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Archives: June 2015

Takeaways from Sales 2.0 San Francisco

It doesn’t take much to get Team SBR to the West Coast. This time we met up with sales industry trailblazers at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco to discuss new trends in the inside, field and online sales arenas. Now we’re abuzz with insights, inspiration and validation on the techniques that have worked to accelerate sales.

Instead of moving from zero to 60, complex product organizations should consider their top list of most critical areas to advance sales and consider where sales innovations can support those initiatives. Let’s highlight our top learnings:

1. Complex Customization. Consultants get a bad rap for repurposing the same presentations and reports, selling clients on expensive and sometimes unnecessary technologies, and leaving without really making a difference.  SBR uses a customized assessment process to tailor solutions and we were thrilled to see so many businesses do the same when it came to technology. Long gone are the days of boilerplate solutions; more and more companies are building their systems and services around each client’s need(s) as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach.

2. Cloud Above All. Let’s start with the good news: many of the latest advancements on the marketplace are owed to nimble cloud-based technologies. It seemed that nearly anything is possible and can be done swiftly. The flip side, though, is that IT should also consider ways to build tools for non-cloud systems.  When we mentioned how many of our clients do not have systems like salesforce.com, it was met with disappointing “oh well” frowns. Many of our larger clients are forced to use bulky, intricate and oftentimes archaic legacy systems that are anything but easy and fast.  Somehow the two worlds need to come together to deliver IT tools for homegrown system companies.

3. Locating Sales Reps Who Understand the Value of the Customer.  If sales reps are fixated on meeting their numbers they will naturally lose the connection with the prospect and in some cases come off as pushy or disengaged. Gerhard Gschwandtner, Founder and CEO of Selling Power, said that during the sales process, focus on the desired business outcome above your personal sales quota (the “value factor”). We feel the same way. At SBR we use the Hartman Value Profile assessment to find the right salespeople who can look beyond numbers and really connect with consumers. The Hartman Value Profile helps vet candidates with an innate “fire in the belly” that can simultaneously focus on sales opportunities and the consumer’s need. Dozens of our clients have been introduced to this tool and have seen amazing results like lower turnover.

4. When Sales is the Goal, Call Guides are not an Option, They’re Obligatory. Let’s face it, most sales representative hate scripts. SBR prefers call guides rather than call scripts that provide all the key information but allow a more natural communication between agent and caller. At Sales 2.0 it was great to hear that there was statistical proof that call guides actually create call control and consistency. Yon Nuta, Cofounder & CEO of Accuvit, showed how to drastically increase sales by analyzing the results of B2B agents who used keywords and followed a system/script as compared to those that did not. The result?  Of the calls where a script was followed, 60% yielded a sale. Call guides can take the caller from beginning to the end in a professional manner and identify the caller’s core need early on in the communication, then promote the product’s features in a way that meets those needs. Call control and communication consistency is possible…and best of all, agents will not sound like robots.

5. A League of Extraordinary Collaborators. Instead of holding onto information and solutions so tightly, Sales 2.0 presenters displayed an eagerness to share their products. The ethos of collaboration was present in nearly every corner. One presenter emailed us his whitepaper and deck (notes included) after we complimented his presentation.  This willingness to pull back the curtain and share insights with others only works to bolster the sales business as a whole.

SBR is always looking to push the envelope, but we do so in a way that introduces new technologies and concepts that meet with each unique client culture. We have to remember that it is the people (not necessarily the presentation) that make or break any conference. The energy was electric and much of that was due to the smart sales leaders who put their whole heart and soul into their delivery.  We can’t wait to return for the Sales 2.0 Conference in 2016!

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What Can Best New Restaurant Teach Us About Sales?

A few weeks ago Miami’s Dolce Italian won Bravo’s latest series, Best New Restaurant. While salivating over the dishes, we couldn’t help but applaud the use of secret diners to film their gastro experience with hidden cameras. The secret diners uncovered some very real issues that could touch all customers. In many cases, the judges suspected these same issues, but couldn’t always prove it (think poorly trained staff, bland food and miscommunication between the front and back of the house). It reminds us that how employees behave when they think nobody is watching is the real experience.

When it comes to any sales environment, and sales contact centers in particular, callers aren’t much different than diners. They will remember the individual agent, how they spoke to them and how they made them feel.  Disinterested and poorly trained agents are just like bland food and poor service.

At SBR, our in-house ethnographers are the secret sauce that uncover these real-world issues. Any sales leader can use the same approach to unearth real (vs. perceived) issues. To get the inside scoop on your consumer experience, skip the hidden camera and pick up the phone* to try and purchase your product or service. Consider these questions:

  • How did the inside sales or customer service agent speak to you (professionally, colloquially, engagingly)?
  • Were you provided with the information you would need to make a buying decision?
  • Did the agent ask questions about how you would use the product or did they just talk in terms of popular features?
  • How simple or complex was the communication? If you knew nothing about your industry, would you walk away understanding your options?
  • Was there any “dead air” (long silences and breaks in the conversation)? Dead air typically indicates a technological problem. The systems are too abundant, redundant or complicated and the agent is busy fussing around to locate the information they need to help callers.
  • Finally, if this one agent were the sole representative for your organization, what persona did they exude? Is that the representation your company wants?

The science of sales and service is built on the end-user experience and a bad one is much like having a bad dinner at a hyped restaurant.  A sour note in sales means more than a bad meal; it directly impacts your bottom line.

* For those of you in field sales, you can go on the road and use the same line of questioning (just be sure to wear a disguise)!

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PACE Conference 2015

Todd Muscatello, Sharon Roberts and Lisa Fiondella at PACE conference in Atlanta.

SBR never turns down a chance to talk about one of our favorite topics: the intersection of sales and ethnography. So when the Professional Association for Customer Engagement (PACE) asked us to be a panelist at their annual conference in Atlanta, it took us about 10 seconds to say “yes”, and just a few hours more to consider what customer engagers might be curious to learn. The panel focused on how in-depth consumer research and the ethnographic method can be used to understand the business consumer and create an amazing experience for the end-user.

Sharon Roberts, SBR’s founder and Principal, provided ways of using ethnography to engage customers. Instead of gathering a bunch of “experts” in the boardroom with stacks of reports and best practices, Sharon explained, we think its better to go straight to the source of the consumer experience. Want to understand what it’s like to buy health insurance in the age of “Obamacare”? Pick up the phone and call your state’s health care exchange. Having trouble hiring and training the sales team? Go on the road and experience what it’s like to be sold to. Wonder what its like for customers to interact with your company? Monitor endless amounts of telephone calls from your call center and assess not just hard skills (like product knowledge) but soft skills as well (such as tone of voice, rapport, willingness to help, and whether they professionally drove the call). Of course, this shouldn’t replace more formal monitoring sessions but it helps to step away from the corporate mindset where we all tend to excuse the lack of consumer engagement.

All in all, a great topic and a fun day in Atlanta. The fact that we got to sit on a panel with one of our clients, Todd Muscatello (VP of Sales for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield), Lisa Fiondella (CEO & Founder of reFocus Analytics) and Rob Marshall (COO of 360CRM) was simply icing on the cake. We’re so grateful to PACE and look forward to seeing everyone again in 2016!

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A Plane, a PowerPoint & an Ugly Baby

You know the excitement at having an entire row on a plane all to yourself? On a recent flight, we were just about to settle into our three-row transporter when a late passenger made their way onto the seat next to us. So much for shut-eye. Within minutes we learned that she was an Executive for a tech company, led a sales team and was eager to get home to her three-year-old twins in Los Angeles.  In great detail she described how they hired an expert company that was known for creating outstanding PowerPoint presentations for the likes of Apple and other preeminent wizards of Silicon Valley.

At an altitude of 10,000 feet, she revealed her newly minted sales presentation. Our mouths dropped (frankly, we have a hard time masking our emotions). The credentials of the company were so strong that we expected the presentation to be a worthy reflection of their brand.  It was visually uninviting, fairly dull and pretty much looked like a rookie designer put it together during an all-nighter. One of our Southern colleagues has a great saying: Nobody wants to hear that their baby is ugly.  In this case, her baby was hideous!

We felt compelled to put our consulting hats on and violate the golden rule of kindergarten : bragging, “Mine is better than yours”.  We couldn’t help it.  The demonstration of a strong sales presentation with a crisp value story was necessary.  So we shared a sample of a few PowerPoint presentations we’ve created for sales teams over the last few years.  Her reaction?  “Wait, what I showed you wasn’t the best version, I need to download another one.”  She did.  It wasn’t better.

Over the past decade requests to create presentations have increased tenfold. This is a win for our clients. It’s one of the big reasons why SBR has built a team comprised of copywriters and graphic designers dedicated to crafting presentations.  So we asked our presentation development team to consider three things that companies can use to create stronger presentations, starting today.

1. Story time: Excellent presentations are built around a story. Long gone are the days of busy theme slides with bulleted laundry lists of product features. Consider the fact the brain is incapable of doing two things at the same time. Reading bullets while listening to you speak is difficult, if not impossible. Consider who in your organization has the skills of a storyteller to help sell your product or service and let them try their hand at capturing your value proposition.

2. Pretty is smarter than you think: If vision is one of our most dominant senses, then a visual presentation needs to honor our need to look at pretty things. White space, clean lines, simple text, pictures! This is an area where hiring outside experience in the form of a graphic designer is worth your time and money.

3. Training needed: Great presentations aren’t meant to replace great salespeople and certainly won’t make up for poor sales skills. In fact, a great salesperson can sell without a formal presentation but can run the risk of appearing unprepared or unprofessional. Take the time to train people on the new sales presentation, especially presentations that are a big departure from their typical methods of communicating.

One day we will brand our own idiom to replace “your baby is ugly,” but for now it’s completely apropos!

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Embrace Rejection!

Ask any salesperson and one of their biggest fears is being rejected. In fact, cast a wider net and many people fear rejection in other areas: Asking a girl on a date. Asking your boss for a raise. Finally writing that novel. Speaking in public actually ranks higher than the fear of dying! These trepidations and others can paralyze even the most ambitious person.

SBR’s inside and field sales training programs dedicate time to overcoming objections, but we’re always looking for new tools and techniques to support this common challenge. Fast forward to the 2015 Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco, and we got the new perspective we were seeking: Jia Jiang, author of “Rejection Proof”, brought new light to the sales game that can help salespeople in any industry.

In Jia’s case, he teaches us that rejection (hearing “no”) is indeed non-threatening. The more you experience a “no”, the closer you are to a “yes”. Jia’s experiment illustrates that rejection can be overcome because it is both constant and a numbers game. It’s a matter of shifting your perception.

Easier said than done? We’ll show you how Jia came to this ah-ha moment.

Jia and Sharon at Sales 2.0 in San Francisco.

Jia described how he left a corporate career to become an entrepreneur but soon found himself discouraged by the constant rejection from investors. Feeling the common pangs of fear that come with rejection, Jia could have become crippled by this fear. Instead he entered himself into “Rejection Therapy” where you intentionally force yourself to be exposed to rejection. Eventually, the therapy says, you recognize that the very thing you fear (begin rejected) is not hurting you. Jia took to blogging his daily experience with this intention

“I am going through 100 days of Rejection Therapy, aiming to make 100 crazy requests to get rejected. My goal is to desensitize myself from the pain of rejection and overcome my fear.”

His list of requests was comprehensive, oftentimes risky (fly a plane), bold (ask to make the safety announcement on a flight) and bizarre (get a haircut at Pet Smart). Jia showed a video clip of going into Krispy Kreme and asking an employee to create the Olympic symbol out of donuts. No doubt a crazy request. Not only did the employee produce a beautiful rendition with six accurately-colored rings, but she also gave it to him for free…and with a hug!

The moral here that the more you experience a “no”, the closer you are to a “yes” means that anyone can produce positive results and overcome their sensitivity to rejection. You might even come to enjoy the process. In the sales arena, actively inserting ourselves in encounters that push us to be desensitized and know that we’ll come out much stronger is key. This is an important lesson for all the salespeople and executives that are fearful of the sales encounter.

After listening to Jia speak we ran over to meet him in person and purchased a handful of books. Top of mind was an Executive that was struggling to get his proposal approved. We asked Jia to write a personalized note to this Leader. As we walked back into the conference room, we pulled back the front cover, which read, “Embrace the “no’s” as much as the “yes’s.” What a great way to approach life in general!

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