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June 2013

Getting Field Sales Reps off the Island: New Ways You Can Enable Reps to Win

Mark_Bornstein-600x600Mark Bornstein is Director of Content Marketing at ON24.


Before I retired my briefcase and became a marketer, I spent 12 years in high tech sales. Those seemed like much simpler times. When I think back on those first few companies I worked for, I marvel at how quickly I was able to get up and running. Sales training was easy back then; sales teams mostly worked from the same office headquarters regardless of where the customers were. Sales calls involved either telephones or airplanes. I was able to work closely with senior sales people who mentored me carefully. Sales meetings and training sessions occurred regularly and new selling tools were quickly created and distributed to the team whenever we needed them. I had easy access to product managers, sales leaders, and peers. If I needed information or guidance, I never had to look farther than a few cubicles away.


Today everything is different. Large enterprise organizations support sales teams that are scattered across the globe. Even mid-sized companies often have a global footprint with many field reps positioned in faraway lands. The onboarding and training of new sales reps typically consists of a week at corporate headquarters and watching endless Powerpoint presentations from various departments (in other words, being at the receiving end of the proverbial firehose of information). There is little time for actual training or introduction to the tools that the reps need to become successful. Once returned to the field, the new sales rep typically relies on conference calls, internal Web portals, or simply intuition to get started in the right direction.

According to a recent Selling Power survey cited in this white paper, “Get More Value from Your Sales Training Efforts,” only 12 percent of sales executives felt that their sales reps were well prepared to have initial conversations with qualified leads and prospects. This is a frightening statistic. A statistic that is a direct result of sales training methodologies that no longer meet the needs of today’s global, mobile workforce.

The new math is this: to be truly effective, sales training needs to follow the sales rep. They need instant access to tools, resources, and even coaching, in real-time, from wherever they are. Fortunately, with the emergence of virtual training solutions, sales reps are now forced to exist on islands, disconnected from the kind of daily interaction and information they need to be successful.


Going Virtual

Virtual sales training has finally enabled companies to bring their field reps back into the fold. Whether it’s for new hire onboarding or ongoing sales training, virtual training environments create an engaging and interactive learning experience that increases sales expertise and fosters a sense of community within sales organizations.

While going virtual may sound futuristic, it’s really quite simple. In a virtual sales training center, you can attend live or on-demand training webcasts, download content, and most importantly engage directly with sales leadership and peers through a variety of interactive tools. Virtual sales enablement solves a number of problems by: putting sales trainers back in the equation, enabling social sharing which raises skill levels, and fostering a sense of community and culture within your sales team, no matter how geographically dispersed they are.

It’s time for a change. Seventy-six percent of the sales leaders polled in the Selling Power survey report that they are still relying on live, in-person training methods. For companies supporting a global sales force, that means choosing between constantly taking your reps out of the field or simply leaving them alone to do the best that they can with limited training and resources. Not a good set of choices.


In a global marketplace, our customers are everywhere. And where the customer goes, so goes the sales rep. Too often, we leave these reps in isolation to fend for themselves. Virtual sales enablement is the key to getting them off the island and ready for success.





Interested in learning more? Check out how ON24’s sales enablement solutions can help your team succeed. 

Avoid These Common SPIFF Mistakes

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

“SPIFFs are dangerous,” says Joseph DiMisa, a senior VP with Sibson Consulting. “There’s a need for them, but they’re dangerous.”

Dangerous? SPIFFs? The sales performance incentive funds that light a fire under salespeople so they move extra inventory, boost new products, or even spend some quality time with the CRM?  Those SPIFFs?

Yes, those SPIFFs, says DiMisa. At Xactly’s CompCloud user conference last month in San Francisco, he and other panelists elaborated on the downside of special incentives. The danger he sees is twofold:

  1. SPIFFs invite “whale watching.” Someone spots a whale on the left side of the boat, so the passengers all run to that side, but the whale is gone. Then it’s spotted on the right, and they all run to the right. The result? The boat – or incentive-compensation plan – lurches all over the place, directionless.

    If your sales team is constantly chasing SPIFFs, DiMisa says, “then your comp plan is off course.” The core incentive-compensation plan should drive your sales organization’s behavior and results.
  2. SPIFFs are like a drug!  They’re addictive: the more you get, the more you want.  If SPIFFs are too frequent or run too long, it’s difficult to pull them back. Reps start to think of them as a given. Companies typically spend 6–10 percent of their incentive budgets on SPIFFs, but DiMisa has seen them spiral as high as 18 percent.

Shawn Rossi of Mercer warns that SPIFFs can easily become a distraction and the ROI is fuzzy at best. When you figure in the cost and effort of getting the word out and running the programs, “It becomes a question of whether it’s worth it,” he said.

Yet another issue, says SalesGlobe’s Mark Donnolo, is that over-reliance on SPIFFs creates behaviors you don’t want. He likens it to Macy’s One Day Sales: everyone knows they’re coming sooner or later, so they plan around them to get the biggest payoff.

Clearly, there are plenty of pitfalls to watch out for when considering SPIFFs. But remember the other half of DiMisa’s statement: there’s a need for them. Pitfalls aside, SPIFFs do have their place and can be effective when implemented with care.

Here are some best practices to keep in mind for successful SPIFFs:

  • Make sure they’re programmatic and well thought-out. Know your expected ROI.
  • Use them judiciously. SPIFFs are effective when you’re launching a new product, for example, or if you have excess inventory or want to bundle products. Stick to specific scenarios. You don’t want to create a menu of incentives so that sales reps choose how they’re compensated.
  • Keep them short term, three months max.
  • Keep them infrequent. Two per year is plenty.
  • Make them unpredictable. This is the best way to avoid the “One Day Sale” syndrome.
  • Limit the cost to about 5 percent of your incentive budget.

Chad Albrecht of ZS Associates says following these guidelines will allow SPIFFs “to serve their purpose, which is a short-term gain or win based on a particular focus that you want to drive. Don’t overwhelm your sales-incentive plan.”

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Will Google Glass Revolutionize Buying and Selling?

Google’s Glass Marketing Act

Instead of creating a traditional PR or marketing campaign, Google used YouTube and Twitter as the predominant marketing tools to promote the idea of investing in a wearable computer that performs searches with voice command, takes pictures, connects you to social media, gives directions, and records videos. 


Google invited prospective customers to A) follow along on Twitter (and more than 88,000 did), B) Tweet ideas about how they’d use Google Glass, and C) buy Google Glass for $1,500.


Google also promoted the new Google Glass experience with action-packed YouTube videos. Here is one that got more than 21 million views:


Google also engaged notable VIPs in Silicon Valley (e.g., tech evangelist Robert Scoble and Loic LeMeur, the founder of LeWeb).

The Valley boys with toys created "Glass envy" at LeWeb in London.

In this video you can actually spot a flaw in Google Glass: when a Glass owner is within earshot of another Glass wearer, the voice command will be executed by both glasses.

Glass encourages people to create and share more images. Robert Scoble says in his blog that if you see a great scene, you can take a photo in real time – no more pulling your smartphone out of your pocket, clicking on the camera icon, aligning the camera with your target... Your ability to pull the trigger of your wearable 5MP camera (blink activated) allows you to instantly get more killer images and fun videos. Google Glass will make photo sharing and Twitter chatter skyrocket, and it will cause Google's database to balloon.

Faster, Better, Deeper Search – for Omni-Competent Living

In the video below, Google-ites demonstrate how quickly and easily they can tap into Google's gold mine of information using Glass. These wearers get instant answers to their questions.


Imagine wearing Google Glass on Jeopardy!. Imagine salespeople saying, "Glass, search Bill Smith on LinkedIn" in the customer's lobby. Or imagine a customer wearing Google Glass and saying, “Glass, check price on widget A,” and then responding to a salesperson with, “I see that your competitor’s price is cheaper. You need to come up with a better deal.”

Say No to Oogle Glass

Google Glass has created the need for greater privacy, and the device has already led to bans at gambling casinos, movie theaters, nightclubs, strip joints, and gyms. West Virginia legislature is already discussing a ban on using Google Glass while driving. The impact of Google Glass on human behavior has inspired many jokes. Conan O’Brien created a skit in which he announced a new, wearable device called Google Ass. SNL’s Fred Armison and Seth Meyers created a hilarious spoof on Google Glass. 

Robert Scoble said at LeWeb in London that he turns his Glass upward when he enters the men's room.


An absentminded downward glance could send a wrong message to the man standing next to him.

Enhanced privacy may save Google Glass from turning into Google Crass. My idea for enhanced Google Glass privacy is to add red, yellow, and green tamper-proof indicator lights that show what the Glass wearer is up to.


The Future Vision of Google Glass

Research conducted by BI Intelligence suggests that Google Glass sales will not skyrocket as they did for the Apple iPhone. 


Find more statistics at Statista.

Apple doesn’t see a bright future for Google Glass. Apple CEO Tim Cook recently said at the 10th D: All Things Digital Conference that Google Glass would not have a broad appeal outside of certain vertical markets.  


Share Your Views

Will customers use Google Glass? Will salespeople wear Google Glass? Will sales trainers create Glass sales apps? Will sales managers be able to coach salespeople in real time? For what price would you buy Google Glass?

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The Challenges of Managing in the Age of Complexity

Years ago, Michael McCafferty, the inventor of Telemagic, urged me to write a story about the coming revolution in sales force automation (SFA). He insisted that computers and SFA software would replace such traditional contact-management tools as the Rolodex and index cards. At the time, our staff was using typewriters, our publication was still in newsprint, and our circulation department had just purchased an IBM computer with a 10MB hard drive.

After we ran a cover story on SFA, we witnessed a period of explosive growth in the field. In 1985, there were only a few dozen small vendors serving the market. Today, there are thousands of sales-software vendors operating worldwide.

Back in ’85, most salespeople could not envision email, sending faxes from a laptop, or remotely uploading new sales leads while sitting in an airline lounge. Today, SFA has accelerated and simplified the communication process. With one mouse click, a marketer can send a hot sales lead directly to a salesperson's computer.

Information technology also speeds up the buying process. Today, every four seconds a new Website is added to the millions already in existence. It’s commonplace for prospects to shop for products and solutions online, bypassing the salesperson. As customers become more educated, salespeople must know more – and more relevant –information to stay competitive.

Sales technology has fundamentally changed the way people buy and sell. Has selling become easier? No. Has sales management become easier? No. Has the cost per sales call decreased? No. But the speed of sales, sales and work volume, and complexity in data and people management have increased. The biggest paradox about sales technology is that, although in many ways it has simplified the management of information, it has increased the complexity involved in managing technology.

Who will win the race for sales success? Sales managers who are able to master the complexity of sales technology and thus simplify the process for their sales team. That involves choosing the best vendors, consultants, trainers, and selling system. It also involves a constant commitment to upgrading and improving the technology.

Companies that win today train their salespeople to reduce complexity for the customer. Top salespeople today have the best technology and possess a greater ability to access, comprehend, interpret, package, and simplify information for the customer. Customers will buy more from the salesperson who offers them all the information they need to make a decision. In the age of complexity, customers will seek out salespeople who make the buying experience faster, friendlier, and simpler.

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How Well Do You Manage Your Message?

In many industries and before the recession, selling was like shooting fish in a barrel. Now the fish are shooting back. The power has gone back to the customer, and a lot of sales managers feel frustrated. It’s tougher to find, qualify, and see prospects. It takes longer to persuade them, and it’s even tougher to close sales.

One thing is certain: the old ways of selling and marketing no longer work. Just as overused jokes lose their power to make us laugh, old sales or marketing messages no longer stimulate the vigorous interest seasoned salespeople are craving. Here are some key trends that Selling Power has uncovered during interviews with CEOs, VPs of sales, authors, and consultants.

1. CEOs are very cautious. Some are optimistic that the market will continue to improve, but they are not counting on it. Their mantra is “cost control.” CEOs demand a higher level of competitiveness, but they are more attracted to cosmetic changes, rather than structural changes. One CEO said to me recently, “Business is an unforgiving, relentless, competitive struggle. We’re constantly refining our customer message and expanding our marketing and sales effort.”

2. Surprisingly, there is still a gap between sales and marketing, though it’s imperative that these two teams work in alignment. One key conflict lies with customer-message management. Marketing is more focused on product facts, while salespeople are more focused on relationships. Salespeople speak the customer’s language, but the people responsible for creating marketing materials don’t. This often leads to the following problems:

  • Marketing messages are not in sync with customer concerns. Experts estimate that 80 percent of a company’s marketing material is never used. Top salespeople often create their own messages and close sales, but the rest just miss sales opportunities.
  • Marketing messages don’t offer enough substance. Today’s customers spend time online researching competing solutions, and they dismiss boilerplate information. The last thing they want to do is listen to a long pitch. When prospects ask questions at a deeper level, salespeople are often unable to differentiate their company’s capabilities or substantiate its claims.
  • Marketing messages are far too complex.  If your salespeople speak about your product or solution in a language that customers can’t understand, customer interest will fade quickly.

It’s imperative that companies cultivate a collaborative relationship between sales and marketing, which will lead to effective customer-message management. But many CEOs are frustrated because there is so little desire to improve in this regard. One CEO told me, “I am always dissatisfied. I preach dissatisfaction. In my mind, everything needs to be improved or we risk extinction.”

Rapid changes challenge companies’ core missions. Progressive CEOs help recalibrate their core marketing messages to hit the quickly vanishing sweet spots in the marketplace. They boldly redesign their ad messages using customer input gleaned from active social media use, refocus their unique selling proposition, and encourage their sales teams to capture customers’ hearts and minds by engaging them on social-media platforms.

Business rewards those who understand their customers’ pain, are capable of offering valuable solutions that deliver results, and above all, speak their customers’ language.

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3 Reasons To Apply for Our 50 Best Companies to Sell For List

Selling Power 50 Best Companies to Sell For
Here's some great news to start the summer: Selling Power magazine is currently accepting applications for our annual 50 Best Companies to Sell For list. Here are three reasons I believe your company should apply today. 

1. Every sales organization needs reps who understand today's selling environment.  

As the buyer controls more and more of the sales cycle, reps who practice old habits will become irrelevant. Sales organizations are not going to be able to compete unless they can attract reps who have the right mindset to win in an economy controlled by the buyer.

Takeaway: A spot on our list will showcase that you're ready to have conversations with reps who can help you win against the competition. 

2. Sales organizations are in a war for top talent. 

Sales reps like the thrill of chasing higher commissions -- and many sales managers fear that unless they dangle more dollars for reps to strive for, those reps will jump ship. In fact, it has been proven that a supportive culture and the right kind of praise from top-quality managers can engender just as much (if not more) loyalty.

Takeaway: A spot on our list will announce to the world that you have successfully built the right culture for reps to succeed. 

3. Sales organziations need a budget to help reps succeed. 

Training has really evolved from the old days of setting up reps with scripts and walking them through a sales process. It is really about sales enablement. Yes, reps need to know what to say in front of prospects, but they also need help finding those prospects and getting the mobile and social tools necessary to stay in touch with those prospects. This requires resources. And some CEOs can be reluctant to loosen the purse strings for this badly-needed investment. 

Takeaway: A spot on this list will help you prove that you've earned the budget for more resources to help the sales team win. 

The deadline to apply for the list is June 24th. Visit this link to download an application today:

Five Tips for the Catch

Youcantfilletanibble-bookToday's blog post is by Gary Coxe, life strategist, personal-growth expert, and author of You Can’t Fillet a Nibble… It’s the Catch that Counts!

If you’re in sales or any kind of direct- or network-marketing company, you’ll understand how difficult it can be to persevere and make those sales that count. Here are five tips, discussed in You Can’t Fillet a Nibble…It’s the Catch that Counts!, to help you adjust your sales mind-set – and stay the course – for better results.

Tip #1: Have the guts of a burglar.

The idea behind this is that you have to become fearless in pursuing your prospects and goals in order to see greater success. This also includes learning how to not cave under pressure, stay persistent, and keep going, even when you feel like giving up because it’s too tedious or difficult or discouraging.

Tip #2: Don’t get on the roller coaster.

Nope, not at the amusement park; don’t get on the emotional roller coaster that a “nibble” can cause. This seems to happen to people who are new to sales. They’re unsure if they’ll be any good at it, and they try to build up their confidence by pinning their hopes on people who seem interested in buying – also known as “nibbles.” If those same people shoot them down, it’s just about as bad as being rejected by your high-school crush. Ouch!

Tip #3: Control your own destiny.

Calling can be a difficult task. Sometimes you just don’t want to face that rejection. Other times, it just seems tedious, even if your emotions aren’t riding the coaster. This same emotional or mental process can happen if you’re out looking for a job.

But consider this: if you want to do business with someone, you call that person, right? If you want or need a job, you follow up with all the companies where you submitted an application or resume. If someone wanted to do business with you, however, that person would be in touch with you. If someone wanted you to hire him or her, you would expect the applicant to do the legwork.

By doing the legwork when you need to, you are taking control of your own destiny.

Tip #4: Keep mentally tough and conditioned.

To follow this tip, you have to be consciously aware of your thoughts and emotional patterns as they relate to your thoughts, and you have to have a willingness to condition yourself for only constructive thoughts (note that I said constructive, not positive – positive thinking just isn’t enough). This ability – and everyone can develop this ability – is the first key to mastering your thoughts and emotions.

Emotions are so powerful, they can easily drag us down. All too often, people become slaves to their own feelings without even realizing that they have control over their emotions, not the other way around. Blaming failure on stress is buckling under pressure. Giving up because of one bad day or a handful of no’s is buckling under pressure.

Tip #5: Mind your side effects.

What do you think is worse, being poorer or ticking a few people off? These are the key differences between being passive and persistent, and being persistent usually brings more success than being passive. Being poorer or aggravating to some are the two main byproducts of each mind-set.

This is the kind of mind-set you should be working toward: “Who cares if I tick a few people off? I know who I am. I know the company I represent. I believe in both.”

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