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The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

The Problem is Not in the Proposal or the Sales Funnel

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Frustration sets in when you look at all the pending business you have sitting in your sales funnel and realize that a good portion of it has been there for weeks! Those prospects you were sure were going to sign off on your proposal right away are instead sharing reasons why they’re not ready or telling you they need more time to think it over. You know that with every week that passes, the chances that any of them will turn into a sale diminishes greatly and you’re kicking yourself because you are now reduced to emailing your prospect with the subject line "Checking in" since you really have no other options left.

Are you experiencing this uncomfortable, bloated feeling right now?

That bloated pipeline isn’t just uncomfortable . . . it’s frustrating and, ultimately, very expensive. Yes, it can sometimes feel rewarding to say you have “a lot out there,” but we all know that pending business is only good if it ends up closing. 

Spoiler alert: This is not an article on how to close your pending deals. It’s way more valuable than that. 

The problem is not in the proposal or the funnel, but rather with the process.

Topics: Sales

Employee Morale and Retention – Money Talks, but Caring is Key

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Have you ever watched a TV show and been able to connect a character’s behavior to something specific in your life or work experience? I had that happen to me recently. If you watch the Bravo reality series, Flipping Out, you are familiar with Jeff Lewis and his reputation for being opinionated, outspoken, slightly neurotic with a quick, dry wit and a direct communication style. I actually love his personality! However, he can easily rub others the wrong way and he often has major conflict with those closest to him. 

On a recent episode, Jeff admitted how valuable his design assistant Vanina is to him and how much he relies on her for the success of his business. He explained that he’d recently given her a substantial raise to let her know just how much he appreciates her. Regardless, in this episode, she broke down in tears and admitted she was ready to leave because she felt overworked and underappreciated. 

Topics: sales management Talent coaching

Magic Needs Analysis Questions

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Like buried treasure, salespeople have been looking for a short list of magic needs analysis questions forever. So where is that list, and what are the questions on it? Not sure where the list is, but here is an insight into which questions can really get the prospect talking and revealing the trouble or growth opportunities that you might be able to address: Ask questions early on that are relevant to their unique situation today. You can build these questions easily with just a little research. For example… 

Topics: Needs Analysis sales strategy Sales

If Your Sales Team Was in the NFL, Would You Make the Playoffs?

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If you ask me, it’s the best time of the year… the NFL season is here! Tailgating, road trips, barbecue, fantasy football, the joy of victory, the agony of defeat! Every team, or at least the diehard fan, is overflowing with optimism that “this will be the year!” The NFL is home to the best of the best, but only 12 teams will make the playoffs, and one and only one will be left standing in Minneapolis after Super Bowl LII (that’s 52 for those that would have to look it up like me).

Would your sales team make the playoffs, or perhaps even make it to the Super Bowl? Fans who are passionate about the “Xs and Os” of football know there are great “game plan coaches” and great “game day coaches.” The best are great at both. They have a great plan (game week), and great execution (game day). To be a great sales leader, you need a great plan AND great execution. You can’t just give the pre-game speech, and you certainly can’t coach in hindsight after all the points are on the board (think month-end revenue). You have to be a great game day coach, ON THE FIELD!  The best sales plan in the world will only get you so far. Here are the keys to being the best game day sales coach you can be.

Topics: sales management coaching

6 Elevator Pitch Examples to Inspire Your Own + More

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We hope you've had a great week! It's Friday, and today we're sharing what we've been reading online this week! Here are our "best" from around the web.

16 Elevator Pitch Examples to Inspire Your Own — HubSpot

When someone asks, "What do you do?", you need a short, snappy, easy-to-grasp explanation of your company and its products. The person you’re speaking with might turn out to be a perfect fit or know someone who is. If you’re looking for some inspiration, these elevator pitch examples illustrate six different ways to describe what you can offer.

Topics: inbound marketing Sales Wrap-up

What to Do When Your Favorite Candidate is Not Recommended by Your Trusted Talent Assessment

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You know it’s important to hire highly talented people because they have the innate capacity to achieve excellence and grow your organization faster than those who don’t.

Hopefully your sales organization understands this as well and has invested in a strong talent assessment to guide you as you make these critical selection decisions. Most assessments out there are descriptive — reporting the candidate’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The very best assessments on the market can do much more than that, though! They are predictive in nature, which means they can accurately predict success in your candidates, regardless of their level of experience. When you use a predictive instrument, your candidate will either be "Recommended" or "Not Recommended" to move forward in your selection process, based on their innate behaviors in the key themes that separate the best from the rest.

So, what do you do when your favorite candidate is not recommended to move forward?  

That can be crushing!

If you are using one of the Talent Plus assessments that we offer (the Sales Talent Interview, Online Sales Talent Interview, or the Profit Center Manager Interview), this is what I recommend:

Topics: hiring salespeople Talent

Are You Crippling Your Sales Growth By Not Delegating Effectively?

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“That’s okay, I’ll just do it myself.” I have uttered those words many times in my life and regretted it because I put too much on my plate, or because I offended the person I said it to. 

It may seem quicker and easier to do work yourself because it takes time to ask someone for help, explain what you need, and hand off the responsibility to others. The problem is, over time, that way of thinking negatively impacts productivity and growth. 

Recently, I was talking with a sales manager who said, “By the time I explain how to do this, I could just do it myself.” That may be true, but I told him to think about how that impacts the development of his direct reports. People will not grow if you do not give them responsibility in an area of strength. If they’re not using their talents, they are not growing. It’s not just about getting the work done, it’s how you grow and develop people. 

Topics: Talent

The 8 Essentials to a High Performing B2B Sales Organization

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There is a lot to get right if you are trying to build a high performing sales organization. That's because sales organizations are complex systems, like the nervous system. The nervous system contains a network of specialized cells called neurons. Nerve impulses have a domino effect. Each neuron receives an impulse and must pass it on to the next neuron and make sure the correct impulse continues on its path. If something goes wrong in this process, you have problems.  

In a sales organization, there is the same domino effect. If you don't get all 8 essentials right, you will have problems.  

Topics: Management sales performance sales management Sales

The "Golden Talk-Listen Ratio" and How It Will Help Close More Sales

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Good salespeople know that you can’t close a deal without the prospect feeling good about it.

What is not as obvious is that what they feel has more to do with what they say than with what you tell them.

Why? Because what they really need is to feel understood, listened to, reassured. And to do that, you have to actually listen to them.

How much is too much talking versus too much listening? After analyzing over 25k sales conversations using our tool, we found that top performing sales professionals speak an average 43% of the time, while their clients speak for 57% of the conversation.

We call this 43:57 ratio the "golden talk-listen ratio," and we found that sales reps who achieve it see an improvement in their sales performance.

How the Best Reps Answer "Can You Just Tell Me the Price?" + More

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We hope you've had a great week! It's Friday, and today we're sharing what we've been reading online this week! Here are our "best" from around the web.

1How the Best Reps Answer "Can You Just Tell Me the Price?" — HubSpot

The problem with discussing price is that it puts the buyer and the seller on opposing sides. At least, that is how we are programmed to engage in such discussions. When price is mentioned, sellers automatically go on the defensive, build their trenches, and hunker down, hoping the assault will pass if we evade the questions long enough. And buyers keep sending over pricing grenades. hoping that one will explode and open up a breach in the trench. Here's how to change that dynamic.

Topics: inbound marketing Sales Wrap-up

How to Use a Sales Diagnostic to Improve Performance

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I recently wrote about the power of the 10,000 foot view and how it was more helpful than the 30,000 foot view. You can see that here if you missed it.  

This post got a larger response than anything I have written in a long time. Must have struck a cord.  

We use a process called the Sales Diagnostic to take the 10,000 foot view. It includes the following areas.

  1. The Numbers
  2. The Business
  3. Your Process
  4. Your Pricing
  5. Your Metrics
  6. Your Service

Let's look more closely at one of these: Your Process.

Topics: sales management Sales

The 4 Most Important Key Performance Indicators for Sales Managers

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Sometimes I wonder if our ability to measure almost everything is what gets in the way of us actually paying attention to what might be the most useful metrics. I’ve spoken with plenty of sales managers who are frustrated these days because someone upstairs has fallen in love with a new measurement, a new report, or a new way to look at familiar data. All these midstream changes result in plenty of heat and plenty of smoke, but not necessarily the light of new insight. Not much actually changes, especially at the bottom line.

Don’t get me wrong. I love numbers as much as the next person and I agree that measurement improves performance and is essential to success. But I also know we can’t keep changing the rules of the game. Performance improvement comes only when we focus on the same metrics over time. We need to follow the right measurements and stay focused.

What if you could only measure four things? Which would you choose?

Topics: Management

Five Metrics to Measure the Success of Your Digital Marketing Efforts

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As websites become more and more important in the consumer path to purchase, the need to measure the efficacy of digital marketing also increases. This is a shared burden between those selling digital media and business owners/marketers who are looking to maximize their ROI. We know that “clicks” provide an incomplete picture into the impact of digital advertising, as most users do not click on ads but still find their way to a businesses website after being exposed to ads.  

So what should we look at? Here are five metrics to help give deeper insight into the effectiveness of your digital marketing efforts:

Topics: digital marketing internet marketing Digital integrated media solution SEO inbound marketing

Email Etiquette Mistakes to Avoid When Sending Cold Emails

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If you think cold emailing is dead, you are wrong.

63% of B2B companies say email is the most effective channel for generating revenue. It's one of the most cost-effective forms of outreach that there is.

At the same time, you need to realize that you're not the only one sending emails. The average number of emails received by an individual in 2014 was 121, now, in 2017, it is at 147. Out of this 147, people typically reply to 12, and the remaining 135 are either deleted or marked as spam. 

If you want to get a response to your emails, you'll need to employ the magic of etiquette, one of the best ways to create a human connection with the reader.

In this post, I'll talk about a few common mistakes people make writing cold emails, and some advice on how to improve these areas.

Let’s dive in.

Topics: email Sales

7 Reasons Awkward Silences ... Are Actually Powerful Sales Tactics + More

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We hope you've had a great week! It's Friday, and today we're sharing what we've been reading online this week! Here are our "best" from around the web.

17 Reasons Awkward Silences ... Are Actually Powerful Sales Tactics  — HubSpot

In sales, awkward silences are actually good — that is, if you know how to use them to your advantage. Consider the following positive outcomes of awkward silences, and the negative ramifications of breaking them.

Topics: inbound marketing Sales Wrap-up

5 Lessons I Learned as an Ad Salesperson and as an Ad Buyer

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I have had the rare pleasure of being on both sides of the advertising desk, both as an advertising salesperson and sales manager, and as an ad buyer at a marketing agency.

For 15 years, I sold and managed for radio stations in Dallas and Chicago and loved every single minute of it. Radio was my career, my hobby, my passion. I never thought that I would ever leave radio. Then one day, an “advertising guy” called me and wanted to take me to breakfast.

I spent the next 6 years as the Vice President of Business Development for a mid-size full-service advertising agency in the suburbs of Chicagoland. The ad agency side has been an incredible adventure. I had direct access to clients and had become the consultant that I was trained to be in radio. I worked hand-in-hand with the client as we grew their businesses together. No longer was I an adversary, but truly a marketing partner. 

Here are some of the secrets that I've learned from being on the “other-side-of-the desk”: 

Topics: Needs Analysis Sales media

Coaching Salespeople: Handle with Care!

Coaching_SalespeopleHave you noticed that almost everything you interact with throughout the day comes with recommended care instructions? Some are simpler than others, but for the most part, there is a certain way that everything must be treated in order for it to thrive.

I may not always do it, but I know that I am supposed to:

  • Wash wool sweaters on cold and then lie them flat to dry
  • Change my AC air filters every 3-6 months
  • Wash my workout clothes without fabric softener in warm water and then dry on low
  • Run 48 ounces of undiluted white vinegar through my Keurig every 3-6 months
  • Feed my puppy ¼ cup three times a day, and make sure there are no meat by-products in her food
  • Keep my orchids in bright, but indirect, sun although they require some time in the shade

But, I’m the first one to admit that I have ruined more than one delicate garment by accidentally throwing it in on hot and drying it until it shriveled like a raisin. As a matter of fact, an unfortunate number of my possessions have passed through my hands as if disposable because I didn’t read the care instructions—or even more likely—I was just moving too fast to be able to give them the totally customized care they needed.

Of course I’m not writing this article to teach you how to wash your delicates. Let’s agree, a silk top is a silk top. It can be replaced. But what if we’re talking about a person? It’s not so easy, or inexpensive, or even humane to replace a person because you failed to know how to care for him. That’s a whole different league of handling with care!

Topics: developing strengths Talent Sales

The Imperfections of Last Click Attribution

When it comes to digital marketing, there is a heightened focus on analytics to determine success. Many businesses continue to place a heavy reliance on last click attribution models to determine which of their digital marketing tools are driving results. Last click attribution gives 100% of the credit for a conversion or a sale to the last click a visitor made before he or she arrived on the website to complete that action. It's a model that has been used for years, but can be flawed if it's solely used to determine which digital marketing efforts are really driving results.

The Problem with Last Click Attribution

In theory, last click attribution seems to make a lot of sense, giving credit to the last source that drove a new consumer to a convert on a website, but we as consumers are not that simple. Consumers in today’s environment are usually exposed to a number of different sources before they visit a website. There are countless studies that show the synergy between various types media platforms—those that show how TV, newspaper, and radio drive someone online for more information or to purchase. There are even studies that show how display advertising has a direct impact on search activity—in other words, how consumers are more likely to search for a company and its products after seeing a display ad, even if they don’t click on it.

 Solely using a last click attribution model doesn’t account for any of the other sources that assist in getting the consumer to the website and converting.    

Topics: digital marketing Sales

Follow this Growth Formula to Increase Sales Performance

Talent_bank-3-12.jpgI spend hours a day talking about talent:

  • How to recruit talent
  • How to hire talent
  • How to develop talent

There is no doubt that talent is the foundation for success in any path we choose! But talent alone is not enough; the fit has to be right, too. We encourage hiring managers to consider fit as carefully as they consider talent because talent is a strength only when the fit is right.

If your job involves growing a department or organization, the only way you can do that is to grow each person on board. How do you do that? Follow this Growth Formula:

(Talent + Fit) x Investment = Growth

Topics: Talent

23 Follow-Up Sales Email Templates to Send Instead of "Just Checking In" + More

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We hope you've had a great week! It's Friday, and today we're sharing what we've been reading online this week! Here are our "best" from around the web.

123 Follow-Up Sales Email Templates to Send Instead of "Just Checking In" — HubSpot

Salespeople shouldn’t send “just checking in” emails for one very simple reason: They don’t work. Buyers feel like the rep is virtually poking them, making them reluctant to answer. Not only do “checking in” messages rarely garner responses, they can even turn prospects against their senders. But reps still need a way to get in touch with buyers who’ve gone dark. Enter these 23 email templates.

Topics: inbound marketing Sales Wrap-up

It Pays to be Smart: Finding a Valid Business Reason to Connect

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I love when I hear a story and it stops me in my tracks. I love it even more when the story is about a salesperson that did something really smart! 

That happened to me recently. I was facilitating a workshop and one of the managers shared a great story of a salesperson who created a very strong Valid Business Reason to get the attention of an important prospect. 

Topics: Sales

Lack of Leads Hurting Your Revenue? 5 Reasons Why You Need a Lead Generation Strategy

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The hardest job in sales these days is getting an appointment with a new prospect. As a sales manager, it's fairly easy to stand up in the sales meeting and tell your salespeople that they need to do a better job prospecting or that they need to just commit more time and energy to getting appointments. But they already know those things, and they're facing huge hurdles that their counterparts of a few years ago didn't face.

Here are five of those hurdles. Feel free to add to the list in the comments section below.

Topics: lead generation Management Sales

Five Ways to Beat Cold Calling Boredom

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We know continuous and relentless cold calling can wear you down. It’s a numbers exercise at best, and unless you really enjoy leaving voicemail messages and constant rejection, the process can be boring and downright taxing. But, there are ways to spice things up so that you’re not only more engaged, but also way more productive. Here are five recommendations we have to help you:

Topics: Social Media Setting Appointments Sales