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Sales Must Help Marketing Help Them

Sales Must Help Marketing Help Them

When a sales team becomes frustrated with marketing the frustrations is most frequently rooted in poor lead quality. It is an understandable frustration, after all the job of a sales representative is literally the only job in the entire company that is expected to shoulder a fair amount of risk. Failure in another role might stifle career growth, or limit internal opportunities, but failure in the sales role leads to dramatically less compensation. So when an organization in the company, marketing, is seemingly not fulfilling its promise of an easier path to closing deals, the frustration levels of the benefactors of the promise, sales, rise.

Ironically marketing might have a fair degree of frustration with the sales team, frustrations most frequently built atop two complaints.  One, the sales team is chasing opportunities that are not a good fit and don’t line up to the well thought out positioning.  Two, the sales team is unsatisfied with any lead that requires even the littlest bit of effort to move the prospect into the sales process.

It is an age old necessary tension that has existed since the beginning of business time.  A reality that I learned early in my career when I picked up a book on my boss’s desk. The cover screamed in big bold font “EVERYTHING SALES KNOWS ABOUT MARKETING.” Inside the book all of the pages were blank. Funny enough, right? But flip the book over and the back cover screamed equally as loud “EVERYTHING MARKETING KNOWS ABOUT SALES.”

The joke is obvious of course, but the sentiment is absolutely important. Marketing and sales are two distinct disciplines. When marketing and sales are completely aligned the results are good. When they are not tension rise, targets are missed, and sales representatives earn less. So the question becomes what can sales professionals do that will foster a greater and more fruitful marketing and sales alliance?

Make expectations clear.

Simple enough to communicate expectations, after all marketing serves sales does it not? But the key in a successful and improved marketing sales alliance is that the communication of expectations must be a two sided conversation. Not a list of demands that, if not met, will be fodder for the justified slander of the marketing team. But an intelligent examination of what rests behind each expectation. And a willingness to consider these expectations anew from the perspective of a partner that has different but valuable experience.

If marketing and sales relationships are strained it may very well be due to the fact that expectations are not defined with detail, but left one-dimensional declarative statements. Statements that reference lead quality without describing the nature of what acceptable quality might be. Or something about volume of demand that may or may not be connected to quality.  The expectations are fair but unclear. It reminds me again of that boss that had the book of sales and marketing knowledge on his desk. He would frequently say that defining something as ‘big’ wasn’t good enough. Big in comparison to what? ‘Big’ needed clear parameters, reference points, and examples. This is the same sort of detail that sales needs to consider when communicating their expectations.

For instance let’s consider lead quality. Perhaps the most informative piece of information that sales can share with marketing about lead quality is the details of the early part of the sales process. This is difficult because as most sales professionals know the early stages of the process are murky. The opportunity is unclear. It is a more nuanced and creative exercise to engage a prospect early in the cycle simply to get them to the next stage and closer to an identified opportunity.

It is critical for marketing to understand the gyrations that the sales rep goes through in these early stages. The level of effort required to get the prospect to the next stage. The frustration that the rep feels when they have spent a good deal of time nurturing the prospect only to realize a month later that there is most likely no opportunity to be had. It is important because no matter how awesome the lead quality is that is coming from marketing the sales rep still has work to do to move them from that early stage to the next. That work happens on good leads and bad leads. If a sales rep is going to accept a marketing qualified lead, the expectation is that the effort to move the prospect forward will be easier than a lead that they unearthed themselves.

That is the key. The effort cannot be equal to the effort of their own prospecting, it has to be lower.

This is exactly where the conversation around the expectation of quality can finally get productive and turn away from the esoteric ‘quality’ towards the specific things a rep does to push a prospect deeper into his sales process.

  • What specific exchange between prospect and sales rep helps determine whether or not the opportunity is real?
  • What questions from the prospect are tell-tale signs that their status quo is not good enough?
  • What part of our solution story is most likely to get them talking more?
  • What key piece of knowledge do we have that the prospect doesn’t have?
  • What anecdote can we share that will help the prospect see themselves in our offering?
  • What are the disqualifying inquires and questions that typically indicate that the fit is incorrect even if the opportunity is real?

This is all nuanced and learned wisdom that good sales reps take for granted. But guess what? It is more likely than not that the marketing team simply does not have that wisdom.  So it has to be shared with them. And when that nuance is shared the sales team will be blown away by the level of support that they’ll get from their marketing peers. The sales team will suddenly see how specific pieces of content and sales tools can be better leveraged to wrestle prospects through those early stages in a more efficient and expedient manner.

The necessary tension that exists between sales and marketing can be frustrating. Sales leadership can take ownership of its side of the conversation and mitigate the frustration by committing to serving their marketing brethren by sharing more details around the nuance of the sales process.

Go Weak to Close Strong

Go Weak to Close Strong

When it comes a salesperson engaging a prospect, soliciting a referral, and gathering information as part of their sales efforts, most tend to go to their most trusted and closely held relationships. There is nothing wrong with taking that approach. However, what if I suggested that reaching out to lesser known people within your network or people entirely outside of your network would aid your efforts and, in some cases, be more rewarding?

According to Wikipedia and the often cited research of sociologist, Mark S. Granovetter, in mathematical sociology, interpersonal ties are defined as information-carrying connections between people. Interpersonal ties, generally, come in three varieties: strong, weak or absent. Weak social ties, it is argued, are responsible for the majority of the embeddedness and structure of social networks in society as well as the transmission of information through these networks.

I know that this sounds counterintuitive, but Granovetter’s research illustrated that information traveled better via weak ties because more of the information shared was novel rather than common knowledge to most members of the social networks.

Why the sociology lesson and what does this have to do with sales? Well, as salespeople in an increasingly challenging environment where cold calling has diminishing returns, new tools and techniques are required to remain competitive.

I have already written previously here about social selling and the power of social media and social tools to identify and engage prospective clients. What I am talking about here with the strength of weak ties is the idea that salespeople should be extending their outreach to weaker ties within their extended or beyond their network to gain information, garner referrals, and possibly even win new business.

For many, the idea of contacting people they know loosely, or not at all, feels uncomfortable. My response to that is to try it. The worst that can happen is either they say no or choose not to respond at all. You just need to get used to the idea that you have nothing to lose.

Throughout my career, and especially since the arrival of LinkedIn, I have been the beneficiary of numerous opportunities, sales related and otherwise, because of my willingness to reach out to people I don’t know and ask for their time and assistance. I continue to be surprised by the results.

Coincidentally, I am a contributor to this blog because of relationships I fostered through social networks with people I have yet to meet in person. I have secured board positions, speaking engagements, and more through relationships that you would not define as close.

In one instance several years ago, I reached out to someone I did not know and asked them for a few minutes of their time for a phone call to learn more about them, their firm, and the work that they did. From that initial contact, an extremely fruitful business relationship, and friendship has developed. I owe the work that my firm and I have been doing for the last eight years to that connection. How’s that for the strength of weak ties?

More often than not, I have found people willing to help even if we have not met before. Just be gracious and respectful and you will be surprised by the kindness and assistance you receive but be sure to show your gratitude too.

If you are trying to map an account, profile a prospect more thoroughly, or research an industry sector, why not leverage your extended network to find people or secure introductions to people who can help you achieve your objectives. I know it will feel awkward at first, but if you are clear, to the point, and respectful of their time, you will be amazed at the results.

When one person surprises you with information or an introduction that would have eluded you otherwise, you will be converted. Give it a try. Put your faith in weak ties and before you know it you will be closing strong. Good luck and be sure to let me know how it goes.

Why Use Sales Training to Take Your Business to the Next Level?

Why Use Sales Training to Take Your Business to the Next Level?

The sales industry in the United Kingdom is huge, with Crown Statistics showing that one in every six workers in the country is employed either directly or indirectly in sales. Meanwhile, according to an Aaron Wallis Recruitment and Training survey, 55 percent of businesses believe sales is their most important department.

What these two pieces of research clearly demonstrate is the abundance of sales roles out there and the essential nature of them. This can perhaps go some way towards explaining why spending on corporate training has soared in recent years, with sales team and sales managers training accounting for much of that additional spending.

Here, we look at four key ways in which high-quality training can help to take your business to the next level.

Reason #1: It Can Plug Skills Gaps

Around 1.5 million British employees have a skills gap, which prevents them from achieving maximum work performance, according to a recent UK Employer Skills Survey. Moreover, 61 percent of businesses say that this skills gap is contributing towards them falling short of their business objectives.

By investing in high-quality training for your sales team members, you can help to eliminate this skills gap. The key is to move away from generalised training and focus instead on providing tailored training that addresses specific problems. Identify exactly where the gaps in skills in your organisation are and develop training to plug them.

Reason #2: It Can Provide Targets

Another way in which sales team training can help to elevate your business is through the establishment of clear goals – both for your business as a whole, and for individual employees. For example, if you notice a key weakness in your sales team’s performance, you can set an improvement target and gear training towards reaching it.

Similarly, you can use training to work with employees on a one-to-one basis, pin-pointing both their strengths and weaknesses, through the use of key metrics. Once a weakness has been identified, you can set a realistic goal for that employee to work towards and make sure you provide the necessary training for them to achieve it.

Reason #3: It Can Build Confidence

Training your sales team can also help to take your business to the next level through providing staff with the confidence they need to succeed. Running through role-plays, improving employee knowledge, working on communication skills and highlighting body language issues can all result in improved staff confidence.

A good training program goes much further than just sales skills,” says Nick Moreno, a sales trainer from the National Sales Center. “Prospects buy from confident salespeople and sales training builds that confidence. Confidence is something a prospect must see in you if you expect to generate great sales success.”

Reason #4: It Can Improve Morale

Finally, when you invest in really good quality training for your sales department, you will find that it results in morale improvements. A key aspect of successful training programmes is including a practical element, so that employees to practice their skills, and you can make some of these sessions light-hearted and fun.

More importantly, once a sales team member’s performance begins to improve, they begin to feel good about themselves and about the training. This becomes an addictive feeling, motivating them to continue with their professional development. In this sense, training can actually serve as a highly valuable motivational tool.

The upcoming MHI Global EMEA Sales Leadership Event in July in London will look to tackle some of these ideas in greater detail, so if you wish to take sales training to the next level, feel free to register.

The Vital Importance of Customer Advocacy

The Vital Importance of Customer Advocacy

Condensed from a Pipeliner SalesChat Interview with Joel Capperella 
Interview by John Golden

Joel Capperella is a leading marketing consultant with 20 years of strategic marketing execution in enterprise software, SaaS and technical professional services. Joel specializes in guiding his clients to obtain bigger pipelines, increased brand and product awareness, faster revenue and empowered transformation. Joel has worked with companies of all sizes, from juggernauts like SAP and Oracle, to small startups with new injections of cash. He is also a contributing writer to Huffington Post, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, HRO Today, and ERE.

Recently Joel was our special guest on Pipeliner SalesChats, and gave us some amazing insight into the right way to bring about customer advocacy.

Q: What would be your explanation of customer advocacy, and why is  it important?

A: When we think of customer advocacy, we oftentimes mistakenly think of it as something that serves us. We want to gain that level of relationship with our customers so, quite candidly, we could use them in the next deal to offer us a testimonial, or get on the phone with one of our prospects.

This self-serving approach usually results in a not-great ability to serve the customer and decreases our ability to tap into our most important customers, help them partner with us and extend our ability to sell our solutions. It needs to be customer-oriented and focused.

Q: If you’re really going to look at being customer-centric from a non-self-serving viewpoint, what are some of the things you’ve got to do?

A: Somewhere along the way I think we’ve lost the concept of being more prescriptive to our customers—in other words trying to understand their business even better than they understand it themselves. They’ve got one set of challenges within their context; we’ve got the good fortune of seeing it across multiple businesses. We see these challenges in different scenarios.  

I think to achieve this level of service-oriented customer advocacy, we have to make it our business to understand those challenges across all of our customers, across the entire industry, in a way that we could identify something that benefited customer A that’s also going to equally benefit customer Z, maybe in a bit of a different nuanced way. That’s our job—to  serve them in a way that’s going to let them tap into the information that’s going to help them do their jobs better.

Q: If you were going to start a customer advocacy campaign right now, how would you recommend going about it?

A: Getting back to the idea of placing their needs central, there are things we can do to begin to create a natural engagement.

For instance, every company that’s been in business for a year or 2 has at least 1 case study. I tell customers to dive into those existing case studies—look beyond the 2-page summary that actually got published. What’s the story behind it? What was behind the metrics? Who were the individual professionals on the customer side that benefited from that good? And what about the customer’s customer—how did they benefit?

You could take that 2-page piece and extend the life of it infinitely by creating additional blog posts, presentations, infographics. Video is so easy these days—get them on Google Hangouts, Skype or Facebook Live and ask them about the nuances behind the metrics.

That’s just 1 single case study. Let’s say you have 5—you could literally jack up your customer advocacy for the entire year based on just those 5.

Q: At Pipeliner we created a model called Network Selling, which is a win-win for both the buyer and seller, so that the buyer becomes the advocate and network multiplier. From your experience, how can salespeople get into that mindset of making it a win-win and almost an enjoyable experience?

A: I learned one of the best lessons of my career working with a life insurance salesman. The best life insurance salespeople have incredible networks. When they close 1 policy, they know there’s 5-10 more sales there, right in that same relationship. Nobody can talk about life insurance easily, so these salespeople serve their clients by helping them talk about what they’ve just done.

They also provide little favors, like if they’re moving they introduce them to their realtor.

Sometimes we forget about those things. The man or woman we’re selling to has a career and career aspirations. Connect with the prospect to help them advance and drive their career forward. Help them be a better manager or leader. It might not be related to our product or service at all, but it helps empower that network relationship. It helps embed us into a place of service.

Q: The period right after the purchase is a time you can really win advocates. What are your thoughts on that?

A: I thoroughly agree. I’ve worked for some really big ERP players. Back in the 00’s we could roll up a bus of 20 professionals to take down a deal—we had an expert on everything. The model doesn’t support that any longer, but the complexity hasn’t gone away. So the salesperson really has a greater burden on their shoulders.

I’ve seen that the best salespeople care intimately about the successful implementation of what they’ve just sold—they don’t just cash their commission check and move onto the next deal. They’re almost a quarterback of serving needs, and being the one “where the buck stops.”

Q: Could you give us some examples of where you’ve seen great customer advocacy programs and what they look like?

A: I have a software company I’m doing business with right now, and they’ve taken on the concept of the advisory panel. They’ve made the advisory panel customer-driven, and the panel brings up the topics they want to discuss.

What’s interesting is that the customers participate not because they are compensated or get preferential treatment—they’re not and they don’t. They feel they’re collaborative partners in what they’re trying to accomplish with the solution.

The same could be said for services. One of my professional services clients profiles the different freelance professionals that they place and that they use in their projects. They raise and elevate them to an all-star status. Each month they’re actually profiling a different professional and a different skillset, on a different job, on a different project.

It’s a good story to tell for talent, because they need more of that to be able to do these different jobs. But it’s also a portfolio of expertise they can then offer their clients: “We’ve done a job like yours, and here’s the story.” So it serves both ends.

Q: With all your experience in working with and talking about customer advocacy with people, what is the biggest mistake you see people make?

A: I think without a doubt the biggest mistake is simply not asking for the referral. Any good salesperson knows that you’ve got to ask for the business, even ask for the close. You should likewise ask for the referral.

Another big part of it is setting expectations, and doing it early in the customer relationship. “We’re going to do this for you, you’re going to love it. It’s going to have a big impact to your business and your careers, and we’re going to want you to talk about it.” You could even make it part of your contractual language.  

Q: What would be the #2 biggest mistake that you see?

A: Video is so easy today. Every salesperson has a video device they’re carrying with them. We should set the expectation with our sales force that every time you have a great conversation with a customer and you’re face to face, ask them to take a selfie video with them. It might seem silly and you might be uncomfortable with it at first. But once you get in the habit of doing it, all of a sudden you have all these video testimonials.

Q: How can people get in contact with you and find out more about customer advocacy?

A: You can find me at My email is, and I’d be happy to chat with anyone further.

Customer Advocacy is greatly enabled by Pipeliner CRM.


Should Prospects Decide Whether or Not they are Going to Talk to You?

Should Prospects Decide Whether or Not they are Going to Talk to You?

Do you believe that a large percentage of the buying process is complete before sales needs to get involved (57%, 65%, 67% or even more?)

If so, you can thank Doug Davidoff, CEB, Dan Pink, and several analyst quoted in this LinkedIn article published in early 2015.

Mr. Davidoff states:

The initial research comes from 2011 Corporate Executive Board (CEB) study of 1,400 B2B purchases that found 57% of the typical purchase is made before a customer talks to a supplier. In 2013 CEB updated the research and found that the number shifted to 65%.

He quotes Dan Pink as he goes on to substantiate his premise:

We have moved from information asymmetry (the world of buyer beware when salespeople had most or all of the information) to information balance – or even situations where the prospect knows more than the seller does. When I’m buying something important (whether it’s a new/used car, technology system, ERP or anything else to support my business) I want to know more than I ever have before I talk with a salesperson. Not because I don’t value any salesperson, but because I feel it’s important that I know something to make my time with a professional salesperson most effective, and because I want to be in control of my own destiny.

Then he provides quotes from some notable analysts regarding their take on the buyer’s journey:

  • “SiriusDecisions reports that 70% of the buying process in a complex sale is already complete before prospects are willing to engage with a live salesperson.
  • Two-thirds to 90% of the buying cycle is completed before a B2B buyer ever speaks with a sales rep. – Forrester
  • Business buyers spend just 21% of buying cycle in conversations with salespeople while spending 23% of the time in conversations with peers and colleagues and 56% of the buying cycle searching for and engaging with content – IDG Connect
  • 70% of business technology buyers are at the RFP stage (request for proposal) by the time the vendor becomes aware of the opportunity – UBM Techweb.”

Are you willing to allow 70% of buyers to get to the RFP stage before you become aware of an opportunity in your market? I hope not.

My friend, Mike Weinberg, offers his view:

For the better part of a year I’ve been waging a battle to protect salespeople from a bogus straw man statistic that is the “go-to” argument from many of today’s sales “experts.” These nouveau “experts” have been telling anyone who will listen that today’s buyers are 67% of the way through their buying process before engaging with a salesperson, and that it’s fruitless to cold call and proactively pursue prospects because that doesn’t work anymore.

What’s infuriating, aside from the fact that it’s not true, is that this nonsense is exactly what the reactive, passive, struggling salesperson wants to be told. Can you just hear the under-performer declaring, “Oh, goodie. I don’t need to hunt for new business because that doesn’t work anyway. Let me just spend my time on LinkedIn and Twitter or following up on the wonderful leads our inbound marketing effort is generating.

And, SiriusDecisions “debunked that silly myth” as Mike continues in his blog:

Today I am celebrating as SiriusDecisions publicly and authoritatively debunked that silly myth and oft-quoted statistic at their annual #SDSummit. It turns out, according to their own exhaustive research, that buyers are, in fact, engaging with sellers from the very beginning through the end of their buying journey (through the three stages SiriusDecisions calls “Education,” “Solution,” and “Selection”). In fact, the highest level of reported buyer/seller interaction actually occurred early on, during the education phase.

SiriusDecisions continued with the following in the Business Wire blog linked above:

We found that buyers interact with representatives during every stage of the decision- making process at least half the time, and that the type of decision – or buying scenario – greatly impacted the number and types of interactions. “

said Jennifer Ross, Senior Research Director, SiriusDecisions.

The new way to think about b-to- b buying is that human interactions still occur and matter, and that the rise of digital marketing doesn’t mean those interactions go away,” Kopec said. “It just means that buyers and providers are interacting in new digital ways. Just because buying behavior is done digitally does not mean that sales representatives are no longer required to instigate or facilitate a buying process.

In a Demand Gen Report blog I wrote a few years ago, I quoted Forrester analyst Lori Wizdo as follows:

Effective nurturing begins at the early stages of the customer’s buying cycle, when the customer is probing the need, scoping the solution, and planning for a technology evaluation and purchase. Customers in the early stages of a purchasing decision are open to knowledge, insight, and even guidance from a tech vendor. But, they are not willing to be grilled by an aggressive sales rep on their sales worthiness.

Finally, from a 2016 interview with ITSMA’s Senior Vice President, Research and Thought Leadership, Julie Schwartz:

It’s widely believed that 60-70% of the buying process is over before prospects want to engage with a salesperson. The premise is that there is so much information available online that salespeople are thought to be unnecessary in the early stages. ITSMA’s data says that for high consideration technology solutions, this is a myth. In fact, we believe just the opposite: 70% of B2B technology solution buyers want to engage with sales reps before they identify their short list. In fact, buyers perceive value in interacting with sales at every stage of the buying process—even the early stages. In the epiphany stage they want education and unique perspectives; in the awareness stage they want product information and subject matter experts (SMEs); and in the interest stage they want benchmarks and best practices.

That’s good news for IT providers. The earlier you engage, the more likely you are helping customers formulate their ideas on how to solve their problems. Earlier engagement means more wins.

To sum things up:

  1. If your read this carefully, you will have learned that a couple of analysts changed their view over the past couple of years regarding when to engage prospects (Hint: ENGAGE EARLY)
  2. Using industry averages can paint the wrong picture. While it might be okay, and even advisable, to let the market come to you on a low priced commodity; it is incredibly risky to do so if you are selling anything strategic. Waiting until the buyer comes to you is a sure way to be column fodder in an evaluation that has already won by a more agile competitor.
  3. Many, but not most, marketers have gotten beyond the “inbounditis” stage and recognize that an All-Bound (balance of inbound and outbound) is key to success. If you want to find out more, go to our Lead-to- Revenue Calculatorand find out what you need to do to hit your number this year and beyond.
How To Conduct A Killer Follow-Up

How To Conduct A Killer Follow-Up

A proper follow-up can make or break a sale. It is also highly underestimated in its effectiveness. Without proper follow-up, many sales die. Rookie salespeople make the mistake of assuming that their job is done after the sales call when in reality that’s when the real job begins. An effective follow-up takes planning and tenacity.  In fact, it’s so important that only 2% of sales are made on the first contact. A whopping 48% of salespeople never follow-up with a prospect! Could this be why 80% of sales are made by 8% of salespeople?

Let’s discuss some techniques for a killer follow-up plan.

  1. Always set a plan for follow up – don’t leave the initial meeting without a meeting set or clearly defined next steps. Plan for another phone call or in person meeting. This will help secure things and maintain accountability between both parties.
  2. Reiterate the value you bring to the table. – Don’t let them forget what it is you have to offer and what you’re going to do for their company. Reinforce the value proposition as it relates to their need.
  3. Offer free value as a follow-up – After initial follow up- send them a quick piece of advice personalized to their business. It sends the impression that you are actively thinking and engaging in bettering their business.  For example “Hey I was checking out your website and I noticed _____” Or, “I was speaking to ______ and I wanted to introduce you because _____”
  4. Connect on Linkedin – This small gesture can go a long way.
  5. Don’t be pushy – Nobody wants to do business with the pushy greedy salesperson. Following up doesn’t look pushy as long as its done in the right manner and systematically.
  6. Close The Deal – Now that you have established proper follow-up, you should be primed and ready to seal the deal!

Source * National Sales Executive Association

3 Simple Ways to Engage Prospects and Win More Deals

3 Simple Ways to Engage Prospects and Win More Deals

How do the top salespeople continually blow away their quotas so effortlessly? Do they have some kind of secret formula they follow to ensure success consistently? Yes – and much of it has to do with how top sales performers adhere to the key sales activities in their sales process and clearly understand the buyer’s engagement levels along the way giving them a roadmap/foundation for sales success.

A top sales performer knows the importance of maximizing their time to either move a deal efficiently from lead generation to close or lose early.

And believe it or not, it all starts at the beginning when you engage the prospect. Here are three simple ways you can better engage prospects, win more deals, and become a top performer.

#1: Do More, Earlier in Your Sales Process

Top salespeople know that the more research you do earlier in the process, the better you will be prepared for anything that comes next. If you spend time understanding who the key decision makers and influencers are and what they are trying to accomplish – business outcomes, personal wins, their key priorities and why – and these key stakeholders are engaged, at all levels in the discovery process, the better you can determine if this is where you want to spend your time.

#2: Use Good Old-fashioned Value Linking

By gaining a better understanding of what the prospect is trying to achieve – at all levels of their organization – and the impact if they do not achieve them, you can better position your solution and pricing – and become more of a trusted partner. How many times have you known in your heart that you have the right solution for your prospect/customer, but the deal stalled? Or you lost the deal after spending a ton of time on it? Or you got the verbal OK but the contract sat forever in procurement? We have all been there.

Top salespeople are experts in good old-fashioned value linking. They become that go-to person who best understands the business outcomes and priorities the key decision makers are trying to achieve, and they know when they are at the right levels of the organization. If they cannot determine specific business goals and priorities or clearly understand the impact of doing nothing, they will not waste their time and will either figure out a way get this information or move on.

#3: Prepare for Meetings

Top salespeople know that preparing for meetings with key decision makers is a critical and great use of their time. They would never just show up and wing it. If the meeting does not go well, it may take an inordinate amount of time to get a second meeting or they may never have the opportunity. They want to validate the information they have gathered, fill in their gaps of knowledge and test the buyers level of engagement to best ensure everyone’s success.

Top salespeople know that prospects will be glad when you ask questions about what they care about day in and day out. It shows that you’re confident and knowledgeable and that you care more about their priorities than your own.

So learn from top sales performers and take the time to ask better questions early in the sales process, connect the dots, use it as a way to gain credibility, reduce the sales cycle time. And hopefully, you’ll drive more revenue now that you understand how to engage prospects and win more deals.

Why are Sales Opportunities Lost?

Why are Sales Opportunities Lost?

A notable function a sales manager must master is understanding why sales are won or lost. This is particularly true for large, complex sales opportunities where there may never be another opportunity or, if so, it may be years in the future. In all likelihood this opportunity had a high profile within the company and there will be more than passing curiosity about why the company lost or why the company won! The proximate reasons may not make sense (too much money, missing capability) when these apparent issues were known and dismissed during the sales cycle (“we know your offering costs more, but it is worth more” or “we will never need that capability so it doesn’t matter to us”).

WHY is this important to discover?  The sales manager can determine if there are salesperson deficiencies, salesperson effectiveness, Competitor strategies, product limitations, etc.

When the decision between two vendors is extremely close, small differences may be the stated reason for selecting one vendor over another. However, these are unlikely to be actual reasons, just the rationale.

In most cases the sale is won or lost much earlier in the sales cycle. The most common reasons are: (1) failure to differentiate your offering from the competition and/or (2) failure to differentiate the buying experience from the competition.

Let us dig deeper into each of these. For many salespeople, meeting the prospect’s stated requirements are what they believe is their sales function. This is particularly true for newer salespeople who do not understand why the prospect needs what they state they need or are incapable of expanding what the customer’s requirements should be.

An expert salesperson will not simply accept what the prospect thinks they want but will engage with the prospect to understand the context of the requirements and attempt to explore unstated additional requirements the prospect did not consider, but should. The salesperson who can do this effectively elevates the prospect’s trust and credibility in the salesperson and their company. Even should another vendor be able to demonstrate similar functionality, the initiator has already “won”.

For the majority of sales opportunities this differentiation occurred weeks or months before the decision during the discovery and presentation phase.

Differentiation of the buying cycle can have multiple elements:

  • How responsive was marketing and/or the salesperson to initial requests?
  • If the prospect did not have a clear decision process (true in many cases) how did the salesperson help them to understand why they should have one and what it should include.
  • How did the salesperson/company help the prospect with their internal selling challenges?

As an example, a salesperson who recognizes a justification is likely required by the prospect, helps the prospect think through what is needed and can provide supporting materials (PowerPoint template, justification calculators, pro/con tables of options) will be perceived as a partner instead of an adversary.

Again, in many sales cycles the presentation of options to an internal capital approval committee or an informal management group will occur before the final vendor decision. A salesperson who can assist a prospect through this process will yield increased confidence that this vendor can help them succeed once the project begins.

Successful selling organizations understand these points and invest a significant amount of training, role playing and account strategizing during these phases of the sales cycle.


In the regular sales strategy sessions with your salesperson:

  1. Focus on the stated reasons the prospect is buying and what else they should considering
  2. Who the likely competitors could be and how they will respond
  3. What and how your salesperson can expand the requirements and who else it impacts within the prospect’s company
  4. How your capabilities can differentiate your offering from the competition
  5. Whether the prospect knows how to buy and what advice & aids your salesperson can provide
  6. Institute a formal Win/Loss analysis, ideally with a trained non-salesperson conducting the interview within a week of a decision.


An effective sales leader will build a culture that embraces the need for constant, regular opportunity reviews and helps their sales team members answer, for each opportunity, the key questions of “Why do anything and Why do it with us”. They will also recognize the value of understanding wins and losses when they occur and establish a routine process to learn why.

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