Leadership Feed

Three Tips for Creating a Successful Sales Culture

TristamBrown_200Today's guest post is by Tris Brown, CEO of LSA Global. Download his white paper, "Do You Have the High Performance Culture to Drive Your Strategy?"


We come across many sales organizations that are not performing at their peak – even businesses with a clear and well-defined strategy. In fact, according to our research, less than 10 percent of strategic initiatives are effectively executed. So what are they missing? They are missing the other two-thirds of the equation for success: the right culture and talent for their specific strategy.

Sales culture is not just another management buzzword, and building a successful sales culture is not a “soft” leadership skill. In fact, in his book The Culture Cycle: How to Shape the Unseen Force that Transforms Performance, Harvard Business School Professor Emeritus James L. Heskett says that culture’s impact on profit (the result of a successfully executed strategy) can actually be measured and quantified:

"We know, for example, that engaged managers and employees are much more likely to remain in an organization, leading directly to fewer hires from outside the organization. This, in turn, results in lower wage costs for talent; lower recruiting, hiring, and training costs; and higher productivity. Higher employee continuity leads to better customer relationships that contribute to greater customer loyalty, lower marketing costs, and enhanced sales."

Heskett’s thinking is just what we, too, have found: if your organization doesn’t align culture and talent with overall strategy, you’re not likely to get the results you want.

Are you having problems hitting your sales targets, retaining top sales talent, or growing target accounts? Those are leading indicators. If you’re having those issues, pay attention to your organizational culture now and not later when effects on revenue begin.

Here are three key things to keep in mind as you think about how to craft and sustain a winning sales culture.

1) Be clear about what your sales culture is. If you can’t clearly articulate your culture to your employees, you’ll never be able to help them live and breathe it every day. Remember, culture is created either by default or by design. If you don’t step in to fill the void, your company culture will evolve with no vision or plan. That is a recipe for disaster.

2) Model your sales culture. What’s good for those in the mailroom is also good for those in the boardroom. A company culture has to present a unified front. Model your company culture in every action you take, and reward those employees who successfully embody the culture you have defined. Any sense of misalignment among your employees can throw the entire framework out of whack.

3) Make sure your sales culture ties your overall strategy to individual success. Employees must believe that the overall company strategy is also in their best interest as individuals. Highlight the successes of your high achievers, and take those moments as opportunities to underscore the value of being in accord with your company culture.

What steps have you taken lately to create a great sales culture? Share your thoughts in the comments section. You can also join Tris at the upcoming Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on May 5 - 6, where he will present Stop Doing Stupid Stuff: The Critical Moves Required to Create Real-Time Sales Results.

4 Tips for Hiring Great Salespeople

Mustafa Kapadia-Professional-4Today's post is by Mustafa Kapadia, North American Sales Leader at IBM. It appeared originally here on his blog



Hiring great sales talent is brutally hard. The most sophisticated organizations get it right only 75% of the time. Others consider themselves lucky if they hit the 50% mark. And if that is not bad enough, consider the cost of a bad hire. Hiring mistakes can impact sales, market share, team dynamics/morale, and management time, just to name a few.

So what should organizations do to help increase their odds of getting a rainmaker? Consider the following. 

1. Create a “want list" and stick to it. 

It’s easy to think that you have found the perfect candidate when you see only his or her best behavior: telling you exactly what you like to hear, spouting out the company mission statement, and raving about your product. Instead, evaluate all potential candidates against a list of desired criteria and personality traits. But don’t stop there. Create your entire hiring process around this “want list," from the job description, to initial phone screening, to interview format, to questions, and even interviewers.

Once created, stick to it. Don’t abandon it because you just came across a shiny new candidate. Instead of your gut, make the process work for you.

2. Never hire alone.

Have the candidate interview across the entire team, from managers, to colleagues, to subordinates. Collect opinions from everyone. It is the best way to get the full picture. If possible, get the hard-ass from your department to interview; someone who is tough, practical, and unsentimental. Leverage those types to cull the crowd.

Some organizations prefer a group interview format; my personal preference still leans towards the more traditional one-on-one. Group interviews have merit but they are susceptible to group think (especially if the boss is in the room) and you can never get to know the candidate at a more personal level.

3. Give an assignment. 

Talk is cheap. If you want to see your sales candidate in action, give him or her an assignment. Case studies, a type of an assignment, are extremely effective in the consulting world. The same theory applies to sales hiring.

Assignments can be something as simple as a short presentation on a product (yours or your competitors), market trends, orals pitch, or competitor analysis. Each of the above examples will give you insights into the candidate’s strengths, help you see them in action, and provide you with free work/insights.

4. Let them talk. 

Fight the natural tendency to talk throughout the whole interview. The urge is even stronger when you like the candidate and want to sell the job. The best strategy is to ask a question, shut up, and listen. As the candidate continues to talk you will find out fairly quickly if he or she is a good fit. Pay special attention to not just what they say but how they say it.

Despite your best efforts, bad hires will happen. It is inevitable. So what do you do then? Recognize the mistake, take ownership, and act fast. While it might be painful, owning up to your mistake in the short run is good for the organization, your career, as well as the person you are letting go. Sales is a people business and only the best teams win.

What are you doing to hire great sales talent? Share your thoughts in the comments section. 

Ditch Your CRM and Get More Done!

I've seen the future, and I’ve decided to ditch my CRM and get more done.

What's the secret? Contatta. It’s a brand new cloud solution that could have 10 million subscribers within the next five years. I think it’s destined to dwarf salesforce.com’s numbers. Why? Because this software works for the salesperson, not the sales manager.

Here is a little-known fact: the average time a salesperson spends on salesforce.com per day is less than 40 minutes (check Alexa.com for average site visit), which represents only 8.3 percent of a salesperson's day. Contatta is designed to help salespeople work smarter, collaborate better, and leverage social media to the max. It’s like a Swiss Army knife that has everything a salesperson needs to sell like a rock star.

Contatta has been developed and designed by the creator of ACT!, Pat Sullivan, who sold ACT! for $45 million to Symantec in 1993. He then started Saleslogix and grew his second company to more than $100 million and sold it to Sage for $260 million in 2001. He has quietly spent the last few years designing and developing Contatta, which in my opinion will lead to a business three-peat.

Here are just three of the most exciting functionalities, among many others:

1. Contatta turns email into a sales-productivity hub. You don't have to hunt for past emails or spend time searching for files that you know you received but can't locate. You can transfer emails to a workroom, which allows you to work on your projects whenever you choose. No more lost emails or dropped projects.

2. Contatta turns email into a social-media listening post that would make the NSA proud. This clever software not only allows you to see what your prospect has tweeted or posted on Facebook or LinkedIn, but you can see all your salespeople’s connections and leverage the collective social-media power of your entire sales team.

3. Contatta ends email forwarding forever. The sales team can share emails (private or public settings), and anyone from your team can collaborate and add messages, comments, and advice, so your salespeople can tap into the collective intelligence of your organization.

I've had the privilege of interviewing Pat Sullivan, and I’ve edited this half-hour video down to the most essential 3 1/2 minutes. 


Is It Time for a Sales Reinvention?

DaveKurlan_75x100Today's post is by Dave Kurlan, founder and CEO of Objective Management Group Inc. and Kurlan & Associates, and author of Mindless Selling and Baseline Selling: How to Become a Sales Superstar by Using What You Already Know About the Game of Baseball. Hear him speak on March 10 at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia.


Companies reinvent themselves all the time. You don’t have to look much further than AT&T, IBM, and NCR to recognize that none of these companies make and sell anything resembling what they made and sold just 40 years ago.

People reinvent themselves too. Just review some of the profiles in your LinkedIn network, and you’re certain to see people doing something completely different from what they were doing 10 years ago.

For some reason, sales forces tend to fall behind in the reinvention department. There are so many experts producing so much content: blogs, videos, newsletters, and e-books. Yet most sales leaders, sales managers, and salespeople are often the last to know that things have changed. Despite the fact that the sales profession has changed significantly in just the last six years, I’m still seeing sales forces selling as if they were stuck in a time warp hardwired to 1975.

Sales transformation does not require a complete sales-force makeover. In most cases, only a few changes may be needed to achieve greater effort, efficiency, effectiveness, and results. Here are just six areas in which transformation should be a consideration:

1) Infrastructure. An optimized, milestone-centric sales process will shorten the sales cycle and improve conversion and win rates. Metrics, aligned with milestones and tweaked for desired goals, provide more predictive information, allowing for coaching and correction.

2) Architecture. A reworking of the ratio between sales managers and salespeople will often yield tremendous results. In some industries, moving outside salespeople to the inside significantly decreases costs, allows for a huge increase in conversations and activity, and yields an increase in revenue and profit.

3) Talent Management. An improved sales-recruiting process, creative sourcing, accurate and predictive sales assessments, applicant tracking, and improved interviewing skills and better-defined selection criteria will significantly improve the quality, ramp-up, contribution, success, and tenure of new salespeople.

4) Enablement. Selecting the most sales-friendly and effective tools over the most popular and fashionable tools will help A) fill the pipeline and keep it filled, B) integrate the sales process, and C) make salespeople more efficient. A more consultative methodology will lead to better differentiation from your competition, and getting your sales model right will allow for scaling.

5) Sales Management. An increased emphasis on coaching – specifically the time spent and quality of the coaching conversation – can increase sales by nearly 30 percent. Nothing has as great an impact on sales effectiveness!

6) Human Capital. An emphasis on sales skills and sales DNA will improve the culture of your sales force. The Boston Red Sox, 2013 World Series Champions, taught us about the power of intangibles and its impact on culture. When everyone is committed to the goal, share a rallying cry, and pull for each other, great things happen.

It’s likely that these points all make sense to you. As a matter of fact, you may even think that you are already doing these things – but that’s the biggest trap for sales leaders. They think they’ve got it right when, in reality, not much has changed. Most leaders find it helpful to have an expert review what they’re doing to get third-party confirmation that they do – or don’t – have it right.

At the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on March 10, I’ll be elaborating on these six areas and helping you ask the right questions to determine whether or not your sales force needs to undergo a sales transformation.

Get Better Results with Big Data

In a video conversation with Lisa Fiondella, CEO of ReFocus Consulting I learned more about the importance of using Big Data to make better decisions that lead to more sales. 

Take a look at this four minute interview on this hot topic. 

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 2.02.12 AM

To get a different perspective on the same subject, I interviewed Kevin Purcell who has recently been tasked to head HP's Vertica Division that delivers Big Data solutions to mid market and enterprise customers. In this 3 1/2 minute interview Kevin shares the astonishing fact that companies analyze only about 10% of their data. Conclusion: your data holds the key to your growth. It's a big mistake not to make Big Data work for you.  

Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 2.19.06 AM

Can you share a success experience with Big Data? 

You can meet both Big Data experts at the next Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on March 10 (which I'll be hosting) and benefit from their professional insights.  



Team Goals: My Chat with Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott

Cabrera_newToday's blog post is by Christopher Cabrera, CEO of Xactly Corporation.



Recently, I sat down with Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott to talk about how properly aligned goals lead to motivated teams and ultimate success.

It was a great conversation and an honor to chat one-on-one with a superstar athlete who helped win multiple Super Bowls and also achieved success in business later in his career. One thing he said that stuck with me was that it’s important to recognize that the game is bigger than you. This is the first step in aligning yourself with the team and the team goals – which is hard.

My new book, Game the Plan: Every Sales Rep’s Dream; Every CFO’s Nightmare, delves deep into the science of motivation: what really makes people tick and inspires performance for the team? After decades in the industry, I’ve seen more than a few managers who unintentionally demotivate their employees, and I’ve discovered quite a few “myth-understandings” about what truly motivates in the workplace.

Myth #1: Having a job should be motivation enough.

Sure, in a world where jobs are extremely scarce (Great Recession anyone?), having a job ismotivation enough. But you can’t really call this feeling motivation; it’s more related to fear and the anxiety that comes from having no other employment options. Buyers beware: if you subscribe to this tactic during lean times, expect a major pushback as soon as the economy improves – and it always does. There was a 37 percent increase in voluntary employee termination from 2009 to 2013. This loss of personnel isn’t just problematic, it’s costly. Losing an employee will cost your organization up to 1.5 times an employee’s annual salary.

Myth #2: Money is the greatest motivator.

According to Mindflash, being fully appreciated for completed work is more important than money for most employees. Sixty-seven percent say praise and recognition from a manager is the most effective motivator. Don’t get me wrong, money matters – a competitive salary is important for retaining rock stars – but when it comes to motivating and engaging employees, pats on the back, plaques, and public recognition go far in making them feel like appreciated members of the team.

Myth #3: Nothing lights fire like fear.

How can you tell if you’ve gone too far? If you think Meryl Streep’s character in The Devil Wears Prada was just misunderstood, you’ve already crossed the line. Fear is a temporary motivator that creates a stressful and unhealthy work environment, not a viable long-term strategy. While being terrified of a boss will “inspire” temporarily, burnout, absenteeism, and health problems are likely to ensue. It’s estimated that $300 billion is spent every year on costs related to workplace stress.

Myth #4: Good motivation theories and practices will work for all employees.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to employee motivation. This is especially important to remember when you consider that engaged employees produce 50 percent more work than disengaged employees. Different tactics inspire people born in different generations. A Gen Yer might need accolades for every completed project, while a Gen Xer may place a high premium on work-life balance. Do your homework and you’ll soon reap the benefits of motivating according to the unique makeup of your workforce.

Myth #5: Sales reps are either naturally motivated or they aren’t.

Everyone is motivated by something; it just takes time to find out what it is. With $350 billion lost in productivity annually because of disengaged employees, companies can’t afford to segment employees into limiting categories. Everyone has the potential to be motivated. Even the rep you catch playing video games during working hours has some motivation behind his or her actions. If you don’t learn what that something is and figure out how to direct it toward work, you could miss out on a highly productive employee.

If you’ve been using any of these tactics to “motivate” your employees, it’s not too late to change your ways. Just remember that motivating isn’t a guessing game, it’s a science. Use the empirical evidence outlined above, and before you know it, your personnel will be performing at peak ability.

Hear more about motivation myths in the Webinar recording “Game the Plan: Review, Strategize, and Win in 2014.”

Jay Leno's Secrets of Sales Success

Jay Leno has ranked No. 1 among the broadcast networks in the 11:35 p.m. time slot since 1995. The success of the Tonight Show has helped NBC rake in over $1 billion in profits. As Jimmy Fallon takes over as the new host it is time to review what we can learn from Jay Leno's consistent success. 

First, success in comedy and in sales hinges on your ability to sell yourself. When Jay started out he had to deal with a ton of adversity and a lot of rejection. He once performed in a place in Atlanta where he had to step into a wire-cage that the owner installed to protect the performers from flying beer bottles. Selling yourself takes guts and courage. 

Second, to overcome the objection that he was an unknown performer he challenged club owners with this creative approach: "I'd like to perform on stage." At this point he slapped a $50 bill on the counter saying, "If you don't think I do a good job, you can keep the $50. But if you like my act, I'd like you to hire me." By showing the customer that he was not afraid to put some skin in the game, Jay got more chances to perform.

Third, after Jay got invited to perform on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, he looked like an overnight success. But the second and third time he didn't do as well and he wasn't invited back. Jay went back on the road, tested out new material with new audiences and honed his skills. Successful salespeople use the same strategy: after each setback they prepare themselves for a a comeback. 

To learn the fourth success secret, watch this three minute video. Please share your thoughts on Jay's apoproach. To subscribe to Selling Power magazine in the Cloud visit http://www.sellingpower.com/cloud

JAY SCREEN Shot 2014-01-26 at 6.20.37 PM

Two Things Top Sales Leaders Do to Hit Their Numbers

LaVon Koener 2Today's post is by LaVon Koerner chief revenue officer of Revenue Storm, which he cofounded in 2000 to offer companies worldwide a suite of comprehensive, proven tools and techniques for profitable revenue growth. Download Revenue Storm’s latest white paper, “Increase Revenue with a Winning Sales Culture.”



Whether it’s the start of a month, quarter, or fiscal year, all sales leaders have the same question: “What can I do now to ensure I hit my numbers?” After three decades of consulting and coaching top sales leaders around the globe, I’ve found that the most successful sales leaders do the following two things to ensure they hit their target:

1. They identify relationship vulnerabilities.
Let’s be honest. Your salespeople are regularly committing relational mistakes in accounts you cannot afford to lose entirely or from which you cannot afford to earn subpar revenue. Here are the three most common and damaging mistakes made in account relationships:

A.    Underinvesting in the right people
There are certain people who can make a difference in how decisions are made; not everyone with the same title has the same clout. While it is often hard to detect and build relationships with these individuals, they are some of the most important and powerful people in the account. You can’t afford not to have them on your side.

B.    Overinvesting in the wrong people
These people may be wonderful human beings who love your salesperson, offerings, and company. But so what? If they have no decision-making authority, budget, or influence, they can’t help you. Don’t bet your future in an account on the wrong people.

C.    Missing certain key people altogether
These people may or may not be employees in the account; they may be consultants or advisors. Regardless, if they have the authority to say yes or no to your proposals, you must have them on your radar screen. Could your competitors know key people your salespeople don’t?

While you can’t eliminate these mistakes entirely, successful sales leaders make certain these mistakes are not occurring in their must-protect accounts. Start performing regular relationship audits to uncover any relational vulnerability that could put your revenue in harm’s way. Don’t start another day in the dark in this vital area!

2. They identify competitively vulnerable pursuits.
Can you honestly look at your pipeline and feel good about your year ahead? As you scroll down through the list of opportunity names, do you know which ones you’re at risk of losing? Are you able to identify which opportunities are real and which are just your salesperson’s wishful thinking? From a coaching perspective, do you know where your involvement could make a difference and where it would be a total waste of time?

As you look intently into your future revenue, these are the questions you must be able to answer in time to take corrective action. These answers won’t come easily from your salespeople, who probably don’t want to discuss negative possibilities; however, as a sales leader, you need to realize that it’s best to get bad news as soon as possible. You want the bad news about your revenue when you can still do something about it. You need to know – really know – the good, the bad, and the ugly, and you need to know it now!

Start scrubbing your pipeline by answering the questions I’ve outlined in this post. You should be able to get the answers you need and want without guessing about your revenue potential or probability of winning.

At the end of the year, don’t look back and find that the reason for your revenue short-fall was in either of these two areas over which you can have control:

  • a loss of must-protect strategic accounts, due to relationship vulnerabilities;
  • a loss of must-win pursuits, due to competitive vulnerabilities.

See how Revenue Storm clients use science-based tools to address these two areas in this 3-minute video.

Download Revenue Storm’s latest white paper, “Increase Revenue with a Winning Sales Culture” to learn how a science-based approach to coaching creates a framework for positivity, greater collaboration, and increased revenue.  

Get ready for the Real Time Economy

In this five minute video, Seth Godin shares the latest busines trend. On one hand, the time gap between need and satisfaction is shrinking, on the other hand the market has become more tribal. The consequences of this trend are: 

1. To become the top choice in the real time market, we need years of preparation 

2. To capture the real time expectations of our customers we need real time technology tools (real time analytics) 

3. To insure relevancy in real time we need to subscribe to the right connections. 


How to Win in 2014

Seth Godin on how to win in 2014 

"You have everything you need to build something bigger than yourself," is one of my favorite Seth Godin quotes. A short conversation with him will leave you thinking for days afterwards. Seth thinks deeper and his ideas grow in an unusual soil. His mind operates on Olympic levels of curiosity.  It’s no wonder that over 1 million people read his blog. He has authored 17 books and many of them have made it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. If you don't know Seth, it's not to late to join him online, join his (Sethsblog.com) and enjoy his kaleidoscopic perspective. Here is just one fragment from a blog post Oct. 29, 2012 “Who you hang out with determines what you dream about and what you collide with. And the collisions and the dreams lead to your changes.”  

Seth and I agreed to meet for lunch in New York City. As I approached the restaurant, I noticed him standing outside, wearing a stylish suit and tie, a blue bike helmet dangling from his left hand while he looked at his cell phone. Seth is always in pursuit of quality, efficiency while enjoying life. "I am searching for a better place to eat," he explained. He took the train from his office in Hastings on the Hudson to New York City and pedaled over on a city bike. We decided to walk in the direction of our studio and after a few steps we found an oyster bar. We ordered a plate of 8 delicious oysters to share, which inspired Seth to share this thought: "Four is just enough. It's interesting that in our culture we tend to think that more is better. It isn't. Four oysters are delicious and six are OK, but the more you eat the more the initial pleasure wears off. Research shows that more health care for seniors doesn’t make them healthier, and a greater reduction of teacher-to-student ratios in schools doesn’t lead to better grades. If the class size gets too small, grades go down again." Seth’s point, that more is not better, runs against the “supersize-it” neurotic, greed-is-good culture that characterizes the superficial mindset of America’s underbelly.

Seth’s antenna is always tuned into to the emerging Zeitgeist of our times. In this six-minute video interview he explains the major shifts in business and how we should approach 2014. His well articulated insight – if applied –is enough to optimize your success in 2014. 

This is republished from Selling Power Magazine in the Cloud, January 2014 edition. To see the entire issue visit www.sellingpower.com and click on "Get One Time Access"