Rest Easy! Why You Should Not Fear the 2015 Sales Plan


It’s a new year, which after a holidays season of family, food, football, and winter weather means the inevitable look forward to 2015. If you’re like most senior sales leaders, here’s the tension you may be feeling: According to CSO Insights, companies are arriving at an average 16%+ year-over-year revenue target increase, yet the percentage of CSOs with some or clear concerns on meeting those targets is greater than 60%.

2015 sales plan funnelDon’t choke on that dessert! Here at CommercialTribe, we’re thankful for our friends at Cracking the Sales Management Code and their 3-part framework, which can simplify what’s in front of us all. Get your free copy of the first two chapters, including a much more cohesive breakdown, here.

Business Results – This is the easy part. These are the targets handed to sales every year, which can be broken into three buckets: 1) Financial, 2) Satisfaction and 3) Market Share. For most sales organizations we talk to, it’s as simple as next year’s revenue target (Financial).

Now that you know what you need to do, the question is how to do it. This is where Sales Objectives come in.

Sales Objectives – There are many ways you could get to your revenue target, but as sales leadership, it’s up to you to determine which levers make the most sense. These levers, otherwise known as Sales Objectives, break into four categories: 1) Market Coverage, 2) Sales Force Capability, 3) Customer Focus, and 4) Product Focus.

In other words, you may decide to meet with a certain percentage of an identified market segment (Market Coverage), create a Sales Certification program (Sales Force Capability), sell to a certain customer segment (Customer Focus) or aim for selling a specific solution at an average deal size (Product Focus).
Now you know the levers you’ll need to pull to get to your Business Results, but you’re not home yet. This next part is the connection many organizations miss. Of the 306 metrics that Jason Jordan and the research team from Cracking the Sales Management Code found sales organizations were tracking, only 17% of them fell into the next bucket. And the next bucket, Sales Activities, are the actual things that can be managed.

Sales Activities – These measure what the sales force actually does. If you have the right activities, then manage them relentlessly to achieve your objectives. If you’re not sure what these activities are, you probably have a lot of managers and reps using their own judgment to determine how to meet their goals. That’s a long-term recipe for disaster. Sales Activities fall into five buckets: 1) Territory Management, 2) Account Management, 3) Opportunity Management, 4) Call Management, and 5) Sales Force Enablement.

For example, you might create scheduling campaigns to track penetration in a specific market segment (Territory Management), then set up a process to track staged interactions in your sales cycle (Opportunity Management) and measure the percentage of reps who’ve completed training to execute the message delivered during Discovery, Demo, and Proposal stages (Sales Force Enablement).


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It seems reasonable enough, but most sales organizations don’t take the time to guide their reps on exactly how best to achieve Sales Objectives and even worse, some just start and end with a quota. It’s now up to the rep and front-line manager to determine how best to get there.

To summarize:

Business Results are the things that investors, the board, and management care about, but are simply the outcome of the objectives you select. Sales Objectives are the levers you can pull, but only by managing specific activities. Sales Activities are what the sales force actually does – the only part you can directly manage.

No need to be anxious. Kick back, enjoy some downtime, and be thankful that you’ve now got 2015 in the bag!


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The Top 100 Digital Employers in Colorado

Published by Garrett Reim | Built in Colorado

We’re happy to share Built In Colorado’s first ever ‘Top 100 Digital Companies’ list. The list catalogs Colorado’s top 100 employers in digital tech and shows an industry that has changed enormously in the last 10 years.

22 percent of the ‘Top 100’ companies have been around for less than five years and 51 percent have been around for less than 10 years. In total, the top 100 companies employ 10,523 people, an enormous sum considering how young many of them are…

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Why Should Messaging Be the Centerpiece of Your Certification?


Certification is used by many sales organizations as a critical tool in developing sales skills and passing along product knowledge. Despite many companies talking about it, though, few do it well. At the center of any effective certification program is the message – what reps actually say in front of customers and what’s often referred to as “the moment of truth”.

Unfortunately, messaging is typically defined as a marketing exercise, developed between sales and marketing leadership and passed to reps through static content. Reps are then expected to internalize the message on their own time.

Message Development and its Challenges

What breaks in this approach?

On top of knowing products and services, reps need to know how best to position the options – it starts with an ability to frame the problem. The message represents the company’s stance in the market, and if any part of it is not clearly delivered, your positioning is lost with it. When organizations don’t verify that reps can deliver the message, the chance that anyone but top performers will deliver it effectively are low.

Why does this happen?

CEB research notes that reps spend an average of 19 hours a year on product training, with only 14 hours spent on sales and skill training. When reps can’t articulate the value proposition, everything you’ve built breaks at a place we call “The Last Mile.”

Making messaging the centerpiece of your sales certification program can help solve this issue.

1. Messaging Helps Define the “Buying Vision”

Research suggests that buyers are nearly 60% through the sales process before even speaking to a rep, so it follows that reps should just move to educating prospects on what their product does, right? WRONG! Reps need to educate the customer on why they need to change behavior and clearly establish the problem is worth solving to make features and benefits meaningful.

2. Share Tribal Knowledge by Working with the Field

Your top performers and senior reps know how to tweak your messaging in the field, but it may not be what marketing is suggesting. Bringing the field into the discussion ensures you get buy in for the message you’re looking to certify the team on, not the one they fall back toward.

3. Align Messaging to Different Stages in Your Sales Process

Messaging should be designed to help us sell more. While reps normally understand the connections between the content and resources they use and how it impacts their quota, they may not immediately see how certification and messaging help them sell. Break your key messages down by different stages of the sales process to show how a message helps advance a deal from one stage to the next. Now you’ve got the team’s attention, and they can use the tools that you’ve invested in to drive real success.

4. Have Reps Practice

Messaging won’t be absorbed without repetition. And that repetition can’t just happen in the field when the pressure is on. Reps need a safe and confident place to get comfortable with the sales training you’re asking them to execute.

To have reps internalize the core concepts and be able to relate the messaging effectively (and thus pass certification), reps will need to practice it multiple times. The result is not only a certified rep, but also behavioral change that you can expect will last.

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Sales Enablement Choices

Published by Brian Groth | LinkedIn

The market for sales enablement solutions is exploding, and as the sales enablement manager at Xactly, I’ve been trying to keep track of the different options available to me. I organize them into a few different buckets, but I’m not even including the variety of marketing automation solutions here, which is arguably related to sales enablement too. So while the solution providers I list is only a subset of what’s available in the market, as you can see, it is getting crowded…

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Why Peer Mentoring Should Be a Bigger Part of Your Sales Learning

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The rep onboarding experience can be daunting. With the pressure to get ramped as fast as possible, but a lack of progressive recognition that builds toward hitting goal, it’s no wonder that churn rates are a real problem for many companies.

Reps relate to other reps for obvious reasons, and peer learning should make up a large part of the sales learning program. One thing that makes each rep different is their experience: tenured reps, for example, hold a library of tribal knowledge and best practices. Unlocking and distributing this knowledge at scale is a missed opportunity for many companies.

Here is why peer mentors can help bridge this learning gap.

1. Social Proof Drives Learning

Social Proof is the idea that people, observing others, will alter their own behaviors to match those of their peers. To drive learning, have peers lead lessons, naturally influencing others to take notice and creating a culture of sharing tribal knowledge. Instruct your managers to play a part in guiding lessons, but create structured opportunities for reps to guide each other whenever possible.

2. Peers Master Tribal Knowledge

Sales tribal knowledge – the in-the-field tips, nuances, and advice that drive successful sales in your organization – is typically not accessible for the average rep. Having peers, including sales leaders, work together naturally transfers this knowledge from rep to rep. Using video or social tools can make this transfer scale, reaching your entire organization.

3. Peers Lead to Learning that Sticks

Sales training “stickiness” is a measure of how well sales lessons carry with reps after training. Studies by the Sales Leadership Council have found that peer-led teaching resulted in a 2% increase in stickiness, a significant difference in how reps learn and apply knowledge in a large organization.

What does this mean? Reps will more quickly internalize and demonstrate their new behaviors in the market. The result is increased quota attainment, reduced churn, and a more prepared team.

4. Peers Are Natural Motivators

Even the best reps need motivation outside of compensation. Constructing peer teams during the onboarding process creates a natural support system for each rep, friends to share win and loss stories with and to rely on when goal looks unattainable.

Not only does this increase the chance of a rep solving a problem in their learning before they miss quota, but it also creates a culture of support that will drive retention and success.

peer mentoring stakeholders

5. Peers Stick Together

Sales reps tend to stick with their onboarding group for their entire tenure, naturally gravitating toward these peers socially and within their role.

Teams are essential not only to sharing sales tribal knowledge and new skills but also in navigating the sale: the average sale, according to CEB, now takes 5.4 stakeholders on the buyer’s side and many more resources on the seller’s end. That makes having peer sharing a critical way to transfer knowledge on how to internally and externally navigate complex deals.

Your Millennial Hires Still Aren’t Responding to Sales Onboarding

A recent post by River Software shared what every sales onboarding leader and trainer already knows: millennials, typically the new hire age group, are no longer responding to the normal sales onboarding model. River’s ideas are correct: the new era of reps do not respond to the standard classroom model, learn best from their peers, and more closely look for opportunities for continued growth.

Your new reps are coming from this generation. Millennials are different, and your sales training and onboarding processes need to change to meet their needs.

Relying on the old onboarding and training process simply fails to cater to new hire needs. The millennial approach to learning is the new normal, making it imperative to adapt. Three things that we typically fail to offer in training are still preventing millennial success in your organization.

1. Adapt to New Technologies

Millennials are born and raised in an era with increasingly social and mobile technologies. The average day for a new hire is spent tweeting, snapping, and sharing, a deeply social exercise that is the new normal in sharing information. You need to embrace a social sales training solution that combines things like sharing, video, and collaboration to drive the most learning. The science backs the model – “education and training” are the preferred uses of video in the enterprise by 48% of executives, according to Cisco. Get ahead of the curve.

2. Flip the Classroom

This goes beyond River’s suggestion to “[include] other activities from across the 70-20-10 learning continuum.” Reps learn best when they study and practice on their time, coming together with peers and mentors to reinforce learning with more practice. The flipped classroom model drives the MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that are becoming increasing popular in training, and offer more chances for learning and absorption. It’s time to rethink onboarding to adapt.

3. Be Social

Reps have historically been far too isolated after initial onboarding – part of the same team but individually required to hit the number and succeed. The result is that reps are left without resources to grow, learn from peers, and access sales tribal knowledge.

Millennial reps want ways to share and work with their peers first. Use video and the web to give reps their own portal, where they can share ideas and more fluidly learn from their peers. Get creative by creating a YouTube Channel or use in house technology like Salesforce’s Chatter to encourage the the kind of teamwork that creates a winning environment. Be forewarned…these resources must be managed if you do not have a purpose-built solution.

Learn How To Build A Millennial-Minded Sales Organization–Vote For Our Denver Startup Week Session!


Think Your Sales Kickoff Was Successful? Prove It.


You’re planning your next Sales Kickoff, which requires a herculean amount of time and effort. Besides ensuring everyone has a good time, what are you looking to get out of it? Whether the goal is to introduce new concepts, energize the team, or share tribal knowledge, you have a host of metrics that get you to the result.

But how do we track and progress before, during, and after an event? How do you quantify the success of last year’s effort? Grade each step to find out how effective your last Sales Kickoff was, and to learn what to improve this year. The higher the score, the more successful your event.

Scale: 1 = Not Very Effective; 10 = Very Effective

1. Engagement – ___

How much were reps and managers talking about the event? Create a hashtag on Twitter and encourage a running dialogue. Count Tweets shared, internal messages sent, or any other data that shows engagement. Before the event, this can be a clear sign of engagement. After the event, it shows what worked, and what didn’t.

2. Attendance – ___

Who showed up and who didn’t? That includes not only reps, but also managers, support staff, and top executives.

3. Activity Completion – ___

Did reps attend the breakout sessions? What percentage of reps completed and attended everything that they were supposed to?

4. Training Stickiness – ___

Sales training stickiness is a measure of how much learning “sticks” to a rep after the event. A simple survey post-event can help you gauge what stuck. Did your reps take home the concepts you wanted?

5. Cost per Rep – ___

Sales Kickoff is expensive because it typically requires getting the whole team in one place. Are you getting the right bang for your buck? Break down the cost of the event per rep and monitor year over year. If the cost is trending up, and the results are dubious, then the event needs to be redeveloped.

Score: __/50

What was your score?

5 Ways to Generate Excitement Around Sales Kickoff!


Sales Kickoff, and any sales training event, has a purpose: train and enable reps to hit the number. While it may be useful to bring everyone together, reps often fail to see the benefit of taking a week away from their pipeline. By building the right excitement, engagement, and commitment, reps are more likely to get something out of their time away.

So how do you do build the excitement? Here are 5 tactics:

1. Create buzz leading up to the event

Barack Obama wouldn’t show up on election day having done nothing and expect to win. There was a lot of work that went into setting up for success on that all-important day. Create a drip marketing campaign leading up to the kickoff that releases a little more information each week. Get senior leaders involved with different communications to create variety and enthusiasm. Get reps talking.

2. Assign bite-size pre-work

Creating a shared experience before everyone shows up at the sales kickoff will set a far different tone. Create a small assignment that’s every reps ticket into the event. Use the first few minutes of the sales kickoff to talk about the results and give reps a way to get involved early. This sets a very different tone for the event itself and offers a compelling reason to pay attention.

3. Make peer participation core

Few reps want to learn solely from those who aren’t in the field – it simply feels like work! The Sales Leadership Council notes a 2% increase in sales training stickiness when peers do the teaching. “Social proof” is at play here, with reps observing how their fellow sellers succeed, practicing, and adapting these behaviors. All managers need to do at kickoff is direct and organize – let teams do the work themselves.

Peer-based training produces a 2% increase in training stickiness (via SEC)

4. Make it actionable

What do reps want out of sales kickoff? A clear road to success.

To get them engaged, create working session focused on how to engineer to the number. Every rep should leave the event with a clear vision of what they need to do to be successful.

5. Location, location, location

The tried and true practice is to hold kickoff in a resort or off-site, creating an atmosphere of exclusivity and retreat. And it works. However, even more important in this formula is separating work and kickoff. Make the event live outside of normal work functions, so that the focus and energy is exclusively on training. Without normal job distractions and with a clear sense of purpose and achievement, reps will be more engaged and energized. The goal is to have reps go back to the office cheering for the new year, not drained from pulling double duty.