Checklist: What to Do When a Sales Deal is Pushed

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Have You Done Enough to Close Your Sales Deal?

While we hope that every deal will close easily, the reality is less clear. Due to pressures like financial restrictions or quarterly concerns (Q4 in particular), even deals that appear to be set to close can be delayed indefinitely. Not only does this impact your bottom line and number, but it also makes forecasting a difficult process and puts added pressure on your managers and reps to hit their numbers.

Whether given to you or a manager, the ambiguity from a “maybe” yields unexpected chaos into the sales process at any time, where you have to continually pass the expected contract value up each month. As a sales leader, you’re also tracking clear financial targets, making holding onto an unpredictable opportunity harder and harder to justify. In all ways, having a hanging “maybe” on a key deal is a critical burden and an even larger challenge, one that can make or break your team and your career.

The problem, unfortunately, does not stop at your desk. While you, as an expert, have a global awareness of the issues that make a “maybe” clutter the pipeline, reps and managers, particularly newly promoted management from the rep team, often will not have a firm macro scale scope on how to process this information. The result is an approach geared toward backing the prospect into a “yes or no” corner, rather than identifying and solving any problems up front. The root of the problem comes from this difference in approach, and key steps can shed light on the actual progress.

Pass the following checklist to your team to keep them thinking critically about pipeline “maybe” in Q4, or review for yourself to keep your thoughts up to date!

☐ Have you taught your prospect something new?

A “maybe” does not always mean that the prospect actually has a hard reason to delay. Often, not connecting with the customer by teaching them something about their business and niche. Prospects buy from trusted advisrs, not reps, and if you haven’t connected or built credibility, it’s not too late. Contact them with an insight-based approach, with the goal to provoke thought or debate.

☐ Is there really a problem that you’re solving?

You always need to answer one thing, no matter how easy the sale: does the solution solve anything? The need you identify as a problem simply may not automatically match the actual need seen by a prospect. The less clear the problem you solve, the farther apart you and the prospect are by the time a proposal is sent.

This makes for a good time to engage the prospect and have them define the problem back to you. Ask specifically for confirmation. The benefits down the line are an easier sale and a clear sense of what needs to be accomplished.

☐ Are your buyer and seller stages aligned?

It is easy, especially when facing quota numbers or budget timing, to rush the buying process on both sides. You want to close the deal, and an engaged prospect wants to implement a solution, activate their budget, or enter the new year ahead. In both cases, the buying process is cut short, information is lost in the shuffle, and it is unlikely that both buyer and seller are aligned.

Take extra time to plan out your buying stages if you have not, and then take a levelheaded review of where you are and where your prospect is. Any disparity, such as the drafting of a proposal before a prospect establishes an issue match, is the likely cause of a stall. Ironing out these points yields real clarity into the forecast.

☐ Do you have team consensus?

Knowing that the average enterprise deal, according to the Corporate Executive Board, requires 5.4 stakeholders to close, not having the right amount of support is a hazard that lends itself to a stalled close. Getting just one or two stakeholders behind an idea simply does not close a deal. If you can only see two stakeholders involved, then you have to accomplish one of two things before the deal closes: either find four more stakeholders, or hope that those two players will evangelize your solution within their company. The latter is less than likely unless the urgency is clear, and requires expert messaging and collateral. Finding new stakeholders is easier!

sales deal
The average deal requires 5.4 stakeholders to close (via CEB)

☐ Are you speaking to the real decision maker?

When it comes to budgets, figuring out exactly who controls the final spend can be a real hunt. Even someone who holds all of the cards of a decision maker – executive team, deeply engaged, leading the search – may actually not have the power to close. Likewise, the power to make a decision may be invested in a person, but with executive approval still required. In either case, it is imperative to learn what system is in place and sell accordingly.

When a deal comes down to decision-making time, clearly asking can make the difference. If a prospect cannot make the decision alone, you can reliably forecast a delay or loss on the sale.

☐ Can you change the status quo?

Remember – particularly at the end of the year, and generally anytime, you have to change the status quo to close a sale. That means offering profound insights that not only educate, but answer “Why Now?” Sparking a debate, breaking down concepts, or diving into the literature can all be great ways to engage with a prospect, so long as the goal is to implement change. According to the Sales Benchmark Index, 58% of qualified deals end in no decision because reps and sales teams fail to change the status quo. Building a buying vision requires you to change this conversation.

☐ Can you anticipate a loss?

The final step in handling an ambiguous deal is to not engage with the ambiguity at all. Assuming the loss of the deal may be a better way to manage the situation, as it prevents the team expecting something that may not come.

The reality is economic: spending intense amounts of time saving a single deal in the final stretch of the year or when trying to hit numbers takes away time that you absolutely cannot get back. It is likely far more feasible to take the loss on one deal and invest that time in easier, more likely to close opportunities. The result is exactly the same – a close – but the additional time saved can be used to do even more. When constraints like Sales Kickoff, Fiscal Year End, and budgeting are already taking up your time, this savings is vital.

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Smarter Sales Training and Onboarding Using the -30, 0, 30 Process

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Sales Kickoff is not the only thing consuming your time in Q1.

The expansion of budgets and new goals often means large-scale sales training, onboarding, and expansion, the growth of reps, managers, and even new executive leadership. The pattern is natural: since you are already focusing on training with Kickoff, bringing on new hires makes sense. Yet, we still face critical organizational issues when onboarding that not only lengthen the process and a rep’s time to productivity, but also take away valuable resources from your Kickoff. Instead of sticking to the old model, the -30, 0, 30 day model can dramatically decrease your ramp times and churn, building productivity faster.

Traditional Onboarding

Sales onboarding has not changed much. A new hire, after receiving their offer, takes a week to unwind before coming into their class with a number of other new hires. For 1-2 weeks, this class gets a treatment similar to the Sales Kickoff (in fact, they may even be combined): reps watch lectures and videos, practice sales scenarios with their peers, and engage in roleplay. At the end, reps “test” out and certify in some way, be it a simulation with their manager or an interview with an executive.

Now they’re on their own, heading off to hit the number with at best a Powerpoint and at worst no further sales training or certification. The success of the entire organization relies on how effective that onboarding process was and how much of it is remembered, but we leave reps with no true method of learning continuously. The onboarding process – as-is – remains responsible for high churn rates.

The Last Mile

This unfortunately broken process is what we call the “last mile” – a perfect business can fall apart at the “last mile” of sales training, where the success of all of your investments rests in the ability of your reps to convey and engage with the message. Data from the Sales Leadership Council suggests that reps forget 70% of all content within a week of learning it: you can expect the same return from the standard onboarding process. The results show that the current system, while certainly minimally effective, is unsustainable for any growth-oriented operation.

Simply changing the content or the focus of onboarding cannot cure the problems with this process. Instead, the concept itself is flawed, relying on a lecture and learn model that does not account for individual learning styles, social sales training, practice, or the “flipped classroom” structure that reinforces learning.

-30, 0, 30

A better approach, and the route we follow at CommercialTribe, is based on the idea of “-30, 0, 30 days.” Rather than focusing onboarding into a core two-week process, you instead spread the training process across weeks and months, starting before a new hire even joins. The process creates the necessary foundation for real learning and training.

Learn More About Onboarding

-30 Days

Before new hires actually come into the team, they start practicing and learning on their own. While a system like CommercialTribe is built to support independent, pre-onboarding training, even standard practice and learning methods are effective. Supply your reps with enough independent training to walk in on their first day with your core go-to-market message and product line familiar. This “flipped classroom” concept pays real dividends.

CommercialTribe reps start this process just like our customers. Before joining, and even before accepting an offer, reps practice and record the “CT Pitch” activity, covering our go-to-market message. Once extended an offer, reps continue to engage with the market message and their new manager, getting asynchronous feedback on each scenario. By the time they walk in on day 1, they are immediately productive, with the knowledge to engage and convert.

0 Days

Now that your new hires have a strong sense of the company, messaging, and products, onboarding has changed. From day one, reps are able to begin ramping into productivity faster, continuing to learn and more effectively relate the message. Given that the average rep can take as long as 10 months to reach full productivity, a methodology that reduces this time even a small amount is one with tremendous value. Reps begin to move into advanced techniques.

30 Days

The link most often missed in the training and coaching process is what happens after onboarding. While the training organization focuses on new classes, reps a month or more out of training are mostly left on their own, with minimal training to reinforce past lessons or advance their abilities. We all hope that they have learned the material fully enough during onboarding to reach productivity, but know that it will take almost a full year to see a result.

Instead, practice-based, progressive, continual training can reverse the trend, with reps actually absorbing learning and more rapidly reaching productivity. While the process of continual learning requires a manual, well-made procedure, social sales training solutions, such as CommercialTribe, can make the process fit any schedule. As a result, managers spend less time manually coaching and more time getting the right content into rep hands to practice anywhere, in a safe, confident environment. Reps engage with more product lines, new concepts, or advanced sales techniques, not only increasing their confidence and effectiveness, but also delivering value far sooner than the average rep.

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4 Ways to Reengage All Opportunities in Q4 and Hit the Number

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Q4 offers the chance to tap old and stagnant opportunities and give them a significant push.

Because of the pressures of Fiscal Year End and budgeting, prospects of all types are more receptive and more likely to convert. Use this information to your benefit and close more.

1. Don’t Filter

Q4 is not the time to trim back your pipeline, a least not without a real attempt to reactivate all past opportunities. This means looking past close probability or the tone of your last meeting and digging into each opportunity. As most businesses face a Fiscal Year End at the end of the year, many seemingly distant opportunities may be more active than you expect.

2. Divide into Tiers and Conquer

While renewing all of your opportunities is critical, it is just as important to divide out how you approach opportunities in Q4.

Rather than treating every opportunity as the same, look instead to break them up into different groups, based on some qualification of your past interaction. You can, for example, segment groups by urgency and need. Try four letter grades – A, B, C, and D – to sort your opportunities: As require you to drive urgency, Bs have a need but still seek to build the value proposition, Cs haven’t quite seen the business need, and Ds are complete re-engagement candidates.

3. Prepare Separate Tier-level Messaging

While it may be tempting to use your best emails, voicemail scripts, and outreach for every single latent opportunity, you need to follow your tiers instead. Each group has different concerns and activation strategies in Q4, making it necessary to break your messaging apart into the same four tiers. For prospects that need a spike of urgency to convert, you will need a different approach than for prospects who you feel need more education and convincing. Try and alter our example scripts to fit the needs of each specific tier and you will see a higher return on your efforts.

4. Update Constantly

Keep prospects in the loop with as much relevant, valuable outreach as you can. If you are planning events that match their interests, have a newsletter, or are producing content, share it with your prospects. Keeping people aware of your name sets up a number of touchpoints that lead to a conversion. Think of it as a marketing exercise – the more your name is in a contact’s ear, the more likely that they will be receptive to your message, within reason!

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Why the 2014 Dreamforce Expo is the Modern Roman Forum

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The Giants may have been in the NLCS last week, but you would have hardly realized it because their supporters were severely dwarfed by Benioff’s Army, which occupied the entire city of San Francisco. This year’s Dreamforce had a little something different for each of the 130,000 people, with keynotes, product introductions, sessions, parties, and even a wild Beach Boys sighting.

But nowhere was Dreamforce more real and raw than on the Cloud Expo floor. This year, there were more than 350 companies sprawled across Moscone West and North.

The Expo is sales in its most ancient, unadulterated form. Is this what the Roman Forum was like? Reps, managers, marketers and product managers engage in hand-to-hand combat as thousands of prospects walk through and decide where to spend their precious time.

roman forum

I made the mistake of starting my 2.5 hour journey in West, only to realize it was the smaller of the two showcases. There were companies in gamification, email marketing, analytics, quoting, content management, and more – each with a shiny booth, schwag, games to play, video monitors, and willing combatants. Caesar himself would have been overwhelmed at this new Rubicon.

They say that competition makes us stronger. Yet, Hoopla wasn’t just competing against LevelEleven. And Yesware wasn’t just competing against ToutApp – although whoever put them 1 booth apart may have been playing a cruel joke.

No, here’s the insight – in reality all 350 companies were competing against each other in a Benioff-refereed fight-to-the-death, Royal Rumble-style. Here’s why – as I heard one CEO say – “they’re all great, but there’s no way I can do all of this stuff.”

More than fighting each other, each company is fighting the status quo. According to the Sales Benchmark Index, 6 out of 10 deals end in no decision. Prospects elect to do nothing, because they aren’t compelled to act.

So as a prospect, why should I invest in your solution vis-à-vis all the other places I could invest with my scarce dollars? Why will your solution deliver the best ROI? It’s about opportunity cost as much as it is your unique value proposition.

According to Corporate Visions, you need to answer three fundamental questions:

  1. Why Change?
  2. Why (Insert Your Company)?
  3. Why Now?

Were reps thinking this way on the Expo floor? Everyone could answer “Why Your Company” reasonably well enough. Even still, I ran an experiment at one booth, asking two reps the difference between their offering and a competitive one. The messages were definitely different to the untrained prospect ear, and one was not as crisp as the other. And these two reps were standing next to each other!

“Why Change” was the next most common run I heard, which often comes in the form of the problem you solve and why it matters. Still, most reps led with features and benefits and circled back to the problem when prodded.

As expected, though, few if any reps were able to speak to “Why Now.” This in particular has a lasting impact, as reps who can change the nature of the conversation are 75% more likely to win versus competition. When you think about it, most prospects are going to invest in one, maybe two new solutions, but spent the week talking to dozens of vendors. Features and benefits just aren’t good enough.

What if we could simply get your reps to answer these three questions, crisply and concisely? Your company would win more often until everyone else could do the same.

What if?

Until next year, Dreamforce!

CommercialTribe October 2014 Product Updates

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With the move to October comes a series of updates to the CommercialTribe platform and the launch of version 2.4!

Our biggest focus in October is on scalability, the ability to handle many thousands of users at once. Alongside these sizing updates, we took a directed look at performance, hoping to increase the speed and strength of the platform. As a result, we’ve optimized the codebase to deliver a consistently smooth, reliable experience. This matches our continued 99.2% overall uptime. We continued to improve global server capability, as we bring on more users from around the world.

All of these updates push us closer to our 2014 goal: fast, modern standards that allow us to pair with the best technologies and partners! Our video update, shifting away from the dated and broken Flash, will now allow us to power our content through HTML 5 and MP4 web-friendly standards. Likewise, updating our performance and API allows us the opportunity to soon connect to apps like Salesforce, bringing dynamic, timely teaching and learning directly into the CRM that you use every day! More updates on Salesforce integration are coming soon…

commercialtribe 2014 global coverage

Global Video and Recording Coverage, October 2014

CommercialTribe 2.4 also features a robust overhaul of our in-app notification system. Many different interactions now trigger targeted notifications to the right people, keeping your entire team up to date on their training and growth. When a user submits a video, is added to a group, or receives an announcement, for example, they will now see a custom notification both in the app and in their inbox!

commercialtribe 2014 sample notification

A sample notification

The learning process itself was also updated in CommercialTribe 2.4. With Activity Prerequisites, managers can set activities in order, requiring the completion of one or more scenarios or entire activities before a rep can move on. This encourages continual, chronological learning that introduces reps to concepts in the order that you prefer.

Reporting has also entered CommercialTribe 2.4, with managers able to see detailed utilization data for their reps. With this new data, managers get a true sense of how well their team is performing, which lessons are best activating reps, and how certification is proceeding.

For more information on how these updates help your distribution, or to find our more, please contact your Customer Success Manager.

Free Scripts for Latent Opportunity Segmentation in Q4

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Part of optimizing your Q4 schedule ahead of time means truly taking the time to qualify new and old opportunities. With limited time – few total business days in Q4 – focusing on the segmentation of the right prospects at the right time can make hitting the number a more methodical process.

Chances are, you already use qualification tiers. Rather than looking at the entire pipeline at once, you can break each opportunity down by ranking, indicating the best possible chance to close. While many models for tiering exist, focus on a graded system in Q4 to keep your process organized at a chaotic time. Try four letter grades – A, B, C, and D – to sort your opportunities: As require you to drive urgency, Bs have a need but still seek to build the value proposition, Cs haven’t quite seen the business need, and Ds are complete re-engagement candidates.

Engaging these opportunities does require rethinking your pitch – each requires a different value proposition, a different sense of urgency, and a unique approach.

Tier A and Tier B

Since the goal is to build value and drive urgency, the language should be direct, captivating, and insightful.

Hello Prospect,

During our last conversation, I was left very excited about how we align with [BIG ISSUE THAT YOU DISCUSSED]. As we help to solve this issue, I look forward to the chance to show you firsthand our solution and how you can better account for [PROBLEM]. Given the time of year and the need to address solutions before the new year begins, I hope that you can join us in seizing the opportunity to shift the outlook about [PROBLEM]. As I also mentioned before, we will be holding [EVENT] on [PROBLEM] in the coming days.

Please expect an email shortly with several possible times to connect and share. Likewise, if you have times open in the coming weeks that work best, I am glad to accommodate them. I look forward to reconnecting and learning more about [COMPANY] and [PROBLEM].

Best,

[REP]

Tier C and Tier D

The goal here is to reset: remind the prospect why they may have been interested in the first place and earn the right to get back in front of them.

Hello Prospect,

I wanted to again thank you for your time back in [MONTH] – it was very insightful to discuss [PROBLEM] and how you approach the market. I took one idea about [PROBLEM] to heart and took the time over the last few months to learn more. I recognized that [A BARRIER TO THE SALE] prevented a move toward [SOLUTION], and feel that now would be a better time to approach the topic.

We recently shifted toward a new approach to [SOLUTION], guided by your feedback and your peers in the market. As the landscape has shifted toward a need for a more robust, feature-rich solution, we adapted and updated our methodology. I would appreciate the opportunity to share the updates with you and get your feedback on how they fit the landscape today.

Please expect an email shortly with several possible times to connect and share. Likewise, if you have times open in the coming weeks that work best, I am glad to accommodate them. I look forward to reconnecting and learning more about [COMPANY] and [PROBLEM].

Best,

[REP]

 

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The Last Mile

Why Bad Training Can Break a Good Organization

Centuries of sales training and billions of dollars of research have failed to answer one crucial question in sales: why do our attempts at getting our team to consistently engage prospects and customers with a great message ultimately fail? Marketing creates a great message and shares it with sales, yet, in the field, change is hard to come by. In reality, there is a fundamental missing link: the last mile—sales training.

When shifting from old copper wiring to fiber optics, the telecommunications industry ran into a massive problem. They built out these brand new fiber optic networks, spending billions on the powerful and effective update, but found that standard copper wire and dial-up modems connected houses to the network – the last mile. As a result, even with the most up-to-date technology, the last stretch of centuries-old wiring all but eliminated the advancements of the rest of the system. The concept has surfaced elsewhere, in highways and power lines, and yes, in how we approach training.

 

Many parts build a chain than ends at the last mile (via Blown Fibre Optic)

In an ideal world, your business is a well-oiled machine, built on strong methodologies that maximize productivity and drive sales and growth. The various teams that ultimately influence a sale, for example, are part of the same network: marketing drives leads into the funnel and influences prospects along the path, while sales converts qualified leads into delighted customers. This focus pairs with modern messaging that delivers insights to your prospects, forcing them to engage with new ideas and change their way of thinking. These links make up one part of a large network that connects every element of your business, and if any links are missing or broken—the last mile—the system fails.

Our current training and learning structure is the last mile. You can build new go-to-market strategies, but their success is directly dependent on our reps and their learning. The way we train and teach our reps is that broken last mile. We will continue to fail without a different approach to training.

Sales teams, according to the Sales Leadership Council, still spend billions on training on average each year, yet reps forget 70% of all lessons within one week.

Rather than engaging with our reps how they learn – through observation, imitation, recognition, and repetition – we still use the same old “sales kickoff” model. Half-focused reps, deservedly enjoying a well-earned break in this year’s tropical hotspot, are lectured at for three days and are expected to fly back home and hit the number. It doesn’t work, because the entire methodology relies on a corporate teaching methodology built centuries ago – sound familiar? Sales teams, according to the Sales Leadership Council, still spend billions on training on average each year, yet reps forget 70% of all lessons within one week. The reality is that most of what we teach is trapped in the bottleneck and forgotten before reps can absorb it, and nothing we change before this bottleneck will fix the issue.

CommercialTribe solves this problem by repairing and rethinking the last mile where it matters: how we train and learn. Our video-based social sales learning solution gives reps the chance to teach and learn in a way that actually reinforces knowledge retention: through practice and refinement, and with critical feedback. Reps practice and receive feedback asynchronously, using video in a safe, confident environment. And they take ownership of their own learning destiny because it happens on their terms. The results are encouraging for any sales organization: reps practice on average 6.5 times with the CommercialTribe solution, critically absorbing and refining the content until they get it right. When is the last time your reps did anything 6.5 times?

 

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The 3-Step Process to Managing the Q4 Calendar

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From now until the end of the year, you have just over 12 weeks. Removing weekends and holidays, you actually only have 55 business days left! How long is your sales cycle? Aside from driving urgency and building skills around time management, you need to be narrowly focused coming into the end of the year.

If you direct the right organization, you can still make significant strides in using the remaining time to close. Three steps, shared between your team and management, can help get you there.

Step 1. Plan to renew all latent opportunities in your pipeline before December.

Before seeking new business, take the time to put all of your cold prospects into your October calendar, giving them your full attention. You simply have no time left to close a sale in December if you start reactivating an opportunity in late November. Remember that most winter holidays begin in the third week of December, and prospects will not return to the office until January – Q1. The end of the year in particular is vital to renewing these opportunities, because prospects are likely to have open budget and time to plan your costs into their 2015 options. Remember that you’re fighting the status quo in Q4 – urgency needs to drive your communications.

Offices empty in December – get ready now.

Step 2. Make prospect tiers your favorite tool.

Qualifying your prospects and leads is a vital part of any sales process, but when you have just 55 days left to make sales, you need to be even more discerning. Organize your prospect pool into four graded parts: A, B, C, and D – As require you to drive urgency, Bs still need to build the value proposition, Cs haven’t quite seen the business need, and Ds are complete re-engagement candidates. Create scripts for each. Try staging these tiers around the actual buying cycles of your customers: data by Revegy suggests that teams that align their sales process around customer buying cycles have an average 60% win rate.

Step 3. Have reps create their Q4 “Plan to Make the Plan.”

While a central plan helps to guide the Q4 close, each rep needs their own version. If reps fail to stay organized and methodical, each lost sale tears down the plan that you’ve formed at the top. Guide reps into creating a personal plan that builds to their goal. How many opportunities at what conversion rate and what average deal size do they need? Engineer to the goal but putting a value on every opportunity based on the “A, B, C, D” methodology or simply where it is in your sales process. Your top performers will do this naturally, but now’s the time to get everyone on the same page.

Use Sales Urgency in Q4 to Boost the Number

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How familiar is this scenario? You had a great first call earlier in the year with a stakeholder that is fully qualified to buy. As you continued the discussion, you realized that budgets and end-of-year considerations were your best chance to tip the scales in your favor. So you set up a closing call in Q4.

And then, nothing…

When you call back in Q4, you find that the stakeholder has already forgotten your name and service, and the rapport that you built was not enough to keep the deal from sinking. Since you assumed that the deal would close, you’re now sitting below your quota, struggling to come up with a deal to fill in the gap.

use sales urgency to boost the number

Fixing Q3 in Q4 is an impossible task

The reality is not that your pitch was wrong, but that you forgot to instill a deep sense of urgency! Urgency, the idea that your prospect must adapt your solution as soon as possible to succeed, is an important tool in the sales kit. Yet, it tends to get forgotten when a pitch goes well. During Q4 in particular, not relating this urgency in your pitch makes it likely that the sale will never close – research by the Sales Benchmark Index notes that 58% of qualified leads end in no decision in Q4, because most companies choose to do nothing. You need to learn where urgency is lacking, and how to make it a core part of your story – you’re fighting the status quo, not your competitors.

1. Don’t let a good pitch disable your sale.

It is easy to take a great call, with great rapport, and get overexcited when you reach the end. In doing so, you think of the prospect as a comrade, and scale back the effort you put into closing. Learn how to look objectively at any sales interaction, training yourself to follow through and instill urgency even when it seems to already be there – you need to clearly answer, “why now?” Train your reps to use this formula to success as the year closes.

2. Data, data, data.

While you shouldn’t overwhelm a pitch with statistics, the information that leads to a close is data that distinctly and reliably demonstrates that a market shift is underway. If you confidently relate statistics that provide an insight and undermine the status quo, you put your prospect in a position to want to change…now.

3. Use psychology to your advantage.

The ideas of CRED (Consensus, Repetition, Ease, and Defense) make up the backbone of psychological certainty. In other words, the best tool in convincing your prospect that they need to buy is to get them engaged and tapping actual human psychology. Try bringing in peers, discussing how their competitors and market leaders are all adapting to your solution. Repeatedly drive home need, and make it easy for prospects to see your point of view. Even try to make them defend their own view of things. In the end, you won’t alienate your partner – you can get them more engaged than ever.

Is Your Sales Team Practicing 6.5 Times? Build a Sales Practice Environment

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Rehearsing makes sales conversations far more effective, yet few sales reps ever get the chance to do it. Here’s how to use the latest principles in social learning technology to make them want to learn.

Practice Payoff

Malcolm Gladwell famously wrote about “The 10,000 Rule,” which states that it takes 10,000 hours of practice at anything to achieve mastery in sports, business, or anything requiring skill-building (expertly debated by S. Anthony Iannarino here). We’ve all heard of Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods’ relentless practice routines, and the reason that they practice is that it absolutely makes you better. Malcolm Gladwell famously said it best in his Outliers:“Practice isn’t the thing you do once you’re good. It’s the thing you do that makes you good.”

Does that also hold true in the world of sales? Absolutely.

Consider what happened when a medical technology company implemented a sales training program that included deliberate practice. Prior to the rehearsed presentation certification, about 1 in 4 customers were converting to the new product when it was presented. After they practiced? It jumped to a 95% conversion rate.

sales practice stats

Sales conversion rate before and after presentation rehearsals

How did they do it? The company executed what would be considered today to be an unconventional approach to sales practice and training:

  1. Sales reps attended a training session to introduce the new product…nothing unusual here.
  2. Reps then prepared presentations to teach back what they had learned…most wouldn’t go this far.
  3. Reps practiced those presentations repeatedly in front of video cameras and then in front of managers, getting feedback and then refining…now, this is really different!
  4. Reps practiced using the new product itself…I would hope so!

The Sales Kickoff Conundrum

Now think about what that means for the traditional way we’ve taught reps.

The Sales Kickoff: the one time in the year when you can really get the sales team fired up and trained on all those new products you want them to sell. You’ve brought the entire sales organization together for three-days in a tropical hotspot and they’re excited. You’ve got great speakers and great content. You’ve even organized facilitated role-plays.

The live role-play has been the sales leader’s answer to practice for a very long time. But let’s be honest: role-play may be a rep’s least favorite part of any training event. Half of the team is disengaged, just watching the clock for the time to be over, while the other half, taking it seriously, doesn’t really get enough time in the batting cage to make a meaningful difference.

Before you can blink, the kick-off is over. Most of your reps go back to using the same old tactics. You could bring every rep in to present in front of senior leadership, but that just wastes not only more resources but their valuable time.

There has to be a better way.

Practice Accountability

Few would argue that most sales teams do not need more practice. The question is how to do it: wishful thinking does not always translate over to time and resources. The answer is to stop asking reps to practice on your terms and start allowing them to practice on theirs.

Today’s practice environment for sales should leverage what many millennial sales reps like to do on their own time: use social technology and online video.
Here are the principles that you need to put in place to create a culture of Practice Accountability.

  1. Give reps model examples from leading peers and subject matter experts on video so they can see what good looks and sounds like. This way if they’re unsure, they have a place to start.
  2. Allow reps to practice wherever and whenever they want on video, so it’s convenient for them.
  3. Create an expectation that reps should practice as often as they need to until they feel comfortable with the results.
  4. When ready, allow reps to share the results of their practice with managers, peers, or subject matter experts to get feedback and refine. In doing so, you’re building a library of sales tribal knowledge.

With CommercialTribe’s social sales learning platform, reps are practicing an average of 6.5 times before submitting for feedback. I know, I just read your mind….that’s 6.5 times more than they ever practiced before! Reps have a safe and confident environment to work on the craft of selling, practicing, sharing, refining, and ultimately getting it right.

The numbers tell the story: for Xactly, implementing the CommercialTribe solution boosted overall lead conversion rates by 13%. Why can’t you?

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