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June 2010

Report from the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston

Yesterday I had the privilege of hosting the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston. More than 300 people registered, which is an increase over last year's event. It is amazing how much has changed compared to last year:

  1. Last year everyone was still preoccupied with managing the recession; this year people are focusing on capturing better opportunities and achieving growth.
  2. Last year social networking was high on the agenda; this year such topics as sales process, metrics, and sales and marketing alignment led to spirited discussions.
  3. Last year I was puzzled by a number of people who still believed that salespeople would not be able to adopt more than three or four Sales 2.0 tools; this year I was surprised by the number of companies that had already implemented six or more applications (and some as many as 12).
The Sales 2.0 movement is accelerating, and I was surprised by attendees’ sharply increased interest in staying on top of their game. One VP of sales operations said it best: "I am in charge of helping over 300 salespeople, and I want to make sure that I stay on top of the latest developments."

Here are the 10 ideas I found most interesting, in no particular order:
  1. Polly Sumner, president and chief adoption officer of Salesforce.com, showed her passion for technology, revealed how addictive and productive Chatter has become for her, and shared how she balances her hectic business life with her weekend passion for farming, growing flowers, and raising a herd of 90 cattle.
  2. The realization that many sales organizations design their sales process by looking at the rearview mirror, not understanding that what worked in the past is not likely to work in the future. The smartest companies in the room are thinking long and hard about the future.
  3. The idea that we keep clinging to the obsolete concept of a "sales process," not accepting the fact that in most cases, the customer is in charge of the buying process, which mandates that the steps salespeople make must mirror the steps buyers take. Smart companies are cocreating the sale with the customer.
  4. The fact that there is a parallel between the sales success triangle and the business success triangle. It goes like this: When it comes to looking at the effectiveness of a sales team, you'll notice that at the top of the pyramid are the top 20 percent, the highest performers. Below that, you find the middle 60 percent, and at the bottom you find 20 percent of the sales team – those who need to be replaced as quickly as possible.
    To achieve growth, successful companies isolate and identify the best practices of the top performers and share them with the mid 60 percent. This insight has been the basis for many successful corporate initiatives. We found a parallel universe in the market when it comes to examining the effectiveness of sales organizations. If you take 100 companies and analyze their success, you'll find that the top 20 percent achieve double-digit growth year over year. For example, Salesforce.com's 5-year average sales growth has been 49 percent. Companies in the mid 60 percent range enjoy single-digit growth rates, and the bottom 20 percent are threatened with extinction. What is interesting is that the top 20 percent of successful companies are fully exploiting the advantages of Sales 2.0. The poster child for Sales 2.0 success at the conference was Dave Fitzgerald, who shared how he has seamlessly implemented more than 12 Sales 2.0 applications into his company's sales process. The result: double-digit sales growth year over year for the past three years.
  5. The wide spectrum of technology savvy, ranging from companies that highly leverage their technology investment, to the comment I overheard from a first-time attendee: "I wish that our company gave us tools that we could use to do research on our prospects. We are still making cold calls." I saw an astonished facial expression when the other person replied, "If one of my salespeople made a cold call, I'd fire him. The cold call is dead!"
  6. The fact that sales leaders habitually measure improvement by comparing what they've done previously (which stopped working) to what they are doing today (and achieving average results) while ignoring the possibility that they could be doing significantly better. Which brings me to the conclusion that we need to make it our business to continually stretch the boundaries of what we believe is possible.
  7. The fact that so many companies have sales and marketing still separated by silos. We've entered a new world where collaboration is essential for survival.
  8. The realization that more sales organizations have embraced the necessity of creating a culture of measurement. Sales leaders can no longer afford to make decisions on hunches; they need to rely more and more on science.
  9. The idea that we are arriving at a point at which we must associate a metric with every process so that we can learn early if a process needs to be improved, changed, or eliminated.
  10. Dave Fitzgerald shared his best Sales 2.0 practices with a great level of precision. Here are some of his amazing numbers: A) Seventy-five percent of all sales leads are generated by marketing. B) The company spends $4,000 per sales and marketing employee on SaaS technology. C) The cost per marketing-qualified opportunity is $462. Best quote: "The beauty of SaaS is that it’s plug and play. If it doesn't perform, you can shut it off quickly."
The amazing speakers and presenters prompted a ton of tweets (search #s20c) and videos (www.DreamSimplicity.com). My takeaway: Sales 2.0 comes at a low price if you invest in it; it comes at a high price if you miss the opportunity. It's a good idea to jump into the water while it is warm, but it's not a good idea to jump into the water when it's frozen. Companies that miss the opportunity Sales 2.0 provides risk becoming a victim of change.

Late-breaking news: The next conference will be called Sales & Marketing 2.0. It will be held in San Francisco on November 8-9, 2010.

Today (Tuesday, June 29), we will tape our Selling Power TV Game Show, called "Make That Sale," in Boston at the Renaissance Waterfront hotel between 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. If you are in town, you are welcome to be part of this world premiere. We'll start with a cocktail reception, and you can watch 10 highly talented salespeople compete in three challenging contests that require personal skill and technology savvy to win. A panel of judges will score each performance on a scale of 1 to 10. The highest scorer in each game wins an iPad. The audience favorite will win an iPod nano. Come and join this fun event. There is room left for 10 more people. It's free. To sign up, go to http://www.sellingpower.com/microsite/game-show

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The Top 5 Reasons Why I Won’t Buy the New iPhone 4

I own a number of Apple products. I love the iPod shuffle for working out and the iPod AT&T
nano for relaxing on the plane. I share my passion for the iPad with many people. Some of them thanked me for showing them some of the applications I’ve downloaded. I also like my MacBook Pro. But my relationship with the iPhone has been riddled with conflicts. The iPhone is a great mobile device for emailing; texting; checking the weather, stocks, and calendar; and catching up on the news. The iPhone has a great number of applications, but here are the 5 things I don’t like about it:

  1. AT&T is a world champion in call dropping. While AT&T’s advertising brags about its nationwide coverage, I could draw a map of the places in San Francisco, New York, and Washington, DC, where I can almost guarantee that the call gets dropped. Every time I drive next to the Pentagon in DC, I lose the connection. Every time I walk down Market Street near the Apple store, my calls are dropped. Every time I make a call in Midtown Manhattan, I lose the connection. My solution: I bought a Verizon Android phone as a backup.
  2. AT&T confuses geography with quality. The coverage that you get with AT&T is inconsistent, so the clarity of the call varies, often switching from crystal clear to “grbled ckr what frds check ssssrr.” You recognize only every third or fifth word. It’s not OK to brag about coverage if customers have to ask a caller repeatedly, “Can you repeat that?” When I pay my mobile-phone bill, I pay every bill; I don’t pay every third or fifth bill. My solution: Send a letter to your congressman or congresswoman suggesting consumers be allowed to pay phone bills based on the performance of the carrier.
  3. AT&T’s voicemail tests my patience several times a day. When I am on an important call, I don’t put the caller on hold to have a quick chat with the next caller; I let the call go to voicemail. When I hang up, I try to listen to the voicemail, but the voicemail doesn’t play. My solution: Call my own number, hit the asterisk, and then listen to my voicemail.
  4. AT&T’s wireless is agonizingly slow in certain areas. When I check my email, many times I get to see only the subject line but not the body of the email. I wait and wait and wait. My solution: I purchased a Novatel MiFi card from Verizon. Granted, the service is $60 a month, but it is well worth it. This card provides wireless Internet access for my laptop, iPhone, and iPad. Please do yourself a favor and don’t purchase an iPad with AT&T wireless. Move up to MiFi.
  5. AT&T is insanely expensive when you travel overseas. International roaming rates are sky high. Roaming in Russia costs $4.99 per minute; Chile, $3.49 per minute; and Japan, $2.29 per minute. Text messages are 50 cents per message. If you forget to buy an international package before traveling overseas and you turn on your phone, you can expect a whopping bill for downloading files. AT&T charges $0.0195 per kilobyte. That price looks very small until you do the math.
Let’s say that while you’re in France, someone sends you a PPT file with a size of 5 megabytes. To download that file will cost you $97.50. AT&T offers an International Data package. The price is $59.99/month for 50 MB of data. That’s what AT&T’s Website says. But when you call AT&T to order that service, you’ll get another story. AT&T says it will bill you $59.99 for a month, but you assume that the month begins with the day you leave the country. No such luck. The month starts with your billing cycle. Let’s say you leave on June 25 and return on July 7. If your billing cycle falls between these two dates, you need to purchase two months.

The frustration isn’t just limited to the high rates. Try buying the service when you are in a hurry. Just a month ago I went to Europe and tried to purchase that plan. It’s not a one-step process. You have to listen to the sales pitch of the AT&T operator, and when you say, “OK, I’ll buy that plan,” you get switched to another division, and you wait and wait and wait. I was on hold for 21 minutes, and since my plane was boarding, I gave up on the idea. My solution: Never turn on the iPhone overseas and use the local wireless service. I purchased a European cell phone with a SIM card. Incoming calls are free, and calls to the United States are only 49 cents a minute. You can also purchase great phones that work in 90 countries from Telestial.com for only $60 with a SIM card.

My conclusion: No matter how great the new iPhone 4 looks, no matter what features it has to offer, none of that matters unless you have a phone carrier that brings it to life.

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How Major-Account Managers Stay on Top of the Growing Tsunami of Information

The role of a major-account manager is significantly different from the roles of other salespeople, since these elite sales executives manage only very few but substantially larger accounts. Their role is more strategic, and their company’s fortunes often depend on their success. To explain the strategic role of the major-accounts manager, watch this brief video, “The Role of Strategic Account Management,” with Bernard Quancard, president and CEO of the Strategic Account Management Association.

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Clicking on the thumbnail above will expand and play the video.

The Challenge of Keeping Up With an Avalanche of Information

One of the most difficult jobs in managing major accounts is to keep up with the massive amount of information within the account. Imagine being in charge of selling your company’s services to IBM, Oracle, or Microsoft. How will you be able scan and monitor the rapidly changing corporate landscape?

Roundtable Here is a way to illustrate the dilemma of learning all there is to know about a major global account. Imagine placing a dime in the middle of a large, round table that seats 10 people. The dime represents the knowledge about a major customer account, and the surface of the table represents the company’s global knowledge base (operating around the globe). Let’s assume for a moment that we could double the time spent searching and absorbing this information. By doubling the effort, we might be able to increase the size of the dime, or the information we know about the major account, to the size of a quarter. What have we accomplished? We merely increased our ignorance about the global account.

Here is the dilemma of the major account manager in one sentence: Knowledge is increasing exponentially, but our capacity to absorb knowledge is not. Fortunately, the Internet and information technologies are helping account managers search, scan, monitor, and retrieve deep account knowledge at detailed levels according to their strategic interest. In a way, today’s most advanced Internet search technologies can transform the dime (as described in the above analogy) into a lens through which the account manager can observe all moving parts of the global account in real time.

There is a huge amount of strategic knowledge available on the Internet; however, there is also a huge amount of junk – useless information, duplication, erroneous information, or obsolete data. Finding information is easy with Google, but transforming the information you’ve found into useful and actionable data requires much more than a simple search engine.

What Information Should Major-Account Managers Track?

Below is a map that shows the challenges major-account managers face when creating business intelligence.

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The top part of the map represents what account managers are looking for:
  1. Know the customer's business. In order to become the trusted advisor, account managers need to know the customer's business strategy, business models, cost structure, profit sources, and all related financial changes.
  2. Know the customer's economic environment, which impacts business development.
  3. Know the customer's competition and the competition’s business model, and business strategy.
  4. Know the customers’ customers. Account managers need to intimately understand how their customers attract and create customers.
  5. Know the customer's industry.
  6. Know the customer's legal challenges, partnership agreements, license deals, etc.
  7. Know the customer's key executives and their roles, and monitor all key executive changes.
The bottom of the map represents information challenges:
  1. Know what to look for. Account managers need to establish an information grid and set filters to capture only the most essential information.
  2. Know how to zoom to a granular level of information. Account managers don't need to know every detail, but when special situations come up, minute details become vital to the sales effort.
  3. Know how to create customer success.
  4. Know how to align internal teams. The account manager needs to be able to quickly share all account details to get internal teams to deliver results.
  5. Know how to create custom solutions.
  6. Know how to leverage capabilities.

FirstRain – A Shift in the Creation of Real-Time Business Intelligence

FirstRain is an amazing business research solution that turns the Web into a powerful source for creating customized, real-time business intelligence. FirstRain allows major-account salespeople to arm themselves with highly granular sales intelligence about their customers, the customers’ economic environment, the customers’ customers, and the customers’ competitors.

What makes this application most useful is that account managers are no longer chasing information, but they receive instant, real-time company briefings that deliver what they need to know. Below is a two-minute introduction about how FirstRain works for account managers.

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After test-driving FirstRain, I quickly realized the difference between a standard Google search and a FirstRain deep dive for very specific information. Researching on Google is like working with a 1-megapixel camera; you get an image that’s adequate, but the closer you zoom in on the details, the more blurry the image becomes. FirstRain is like a 50-megapixel image that allows you to zoom in on a tiny detail, and you still get a sharp image. You get deep, fast, relevant, accurate, and above all real-time information about your customers. Instead of chasing information, major-account managers can stay on top of the tsunami of information, become an integral part of the customer’s business, and continually contribute to client success.

Disclosure notice: FirstRain will be exhibiting at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston on June 28th where you can test drive their solution.

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Call at the Right Time for the Right Reasons or Don’t Call at All

Do you ever fantasize about the ideal sales situation? Imagine for a moment that you are a sales rep selling office equipment. You take a break from work and walk into a Starbucks, order a latte, and strike up a conversation with a stranger who tells you that he works for a $1 billion company, is in charge of opening six new offices in your territory, and his biggest headache is finding an office-equipment supplier. The ideal sales situation happens when buyer and seller meet at the right moment at the intersection of an emerging problem and a ready solution. Such an ideal sales situation may never happen, but innovative technology is steadily moving sales in that direction.

The Tree of Discontent

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Here is a map that shows some of the major challenges salespeople face when calling on new prospects. When it comes to the timing, calling too early is a waste of time, and calling too late is a wasted opportunity. Calling at the right time gives salespeople the best chance for advancing the sale. Shakespeare said it best: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune. Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries.”

Next in order of importance is the reason for the call. Salespeople dislike calling prospects without a compelling reason. They know that the odds are against them. They know that positive energy comes from positive ideas to share, positive subjects to discuss, and positive opportunities to share with their prospects.

There are a number of great technology solutions that can help salespeople improve the timing of their calls, as well as improve their chances of discussing a relevant topic with their prospects, which may lead to a good sales opportunity.

Sales Triggers

Brian Carroll, a noted expert in the field of lead generation, wrote in his blog:

“What’s a trigger event? A trigger is a happening associated with a consequence so significant that it causes new behaviors, new ideas and new opportunities. One of my clients found companies with their key trigger events was 400% more likely to buy than companies without those trigger events.”

Craig Elias, the creator of Trigger Event Selling™, writes, “There is A SILVER BULLET IN SALES, getting in front of the right person at EXACTLY the right time – after a decision maker has experienced a Trigger Event that makes them unhappy with what they have, but before they have started doing anything about it.” (www.shiftselling.com)

Innovative technology makes it a lot easier for salespeople to learn about trigger events. For example, if you are trying to sell HR services to a $1 billion pharmaceutical company, a sales trigger can alert you to the company’s plan to hire. If you are in the telecommunications business, a sales trigger will tell you which company in your database has decided to open a new office. If you are selling relocation services, a sales trigger will alert you of a company’s relocation plans.

Salespeople No Longer Have to Hunt for Sales Triggers

A number of innovative technology vendors have pushed the envelope and created information “spiders,” which scout the Web for deep knowledge that’s served up in an easily digestible format. This helps salespeople time their calls better and arm themselves with better, more targeted information. One of the technology pioneers in the field of automating sales triggers is Umberto Milletti, CEO of Inside View. Here is an interview I did with Milletti in 2007.

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Clicking on the thumbnail above will play the video.


Another technology vendor in the same field is ZoomInfo. I’ve had the opportunity to interview ZoomInfo’s VP and general manager, Chip Terry.

Gerhard Blog Preview Image

Clicking on the thumbnail above will play the video.


In response to the competitive pressure to innovate, One Source has recently introduced a sales-trigger solution called iSell, which has received a lot of media attention. I’ve spent a few hours test-driving iSell’s solution, which hit the market less than a month ago.

My first impression:

The best part:
Very granular sales triggers. I was so intrigued by the large number of trigger choices, I created a map that may serve as a tool for comparing iSell to other solutions on the market. With more menu choices, salespeople will not only be able to find out what they didn’t know about present opportunities, but they are likely to find new fields of opportunities that they never thought existed.

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What’s lacking: A self-guided tour or video demo of the tool. The initial setup requires a little patience. Granted, I didn’t ask for a demo or training, since I wanted to discover the tool without guidance. I could have saved time by not being so stubborn.

My prediction: We are moving to a place I’d like to call “Real-Time Selling.” Buyers will become more and more reluctant to see a salesperson unless that salesperson can meet two conditions: call at the right time and discuss solutions to problems that are in the buyer’s real-time field of awareness.

Disclosure notice: InsideView, ZoomInfo and One Source will be exhibiting at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston on June 28th where you can test drive their solutions.

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The Art and Science of Managing Customer Conversations

As we move from a pitch-driven economy to a conversation-driven economy, we need to pay more attention to how we plan, initiate, and manage customer conversations. In the past, salespeople were told that knowledge was power, and all they had to do was show up, identify the need, share their knowledge of how their product or service worked, and ask for the order.

The graphic below illustrates the approach to conversation management prior to the conversation economy. Salespeople needed to know how their product or service worked, what worked best in a given situation, on whom they should call, why prospects needed to know what, and of course, they needed to call their prospects at the right time.

Jun3_1

In the Sales 2.0 era, the power has shifted from the company to the customer. When customers search for solutions, they turn first to the Internet and query social-media channels before connecting with a company or salesperson. The Internet has become the global watercooler, where people meet, exchange information, and form opinions that lead to business decisions.

The conversation economy isn’t only disrupting the old sales model; it is also disrupting old business models. Today, salespeople are meeting with prospects who are more informed and more reluctant to spend time with salespeople. Since salespeople are spending less time with prospects, customer conversation management has become more critical than ever. Unfortunately, most salespeople don’t receive training in the art and science of managing conversations with customers. Below is a map of the landscape that should lead to a collaborative conversation with a customer.

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How to map a customer conversation:

  1. Problems to avoid
    Many salespeople stand in the way of their own success. The most common problems are lack of preparation, talking about unimportant subjects, engaging in circular conversation, or running out of time. Other problems include not having a conversation agenda, losing track of the objective, ignoring opportunities, insufficient probing, pursuing dead-ends, dumping information, deviating from the core topic, misinterpreting facts, and promoting incomplete ideas.
  2. Selecting subjects to discuss is a good starting point. What’s more difficult to ascertain is how deep salespeople should go and how far the prospect is willing to go in the time available.
  3. Time is a critical factor. It is a good idea to ask the prospect before the meeting how much time he or she is willing to invest in the call. It is also a good idea to reconfirm that time frame before the meeting starts by asking, “You indicated that we’ll have about thirty minutes; is that still the case?”
  4. Create a positive climate for the conversation. Great salespeople bring positive energy to the meeting so they can cocreate the sale with the customer.
  5. Establish call priorities by determining what’s most important to the customer.
  6. Determine the ideal outcome of the conversation/relationship with the customer.
  7. Isolate the problems and obstacles that stand in the way of moving forward.
  8. Determine what other solutions the prospect has considered, and find out who else is involved in solving the current problem.
  9. Engage the client in cocreating the most efficient and economical solution to the current problem – as defined by the prospect.
  10. Detail and agree on the next steps to be completed.
  11. Determine what conditions need to be met before you can come to an agreement. (Plus, agree on a time frame.)
This map is simple enough to follow. The big question is, how will we keep salespeople focused so they will accomplish more in less time?

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