1. Capture Sales “Situational Fluency” for Effective B2B Sales Coaching

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      In the B2B selling world there is near universal appreciation for the value of sales coaching. Research indicates significant impact on forecasted deal win rates, revenue growth and other selling metrics. Research from The Sales Management Association show sales people believe it’s the most important, least supported sales resource.     The constraints are equally clear. The big impediments are no surprise: lack of sales manager time, skills, and accountability.     We discovered a core cause of these constraints that makes the situation look even worse. It explains why, despite the universal acknowledgement of coaching importance, it isn’t being conducted regularly and effectively. This discovery made us appreciate the current approach to sales coaching will never be universally executed effectively and consistently. If it could, it would have. It’s simply too difficult. A new approach is needed. What Are We Coaching For? The top level objective of sales coaching is clear. We’re...
  2. B2B Sales Information and Content Strategy

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        When it comes to content and strategy, few people share a clear and common meaning of each word. Put them together, and what you have is downright perplexing. This is a sales content strategy guide for the perplexed. It is for people in marketing and sales who must collaborate to get these strategic assets right. (See Content is a Strategic Imperative for B2B Selling Organizations) The linked articles below are integral to a complete understanding of how to develop, document and execute an effective sales content strategy. First, a few definitions. Content For this article we are talking about sales content. More specifically, we’ll focus on B2B sales that are defined as complex, considered or value sales. “Content” includes sales messages, conversations, and stories which comprise what we refer to as the “contentS” of the media that package and deliver them. So content also includes conversations delivered by...
  3. The Missing Ingredient for Sales Coaching

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      There is a generally high desire for sales coaching in B2B selling. Most managers and reps know it’s important. Done well, coaching can make a significant difference to rep and manager performance and success. Financially, everyone has a lot at stake. But sales coaching is seldom done. Consistently. Or well. Why is that? What’s missing? To be successful sales people need: Knowledge and information (including sales strategy and process), Skills and techniques, Conversations and messages These inputs enable sale people to know What to do, What to say, How to say it. We are among many who believe how you sell is a primary way to create value for prospective buyers, and to differentiate from competitors. Training programs provide the initial vehicles to “prepare sales for the fray” as one of my colleagues says. Training methods include information transfer, modeling best practices, and sales practice with feedback. Training prepares sales...
  4. B2B Sales Conversations — By Design

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    To paraphrase David Packard, sales conversations are too important to leave to sales people. B2B sales conversations for key touch points should be designed. This optimizes conversation effectiveness and simplifies selling. It provides a common baseline that makes feedback and continuous improvement possible. How have you designed the sales conversations for your key touch points? How well do each of your sales people handle conversations at key touch points, or with different stakeholders? How consistent is the delivery of your messages across your sales teams? How does stress affect these results? I’m talking about the conversations where, when they are performed well, you’re in the game. You’re gaining respect and trust that makes it possible for you to educate buyers and influence a buying vision and decision criteria. Poorly performed conversations mean you might not even get into consideration, or might just be pricing fodder. According to SiriusDecisions, 71% of sales...
  5. Adopt a “Buying” Sales Mindset

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    In my view selling is 85% mindset and 15% technique. Unfortunately, most sales professionals focus primarily on learning sales techniques. Adopting a better sales mindset might be what’s required. I call it a “buying” mindset. I’m looking to acquire customers for my business. What is Selling? This is a question I regularly ask B2B sales professionals, especially those with new customer acquisition responsibility (hunter), more than an account maintenance (farmer) role. I get all kinds of answers. But generally they sound like: “Persuading someone to buy my product or service.”   “Finding people who need my product and convincing them we have the best.” “Selling is the way that you help customers to buy products and services from your business.” As you are undoubtedly thinking, there’s nothing really wrong with these answers, and the thinking they reflect. But they imply two things: Selling is something you have to do (can...
  6. New Sales Competency – Use Content to Sell

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      The digital era has ushered in many behavior changes, especially for B2B buyers. Sales professionals have been slower to change their sales methods to adapt and align with new buying processes and the expectations of buyers. Those who are not actively and effectively using content to sell are missing an important opportunity to capture a selling advantage, lower selling time and costs, and accelerate successful sales outcomes. “Social selling” while new and popular, doesn’t yet represent a significant breakthrough in the way B2B sales people sell. As currently applied, social selling is primarily a different (and hopefully more efficient way) to research buyers, to network, and to conduct some initial touches. In reality, and almost by definition, most sales people have never really used content to sell. Two supporting reasons for this are the traditional lack of sales ready, customer relevant content, and poor ability to find content for specific...
  7. More Than Content Needs Overhaulin’

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    For all the time, attention and investment made in sales enablement tools, it’s a shame a fraction of that hasn’t been invested in solving the core problem: the content itself. One of our colleagues often quips: “it’s easier to buy software.” He means easier than figuring out the culture and process changes, aligning siloed functions, enrolling stakeholders, and resolving all the interdependent causes of problems. He also says, “every major purchase is essentially a change management initiative.” Despite the lip service and pockets of success (sustainable?), sales enablement hasn’t yet met expectations. But then …. CRM? I was reminded of this by Tom Pisello’s summary of the Qvidian users conference. Top Priority: Content Overhaulin’. While “purging, aligning and personalizing” content might be necessary work, what’s really required is a better process for content. How can it possibly be, that in the fifteen years I’ve been involved with B2B content, most...
  8. Need Better Content? Define Your Use Case Requirements

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    Perhaps you’re the sales leader, and your sales people lack the content they need to sell effectively in this age of online, self-educating, stealth buyers. Or, perhaps you’re responsible for lead generation and demand management, but you lack effective education-oriented nurturing content to support your desire to deploy multiple persona, stage and industry relevant nurturing campaigns. You might manage channel sales and your partners regularly complain they lack channel appropriate content to fuel their lead gen and selling activities. Or, you are accountable for any number of other content dependent, customer engaging groups across your organization. Your inventory and budgets are starved for the customer relevant content you require. You each know the performance of your group suffers due to poor, missing or impossible to find content for key situations.  Yet your organization is cranking out more content than ever before. What’s going on? More importantly, what can you do...
  9. Improve Sales Proficiency With Relevant Sales Conversations

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      Why relevant? What does relevant really mean? How would you know if you are having a relevant conversation with a buyer? How does this improve your proficiency and results? Relevant — adjective; 1. bearing upon or connected with the matter at hand, pertinent Pertinent — adjective; 1. pertaining or relating directly and significantly to the matter at hand. Being relevant is important due to the shift of the locus of control in buying/selling situations. Traditionally, buyers were dependent on vendors through their sales representatives for information. This “conversation” typically went: “Here’s what we have (product, solution), here’s what it does (features), here’s how it will help you solve your problem (benefits).” Today, buyers are conducting self-directed, online research, deep into their decision process. B2B buyers don’t need vendor/product information until later in this process. They don’t believe — often because they haven’t experienced — sales reps can provide any...
  10. Improve Sales Proficiency By Being Relevant to Buyers

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    Why relevant? What does relevant really mean? How would you know if you are being relevant with a buyer? How does this improve your proficiency and results? Relevant — adjective; 1. bearing upon or connected with the matter at hand, pertinent Pertinent — adjective; 1. pertaining or relating directly and significantly to the matter at hand. Being relevant is important due to the shift of the locus of control in buying/selling situations. Traditionally, buyers were dependent on vendors through their sales representatives for information. This “conversation” typically went: “Here’s what we have (product, solution), here’s what it does (features), here’s how it will help you solve your problem (benefits).” Today, buyers are conducting self-directed, online research, deep into their decision process. B2B buyers don’t need vendor/product information until later in this process. They don’t believe — often because they haven’t experienced — sales reps can provide any other useful information....
  11. An All Too Typical Sales Prospecting Phone Message

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    One of many webinars I attend was a lead nurturing webinar recently. I’m always looking for insights, especially about how companies are thinking about content to support their many use cases. I also like to experience selling from a buyers perspective. I get many sales prospecting calls, but usually for products or services I could care less about. I delete and forget. But this was a topic I’m really interested in. While I’m not a prospect for this company, I think I am an important influencer, and potential referral source for them. This is the follow up message that was left on my voicemail. After you listen to this 35 second recorded message (slightly edited to remove identifying marks) — and before you read on — take a moment to write your impressions of the message, and what you would do differently. (Play in separate webpage.) Now let’s compare. Message...
  12. Shift from Repository to Content, Communication and Collaboration Ecosystem

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      People responsible for sales and channel enablement, marketing and content operations, or supporting groups that use content, face many challenges. We have identified a solvable challenge that immediately improves productivity, efficiency, and, most of all, business outcomes. Almost every day I have conversations with people in organizations who complain how difficult it is to find, access, deliver, and reuse content that is critical to job or task performance. This is a basic and solvable challenge. Your Content Constituents When this ability is missing, business outcomes suffer. But people’s motivation to quickly and effectively respond to the requirements of each situation is also curtailed. Audiences today expect near instant response or support. This often means delivering relevant, useful content. Think about the customer-facing, content-using groups across your organization: in marketing and sales of course, but also customer service, training and HR (talent acquisition). Your external constituents in your sales channel also...
  13. For Sales Blogging and Social Selling – Think Like a Publisher

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      The practice of social selling has crossed the chasm and entered the tornado stage. (Huffington Post, see Mike Kunkle’s excellent webinar) To fuel this content dependent activity, many are urging sales people to blog, and to become thought leaders. (Lori Richardson, John Jantsch,  ITSMA) This is a logical extension from a belief that sales people must think more like marketers. In my view, “think like marketers” means sales people must approach selling from a buyer perspective. They must understand and align to the issues, questions and process buyers must address to make a buying decision. (See Sharon Drew Morgen – Buying Facilitation) Not all buyers are ready or interested to hear about your company and product — especially those features. But I also know that thinking like a marketer does not mean thinking like a journalist. It does not require sales people to “blog” – certainly not in the way most...
  14. IDG On Connecting the Dots Between Content and Sales

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    The opening lines, and most of the lines that followed, really grabbed my attention: “Marketers spent more than $40 billion on custom media in 2011. B2B marketers are allocating one-third of their budgets to content marketing, and more than half plan to increase content marketing spending in 2013. However, as many IT marketers are discovering, content marketing is a complex practice that requires insights not just into what type of content to develop and deliver, but when and how to deliver these assets to ensure maximum engagement.”   This IDG Enterprises report is the result of a survey of 1,025 IT decision makers to “to gain a better understanding of the role content consumption plays in the purchase process for major technology products and services.” I believe these insights apply to most content marketers today, and soon to all, even in lagging industries. My first observation is this is the...
  15. Change Selling Behavior — Really?

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      Another terrific Boston SMEI breakfast discussion this morning. Lisa Dennis lead a discussion about changing selling behaviors using ideas from Dan Pink’s latest book, To Sell Is Human. Here are my takeaway observations and related thoughts. Core conclusion: rather than try to change behaviors, select, enable and incent desired behaviors. The topic of selling and sales behaviors is so broad, it has to be focused for a coherent discussion. Yet so much of what I read and hear never starts that way. Any sales conversation must begin with the nature of the selling process, especially from the buyers perspective — how they see their problems, available solutions, and buying challenges. My colleague Rob Scanlon developed a simple “Three Level Selling Model” that I’ve found useful. This is based upon the customer’s understanding of their problem, vendor products and solutions available to solve their problem, and their ability to make...

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