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November 2013

Five Sales Personality Types and How to Incent Them

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


If your company hasn’t been making its numbers and your employees seem disengaged, it’s time to examine how to incent them uniquely and appropriately.

A big part of building a successful sales team is building a comp plan to suit your team members’ individual needs. Let’s look at the specialized roles that round out your team and how to optimally incent your team members.

1) Hunters

A hunter is your “traditional” salesperson; he or she probably cold-called you to get the job and followed up persistently. Hunters are bold and thrive in the field, where they can hunt new business. Their main task is to nurture leads and close deals. To incent hunters properly, make sure that a large portion of their target salary comes from variable pay. Among Xactly users (more than 500 emerging to enterprise companies) the average hunter pay mix is 50 percent fixed and 50 percent variable.

A recent PR Newswire article, “Motivating Your Sales Force: Do Bonuses or Commissions Work Better?” cited an AMA study that compared bonus-at-target plans to commission-beyond-target plans and found that “sales improved by 24% when the sales reps were switched to the commissions scheme.” Why? The key to optimally incenting hunters is to break down any barriers to performance. A common barrier that companies set up for hunters is a capped commission plan. The organization may believe it’s protecting the budget, but the reward isn’t worth taking away the motivation for hunters to knock it out of the park.

2) Farmers

While hunters stay hot on the trail of new business, farmers harvest deals by nurturing existing clients, keeping customers happy, and cross-selling. You’re guaranteed a lower churn rate when you have talented farmers focused on consulting and renewals. To reward farmers properly, you want to motivate them to up-sell – without taking advantage of the customer with unnecessary up-selling. This can be tricky. With the optimal pay mix, you can avoid both overeager farmers trying to sell nonessential products and complacent farmers so satisfied with the annuity stream from their patch that they forget about growth. Farmers’ incentive compensation plan should have a 60/40 mix of growth and annuity reward.

3) Prospectors

Without consistent leads streaming through your pipeline, deals (and therefore cash flow) are sapped. This leaves reps vulnerable to falling short of quota. The prospector’s job is to ensure a plethora of qualified leads so that hunters can focus on doing what they do best – closing deals. To inspire the best performance from your prospectors, you need a plan that incents them to always find new leads. You don’t want to pay for just leads; that’s a prospector trap. You want to pay for closed business. Construct your plan to reflect this need with a healthy 60/40 mix between leads and revenue. Worried certain prospectors will score a few high-revenue deals and put their feet up for the rest of the quarter? Add a control, or threshold, on credit for big deals.

4) Specialists

This sales-support role is absolutely critical. You don’t want a rep getting tongue-tied because the demo and sale are too complex. Back your reps with specialists to help answer industry-specific questions and address technical challenges. When it comes to incenting the role that some have referred to as the “brains” of the team, pay should be primarily base. Specialists need to provide the best advice possible to the rep and the customer. To fulfill their purpose as the trusted advisors, they can’t have too much variable pay, or you won’t be motivating desired behavior, you’ll be turning your specialists into hunters. To incent the specialist, measure the quality of closed business, and compliment with a measure of the intrinsic value of a deal to the customer.

5) Captains

Depending on the size of your organization, you’ll need multiple captains to keep the team aligned and working toward company objectives. Just as all football teams need a coach, every sales force needs a captain. This person’s tasked with looking at the team holistically, discovering outlier reps, and keeping them focused on the deals and goals that matter most. When it comes to compensating captains, their quota should be less than the sum of all their reps’ quotas combined. Adjust your captains’ quotas for new hires and open slots; you don’t want a captain to be so fearful about not making quota that he or she will keep poorly performing reps on the payroll or hire inept candidates just to fill a seat. With an opportunity-based quota for managers, you incent them to build their “A” team, not to just build a team. 

Incent according to these personality types, and you’ll be ready to hit the ground running going into the next quarter.

Check out our featured guide, “Bring Your A-Game,” for a more detailed study of building your best sales team. 

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Lean Out: 3 Steps to Increasing Revenue in Your Company

20063a0Today's blog post is by Dan McDade, author of The Truth About Leads.



ThetruthaboutleadsRecently, over a cup of coffee, Dan Waldschmidt (Waldschmidt Partners) and I talked about the herd mentality that causes many well-intentioned businesspeople to follow the crowd blindly – often in the wrong direction – based on one so-called expert or another proclaiming that “cold calling is dead” or “content is king,” as though it were all that simple. Dan subsequently published a blog post called “Sometimes the experts are idiots. So just go be awesome.” Read the post, but here are some thoughts he shared.

He wrote about some dubious statements:

“In 1899, Charles H. Duell, Commissioner of the US Office of Patents, astutely noted, ‘Everything that can be invented has been invented.’ Since then, 7,673,820 inventors have received patents from the USPTO.

“In 1943, Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, observed, ‘I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.’ As of June 2010, there were approximately 1,966,514,816 computers connected to the Internet – accounting for roughly 28% of the global population.

“In 2007, Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft, proclaimed, ‘There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance.’ Since 2007, Apple has sold almost 430 million iPhones. Microsoft has only sold about 2% of that number.”

Also in his blog post, Dan advised the following:

“You should keep dreaming big dreams. You should refuse to believe that things won’t change.

“What you feel doesn’t need facts yet. It just needs you to believe. To believe so passionately that you move past logic, criticism, and everything that you think is possible in the pursuit of making it reality.”

Dan also shared these ideas with me:

“My problem with the crowd mentality is that it lacks an authentic environment for replication. From weight loss to financing to working from home and business growth, experts will try to convince the crowd that the expert's plan is easily replicable. Even if the experts are sincere, they are sadly misguided.

“Regardless of the specifics, the crowd mentality focuses on what everyone else is doing, rather than what each specific member of the crowd should be doing. Adherence, rather than creativity, is rewarded, and that by itself is a pretty big problem.”

There was a time when “nobody ever got fired for buying IBM.” Today, it seems that nobody ever gets fired for abandoning outbound marketing in favor of inbound marketing. It’s now possible for marketing to pass a higher quantity of poorly qualified leads to sales faster than ever before. The result: sales mostly ignores the avalanche of poorly qualified leads that scored high enough (according to the marketing department) to be sent to sales as marketing-qualified leads. One marketing organization we work with passes thousands of leads to sales knowing that only 1.28 percent of what is sent is qualified. Honestly, people – this has got to stop!

There are three things that organizations can do to stop the insanity:

  1. Sales must proactively accept or reject marketing leads within 48 hours of receipt. If rejected, a judicial branch made up of senior marketing and sales executives, along with a C-level executive (in larger companies), should determine if the lead did not meet the agreed-upon lead criteria or if sales follow-up was insufficient and/or ineffective. This will reduce lead leakage by not allowing a lead to go into a black hole. Neither marketing nor sales can maintain the status quo. Statistically backed accountability will drive continuous improvement.

  2. Once a lead is accepted by sales, a realistic close rate should be agreed upon and worked toward (including eventually working toward improving that rate). Ask reps today what percentage of qualified leads they can close, and they will tell you 60–80 percent. What they are really saying is that they will close 60–80 percent of the leads they thought they were going to close. According to some industry analysts, average companies close about 20 percent of sales-qualified leads, while best-in-class sales organizations close closer to 30 percent. No sales rep wants to take credit for losing four out of five times, so organizations do not have visibility into lead status unless the lead is close to being won or it is too late to do anything about it. Sales reps will sell more when they are focused on fewer opportunities but held accountable for the process their company has put in place for lead pipeline and forecast movement. Without step 1, step 2 is impossible.

  3. Kill the insane preoccupation with the lead-definition “god” called BANT (budget, authority, need, time frame). In The New Solution Selling by Keith Eades, there are two important “truths”:

            “The not-looking buyer has great potential.

            “When the salesperson sells into latent pain, that salesperson has an excellent opportunity to set or define the buyer’s buying requirements.”

    Yet most companies’ sales reps are uninterested in leads unless they are BANT qualified. Unless you are selling an inexpensive solution or a commodity, you are too late to the game when you wait for a lead to be BANT qualified. But here is what “general-interest lead” means to different audiences:

    AVERAGE SALES REP: “No budget, no timeframe, no interest in working it. I would rather take someone who is nice to me to lunch, rather than work strategically on a sale.”

    ELIGHTENED SALES REP: “Authority [decision maker or coach influencer] and need or pain [backed by some form of compelling event] – I’m on it! I know that I have a better chance of closing a strategic deal when I’m in early. Let my lazy brethren fight for the crumbs.”

Break away from the crowd! The next time you hear someone say, “Seventy percent of the buying process is complete before sales needs to get involved,” respectfully but forcefully disagree. Do something different, because following the crowd is not going to work. As Dan says at the end of his blog post, “No one can stop you if you won’t be stopped. Choose to be awesome.”

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How Much Value Do You See in Social Media?

Today, the combined market value of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter is more than $162 billion. That’s a huge value for companies whose customers create content that their friends, followers, and connections avariciously consume (often while they probably should be doing something else).

Last week, Dave Kurlan, the author of Baseline Selling, wrote an interesting blog post about how salespeople don’t get traction with social media. One passage struck a chord:

“It's time that we stop expecting sales to increase as a result of CRM, social selling tools and email.  They are great tools, but none of them replace actual selling, and even worse, all of them serve as distractions, false safety nets and busy work that must be completed before salespeople are caught up and can get on the phone.”

Kurlan’s findings are based on compelling information. He states that there is a lack of correlation between the use of social-media tools and key sales metrics. (Note: Kurlan’s company, Kurlan & Associates, has more than 1,400 Twitter followers.)

Kurlan’s source can’t be brushed off; the information is drawn from more than 10,000 sales assessments from more than 200 industries. 

As the daisy chain of CRM-related apps expands dramatically (many companies now use 15–20 different "sales-productivity enhancing apps"), salespeople are spending more time with information that's either pushed to them or they access at will.

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Salespeople find social media interesting at first, but they often get lost in the execution.


Social media can turn into a subtle thief of time, demanding our attention and luring us away from the path that would move the sale forward. It is easy to think that social-media tools were created to tickle our egos, and when I hear people brag about the number of Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections, and Facebook friends or “likes” they have, I begin to wonder if salespeople are paying more attention to growing their social-media metrics than their customer base.

Jill Konrath (16,800 Twitter followers), the author of SNAP Selling,  explains in a recent video, "What You Need to Know About the Rise of Social Selling", that social selling is about four things:

  1. Building a strong online brand
  2. Gathering sales intelligence
  3. Making connections
  4. Sharing good stuff 


Jill Konrath talks about the rise of social selling. When will we hear about the fall of Facebook?

George Dans, author of the book Just Close It!, shared his reluctance to keep up with Facebook; he’s thinking about shutting down his connection to more than 1,600 friends (he has 43 Twitter followers). Dans spoke at our last Sales 2.0 Conference, and I am willing to bet that he’ll soon follow through with this plan. I personally love Twitter (5,800 followers) and LinkedIn (3,400 connections), but like George, I don’t see Facebook’s ROI in business. 



George Dans believes that there are too many “likeaholics,” and he thinks of quitting Facebook.

Award-winning sales blogger Anthony Iannarino  (more than 31,000 Twitter followers) frames the issue of social media in a different light in his blog

“The new tools are amplifiers. They amplify what you already are. If you’re a pitch machine, always pushing how wonderful your product, your service, or your solution is, the new tools will amplify the fact that you are all about you. It takes something negative and amplifies it, making it even more negative than it already is.”


Anthony Iannarino has more than 31,000 Twitter followers - a big megaphone for his blog that’s read by 45,000 salespeople.

Koka Sexton, a social-media guru and marketing manager at LinkedIn, says in the following YouTube video that “social selling is just being able to leverage social networks in a way that accelerates your deal cycles, as well as gets you more connected with your network in a way that can open new opportunities.”


Is there a LinkedIn study that refutes Dave Kurlan’s claim? Is social selling something that helps social-media companies more than salespeople?

The fact that Koka Sexton has 30,000 Twitter followers and this video got only 123 views makes me wonder if social metrics matter.  We know that the combined market value of LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook is more than $162 billion, but what value are these companies creating for their customers? 

We love to invest in dreams.

At the heart of social media is the dream that connections can turn into relationships, and relationships are the foundation of business. The reality of the digital economy is that we are working for two businesses: one is our business, and the goal of that business is to create customers. The other business is to serve and interact with the software products in the cloud that we need to deploy in order to attract, engage, sell, and service our customers.

And here is the challenge with all things in the cloud: the more we train our minds on the cloud, the less traction we have under our feet to move sales forward.

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Get Executive Sponsorship for Your Great Ideas

LisaG_2_v2Today's blog post is by Lisa Gschwandtner, Editorial Director at Selling Power. Follow her on Twitter @SellingPower20.


Many sales leaders have great ideas about how to help the sales team improve or exceed its goals. No matter what your idea is, it probably represents an investment of time or money (or both) to carry it out.

In February of 2012, two sales leaders, Ken Powell and Jim Neve, had a great idea for SunGard, a financial-services company: undergo a complete sales transformation. The plan was to maximize channels, sell the broadest set of solutions, and go to market in a coordinated manner -- all with the goal of creating a sustainable revenue engine.

All told, Powell and Neve planned to invest about $4 million to purchase technology solutions and work with vendors who could help them achieve their goal. In a workshop at the recent Sales Performance Management Conference in San Francisco, Powell said that a key element of success was to secure executive sponsorship. Here are five tips he shared for getting the boss to support your great ideas:

1) Align your idea with existing strategic priorities.

You’ll have a much better chance of convincing executives to support your idea if it complements stated goals for the organization. Given the challenges SunGard faced at the start of the sales transformation, it was pretty easy to make a strong case for building a sustainable revenue engine. As long as you can connect the dots, your company’s strategic goals could be a great springboard to garner enthusiasm for your idea.

2) Don’t ask for new money.

There’s a budget for your idea -- it’s just sitting somewhere else right now. Before you ask your boss to divert funds from other departments, however, make sure you truly believe your idea will bring the highest value to the company. If you don’t feel that way, wait for a better idea to strike.

3) Build an internal coalition among peers.

The boss isn’t the only person you should be chatting up. Build a coalition of support among your colleagues for your idea. Ideally, they’ll talk it up without your involvement. Powell calls this “seed planting.”

4) Offer your boss at least three options.

Powell said it’s rare that he doesn’t provide executives a list of at least three options, along with a list of the pros and cons of each. The reason is simple: if the boss feels he or she had a part in crafting or selecting the idea, it might be easier to secure support for execution. Allow your boss to decide in which direction the company should go.

5) Present and refine those options multiple times.

As a rule, don’t expect to get a yes from top-level executives on the first go-around. In fact, Powell says it’s a good idea to assume that execs will be either neutral or negative about your proposal. Use the presentation as an opportunity to test and refine your idea. Although it can be frustrating when the boss doesn’t see its value right away, taking the time to listen to feedback and refine options can get you one step closer to yes.

You don’t have to embark on an idea as lofty as a sales transformation to try out Powell’s advice. Investments in change (even tactical ones, such as outfitting the field sales team with mobile devices) typically require resources and internal support. Use these tips to get buy-in from the boss and make your mark as a great sales leader.

For more behind-the-scenes information about SunGard’s sales transformation, download this free white paper

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