Sales and Marketing Performance Blog

Moving the Needle and other Sales Enablement Challenges

Posted by Mark Gibson on Fri, Aug 07, 2015

Recently I met with a top sales enablement professional whom I'll call Bob, to exchange ideas.

During the meeting I was introduced to the concept of the Three Humped Camel. Bob wishes to remain nameless as he started a new job and does not wish the camel phenomena to be tied back his prior employer.

13% of Salespeople produce 87% of Revenue

I raised a question which prompted the discussion after reading Mike Bosworth's recent book, " What Great Salespeople Do". In it, Mike quotes a study of 1100 B2B companies by Greg Alexander of Sales Benchmark Index, which reveals that the old maxim of 20% of salespeople selling 80% of the business is no longer true.

According to Sales Benchmark Index, now 13% of salespeople are selling 87% of the business.

When I asked Bob to draw the quota distribution graph for his old firm, he drew something that looked like this.
 
This is obviously just a quick hand-drawn sketch from memory, but the point Bob was making is that the majority of the sales team were not making their numbers and were dispersed around 40% of quota achievement, with a smaller hump around 100% and another hump at around 150% of quota achievement. 

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Topics: mike bosworth, sales training, sales enablement

The Half Life of a Learned Skill is 5 years - Toward a New Culture of Learning

Posted by Mark Gibson on Sat, Apr 11, 2015

I was in the audience when John Seely Brown and Prof. Peter Denning took the stage a t the  SRII conference  in San Jose, CA. - what a privilege
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Topics: sales training, sales, learning, knowledge, john seely brown, peter denning

Life after Powerpoint - Using Stories for Engagement

Posted by Mark Gibson on Tue, Jun 25, 2013

Last week I had to open a 3-day messaging workshop with a new client in front of the sales and marketing executive team. I had prepared several visual confections in a 10-slide PowerPoint presentation using examples to lead the discussion and was fully prepared for the meeting.

The night before the messaging workshop my client requested that we use a different approach to creating the messaging, which made my PowerPoint deck redundant. Fortunately the client had a whiteboard and a flip chart handy.

Starting a Meeting with a Story  

To kick off a 3-day workshop, I still needed engagement and buy-in from the audience. My sponsor in the messaging workshop and I had worked on a similar messaging and sales enablement project several years earlier, which was transformational for his company and he introduced me and told his version of the "Who I've Helped Story" of our prior engagement, from the customers point of view, which was fantastic as this story is always more powerful coming from the customer, vs. the supplier.

Since many of the participants did not know me, I started with my "Who I Am" story. In 90 seconds I told the story of the past 10 years of my professional life as a consultant. It wasn't a story about how fantastic I am - it was about the journey, the struggle and the lessons learned, that give me unique insight.
I will outline my story in bullets so that you can see the form of the story from the storyboard above and you can adapt it to tell your own story.
  • In 2003 I was staring down the barrel of a 2nd lay-off in 2 years. (setting stage & vulnerability)
  • Realized customers had changed and I hadn't. (journey begins)
  • Didn't have 20 years selling experience - really had 1 year experience repeated 20 years over. (vulnerability)
  • Started a search for new ideas, journey of discovery - (call to adventure)
  • (Joke) My wife heard me practicing my story - she said "keep looking" (humor)
  • Moved to UK, started a sales training consultancy (transition)
  • First graduates could get meetings with CXO's, but when they got there would revert to "product-speak" - Realized they needed messaging to help engage buyers around their issues. Started messaging which has been a part of every engagement since. (struggle + Insight)
  • In 2008 we had customers, but no leads - introduced to HubSpot and started creating content and generating leads and has become a part of our DNA. Messaging now used to drive content marketing. (experience + lightbulb moment)
  • 2010 relocated back to USA and met Corey Sommers at Whiteboard Selling, invited me to work with him to use my sales training experience and messaging skills to create visual stories. (relevant experience) 
  • 2013 connected with Mike Bosworth and learned story telling, come full circle - that's why were here - capture your message so everyone can tell your story. (call to action and resolution)
Next, I needed enrollment in the discipline of our process for the next 3 days.

Using a Curiosity Hook for Enrolment

After I told my "Who-I-am" story, I drew three large numbers on the flip chart.
I asked the audience what they thought the    
128,000 related to.
After several guesses, I revealed that this is the number of times their 40 person sales team would pitch their "big-idea" in the next 12 months if they had just four conversations a day with prospective customers. If we add everyone else in the company who needs to answer the "so-what-do-you-guys-do?" question, it would be over a million times a year.

Then I revealed the question mark with a question ...How clear is your sales team in positioning the value of your technology solutions on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is terrible and 10 is crystal clear.
I was somewhat surprised when the answer came back and the consensus was 5....to which I responded "that's OK, it's where most of our clients start and thanks for your honesty and we hope to be somewhere near 10 when we exit this process".

The final number 10% had everyone stumped. This is the percentage of sales meetings with salespeople that buyers rate as actually worth having, where the vendor brought insight to the table.
The remaining 90% of sales meetings are rated as a waste of time as the vendor talked about product or tried to develop a relationship...neither of which buyers want or need.

If you are interested in learning to tell your story in an engaging manner and in more effectively listening to the buyer as you tend their story, you are invited to join us at the forthcoming Open Storyseekers workshops in Seattle.

 
StorySeekers Open Workshop Registration
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Topics: mike bosworth, sales training, marketing messaging, storytelling

Eliminate Culture Barriers in Sales Training with Visual Storytelling

Posted by Mark Gibson on Wed, Apr 04, 2012

Recently I had the pleasure of leading a global Whiteboard Selling Enablement Symposium for Siemens in Cologne Germany. Since working as an affiliate of Whiteboard Selling, this is the first training program I have led, which included Chinese native speakers.

The Early Days at Sun - Framemaker presentations

I have led product sales training events for  Chinese and Korean native language speakers when at Sun Microsystems. The outcome of the Whiteboard Symposium in Cologne could not have been more different than the outcome from one of my former Sun training days.

Despite my best efforts to speak slowly and clearly when training for Sun and a lot of effort in creating material-in English, I expect that less than 30% of my material was understood. I recall working very hard on rapport and asking questions to check comprehension and was often greeted by blank looks and silence.

The audience would sit passively, attentive, trying to understand my accent and decode the slides....they were created in Framemaker on a Sun Workstation as in those days, former Sun CEO and co-founder Scott McNeally banned the use of Microsoft products....there were images (clip-art) and a lot of bullets (I cringe when I think about it).

Comprehension is the Presenters Problem

Lack of comprehension was not the fault of my audience, it was mine as the trainer. 20 years ago I was a missionary in getting our resellers to start selling Sun Servers. I did not speak the language, and although we had cultural sensitivity training, on my own assessment, I did a poor job of communicating the value of the Sun Server offerings for banks.

This is still how a large percentage of product training is done, although it is probably translated and presented in PowerPoint by a native speaker today. The audience sits passively through a product presentation, answers a quiz, leaves with a brochure and the URL of the sales portal where the material including .pdf's and presentations reside.

Sales Training using the Whiteboard Selling Symposium method

At the Siemens event I was asked if the during the role-play workshop, team members could deliver the whiteboard story in their native language and the answer was an emphatic yes.

Salespeople formed groups by native language when the role-playing began.

As the facilitator, I did not have to understand the native language to judge comprehension because I could see the whiteboard story develop and observe the interaction among the team members. During the workshop each sales person either drew and told the story or watched and listened to the whiteboard develop up to 10 times.

The outcome of the training was that salespeople could engage clients and use a whiteboard to tell their story the next day, although it may not have been perfect, their comprehension and mastery of the story was such that they knew it and could do it.

Doing the rounds of the role-play groups I heard presentations in Swedish, French, German, Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese and English.

It was interesting to observe the interaction between buyer and seller in the role-plays and the way different ethnic groups presented. Some more formal and reserved and others lively, interactive and funny...others completely departing from the whiteboard story design to create their own version of the story.

Accelerating Ramp Times

Slow ramp-time for new-hire sales people is the #1 problem for sales managers in onboarding. Similarly, new product launches seldom deliver the sell-through results marketing planners anticipate. 

Using traditional product training approaches it takes months longer than most sales managers would like before salespeople are confident enough to engage senior executives.
  • What would happen to your sales results if your sales team learned your top 3 product/service whiteboard stories at new hire? Net-App new hires learn and are tested on 3 whiteboards before they go on their first sales call. 
  • Would it be useful if when new hires make their first call they are confident in telling your story, know what the likely objections might be and how to handle them and know what questions to ask in discovering the client issues? 
  • Would it help if the core group of salespeople could differentiate the value in using your products/services and could engage senior executives in conversation around their issues and have your capabilities unfold naturally in that conversation?

Take-aways

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Topics: sales training, whiteboard symposium, whiteboard selling

Baseline Selling by Dave Kurlan - A Home-run for sales people

Posted by Mark Gibson on Tue, Jan 25, 2011

As a sales professional and sales performance coach, I read a lot of books and invest in some way in my own professional development every year. Recently I purchased a copy of Baseline Selling by Dave Kurlan to complement a recent HubSpot partner sales training course and coaching session.

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Topics: sales training, differentiation, dave kurlan

Sales Talent is Overrated—Practice is key to Sales Performance

Posted by Mark Gibson on Fri, Oct 30, 2009

Want to be great at golf or in sales? Anyone can be great at golf, provided they are physically able and prepared to put in the hours of disciplined, deliberate practice and get regular feedback from a professional coach.

Want to be outstanding in sales? - same rules apply; anyone can be truly great in sales - if that’s what they really want. Maybe you don’t aspire to be a truly great golfer or become an outstanding salesperson, you just want to get better - so you can have more fun playing golf or improve sales performance. Then this post is for you.

Tiger Woods is an elite athlete. If he remains healthy and unimpeded by injury, he may become the greatest golfer the World has ever known and his records (and those he has yet to set) will likely never be beaten. Why, what sets Tiger apart, how can I make such an emphatic statement? April 16. 2010. (Since this article was published, the Tiger Woods sex scandal became public knowledge. It is not clear at this stage that he will regain the confidence that fuelled his earlier success, or ever if he will ever win another major.) August 13th. 2012, The pundits are shutting the door on Tiger Woods after the Rory McIlroy win at the US PGA CHampionshipo at Kiawah Island yesterday, but Tiger has plenty of time and events in front of him to overcome his current lack of confidence.

His father Earl Woods introduced Tiger to golf at the tender age of 18 months. By the time Tiger won his first his first US Amateur Championship at age 18, he had built a foundation of fifteen years of deliberate practice and had been competing at top levels of junior golf for the prior ten years. What sets elite athletes in any sport, elite musicians, top surgeons, pilots, ballet dancers, investors, chess players, sales-people apart from the rest? Were they born with some innate gift?

The 10,000 hour rule

The evidence suggests this is not the case and many researchers in the field of great performance, the most prominent of whom is Anders Ericsson, Professor of Psychology at Florida State University have proven that truly great performance is a combination of years of deliberate practice, plus intrinsic drive and passion for their chosen field. Leading scientists all agree on the ten-year rule; no one gets to the top of their profession without ten years (or 10,000 hours) of sustained and deliberate practice.

The problem for Tiger's peers is that they will never catch-up on the practice, unless of course Tiger stops practicing but continues playing - and that is highly unlikely. Selling, like golf is a skill or craft, except you don’t need any special equipment and you don’t need to go to a golf course or practice range to do it; but you do need to deliberately practice the skills and get feedback from professional coaches and skilled managers in order to improve.

Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice isn’t what most of us do when we practice. When we practice golf, most of us go to the range and hit balls, chip shots and maybe putt for a while and we’re done.  Deliberate practice according to Anders Ericsson and other researchers isn’t work and it isn’t play. “Deliberate practice activity is specifically designed to
•    Improve performance, (often with a teachers help)
•    It can be repeated a lot, (high repetition is essential)
•    Feedback on results is continuously available,
•    It’s highly demanding mentally and it isn’t much fun”.

According to Noel Tishy Professor of Management & Organizations at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, former head of GE’s famed Crotonville Management School, only by choosing to practice activities in the learning zone can progress be made.
Identifying and continually seeking those unsatisfactory elements and striving to improve them is what makes practice deliberate. Tichy illustrates the point in the diagram, where improvement only occurs when people practice outside their comfort zone.

Hard Work Alone Wont Do it

Years of hard work alone will not improve anyone’s performance at anything. Without deliberate practice outside a person's comfort zone and without the help and feedback from a coach, no improvement in performance is likely, regardless of the discipline. This explains why so many salespeople (and golfers) do not progress past a certain level of performance...they don't like operating outside their comfort zone, yet this is where performance imrovement opportunity lies.
Having recently led a series of classroom sales training courses where salespeople were required to perform multiple video-taped and critiqued role-plays I can offer some insights into what skills a salesperson should practice. Let me repeat, the journey to excellence is painful and at times wearisome, which is why excellence is only achieved by the few. Of the 50 salespeople in the role-plays, only one performed an exceptional call. Role-playing isn't something salepeople like to do, in fact there is usually a great deal of resistance to it. Why? - because the close examination of performance and skill under their managers and peers critical eyes is way outside most salespeople's comfort zone.

Communication, language skills & Coaching are  key

The skills that matter in sales are not managing the CRM system or creating account plans or reciting product features and benefits; they are communication, language, listening, rapport, empathy and interpersonal skills which are undeprinned by an understanding of the psychology of human behaviour. Read my post on Soft-skills - Hard Currency for Sales Professionals
These skills require regular practice and daily use with feedback until they are mastered and it will take years until they are all fully integrated into a salepersons make-up. Classroom training sessions are not an effective preparation for success in sales, unless they are part of a structured curriculum underpinned by a learning methodologywhich includes;
  • Performance Support to master the theory elements of interpersonal psychology, communication and language,
  • Honest feedback on actual performance in face-face or telephone selling situations from coaches and field sales managers,
  • Regular role-playing in the branch with peers, sales managers and expert coaches,
  • Self assessment after every call as to what went well and what could have been improved,
  •  Regular performance assessment from managers, certification and advancement.
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Topics: sales training, book review

FC Barcelona: Training to Win

Posted by Mark Gibson on Mon, Jan 12, 2009

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Topics: sales training, sales performance

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