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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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Three Tips to Avoid Price-Discounting Pitfalls

Fleming Darrin headshotToday's post is by Darrin Fleming, managing director at Stratavant, which provides strategic marketing and value-based sales and marketing tools for B2B companies. Read the original post here on the Stratavant blog (this version has been slightly edited and is used here with permission).  



What are some common circumstances that often lead to price discounting? Let’s examine a quick list.

  • It’s the end of the quarter, and the sales team is not going to meet sales goals.

  • There’s an economic dip in your industry, and sales have been sluggish for an extended period.

  • There’s a structural component to the compensation plan that rewards discounting.

  • Some element of your pricing plan is confusing for reps and/or prospects.

  • You have a surplus of inventory that’s about to become obsolete or otherwise unmarketable.

  • Your competitor is offering endless discounts, and you feel you have to match those discounts to keep from losing new and existing customers.

No matter what your reasoning is for lowering your price, continual price discounting is going to end up creating two major problems for you.

PROBLEM #1: You will trade a temporary uptick in revenue for a substantial reduction in profit.

Almost all sales leaders are evaluated on their ability to post revenue gains each quarter. The more sales reps discount on price, however, the more units they need to sell to achieve those revenue gains. This can create an endless cycle of lower margins per deal and sales reps’ chasing long-shot prospects in lieu of finding high-value customers. A lack of profit is going to ultimately affect other critical areas, such as research and development and marketing.

PROBLEM #2: You will move your offering toward a commodity.

Most companies want to avoid competing on price alone. When you do this, your business becomes a ruthless race to make products cheaper and faster. For many business-to-business (B2B) companies, it’s nearly impossible to produce a quality product at extremely low margins. If your offering gets cheaper but shoddy, your brand will take a beating.

The other problem with selling in a commoditized market is that you are now courting and creating relationships with customers who have a transactional mind-set and want short-term gain. In general, they are not the kind of customers who will remain loyal to you for years or offer much in the way of up-selling or cross-selling opportunities. Key accounts and anyone willing to pay a premium for higher value will go elsewhere.

How can you avoid the pitfalls associated with price discounting? Here are three tips.

  1. Align your compensation plan and any incentives programs with strategic goals. If you reward sellers purely on volume, it’s only logical for your reps to offer discounts. This is a sign of a price-discounting culture, which means it’s up to leaders to take the reins and steer the company in a more balanced direction. Perform an audit of your incentives programs and compensation plan and make sure to encourage behavior that will help you meet your strategic initiatives.

  2. Train reps to talk about value. When reps are frequently hammered on price, they need a bigger toolbox than the standard role-plays on how to overcome price objections. Teach them how to strategically and systematically move their customer conversations away from price and in the direction of value. They should be able to uncover the measurable financial benefits that customers care about. This can then open discussions about what customers would be willing to pay for those benefits.

  3. Invest in an ROI tool. A return-on-investment (ROI) tool can be of invaluable service when it comes to having conversations around value. Even the act of making an ROI tool available on your Website for prospects can be transformative. How so? Any prospect that takes the time to interact with an ROI tool online is already thinking beyond price and about value. This is an organic way to help your sales team center the conversation on value and sidestep common objections about price. In addition, a discussion about ROI is just more compelling than a flat price negotiation.

Use these tips and eliminate price discounting, or at least keep it to a reasonable level in your organization. Your sales reps shouldn’t feel they have to offer constant discounts in order to make sales. Support them properly with the right tools and training, and you’ll soon start to see the payoff.

Do you discount price? How do you respond when customers ask for discounts? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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Fix These Two Behaviors that Sabotage Sales

Somrat Niyogi

 Today’s guest post is by Somrat Niyogi, CEO and cofounder of Stitch. 

 

 


Do your salespeople fail to follow your sales process? Are they bogged down by administrative tasks? Are their sales pipelines sluggish and inconsistent?

If your organization is suffering from any of these problems, it’s time to take a look at your relationship to your CRM system.

CRM systems are flawed. They act as a repository for information but aren’t designed to help salespeople actually sell, be more productive, or simplify sales activities. In fact, the number one question sales leaders ask me is how can they effectively use technology in a way that helps their salespeople follow the sales process.

I believe that the solution is to use CRM data in a “smart” way and introduce automation to the sales process. We call this “intelligent sales automation.” Here are two problematic behaviors we see in salespeople and how intelligent sales automation addresses each one.

Problem #1: Salespeople typically choose to work on the deals that they know are closest to closing.

Naturally, salespeople want to invest time in closing deals that are easiest or most likely to close so they can get their commission check and/or meet quota; however, this means that deals and relationships that appear earlier in the funnel are generally ignored. This has two consequences: 1) early-stage opportunities and relationships can run cold (sometimes permanently), and 2) salespeople must start from square one each month or quarter (or whenever quotas are reset) to rebuild their pipeline.

Your salespeople are not necessarily losing touch with early-stage deals on purpose. What they need is a tool that prompts them to follow up with a particular contact at the optimal time, meaning when that contact is likely to be in buying mode.

Your CRM system is a great place to store information and create to-do lists, but it is simply not capable of assisting salespeople at this level. By contrast, salespeople who use Stitch find that the prompts help them reengage with prospects at ideal times. This contributes to a more robust and consistent sales pipeline.

Problem #2: Salespeople frequently fail to enter data and information into CRM systems.

Salespeople want to spend as much time as possible on activities that will help them close deals, reach quota, and collect their commission. Similarly, sales leaders also want salespeople to prioritize selling activities; the more time spent on selling activities, the better the chances of bringing in more revenue.

Sales leaders, however, have an added need to capture data related to sales activities, because this data helps them track the sales pipeline and roll out sales forecasts. When data is inaccurately entered into or missing from the CRM system, sales managers don’t know what’s happening with pending deals, and it’s impossible to predict revenue streams. 

With traditional CRM systems, the burden is on the rep to take time away from selling activities and devote time (up to 19 percent, according to a CEB study) to administrative tasks such as data entry. With an intelligent automation platform, however, salespeople are prompted to enter information at precisely when new information becomes available. Auto-fill capabilities make it faster and easier to get data into the system. The data in the system improves, and forecasting becomes more accurate. 

For salespeople, a well-defined and optimized sales process can be the difference between success and failure. Although traditional CRM systems fall short, sales intelligence automation actually helps salespeople and sales managers do their jobs more effectively and efficiently so that everyone wins.

Want to learn more about how you can take steps to increase sales productivity and get more out of your CRM system? You can contact us at ceo@stitchapp.com.


How to Create an Optimal Learning Experience for Sales Reps

Darik Volpa Today's guest post is by Darik Volpa, founder and CEO of Rehearsal VRP.

 

 


What’s the best way to learn how to sell? Practice, practice, and more practice.

Yet many sales organizations are not creating an optimal environment for salespeople to practice and perfect their selling skills. This creates at least five problems:

  1. Lost revenue. When salespeople aren’t ready to have conversations with customers, they’re more likely to lose deals. You also risk creating a poor impression of your company when you send unprepared sales reps into the field.

  2. High levels of stress. Yes, salespeople need a tough skin to succeed in sales, but what manager wants to contribute extra stress and anxiety by exposing salespeople to trial-by-fire experiences or failing to help them properly prepare for selling situations? The sink-or-swim approach forces salespeople to learn, but it’s not very enjoyable or efficient.

  3. On-boarding drag. The faster you can get new hires up and running, the faster you can see revenue gains. A lack of proper coaching and training only adds to the amount of time it takes for your new reps to ramp up.

  4. Hiring difficulties. A great learning culture is a point of differentiation that can make or break your hiring effort. If your company becomes known for its poor learning environment, new hires might decide to take jobs at companies that invest in better training, coaching, and support. 

  5. Slow response times. The traditional weekly or monthly coaching model is slow compared to the pace of business. When a competitor undercuts your price, you want a well-trained team that can respond swiftly.

This last point is especially important: a poor learning environment is not just a front-end issue that affects new hires; it is a pervasive problem that affects the sales organization at all levels. Why? Because selling is a continual learning process. Think of all the instances that create new learning curves, even for veteran and top-performing salespeople: 

  • You launch a new product.
  • You change your pricing structure.
  • You open a new sales channel.
  • You reengineer your selling territories.
  • You move into a new market segment.
  • You adopt a new sales methodology/process.
  • You shift your marketing approach.
  • You adopt a new tool (for example, a new CRM system).
  • Your competitor does any of the above.

So what’s going to change the game for sales teams? I believe the answer is video role-play. Our clients use our video-based software, Rehearsal VRP, to help sales teams practice and perfect their selling and communication skills. The process is simple and requires only a Webcam and an Internet connection:

  1. Salespeople watch a short video and then record a response to the question or role-play prompt from their sales manager. (For example, sales managers could ask reps to respond to a prospect’s price objection or a question about how their offering differs from the competition’s.)

  2. Salespeople then submit the recording to their manager or mentor for review. The person who reviews the recording then provides video feedback, as well as a numerical score. 

  3. The numerical scores are tallied, and the top-ranked responses are added to a leaderboard. This allows an organization to build a library of best selling practices from which everyone can learn.

Rehearsal VRP software poses a number of advantages. First, sales managers are able to quickly scale the learning environment. So when a competitor comes out with a new product, managers can quickly disseminate a role-play to all salespeople so they can start crafting a successful response to use during conversations with customers. 

Second, salespeople have a safe space to practice their skills. They can record themselves as much as they need to before sending their video for review. I’ve found that salespeople gain more confidence when they’re able to practice a skill on their own, as opposed to being put on the spot in front of a group. Finally, the leaderboard allows salespeople to learn from the best possible responses to your organization’s particular selling challenges.

Our clients are reporting that Rehearsal VRP is helping them get a better return on their existing sales-training investment. One sales leader at Clorox has reported saving $1,500 a week in travel and expenses. Among a survey of 27 salespeople at AbbVie who are using Rehearsal VRP, 78 percent agree or strongly agree that it is helping them effectively understand and practice the Challenger Selling model.

Today, there’s no reason to let your reps sink or swim. Click here to chat with us live, or sign up to take Rehearsal for a test drive and see how you can start creating an optimal learning experience.

How did you develop your selling skills? What tools and techniques are you using to create a supportive learning environment? Share your thoughts in the comments section.


Sales Reps, Stop Being a "Demo Monkey"

"I hate being a demo monkey!"

Have you ever heard your sales reps say something like this?

It can be frustrating for reps to deliver hundreds of demos and end up with nothing to show for their time and energy. That's why DemoChimp is taking a new approach to helping salespeople turn their presentations into closed deals by making demos more engaging and personalized for each prospect.

"We intelligently personalize the experience," says DemoChimp CEO Garin Hess. "When the prospect goes through your demo, we dynamically stitch together different video elements to deliver an experience that fits their needs rather than going through a straight demo the prospects might not be interested in."

Watch the video above to see how you can start automating your demos and cut down on your demo frustration.


How to Ditch the Generic Sales Pitch in 60 Minutes

Will Spendlove 1Today's guest post is by Will Spendlove, vice president of product marketing at InsideView Inc.

 

 

Which kind of sales pitch would a prospect prefer to hear, a personalized message or a generic sales pitch? These days, prospects can get generic information about companies and offerings online. If you can’t talk with customers about their personal business needs, you’re going to have a tough time engaging them.

The good news is that salespeople can tap social networks to discover all kinds of relevant information, leading to great conversations with prospects, which in turn can lead to closed deals. So how do you use social networks to ditch the generic pitch in 60 minutes? Let’s start the timer…

00:00

Pick leads on which you can find a good level of base data to qualify them, such as company name, industry, size, etc. Social selling won’t work on a random lead on which you have only a name and email address. This is a targeted technique, so you’ll need enough background to start your online search and know that you’re researching the correct person and company.

05:00

Online, look up the name of your lead plus information about his or her company. A search engine is fine; a business-data service like Hoover’s can also be useful.

15:00

Find the blog, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn streams for the target company. Add the target company’s name as part of the search string, such as “manufacturing equipment Maytag.”

Find news that starts a conversation or backs up your pitch – or both. A company missing its earnings might not be directly relevant to what you’re selling, but helping the company drive more sales or speed production can be a point that’s reinforced with such news.

25:00

Find Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn profiles for your lead. Look for any information that might be useful. Maybe his or her last few tweets mentioned working long hours (which might indicate a stalled project or new product), or the LinkedIn profile shows a recent promotion (which might indicate company growth).

Also search for any social connections, professional or personal, that you might have in common with the lead. This can help you get a warm introduction. Even if you don’t know anyone in common, you might find an unexpected link (for example, that you attended the same college).

40:00

Triangulate the information -- background, company, and personal/professional -- to brainstorm your entry points. You’re looking for a personalized hook that’ll get the lead interested immediately, such as,

“Hi, Sally, I’m with Vandelay Industries, and I think we can help with your upcoming product launch in Europe. We’ve worked with Bob Smith, who you managed in your last role, and he loves our product…”

If you’re not seeing obvious hooks, work with your manager to brainstorm ideas.

55:00

Practice your pitch, then call your lead and demonstrate that you know his or her business and pain points. The fact that you’ve done your homework will automatically convey your respect for this person’s time.

There you have it -- the 60-minute approach to social selling. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll never want to go back to the old ways of generating leads, because this method really works. If you sell a complex product with a long sales cycle, you might be able to get by doing this work manually. For high-volume sellers, however, it’s wise to invest in a solution such as InsideView that pulls together social information and online data and makes it available in a central location.


Why Knowing Your Customer's Business Isn't Enough

LaVonKoener_smToday's post is by LaVon Koerner, chief revenue officer of Revenue Storm, a global sales consulting and revenue acceleration firm.

 

 

How many times have you been told to understand your customer’s business? Well-meaning sales trainers and coaches often imply that, if you have a thorough understanding of the current points of pain within your customer’s business, then you will be able to sell more to that customer. While this may have some impact with capturing just preexisting demand, it is less helpful if you are inclined or have a need to create new demand for your products and services. 

Here is where the cold business reality meets sales reality: you will never be able to understand your customer’s business better than your customer does. If you pretend that you do, you make yourself unnecessarily vulnerable. You are always just one step or one question away from being exposed. If your limited business understanding gets uncovered, any respect or sales advantage can quickly dissipate. Additionally, there may not be any flexibility in the customer’s current business structure and cemented plans to enable you to force yourself and your products and services into their preconstructed strategies. 

There is, however, a better approach that positions you on a level playing field with the executives in your customer’s company. This approach instantly puts you into an intense executive conversation in which you have a real opportunity to create demand. Once you expand your thinking and conversation beyond the customer’s business and step into the customer’s world and industry, you have instantly broken through a knowledge barrier and stepped onto a new stage.

Focusing on your customer’s industry will enable you to discuss what could beand not be encumbered or limited by what is. It is precisely in this discussion that new and often unthought-of opportunities can be put on the table. Here, the sales professional’s thought leadership carries real weight, and his or her innovative ideas will be heard and considered. This is where demand creation can most easily be accomplished.

The reason for this improved potential is simple: your customer’s expectations are lowered when it comes to matters of the future. Often, the customer has yet to sort out his or her own views about what new opportunities are unfolding and how to capitalize on them to gain competitive advantage in the industry. In short, in the absence of preconceived ideas of potential courses of action, the sales professional has a legitimate chance of making a case for some new course of action. Here, sales professionals can differentiate themselves not only from their own competitors but also from other executives within the customer’s organization.

To be clear, a spirited conversation about exciting possibilities, unfolding because of new and emerging industry trends, can disrupt the customer’s current status quo. These new colliding and often conflicting trends will upset the way your customer is currently doing business and open up new possibilities. Once spotted, the race is on. The first ones to identify these trends and act will often be able to capitalize on them at the expense of their competitors. Here lies the spark of invention, the catalyst for doing something new and really different. This is when a customer looking for an edge will pause to listen to you. This is the home of demand creation!

To learn more about demand creation, listen to Revenue Storm’s recent Webinar,The End of Sales As We Know It.


The Sales Model of the Future: Interview with @Gitomer

I'm really enjoying my series of videos with top selling author Jeffrey Gitomer. He is a great thought leader who is always thinking about the future and energizing audiences with his enthusiasm and new ideas. In the video above, we discuss how mobile devices have changed the game of sales. As he points out, more than 70% of social is mobile. If you don't develop a mobile strategy now, you are dead in the water. Watch the video above to see his tips on how to develop a winning mobile strategy that will keep you selling successfully now and in the future.

If you want to learn more about how you can succeed in sales, I highly recommend you check out Jeffrey's virtual training center at http://www.gitomervt.com/

 


New Research Shows IT Decision Makers Rely on Inside Sellers

AnnekeSeleyToday's post is by Anneke Seley, coauthor of Sales 2.0 and founder and CEO of Reality Works Group, a digital/social and inside sales strategy and implementation consultancy. Contact her at aseley@realityworksgroup.com

 

Recently, IBM released findings from a survey of nearly 1,000 information technology (IT) decision makers in 12 countries. The research illustrates some interesting trends that support IBM’s decision to ramp up its inside sales team. Here are some highlights: 

1. Inside sales is an increasingly standard way for clients to engage their vendors. More than 60 percent of clients cited an inside seller as their first point of contact. 

2. Clients routinely rely on inside sales reps to purchase higher-value products and services. While transactional, preconfigured offerings and renewals are still considered the sweet spot for inside sellers, they’re also handling sales for mobility services, network integration, backup and recovery, storage and server services, and public cloud products. 

3. Clients use social and digital communication tools to engage inside sellers. Younger IT decision makers (under the age of 35) are two times more likely than those over the age of 50 to use social platforms as a way to engage sellers. Also, overall usage of digital and social tools is double the worldwide average in faster-growing emerging markets, such as Brazil, India, and China.

4. The Web is being used with significant frequency to purchase IT products and services — at every step in the buying journey. In 2013, 56 percent of IT decision makers purchased products and services via the Web, up from 34 percent in 2011.

IBM inside sales, led by general manager Paula Summa, has been conducting this research since 2011 to understand how to serve customers most effectively in the digital and social age. Summa says that these findings clearly indicate the need to adjust to the rapidly changing ways clients are buying, as well as to the melding of the inside sales and digital channels.

As an industry consultant, I’ve seen that companies large and small are making investments in inside sales to align to the way customers buy today. Some are shifting personnel from field selling positions to sellers who use the phone, email, social media, and online technology to communicate with buyers. Others are launching divisions or entire businesses with inside sales teams, especially as customers purchase more over the Web. So it’s no surprise to me that IBM has made a big bet on inside sales. (Currently IBM has 43 global inside sales locations, including major centers in Toronto, Atlanta, and Dallas in North America, and Bogota, Beijing, Tokyo, and Dublin, opening this August.)

As more selling is conducted online and purchased as a service, inside sales will play a critical role.  

What trends are you seeing in inside sales? What do you think of IBM’s research? Share your thoughts in the comments section.