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How to Improve Your Sales Presentations

How to Improve Your Sales Presentations

What makes someone an effective presenter? Why do some salespeople seem to effortlessly captivate their buyers, while others struggle just to keep them awake?

What an ocean of research has identified is that the way something is presented shapes how it will be perceived and whether it not it will be acted on. In other words, all sales presentations are not created equal.

So how can you improve your ability to deliver compelling sales presentations? To answer this question, I’ll share a brief excerpt from my book The Science of Selling.

When you think about New York, what comes to mind? A busy city street filled with taxis? The Statue of Liberty or the Empire State Build­ing? Times Square? Or something else entirely? Your answer depends on your past experiences and what you associate with New York, but if you are like those I posed this question to, what came to your mind was not words, but a picture. Your brain pictured something that represented New York.

This provides an insight into the inner workings of our brains, namely that they don’t think in words but in pictures. Neuroscientist John Me­dina explains: “To our cortex, unnervingly, there is no such thing as words.” When the human brain encounters a word, it links the word to its corresponding picture. This is so well established that scientists have a name for it: the picture superiority effect.

Because the brain thinks in terms of pictures, it is able to process and retain them more easily than words. As a result, learning and retention can be improved by explaining a concept with pictures. This fact has been validated in numerous scientific studies. One such study was conducted by educational psychologist Kirsten Butcher and was published in the Journal of Educational Psychology. It demonstrated that people learn complex data with less difficulty when words and visual illustrations are used, in comparison to only text. Cognitive psychologists Richard Mayer and Roxana Moreno echo this notion when they state, “It is bet­ter to present an explanation in words and pictures than solely words.” Furthermore, John Medina concurs: “Text and oral presentation are not just less efficient than pictures for retaining certain types of information; they are way less efficient. If information is presented orally, people re­member about 10 percent, tested 72 hours after exposure. That figure goes up to 65 percent if you add a picture.”

How can you use the picture superiority effect to enhance your sales presentations? Make sure that your presentations are dominated by pic­tures. Don’t just explain a concept verbally; instead show a picture that il­lustrates the concept, then explain the picture. This will improve your customer’s ability to absorb and retain your ideas.

I can still recall one presentation I witnessed where the presenter used PowerPoint slides that contained nothing but text, a lot of text. He then proceeded to read the slides to the audience. Not only was he disengaged from the audience, but the presentation was boring and hard to follow. Even more alarming was the fact that he rendered himself unnecessary, since everyone in the room needed no help in reading the slides.

If you use slides in your sales presentations, I recommend having as little text as possible. Also, evaluate whether your presentations help buy­ers easily picture the concepts you are sharing. Do you use vivid word pic­tures and actual pictures to explain your ideas? How could you improve in this area? Thinking through these questions is vital, since the easier it is for the brain to picture what you are presenting, the more favorably buyers will respond to you and your message.

The picture superiority effect is just one of the many research-backed factors that influence the decision-making process.  What I’ve learned from nearly a decade of research for The Science of Selling is that the more you can leverage insights grounded in hard science, the better you will be able to serve your potential customers and the more likely they are to respond favorably to you and your ideas.

Knowing the Ally and the Antagonist in the Room

Knowing the Ally and the Antagonist in the Room

In any meeting with more than 2 people – you’ll find that there will be present both an ally and an antagonist.

They come from opposing points of view to their own needs and certainly to your offering. But more – the antagonist really wants to be heard. He or she has a point of view and wants it to be know.

Generally, salespeople fear the antagonist because they are unsure of the motives of that person or what kind of an effect he/she will have on the energy level in the room.

What should a seller do when they encounter an antagonist? Embrace them! Affirm them! Let the antagonist be heard and confirm their feelings. Remember: what the antagonist has to say is merely his or her own opinions or feelings — don’t mistake them for facts.

But it’s important to show that you care and that you want to listen to the thoughts of the people present: show both the ally and antagonist that they are important to the conversation and that you appreciate their thoughts on the matter.

Ask the antagonist questions like “tell me more about why you feel that way” or “I want to make sure I understand fully, so tell me again what makes you say that….”

Keeping the antagonist talking is one of the best ways to understand and clarify issues that the company may be having that even they don’t like to talk about in public. The more you know about the issues and who’s willing to talk about them, the better chance you’ll have at closing the sale with speed and efficiency.

Sales Must Adapt or Die: 12 Reasons Why

Sales Must Adapt or Die: 12 Reasons Why

Adapt or die.

We have seen this consequence play out for centuries.

Now it’s time for sales to pay attention.

Old school traditional sales has outlived its usefulness.

It no longer works.

If sales is to maintain relevance in today’s world, a transformation of the way it is practiced is required.

Not just incremental change, but a complete approach.

Blowing up the old model; building a new discipline.

This is why it’s such a big deal:

1. The drivers of customer demand have changed. What motivates a person to buy today has changed dramatically. New buying behavior requires different sales methods.

2. People have almost unlimited choice today from a variety of suppliers that grows daily. Fierce competition steps up the challenge to attract and keep customers. Selling the sales relationship is the new mantra.

3. “Me” personal markets are replacing “many” mass markets. People want their personal desires taken care of; they are turned off by the assumption that they are like the crowd in any way. Crowd-based messaging is returning less as a communications investment.

4. Customers wield the power now; organizations no longer can dictate to the market what they get.

5. Customers are able to switch suppliers with ease. Barriers that once existed are disappearing as switching costs approach zero. Fickle customers use this opportunity to hop from one organization to another much more frequently than in the past. The sales focus is on creating barriers to customer exit.

6. Sales is less of an island in the organization. It is only one element an organization has to deliver as part of its value proposition. The sales identity is rapidly blending with marketing and customer service to respond to the holistic needs of a customer. Sales itself is morphing to the service arena.

7. The nature of customer engagement has morphed from transactions-based to more of an idealistic alignment. People are more and more doing business with organizations that demonstrate the same values (social responsibilities, environmental-friendliness, philanthropic intent and so on) that they believe in.

8. Experiences are trumping products and services. Material goods don’t create long-term happiness; experiences do. Flogging products is moving to the back seat behind creating memories.

9. Communications clutter is making it very difficult for customers to decide whom to do business with. Every supplier looks the same and gives no compelling reason why they should be selected over their competition. Most messages talk about price; any value reference is aspirational and vague. The need for sales to practice their art like no one else is critical.

10. Customer loyalty has to be earned at every touch point be it personal contact, an organization’s web site, communications media and social media. All customer interfaces must work together seamlessly and synergistically and must carry the same message and engage the customer in the same way.

11. Pushing general advertising messages to the masses is no longer an effective investment. Targeted personalized sales communication to individuals is required to ensure customers get the precise value they want.

12. Acquiring new high-value customers is now a function of fans talking an organization up to their friends and associates. The sales referral is now a critical success factor.

New sales muscle is required to address these new realities.

Are you re-inventing your sales machine?

Sales Prospecting: Are You Doing It Right?

Sales Prospecting: Are You Doing It Right?

Condensed from a Pipeliner SalesChats Interview with Dan McDade
Interview by John Golden

Dan McDade is certainly qualified to talk about leads. He founded PointClear in 1997, and for over 20 years he’s been instrumental in developing strategies that assure that 100% of the leads delivered to his company’s client sales organizations are fully qualified to client specification. Dan is also the author of The Truth About Leads, a book about how to focus lead generation efforts, as well as From Chaos to Kickass, a white paper detailing the benefits of Sales and Marketing optimization, available from PointClear’s web site.

Q: Why is prospecting so hated by many people, and how could they look at it differently?

A: One of things that companies have to recognize is that not every sales rep was created equally. Some are great hunters, and great hunters hate to beat the bushes looking for new business. Some are farmers, good at farming business out of the current clients, not so much looking for new business with new clients.

The difference in mentality between someone beating the bushes looking for business and a hunter is so dramatic that anybody who would be any good at one would be absolutely wretched at the other. So our view is you try to get more highly qualified leads into the hands of the field sales reps, and let them go do what they do best which is closing business.

Q: When is the best time to really start engaging with the prospect in their buying process, and how should you do that?

A: That’s my number one pet peeve.

Going back to 2013, SiriusDecisions reported that 70% of the buying process in a complex sale is already completed before a prospect is willing to engage with a live salesperson. Forrester said that 2/3 to 90% of the buying cycle is completed before a B2B buyer even speaks to a sales rep. IDG stated that business buyers spend just 21% of the buying cycle in conversations with salespeople, while spending 23% of their time in conversations with peers, and 56% of their time in the buying cycle searching and engaging with content before they have a sales rep get involved.

Contrast that with current thinking, such as that of my friend Mike Weinberg who recently wrote in one of his blogs, “What’s infuriating, aside from the fact that it’s absolutely not true, is that this nonsense is exactly what the reactive and passive sales reps want to hear. They want to hear that it’s fruitless to go out and cold call, because they don’t like to do it, they don’t want to do it, and they’re just going to sit back and wait for the prospects to come to them.”

When SiriusDecisions reversed their stance, Mike wrote in his blog, “Today I’m celebrating as SiriusDecisions publicly and authoritatively debunks that silly myth, oft-quoted statistic, at their annual sales SiriusDecisions Summit. It turns out, according to their own exhaustive research, that buyers are in fact engaging with sellers from the very beginning education stage, through the selection of the solution. In fact the highest level of reported buyer-seller interaction actually occurs early on in the education phase.”

What I always tell salespeople is that if you wait for 60, 70, 80% of the buying process to be complete before you get involved, the chances are that you’re going to be column fodder in an evaluation that’s already been won by one of your competitors because they were more nimble and got involved earlier.

Q: What are some of the skills that make a good prospector?

A: 2 words that we use frequently are “professional” but “persistent.” In looking through a sales process, you’ll find that there are salespeople who give up for what SiriusDecisions refers to as “unintuitive reasons.” One example of that is you send a lead to a sales rep, the sales rep calls twice, the prospect doesn’t call back, and the sales rep just ignores the lead and says, “It must not have been qualified.”

My favorite story about this is on the 42nd touch, the CFO of the 3rd-largest utility in the country called us back and said, “Don’t stop calling me. You’re my conscience. I’ve been wanting to talk to you, I’ve just been extremely busy.” About 5 months later, that lead closed for a billion-dollar deal.

So be persistent and don’t be defeated by being ignored, at least early in the stages.

Q: What are some of the best ways of being professionally persistent?

A: I find that the very best reps are driven by the 5 steps of the basic sales process. These steps are generic, but they really apply to every sales methodology out there. They are:

  1. Find the pain.
  2. Get agreement that there is pain.
  3. Get agreement to do something about the pain.
  4. Agree to a generic solution.
  5. Agree to a customized, specific solution.

The problem with sales right now is that a sales rep finds a pain and goes right to a specific solution, as opposed to going through all of the other steps. If you find the pain, and the prospect even agrees that they have pain, but they never agree to do something about the pain, then you’re going to step 5 and they’re back there stuck at step 3, and you haven’t gotten them over the humps to actually agree to do something about the pain. You’re not going to sell in that environment.

Q: When you come to train or advise people on prospecting, how would you train somebody to be a top-class prospector?

A: One of the things that I think is the toughest part of any sale is giving the call, so to speak, or giving the meeting, back to the prospect. In any sales call there is an opening, a dialog and a close. 20 years ago we identified a gap between the opening and the dialog that’s critically important to fill. That’s where you give the call or the meeting back to the prospect.

Here’s an example of such a transition statement: “When I meet with other CIOs in manufacturing companies, I hear the same issues over and over again. The first is, there’s a concern about lack of integration between their current technology and the modern tools out there today such as business intelligence. Two, they have a fear of both the real cost and the opportunity cost of replacing the current solution, and because it’s just such a huge mountain to climb. And three, many have doubts about the effectiveness of updating the current solution or the current technology. And I just wanted to ask, are any of these concerns of yours?”

If you ask the right questions, they’re going to say, “They’re all concerns of mine.” One of the things we tell our folks is, the best call that you can possibly have is when you use the transition statement, you ask one question, and they answer every other question you have.

Q: We’ve talked about the things to do, now let’s talk about some of the common mistakes. When you go and work with an organization, what are some of the common prospecting mistakes that you see happening and that you see prevalent today?

A: Probably the single biggest is the gap between Marketing and Sales when it comes to lead follow-up.

First of all, Sales and Marketing have to be on the same page as to what the definition of a qualified lead is. Right now I’d say 99 out of 100 companies don’t share a common definition of lead between Marketing and Sales. As a result, Marketing is generating leads that Sales doesn’t value.

Nurturing can triple the return on any marketing investment. So if you end up with a situation where the lead goes to Sales and gets rejected, instead of it ending up in a black hole, it needs to get back to Marketing so it can be nurtured along to the next step. We have a high degree of success with nurturing leads for our clients, leads that for whatever reason weren’t Sales-ready. We get those leads to Sales when it’s the right time for them.

To contact Dan McCade:


Sales Productivity: Availability of Sales Collateral Materials

Sales Productivity: Availability of Sales Collateral Materials

A very interesting report, called State of Sales Productivity Report, has just been released by Docurated. Compiled from anonymized data from the Docurated sales productivity solution and a survey of 127 sales and marketing executives, the report examines the state of sales productivity from both the sales rep and sales management perspectives.

In our first blog in this series, we took a look at the 5 Keys to Improving Sales Productivity, based on the report’s first finding. Our second blog focused on the importance of investing in sales productivity. The third focused on the vital importance of content and messaging to sales productivity.

Another key finding in this report was that sales reps spend about 1/3 of their time searching for content and creating new slides for upcoming meetings. The report also cites the Information Technology Services Marketing Association, which states that companies spend 16% of their overall budget on marketing content. The authors of the report then pose the question, “Why are sales reps spending so much time trying to re-create the wheel?”

The report also quotes data released by IDC and McKinsey that asserts that sales reps waste 10 to 20 hours per week on unproductive tasks (re-creating existing slides, curating materials for presentations, searching through documents) related to information retrieval.

Are They Really Wasting Time?

My experience with salespeople, and as a salesperson myself, stretches back over 30 years. I can confidently state that if salespeople are spending so much time searching for content and creating it themselves, there is a deeper problem than meets the eye. From my experience such a problem, when it is found to exist, has one of 3 sources:

1. The materials Marketing is creating and providing don’t actually work to help sales reps close sales, hence salespeople feel they need to create their own. This comes about from a disconnect existing between Marketing and Sales in which Marketing isn’t taking the time to actually find out what kind of collateral Sales really needs to bring opportunities through the sales process to a close. Often it greatly helps to have collateral materials for each stage of the sales process—but they won’t work unless they truly add value for the prospect.

One of my current long-term Marketing staff here at Pipeliner, years back worked at a company at which he was the Marketing liaison for Sales. It was his job to work directly with salespeople, find out what they needed, and create collateral materials that they could really use. For bigger deals, he would actually create materials specifically for that deal. While not all companies can afford to dedicate a Marketing person in such a way, it certainly helps to regularly communicate with Sales, find out exactly what they need, and produce it. Sales will then cease creating their own materials.

2. Marketing is creating valuable collateral materials, but salespeople can’t find them. A salesperson is only going to look for so long, and if they can’t find it they’ll re-create or re-assemble it. Lacking an efficient CRM solution (see #3 below), at the least Marketing should create a system that makes it extremely easy for salespeople to find needed collateral, and fully inform Sales of how it works.

I’ve also seen a combination of #1 and #2 above: Many of the materials Marketing is creating for Sales aren’t effective, and the ones that are effective are difficult or impossible to find.

3. The company’s CRM solution doesn’t allow all for easy access to collateral materials that correspond to each stage of the sales pipeline. With Pipeliner CRM, for example, any kind of document can be stored at each sales process stage and is available to a salesperson with a single click. A salesperson is already in CRM, is already talking to the client—and right there the salesperson has access to needed materials, with having to search anywhere at all.

Restoring Sales Productivity

The key to solving this issue and restoring sales productivity is to make sure Marketing is producing collateral materials that really work for Sales, and to make them easily available to salespeople. The most efficient way to this availability is, of course, through CRM.

With Pipeliner CRM, materials can be accessed for each sales stage with a single click. Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.

Year-end Race: Where Will You End Up in 2016?

Year-end Race: Where Will You End Up in 2016?

Sales can be viewed as a series of races that end December 31st and start the very next day. This is a time of the year as the end of Q3 approaches that many salespeople assess whether they can make their number this year or should slow some opportunities down to get off to a fast start in 2017.

As a sales manager, most of my sellers hit the accelerator hard as needed. In other words, they treated a year as a series of sprints that were needed when pipelines were thin. I was usually fortunate to have some steady performers that viewed the year like a marathon and set the pace that yielded more consistent results and far less drama.

As there are 26 milestones in a marathon, these sellers broke the year into 12 parts. I wish I had the wisdom back then to encourage all of my staff to look a sales cycle ahead to evaluate whether their pipelines were sufficient to deliver the numbers needed for them to be YTD against quota or better. A steady approach is less stressful and reduces the peaks and valleys that otherwise occur.

Let’s say you “sprint” the last few months of 2016. The best scenario is that you make your number this year but find 2017 is effectively a 10-month year because you had to close most everything that was in your pipeline. Sprinting and coming up short is the worst-case scenario.

In December some of the most optimistic people are sellers that are below 50% YTD of quota, but confident they can close more than half of their business in the last 30 days of the year. I’ve seen sellers, districts, regions and entire companies manufacture ways that they can make their numbers. It’s in sellers’ DNA to sprint to the finish regardless of how far behind they are 90+% into a race.

We could all use less stress in our business and personal lives. I encourage sellers to make a New Years resolution as of October 1st (assuming you have an average 90 day sales cycle) to build pipeline every month. Rather than rely upon inbound leads that are non-Key Players, do some proactive business development to targeted accounts and titles. I’d venture to say if sellers tried to contact two prospects a day, they would be on their way to more steady performance. Make 2017 a better year by making these changes NOW.

When You Are Closing, Negotiate Carefully, But Always To Win!

When You Are Closing, Negotiate Carefully, But Always To Win!

So I need to go over a topic that I rarely see anyone speak in depth about: Negotiating the Deal! There are some folks who briefly touch the topic, but I’d like to go a little further into it. Because if you cannot do it well or successfully, then you really aren’t going to have a great career in selling. Without pushing the customer away, the entire purpose of professional negotiations is to reach an agreement that benefits the salesperson and the customer in a win-win situation. It is NOT about you getting the upper hand. At the same time, it is NOT giving the customer everything they want just to make the sale. There must be some balance, or one of you will walk away from the table feeling salty and ripped off. And that always leads to bitter feelings and almost never a repeat sale. And if you have been in the sales business or business management for ANY length of time, then you know that repeat business is the goal. Repeat business is what will give you a great and successful career in sales.

These 10 suggestions, can help you exit negotiations as a winner:

#1: Start negotiations expecting to offer your highest price and conditions.

Always begin the negotiations with your highest price and conditions, as this is the place to start at. Then you can always come back a little, so that the customer feels that they got something from the deal. You really don’t want them to feel like you got the better end, as that will often lead to them getting another bid / offer. NEVER let it get that far, where they want to leave the table. This is a Lose / Lose!

#2: Don’t assume you have to match every customer concession.

The customer will always have their own demands, or what they want out of the deal. Expect it! Count on that and be prepared beforehand to give them much of what they want. If you can. Draw up a list of the things that you are willing to give them before the meeting. That way you can easily give them away if need be.

#3: Don’t give a concession without getting something in return.

So when you give a concession to the customer, always ask for something in return. Let them see that if you give them something, they must give something. This way, it really does become a give and take, and most importantly, it allows your customer to feel like your peer or equal. As well as feeling like they have power here, like you are both working TOGETHER. Because ultimately, they have the ultimate power. They can always get up and leave the meeting. Then you are done! Most salespeople will have this “superior” attitude. Like they are doing the customer a favor by just speaking with them. NOBODY responds positively to that.

#4: Make concessions in limited amounts.

Don’t give away the moon when giving concessions. Have a handful that you are willing to give up, and then stick to your guns. If you have too many, then you run the risk of appearing that your whole product is worthless. They may think “Jeez, if this guy has ALL this to give away, then what is he NOT telling me?” And again, if you get to this place, then you will be done! Because you have sown distrust, whether you wanted to or not.

#5: Don’t make your willingness to concede well known.

Some salespeople are like puppies. They are just so excited to be here and be alive in the room!!! And that is really a great place to be with a client. Just don’t go overboard and inadvertently give the impression that you will give anything away, just as long as they become your customer. Because the customer will smell that and go for your jugular. Their primary concern is the welfare of their business, not yours. If you give them the chance, then they will gladly take it. And then you are back to what I was saying earlier. There will be bitterness and feeling ripped off. Only this time, it will be you feeling this.

#6: Make sure the buyer understands how much your concession is worth.

When you give your customer a concession, make sure that they know how much that is worth to you and what you are giving up. That way, when you ask them for a concession, they will be more open to giving equally.

#7: Don’t jump at an offer of “Let’s split the difference.”

Sometimes this means that the customer has done a little more research than you, because this usually means that they come out a little better than you by “Splitting the Difference”. Be careful of this ploy, as it usually means something else.

#8: Handle the outrageous offer carefully.

This is a difficult challenge for you. You don’t want to come right out and ask “WTF? Are you insane?” And then at the same time, you don’t want to give up either. You have to come up with a response that will completely diffuse this situation as well as let them know that you are not to be trifled with. A simple technique that I have used is to just say this: “Gosh, I am really sorry, but there is absolutely no way I can give you that. My boss will NEVER approve that”. And then I will go on and ask the bomb. “Is this a deal breaker?” If they say yes, then you have to call their bluff. Then I will stand up and say “Thank you so much for your time”, and then prepare to leave. If they let you go, then they weren’t really serious about buying from you. But most times, they just want to see how far they can push you, how much they can get from you. And you must be willing to walk, you must be able to show them that they will not be able to take advantage of you. If it works out that they ask you to stay, then you will have won.

#9: Understand all the conditions before you start making concessions.

This is important that you know exactly what each concession means… how it will affect you and your bottom line. Make sure that it benefits you before you agree to it.

#10: Get a commitment to buy before you make a concession.

At some point, which is up to you, you need to ask this question: “Okay, great. We have agreed on this, and this and this. If I give you this final concession, will you authorize this agreement and we can move forward?” If they say they need to think about it some more, ask them why? Sincerely ask them why. Because if you have been negotiating for the last hour or two, and they are still hesitant to sign, then they are either playing with you, or they have a legitimate objection. But when the negotiation process if nearly done, you want to be able to walk out with the signed agreement in your hand.

In conclusion…You need to walk the razor’s edge of giving the customer enough to make them happy, and at the same time make enough money on the sale so your company can grow and you can go home and feed your wife and kids. Or your dog or cat… Well, you get the picture. Among the most important small business ideas that you can add to your arsenal, learning how to negotiate successfully will greatly enhance your career.

The Importance of Investing in Sales Productivity

The Importance of Investing in Sales Productivity

A very interesting report, called State of Sales Productivity Report, has just been released by Docurated. Compiled from anonymized data from the Docurated sales productivity solution and a survey of 127 sales and marketing executives, the report examines the state of sales productivity from both the sales rep and sales management perspectives. In our first blog in this series, we took a look at the 5 Keys to Improving Sales Productivity, based on the report’s first finding.

The second finding in the report is quite interesting: that a majority of organizations will be spending more on sales productivity initiatives this year than last year. According to the report, with the typical organization spending $24K per salesperson in improving productivity, this amounts to a bottom-line addition of at least $4.8K per rep.

According to the report, these initiatives include tools and training. These companies want to make sure these salespeople succeed. No surprise—their success or failure has a direct impact on company revenue.

Sales Training

Training is vitally important, and in fact can mean the difference between a return on investment in a sales rep, or a loss of that investment. Given the time for onboarding a new salesperson—for many companies that can be months—inaccurate or sloppily done training can create major holes in your sales team, simply because when a rep doesn’t make it, it then takes months to get a new rep up to speed. So having a great sales training program is a must for companies to compete.

In addition to basic training in a company’s product line, best selling practices and buyer patterns and personas, training should also continue after the rep has “graduated” the training program. Training should then take the form of ongoing coaching and mentoring by the sales manager.

The entire point of training followed by coaching and mentoring is to regularly increase the efficiency and closing ratios of your sales team without having to constantly hire new salespeople. Of course hiring is always needed, but hiring to improve sales team efficiency is an awfully expensive way to go.


It’s not clear if investing in sales compensation is part of what is meant as investing in sales productivity in the report. But I always stress, when talking about investing in sales productivity, that the importance of a great compensation plan cannot be overstated. In fact, when it is found that a lot of effort is needed to “motivate” salespeople to sell, it is often because the compensation plan is lacking—it’s not something that salespeople are really willing to work for.

I liken it to a pro football team. That team is motivated both by the money and the game itself. You’ll never have to “motivate” a pro football player to play the game. While being a salesperson is obviously not on as grand a scale, if that salesperson loves the game (bearing in mind that the game is constructed with the compensation plan), you’re not going to need to go overboard in “motivating” them to sell.

CRM Software

When it comes to investing in sales productivity, the other major area to pay attention to is tools. A salesperson’s primary tool is CRM. And many companies can overlook the importance of implementing a first-rate CRM solution that actually empowers salespeople, as opposed to a CRM application that is used (as it traditionally has been) simply to monitor and control salespeople.

It’s interesting that it has only been fairly recently—in the last 10 years—that somebody (namely us) has come up with a CRM solution that salespeople really love to use, and that actually helps them sell. Just examine the situation: if a salesperson doesn’t like CRM, they’re going to use it as little as possible, and resort to their own spreadsheets and solutions to track and control their own sales. Implement a CRM solution that they can really use, and they no longer need these “extra” tools, are not avoiding CRM but taking advantage of it, and can spend the majority of their time actually selling. Pipeliner CRM is completely intuitive and visual—it is instant intelligence, visualized.

As we see in the report, companies are wisely investing in sales productivity. They should do everything they can to ensure that these investments truly pay off.

Pipeliner CRM is the CRM solution that actually empowers salespeople to sell. Get your free trial of Pipeliner CRM now.

How to Upsell

How to Upsell

One way that you can boost your sales is by upselling. Yet, what is the most effective way to create these opportunities? Here are four strategies that will increase the likelihood that prospects will respond favorably to your upselling attempts.

Strategy #1: Earn The Right To Attempt to Upsell

Before you attempt to upsell you must first acquire a thorough understanding of your buyer’s perspective and situation. This may sound straightforward, but it is here that salespeople often fail. A recent Forrester Research study found that a shocking 88 percent of the buyers surveyed believed that salespeople do not understand their problems enough to be able to help solve them. So until your potential customers believe that you understand their problems and objectives, you are not in a position to even attempt to upsell.

Strategy #2: Gain Acceptance to a Larger Request First

There is some very compelling research from behavioral science that shows you are significantly more likely to gain compliance to an upselling request if you have already gained a commitment to a larger request. For example, it’s easier to upsell service contracts to potential customers once they have agreed to purchase your software platform. The reason is because in comparison to the software, which they have already committed to, the service contract is perceived to be a much smaller decision. This is why the best time to attempt to upsell is right after your buyers have committed to act on a larger, related issue.

Strategy #3: Lead with Insights

How should you introduce an upselling opportunity? The best way is to leverage your expertise and look for additional problems that the buyer has that you can solve. Then once you have identified these, provide an insight that will bring it to your buyers’ attention. Offering these insights will also help you gain more trust and position yourself as an expert who can provide real, meaningful value.

Over the years, I have found that potential customers are extremely open to these insights. In fact, often, the issues potential customers think they have is only part of a larger problem. This is why once you begin to look for upselling opportunities; they are relatively easy to spot.

So how should you introduce an upselling opportunity? Here are some introductory phrases that you can use to introduce these insights:

  • “Have you ever considered…”
  • “Another option you could pursue is…”
  • “Something else that a lot of other people in your situation consider is…”
  • “When most of our clients considered this option, they also look at…”

Strategy #4: Get Comfortable Upselling

When you first begin trying to upsell, the number one deterrent will be that it will feel uncomfortable. The reason is because is new. So what can you do to increase your comfort levels? There are two things that must happen before you will begin to feel comfortable executing any new sales behavior: Competency and frequency. Let’s first look at competency.

Learning how to upsell will help you become competent, which will inspire confidence and comfort. In addition to the strategies I have shared regarding how to upsell, identify a few of your customers’ common concerns. What are some ways that your product or service can solve these issues? How are you going to introduce an upselling opportunity? Once you know the answers to these questions, you can begin to focus on the next phase of becoming comfortable, which is frequency.

Before you can become comfortable upselling you must practice it. However, there are decades of research studies that have proven that how you practice is just as important as how much you practice. Productive practice should never involve potential customers. Instead, it should be done in a context that allows you to fail, receive feedback and learn. This is why before you ever attempt to upsell with actual prospects, you should first practice. You can practice with a co-worker, spouse, significant others or even record yourself. Regardless of how you practice, be sure to do so in a way that allows you to make mistakes and learn from them.

Then once you have practiced, received feedback and adapted based on the feedback you’ve received, you will find that you will begin to feel more comfortable.  For example, when you first started driving, remember how uncomfortable that felt? It was only after you learned what to do and practiced doing it that you became comfortable. The same is true with any new sales behavior, such as upselling.

One final thought on upselling. Why should you do it?  The reason isn’t just to grow your sales or improve your income. The reason to upsell is to deliver more value to your potential customers. This is why those salespeople who become skilled at upselling are almost always the same salespeople who have the highest customer satisfaction ratings. In other words, upselling is something you do for others, not to them.

What Are the Three Magic Questions a Sales Manager Must Know?

What Are the Three Magic Questions a Sales Manager Must Know?

In the 20+ years we have been working with sales managers and salespeople, a constant need is sales opportunity strategy advice. One of the main roles of a Sales Manager is to help train your salespeople on how to stay on track during a sales cycle. Each company will have unique domain, market and competitor background but fundamentally, in each case it is knowing what questions to ask.

During any sales opportunity coaching sessions consider asking these three questions with any sales opportunity:

  1. Why do anything?
  2. Why now?
  3. Why with us?

Let’s explore these, acknowledging the answers can’t all be known at the beginning of a sales opportunity but focusing on answering them is critical to maintain focus and winning the sale.

Why do anything?

Any person and organization has a myriad of priorities. Going through a buying decision whether for marketing services, new equipment or office space, is a major commitment that may include multiple people and maybe competing with multiple priorities. So how will your prospect justify the effort and invest the time? Often, the buyer has latent pain – they know they need to do something but they may not know what they need to know or how to decide. They almost certainly don’t want to speak with a salesperson without a strong sense of what they need and whether it is affordable. This presents your first challenge – how to help the potential buyer to answer the questionWhy do anything?

Therefore, marketing and sales campaigns which provide the prospect with honest content where the buyer can educate themselves is vital. Your sales team’s prospecting activities (emails, phone calls) should leverage this content and assist in identifying the issues and required capabilities. Blogs, webinars, case studies as all examples of content that may be beneficial to the prospect as long as it is not overtly self-serving.

Once they engage with a prospect, top sales professionals know they can both help the prospect and increase their company’s potential sales success through a deeper discovery phase. Exploring unexpressed potential needs, linking the implications of the current issues with other functions within the enterprise and tying the project to corporate objectives will both help the prospect build momentum internally and differentiate your offering. This is critical to begin to build your “business case” for taking action.

Why now?

Consider again the myriad priorities within the prospect company and the limited availability for executive support and investment capital or expense. To win the business requires more than beating your competition – you need to help your prospect communicate the importance of this initiative and gain internal approval. Perhaps this project is critical to retain a key customer, or comply with upcoming regulations. It may require a formal cost justification and follow a capital approval procedure. If the prospect does not have experience or insight to elevating the importance of your sale within the company and how to navigate the approval cycle, you will either have to help them or accept the consequences. Tools to assist your prospect such as payback models, use cases and template presentations can be both valuable and appreciated.

Timing is important, as knowing when the solution to fix the “pain” must be implemented and begin operation can drive the prospect’s sense of urgency to purchase.

Why with us?

Successful salespeople develop a competitive strategy starting at prospect qualification, refining and adjusting through the Discovery stage. What are the issues and capabilities that your company has helped the prospect uncover and how do you prove the ability to deliver? Are they unique and important to the prospect? Can the competition respond?

Often the committee will meet many days or weeks after all the vendor presentations. Summarizing the issues, the capabilities you offered and how these were received by the team and communicating to all of the committee members could be your last opportunity to stand apart. Whenever possible, these documents should be personalized.

As a Sales Manager, is it important to have your team act professionally, staying aligned throughout with the prospect’s buying process and possibly added value as it has progressed? Remember, as the point of vendor selection nears, the buyer’s sense of risk rises. How you understand and respond to this state may be the deciding factor amongst the prospects choices.


During the life of any complex sales opportunity it is sometimes difficult to for a salesperson to keep their arms around the abundance of information, questions, insights and tactics. Consider these three questions as their guide. Regularly reviewing each opportunity with these questions and honestly facing the answers, will provide the salesperson and sales manager the insights to adjust the opportunity strategy. Training your sales team to crisply communicate opportunity status to executives within your company via these three questions will both be appreciated and demonstrate your team’s competence and professionalism.

If you would like an additional set of “Magic Questions for Sales Managers”,

Top 7 Developments Changing the Face of Sales Today

Top 7 Developments Changing the Face of Sales Today

You know the mantra. Your sales practice is only as good as your quiver of arrows, and your aim. It’s only as good as your attitude, your product, your leads, your proposal, and your closing skills. Is the mantra always true? How could it be? There are factors—variables—coming into play. These variables affect each stage of the game.

As of my writing this, consumer spending is at an all-time high. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (reported here by Trading Economics), the second quarter of 2016 saw people make more purchases than ever before. What accounts for this? Are products better? More qualified leads? Superior salespeople?

The truth is there are a great many factors affecting spending, just as there are many factors that affect sales. Are spending influencers and sales influencers all the same? No. As I talked about in my last post, this is the age of the informed consumer. Consumers are making decisions outside of marketing and sales funnels, they’re making purchases based on word-of-mouth—digital and otherwise.

But we’re concerned with developments affecting sales, because that’s the business we’re in. Awareness can help keep conversion rates high. The following developments have changed the game for good.

#1: Personalization

According to international marketing and branding agency Base Creative, personalization is one of the biggest trends to watch in 2016. And it’s not going to stop now. Because of the availability of consumer data from online activities, marketing and sales can now personalize campaigns, targeting individuals based on reliable information.

Base Creative’s research shows that personalization delivers 5 to 8 times higher ROI for marketing, and boosts sales by 10 percent, or more. Make no mistake, personalization plays a role in all of the developments I’m presenting to you here.

#2: Mobile payment

Now, because of technology such as mobile card readers, you can make a sale from almost anywhere. This increases the potential for sales in the field. You’ll never be unprepared to close. And, in an article on how to accept credit card payments, Square reports that customers spend 12 to 18% more when they pay with a credit card instead of cash.

There’s the potential for traveling salespeople and mobile businesses to conveniently accept payments. There are improvements in personalization from marketing and sales. Combine these developments and you can see why consumer spending has continued to rise.

#3: Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

This just makes sense. Repeat customers spend more, and they do word-of-mouth marketing for you. CRM uses science to simplify the process of selling, to help manage ongoing relationships and create new ones. It does this by sifting through data, allowing you to zone in and personalize the sales process.

Essentially, through CRM, salespeople can now keep track of more contacts, because the software does the work for them. They can hone in on leads, have productive conversations, and move towards conversions with precision. This efficiency wasn’t possible with old-school sales.

#4: Sales acceleration

Back in 2005, Barry Trailer, a founder of CSO insights, released a study showing companies who use CRM generate 17% more revenue than those who don’t. Then Sales Acceleration software came along to automate the process of selling.

Whereas CRM is about really working personally on those relationships, Sales Acceleration can operate in tandem to generate leads and make appointments. It takes out the legwork of scheduling and calling. Inside sales teams who use sales acceleration close deals in an average of 69 days, compared with 144 days for outside sales.

#5: E-commerce

As more and more information has become available to consumers, the e-commerce store has stepped up. For the salesperson and entrepreneur, doing an e-commerce store is like putting your bait in the water and sitting back until the fish bite. This is where sales is becoming more like marketing.

But many are interested in improving their chances, which is where Robin Burton’s advice on how to make more money in e-commerce comes in. Interestingly, certain points in Robin’s how-to post can easily apply to sales:

  • Make buying easy”—of course! Every salesperson knows convenient access to what you’re selling is important
  • Accept all payment methods”—this is a matter of removing obstacles to purchase
  • Watch cart abandonment”—if you’re pretty positive a prospect is hooked, but they drop the line, it’s important to take note and think of ways to incentivize the purchase
  • Bundle products”—this is a classic sales incentive tactic: give them more value and they’re more likely to buy

In other words, sales best practices have migrated to the digital world. Does e-commerce spell an end to traditional, person-to-person sales? That’s something we’ll have to watch. Thankfully, any good salesperson has valuable knowledge to improve e-commerce.

#6: Globalization

According to research from Rutgers on globalization, 54% of U.S. companies are involved in foreign markets, and 72% want to increase their international business share. With the reality of globalization comes new challenges for sales, including adapting practices to different cultures and being flexible to a ton of travel.

In the global marketplace, companies must be tech-savvy, implementing data-driven solutions such as CRM, and automated processes such as Sales Acceleration. With that, salespeople must be prepared to use technology effectively.

#7: Social Media

In a study on entrepreneurs and social media, the UAB Collat School of Business made several noteworthy findings:

  • Entrepreneurs are “hesitant” to use social media for their business pursuits
  • When entrepreneurs do use social media, two of the top ten things they use it for are prospecting and sales

Social media throws yet another variable in the mix for entrepreneurs and sales. It can be tough to figure out exactly how to use it, but you can’t ignore the fact that billions of people are on various social media channels every day. This creates a whole new prospecting field. It also creates a challenging arena for outreaching and closing deals.

Here again, technology such as CRM and an e-commerce funnel can help a great deal if you want to take advantage of social media. But, in my opinion, if you have an excellent lead and you’re in touch on social, do your best to schedule an in-person appointment. Nothing beats the personal touch.

Turning Your Obstacles into Solutions

Turning Your Obstacles into Solutions

Seven questions that will change your life

Problems. Issues. Stuff.

You could be forgiven for thinking today’s business environment is full of all of these. Big ones, small ones. Old ones. new ones. And your sole aim in life seems to be to reduce their number, and reassure yourself that someday, when all these problems have been solved, all will be well and you can get on with what you really want to do.

You know the flaw in this. There’s seven days in the week and none of them is ‘someday’. It’s not going to happen. This is it. Real life. Stuff happens. Are you ever really ‘on top’ of everything? Probably not – which means that when the chips are down you really are going to have to embrace the journey, embrace the issues, look each problem smack in the eye – and get positive.

Most would say they want rid of their problems – yet spend much of their time rooted in those very issues, perfecting them rather than pointing their brains towards the possible solutions. Many tackle those problems with a negative tilt – which means the problems stick around, grow and in many cases get ignored until later when they come back into play, by then three times as big.

Questions that DON’T work

These are the types of questions that are asked by those with a negative disposition. Take a look at them (hopefully for the last time?) as a reminder of how NOT to approach a problem;

  • What is your problem?
  • Why is it a problem?
  • Why do you have this problem?
  • What caused it?
  • What are your limitations in solving it?
  • Who’s to blame?
  • Why haven’t you solved it yet?

And so on…

Ask these questions and you stay on the cycle of despair. Constantly asking these questions will get you nowhere. They lead to nowhere. You’re still deeply entrenched in the problem, probably feeling pretty depressed about the whole thing and, crucially, you’re no closer to a solution. And by following the thought patterns encouraged by these questions, you’re building up resentment, which is never recommended.

So the main thing here is that we’re prone to think more IN the problem than above the problem. Immersing yourself in these questions will only end up nurturing your problems, making sure they’re fed and watered – helping them fester and grow.

Break the Cycle


You need to break this cycle. So instead, consider another set of questions that will help you solve your sales challenges effectively and in most cases very quickly. With these questions you’ll always produce a plan, always produce a solution.

Dive straight in. Find somewhere you won’t be disturbed, close down those gadgets, and give this your full attention.

Think of a problem that’s been niggling away at you for far too long.

If you wanted to remind yourself of how debilitating your example problem is, then by all means take your problem through the set of questions above. It may make for a reminder of your current approach and how it’s not getting you very far.

Questions to change your life

On the other hand, if you’d rather go straight into solution-mode, go straight to the next set of questions below. Answer them initially in your head and give yourself no more than 10 seconds for each question. Your answers should reflect your gut reaction. If it helps, have someone you trust read the questions out to you – remember, anyone helping you needn’t get to hear your answers as they stay within your own mind, at least for now.

So, taking the issue you identified, answer these questions:

  • What do you want?
  • How do you want it to be?
  • What do you need to get it?
  • What resources do you already have that will help you get this outcome?
  • Where are you with regards to achieving it?
  • What’s the next step you can take towards getting your desired outcome?
  • When will you take this step?

Notice how you feel at the end of this sequence of questions.

Rather than remain entrenched in the issue as you would have been (when moving through those initial set of questions) I’d wager that you’re feeling much more positive about the issue you chose to explore. It’s likely you already have ideas you implement straight away.

What’s going on here? Basically by asking those forward facing questions you are starting to train your brain to search for solutions rather than dwell on the problem. This can lead to massive shifts in thinking and in turn the hard results and success you will generate. Just a simple set of questions that can have a massive impact.

Change or perish

What have you tended to do up to now? Nurture your problems? Promote a negative outlook? Remember if you can’t solve issues quickly, can’t turn your brain away from negative thoughts about your everyday issues, then you will definitely miss out. You’ll miss out to those who have developed their thinking and problem solving attributes – maybe to other members of the sales team in your own organisation or to other salespeople in other organisations who will beat you to the sale.

So, whenever you have an issue, challenge, problem, call it what you will, use these seven questions, use them early – and notice how much better your overall performance becomes.

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