It’s Time to End the Sales and Marketing Scrimmage


It’s no secret that Sales and Marketing don’t always get along…

How familiar does this scenario sound to you? You’re the messaging quarterback, ready to make the final pass to score the winning touchdown – a new market segment. You’ve studied the competition, understood the market requirements, and have carefully crafted new messaging. The sales team is really going to love those quality new materials you developed. Now it’s third down and you just need to get your message into the end zone… but the pass is dropped.

What happened? Even with a perfect plan and practice, your receivers, the sales team, did not know the playbook you hoped to run. Outside of update emails and the occasional team meeting, it turns out that Marketing did not put an effective process in place for Sales Leadership to certify their team on entirely new messaging. As a result, the message wasn’t adopted. Sales missed the play, and the quarterback – Marketing – missed the signals.

While a lack of coordination on offense is typically rare in football, the disconnect between Marketing and Sales is a classic, constantly debated issue in any company. The Marketing squad takes their side, generating content that they hope the sales team will pick up. The Sales squad, in contrast, closes business, relying on whatever messaging they believe to be effective.

Sales and Marketing messaging alignment happens when both squads play on the same side, collaborating to not only learn new messaging, but also ensure it’s adopted and applied in the field as intended. The benefits are clear – new product lines reach their target sales goals and new messages shift the market. The breakdown isn’t with ego – instead, time and communication are at fault. Reps want to sell, marketers want to create, and neither think that they have the resources to huddle and regroup.

How do you flip the equation and start working together? Four steps can help create a Message Adoption playbook that the whole team can master.

1. Plan Ahead

Create a repeatable process with both sales and marketing long before you deliver a new message to reps. A marketing group without visibility into how what they do is applied in the field will more often than not miss the right way to launch a new message. Likewise, a sales leadership team not up to date on new message efforts before they happen, will not be as invested in what’s to come.

2. Look to Technology

Handing reps a binder full of new messages at Kickoff rarely works. Reps are forgetting 90% of all content within a month, and that means that marketing needs to find a better way to ensure adoption. Practice-based systems, can give the organization a more sustainable approach to aligning sales and marketing.

3. Improve Team Collaboration

Chances are, most reps barely get a chance to work with Marketing. Since Marketing’s success relies on some visibility in the sales organization, it is imperative to work closely with the entire team to build trust and communication. Instead of a once-per-year Sales Kickoff, packed full of messages that reps will forget, create a process where new message introduction something that can happen year round. Good teamwork comes from good communication, and when it comes to message adoption, it’s unparalleled.

4. Get Feedback

If Marketing is not constantly listening to how messages are received by prospects, they can miss crucial information about the success or failure of a campaign. Thankfully, getting feedback naturally means collaborating with the sales team. Set up weekly or monthly feedback sessions as new messaging rolls out – not only will you gain insight into the field response to your ideas, but you’ll find a whole new group of fans in the sales team, as they reach higher goals with the right messages.

Troubling Sales Turnover: 34% of SaaS Sales Reps Will Not Finish the Year


Recent research by The Bridge Group and For Entrepreneurs shares an ongoing shift in 2015’s SaaS inside sales organizations, data that together tell a story of declining returns and growth in training.

The Bridge Group surveyed 342 B2B SaaS companies to build their report. The numbers tell a stark story: the average rep turnover rate (excluding promotions) is now 34%, with “involuntary turnover [making] up nearly two-thirds of that number.” The same research suggests that one in ten companies experience turnover rates above 55%. The new average time for reps to ramp to productivity has reached 5.3 months. On average, only 67% of reps are making quota, “down from 74% in 2012.” From any angle, the story reveals trends that sales leadership hoped would be going in the other direction, and ineffective training is one of the primary root causes of the problem.

The data tells a familiar story for sales managers watching the past decade of change within sales teams: relying purely on traditional sales training and onboarding remains expensive while failing to onboard new reps quickly and effectively and ramp them to productivity as soon as possible leads to turnover. We’re simply not catering to how a majority of reps learn and grow.

Turnover rates near 35% can be expensive in any organization, requiring not only the costs of wasted training and investment but also of acquiring a replacement. The results can be dramatic – with the average rep receiving $3,400 in training per year, turning over even 10 reps can cost more than an entire new hire.

You need to get more out of your existing sales force while increasing the success of onboarding. How do you beat the odds and normalize the impact of sales training back toward growth? Three key strategies can help.

1. Better Sales Onboarding

Onboarding can be the single most important time in a sales rep’s tenure. The bulk of the information, training, and coaching that a rep gets is usually concentrated in their first two weeks. The problem, however, is that only so much can be done in such a short period of time.

Extending the sales onboarding effort can be a way to get after the problem. Reps who experience 30, 60, or even 90-day sales onboarding programs, supplemented by continuous training and practice, stand a much better chance at quickly ramping and reaching quota. Reps tend to forget content and strategy not because they are bad learners, but because they don’t have all the context in their first 90 days. This is precisely why some form of onboarding should continue during the first year.

2. Deliberate Practice

Deliberate practice is the idea that, in order to get better at something, you need to purposely practice it as much as possible. It’s the philosophy that drives star athletes to success, and it works just as well in sales training. Reps can’t be expected to pick up the phone and drive a perfect sales pitch if they haven’t done so in practice many times before.

Give sales reps opportunities to practice new and existing sales skills, closing techniques and messages as much as possible, and push them to complete lessons. Often, sparking exclusivity around the training can help drive interest in the practice, increasing rep interest in participation. Segment your reps and build treatments where needed. Three common segments are high performers, the core, and under-performers.

Align sales managers behind continuous training efforts that promote coaching as a significant part of their job.

3. Engaging with Technology

In 2015 and beyond, your average new hire is likely to be a Millennial. As the children of the 2000s, these reps are very experienced in technology and are adept learners. Yet, many of our existing training relies on slideshows, printed guides, and binders of materials, as opposed to more interactive learning that’s now possible with technology.

It’s time to make the change to new technologies. Instead of ripping off the band-aid, make a gradual shift by combining your traditional sales training curriculum with concepts like the flipped classroom that require the learner to be more prepared when they enter a live training environment. The availability of video and practice-based technology means reps can get “trained” on their own time as opposed to just your time – the reality is that you probably don’t have enough of it.


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The Future of Sales Training with Xactly’s Sean Murray


future of sales training sean murrayWe spoke with Sean Murray, Xactly’s Senior Director NA General Business, about the role of technology in sales and how onboarding and training are changing. As technology continues to impact organizations of all sizes, the first to adapt often set the example for their peers.

Sales technology is one of the fastest growing segments in the market. New solutions offer ways to organize entire teams, train naturally, and monitor growth.


CommercialTribe: How has technology changed sales?

Sean Murray: Technology has made selling easier and harder, and I think it’s really because customers are smarter.

On the outbound side, technology has changed. The days of going to see every prospect in person are gone. Most things are done virtually because the capabilities have changed. It’s probably cliché to say that executives, prospects, or customers are busier than ever, but they seem busier. They don’t want to go to dinner, they don’t want to play golf.

Buyers are more educated than ever, thanks to expanding ways to connect. This impacts how sales teams react to leads and engage prospects, and how customers actually close – reps have to be more prepared than ever.

CT: There’s a common quote in sales – “buyers are 60% of the way through the process before they even talk to a rep.” Do you find that these buyers actually know what they’re looking for?

SM: They have a sense, but it’s usually high level. That’s probably the biggest change I’ve seen in the past 15 years. It makes messaging more important, segmentation models more and more important.

CT: How are reps and managers adjusting to the idea that a prospect is going to come to them with a perspective already developed?

SM: A lot of it is in messaging and getting to the point faster. There’s a word that we use (that we didn’t invent) – unteaching. That changes the entire dynamic, since it’s more proactive rather than reactive. It’s more imperative now to be able to break that apart, and sometimes tell them where they’re wrong and teach them what we really do. We’ve got to be – reps and managers together – smarter today. The days of feature dumping are gone.

Something that’s really important is how to create need and how to show them the problem that they think they have to get at the problem they really have. It’s a complex diagnostic. The overall theme: it’s hard.

CT: Do you segment reps by their ability to close inbound leads, or do reps receive all of the tools necessary to handle any level of buyer awareness?

SM: Everyone gets the same coaching. It’s very uncommon that executives that, when they come to us, are 60% through the process and all we have to do is the final 40% – it just doesn’t happen.

Teams are crossing oceans to meet the demand for global selling. With that shift comes radical new questions on alignment and training, and newer solutions to solve the challenges.

CT: Xactly now has a global team. What are some of the classic challenges with a global sales team, and how do you get them aligned, on point, and selling the same?

SM: I don’t manage our European team now, but it’s something in my comfort zone. I’ve done it for a few years in different offices. It’s just difficult, but today’s technology makes it easier, whether it’s video conferencing or different tools that we’re able to use where we can stay in sync with one another. But it’s difficult because people are people and it’s hard when you’re far away – you don’t get that personal connection.

Onboarding is a classic focus for Sales Leadership, Sales Enablement, and even Marketing. It offers one great chance to steer a rep’s learning and progress before they go out to sell, concentrating best practices, messaging, and tribal knowledge into one span. Yet, the exact timing, strategy, and playbook often varies from company to company and even between managers.

CT: When you’re onboarding new reps, do you find more success with a robust, continual onboarding, or with a solid base and continual coaching?

SM: We need to get better there – onboarding and collapsing productivity time is always hard. We have a team member, Brian Groth, who has built out a playbook and plan that’s really very good. We use it as we’re constantly hiring and growing, and it feels like hiring is something that we never stop doing. Having said that, onboarding can always be a lot tighter. I don’t know if constant certification is necessary, but the message changes constantly as we add new products, for example, and have to share what’s new and how to differentiate it from the competition. Ongoing certification is something that we can always do more of, just making sure that we’re getting the right message in the market.

The tenured rep question is always hard. You don’t want to push them out of selling, but their insights are always interesting. It’s that interesting balance of, “hey, we trust you, you’ve been here 2 years and you can probably figure it out” and training.

CT: You mentioned the idea of onboarding being continual, with the message evolving constantly. Do you think that they model of the once-a-year Sales Kickoff is going to shift or have to adapt?

SM: It should change. Real time example – we’re not having a Kickoff this year. What we want to do is have a series of quarterly events.

I think that once-a-year is cool. Getting everyone together to have recognition and high-fives is important, but the problem with doing it four times a year is that it’s expensive – it’s not realistic. A Kickoff with 100 reps can cost a quarter-million dollars, easily. What we want to start doing is smaller bites and being a bit more virtual. Things are changing quickly, and having this once a year feels normal because that’s what we’ve done for a million years, but that model should change.

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Published by Maura Gaughan | Built in Colorado

In 2014, Colorado companies received a total of $758 million in funding — a 64 percent increase from 2013. Several billion-dollar buyouts mixed with the rise of consumer-focused startups and expansion of tech-focused educational program actually did make 2014 the best year ever.

And what’s more beautiful than the cloud-laced landscape of a Rocky Mountain skyline? The amount of cash cloud-software companies brought into the state…

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2 Big Ways to Put Sales Training Content in a Rep’s Hands


The final part of our series by Xactly’s Brian Groth on planning sales training reviews making content available to your reps when they need it most. Part 1 covers planning training, including steps on framing needs and strategies. Part 2 reviews organizing new sales learning content and resources. Part 3 of our series explores how to find the right people to lead a new sales training effort.

Not all of your reps will be able to attend all of the sales training, and the best way for them to catch up is to review the materials and video of the training. This is easiest for the short single-topic courses. I find it useful to use two methods:

  1. Recorded Webinars: Most online meeting solutions allow you to record the meeting, so when you host 30 or 60-minute training sessions, simply record them and host the video for later viewing. I find recording a GoToMeeting session and then hosting the video file on Google Drive is a pretty easy option.
  2. Encourage Practice: One form of training is to have your sales reps practice something, such as objection handling, asking qualifying questions, cold calling, or giving a presentation. I find using CommercialTribe to record one of our top reps giving a presentation so that other reps can review it and record themselves presenting is a good option.

In addition to helping reps who missed the original training, this also gives all reps the option of reviewing the materials later and gives you something to point reps to in follow-up and reminder e-mails.

Regardless of how or where you make the recorded trainings and practice available, make sure to integrate it into your onboarding process so new sales reps can get the same training current sales reps have had.

About Brian Groth

Brian Groth is Sales Enablement Manager at Xactly Corp, helping improve our sales skills and activities from leads to close. Reach him on LinkedIn.