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February 2012

Turning the 80/20 Rule Upside Down

Michael_BosworthToday's guest blog post is by Mike Bosworth, founder of Solution Selling and CustomerCentric Selling, and cofounder of Story Leaders, which helps people harness the power of story to connect with, inspire, and influence others.


When I first got into training in the late 70’s, my mission was to help the salespeople who struggled the most: the bottom 80%.

In 2008, however, I got some very disappointing news: the Sales Benchmark Index reported that after all these years, despite the efforts of all the sales methodology companies, (including my own Solution Selling and CustomerCentric Selling methodologies) the 80/20 rule had gotten worse. It was now 87/13!

On top of that, the 80/20 rule was alive and well inside of both sales productivity companies I had founded. A small percentage of people in both Solution Selling and CustomerCentric Selling had carried the load. I wanted to believe my own affiliates were using the methodologies that we sold, but I had to ask myself why was it so disproportionate if we were all using the same sales process?

What did all this evidence prove about the effectiveness of sales methodologies – including my own, which I dearly believed in?

That same year, one of my long time collaborators, Customer Centric Selling affiliate Ben Zoldan, found himself on very similar path. We shared our pain and ended up walking away from our sales-process business to begin a research project.

Our main questions were: If the best salespeople were doing something so different from everyone else, what was it? Why are some people so much more influential than others? How are they communicating?

We knew the very best sales professionals communicated in a way that inspired people, but we never knew how to bottle that. All we knew was top sellers created an emotional connection with their buyers. Each one of them could be described as displaying the following traits:

  • Authenticity and passion
  • Strong ability to connect
  • Strong ability to inspire trust
  • Willingness to be vulnerable, and
  • Tendency to tell stories from the heart.

When we looked for these attributes in the business section of the bookstore, we came up empty. We found these qualities, however, in the Self Help section (where you will rarely find an enterprise salesperson).

As we did our research, the concept of “story” kept popping up. We studied biology and neuroscience to learn why stories have such a profound effect on human beings. We thought, “We are trainers, we’re experts – we know how to codify skills – we can teach people to sell through storytelling.”

We began inviting our professional and personal friends to spend time with us in 2008 so we could share what we were learning. By the summer of 2010 we were teaching enterprise B2B salespeople to build and tell stories. We were teaching empathic listening skills. Still, both Ben and I felt something was missing. We knew we still hadn’t cracked the code on this.

Two events helped us finally get it.

The first was a SVP of a major software company who went through our workshop but was still not convinced. My partner got him to commit to “try it on a sales call.” He did the following week and turned a scheduled 45-minute call with a hostile customer into a 3-hour call where the customer opened up with his story. The ‘aha’ moment was how his story got the customer to tell his story.

The second event was a workshop where we decided to teach story tending around attendees’ “Who Am I” stories. When I saw the tears in the eyes of people who just had their personal stories tended, we finally got it.

Story is not a technique; story is a way of thinking. Story can inspire change from the inside out. Change is driven first by emotion. Then the cerebral cortex can help message the logical reasons so other logic people will not think us crazy.

Storytelling is not the end; it is a means by which we can all connect to each other. By tending to another person’s story, we can help another feel safe and connected with us enough to consider changing – “I am here and I am ready to move there.” Today, Ben and I are excited to share this new understanding with the world.

It was extraordinarily difficult for me to let go of my old paradigm of selling, but I knew I had to. It is exhilarating that after 30 years, we’ve finally discovered what’s been the greatest mystery in the sales profession: how the very best, most influential people inspire others to step away from the status quo into something new. 

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Top 12 Tools to Use for Social-Media Lead Generation

New_repcor_avatar2This guest post is by Rebecca Corliss, head of the social-media lead generation team at HubSpot. HubSpot is a marketing software company in Cambridge, MA, that makes inbound marketing and lead management software. Follow Rebecca on Twitter as @repcor.

Social media is a fantastic, quickly growing channel that marketers around the world are using specifically for B2B lead generation. By promoting your best blog and lead-generation content, your company can successfully grow a large social-media reach and funnel a portion of that reach into traffic and leads for your business. But what tools should a marketer use to generate leads most effectively through social media?

This article will walk you through the most useful social-business pages, monitoring applications, and measurement tools that will help you fully and easily manage your social-media lead generation.

Company Business Pages

1. Facebook Business Page – Facebook is a great place to collect "likes" for your company. Use your Facebook Business Page to showcase some of your most intriguing and fun content to your community. To optimize your Facebook page for lead generation, make sure to post a solid mix of fun, visual content and business-focused educational articles that can funnel your most qualified prospects to your Website.

2. Company Twitter Account – Use your Twitter network to develop a fast-growing community of people who will look to you via your Twitter account for interesting information and links relevant to your industry. People especially appreciate content that is educational or information that will help their business.

3. LinkedIn Company Page – Company pages on LinkedIn have been rapidly improving, including a new status-update feature (similar to Twitter or Facebook) that can be used to share similar content with your LinkedIn network. Company Pages also have a "Products and Services" tab, where you can promote specific offers. You can also use this tab to request product recommendations from your network as an additional promotional tool.

4. Pinterest Page – Pinterest has gained popularity recently and can be a great way to promote your company's most visual content and drive traffic back to your Website. Use Pinterest to create "boards," which will act as a collection of the best visual content around a specific topic. Make sure that your collection includes content from your company and others. Promoting your content exclusively contradicts the nature of the site and could anger your followers.

Monitoring & Posting Tools

5. HootSuite – It's important to monitor social buzz around your company to prove that you're listening and receptive to feedback. Use HootSuite to monitor a constant stream of your company's mentions or other search terms that are important to you. Be sure to respond to relevant requests for help, kind words of praise, and other tweets that deserve a reaction from your company. HootSuite also allows you to schedule posts for the future to help you save time later.

6. TweetDeck – TweetDeck is another monitoring tool. Download TweetDeck to monitor most important terms and mentions for your company, similar to HootSuite; however, it does not include the same publishing and scheduling features as HootSuite.

7. TweetChat – Ever consider hosting a Twitter Chat related to your industry? (HubSpot's Twitter Chat is every Tuesday at 3:00pm ET.) Twitter Chats are a great way to create a wave of Twitter content around your company by hosting a crowd-sourced discussion. Use TweetChat to consolidate the conversation to one page and encourage chat participants to follow your company.

Measurement Tools

8. HubSpot – HubSpot is all-in-one inbound marketing software that includes analytics tools that help marketers measure how much traffic, leads, and customers you generate from social media or other channels. Use it to prove the true ROI that your social channels drive for your company – a great way to argue the value of social media to your management team.

9. Google Analytics – If you want more in-depth Web page analytics, use Google Analytics to learn how specific pages within social networks are driving traffic to your Website. This will help you figure out which are the best sources for promoting your content to drive the most visitors.

10. Topsy – Topsy is a great Twitter search tool to analyze usage of specific keywords and hashtags. If you are promoting a specific Twitter campaign that has a hashtag, use Topsy to understand how often that hashtag was used before and after the campaign.

11. Klout – Curious to know how influential your social accounts are? Klout helps you understand how much pull you have over your network on Twitter, Facebook, and more. You can also see how it changes over time based on the content you offer or the number of retweets you receive.

12. Twitter Counter – It's very important that your social-media reach grows consistently so that your business always has a fresh network of visitors to attract to your Website. Use Twitter Counter to understand the rate at which your Twitter account is growing and recognize any key dates that led to significant growth.

With these key tools, marketers can optimize their social channels for lead generation and measure success with meaningful metrics. Over time, you’ll learn which social channels drive the best leads for your business, and with that data, you can focus your efforts on the ones that are most effective.

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How to Create a Target-Rich Sales Pipeline

Clip_image002Today's guest blog post is by Paul Alves, chief executive officer and cofounder of AG Salesworks.


When I was a rookie sales guy, I didn't put much stock in creating a business plan. My motto was, "Give me a list and a phone, and I'll make it happen." Guess what? It worked; I did make it happen. But what I learned several years later is that I could have made more happen with less work, if I had only taken the time to plan.

As a salesperson, you are running your own business. Your support can range from no support at all to a finely tuned marketing machine. Either way, it is up to you to succeed. Failure is not an option.  

Every successful campaign starts with a plan, which should have two major areas of focus: database development and a proactive, outbound teleprospecting/email plan.

Build Your Database

The first step is to create a quality database. Think quality over quantity. While it is tempting to create as large a data base as possible in hopes that just the sheer numbers will produce prospects, this is only true to an extent. Yes, you need lots of prospects, but if they are not a great fit, they will only dilute your focus on the best opportunities.

Scrub Your Database

As you work through the process of building and scrubbing your database, think about whether or not your prospects look like your ideal customer. Do they look like the last several closed deals? Build a database in your CRM consisting of quality prospects that you know are a fit for your products or services, and be diligent about scrubbing and adding to it every day. This is the pool from which you will find prospects to fuel your pipeline.

Develop a Teleprospecting/Email Strategy

Now you are ready to create a well-planned, consistent, proactive, outbound teleprospecting/email plan to ensure success.

Think of your prospects as a network of professionals who you can help. Reach out to them with a phone call, and if you don't catch them directly, leave a voicemail followed up by an email introducing yourself and your company. Explain to them why you believe they should take a few minutes to speak with you. You might try a message like this:

  • "Hi Mr/Mrs. Prospect, my name is Paul Alves, calling from AG Salesworks. We specialize in identifying and delivering high-value sales opportunities to technology firms. After researching your company, I realized that we have had specific success in your space, helping companies like 'X,' 'Y,' and 'Z' grow their pipelines by two to three times in three to six months. I would be happy to share some of what we have been seeing in the market and determine if we might be able to help you, as well. Do you have five to ten minutes to connect over the phone this week or next?"

Conduct Research

Take the time to research your prospect's business online prior to reaching out. Leverage social-media information that you can find on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. When you call, be brief, and provide specific examples as to how you have helped similar companies. Give them a compelling reason to speak with you, not a fluffy marketing pitch. These people get calls every day, and if you don't sound like a peer who can add value, they will not take the time to speak with you. You have to stand out, and if you don't, then you're just white noise like all the rest.

If you have a marketing team to help you, use it. Collaborate with marketing staff; let them know what messages resonate and which ones fall on deaf ears. Always fine-tune your message for each industry segment and job function. Don't use one boilerplate message on every call. Customize, individualize, and optimize your calls. Engage interested prospects, and remove those who are not ready to buy, but always keep in mind that it is your job to add value on every call. Don't be afraid to drop prospects into the nurturing bucket and let an automated marketing process take care of them. 

Final Words

Build your database, reach out to your prospect universe consistently with a value add message, set a goal to complete an x-amount of quality conversations per day as appropriate for your business, and hit that conversation goal every day. Executing on your plan will turn your target rich pipeline into dollars.

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Beyond Listening: Integrative Conversations

Salespeople today know that listening is a vanishing art in a world where knowledge is exploding all around us. Top salespeople know that buyers can be liars. Sometimes, they're confused as to what they want, and they often need a guide who helps them clearly define what they really need. Like psychiatrists are trained to listen to facts, feelings, and fantasies, top salespeople tune in to the customer's psyche, probing for needs, wants, hopes, desires. They always make sure there's a pause after the customer has finished talking; they know that the most important clues to the customer's real concerns often come as an afterthought.

Listen to More Than What Is Said

Great salespeople also listen to their own streams of thought that are triggered by their customer’s words, sounds, and images; this is also known as following our instincts. These salespeople go a step beyond rephrasing the customer's problems to demonstrate understanding. They do more than ask probing questions that allow them to sharpen their understanding. These superstar salespeople follow a highly effective process that good psychiatrists use: integrative conversations.

Summarizing Your Understanding Is Not Enough

Average salespeople are too preoccupied with reducing the customer's comments to a Reader's Digest version of the conversation: "What I hear you saying is…" Great salespeople kick it up a notch by weaving what they've heard the customer say with what bubbled up inside their own mind while they listened.

An integrative conversation is an authentic exchange of ideas, concepts, opinions, and feelings, with both parties developing a new narrative that reflects a synergistic whole that's co-created by both partners. Integrative conversations happen naturally between non-neurotic people who are willing to give up their preconceived notions when a better idea comes along. For integration to occur, there must be freedom from emotional obstacles or ego-related issues. Integrative salespeople don't push ideas into a prospect's mind; they tease them out instead. They are not preoccupied with the outcome of the conversation; they focus on the quality of the conversation, the flow of ideas, and the depth of understanding that leads to fresh insight. An integrative conversation gets both people to focus on co-creating an optimized outcome.

Become an Integrative Leader

Sales leaders can maximize their potential by becoming integrative leaders. Management guru Warren Bennis once said that becoming a leader is much the same thing as becoming an integrated human being. Integrative leaders are continuously exploring their inner life while passionately pursuing their business goals. 

Key takeaway: Next time, try to be open to what the customer communicates, and observe how the customer's facts and feelings resonate with you. Instead of focusing on the logical content as the sole source for your response, integrate your own associations into your response; it will greatly enrich your conversation. You will become a better collaborator and feel better about your personal and professional achievements. 

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It Is Time to Shame Spammers Publicly!

I am fed up with spammers! When I check the comments on my blog posts, I find more and more nonsensical comments with links to Websites whose owners pollute blogs with nonsensical comments and links to drive up their Internet traffic. Here are a few examples.

Someone with the email address posted this comment: "My thanks to this article, it has a super-duper instigation." After checking the site, I discovered that the site's owner is Kucheruk Pavlo, located in the Ukraine. The company is called It offers writing services to US college students – I suppose in "perfekt" English.  

Below is a sampling of other spammers and their comments:

1.       "Houses are not very cheap."


2.       "You mention truth issue."


The owner of this site:

Eric Morse
Sales Result Inc.
2018 156th Ave NE
Bellevue, WA 98007
Toll-free: (877) 427-2490

My comment: Eric, stop spamming my blog. I won't spam yours.

3.       "Why loose free time?"


The owner of this site:

P.O. Box 821650
Vancouver, WA 98682

4.       "If students are willing to know." 


Note: The owner of the site is located in Australia

My comment: Put a shrimp on the barbie, wash it down with a tall Fosters, and stay away from my blog. 

5.       "Great SEO specialists are not easy to be saw." 


My Comment: Your English teacher must have been an old saw.

This site offers to create 60 Blog Comments for $150 - free typos included! 

The ad on the site describes the process: 
In addition to locating all of the correct blogs for your business, you have to study the rules of each blog and be certain that you follow them. Some blogs have maximum post lengths; others allow only one link back to your site; still others allow two up to no limit of links. All of these things you must record, so that each time you post a comment, you do it correctly. And each comment you post must be different from the one before, and on and on and on! You can spend a great deal of your day reading the most recent comments on blogs and then creating unique and important content, adding your keyword links, and imbedding your url into those links. At the same time, you must implement marketing strategies for all other types of Internet marketing and run your business as well. 

Note: The owner of this site is unknown - private registration by a company in PA 

Question: Is your blog flooded by spammers? What can we do to stop this insanity?

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Taking a Lifetime View of Customers

E0cb56eaeddcd05771aedfc7311c576b-bpfull-80x80This guest blog post is by Eli Jones, Ph.D. and Co-Author, Selling ASAP: Art, Science, Agility, Performance. Visit to learn more. 

BookSalespeople face the task of keeping customers satisfied while increasing the value of customers to the sales organization. In recent years, customer lifetime value (CLV) has become a handy method for achieving those goals. Using mathematical equations to determine CLV is now part of the science of selling. At some point, salespeople may require a sophisticated set of analytical capabilities in order to predict customer needs accurately and interact with customers more profitably. Essentially, however, professional selling today requires taking a long-term view of customer relationships. Here are the four facets of lifetime customer relationships:

  1. Product holdings – the products a customer has purchased and the products the customer currently has on hand.
  2. Product use – how the customer uses the product and what value the customer derives from using it.
  3. Contacts – the nature of the sales organization and the salesperson's contacts with the decision-making unit of a client company over time.
  4. Events – occurrences in the life of the customer (e.g., birth of a child, new business opportunities, change in competitive activity, etc.).

When salespeople collect and use information about these four facets of customer lifetime relationships, they are able to answer questions such as the following: How many customers have purchased product A? How many customers have purchased it more than once? What is the frequency of contact with customers? Which customers are most profitable? What events occurred prior to losing a customer? What customers purchase which products? What events typically precede purchases?

When salespeople can answer questions such as these, they put themselves in a better position to create, maintain, and grow lifetime relationships with customers. A key part of building customer relationships is, simply stated, truly knowing your customers. You must think of customers as partners in collaborative relationships designed for maximizing value to both the customer and you and your organization over the long term. Thus, you must develop "thoughtware" about your customers. Thoughtware represents the thinking process salespeople use as they continuously learn about their customers. For example, customers are often grouped by types of relationships, which provides the following advantages:

  • Identification of significant events in the life of the customer.
  • Avoidance of unneeded duplication of effort.
  • Knowledge of loyalty patterns based on the type of relationship established with individual customers.
  • Identification of cross-sell opportunities (i.e., finding additional products or services that can provide added value to current customers).
  • Identification of up-sell opportunities (i.e., working with customers to upgrade existing products or services for the purpose of providing added customer value and solidifying relationships).

Customer lifetime value is not just a forecasting technique or a software package, but a way of thinking about and doing business with customers that emphasizes up-front preparation and profitable long-term relationships. Such long-term relationships are less costly than those formed under the traditional model, which emphasizes single transactions with customers and closing sales.

Learn more about customer lifetime value. Join

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SFA Is Dead. Vive la SFA!

Eryc-branhamEryc Branham is CEO and founder of Cogar Branham, a business and services incubator, and he can be followed @erycbranham. For selected articles and research, visit

Sales force automation (SFA) has failed us.


Think about your own sales team members; do they use their SFA tool because they’re forced to, or because it makes them more productive? Do they use their SFA tool as a part of their daily job?

Unless you’ve got a high-volume inside sales team, the probability is nearly zero. Field sales teams are mobile; they spend their days interacting (virtually and face-to-face) with their prospects, partners, and customers. The last thing they want to do is data entry. The least productive thing for them to do is data entry. You pay them to sell.

After nearly 20 years in the CRM industry and seeing the results of hundreds of SFA projects, I have come to the shocking conclusion that SFA as it exists today is dead.

Why? At best, today’s SFA tools have become back-office applications, a repository for data that management uses to extract key sales information for executive reporting. There is little value for feet-on-the-street sales professionals in their daily jobs.

Not long ago, I spent time with a Fortune 1000 company where the vast majority of sales reps logged into their SFA application once a week to update a sales forecast, about 15 minutes a week. Yet even that value was suspect, as sales operations did its forecasting with spreadsheets.

The truth is that an entire suite of tools does sales force automation better than the so-called SFA applications.

Contact management is better with LinkedIn.

There’s nothing less useful than out-of-date contact information, yet that’s what SFA tools provide us with in the static contact record.  What I really need to know about my contacts is their most current contact information and how I can establish a connection to them through my personal and business networks. Thus, the power of LinkedIn, where my contacts keep their own profiles up-to-date as they move jobs and companies. Or the power of (formerly Jigsaw), where social networks provide real-time contact information for the people I need to track.

Account management is better with Google.

What do I really need to know about an account? Simple: what are the business units, what does the executive org chart look like, what does the company do (in other words, does it have needs that my company can fulfill), and what are the compelling events that would cause that company to buy my product or service now versus later? All this information is readily available on any news aggregation source, such as Google Finance.

Collaboration is better than opportunity management.

In my experience, there are really only three fields that a sales rep cares about in his or her SFA tool: an opportunity’s close date (when he or she expects to win it), amount (the value of the deal), and probability (what are the chances that he or she will win it by the close date). Everything else is nice-to-have or noise. I’ve spent the past five years focused on the emergence of collaborative selling – what sales reps do to collaborate and co-create with their prospects in order to win their business. Collaboration tools such as Chatter and Jive provide the mechanisms for creating “online rooms,” which become the virtual equivalent of (and perhaps replacement to) the opportunity record, where all the relevant data about a specific deal is stored. That is the focus of the BCS sales methodology that we’ve developed at Cogar Branham.

Forecasting is better with predictive analytics.

The entire concept of sales forecasting in SFA tools is absurd. We expect sales professionals to make regular, objective, qualitative assessments of their deals – with 99 percent accuracy. In reality, the best measure for sales forecasting is the past. We can say more about the relative probability of a specific deal closing by comparing it to past deals of a similar kind, size, and complexity. This is one of the so-called “big data” problems (information that we can extract simply by looking at historical data, rather than ask sales professionals to provide to us). We see this approach in action with such tools as DealMaker from TAS.

Activity management is better with social networks.

Ask average sales reps what is always on, and they’ll say their cell phone. And nearly all of those cell phones are smartphones with easy access to their social networks. I’m more likely to react to a direct message on my mobile device than to workflow in a stand-alone SFA application that I have to log into separately. Certainly, the rise of business communication via social networks such as Twitter and Google+ means that sales professionals are more reactive in real time to activity streams shared with them there.

Is there still a place for sales force automation in the enterprise business world? Of course there is, assuming that we mean tools that a company provides (or allows access to while working) that helps a sales rep sell more effectively. But those tools are built on the foundation of selling in today’s networked world. They are primarily social, not forms on a database as with traditional SFA tools.

Beyond the examples cited above, we’re seeing the emergence of sales apps that aggregate key social information (Nimble) or allow sales reps to build social apps on the fly to create their own custom SFA experience (Podio).

Please join us in #ReinventingSFA!

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Pay Your Hunter Sales Reps to Win

Cabrera_newToday's blog post is by Christopher Cabrera, CEO of Xactly Corporation, the industry leader in sales compensation automation.


Do you pay your hunter sales reps to perform their best?  This role is important to companies of all sizes. Hunter sales reps account for new sources of revenue.

A team focused exclusively on new business should be a separate group with its own rewards. The sales cycle for cultivating new accounts is longer than, say, subscription-based customer renewal. You need to compensate accordingly.


Hunter reps have to do more work than other salespeople do. That's because they have to sell customers on something entirely new. You need to compensate and reward this additional effort.

Hunter reps play an important role in whether certain deals close or not—your incentive compensation plans should account for this responsibility with a higher variable portion in their pay mix. We recommend between 50-60% variable pay, but the best ways to optimize pay mix with variable pay can vary.

Your commission plans should also offer higher payout levels as reps hit higher goals. Make sure you set appropriate quota levels for your industry and individual rep territories. Here are tips for setting fair and accurate quotas.

Most companies set annual quotas. But in some industries quarterly and monthly quotas make more sense.

Be sure to review past performance when setting payout percentages and quotas.

You should also use your commission software tool to run what-if scenarios with your data analytics tools. That way, you can course-correct in advance.

Getting advanced

Do you credit revenue differently for different products, services or on some other metric? Make sure you write these rules into your commission tracking software. If you use spreadsheets for tracking sales compensation, this could take a long time to do. It's also likely you’ll make errors. (See here for more on what's wrong with spreadsheets.)

You may want to set additional rules to split credit for certain sales across a team, give credit for deals in a geographic territory or assign credit based on a product line.

Be careful to only give credit for business that the sales representative can influence. If you only measure quota attainment, you aren't tracking profitability, so watch for discounting.

Remember, pay more for risk. Pay less for deals that are easier to close. What motivates your hunters?


This post is part of Xactly Corporation's blog series on job goals and how to best reward for them. It started with rewarding support specialists and incenting your renewal team, also known as farmer sales reps.

The series celebrates the launch of the Xactly Plan Store, which makes customized sales incentive compensation plans available in our solution for small-to-medium businesses.