notebook and pen!

3. Be Social (Virtually and Physically)

There will be 125,000+ people at Dreamforce this year.  Connect on the Dreamforce app, or on Twitter or LinkedIn. There is a great opportunity to network.  Apart from the gala there are loads of parties – and they often fill up quickly – so pick the ones you want to attend and register.



Make Every Sales Call Matter

So here’s the thing.  There are really only two things that a salesperson controls; (1) who they call on, and (2) what they say when they get there. Ideally a seller is spending as much time preparing for and executing on the ‘what’ as he is deciding on the ‘who’. After all, no matter how well you have refined your target market, figured out the ideal buyer persona, and sharpened your competitive positioning, nothing happens until you engage with the customer.

But the research shows that very few of these engagements are planned.  It is all too rare that a sales person has a detailed plan of what he wants to achieve on the call. What are the desired outcomes? Why might you fail? In the absence of a Call Plan many sales interactions leave a lot to be desired. In fact, 64% of all sales calls are ineffective.

Making every sales call matter – matters. This is where the magic is supposed to happen. It is the salesperson’s opportunity to progress the sale, to deepen relationships and to uncover and address vulnerabilities in the deal. It is his opportunity to show that he is a credible individual who can bring his own insight to the conversation, and create – not just communicate – value, all the time advancing the deal.

Unfortunately, most of the time, there is no value created by the salesperson. Only 25% of senior business executives are prepared to take a second meeting. Two-thirds of the time business executives are turned off by the lack of preparation by the sales person. They say that they don’t find a lot of value in sales conversations. We should not find it surprising that business executives who are being pursued by sales people play hard to get, using their executive assistants to screen callers, interrupt meetings, or delegating the entire interaction to a subordinate.

The harsh truth is that most sellers are not adequately prepared for sales calls. The consequences go further than you might think. If you waste an executive’s time – the most precious currency she has – your stock has fallen. The likelihood of progressing the sale has been damaged. Your value is questioned.  Any business you win will be on price alone. Research suggests that the purchase experience is the most significant arbiter of customer loyalty.  Now your customer loyalty is damaged even before you start.  You have a steep hill to climb if you ever want to use this executive to refer you to her colleagues.  You have just wasted her time – so why would she subject her treasured relationships to an ineffective sales call?

After every meeting, you always want the customer to feel that the meeting was a good use of her time, that she got more from the meeting than she expected.  Satisfaction or quality is always a function of expectation and performance.  If you don’t perform to the customer’s expectations then she will be disappointed, and that’s not good. You, your colleagues, and the customer, should all be clear as to the customer’s expectation of the call. That’s a good place to start.  Here’s a short video that might paint a picture.

Making every sales call matter – matters.

Helping the Front-Line Sales Manager – It’s All about Rhythm

About once every six months I have the privilege of hosting some of our customers at our Customer Advisory Board meeting.  At these meetings we always learn a lot about how Dealmaker is being used to drive sales performance.  I am just back from San Francisco where we had gathered together a group of sales leaders to discuss our future plans and to get their input on how we can serve them better.

One of the topics we frequently discuss is the critical role of the front-line sales manager.  It is well understood that this important link in an organization’s sales ecosystem is a high-pressure role, but one that can be highly impactful when leveraged.  To help frame the discussion we had crafted a framework for the rhythm of a sales manager’s business.  The people in the room thought that this was helpful, so I thought I would share it with you.

(If you are interested in this topic we are hosting a Front-line Sales Manager webinar on Tuesday, February 25 with two of our customers; and Shaw Industries. You can register here.)

One of the key observations is that effective sales managers can balance short-term current revenue activities (represented by your current forecast), with the future business pursuits (represented by your pipeline).  We endeavor to support both of these tasks with our Dealmaker Sales Performance Insight product, so we do have a vested interest in fully understanding the dynamics and efficacy of these competing motions.


When most sales managers wake up every day they are concerned about the deals on the table right now.  Good sales managers triage the opportunities focusing where they can win and applying resources accordingly.  But at the same time they struggle with how to coach their teams, strategize future initiatives, ensure their teams are effectively enabled, worry about success at their existing accounts, hire and on-board new reps, performance-manage those existing reps who need help, liaise with marketing to help fill the funnel, and feed the corporate machine.





The chart here is a sample approach that you might consider.  The first column generally represents hygiene-factor activities but need to stay on the list.  Column 2 includes the most high-yield activities and as you move left to right you want to stay focused in the middle of the chart.  The last column is a necessary evil and can be almost completely off-loaded to technology. Spending time here adds no value to your business.

Our experience would suggest that if you can develop a rhythm in the business, balancing the important with the urgent, you will be more successful, particularly if you can off-load the management of the machine to someone else and leverage technology to automate as much of the reporting as is practical.

I am concerned about the current trends towards unguided use of analytics to ‘help’ the sales manager, and I have written about that before.  The experience of successful practitioners would suggest that sales domain expertise embedded in a structured business rhythm removes much of the friction.



Unpacking Sales Velocity

When Henry called me yesterday he asked a really interesting question. ”Why is it”, he said, “that everyone feels that the start of the year is the only time that they should look to build their pipeline?”

Henry works for a software UX design company that we partner with. His company plays a huge role in designing Dealmaker to be really, really, easy to use.  They do spectacular work. If you are a Dealmaker user you will know what I mean.

Henry’s question was prompted by the fact that over the last month (i.e. since the start of the year) his company has been inundated with requests from customers looking for his help.  They want him to design new websites, upgrade the UI of their applications, and design new marketing campaigns to attract new sales opportunities.

What’s really great about Henry is that over the time that we have been working together he has assimilated much of the sales methodology that we embed in Dealmaker and has immersed himself in the personas of the sales person and sales manager.

His follow up question was “Anyway, why is it that they are fixated on pipeline, adding more and more deals that they then don’t qualify properly or follow a proper sales process?  Shouldn’t they be thinking about each of the four Sales Velocity levers?”  I have to tell you, I just sat back and chuckled to myself.  I just love the fact that in the process of getting to understand the very best UX for Dealmaker, Henry now automatically thinks about the things that we all want our sellers to think about every day.

I have written about the Sales Velocity Equation before.  At its heart it says that there are really only four levers that you can pull to impact how much you sell in a given timeframe.  These are (i) the number of deals, (ii) the average deal value, (iii) the win rate, and (iv) the sales cycle.  When you take this to heart, you can see that it is not all about more leads, more calls, or even more opportunities.  Some times it is about increasing your average deal size by understanding the value of what you can provide in context of the customer’s business problem. When mapping your sales process to the customer’s buying process you can often take some control of the sales cycle.  Win rates generally increase when you bring insights to the customer that lead to your UBV (Unique Business Value).

Each of the levers impact how much you sell, and you should care about each of them equally.

If I get time over the next week or so I will write about how you can increase how much you sell by working with each of the four Sales Velocity levers, but for now I will just point you at this Slideshare that unpacks Sales Velocity for you a little bit.

Sales Velocity Equation

7 Principles for Successful Sales Leadership

One of the perks of my job is the interaction I am privileged to have with so many great sales leaders. During the beta phase for a new solution we just launched (to help sales managers understand the potential vulnerabilities in the sales performance of their teams), I had more intensive interaction than usual with a number of sales leaders.  Going beyond the challenges of the front-line sales manager, which is really the problem that Dealmaker Sales Performance Insight helps with, I was struck by some common principles that seem to be consistently applied by those sales leaders who are at the top of their game.  Here is my synthesis of those conversations.

1.    Lead with Purpose:  Your team cares less about what you are telling them to do, but more about why you are asking them to do it. With a shared understanding of where you are headed together, you can more easily collaborate and communicate.  If you can articulate a higher purpose than just hitting the targets – they know they have to do that without you telling them – they will understand the ‘why’ you are taking the direction you are taking, and that is always more powerful than the ‘what’.  When ‘why’ is understood, the team has a better chance of figuring out the ‘how’.

2.    Set High Standards – Hold Everyone Accountable:  Inspire your team to execute to the best of their ability – every time. Every single internal and external interaction matters.  It reflects on your values if you let poor practices develop without instant intervention. Slow response to a customer, casual email communication, bad manners to internal colleagues, poor quality proposals to customers, or arriving late or unprepared to a meeting, all let you (and the whole team) down.

3.    Write the Plays – and then Play them Right: Sales strategy is relatively easy. Constant execution and sales discipline is harder, and separate the great from the mediocre.  From business development through follow-up after the sale, the overall sales process (or go-to-market strategy) will contain milestones, trigger points, best practices, disciplines, and specific recommended tactics. Writes the plays, and then ensure that they are rigorously adopted, every day.

4.    Be the Role Model: As a sales leader you will undoubtedly have other things on your plate distracting from your core task. De-prioritize these time thieves.  Spend your time on exhibiting to your team how you are holding yourself accountable to the high standards that you have set.  Lead from the front. Execute your plays. Remember, you are in charge.

5.    Be Prepared to Rebuild: If you don’t have the team you need, you must be prepared to re-build. Always be recruiting and building a bench. Just like nurturing prospects for future business, the sales people that you want to hire are probably not immediately available the first time you connect with them. Start the conversation early.

6.    Prepare to Win: Winning doesn’t happen by accident. It usually happens when you are better prepared than your competitor.  Methodology helps, but systematic planning will equip you to deal with situations that arise without warning.  Deal reviews, account plans, sales process refinement, smart sales software, are tools you might use. Once the game starts they are usually on their own and it is then too late to help your team.  You need to prepare them in advance to win.

7.    Embrace Change Methodically:  The business world continues to evolve. Buyers change. New competitors emerge. Economic stability fluctuates.  Responding to change is never easy – particularly when things are already going well. When things are going badly you might feel the need to press the restart button. In either case you must accept two constants; (1) you need to make this quarter’s number working with what you have today and (2) what you have today will need to change just in time to serve your needs tomorrow.

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