Conversations that Win: Unshackle Buyers from the Status Quo


The dominant theme to this year’s Conversations that Win Conference was made clear on the main event of Day 2: a trip to Alcatraz and a tour of the infamous prison. The now beautiful historic park, and site of one of the most intolerable places in US history, had an underlying message that Corporate Visions CSO/CMO Tim Riesterer shared in his keynote.

Our buyers – all of them – are shackled to the status quo, all for various reasons – fear of failure, the difficulty of change, poor communication, etc. Conversely, our reps – nearly all of them – are not producing messaging that is capable of motivating a buyer to buy.

CVI_Conference_Status_QuoThe point Tim made was absolutely right. Whether we know it or not, our reps are leaving buyers stuck to the status quo. The key to unlocking them from a “no decision” conversation is your messaging. And without messaging that is actually capable of breaking the status quo and convincing a buyer to change, you will not consistently succeed.

Yet, while we invest in messaging and tools, and see benefits, the approaches that we see organizations use to ensure consistency in how reps execute these messages are the same that we’ve used for decades.

Reps are still practicing infrequently, if ever, with only 41% of organizations surveyed by Corporate Visions mandating some amount of practice. The same reps are taking inconsistent, perhaps even ineffective messaging into the marketplace. Reps are failing to break through the status quo, and ultimately create deals that end in no decision.

Even if we create the right best in class messaging across our individual industries, we will not likely see the lift we expect. Teams often fail to codify their messages with practice and accountability, reverting back to their comfort zone when challenged with a real prospect interaction. We witnessed this exact behavior at Dreamforce and can see the growing divide between what enablement is trying to get sellers to understand, and what reps are actually doing.

The question remains: how do we actually get reps to practice and use what we teach them?

Shifting gears, I saw another highlight in a speech by Shawn Achor, who shared his Harvard-backed research on what actually makes people feel happy. As it turns out, a level of happiness can be constructed from simply ritualizing happy tasks, from sending a peer a heartfelt email or writing down a happy memory every day. The result is a new brain chemistry, but more importantly, a habit.

Just like Tim’s prison example, unpacking Shawn’s keynote is crucial to really getting at how we start to make changes in a sales organization. While you can have the key to unlocking yourself from the status quo, you still need to know how to use it. Even if you know how to make yourself happier, it will not happen until you actually ritualize the methods in the same way Shawn profiled.

Shawn wrote down a happy memory every day for 21 days. Your reps are engaging with your core messaging once per year. Shawn is, fairly objectively, happy. Your reps are missing goals and performing worse year over year. Perhaps psychology has the right answer.

Until we start to fundamentally raise the efficacy of our reps, to make them better at taking messages, skills, and tools and molding them into powerful conversations to move buyers, we will continue to see the decision gap get larger.

Like Alcatraz, the model we’re using today to drive messaging into organizations and ensure that it sticks down the road is outdated and falling apart. Do we shut it down and make something better, or let it go on for another year?

Thanks to the team at Corporate Visions for the opportunity to speak and learn at this year’s Conversations that Win conference!

Marc Benioff’s Secret for Every One of Your Sales Reps

Marc_BenioffMarc Benioff pioneered an industry, built into a $50B company, and plays host to Dreamforce – the biggest Mardi Gras style party for cloud computing in the world.

So when the world descends on San Francisco for one week each September, Marc gets on stage to deliver a three-hour keynote…and always does it flawlessly. Now that’s impressive.

But Marc has an advantage. In a tip recently shared by Business Insider, the secret weapon was revealed: he practices every presentation he gives 7 times.

7 times. That number seems awfully familiar.

As it turns out, reps in CommercialTribe are practicing just about as often as Marc. While we can’t all have the discipline of Benioff, CommercialTribe brings Benioff-like accountability to the craft of stellar presentation delivery.

What happens when people practice 7 times? We call it learning the sheet music, so you can go play improvisational jazz. And whether it’s a 3-hour keynote or an hour-long sales meeting, we all have to be ready to go on stage.

It is not news that practicing as many times as possible aligns closely with one’s ability to effectively master content. What may be surprising is that the technique works with any content and at any scale. While sales reps are finding success in practicing 2-minute messages 7 times, public speakers are achieving the same results with 2-3 hour sessions.

Want your reps to be like Marc? Build a process for disciplined practice.

Oh, and Marc – if you’re out there: next time you want to rehearse your presentation, just give us a call – we’ll keep a login open for you.

The New Hardest Job in Sales – Reflections from Dreamforce Expo 2015


“Welcome to the world’s largest cloud ecosystem. At the Cloud Expos, you’ll find unlimited ways to transform your business…So take a deep breath and get ready to learn, learn, and learn some more.” These were the words that graced the opening page of the Dreamforce Cloud Expos pamphlet.

Benioff and company have thought of just about everything – meals, transportation, accommodations – and this year, there was even the Dreamboat – a luxury cruise ship to accommodate 1,100 of the now 150,000 strong that came to San Francisco this year. But if you ask me, they missed the couple of Xanax that should have come with this pamphlet!

Last year, I suggested that the Expo was the Modern Roman Forum – a place where reps engaged in the purest kind of hand-to-hand combat. 300+ cloud vendors competing beside one another. With all of this choice, how are sales enablement leaders supposed to determine where to invest?

Welcome to the new hardest job in sales: being a buyer in this new Golden Age of Sales Enablement. We can solve problems today that we could not have dreamed of just five years ago. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to figure out which ones you should actually solve.

While walking the floor though, there was one overwhelming theme that stood out. Each vendor held the promise of selling nirvana – something better, faster, or what we at CommercialTribe call efficiency. is the new posterchild, leading the analytics revolution. Jim Steele, Founder and CEO, delivered a session on Moneyball for Sales comparing his company to Michael Lewis’ famous bestseller on how the Oakland A’s used data to revolutionize baseball.

Whether it’s lead management, pipeline management, email tracking, proposal and document management, or now analytics, all of these tools hold the promise of a more efficient sales team. But there was still something that felt missing. Not a single vendor among the hundreds could influence the moment of truth – when a rep is in front of a prospect or customer and decisions are ultimately made. It’s what the CommercialTribe team calls efficacy.

There were plenty of decisions to be made every second on the Expo floor. Box vs. Dropbox, Tableau vs. Domo, Caladys vs. Xactly, ToutApp vs. Yesware, SalesLoft vs. InsideSales…the list goes on.

So I journeyed through the Expo floor asking a series of questions:

  • What do you do?
  • What problem are you solving?
  • Who do you compete with?
  • Why should I invest with you vs. something else?

A few select reps were up to the task, but sadly, many were not. When you stop and think about the investment companies were making in booths, travel, and marketing, the idea that reps are not locked down to answer these types of simple questions…well, it feels like doing all the hard work to make it to the Super Bowl, but electing not to practice before the big game.

There was one rep from one very high-profile company (which will remain nameless to protect the innocent) that got so flustered by these questions that she looked hopelessly to a colleague, who couldn’t come to her rescue in the chaos of the Expo floor.

“When’d you start?” I asked.

“5 months ago.” She replied.

I wish I could have handed her my complimentary Xanax…

‘Till next year, Dreamforce!

Efficiency vs Efficacy in Sales Training

Among the many casualties of the financial crisis of 2008, the economy suffered a loss of jobs. “Do more with less” became the unfortunate mandate from senior management. And you know what? We did.

Across the next few years, we experienced what many call the “jobless recovery,” where most of the jobs lost were never backfilled. Reason being, we drove automation across core business processes – simply put, we “SaaSified” many of the processes already existing across business functions.

Sales teams saw the SaaSification of business processes become mainstream, enabling the “do more with less” mandate across the organization. For the first time, we saw the robust sales technology stack as a way to improve overall rep efficiency. A full suite of productivity-oriented tools began to dominate the marketplace, including CRM (, Marketing Automation (HubSpot), Sales Compensation (Xactly), Email Management (ToutApp), and many others.

As with all productivity tools, over time, return erodes as features become more ingrained. A great example is the original Blackberry – now that everybody has a cell phone, the “improvement” to productivity is lost. Early productivity gains give way to ubiquitous adoption, which becomes the new reality. The result is diminishing returns on the original improvement to performance, and a lack of improvement to overall efficacy.

sales efficiency_productivity

Leading economists have suggested that the productivity boost trend lines seen in this tool stack will fall over time. Tools that would once deliver a 15 to 20% improvement in productivity are now forecasted to offer only an 8-10% increase. Paradoxically, we goal sales organizations out at a 10-20% improvement on quota year over year. Said differently, our productivity investments will not necessarily enable us to achieve – and overachieve – our assigned quota expectations. This leaves us with only one or two feasible options:

  1. Hire more reps
  2. Make existing reps better…or drive their efficacy

In either case, you will inevitably find yourself having to train and enable your team, and you will do this over three key events: Onboarding, Upskilling, and Product/Service Introduction.

If you look at any of those events – we’ll take onboarding as an example – you should ask yourself a question: if you had to grade your onboarding process today, what grade would you give it? An A? Perhaps a C or D? Maybe an F?

We find that most of our portfolio companies self-assess their onboarding as a C. When we actually peel it back, the Cs look more like Fs.


According to the research firm CEB, reps are forgetting 70% of all content that they are exposed to in one week, and 90% in one month. Training is lost, and reps revert back to old habits and messaging.

So how do we make training stick? We believe that the core of sales training processes lack structure, a framework that allows training to have frequency and continually serve an organization.

The issue becomes clear when we look closer at the greater sales tool marketplace. Modern technology has allowed innovative, forward-thinking companies to completely rethink different aspects of the sales world, from incentive compensation and payroll to document management, lead generation, and marketing automation. Why? Because they create structure in the function.

sales efficacy

If we look to our friends at, a truly market-leading CRM platform and the foundational tool of the modern sales team, we can see much of the kind of structure missing in today’s sales training. Before Salesforce, the sales forecast was best captured in Excel and subject to the varied approaches of individual sales managers. Arguably the process lacked uniformity and adherence to a structure. took this random, disjointed approach and created a framework for frequency and structure. With a toolset capable of tracking the sales funnel from lead to closed deal – and ingraining in reps compliance habits of logging data, created structure within pipeline management. Today, a rep can’t advance an opportunity from stage to stage without the opportunity meeting specific criteria.

It’s no wonder that sales managers still say, “if it’s not in Salesforce, then it doesn’t exist.”

The same story can be found in any other category, except for one: sales training. The way we teach and learn has not meaningfully changed since the days of Dale Carnegie and Henry Ford. We often treat onboarding and upskilling like myopic single events and ignore the larger framework that ties rep learning from day one to year one, year two, etc. We still invite reps to webinars, audio conferences, and sales meetings – and lecture at them, often expecting them to simply absorb and apply this content in their selling situations, all without chances to practice and learn.

You can see where this leads, and we have a perspective on how to apply the much-needed structure and frequency to the long-forgotten sales training process.

Join us in Part 2 to profile the “learning cycle” as a framework to support every phase of your sales training.

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Join Us at the 2015 Corporate Visions Conversations that Win Conference


On Sept. 21st, Corporate Visions is bringing their insight-based Conversations that Win Conference back, one of the most important events of the year for sales and messaging.

Last year’s event in Chicago featured a great run on the psychology of certainty, information on taking buying conversations past the post, and Tim dressed like Johnny Bravo.

This year’s conference has one big change from the previous events: a new location in San Francisco. The same city that hosts some of the largest sales teams and the Dreamforce conference is a perfect home for Conversations that Win, which aims to shake up many traditional sales and messaging habits.

Another change is sure to create a much more intimate and educational experience: registration is now capped at 500 attendees. The result is a more consultative, close environment, where sales, marketing, and enablement leaders can discuss novel insights without overwhelming distractions.

Keynotes include Tim Riesterer on insights, Shawn Achor on how happiness links to performance, Jenny Dearborn of SAP on talent and skill development, and Wipro’s Amar Amarnath on the company’s market-leading sales and marketing alignment. The full suite of speakers includes top enterprise organizations that are all revolutionizing customer conversations and the sales and marketing process, including sessions with CommercialTribe’s own Paul Ironside!

You can start the conference off early with three insights just from the event listing. Given the lineup of speakers, expect to learn:

  1. What makes for an insight, and how to create them within your team
  2. How “work smarter, not harder” is actually hard work
  3. That Sales and Marketing alignment – and practice – are more important than ever

To help you prepare, Corporate Visions has recently shared two great pieces of research directly linked to how reps are talking to the marketplace. The first covers the incredible gap between what sales teams find most important to their success, buyer conversations, and what they actually do to prepare for these conversations – often very little. One Corporate Visions survey found that nearly 60% of sales teams never ask their reps to practice!

The second survey reviews the “business value gap” identified by Corporate Visions CSO/CMO Tim Riesterer. While C-level executives are more open to consultative, value-driven conversations, most organizations are still feature listing when they get on the phone. Until this divide is filled, expect fewer executive decisions and longer sales cycle lengths.

Expect both stories – and more – to feature at the only conference dedicated to customer conversations. There’s always a big surprise in store as well – what will Tim wear this year?

If you have yet to register for the conference and want to attend, use the code COMMERCIALTRIBE and save $100 on your registration!

Sales Enablement Lab: Consistent Rep Stories

CommercialTribe Co-Founder and VP Sales, Jonathan Palay, was featured on the Sales Enablement Lab podcast, a regular review of new ideas in the space that has included guests like Tim Riesterer (Corporate Visions), Scott Santucci (Alexander Group), Jill Rowley (#SocialSelling), and Peter O’Neil (Forrester Research).


The host of the Sales Enablement Lab podcast is Thierry van Herwijnen, Director Sales Enablement, Global Head Sales Knowledge Management at Wipro. Thierry is a seasoned sales enablement expert, leading coaching and training efforts for a global team with modern, progressive demands.

Both Thierry and Jonathan covered what can be called the “hardest problem in sales” – how to get reps to adopt and perform the right skills and messages in the marketplace. Even with investments in tools, message programs, and training methods, unless reps are actually articulating value in the marketplace, the investment is lost.

The missing link is practice, a way for reps and leaders to continually engage with content and messaging before taking it in front of prospects. Today, reps are generally practicing on prospects, often adapting only a few parts of the message and forgetting others. The result is more deals lost or ending in “no decision.”

Jonathan shared three practical tips that you can use today to break this cycle and get reps practicing:

  1. Find a champion to lead a practice-based initiative
  2. Get buy-in from Sales Enablement, Sales Leadership, and Marketing
  3. Find out how important messaging is for your company

Check out the podcast and read our interview with Thierry van Herwijnen to learn more about progressive sales enablement at a global, technological scale.

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Announcing the Release of CommercialTribe Ascent


We’re excited to announce the release of CommercialTribe’s newest platform, Ascent!

Ascent is a complete redesign of CommercialTribe, created through real customer feedback, lessons from over 85,000 practice sessions, and indications from the market. Providing a tool most able to boost the efficacy of reps required new investments in ease of use, design, stability, and scalability.

What’s changed?

After an exhaustive product redesign, with the support of the team across Denver and Boulder, Ascent went live this week with hundreds of updates. Here are some of the key changes you will find in Ascent:

  1. An all new interface, with comprehensive user experience and design updates reducing the clicks needed to navigate the system by 33%
  2. The ability to record offline, with truly scalable video that supports teams across the globe
  3. A native iPad and iPhone mobile app, with a full integration
  4. Major changes to reporting, with detailed analytics and team performance tracking tools that connect rep practice to efficacy
  5. New administration features, notifications, and curriculum-building toolsets designed to make it easier to create and deploy curriculums

In a word, Ascent is progress. Teams will find it easier to create new opportunities for learning, while reps can benefit from practice anywhere, whether online or not.

Why Ascent?

CommercialTribe was born and raised in Denver, and few things are more important to the area than the mountains. Much of our team is made up of avid hikers, skiers and snowboarders, and outdoors lovers, so the connection to Colorado’s many peaks is clear. Yet, the name goes deeper: the struggle reps face as they progress through classic training is exactly like mountain climbing, with the same stress and challenge.

We want to give reps a clear path to the “summit,” the place where training and learning is progressive, where reps proactively learn, share with their team, and develop the skills necessary to take on any sales challenge. The result is a team that becomes more interconnected and more consistent in approach, and as a result, more effective in every customer conversation. Ascent is solving the hardest problem in sales today.

The result is video-based sales practice as a cornerstone to training initiatives, solidifying the lessons before and after learning events and offering comprehensive, seamless opportunities to approach learning.

CommercialTribe is constantly updating and improving our platform. To learn more about CommercialTribe and to tour our platform, please schedule a demo!

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