How to Supercharge Your Sales Pipeline with Predictive Intelligence

AmandaKahlow_300Amanda Kahlow is CEO and founder of 6sense. Prior to 6sense, Amanda spent 14 years as the CEO and founder of CI Insights, a big-data services company that used multichannel analytics to help enterprise companies generate as much as $300 million in net-new business. 

 

What would it take for your sales team to stay on top of the pipeline and effectively manage sales opportunities? Better incentives? Micromanagement? Magic?

We say the answer is predictive intelligence.

Every day, your buyers and prospects are leaving digital footprints, buying signals that indicate whether they are in the market to buy, what products they prefer, and perhaps the vendors they are considering.

By tying together billions of rows of time-sensitive data, predictive intelligence distills all these digital signals into insight that sales professionals can use immediately, leading to faster close rates and increased sales.

For example, our customers’ sales teams receive regular alerts about new prospects that 6sense has found and regular notifications about prospects’ progression through the funnel. All this valuable information is captured with no extra work required from the sales teams.

The results are tangible. Here are two ways predictive intelligence helps sales teams better manage the pipeline. 

1) Fill your pipeline with new prospects who are ready to buy.

Think about how fast you’re going through leads. If you’re running through them, you’re not alone; ample lead supply is a common pain point for sales. The predictive intelligence platform by 6sense alleviates this issue by identifying entirely net-new prospects who are either in the market to buy your specific product or actively looking at other options in your industry. Say a company is showing intent to buy your type of product but hasn’t discovered your brand. The 6sense predictive engine will detect that this prospect is in the market to buy and will inform your sales team, who can jump on the opportunity.

One of our customers used 6sense to identify business that resulted in the third largest deal in the company’s history – and this prospect was about to buy from a competitor! Another 6sense customer was able to double its opportunity sizes, and 70 percent of those opportunities were net-new prospects who had never “raised their hands” and were not in marketing-automation or customer relationship management systems.

2) Get a full-funnel picture of all your prospects.

So now that you have plenty of new leads, what about everyone else? Your reps must understand where potential buyers are in their journey. With predictive intelligence, that’s possible. 

Say you want to sell to 10 specific people; however, if their activity doesn’t indicate that they’re in the market to buy, then you know you don’t need to focus on those 10 prospects for the time being. Instead, jump on the ones who are showing active interest in your products. Stop guessing and start selling. One of our customers told us that, before using 6sense, 33 touches were required to convert a lead to an opportunity. After using 6sense, it took only 10.

Interested in learning more? Hear Amanda Kahlow, CEO and founder of 6sense, speak at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco on April 28. Or contact us now.

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Two Reasons Predictive Analytics Drive Outstanding Sales Performance

LisaFiondella

Today's guest post is by Lisa Fiondella, CEO of reFocus Analytics. Hear her speak at the Sales 2.0 Conference in Philadelphia on March 16, where she will present “Innovating for Sales through Big Data and Analytics.”

 

Throughout high school, I really enjoyed math (with the exception of 10th grade geometry), and college statistics was actually fun. I can still hear our teachers telling us that we’d use math every day of our lives, while my classmates and I snickered at the thought. Other than counting the money in my measly savings account and comparing the total to the price of a really cute pair of shoes, I just didn’t get the connection. 

When I decided to make sales my profession, I never dreamed that math could have such a profound impact on my own sales performance or that one day I’d develop and leverage an analytical approach to creating sales growth. After all, selling is a “people profession” and traditionally associated with such skills as

  • allowing customers to express their needs,
  • creating trust,
  • negotiating effectively, and
  • proving you and your company offer the best solution for the customer’s business.

All of these are human interactions and far removed from mathematical calculations, but as I moved from an individual contributor role to sales management and eventually to running a business, I learned that combining the “people” element of sales with the math of predictive analytics can be a powerful combination

How so? We’ve heard the statistics about how today’s buyers buy. Based on my own experience leading large, complex sales organizations and testing many approaches, I believe that predictive insight is the way to achieve outstanding performance. Here are two reasons why:

1) Predictive analytics tell you what’s likely to happen with your customers, markets, and business performance.

You can use this insight to build strategies around resource and organization planning, territory assignments, account assignments, and quota development. This provides a much clearer picture of revenue potential – much more so than historical sales reports (or the traditional gut instinct of the salesperson and sales manager).  

2) Predictive analytics allow sales leaders to more effectively execute business activities. 

That’s because predictive insight can be applied at an account or individual sales-representative level. For example, if a manager understands the revenue potential of a particular rep’s account book, then individual level quota and performance measures can be established. This approach helps sales leaders focus on the right actions and measures that will propel the company to greater levels of sales success. 

Sales today is a brave new world. While some of the old ways of selling still work, a predictive approach is ideally suited for sales leaders who want to achieve outstanding performance. This means you must be willing to learn how to win using methods that are different from what you used in the past.

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How Baseball Can Make You a Better Seller

GarciaGlover_200Today’s guest post is by Garcia Glover, managing partner at Axle Sales Partners LLC, a sales-training company that helps organizations build high-performing sales teams by arming their salespeople with the proprietary Axle 60/20/20 Sales Approach™.

 

As a 20-year, business-to-business, outside sales practitioner, and now as managing partner for a sales-training company, I often find myself using baseball analogies in my sales “pitches.”

That’s probably because sales and baseball are what I know most. A baseball scholarship paid my way through college, and I was a college coach for a number of years. I started in professional sales selling copiers door-to-door before everyone had a cell phone – hell, before everyone had a pager. (You may be asking, “What’s a pager?”) But before you dismiss me as old and out of touch with today’s selling environment, let it be known that my last full-time sales job was in 2011, selling for a large multimedia company.

I’ve used many baseball analogies in sales over the years, and my favorite is this: selling, like baseball, is a team sport played by individuals. In baseball, an opposing batter hits the ball to the fence, then the outfielder picks up the ball and throws it to a teammate. That player in turn throws it to another teammate standing at a base. Now that’s great teamwork! When that same outfielder goes up to bat one-on-one with the pitcher, however, the team can’t help.

Selling is the same: the sales team can be supportive in many ways, but when a rep is one-on-one with a buyer, the team can’t help.

Recently, my thinking about sales and baseball has gone deeper than analogies when I started looking deeply at the parallels between my baseball experiences and selling. My new thought process began when a sales prospect asked, “Your sales training isn’t elementary, is it?” My immediate response was no. Later, I began to wonder what she meant by “elementary” and what would be wrong if it were. I thought back to my coaching days and remembered that players had to constantly work on the “elementary” fundamentals to become better ballplayers.

So why are salespeople (and managers) reluctant to work on the so-called elementary aspects that are fundamental to their sales game?

Maybe it’s because we in sales have become so enamored with 50,000-foot views, technology, big data, complex processes, and systems that we’ve lost focus and don’t have time to work on the simple stuff that really makes and keeps us successful. In baseball, we used an acronym, ACES, which we recited at practice to remind the ballplayers about what it takes to get better. ACES is simple and straightforward and proved to be effective:  

Attitude: Your attitude is what you bring to everything. Maintain a positive attitude, because it’s what enables you to get up (no matter how many times you’ve been knocked down).

Confidence: This isn’t swagger. It’s the silent, inner confidence you build by knowing that you’ve done everything possible to prepare for and win the game.

Execution: This is the planned approach you take to achieve peak performance. The key is to set goals and have an executable plan to reach those goals.

Skill: Skill has nothing to do with talent. Skill refers to the acknowledgement of your strengths and weaknesses. Exploit your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses until they become strengths through learning and dedicated work.

ACES can apply to any vocation, especially sales. I had no idea that my experience as a baseball coach and player would make me a better seller. So my advice for anybody in sales is this: Don’t lose focus on the elementary stuff, no matter where it comes from, because it could possibly make you better.

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Four Selling Skills I Learned from David Sandler

IMG_2827David Sandler had a winning smile and a refreshing, no-nonsense attitude. I felt privileged to spend time with him when I interviewed him years ago for Selling Power magazine and had no idea that he would pass away only four years later in the prime of life.

Today the Sandler Training organization is growing at a steady pace and his idea of reinforcing learning is helping tens of thousands of salespeople generate more sales. While other sales trainers that I've interviewed taught formulas that began to wear out after a few weeks of use, Sandler was teaching a practical process that any salesperson could use to win more business.

Here are four things David Sandler told me about how to sell. 

1) A sales call is like a Broadway play. 

“A sales call is like a Broadway play performed by a psychiatrist. What I mean by that is that you've got to be an actor who can slip into many different roles and you've got to be a psychiatrist who can see past the intellectual defenses people build around them.” 

2) The salesperson’s attitude in the opening phase of the call matters. 

“Psychiatrists begin with very nurturing questions to establish trust. People feel vulnerable and have learned not to be up front with salespeople. In general, prospects won't tell you about their real problems. Psychiatrists learn very early in their training that what the patient brings to them is never the real problem. Patients can only describe symptoms, the psychiatrist must find the causes, not just relieve the symptoms. The same is true with a prospect. That's why it takes three or four questions about a specific subject before you can go past a prospect's natural defenses. Each answer becomes a little more revealing than the previous one.”  

3) There are five critical steps in the sales process. 

“There are five steps to the formula: well, hurt, sick, critical and well. As soon as you talk to a prospect, you begin by finding a hurt through reversing questions. Then you expand your questions to a group of pains until the prospect is sick.

If you continue to work on that sickness with more questions, you will have a prospect on the critical list. Then your selling job becomes easy, because all you have to do is make him well again. It’s not easy for people to remember intellectual formulas. To help them remember, I tell them a story like this one:

Let’s say you go to see your doctor for your annual physical. A complete checkup will probably cost you about $300. Your doctor will ask you to strip down in the examining room. Then he'll come in and poke at you, hook you up to an EKG, X-ray your chest, then put you on a stress test that can kill you if you're not a runner. He feeds you chalk, he punches you and pokes you everywhere. And you're saying to yourself, 'This isn't worth $300. I should be out there making calls. What am I doing here spending an hour and a half with this guy?'

Finally he says, 'Okay, the examination is over, get dressed and come into my office.' In his office he has a little light box with your X-ray clipped on it. It's a picture of you. The doctor looks at this picture while you're wondering how quickly you can get out of there. You think, 'Let's give him the $300 and get going.' Then he looks at these things closer, turns to you and asks, 'Has anybody in your family ever had kidney problems?' You say 'No.' Then he looks back at that X-ray again. Now, this time he talks to the X-ray saying, 'Now, there is nothing really serious here. I don't think we want to worry too much and we can take our time on this. What are you doing tomorrow morning? I want you to go down to the hospital because I want to check this out. I don't like what I see.' 

At that moment, your mind went from $300 to a blank check. That's what a good salesperson does.”  

4) You must develop the right attitude for success

“Sales success begins with an internal attitude. I want salespeople to generate this attitude in order for them to succeed. When you are sitting in front of a prospect, at some point in the presentation you will hear a little voice inside that says,'This is a lot of pressure, perhaps it's easier outside.' Or you'll hear, 'Let's get out of here, this is too much.' Or, 'This guy is not worth the hassle.' At this moment -- if you let your killer instincts guide you -- you won't give in, but forge ahead and win. The job needs to be done, that's why they pay you. Your boss is not buying your need to be liked; your boss is buying your need to go to the bank. At the same time, you need to be honest and ethical. You can't lie, you can't mislead a customer and you can't break the law to get a sale.”

A version of this post appeared on LinkedIn Pulse. For more information on David Sandler training methodologies visit Sandler.com

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Four Key Elements of an Effective Sales-Leadership Vision

Norman BeharToday’s guest post is by Norman Behar, CEO of the Sales Readiness Group, an industry leading sales training company that helps Fortune 500 companies develop and deliver customized sales and sales-management training programs. Follow Norman on Twitter: @NormanBehar.

 

It’s very important for sales managers to develop strong leadership skills. Why? Sales organizations that cultivate good leaders are typically better able to do the following:

  • transition star sales reps into high-performing sales managers,
  • identify and respond to revenue challenges earlier rather than later,
  • recognize and replicate key sales behaviors that lead to revenue results. 

(For more insight on how to achieve these results in your own organization, download a free copy of my white paper, Developing Great Frontline Sales Managers.)

Do sales managers need to be charismatic to become great leaders? Not necessarily. In fact, people often assume that charisma is a more important quality than it really is. Although charismatic people might be able to inspire others for a period of time, leaders will not have staying power unless they can combine that charisma with a number of other, more substantial qualities.

For example, all great leaders possess a dream or a vision. Think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his “I Have a Dream” speech. This speech outlined a very powerful vision, and it helped generate an equally powerful momentum that propelled the Civil Rights Movement forward.

Whether you’re naturally charismatic or not, you can develop a winning vision for the future and learn to articulate that vision in an inspiring way. Every sales leader should know where his or her organization is headed over the next six to 24 months. When developing your plan for success, keep these four key elements in mind:

Four Key Elements of a Great Sales Vision

  1. The vision must be future focused.
  2. The vision must be challenging but achievable.
  3. The vision must acknowledge the current situation and provide a clear portrait of what success will look like.
  4. The vision must align with organizational goals.

Watch my video interview below with Selling Power founder Gerhard Gschwandtner to learn specific examples of how you can formulate and apply a winning leadership vision. 

What is your sales leadership vision for your organization, and how did you develop it? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

For more insight from Norman Behar and the Sales Readiness Group, check out his white paper, Developing Great Frontline Sales Managers.


How to Get the Best Results from a Sales Territory Plan

Ron Snyder 7-11 A crop 2Today’s guest post is by Ron Snyder, president of Plan2Win Software.

 

 

 

What is the optimal way to manage your sales territories? Here are seven steps sales leaders can use to get the best results from each sales territory.

1. Establish a process.

Determine how you plan to establish and monitor the progress of territory plans each quarter. A clear progression of action steps helps each member of the team understand what’s expected as the quarter unfolds. This includes having territory managers

  • create and update territory plans

  • and review the plans at the regional and then national levels.

Support, marketing, and other functions should be included in review sessions as appropriate.

In addition, the process must include steps to maintain continuity from quarter to quarter, such as working on territory, account, and opportunity plans that take longer than one quarter to implement.

For more details on the implementation of the process across the quarter, see our manager’s checklist for territory planning.

2. Review significant trends in your territories and vertical markets in the past quarter or year.

  • What are the key trends driving your business?

  • What are the characteristics of your top prospects and customers?

  • Are there market segments, customers, or products that you could focus on that would significantly accelerate your sales?

  • Are there a few special issues with which your team is struggling (for example, a new competitive offering or regulatory requirement)?

3.  Set goals for the quarter or year.

Identify your most important goals across your area of responsibility, either by region, territory, or vertical market. These could include the following:

  • Overall sales, revenue increases, or sales of specific products

  • New customer acquisition

  • Growth in an existing customer base

  • Vertical-market or product-specific objectives

4.  Review territory alignments.

Make sure each goal is appropriately allocated based on last year’s results and updated projections.

  • Assign or reassign accounts based on revenue potential.

  • Identify pockets of new opportunities.

  • Consider new ways to focus on specific vertical markets or industry segments.

  • Determine and assign quotas for each territory.

  • Negotiate and finalize quota, territory, and account assignments.

5.  Help each territory manager and salesperson create individual territory plans.

  • Set territory-specific goals, including quota and the objectives required to achieve quota. Examples of objectives may include increasing account share by a certain percentage, selling a new product, or penetrating a new market segment.

  • Establish strategies and tactics to respond to key trends uncovered in your SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis.

  • Identify target accounts and opportunities, and create specific strategies and tactics for each.

  • Focus on potential key partners, ranging from corporate strategic partners to local partners to noncompetitive salespeople in the territory.

  • Generate an action plan, including activities to implement each strategy and tactic. For example, decide with whom you’ll meet and what you’ll do to implement the strategy to penetrate a new target market.

6.  Link the plan to your sales strategy.

Consider how each individual plan works to accomplish its part of the team’s goals.

  • Leverage good ideas across the team. One best practice is to gather ideas from each territory manager and plan, and ask territory managers to share new ideas that are producing good results.

  • Provide guidance to the group on common issues.

  • Allocate resources to top priority accounts and opportunities.

7.  Execute action plans.

Ensure each territory manager and salesperson has created an action plan and is actively working on his or her plan.

The regional manager should review territory plans with territory managers early in the quarter.

Executives should review each regional plan and gain visibility into critical accounts and opportunities gathered from territory plans. In addition, sales managers should be sure to do the following:

  • monitor progress in weekly pipeline reviews and other meetings,

  • update strategies for top accounts and opportunities,

  • ensure critical accounts and opportunities have the resources they need.

Finally, regional managers and/or company executives should be available to participate in critical customer interactions and meetings.

When you plan your territories correctly, you plan to win. To quote the legendary college football coach Paul “Bear” Bryant, “It is not the will to win that matters. Everyone has that. It is the will to prepare to win that matters.”

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Why a Sales Demo Won't Win You the Business

Dave Kurlan Today's post is by Dave Kurlan, CEO of Kurlan & Associates.

 


Do you follow a sales process that’s largely built around getting a prospect to agree to watch a demo?

If so, then you’re following the herd. You’re probably also wondering why you can’t get prospects to take action after you show them your demo.

Part of the problem is that experts and thought leaders are not creating enough content that helps salespeople sell based on value. For example, when I look at what people are writing and speaking about, here’s what I see:

  • Social selling (LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.)
  • Inbound marketing
  • CRM
  • Lead nurturing

There's nothing wrong with these topics, of course, and some of the insight shared about them might even help you to become a better seller; however, I worry that experts have become too focused on addressing topics related to top-of-the-funnel issues. What sellers should be focused on is the fundamental of selling value.

Why? Selling value is the one thing that salespeople, operating without benefit of the lowest price, absolutely, positively must be able to do well in order to consistently earn business.  

Admittedly, selling value isn’t a simple equation; it's an outcome of a variety of actions and highly developed skills, including

  • differentiating your offering;
  • making purchases that are not based on price;
  • being tolerant of higher prices;
  • selling in a consultative fashion;
  • easily discussing financial terms (e.g., return on investment, payback period, and net present value) with decision makers.

Unfortunately, selling value happens to be one thing that salespeople often do inadequately. According to Objective Management Group's statistics (close to one million salespeople assessed), most salespeople have as strengths or skills, on average, only two of the six most important factors required to sell value.

Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder of Selling Power magazine, and I discussed this topic in this five-minute video. As Gerhard noted, there are two ways to “slip on the banana peel” with customers today. One is having irrelevant conversations. The other is having obsolete conversations. Those conversations happen when sales teams rely on techniques and insight learned in previous decades.

If you want to read more about selling value, here are three of my favorite articles on the subject. They provide nice guidelines for selling value.

The One Thing Most Salespeople Are Unable to Do

Why There is No Value When You Provide Value Via Special Pricing

How to Add Value to Your Sales Offering

Do you think a demo hurts or helps your chance to close the sale? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Six Things You Need to Know about Millennial Sales Reps

 

Josiane feigon

Today’s guest post is by Josiane Feigon, president of TeleSmart Communications and author of Smart Selling on the Phone and Online. The insight in this blog post is taken from the “15 in 2015 Inside Sales Trend Report.”   

 

 

Millennials are taking over in the sales profession. In just five years, this generation will make up 46 percent of the entire US workforce. Here are six characteristics of Millennials that inside sales managers should know. 

1. They overshare.

Millennials value their community at work. That explains why the open-office phenomenon is so popular and why 88 percent of Millennials want their co-workers to be their friends. The flip side of this is oversharing. Too much or inappropriate information can destroy trust and a collaborative atmosphere. Don’t let oversharing tendencies run wild in your department. Establish the expectation that yours is a friendly office, not an overly social one. 

2. They value engagement with their parents.

Know that you might be competing with your Millennial sales rep’s parent for influence. Consider the following:

  • Baby boomers were often helicopter parents for Millennials.
  • Some high-profile employers have instituted “bring your parents to work” days.
  • I’ve talked with sales managers who have noticed Millennial reps regularly consulting with their parents about career moves.
  • I even have a few friends who regularly do their kids’ homework . . . in college!

As an inside sales manager, don’t play into the Millennials’ fear of failure by being an always-present authority figure ready to swoop in and tell them exactly how to get things done. Encourage a learning environment where their experience is valuable and their insight is welcomed. This will help as you push them to sell on their own. 

3. They can easily become confused about how they get paid.

According to Vorsight and The Bridge Group, three out of every 10 reps reported being unclear about their incentive compensation plan, which correlates to a 300 percent drop in employee engagement. Considering how motivation – or the lack thereof – is contagious on the sales floor, insides sales managers need to pay attention to this trend. Outline incentives clearly and make sure reps easily grasp the basics of how the incentive plan works.

4. They might blur the boundaries between employee and manager.

Pew Research revealed that, compared to previous generations, most Millennials have low trust in authority figures. The same study shows that Millennials prefer an environment that allows them to interact informally with peers and their bosses. A recent LinkedIn internal study also reported that one in three Millennials have texted their boss outside of work for non-work-related reasons, compared to only 10 percent of the boomer generation.

As a result, many Millennials find hierarchical relationships to be uncomfortable or foreign. Make sure you set the standard for what’s appropriate and what’s not. Be friendly, and be clear that you’re the boss.

5. They fear negative feedback.

I find that managers complain that they are constantly badgered by their team members to mentor more, coach more, acknowledge more, and reward more, but when they reach out unrehearsed and unplanned with some critiques, their reps panic. What’s the deal with these double standards? 

High-maintenance Millennials can be very fearful of rejection, fueling both 1) need for constant feedback and 2) a fear of rejection. In other words, they want to hear lots of encouraging things and few critical ones. This might be because helicopter parents prevented them from experiencing and bouncing back from failure.

Avoid this high-maintenance minefield by making sure you telegraph your feedback meetings way ahead of time and surround all criticism with positive messages. 

6. They can go quickly from little angels to little monsters.

“They interviewed so well, everyone liked them . . . and then after a few months, something happened.” I get this comment from sales managers a lot. Their young new hires seem to be starting out so well, then out comes their wrecking ball!

When high-maintenance Millennials experience something upsetting, such as a breakup or a lost deal, it can affect their work, possibly more so than with employees from other age brackets. With their “friends are co-workers” mentality, Millennials can have an impossible time focusing on work when they’re pouring out their feelings to their office neighbors.

These types of employees need to know that, when they’re at work, they must focus on work. If you’re calm, cool, and an honest – but tough – professional, the rest of the team will admire you for stepping in to reign in a bad influence without breathing fire and getting authoritarian.

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How to Run a Sales Contest

AdamHollander_300Today's guest post is by Adam Hollander, CEO of FantasySalesTeam.

 

 

 

Over the last year and a half at FantasySalesTeam, we’ve helped companies run hundreds of sales contests. A few weeks ago, Joe Goss, one of our client success managers and our resident Excel guru, took it upon himself to examine data generated from 164 games among our 100-plus clients, mostly inside sales teams. The sales teams were as small as four reps and as large as 2,800 reps. What he found about motivation is worth sharing.

Lesson #1: Run your sales contest for one to two months.

Having spent my entire career in sales and sales management, I’ve participated in and run my fair share of sales contests. Some run for a week, others for a year. So what’s the average length for a sales contest?

1

According to our findings, the average game length was 44 days, while the median was 31, showing that most of our clients are running sales contests for one to two months at a time. We advise customers to reset periodically by stopping one game and then starting a new one with new metrics, goals, awards, etc. This gives players who may have fallen behind a chance to start fresh. Also, this cadence allows sales managers change metrics and point values to align with their most current and pressing goals and metrics.

Lesson #2: Balance activity metrics with results metrics.

We tell every FantasySalesTeam customer to balance games between activity/behavior metrics (e.g., calls, meetings, pipeline) and results metrics (e.g., revenue or percentage of quota). This helps level the playing field to ensure that traditional top performers aren’t winning every time. In our analysis, we found a fairly good balance, with 61 percent of the metrics being activity based versus 39 percent results based. 

2

The majority of our customers run inside sales teams, which are highly metrics driven. We found that many of our customers (15 percent) are measuring phone activity at almost twice the rate of other activity not related to the phone (8 percent), such as meetings or proposals. More importantly, pipeline is the top activity metric being measured (31 percent) and aligns well with our advice that pipeline metrics are the most important to focus on in a sales contest.

3

A number of our clients also incorporate bonus-point metrics into their games to increase the motivation factor. We pulled out some we liked best:

  • Best Team Picture
  • Random Acts of Kindness
  • Sales on a Saturday
    And our favorite…
  • Number of Songs Sung to Customers

Lesson #3: Reward reps with experiences (not cash or prizes).

Based on general feedback that we’ve received from reps over the last two years – and we’ve talked to a lot of them – we recommend customers focus on giving experiences rather than physical prizes. Experiences tend to be less expensive, and more importantly, reps tend to remember them a lot more than they do a new TV or camera.

4

When we broke down the 393 different prizes (grouping together items such as cash or gift cards), we found that 53 percent could be classified as experiences, while 47 percent were physical items. (By the way, 73 percent of the physical items were cash, allowing winners to choose their own reward).

Here are some other motivation best practices for sales teams to consider.

  • Leverage team competition. Team-based games and incentives get players (reps) pushing and relying on each other and are far more effective than individual-based contests.
  • Create multiple ways to win. When you have only one way to win the incentive, inevitably players fall behind or out of contention. Create multiple paths to win and succeed to keep the team engaged longer.
  • Update results frequently. The more often you update the results from your contest, the more engaged your reps will be. Better yet, tie the contest directly to your customer relationship management or call-center management system so the results update automatically!
  • Make results highly visible. Ensure that the contest results and updates are front and center. Send out regular notifications, and display leaderboards throughout the office, ideally on TV screens.
  • Hold a proper kickoff. Don’t just launch the contest through an email blast. Get everyone together in a room or through a call/Web meeting and showcase the structure, prizes, etc. Make sure there’s real excitement on day one.
  • Get managers engaged. If managers are paying attention to the contest results, they will make sure their reps are paying attention. Find ways to engage the managers and ensure they are invested in the reps’ success.
  • Measure, measure, measure. The point of a sales contest or incentive is not just to have fun or increase engagement but to drive improved results and activity. Make sure you know how you’re going to measure success so you can prove the return on investment and have the ability to do it again!

For more information on FantasySalesTeam, visit www.fantasysalesteam.com or www.fantasysalesteam.com/video.

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Three Practical Action Steps for Growing Inside Sales Teams

SP coverToday’s post is by Selling Power Editors. Subscribe now to Selling Power magazine to keep up with the latest trends, news, and best practices for B2B sales professionals.

 

 

What’s booming in technology sales right now? Inside sales teams.

A recent study, “Outside In: The Rise of the Inside Sales Team,” conducted by Reality Works Group and ZS Associates, found that 40 percent of large technology companies plan to increase their inside-sales head count by 2016. What will this mean for the sales profession? Here are three key points from the study that sales leaders can use as action steps for growing inside sales teams. 

1. Reduce high turnover rates.

Research revealed that the standard turnover rate for inside sales professionals in technology companies is 19 percent. Organizations should begin to think of the inside sales role as equally important as outside sales. Companies need to consider retention strategies, competency models, coaching, and career progression for inside sales, just as they do for their field sales teams.

2. Nail down policies for overtime pay.

A full 65 percent of organizations surveyed indicated that they classify inside-sales staff members as exempt and, while the Federal Labor Standards Act offers clear guidelines for classification of outside salespeople, the details for inside salespeople are not as clear cut.

Unfortunately, this vagueness has left some companies to find out the hard way that overtime laws don’t always apply to inside sales teams as they do to field salespeople. It is critical that sales leaders understand exemption laws and create transparent policies to ensure compliance with them. When you don’t know how to properly compensate the sales team, revenue suffers. As inside sellers gain more responsibility for generating profit and engaging clients and prospects, tying an inside salesperson’s quota and commission plan to an outside salesperson may no longer make sense. Organizations need to rethink their approaches to the drivers of sales force effectiveness, including motivating and rewarding their inside sales teams through sales-compensation programs.

3. Leverage the social skills of inside sellers.  

The Reality Works Group/ZS Associates study cites research, published by ZS in 2013, illustrating how IBM helped its salespeople leverage social channels to generate leads and manage account relationships. Early results included a 55 percent increase in Twitter followers and a significant increase in the number of high-quality inbound leads.

The lesson is clear: B2B buyers are increasingly becoming comfortable with collaborating, researching, and even completing the purchase cycle through online channels. That puts inside sellers in a powerful position to influence decision makers. With today’s tools, salespeople don’t need to leave their desks. They can usher prospects through the sales funnel virtually and create new clients.

As opportunities to reach, engage, and influence prospects increase, the number of touch points will increase, as well. Savvy sales leaders are enabling their inside sales teams with tools to engage clients and prospects via the channels that prospects prefer.

Want to learn more about the rise of inside sales teams? Download the full study, “Outside In: The Rise of the Inside Sales Team.”

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