Insights

The secrets behind your motivation levels

How motivated are you feeling today? If you’re lacking a bit of get up and go, it may be time to shift your thinking. Let’s find out more.

So that’s Q2 2020 over and done. I think it’s pretty safe to say that was one of the toughest, most unpredictable quarters we’ll ever have to deal with. Let’s hope so anyway. Now, it’s July and the scoreboard goes back to zero. It’s the start of H2 and Q3 and there’s a lot to do. 

A few people have asked me recently for ways to stay motivated. So, I wanted to use my article this week to talk about motivation, something that is essential for all of us.

Motivation comes from within

First of all – motivation can only come from you. You can’t rely on anyone else to keep you motivated, certainly not for any serious length of time. Whatever the task in hand, you have to want to do it, and do it well.

We all have our own ways to stay motivated that work for us. Some of us are motivated by our hopes for the future – ambition that burns bright. Then, there are those people who are motivated by fear of something worse that may happen if they don’t complete the tasks they need to. Some of us always need to be working towards a goal, while others simply have a passion for winning. When you are self-aware enough to know what motivates you, you can tap into it more often.

The science part

On the other hand, there’s a tonne of behavioural psychology out there that could play a part here. It states that it’s the rewards that influence human behaviour. 

I definitely subscribe to the theory of behaviour maintenance by Alexander Rothman. It suggests that our ability to maintain positive behaviour depends on our perception of the benefits.

If we believe that the reward that we get for completing a task is good enough, we’re more likely to stay motivated enough to complete it. It creates a cycle of positivity, the more rewards we get, the more motivated we are. When our motivation increases, performance improves – and the cycle continues.

The reverse effect

On the other hand, if we feel the rewards are insufficient, or we receive negative feedback, we lose motivation and the cycle reverses. That’s how slumps start.

What does this look like? It’s different for different people. Some will lose their energy and procrastinate. Others will become stressed, angry or nervous. It’s because our brain is telling us to stop focusing on doing something that doesn’t help us.

Motivation in sales

As salespeople, we need to stay motivated. It’s clear that we do our best work when we’re positive and motivated. Customers can hear it in our voice when we’re in a bad mood and they don’t like it.

We need to feel that the rewards that we get for picking up the phone, or for hitting our targets, are worthwhile – whether that’s commission, progression in the company or anything else. 

Leaders can play a part here by discovering what motivates each rep on an individual level, then finding a way to help them get there. However, as I said at the start, motivation can only come from inside you, so if you can’t find whatever motivates you in your sales role, perhaps it’s time to find a new job, or maybe you’re not suited to sales.

Find out more from SalesWorks

Your mood and emotions are essentially a feedback system, telling you how effective you are in your actions. Check in with yourself regularly to make sure you are on the right track.


Pressure vs stress in sales

When you work in sales, pressure and stress come with the job. But what do we mean when we say these words? Let’s find out more.

Right now is an even more challenging time to be in the sales profession. Take everything you typically have to deal with – targets, tricky customers etc. – and add that we’re all working from home, protecting ourselves from Coronavirus, negotiating our way through a business landscape that is changing faster than ever. How is the current situation making you feel? Are you thriving on the pressure, or weighed down by stress?

Last week, I attended a workshop hosted by SNP Communications and the Revenue Collective about managing stress and difficult emotions. In this article, I want to go a bit deeper into the things we talked about.

Pressure and stress

The speakers started by defining the difference between pressure and stress. Did you know that these two terms are different? I think we use the words pressure and stress interchangeably, but actually, they’re not the same at all. 

Because they’re different, they need alternative diagnostics. If you’re under pressure, your mind and body will react differently to when it is stressed. So, it’s essential to understand the difference. 

I like the way the psychologist Hendrie Weisinger defines it in his book, How To Perform Under Pressure.

  • Pressure is when you feel that need to perform in a certain way because something essential is at stake.
  • Stress is when there is an excess of demands on you, but not enough time, money or energy to fulfil them.

A footballer taking a penalty in a World Cup shoot-out will feel pressure. The outcome of the game and their team’s progress in the tournament depends on what they are about to do. 

Meanwhile, someone running a company may be sat in a meeting that is overrunning meaning they’ll be late for the next one, with their phone going crazy in their pocket with the number of emails arriving, while worrying about how they’re going to make payroll this month because that important deal fell through – they’re feeling stress.

Do you see the difference?

Pressure in sales

How many of us tell our family and friends who don’t work in sales that they ‘work in a high-pressure environment’ or that ‘sales is really stressful’? What do we actually mean when we say that?

In sales, the feeling of pressure is an energiser that typically moves us to action. Think of the pressure you feel at the end of the quarter when the target is in your sights. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s a feeling that now’s the time to perform, give it your all, do or die. And, if you perform and you hit that target, you get the rewards that come with it.

Stress in sales

On the other hand, stress is a mixture of feelings – physical, emotional and mental. 

You could feel stress in sales when you’re on a run of bad results and you don’t know what to change to get out of it. You know your manager has noticed and is about to take action. Meanwhile, you’re not sleeping because you’re worried about what is going to happen next. 

This spiral of feelings is what contributes to stress.

Why this is important

Knowing the difference between pressure and stress is essential because while pressure can drive you on to better things, stress literally makes you ill. You need to know what you are dealing with at any given moment so that you can take action.

We all have our ways of dealing with stress, but we need to know when to take a break, or do whatever you do. 

On the other hand, knowing how to deal with pressure in short, sharp bursts can make us more effective salespeople. After all, we would all rather be the footballer who steps up and scores that game-winning penalty rather than the one who hides away. Wouldn’t you like to be the one who nails that call at the end of the quarter when the chips are down?


What is resilience?

It’s something we hear a lot about, but what exactly is resilience and how can we get more of it? Let’s find out more.

When the question comes up about the qualities that make up a great salesperson, we always talk about confidence, curiosity, empathy and more. Another trait that always comes up is resilience. 

But, do we know what resilience really is? I’ve got my views. What do you think? 

In this article, we’re going to look deeper at resilience. What is it? How does it help you in sales? How can you improve your levels of resilience? Let’s go.

What resilience means to me

Now, resilience is more important than ever. Currently, the majority of people are furloughed and it’s uncertain what will happen when things bounce back. There is bound to be job cuts and unemployment may go to an all-time high. 

To me, resilience means your ability to deal with hardship. In life, stuff happens, a lot of it we cannot control. What we can control is the way we deal with challenging situations; how we bounce back from adversity. That’s resilience.

Building your resilience

While some of us are born communicators or have unquenchable resources of empathy, I don’t believe you are born with resilience, nor do I think that we have a fixed amount of resilience. 

In 2017, Sheryl Sandberg wrote a book about resilience, in the aftermath of the death of her husband. In this book, Option B, she compares resilience to a muscle. Resilience is something you can build and become better at. She set out five ways you can tone your resilience muscle:

  • Understand that your disappointment will not affect every area of your life, nor will it last forever
  • Be open about why you are upset – kick the elephant out of the room
  • Talk to yourself with compassion – rebuild your confidence one step at a time
  • Count your contributions every day – make a note of things you do well
  • Realise the small things that bring you joy

The first one of those is so important to me – things will change. The core of your resilience is being able to recognise this when going through hardship.

Resilience in sales

While nothing we have to go through in sales can compare to losing a loved one, often sales can make us feel pretty low. 

Sometimes we make mistakes that jeopardise our chance of making a sale. Other times, there are things we cannot control. Salespeople face rejection several times every day (if you’re not, you’re not making enough calls!) and slumps can feel never-ending. What separates the best from the rest is how they deal with it.

If you’re an SDR and a prospect has just said to you, ‘No, not interested’ and hung up, you might feel pretty bad. Resilience is being able to understand that this situation is not permanent and things will change. You should also know that things could be a lot worse!

Control what you can control and let go of what you can’t. Never stop trying to improve your skills, remind yourself of why you’re in that seat and be there for your colleagues when they are going through hardships themselves.

Find out more

If you’re facing hardships right now because of the COVID-19 situation, or for any reason, remember that it will pass. However, your future success depends on how you bounce back. Do whatever it takes to make sure you come back stronger.


Dispelling 5 sales development myths

It’s time to forget what you think you know about sales development! Let’s look together at five common misconceptions and separate the fact from the fiction.

In the almost two years since I started SalesWorks, I have been inside dozens of businesses to help build high-performing SDR teams. I’m often surprised by some of the things sales leaders say to me and the things they believe about sales development. It seems to be that some viewpoints are held up as convention, when in reality, they are not true. This outdated thinking means companies leave money on the table and miss out on recruiting and retaining the best talent. 

In this article, we’re going to look in detail at some of the myths around sales development. Then, I’m going to show you why they’re wrong, with the help of the SalesWorks 4S framework. Let’s go.

Myth 1 – ‘We can train our SDRs on product only. They already know how to prospect.’

This comes under the Skills part of the 4S framework. Giving SDRs training only on the product and not how to sell it is counterproductive. 46% of reps say that companies don’t provide them with the right training to be successful. 

SDR training needs to be programmatic, relevant and interactive. It should give them the skills to identify prospects, qualify, build rapport, pitch and more. It doesn’t matter what experience they have got – that’s in the past. You need to get them following your playbook now.

If you only train reps on the product, when they get on the phones, they will only have conversations about features and functions. You need to get away from that and enable your reps to ask the right questions, focusing on the prospect’s business and goals, NOT your software or service.

Myth 2 – ‘We don’t need an SDR manager. SDRs can report to the VP of Sales or Marketing.’

This is something that often comes up when I talk about the Structure part of the 4S methodology – companies don’t see the point of having someone dedicated to overseeing the SDR team. 

I think this is short-sighted. There are so many reasons why having an SDR manager is a great idea. Firstly, you have someone living and breathing, accountable for the success of the SDR team. If you don’t have your machine firing at the start of the sales process, you close fewer deals at the end. Secondly, VPs of Sales and Marketing are often too busy to manage a team of SDRs and their unique needs. Thirdly, having an SDR manager role in your team gives SDRs who want to progress something they can aim towards. 

By the way, I don’t believe it matters whether SDRs sit in the Sales or Marketing teams. I’ve seen both structures work very well. 

Myth 3 – ‘If you want to motivate an SDR, pay them more.’

We now go to the Strategy component of the 4S framework. The world has changed. Sales reps, especially younger ones (most SDRs are fresh out of university), are not as motivated by money as they used to be. They’re more likely to place value on opportunities for progression or workplace culture.

Find out what your SDRs value and design incentives around them. Stop being lazy with your incentives. Remember, different reps will be motivated by different things, so get to know them personally.

Myth 4 – ‘If you want better results, make more calls.’

Another Strategy myth. Making more calls will have an impact on your bottom line, but there is no direct correlation. If you want to double your revenue, you don’t double your headcount. 

What will increase your revenue isn’t more calls, it’s better calls. Forty calls into targeted accounts that correspond to your Ideal Customer Profile (ICP) will be much more effective than 100 spray and pray calls every time. Plus, with well-trained reps who have spent time researching their prospects, you’re much more likely to see results. 

To me, it’s bizarre how many companies I see still measuring the number of calls their reps make.

Myth 5 – ‘We don’t need a tool for call coaching.’

Finally, it’s the Systems part of the 4S framework. I talk a lot about the value of call coaching software, but it’s breathtaking how many companies don’t see it. They are more happy for their team to listen to calls as a group. It doesn’t matter what you use – Refract, Gong, Chorus or something else, this software is invaluable and you will start to see its effects within a very short period. 

Call coaching software picks up things that you might miss. It allows you to pinpoint areas where reps can improve. Plus, you can drop in clips of successful calls to point them in the right direction.

It’s not just the coaching that’s valuable. It’s also the opportunity for reps to listen to their own calls, see insights on their conversations and play calls back as part of their self-development programme. As I regularly say, the essential attributes of a top-performing rep are that they’re hungry to learn, keen to improve and self-aware.

So, that’s five sales development myths busted! Never be afraid to break away from conventional thinking. You can’t succeed if all you do is follow the crowd.


What top salespeople are doing RIGHT NOW to be successful

You may be stuck in your home. Your figures may not be precisely where you want them. But, there are still things you can do to set yourself apart from the crowd. Let’s find out more.

For most of us in sales, things aren’t great right now. We’re all working from home, which has its advantages, but also separates us from our everyday support network. For many of us, demand for what we sell has taken a nosedive. We also have the anxiety of trying to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe. It’s tempting to just throw your hands up and coast, waiting it out until the crisis blows over.

However, the best salespeople, the ones at the top of their profession, are not doing this. The best people are not wallowing in self-pity; they’re looking for ways to make the best of a bad situation. Not only will their actions put them in a good position when things return to normal, they are helping them to succeed right now. You can be like them too. It’s not too late.

Here are three things top salespeople are doing right now to be successful.

1 – Investing in personal development

Now that you don’t have to commute to work, you have some extra time. The best salespeople are using this time to improve their knowledge and skills. The great thing is, there’s never been a better time to do it – there is so much great new content out there.

Block out a specific time during your work week that you can listen to podcasts, watch webinars or read articles on subjects that will boost your skills. 

For me, I’ve found that companies are pushing out tons of great live content, but I can’t always make them, or they’re in a different time zone. What I do is register for things that stand out. Then, on a Friday afternoon, I carve out a two-hour slot when I know I can focus properly, and listen to my recordings. 

I really look forward to this time because it’s when I invest in expanding my knowledge. I love hearing insights from other sales practitioners. 

2 – Maximising effort

As I said at the start, I know it’s tough right now. Perhaps you’re an inbound rep and your inbound leads have completely vanished. You may be a CSM and the majority of your accounts have asked to pause. 

However, you can always find something to work on that will help move things forward now, as well as position you better when things eventually bounce back. Is there a special project you could work on, such as refining the customer onboarding process, or building a new playbook? Look at it as all the things you used to wish you had time to do!

At a Revenue Collective workshop I attended earlier this week, I learned that we feel rewarded for the effort we put in, not the outcome. It’s called The IKEA Effect – we place a higher value on the things we make ourselves.

3 – Building their personal brand

Finally, the best salespeople are reminding the world how good they are by creating and maintaining their personal brand. 

Think about what you want to be known for on channels like LinkedIn? What do you want your prospects to think about you? How about your managers and colleagues? 

If you do a lot of outreach on LinkedIn, your profile page is prime real estate. Spend some time making sure your profile is as good as it can be, promoting the parts of your personality that you want everyone to see. 

After that, start interacting with more people on the channel. Be aware of what you post and how you comment; make sure it is always in line with the goals for your personal brand.

Find out more

One day, hopefully soon, we will bounce back from this situation. The sales world will have changed, but one thing will remain – you get out what you put in. Make sure you maintain your activity, as well as focus it in the right areas. You will reap the rewards soon.


The benefits of virtual selling

Thanks to the Coronavirus lockdown, we’re all virtual sellers at the moment. But that’s nothing to worry about. Let’s look at why virtual selling is working for so many businesses right now.

Every business is running an inside sales model at the moment, whether they planned to or not. The Coronavirus crisis has made us all home-workers for a few months now, and it looks like we’ll be encouraged to WFH more many months to come. While this has undoubtedly caused problems for companies who relied on face-to-face meetings to sell their products and services, now the dust has settled, many are starting to see benefits. Migrating to virtual selling works.

While virtual selling is new for a large proportion of companies, I’ve always liked the idea of an inside sales approach. SalesWorks has always been about making the SDR an indispensable cog in the sales machine. What’s great is that people are coming round to this way of thinking.

In this article, I want to lay out why virtual selling is an effective way to sell.

Efficient

What is immediately noticeable is that it’s cheaper to run an inside sales team than a field-based salesforce. Some companies will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on travel every year. Now, they don’t have to. As long as they are still winning deals, their cost per sale will have dropped dramatically.

Making sales virtually requires fewer resources by its very nature. Therefore, the barriers to entry are significantly lower for your prospect AND you.

With travel budgets no longer in the mix, companies now have potential budget to buy tools that help salespeople work from home more efficiently. They can also spend that budget on something close to my heart – training!

Scalable

Businesses have also seen during this lockdown period that virtual selling is scalable. Now that salespeople do not have to commute for an hour or more every day, they spend that time having conversations with prospects. 

Now that salespeople have got into the rhythm and routine of working from home, they are much more productive. As fun as office life can be, it can sometimes be distracting. Once the novelty of working in the same place as your TV and fridge wears off, you work smarter! Also, managers and colleagues will take salespeople away from their core activity and get them to do other things. This is less likely to happen when everyone works remotely.

Effective

Finally, virtual selling is turning out to be an effective way to sell. Maybe it’s the times we’re living in at the moment, but I’m building much better relationships with customers at the moment. 

Having your video on when you’re on a call seems to be the new normal now. Before the lockdown, most people would have their video off, but now most are happy to show themselves on screen. This makes it a lot easier to build rapport.

It’s also easier to get hold of people, and easier to get more than one stakeholder into a discussion (because people are stuck at home instead of travelling around). This makes your conversations more productive.

Finally, and I don’t know about you, but I’m also finding people are more open about their situations at the moment. They’re transparent about their budgets and whether there are freezes. When they offer an objection, it’s more likely to be real, and they’ll explain it to you openly.

Find out more

Let’s face it, we’re going to be in this situation for a while to come, so we may as well make the best of it. It’s time to go all-in on inside sales.


Time for the next chapter in the SalesWorks story

I’ve got some exciting news to share with you. Are you ready?

Two years ago, I took the leap to swap stable employment for the life of an entrepreneur, when I started my own business – SalesWorks. 

During my sales career, I had first-hand experiences of several challenges, and I knew they were common to most companies. The odd thing was, I rarely came across anyone who had the vision or the excitement to solve them. So I decided to set up SalesWorks and address those challenges myself. 

SalesWorks is a training and consulting firm purely focused on sales team development for B2B software and software-enabled companies. SalesWorks uses the proprietary 4S Methodology with clients to create a successful and efficient sales operation, helping organizations maximise every element necessary to achieve their sales objectives.

I’m proud of the growth SalesWorks has seen in the last two years – from launching the SalesWorks Academy to working with companies who are leaders in their fields, including:

  • SalesLoft (sales engagement)
  • Cognism (lead generation)
  • Temenos (financial software)
  • Access (ERP software)
  • Garmin (mobile)

But enough about the past. It’s time now to talk about the future.

Our Journey Continues

Today, I’m pleased to announce that SalesWorks is going to be acquired by Blarney Ventures (BV), a Boston-based investment holding company focused on business outsourcing. 

This is incredibly exciting news for three reasons. Firstly, it’s a critical milestone for SalesWorks that will fuel the business to the next stage of growth. I’m looking forward to continuing in my role as CEO, driving the company forward and increasing SalesWorks’ scale. 

Secondly, it will change the game for our customers, who will gain access to a broader range of industry-leading consulting and training services, as well as a deeper bench of highly-experienced sales and marketing professionals to support them. 

Finally, the acquisition strengthens SalesWorks’ operating capability, as we will be able to leverage BV’s team to enhance the delivery of our services and client support. I’m delighted to have such a strong leadership team alongside me; Matt Iovanni as Partner, Stephen Barone as COO, and Jonathan Medeieros as CFO.

This acquisition isn’t just a significant personal milestone for me, but one that mirrors what’s going on with the global economy as more people shift to remote work environments. Not only did SalesWorks complete this acquisition during this economic change; it was all done remotely! 

The Next Steps

Now that the acquisition is complete, we’ve got big plans ahead for SalesWorks and our clients. Soon, we will launch training in several new areas, including:

  • Demand generation
  • Marketing
  • Customer success
  • Account management
  • Sales leadership 

SalesWorks will now be co-located in Boston, Massachusetts, and London, allowing us to service clients across the globe. This will be especially impactful for companies who run sales teams in the U.K. and U.S., wishing to standardise their training and development across their teams.

In conjunction with this combination, BV is creating a new holding company, Blarney Ventures U.K. Headquartered in London, Blarney Ventures U.K. will focus on expanding the overseas footprint of BV’s existing portfolio companies: FullFunnel and Practice Alchemy

I’ve seen the phenomenal growth and success that BV has achieved in the U.S. As a partner in this new venture, I am looking forward to working with Matt and the team to launch their U.S. businesses into the U.K. market, building on their proven platform of people, process, and technology.

Exciting Times Ahead

As you can tell, I’m thrilled to announce this news. It marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another stage of SalesWorks’ evolution as a company. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for SalesWorks next and how we help our clients reach their goals.

If you would like to to discuss your current training program to understand how to evolve or build a programmatic, formal training structure to better enable your team, then get in touch to find out how we can help.


Training your reps for an uncertain future

How do you equip your reps for the new normal when no one knows what the new normal is going to be? It’s a challenge sales leaders are facing right now.

Around seven weeks ago, at the start of the Coronavirus lockdown, I wrote an article on why training your reps is now more critical than ever before. You can read it here

It was just after I had spoken on a webinar and posed the question: ‘How has your training changed since the pandemic began?’ 50% of the salespeople in the room responded that their training had increased, while the other 50% said it had stayed the same.

A different world

Since that webinar (which was only seven weeks ago, but feels like it took place on a different planet!), everything has changed significantly. I’m sure that if I asked that question again, I would get different results. I suspect around 70% would say their training has increased, while only 30% would say it has stayed the same.

But why is that? Last week, I was fortunate enough to talk on a webinar with Ollie Sharpe, the VP of Revenue for EMEA at SalesLoft. The webinar was presented by the Association of Professional Sales (APS). Ollie and I talked about how three components of sales leadership have evolved as we strive to succeed in this uncertain new world. These elements we covered were:

  • Your people
  • Your organisation
  • Your buyers

We also talked about what we have had to do to keep up.

Training requirements

During the webinar, I spoke at length about training. Often, when we think of training, we think of how we upskill our reps, showing them new techniques or refining existing ones. However, leaders and companies need to think about so much more than upskilling if they are going to cope in the post-Coronavirus world. Here are some of the areas we covered.

Working remotely

Many reps, especially new SDRs that have recently come through my training workshops, have never worked from home before. Now, I think most of us can agree that working from home is an entirely different experience from working in an office. Reps need to cope without the support of their managers and colleagues. They must work to different processes in order to remain accountable and absorb feedback. They need to maintain discipline when the temptations of home are all around. 

The questions are – are we training our teams to be productive and efficient while working from home? Have we invested in the right tech to enable them to WFH effectively?

Building relationships

Since the lockdown, the way we as salespeople build relationships has turned on its head. 

We co-create value with our buyers differently. For example, offering a demo isn’t enough anymore; you need to take the perspective you gain from talking to numerous other clients and offer that as value. The way we negotiate has changed too.

Leaders must make sure they train their reps in how to close deals in this new environment.

Buyer behaviour 

According to figures from GlobalWebIndex, 80% of buyers have changed their behaviour as a result of the Coronavirus crisis. As a result, salespeople need to change the way they behave too. 

Some will pivot in terms of structure and strategy, such as:

  • Blending roles from inbound to outbound
  • Asking AEs to do more prospecting
  • Getting SDRs to perform more demos
  • Identifying a different role for Customer Success

Messaging

98% of salespeople have changed their messaging since the crisis started. With salespeople closing business over the phone or via Zoom, we’re all inside sales reps now!

Many companies are also finding that their email response rates have dropped dramatically. Levels are the lowest they have been for the year. So, reps need to adapt to the situation. However, we don’t know if this is just something that’s happening now, or whether it’s the ‘new normal’.

What is the new normal?

The uncertainty is what is holding reps and their companies back right now. We don’t know when, or how, the lockdown will ease. Will be working from home for the rest of the year, or will be back in the office by the end of June? We don’t know how the events of the last two months have affected the way buyers want to buy. 

The best course of action for leaders at the moment is to keep training their reps, but for more eventualities. 


OKRs – The smarter way to set and measure your goals

How do Uber and Google achieve their goals? By setting OKRs. What about you?

Every company and team have their own way of setting and measuring goals. I’ve seen several different frameworks, but the one that inspired me, that many of you will be familiar with, is OKRs.

Google, Spotify, Uber, LinkedIn, Airbnb – just some of the world-beating companies that set ORKs in order to succeed. If you haven’t tried it yet, maybe now is the time?

In this article, we’re going to look at OKRs in more detail, as well as share some tips on how you can take advantage of this innovative framework.

What are OKRs?

Objectives and Key Results, or OKRs for short, is a simple tool to help companies achieve the right goals, by setting specific, measurable targets to hit over a short period. 

John Doerr, who widened the use of OKRs during his time as a venture capitalist, (and wrote about it in his book Measure What Matters, which is brilliant, by the way) describes an OKR like this:

‘I will OBJECTIVE as measured by SET OF KEY RESULTS’

Each objective may have 3-5 key results attached to it, so if your objective was, ‘Increase profit by 10%’, your key results might be:

  • Reduce costs of production by 10% 
  • Win 100 new customers 
  • Implement your new faster delivery system

Doerr recommends that a business sets 3-5 OKRs and that they set them every quarter, which should be the period of measurement.

The essential points with OKRs are:

  • The objective is something that genuinely matters to the business
  • The results are specific and measurable – you either win 100 new customers by the end of the quarter, or you don’t
  • They are simple enough for everyone in the company to understand

Why do OKRs work?

Here at SalesWorks, we’ve just laid down our next set of OKRs. I like them for several reasons:

The simplicity of OKRs shows everyone in the company what they need to focus on for the next quarter. It helps each individual understand the vital role they role in achieving an important goal. OKRs increase collaboration between teams and team members. 

OKRs aren’t directives from above. In fact, they work both ways, ensuring everyone throughout the company is working on solving the same challenges, which are also the right challenges. 

Also, being able to evaluate and adjust your OKRs every quarter means you can adapt to changing business conditions. If you need to pivot or change your focus, just change your OKR.

My favourite quote from Measure What Matters is, ‘Ideas are easy, execution is everything.’

With OKRs, you get the clarity, collaboration and focus that makes for effective execution.

How to set OKRs

Now you know the value of OKRs to your organisation, let’s look at how to set them.

Firstly, make sure your objective is something worth doing. It has to be something that is essential to your company: a problem worth solving. You could set an objective to grow your social media following by 20%, for example, but if that metric doesn’t help your bottom line, what’s the point?

Next, make sure every team in your organisation can contribute to your OKRs. Everyone in your business needs to know the OKRs, understand their part in achieving them and have a hand in their success. If only certain individuals and leaders are committed, OKRs won’t be as effective.

Finally, don’t be afraid to shoot for the moon when you set your OKRs. Set them in a way that even if you don’t hit your specified targets, you have still achieved something beneficial for the business. John Doerr wrote that if a company reaches 100% of its OKRs, they were too easy. Dream bigger!

Once your OKRs are down, it’s time to plan how you are going to hit them. Go for it.


Discipline takes you from ‘Good To Great’

What separates the best from the rest? Discipline across your entire business. Let’s find out more.

Although I’m still busy with online training, public speaking and running SalesWorks, I have found more time during the Coronavirus lockdown to read books. That stack of unread books that shames me every time I walk into the room is slowly getting smaller. It’s not that I don’t enjoy reading – I love it – I just start a book, and then something comes up, and I never get to finish!

Good To Great

Anyway, one of the books I finally got to read is Good To Great by Jim Collins. I loved it. It really resonated me from a sales point of view, but also because it’s precisely what we need to hear at times like this. 

The book argues that to make a good business something extraordinary, the watchword is discipline – specifically, discipline in three areas:

  • Disciplined people
  • Disciplined thought
  • Disciplined action

Disciplined people is all about getting the right people in the right roles in your business, then setting them on a path towards excellence. 

Discipline of thought is about being honest about the facts, without getting distracted or sidetracked.

Finally, disciplined action is about understanding what really matters and what doesn’t. It’s about knowing what is essential to achieve on your journey to greatness, and what is just window dressing.

Going from Good To Great in sales

You may be wondering how this all relates to sales. Of course, it relates to sales in every way!

Having the right people in the right roles is absolutely essential. Sales is a challenging role; it’s target-driven with high pressure from the start. The people in your sales team need to have the right profile to handle it and thrive. As I talked about in last week’s article, it’s about understanding people’s strengths and playing to them. 

Discipline of thought is all about adherence to the process. The best salespeople plan and structure their day. They look after the little things like keeping their CRM tidy. They build and execute cadences – sequences of actions that move the buyer along their journey to becoming a customer.

Disciplined action is all about creating a culture of discipline in the way you work. Understand how you are going to get to your number. Think about how you leverage other teams, such as customer success, pre-sales and marketing, to get you there. 

Why it matters now

As I mentioned, Good To Great resonated even more with me because of how relevant it is at the moment. 

We’re all locked in our homes. We don’t have our managers monitoring us, or our colleagues to keep us on the right track. It’s easy to get sidetracked, by things that aren’t important or even just the sofa! However, we still have jobs to do, and we need to call on all our reserves of discipline.

The best companies are using this time to improve. They’re not just trying to survive, and they’re certainly not taking their feet off the pedals. We will be out of here one day soon. No one wants to get left behind. Find the discipline to need to succeed.


Do you define a career path for your SDRs?

To create and maintain a successful, highly-motivated SDR team, you need to tap into what really motivates a young SDR. Let’s find out more.

You hire a graduate to join your SDR team. They’re young, bright-eyed and eager as anything to get into sales. They go through onboarding and then you let them loose on the phones. But, then what? What do you do to keep that fire burning inside them? How you do you get them to want to build their sales career in your company?

The SDR position is where they learn the ropes, with the average tenure being 15 months. Where do your SDRs go after their 15 months? Do they stay in your company or do they go elsewhere? If they’re leaving, perhaps it’s because you haven’t defined a clear career path for them. 

To build and retain great salespeople in your organisation, it’s essential to be proactive about creating career paths. You need to have a visible place for your high-performing reps to get to. If you don’t, they find it somewhere else. Let’s look at this topic in more detail.

Motivation

As I’ve talked about in previous articles, today’s generation of SDRs are not like they were ten or twenty years ago. Whereas in the past, money was the prime motivating factor, today it’s something else. Today’s SDRs want to build a career. They tend to want something fulfilling and meaningful, where their achievements are recognised. You can’t just fob them off with a pay rise. 

Defining a career path is a simple way to keep them motivated. If they can see, from the very start of their time with your company, that their hard work will be valued, it will keep their inner fire alight. Showing them that there is a route they can follow, through different job roles with more responsibility, until they can grab a management role, is effective in this way.

Retention and attraction

You need to show your SDRs that they don’t have to move on to move up. When they feel their time as an SDR is over and they have the skills to take on a new role, you don’t want them to take their knowledge and skills to a competitor. Keep them with you.

It’s essential not just to retain talent but to ATTRACT talent too. A company-wide career pathing initiative could be something you can talk about in your job advertisements and with the candidates you interview. For today’s generation of young salespeople, it will make a difference.

When you attract and retain talent in this way, you’re left with a happy and productive sales team. 

Contrasting motivations

When building career paths, it’s vital to recognise that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Every person in your team is different and motivated by different factors. That means they need their own career path. 

Get to know them. Find out what they want from their time at your company. What parts of the SDR role do they excel in? Where are their skills?

The career path doesn’t have to be the standard Inbound SDR to Outbound SDR to AE route. Someone better at building relationships may be better suited to customer success or account management.

How to do it

Of course, you can’t just say to an SDR, ‘After 15 months, you get to be an AE.’ You need to make sure they have the right skills and have built up a solid track record of high performance. 

Set small, digestible goals for your teams to achieve, not just one big milestone. Don’t allow them to take shortcuts, always set realistic time expectations.


Is ‘Hope you’re well’ really enough anymore?

Empathy isn’t just a buzzword. It can be your key to sales success at this challenging time. Let’s find out more.

As I write this, we’re just starting the fifth week of the Coronavirus lockdown. Most of us are working from home, although some of us may be furloughed under the government’s Job Retention Scheme until the crisis is over. 

For someone who typically runs training sessions and speaks at industry events, I’ve had to completely change my approach to what I do. I’ve been running workshops online and talking at virtual events, including several different sessions with SDRs. They’re finding they have to adapt the way they work too. However, many have found it a challenge. I’ve heard all kinds of things, from ‘Nobody picks up their phone anyway’ to ‘They get loads of email’. 

So, how can SDRs cut through the noise and make a genuine connection during this unique period in our lives?

Everyone is different

The thing is, every individual is different. Right now, the lockdown is highlighting these differences and bringing them out into the open. We’re all acting differently right now, so generic statements like those above simply do not apply.

As an SDR calling up a prospect during the Coronavirus lockdown, your goal should not be to sell. Your goal should be to empathise, relate on a human level, show you are there and able to help. 

What is empathy?

Empathy seems to be the buzzword with all the influencers at the moment, but what does it actually mean? How does it relate to what we do in sales? For me, it’s about going beyond the standard conventions and platitudes.

When you send an email, do you start it with ‘I hope you’re doing well’ or something like that? That’s nice and polite, sure. In normal circumstances, it’s probably what you’d do. But, is it genuine empathy? I don’t think so.

Empathy is the ability to share and understand someone else’s feelings. It’s about building a connection beyond an SDR trying to book a meeting with a prospect.

How to apply empathy

Here’s how an SDR can show empathy and build a connection on a call.

Firstly, before you make the call, think about what could be going on in your prospect’s life right now. They could have been sick with the virus, or perhaps one of their loved ones is suffering. They could be worried about their job, or the financial impact of being furloughed. They may be home-schooling an 8-year-old and a 5-year-old and are on the verge of losing their sanity! 

Think about the job your prospect does also. If you sell to HR, consider how many tough conversations they may have had about redundancies and furloughing, on top of the worry about their own jobs. 

You can’t do much to help them in this situation, but you can acknowledge it. Open your call by talking about the uncertainty around what’s going on. Share your experiences about how it’s different. It doesn’t hurt to show a bit of vulnerability. All of this will put your prospect at their ease and get them to open up.

Empathy works.

Be yourself

My biggest tip around empathy though is a simple one – be genuine. 

You’re a nice person, right? You care about other people and the experiences they’re going through. When you speak to someone, whether it’s a total stranger or someone you’ve talked to many times before, show that you care.

Maybe it’ll help you sell. Maybe it won’t. But, it could make their day. It could provide them with something truly memorable.

Then, when this crisis is over, maybe it will help you make better connections in the future. After all, we all have our challenges to face, even when we’re not locked down at home. We’re all different and we’re all going through something. Try not to forget that.


Learning in the flow of work

Why do so many companies train their SDRs to know things they’ll never need on the frontline? Training can’t be effective if it doesn’t prepare you for work. Let’s find out more.

As I write this, we’re entering Week 4 of the Coronavirus lockdown. While the priority has to be staying safe and looking after ourselves and our loved ones, there is also the question of what we’re doing with this extra time. 

Many salespeople have been furloughed and are looking to spend this time developing their skills, while managers are investing more time in coaching and training for their teams. That’s good news, but it has to be the right sort of training. Making sure training fits the work your people are going to do has always been the key to success. If you don’t do that, you’re not making the most of the investment. 

At my old company, Finastra, I totally redesigned the way the company trained its SDRs. It was this experience that led me to start SalesWorks, where I have developed several courses for SDRs and other salespeople. I call the principle behind this, ‘learning in the flow of work’, and that’s what I want to talk about in this article.

The wrong approach

Many businesses, even large, well-resourced ones, run onboarding programmes that fail to prepare you for the job you’re going to do. As a result, they don’t reap the rewards of their investment. They waste time talking about the history of the company, with far too much emphasis on their products from a vanity point of view, rather than how they solve problems for their customers. 

Often, training is not bespoke enough. Sometimes it assumes you know too much, other times not enough. At my onboarding at Finastra, I was sat next to a guy with 25 years of banking experience, while the training was ‘here’s all of our software solutions and here’s our sales process.’ How would that help me as an SDR, when I’m trying to build a connection on a call with a prospect?

Designing effective training

When designing onboarding for SDRs, there is an approach to take in order to learn in the flow of work. Think about what your SDRs be doing after their onboarding, every day? What knowledge and skills will they need to be able to perform at the highest level? Think about that, then work backwards. 

As I climbed the ladder at Finastra, I was given the opportunity to redesign the sales training and onboarding. I inherited something that was not preparing people for life on the frontline of sales. I made it my mission to change it for the better.

As I delved deeper into what was there, it seemed that the entire onboarding process was knowledge building. There was virtually nothing that allowed reps to put what they learn, the tactics, techniques and strategies, into practice. So, I was ruthless. I redesigned the entire course around two key pillars – industry knowledge and practical experience. 

Industry knowledge

Industry knowledge is essential for SDRs. When you call up a prospect, you want to have a conversation about their business, not just recite a pitch. You can’t do that with any credibility if you don’t have industry knowledge.

At Finastra, we sold our solutions to banks, but I found that so many new starters couldn’t articulate what a bank actually was and how they worked. So, I designed a training module that went back to basics – ‘What is a bank? Let’s talk about a bank. How does a bank work?’ It may sound elementary, but it really helped our SDRs have business conversations with their prospects.

Practical experience

The other pillar is practical experience, making sure trainees can perform the tasks they will actually have to do when they leave onboarding. Until this point, it’s all theory, notes on a whiteboard. Practical experience brings it to life.

At Finastra, having trained the new starters up on the product and the sales process, we put it all into action in a safe environment. We would talk about elevator pitches; we would do roleplays, pretending to be reps and decision-makers. After this process, our trainee SDRs were primed and ready to go. They had already practised what they were going to go and do!

Find out more

If you would like to talk more about learning in the flow of work and SDR-specific sales training, there’s never been a better time.


How to be a Purple Cow

SDRs can stand out from the crowd by creating unique, memorable experiences for their customers. The only question is: how will you do it?

Last week I had the pleasure of being one of the panellists on the SDRs Of London call. We had an unbelievable 170 SDRs sharing stories, insights and questions. The energy and input were amazing. It was great to see so many people keeping their spirits high and their curiosity functioning even through these difficult times. 

A stand-out moment

One of the highlights for me, which was so relevant to this current situation, was a story shared by Charlotte Neal from Reward Gateway. 

Charlotte talked about what you can do to build trust and credibility. What she was saying reminded me of a book I read a while ago, Purple Cow by Seth Godin.

What’s a purple cow?

The main argument of the book is that if you saw a purple cow, you’d remember it, right?

That’s because you have never seen one before. Plus, it’s pretty remarkable. After you’d seen the purple cow, a simple black and white cow isn’t really going to cut it for you.

Translate this principle to business and you soon see that the traditional ways of marketing and selling just aren’t enough anymore. To achieve success, you have to separate yourself from the herd. It’s tough, but it can be done. Every business has the ability to do great things and stand apart.

How does it work for SDRs?

As an SDR, you might think you’re too low down on the ladder, or too early in the sales process to be a purple cow. Wrong. We are all able to do great things and be remarkable.

During this time, when we are all working from home, we are struggling to be heard over all the noise.

What are you going to do to set yourself apart?

Ask yourself what stands out about you and what you do. What do you find remarkable? What is remarkable about you?

Create something memorable

Your purple cow is unique. Only you can decide what it is going to be. However, it’s fair to say that the most effective way to be remarkable in sales is to create a memorable customer experience. 

At the last Sales Confidence event for SDRs, Tom Boston from SalesLoft talked about how he records a video message for every prospect he comes into contact with, thoroughly researched so it’s super-personal. It helps the prospect puts a face to a name, while they’re always impressed by the personal touch. This is a great example of a purple cow.

What about your prospects and customers? What do they want? How can you give it to them? For example:

  • Make sure you always communicate with them on the medium that they prefer
  • Talk to their pain points – make it about them, not you
  • Guide them through the sales and onboarding process – make it easy for them

When you know your customers, working out how to stand out suddenly becomes a lot easier.

Everyone has the ability to be a purple cow. You just have to find it within yourself.


Why training your reps is more important now than ever before

Building pipeline during this unprecedented time requires different skills from SDRs, compared to how it was before. That’s why it’s essential that sales leaders invest in formal training. Let’s find out more.

At time of writing, the UK is a week into the Coronavirus lockdown. Schools are shut, we can’t leave our homes unless it’s for essentials or exercise, and we don’t know when it will end. On top of this, most of us are still working. SDRs find themselves taken away from their vibrant office atmosphere, confined to making calls from their kitchen table.

If you’re an SDR and your struggling, it’s understandable. However, if you’re a sales leader, it’s essential to recognise that building pipeline from home demands a different skillset. You can’t just tell them to get on with it and expect things to be the same. You’ll get left behind.

Last week, I took part in a webinar with Matt Iovanni from FullFunnel about how to succeed as a home-based SDR. You can watch it here. We talked a lot about demand generation tactics that reps and leaders can implement now, but what I really wanted to concentrate on is training your teams.

Formality

We put out a poll on whether companies have a formal training programme. By formal training, I mean something that is documented and followed up on, not just part of your Monday morning sales team meeting.  We also asked whether they have increased or decreased training during this time, or kept it the same.

We found that while 50% had increased training, the other 50% had kept it the same. 

Formal training is so important for three reasons:

  • It keeps teams motivated, engaged, productive and positive
  • It gives your teams the tools to shift their perspective, lead with empathy and provide value – essential in the current environment
  • You can upskill your SDRs on prospecting – essential with the increased focus on outbound

How can you retarget your training so it gives your reps the skills they need during this challenging period? There are three pillars you should consider.

1 – Investment

We still want our reps to be productive from home, even though we recognise that we need to change our approach. Maximise the time that you have now to refine and build on skill sets through virtual workshops and learning. 

Build an ongoing coaching and training plan based on these specific areas, taking into account the reality of the situation we face today, not how they prospected six weeks ago:

  • If you need to, pivot your teams from inbound to outbound
  • Leverage gamification – it will help you drive CRM usage. Keep up with incentives
  • Invest in medium-term growth – look at sharpening skills at the top of the funnel

2 – Behaviour

According to GlobalWebIndex research, 80% of buyers have changed their behaviour as a result of the current crisis. The way we build relationships, co-create value and negotiate has changed too. Salespeople need to adapt their behaviour. The skills you were using six weeks ago might not work anymore.

Most companies are not reporting a reduction in productivity, but they are monitoring it closely. When we recover from this unprecedented period, we want to be in a position where we are able to proactively address the pent up demand. 

Formal training is what will help you succeed, now and then.

3 – Messaging

Some companies are scaling back their communication and advertising in the fear that it will fall on deaf ears, but in my opinion, it’s time to scale up. Soon, we’re going to get fatigued with all the virus stories, so work on your personas, branding, positioning and messaging. Be known for quality, empathy and volume. 

From a training point of view, now is the time to employ coaching technology. Listen to real calls. Look at the traits of the top performers and identify common development areas.

Find out more

We hope that the current Coronavirus crisis will be solved soon and that we can return to something approaching normality. But until then, we must continue to get our message out there and fill those pipelines. 


Why sales scripts don’t work

It’s time for sales teams to put away their scripts and get into the real world. Let’s find out more.

If you’re an SDR, do you work to a sales script? Or perhaps you used to be an SDR; did you use a script then? At SalesWorks, we train a lot of SDRs, some brand new to sales and their roles, some not. However, something we hear consistently is the word ‘script’. Personally, I’m not a fan. I think there are much better ways for salespeople to build a connection with their prospect than reciting a script, no matter how tried-and-tested it is. 

In this article, I want to explain why.

Scripts don’t grab attention

Studies show that when an SDR gets on a call with a prospect, they’ve got 7 seconds to make a first impression. That’s barely long enough to say your name! If you begin your call with a scripted line, you waste this time, which you later have to try and claw back. 

You may think that when you recite your script, you do it with enthusiasm and verve. But trust me, the prospect always knows. They can tell that you’ve said these lines 50 times today already. 

What’s important here is a pattern interrupt, something they’re not expecting you to say. Catch their attention, build intrigue and get them to look up from the email they’ve just opened and concentrate on you. You can’t do that reading from a script.

Scripts aren’t flexible

The beauty of selling over the phone, and the reason why it can be so effective, is that it’s a conversation, a two-way street. Before you start, you don’t always have an idea of where it’s going to go. However, great salespeople direct the conversation while adapting to the needs of the prospect. When you stick to a script, it’s more like a monologue, so you miss out on many of the opportunities that phone calls can bring.

Our prospects have objections ready to roll off their tongues, so it’s essential that we have flexibility with what we want to say.

Scripts aren’t personal

By their very nature, scripts are designed to be effective no matter who you’re speaking to. They’re tried and tested, honed to perfection, with every word designed for maximum impact. 

But, they’re not personal. They don’t address what’s unique about your prospect, their needs, hopes and fears. 

Personalisation is critical. It can’t be built into a script. If you’re using one, you miss the opportunity to show your prospect you know about them, their business and the value you can provide for them.

Scripts are about what you say, not what you hear

If you try reading something out loud, it puts pressure on you to read it perfectly. Because you’re concentrating on what you say, your ability to listen is limited.

Active listening is one of the most important traits in sales. In a conversation, your prospect will give signals about their pain points, or their buying process, or what they think about your product, or just about anything else. You just have to tune in, get the information and use it.

If you’re not focusing on the interaction between you and the prospect, you forego the opportunity to hear what they are saying.

A better way

I get that sales scripts can be effective, particularly for salespeople at the start of their career. However, I believe you lose more than you gain when you use a script. 

A better way to do things is to take time to train and coach your salespeople, on an ongoing basis, so they don’t actually need a script. You can give them a playbook to work with. Preparing words and phrases is a great idea, especially while reps are ramping up. But, give them the flexibility and confidence to say what they believe is the right thing at the right time.

Leaders should schedule regular call coaching sessions with their reps. They should record calls (good and bad) to go through with the individual reps and the rest of the team. They should initiate roleplays and get team members to help each other. It’s what I see the best teams doing. If you’re not doing it, you’re missing out.


Why do sales reps lack confidence?

Confidence is such a fragile thing, but it’s one of the keys to success in sales. Why is our confidence so hard to manage? Let’s try to find out.

As a salesperson, your confidence is often one of those things that takes a while to build, but can disappear in an instant. But, when you’re feeling confident, you always know the right words to say; it feels like the world is at your feet. Why can’t we feel like that all the time?

At SalesWorks, we’re fully into the swing of delivering workshops at the moment. One of the examples of feedback we hear consistently is that sales reps lack confidence. So, let’s look deeper at confidence, what it is and why it’s so delicate.

What is confidence?

Confidence is such a broad term, but it’s something we hear over and over again. In sales, confidence is feeling sure of yourself and your skills. It’s the ability to handle the pressure of sales with a calm demeanour. It’s being able to complete the myriad of tasks that lead to the deal. 

It’s essential for a salesperson to display confidence. If you can’t be confident when selling to a prospect, they will not feel confident in you or the product you sell, and they will not buy. 

Confidence cannot be learned like a set of rules. It’s not a static measure either. Some days, you feel more comfortable and confident than others. Also, it’s not something you’re born with, not in my view, anyway. Even the best public speakers take time to master their craft, it’s not all inherent.

Factors that affect your confidence

When I ask people what causes their confidence to waver, I get a wide range of answers, including:

  • Lack of preparation 
  • The unknown – sometimes a response from a prospect that you haven’t heard before can throw you off course
  • Dealing with topics you know little about
  • Internal pressure – if you don’t get this sale, you might not make your target for the month

When you’re low on confidence, it can manifest itself in many ways. For example, it can turn you into a perfectionist, so you feel like you can’t make that call until you know absolutely everything about your prospect. Or, it gives rise to imposter syndrome, where you feel that you’re not good enough to be in the position you’re in, that it’s only a matter of time before you’re found out.

Whatever it is, you can’t do your best work when you feel this way.

What happens?

Being low on confidence is not just a mood; it’s a chemical reaction in your body. When you’re not confident and you’re thrust into a situation you don’t want to be in, your body releases adrenaline and engages the reptilian part of your brain. This part of the brain gives you only two options, fight or flight. It also releases cortisol. As we react to the situation, this combination of adrenaline and cortisol affects how we appear and how we come across.

For example, for SDRs, it can make you come across poorly on the phone, using filler words (like, uh…) or talking so fast it sounds like you’re out of breath.

There are many things you can try when attempting to calm your nerves, from breathing exercises to visualisation and more. Find what works for you. However, you may find the best way to get rid of nerves is to just ‘do the work’. The more you do something, the better you get and the easier it is to do it again.

Stay tuned

Now you know all about confidence and why it matters, in next week’s article, we’re going to look at how to build confidence. Don’t miss it.


Why we need more cognitive diversity in sales teams

When you fill your sales team with the same kinds of people, you’ll only ever get the same results. Here’s why you need to take a broader outlook when it comes to hiring.

We talk a lot about ‘diversity’ in hiring at the moment. And rightly so. Hiring people from different genders, ethnicities and social backgrounds is the right thing to do. However, there’s a particular area of diversity which is essential when you’re building a high-performance sales team: cognitive diversity.

In this article, I want to look deeper at cognitive diversity and why it is a must when you’re hiring and running your team. Let’s find out more.

What is cognitive diversity?

I’m talking about the inclusion of people who think in different ways, have different viewpoints and diverse skill sets. This can be related to your background; someone who grew up on a council estate may have a different outlook on life to someone who grew up in an isolated country village, for example. But, really it’s about the way our brains are wired and the way we deal with challenges and opportunities.

Why we need cognitive diversity

As a hiring manager, it’s really easy to hire either someone like yourself, or a carbon copy of your top sales performer. When you hire someone like yourself, you know you are going to get on well with them. You know you are going to feel comfortable working with them, as they’re just like you. When you hire a sales team that all resemble your top performer, you know you will get good results (up to a point), because their skillsets will be the same. 

But, the easy way isn’t always the best way. Building a team of lookalikes leads to a lack of innovation. You end up doing the same things the same way all the time. This may be fine when things are going well, but when challenges arise, you need that little bit extra.

How to get cognitive diversity right

The first way to achieve cognitive diversity in your sales team is to be more conscious of who you hire. Cast your net wider as to who you interview and who you hire. I’m sure you would never turn someone down based on their gender or race, but what about their exam results or whether or not they went to university? Exam results reward certain ways of thinking, but not all. You could be missing out on some useful skills.

Design interview questions to get a handle on how people think, not just what they know. Ask them what they would do in certain situations. Or, get more creative. Ask them what superpowers they would like to have!

Once you’ve assembled your cognitively diverse sales team, use it. Let your team do things and think things through in their own special way. Play to their strengths. Getting different inputs from different people on the way they do things will naturally lead to more creative approaches and outcomes. 

Diversity in SDR teams

When it comes to SDR teams, having a diverse group of thinkers can be invaluable. There are so many opportunities to take chances, but you need people who will see them. 

For example, direct mail campaigns are emerging as an effective way to get prospects’ attention: the more creative, the better. Some people will be more comfortable than others at designing these eye-catching stunts. You’ll also have SDRs who are better at coming up with funny ideas for videos, or ones who are better at swiping objections away.

But where having diversity of thought in your team really becomes essential is when problems arise. When you have cognitive diversity, people will see the same challenge in different ways, which means you’ll have more ideas on the solution. You can evaluate all their approaches on their strengths and weaknesses.

So, stop hiring the same old types of people. Instead, cast your net wider. The results will soon speak for themselves.


Diversity, loyalty and starting with ‘WHY’

You’ve probably heard about the power of starting with ‘why’, but what does it mean in practice? Let’s find out.

At the SalesWorks academy for SDRs, I give everyone who comes along a list of book recommendations. Right near the top of it is one of my favourite business books: Simon Sinek’s ‘Start with why’. I wish I’d read it sooner than I did, so it’s good to put people just starting out in their careers in touch with it.

Maybe you’ve read it? Maybe you’ve seen Simon Sinek’s TED talk on YouTube? (current view count: 11,750,529) It’s a book that has made a huge impact on the art and science of leadership.

In this article, I want to tell you what I like about it, as well as what I think it means in practice.

Why?

We sometimes forget about the ‘why’ behind things, focusing more on the ‘how’ and the ‘what’. However, as I have built SalesWorks, the ‘why’ has been incredibly important to me. Whenever I have to make a decision, especially when it comes to building out a new service or product offering, I make sure I ask myself why. Why am I doing what I’m doing?

In the book, Simon uses Apple as an example of a company that puts the ‘why’ at the centre of what it does. Apple has been innovating for the last 40 years, but in a way, it doesn’t matter what it makes, whether it’s a Mac, an iPod or an iPhone X, what matter is the ‘why’. For Apple, the ‘why’ is ‘think different’. It’s this philosophy that makes people love Apple products (in extreme cases, camping out at night to get their hands on them). They identify with the ‘why’, not the ‘what’ or ‘how’.

Diversity

At its core, ‘Start with why’ is a book about leadership. One of the things Simon talks about, which I think is so important in leadership, is that success isn’t the ability to do everything. It’s not about ability or capacity. It’s about diversity. 

I don’t mean diversity as gender or race in this case. I mean diversity of thought and diversity of strengths. When we admit to ourselves and others that we can’t do something, it’s amazing how you see people come to help.

It’s why the best leaders don’t surround themselves with like-minded people from the same kinds of background, even if they know they’ll get along and work well together. They make a conscious effort to hire people who think and do differently.

Loyalty

Another thing that stood out to me in the book and the TED talk is how Simon defines loyalty. For him, repeat business is one thing; loyalty is another. Repeat business is a transaction; loyalty is a feeling. It’s emotional.

There’s a part of this that’s really relevant to me at the moment. I’m hiring for people at SalesWorks and I really want to show the people that come to work with me that I put them first, that I’m loyal to them.

We hear so much about companies who ‘put their customers first’. I think this sends a message to your employees who work relentlessly that they are only second place. That’s not what I want to do at all.

What do you think?

My view is that you should treat your team like they’re your number one priority. After all, they’re the reason you have customers. When you treat your employees right, they’ll look after your customers as second nature. That’s my ‘why’.

Now, I want to know what you think. If you’ve read ‘Start with why’ or watched Simon Sinek’s TED talk, what stands out for you?


Lead by example to shape your sales culture

We hear a lot about the importance of sales culture, but how can leaders get it right without falling into the same old traps?

Culture is a buzzword we hear all the time. Every company thinks it has a fantastic sales culture. When they try to attract top talent to their organisations, it’s one of the things they trumpet. And, while some companies do indeed have brilliant sales cultures, where everyone works and achieves together, then celebrates together, many do not. 

So, how can you make sure when you tell your peers about the brilliant sales culture at your company, you actually mean it. Let’s find out.

What is sales culture, really?

Sales culture is the personality of a sales team. It affects everything. Your sales culture will affect the way you treat customers, the way the team interacts and the number of deals you close. A positive, productive culture allows you to attract the A-players that will drive your business forward. It will help you keep the people that got you there. 

Every team has a unique culture and every leader has the power to shape and influence it.

What is it not?

Culture is not something you can dictate. As a leader, you can set the direction for culture, but much of it will be determined by the profiles and behaviours of your individual team members. 

Culture is not something you can just set and forget. It has to be an ongoing process, something you have to maintain and improve. This is one of the traps many leaders fall into. As our friend James Ski from Sales Confidence says, ‘Culture isn’t a ping pong table and a beer tap.’ You can’t just get your team a present and hope for the best.

So if sales culture isn’t perks, what is it?

It’s what you do, not what you are

For me, culture is the values and behaviour that a team demonstrates. As the leader, your job is to direct (not dictate) the culture. You will devise the values and behaviours you want to see. You will communicate them to the team and most importantly, you will live them. It’s all about leading by example: leading with integrity.

What’s your plan?

So, how are you going to bring that all-important positive sales culture into your team.

Make a plan to direct the culture around these five key areas:

  • Vision – share your vision for the company with your team, make sure they know where you are going and buy into it
  • Coaching – help your team discover the way to live their culture for themselves
  • Hiring – when bringing new people into the team, hire for culture fit as well as skills
  • Communication – make communication your number one priority, even if it sometimes feels like you’re over-communicating
  • Team spirit – get the team pulling together for each other. A mix of healthy competition and celebrating success is the best path

But most importantly, set an example. If you don’t live your culture, you can’t expect others to. I recently read an article that said as a sales leader, you should ask yourself whether you’re consciously and constantly leading by example. I think it’s easy to do one or the other, but we find it harder to do both.

As your culture develops from the foundations you have laid, you will reap the rewards: performance, retention, atmosphere and more.


How to run an effective 1-1

Your weekly 1-1s with your sales team should be an opportunity to build success, not a chore. Let’s find out how you can make the most of this time with your team.

Sales leaders are busy people. I know from first-hand experience. Your day is packed full of meetings. There is a myriad of people you have to keep happy. It’s tough. However, in my view, there is one type of meeting that is more important than any other. It’s your weekly 1-1s with your sales team.

I see so many leaders make all kinds of mistakes when it comes to 1-1s. I see them move them around on their schedule. I hear about them failing to prepare, just turning up and hoping for something to happen. I also hear about leaders who regard the 1-1 as something for their benefit, rather than the benefit of their direct reports.

Three areas of focus

The 1-1 should be an opportunity for both sides to communicate their goals, share best practices and develop their skills. 

So, next time you’re preparing for a 1-1 with a direct report (you do prepare, don’t you?), focus on these three areas. Try to achieve these three things from your 1-1 and you will leave the meeting happier; so will your team member.

Bear in mind, however, this is where leaders need to demonstrate amazing listening skills and immense patience. No one said it would be easy!

1 – Reinforce good behaviour

A critical part of making the 1-1 positive and productive is to reinforce your direct report’s good behaviour. It makes your team member feel valued. Plus, if you do need to tackle some obstacles later in the meeting, it becomes a lot easier. 

Too many managers want to focus on what’s not working immediately. When you start in this way, you run the risk of your reports losing confidence quickly.

Start with some questions that build their confidence and get them to open up about times when they did well. Something like:

  • What’s the best conversation you had this week?
  • Tell me one thing you’re looking forward to in the coming week?

Ask questions that get them to dig deep into their personal experiences and expand. Make them feel good about themselves.

2 – Address challenges

I’ve said ‘address challenges’, but really it should be ‘address areas of opportunity’. Your 1-1s aren’t times to reprimand your team members. It’s all about working together to find areas where you can improve.

This is the hardest part of the 1-1, but it’s part of the process of development. Your report will come to see it as a valuable part of their growth as a salesperson.

I like to ask questions such as:

  • What’s the biggest objection you faced this week?
  • What are the most time-consuming things you do each week?
  • What are we not doing that we should be?

When you address challenges in this way, you can help your report discover more effective ways to work.

3 – Game plan

Next, it’s time to plan for the week ahead. If you have any ideas you want to communicate, here is where you would do it. 

But, it is also the time where you want to get your report to open up about how they see the next week going. Do they have any concerns they need help with? Is there anything outside of the day-to-day workflow that needs addressing?

Ask questions that get them to look forward, including:

  • What are your priorities for the week?
  • What do you want to learn this week?
  • If you are going to better than the week before, what would it take?

Preparation is essential

1-1s needn’t be a chore, for you or the team member you meet. They shouldn’t be something you dread, or a box-ticking exercise. They are a valuable part of your week.

If you put a bit of thought into your 1-1s, considering what you want to get out of them, how you will structure them and the questions you will ask, you will soon see the rewards.

If something in your 1-1s doesn’t work, make changes until it does.


Common objections and what they really mean

Handling objections is part and parcel of life as a salesperson. But do we take enough time to understand what your prospects are really saying to us?

Right now at SalesWorks, we’re busy with lots of SDR training for our clients. One of the modules deals with objection handling. We spend a good chunk of time talking about objections, as it’s something we have to deal with every day as a salesperson. We talk about the most common objections that we’ve researched, as well as unpacking the specific objections the SDRs in the room face. 

Whenever we do this with our SDRs, we always discover something incredible. When you know this secret, it becomes a lot easier to handle objections. Let’s find out more.

Popular objections

What are the objections you hear most often? For us, it’s:

  • ‘It’s not the right time.’
  • ‘I don’t have the budget.’
  • ‘I’m just running into a meeting’.
  • ‘Can you send me an email?’

These are the classic brush-offs. Prospects can rattle off one of these and the salesperson will leave them alone as there’s no real way to come back from them, right? 

Actually, this isn’t the case at all. It’s all down to one reason.

What these objections really mean

Here’s the thing they don’t want you to know. 95% of objections we hear are not real. They’re just making something up to get salespeople to leave them alone so they can get on with their day. 

We use these objections ourselves when someone cold calls us, or Vodafone calls us up about upgrading our phone. If we’re not in the mood for a sales call, we’re not going to have one.

That’s why when we try to counter those common objections with something like, ‘When is a better time to call?’ it doesn’t work. The prospect will just carry on stringing you along.

The devil is in the detail

When you get a rejection like one of the ones above, think about how much your prospect is actually saying. 

If they say, ‘Not right now’ and that’s it, you know it probably isn’t true. This means you have to try again with a different approach.

If they give you some more specific feedback, like, ‘It’s not the right time. We’re going to be re-evaluating our tech stack at the start of the next quarter. We’ll be investigating tools for call recording then…’ there’s probably going to be some truth to that. It’s quite an elaborate fib otherwise!

Always be listening

So, how can you get your prospect to be more truthful about their objections?

We all have methods to counter common objections. We all know what we are supposed to say. However, I think reps shouldn’t be so quick to come back with their rehearsed objection handling techniques. 

Don’t be in a rush to counter. Instead try to get your prospect to open up about what’s really underneath their objection. Listen to what they have to say and nudge them towards the truth, rather than the standard brush-off. You can do this by building rapport.

Finally, be mindful of your ego during these kinds of conversations. We all have three ego states:

  • Parent – Behaviours copied from our parents or parental figures
  • Adult – Behaviours in response to the here and now
  • Child – Behaviours replaying our childhood

When handling objections, avoid the child state. This makes the prospect the parent, which is not what we want. Ideally, you want to be answering from the adult ego state.

Objections are opportunities

The thing is about objections, when they’re real and not just a means of getting us to go away, is that they’re valuable feedback. They show the prospect takes you seriously and is putting thought into how they deal with you. They’re opportunities to address your prospects’ concerns and build trust. 

Encourage genuine objections. You need them.


My leadership story

I was only 22 when I took on my first leadership role. But it set me off on a path that I’m still following today. 

It may only be February, but this year has already taken some exciting turns. Last week, I was honoured to take part in the Women In Tech event, organised by Angie Vaux. The theme of the event was ‘Progressing Into Leadership’ and I was on the panel. It was a pleasure to talk to the audience about my journey into leadership and share some tips on how others can make the leap as well. 

I thought I’d write this article to share my story, in case you couldn’t be there. 

My journey to leadership

My first job out of university was as an SDR, working for a fintech company. I’ve written about my early experiences as an SDR quite a few times in my articles, but as a refresher, it was basically just me and a phone. We didn’t have all the lead generation software and tech for outreach that SDRs get to enjoy today. (I know, I sound really old now!)

About 18 months in and I was performing well in my role. I was exceeding my targets. My managers were happy and I was happy too. Then it all changed.

The company offered me a promotion to AE level. In New York! 

I was going to go out to NYC, relocate and sell a product that had never been sold in the market before. It was such an exciting prospect. Imagine that. 22 and living in New York!

Becoming a leader

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Account Exec isn’t a leadership role. 

That’s right. I didn’t take the AE role. I didn’t go out to New York either.

Instead, I took a different role the company offered to me. It wasn’t as ‘glamorous’ as living the dream in New York. It was in London, being a team lead for a team in Europe and The Americas.

It didn’t matter that the team I was leading didn’t really exist. It was a leadership role, something I’d always wanted.

That decision, which may have seemed odd to many people, actually shaped my career. I went into management and built a team from zero to fourteen people in London and New York.

I stayed at the company for another five years after taking that decision, moving into a number of other leadership roles. Then, taking that leadership experience, I founded my own company, SalesWorks.

Overcoming the challenges

Of course, it wasn’t a totally smooth journey. Management isn’t easy and it isn’t for everyone. I’ve talked before about Rockstars and Superstars; how you need to build a team of consistent performers you can rely on, as well as big personalities that smash their targets but need a lot of managing. This was something it took me a while to get to grips with, especially as someone still young in my career.

There was also a question of credibility. How can someone in their early 20s be an effective leader? I have to say; this was never a problem for me. My view is that if you can do the job and have enough experience, people will take you seriously. 

Mentors and sponsors

If you want to move into leadership at your company, no matter what age you are, I have one tip for you. Find a mentor and a sponsor.

Do you know the difference? 

Mentors help their mentees develop by advising them, helping them build confidence and experience. Mentors are a sounding board, someone they can trust to steer them in the right direction. It helps if mentors work in the same industry as their mentee, but they don’t have to work at the same company.

Sponsors will work at the same company as their young proteges. They speak up for their charges in the organisation, helping them find success and earn promotions. They’ll use their connections and influence in the company to advance their proteges. They have a personal stake in their younger colleague’s success.

When I spoke at the Women In Tech event, I asked the audience how many people had a mentor. Pretty much every hand went up. But when I asked who had a sponsor, only a couple of hands out of 100 went up. So many people are missing an opportunity. How about you?

If you want to move into leadership and are willing to put in the work to get there, you can do it. Mentors and sponsors will help you get there faster, however. They will also help you make a success of it when you get there.


Why direct mail is back!

We used to call it junk mail, but when used correctly, it can be a valuable part of your marketing plan. Let’s find out more about the re-emergence of direct mail.

When the average consumer receives more than 2900 marketing messages every day, choosing the right channel for your message can seem like a minefield. How can you stand out from that vast crowd?

Direct mail, that stuff we used to get through the door and put straight in the bin, has had a bit of makeover recently. When you use it alongside your digital channels, you’ll notice the difference in the effectiveness of your branding. It’s time to stop thinking inbox and start thinking mailbox.

Let’s find out more about direct mail and share some tips for success.

The new wave of direct mail

The reason why direct mail is back in vogue is that tech has changed the way we use it. 

Thanks to platforms like Reachdesk, you can integrate your CRM, marketing automation software and sales engagement platform into your direct mail operation. This makes it one of the easiest to target and trackable forms of marketing available. You can set up a gifting campaign with pinpoint accuracy; scalable and trackable. 

It’s also really cost-effective now. You don’t have to design an eye-catching letter and pay the Royal Mail to deliver it anymore. You can send a Just Eat voucher or pay for someone’s Uber back to the office after a meeting. You could even mail a handwritten note. It’s that personal touch that everyone remembers.

Direct mail has always brought benefits

As well as being able to take advantage of these technical innovations, you still get the benefits that direct mail has always offered.

  • Direct mail has always achieved better responses than other advertising channels such as TV or press
  • It’s always been easy to track your direct mail’s effectiveness, with unique response mechanisms or codes
  • People like something tangible. It’s a break from the digital onslaught we’re living through today
  • You can get really creative with direct mail and truly grab your recipient’s attention
  • Plus, virtually no one else is doing it. You can make it yours!

Now you know why using direct mail as a marketing channel is such a great idea, how do you do it effectively? Here are three tips.

1 – Get personal

When you know exactly who you are targeting with your direct mail, you can send them something that genuinely resonates. The ideal approach is to use direct mail on an individual level. 

Look out for people’s personal and work news. Job moves, company growth, new hires and moving office are all great reasons to send a note. However, what will really get them to remember you is a gift on their birthday, or if they’ve just got engaged or had a baby.

2 – Timing is everything

You have to move fast when it comes to this sort of direct mail. A note of congratulations two weeks after someone has been promoted won’t have the same impact! Luckily, the direct mail tech platforms can help you get your gift out quickly.

Remember to follow up your note or gift with a call. Do it quickly while everything is still fresh in their mind.

3 – Call to action

Make sure that with every piece of direct mail you send, there is a clear call to action. What do you want them to do next? How do you want them to respond? Do you want to drive a customer to your website, or do you want to have a conversation?

Have a goal in mind and make sure your direct mail execution achieves it.

Find out more

Now you know all about how the new wave of direct mail can add a human touch to your marketing, what are you waiting for?


How to retain your SDR talent

Once you’ve brought your sales development A-players on board, you want to keep them for as long as you can. How can you get retention right with today’s younger workforce? Let’s find out.

In our previous article, which you can read here, we looked at how spotting talented SDRs is a challenge and how you can design a hiring process that helps you find the best. Now, we’re going to look at retention. Going back to the famous Steve Jobs quote: 

‘A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.’

That’s great, but if your A-players jump ship and go somewhere else after a year or so, you have to start all over again.

A LinkedIn study found that 56% of organisations struggle to keep hold of high potential or top-performing employees. It’s a problem that so many otherwise great companies face. In this article, we’re going to look at ways we can boost retention, focusing specifically on today’s younger workforce who primarily take up SDR roles.

Tap into their motivation

When I started as an SDR, retention typically centred around financial incentives. To keep us with the company, there would be increases in base salary or OTE every year. Most of the time, it worked.

However, today’s generation of SDRs is different. The things that drive them are different. Money isn’t as big a motivator as it used to be. But, if they don’t respond to pay raises, what do they respond to?

The same LinkedIn study found that 45% of employees who leave their jobs cite concern over a lack of advancement opportunities. Today’s generation wants opportunities to progress.

To boost your retention levels, find out what drives your SDRs, as well as what threatens to pull them away. Do this on an individual level if you can. Then, tap into it to give them what they want.

Progression 

Employees who don’t believe they can achieve career goals with a current company are 12x more likely to consider leaving. For new employees, this number increases to 30x. If you are going to retain your A-player reps, you need to empower them with opportunities to grow their careers. 

Of course, there are only enough promotions to go around, while some SDRs simply won’t be ready for more responsibilities straight away. The key is to collaborate with them on developing a career path. Show them the opportunities that lay ahead for them in your company, show them what they need to do to get there, then help them succeed.

For example, convey how high-performing employees are the talent brand and the best resource for attracting exciting new talent.

Development

As well as progression, today’s cohort of SDRs is motivated by opportunities to learn. It’s something that attracts A-players to your business, as well as something that will keep them there.

Create a transformative learning culture in your organisation, that consistently reaffirms with your employees that their development is important to you. Here are some ideas you can try:

  • Lunch & Learn sessions – regular 30-45 minute deep-dive sessions, preferably over pizza. They provide learning with a social element.
  • Clinics – 45 min overview sessions where SDRs can drop in. Let them bring their own devices for hands-on learning.
  • Executive sponsors – Someone high up in the company to talk to the SDR team on a regular basis, to show them how what they do impacts the people at the top and vice versa.
  • Internal marketing – Regular updates for employees around process, or training. Design them to be exciting and engaging.
  • Reminders – Keep best practices top of mind with regular reminders. Share content on Slack or your intranet. Keep stakeholders involved with monthly reports on learning impacts.

Incentives

Finally, change the way you do those off-the-cuff incentives in your business. 

I remember running an incentive at a company where I used to work. If a rep hit certain metrics, we’d give them $1000. However, it turned out that it wasn’t driving the behaviours we expected. So we changed it.

We changed the prize to lunch with the CSO. As if by magic, there was a huge increase in results. It turns out young SDRs don’t want money; they want visibility, recognition and opportunity.

Find out more

When you have a strong framework for retaining SDRs, you can tap into what drives them and always give them what they want.

At Salesworks, we help you find, recruit and retain the people who will get you to your growth objectives. To find out more about SalesWorks, visit salesworks.co.uk.


Building out your SDR capability in Q1

Attracting top talent is a priority for many organisations at the start of the year. But, SDRs are different. How can you ensure you hire A-players to your SDR team?

When organisations get their SDR capability right, it creates enormous opportunities. It allows sales leaders to allocate the skills of experienced salespeople to the end of the sales cycle, knowing the start of the cycle is taken care of. As we move into a new year (and decade), most companies will be looking at expanding headcount in their sales teams. They will be planning and strategising, working out how many salespeople to add and what sorts of people will be successful there. However, uncovering the best SDRs can be a challenge for a variety of reasons. 

Steve Jobs said, ‘I noticed that the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1. Given that, you’re well-advised to go after the cream of the cream… A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.’ How are you going to make sure you only hire A-players to your SDR team? Let’s find out more.

The challenges

Why is hiring SDRs so difficult? There are several reasons:

  • Little to no experience to judge them on – candidates applying for SDR roles are likely to be recent graduates, short on sales experience and metrics you can evaluate
  • Many talented graduates do not see sales as a profession – you may need to sell them on sales as a career. They may have a negative image of sales, or not even know what it is! (Getting a current SDR to help write the job description can help here)
  • There will be a great deal of competition for genuinely good candidates who are aware of their value

Also, the SDR role is demanding. You face almost constant rejection every day. Even once you have hired someone, you need to upskill them and build their resilience if you want them to stay. We’ll talk more about retention in our next article.

The solution

When you don’t have a candidate’s past sales performance that you can measure, you need to create a framework that helps you find the attributes you are looking for and hire based on attitude and aptitude.

I have always loved the concept of SDR assessment days, where you get to assess candidates over the course of a longer period of time (a day) across a range of exercises. You’ll see how they can perform on an individual level, as well as in group situations.

At assessment days, potential SDRs may be asked to do tasks such as coming up with an elevator pitch. There could be roleplays, like an introductory phone call. There should also be group exercises; it’s key to see how SDRs interact with their peers and colleagues, even if SDR is primarily an individual contributor role.

When you hold assessment days, you should be looking for several different signals that someone will be successful as an SDR:

  • Raw talent – that X-factor that puts them ahead of the crowd
  • Curiosity – eagerness to find out more about the role, the company, the people and your customers
  • Coachability – you need someone eager to learn, who can take on feedback when it is essential for their development
  • Personality – while selling can be coached, you have to have someone who is comfortable talking to new people. After all, not everyone is like that
  • Team interaction – you want someone who will fit in well with the rest of the team, who embraces the competition that being in a sales team brings

Find out more

When you have a strong framework for hiring SDRs, when you know what you’re looking for and how to spot it, building out your SDR capability needn’t be a challenge.

At Salesworks, we help you find and recruit the people who will get you to your growth objectives. From identifying the skills and requirements to defining the role and finding the candidate, we’ll work with you every step of the way to ensure you only recruit the A-players you need.


My 5 business and personal highlights from 2019

Wow. What a year it’s been for SalesWorks, as well as for me personally. Here are five of my highlights? What are your highlights of 2019?

As we reach the end of the year, it’s time to look back at 2019 and forward to 2020. It’s been a brilliant year, busy and full of challenges to overcome, but terrific nonetheless. Here are five highlights, from a business and a personal point of view, from a great year.

1 – Launching the SalesWorks academy

Training and enablement for salespeople are essential, but it’s also an area where companies underinvest. They tend to throw training at salespeople at the start of their time there, but then, they’re on their own. SalesWorks launched a 3-level programme to try and redress this balance:

  • 1 – Fundamentals of SDR
  • 2 – Advanced SDR: sharpening your skills
  • Emails sent – 12%
  • 3a – SDR leadership
  • 3b – Fundamentals of AE – to prepare them for the next role

There are vast amounts of value in all these courses, but if I had to choose one highlight, it would be the SDR leadership course. It’s an area close to my heart as there is not enough dedicated enablement currently. SDR leaders need to ensure they don’t neglect their development. They also need to work on building themselves to be the best managers possible.

2 – Speaking at conferences

This year I’ve been privileged to speak at five different events. I’ve spoken in the US and UK, at private equity sales and marketing forums, sales leader events, SDR events and more. I’ve given keynotes and taken part in panel discussions.

It’s been great to give my take on subjects such as sales development and the traits of a good leader, providing insights into valuable areas for sales leaders in the audience. I look forward to doing more speaking events next year.

3 – Building great partnerships

SaaS sales is quite unique in that it’s more like an ecosystem than an industry. The most successful companies build partnerships with each other, to try and offer solutions to customers that are more than the sum of their parts. It’s been a thrill this year to partner up with some pioneering software companies such as SalesLoft and Refract to offer something different up to the market.

It’s also been great to get more involved with the SaaS sales community this year. SalesWorks became a headline sponsor with Sales Confidence, the industry’s number one community for salespeople. James Ski is building something amazing at Sales Confidence, with essential content and events you can’t miss. It’s great to be involved and I can’t wait to see what’s up their sleeve for 2020.

I also joined the London Revenue Collective, an exclusive global community for revenue and commercial leaders. Joining the Collective has allowed me to expand my network. It’s so valuable to be able to connect with sales leaders and discuss challenges, growth areas and also everything SDR-related too.

4 – Growing SalesWorks

Another highlight of 2020 has been growing SalesWorks. The team has grown, which is a challenge and an opportunity, of course.

We’ve also been able to extend what we can offer to our customers. This year, we added built-out managed services to our offering, including:

  • Call coaching
  • Strategy
  • Performance and potential
  • Integrated management

If this resonates with you, get in touch with SalesWorks today.

You may have also noticed my weekly articles, just like this one. As well as being fun to write, they are really moving the needle on my profile in the industry. If you’re not producing content regularly, start with a vengeance in 2020.

5 – Personal recognition

While SalesWorks’ success is undoubtedly a team effort, it’s exciting to be recognised by your peers in the industry.

Just this month, I won Pareto Law’s Grad to Great Award. In 2011, Pareto hired me into my first sales role at Finastra. It was a pleasure to be invited back eight years later to pick up my award for top alumni, after setting up SalesWorks.

How about you?

Those were my top 5 highlights from 2019. Now, it’s onwards and upwards into 2020!

Leave a comment to let me know your highlights from 2020. What went well for you this year?

Let me also take this opportunity to wish you a happy and relaxing Christmas break, plus a very happy New Year!


Which SDR metrics do you measure?

In the second in our series of articles on metrics, we look at which metrics most businesses measure and ask, could we do better?

In our previous article, we looked at what metrics are and how businesses need to focus on the metrics that matter. If you focus on vanity metrics, or ones that aren’t relevant to the direction you want your business to move in, it will lead to the wrong results.

In this article, we’re going to look at common metrics that companies focus on for their SDR teams. We will also ask the question, are they picking the right ones, or could they drive better outcomes by tweaking their KPIs? Let’s dive in.

The metrics businesses measure

A 2019 piece of research by HubSpot asked companies what metrics they track for their sales development teams. Here are the top five:

  • Calls – 29%
  • Meetings scheduled – 13%
  • Emails sent – 12%
  • Opportunities created – 9%
  • Activities – 9%

Almost a third of business focus on the number of calls their SDRs make. Further down the list, only 4% measure the number of conversations.

This gives the impression that a significant number of businesses are measuring the metrics that are easy to measure, or make them look good, rather than focusing on what really drives results. At SalesWorks, when we talk to sales leaders and SDR managers about metrics, we don’t recommend focusing on number of calls or meetings scheduled. With slight alterations, you can get a better outcome.

Alternatives to tracking calls

Tracking the number of calls means SDRs focus on quantity rather than quality. The number of calls an SDR makes is too far removed from the results of the business. While successful SDRs will spend a significant proportion of their day on the phone, the best will get more from the calls they make. Also, simply tracking the number of calls does not take account of who your SDRs are calling.

Look at where your SDRs need to improve and adjust your KPIs around that. For example, if your SDRs are getting leads, but not following up, implement a KPI for first-time connects. If your SDRs seem to be contacting someone one, but then never again, bring in a KPI for contacting a prospect three times or more.

Alternatives to meetings scheduled

If the goal of your SDR team is to book meetings for your AEs, you would think measuring the number of meetings they schedule is a good idea. However, 20-30% of meetings booked never happen.

To get this number down, try focusing on the number of meetings that actually take place. SDRs will then take steps to remind prospects about the meeting and give them opportunities to reschedule if they can’t make it. Businesses that take these steps generally get their no-shows down to between 8 and 12%.

Sales Accepted Opportunity

Another important KPI to consider measuring your SDRs on is Sales Accepted Opportunity. It drives an absolute focus on quality, because if the sales leader does not accept the opportunity, the SDRs do not get the credit. It will mean SDRs will work harder on qualification, not just having a conversation.

How many KPI’s?

When we talk to sales leaders and SDR managers about KPIs, we suggest focusing on four metrics. We recommend companies pick three leading indicators, metrics that predict your results, then one lagging indicator, reflecting the results of your overall business.

But however many you choose, it’s important you choose metrics that drive the kind of behaviours that lead to the outcomes you want. Ultimately, SDRs are paid based on the KPIs they hit, so use that to point them in the right direction.

What metrics do you measure?

Now, we’d like to know what you do in your business? Are there metrics in your plan that are more ‘outside the box’?

What do you track that’s more innovative than number of calls and meetings scheduled?


Focus on the metrics that matter

In the first of two articles on metrics, we look at what metrics are and how you can focus on the right ones for your SDR team. Let’s find out more.

With all the sales and analytics software at our disposal today, we have reams of data to help us gauge success. However, it’s vital that you know the metrics that make a difference. When you measure the wrong metrics, it’s easy to find yourself on the wrong path.

For example, in 2011, a charity called dosomething.org produced a video starring YouTube celebrities, encouraging young people to donate their used sporting equipment to Children In Need. The video received 1.5 million views on YouTube and was the charity’s most popular video ever. The charity thought everything had gone well, that the campaign was a success.

However, when they dug deeper into the data, they found that out of those 1.5 million views, only 8 people had signed up to donate and none of them had actually donated. Zero donations. The problem was that the charity had defined maximising views as success, when they should have been focusing on generating contributions. They had been focusing on the wrong metric.

In your SDR team, you can measure almost anything, but you have to focus on the metrics that spell success for your business, not just ones that make you look good. The ideal number of metrics to concentrate on is 4, so how do you choose?

Data and metrics

What’s the difference between data and metrics? On my training days, we talk about metrics in detail, but many people find it hard to articulate the difference. Here goes:

  • Data is everything you measure. A metric is one single type of data. For example, YouTube views or donations.
  • You can’t pick your data, but you must choose your metrics.
  • Metrics are what you measure. What you measure, you can manage.

Finding the metrics that matter

How do you know what metrics are the ones you should focus on in your SDR team?
How do you find the signal amongst the noise?

You could try working backwards. How does your SDR team contribute to the performance of the broader sales team? Is it quality conversations with decision-makers? Is it the number of meetings booked? Number of leads qualified? Measure the metrics that lead to good outcomes for the business. You could also look to use metrics to drive behaviour and motivate your team. This means moving away from measuring activity, such as the number of calls made per day. Traditionally, this has been the way companies measure performance for people working at the start of the sales cycle. In fact, according to HubSpot, 29% of teams still measure this metric. However, you will see better results team if you measure quality rather than quality. It drives behaviours to make SDRs more effective, not solely more productive.

More areas to focus on

Some companies go even deeper with the metrics they measure, looking at the specifics of the sales process and focusing on the places that affect results. For example, you could look at metrics around social selling or training adoption.

It’s also beneficial to focus on metrics around hiring. How fast and effective your company is at hiring makes a significant difference to the bottom line. Hiring is expensive and time-consuming; you must also consider the lost productivity when you have an empty chair in your sales team. In your SDR team, try focusing on hiring metrics, such as:

  • Average time to hire
  • Tenure
  • Churn
  • Average cost to replace
  • % of hires from various sources

Stay tuned

Now you know how to choose which metrics to focus on, in our next article we’re going to look at common metrics for SDRs.

In the meantime, let us know how you choose the metrics you measure by leaving a comment below.


Rock Stars vs Superstars

It takes different characters with different attributes to make a successful sales team. Let’s meet Rock Stars and Superstars. Do you recognise them in your organisation?

All high-performance sales teams need stars, but stars shine in different ways. In her book, Radical Candor, Kim Scott put forward the concept of Rock Stars and Superstars. These two different types of salesperson are both excellent in their way, but to get the best from them, you have to manage them differently. Let’s find out more.

Rock Stars

I’m not talking about Lady Gaga or Ed Sheeran here. In this instance, Rock Stars are solid, dependable, like they’re made of rock. They’re the consistent performers who you can always rely on to pull their weight in the team. They’re not flashy, so they sometimes miss out on the attention, but on the other hand, they don’t cause many problems

You need Rock Stars in your team because they are a force for stability. In fact, you might not realise how much you rely on them until they’re no longer there.

Rock Stars generally carry themselves as if they are content with their lives and they don’t rock the boat by asking for promotions or pay raises. This can sometimes be misinterpreted as a lack of ambition, but it may just be that they are happy where they are, or their goals lie outside of the workplace. They are on a gradual growth trajectory.

Superstars

Superstars, on the other hand, are the big personalities in the team. They are the ones that bring in the big results, but they make sure everyone in the office knows it! They make demands for their leaders’ attention, not least when they’re pushing for pay raises and promotions.

Superstars are agents of change in the team. Being the highest-performers, in general, it is your Superstars who will take your team to a higher level. However, they want to change their own situation too, with rapid progression. They are always looking for new opportunities. Their growth trajectory is much steeper.

A team of Rock Stars and Superstars

The best sales teams are made up of Rock Stars and Superstars, with both types equally fulfilled and motivated. However, this is a challenge to achieve.

Firstly, you have to get the ratio right. A team with too many Super Stars will explode through force of personality. Leaders do not have an infinite supply of attention, commission and promotions. On the other hand, a team with too many Rock Stars will struggle to achieve the growth levels you need.

The secret is to give Rock Stars and Superstars the right opportunities at the right time. Look at the growth trajectories each person wants to be on, then ensure they can stay on that course if they continue to perform. Don’t burn out your Rock Stars and don’t bore your Superstars.

Managing Rock Stars and Superstars

You won’t get the best from your Rock Stars or Superstars if you only lead in one way. To sum up the best way to manage each of them; recognise your Rock Stars, challenge your superstars.

Rock Stars may carry their load without complaining, but it’s highly likely they would like to be praised and rewarded just as much as the Superstars. In fact, behind that easy-going demeanour, they may be seething about the Superstars stealing the limelight! To get the best from your Rock Stars:

  • Recognise their efforts
  • Proactively offer bonuses and raises, don’t wait for them to ask
  • Get them speaking more in the team about the best way to do things

For Superstars, the trick is to keep them motivated, without promoting them above their level of expertise

  • Challenge them to perform at a higher level
  • Give them opportunities to learn new skills
  • Ensure they have mentors to help them achieve their ambitions
  • Give your Superstars the chance to help teach new starters

Finally, Rock Stars can become Superstars and vice versa. Don’t put a permanent label on your team members. Check their performance and levels of ambition for signs of a switch.

Over to you

It takes a variety of characters to make a sales team successful. Your role as a leader is to maintain that success and then build on it. Rock Stars and Superstars are essential parts of your team, make sure you keep them all performing.

Now, I’d like to know what you think. What other characteristics of Rock Stars and Superstars do you see in your team? What do you do to keep them all performing to the best of their ability?


How to attract top talent to your organisation

Average people won’t help you build a world-class business. You need a strategy to attract the best, then keep them there. Let’s find out more.

It’s not your idea that will make your business a success; it is your people. No less a business leader than Steve Jobs put it this way:

I noticed that the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1.

Given that, you’re well-advised to go after the cream of the cream.

A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.

It’s not as easy as it sounds, however. ‘A-players’ can have their pick of where they want to work. To attract them, then keep them in your organisation, you need to get everything right. Here are four things you must do.

1 – Build your employer brand

When your ‘A player’ is looking for a new role, they will thoroughly research the opportunities that are out there. When they come across your company, what do you want them to see?

Make sure your website portrays your organisation as a great place to work. Include as much content as you can about working there, including positive employee testimonials. Emphasise learning and development in your company, as this is what many talented people really want to see, as we’ll talk about later. Your LinkedIn company page is also important in this regard, as is your profile on Glassdoor.

2 – Get the job spec right

The goal of your job spec and the advertisement that goes with it is to attract the type of person you want to apply. Build up a persona of that ideal candidate, then tailor everything to them. Terminology is important; really sell it to them.

Who writes your job specs? Is it someone in HR? If it is, you could be missing a trick. Your top performers are your best assets; why not get them to write it? After all, they speak the same language as your preferred candidate.

Talk about what really matters to your ideal candidate. They want to know about career paths, learning and development. They are interested in success stories told by people who work there. They are also interested in what sales tech tools are in the organisation; if you use Refract, SalesLoft or anything else, say so.

3 – Culture matters

It also pays to talk about your workplace culture in your job spec. Then, as your ideal candidates come in for interview, make sure you emphasise it to them. Everyone wants to work somewhere where employees are happy and treated well. Everyone wants to work for an organisation with strong values dictating everything they do. If you are one of those organisations (and you should be), then make sure your ‘A-player’ candidates know about it.

It’s not just free beer on Fridays and table football, although those always make a good impression; other things are important too. Talented candidates want to see a strong team culture that celebrates success. They also want to see a transformative learning culture.

4 – Think about retention

Once you’ve attracted and recruited your team of A-players, you want them to stay. It’s no good if they only stay a few months then jump ship to a competitor.

Career development opportunities are the primary factors here. People join organisations for career development; they leave if they don’t get it.

Statistics from LinkedIn spell this out in stark terms:

  • 56% of organizations struggle to keep high-potential and top-performing employees
  • 59% of employees joined companies for better career paths or more opportunities
  • 45% of employees who left companies cited concern over a lack of advancement opportunities

Make sure that if you sell your organisation as somewhere that talented individuals can further their career, you live up to those pledges.

Other factors that motivate ‘A-players’ to leave companies include a lack of direction on the part of the company leadership. Talented millennials also want to work for a company with a strong vision, values and mission. They want purpose. They want to make an impact. Make sure you can give them that opportunity.

Attract, retain, lead

When you deliberately position your organisation as somewhere talented people can flourish if they work hard, you can attract and retain the people who will take your company to the next level.


Should SDRs report to Sales or Marketing?

Is the start of the sales funnel really Sales? Or should SDRs be part of your organisation’s Marketing Team? Let’s finally put this argument to bed. (Clue: It’s not that important)

As someone who spends a lot of time helping sales teams develop their strategy, it’s a question I get asked quite often. ‘Should a company’s SDR team sit with and report to Sales or Marketing?’ So, I thought I’d write an article about it. Maybe it can help you as you develop your SDR team.

Why is this a question?

Before I give you my answer, I need to explain why this is such a hot topic in the sales world at the moment.

Investment in Account-Based Marketing (ABM) has risen significantly in the last couple of years. SDRs play an essential role in a successful ABM operation, digging deep into the organisational structure of target companies in order to make sure every decision-maker is covered. They also play a part in nurturing leads. For these reasons, although SDRs are traditionally thought of as salespeople, you could also argue that they are marketers.

On the other hand, SDRs are also a vital component for outbound go-to-market strategies, which definitely comes under the remit of Sales.

So, where should they sit to get the best results?

The answer…

OK, here’s my answer. It’s not that important. There are several things that matter much more when it comes to performance than whether SDRs are part of Marketing or Sales. Get those right first before you worry about this.

In my role helping sales teams develop strategies for high performance, I’ve seen SDR teams that report to Sales and others that report to Marketing and they both work. I’ve also seen SDR teams that come under Sales Operations and even Sales Enablement. Again, they both work.

That is, if the fundamentals are right.

Conditions for high-performance

In an organisation that functions well, the SDR team is the bridge between Sales and Marketing. Therefore, leaders need to create conditions that allow them to fulfil this role effectively:

  • SDR teams need to be accountable for their section of the sales funnel; whether that’s converting leads into meetings, demos or anything else.
  • A Service Level Agreement (SLA) between Marketing and Sales is an excellent way to hold both teams responsible for achieving agreed-upon targets.
  • Sales and Marketing must agree on specific definitions. For example, on what is a marketing-qualified lead (MQL) and what is a sales-qualified lead (SQL).
  • SDR teams must adhere to the sales process laid down by the leadership team.

SDR Managers

Whether the SDR team sits in Sales or Marketing, I see better performance from SDRs when there is a dedicated team lead. Whether this is a player-manager or you create an SDR Manager role, there needs to a bridge between the SDR team and the leadership.

I don’t think that SDRs reporting directly to VPs of Sales leads to great outcomes in the long term. VPs of Sales are under different pressures and may lack the time, willingness or resources to manage the specific needs of SDRs.

Career Path

You can’t run a successful SDR team with significant amounts of churn. The time spent and the revenue lost through recruiting, onboarding and ramping up is too great.

Helping SDRs plot a career path is much more important than whether they sit with Sales or Marketing. Leaders must help SDRs build out a career path, whether it’s to become an AE or anything else.

For the record, this is something that companies are getting better at. Tenure amongst SDRs is getting longer.

Over to you

To sum up, collaboration between Sales and Marketing teams is essential in today’s sales world, particularly if you are executing ABM strategies. However, spending time weighing up whether your SDR team sits in Sales or Marketing is not advisable. You need to create a productive environment for SDRs to thrive in first.

That’s my opinion anyway. Now, I want to know what you think.

Do you think SDRs are Sales? Or do you prefer that they report to Marketing? Why is that?


Adaptive leadership for SDRs

Using the management tool, Situational Leadership, you can adapt your leadership style as your SDRs’ skills grow. Let’s find out how.

SDR’s aren’t the same in month four as they are on their first day at your company. So, you can’t try to manage them in the same way. To turn them into SDRs that excel in their role and are ready to progress, you need to adapt your management style to match their stage of development. However, this can be difficult. How do you know how what level they’re at, especially if they’re more competent at some tasks than others?

Situational leadership

Situational Leadership is the answer. This management tool, devised by Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey in 1969, is super useful for all roles and all skill levels. Today though, we’re going to talk about SDRs.

I’ve found Situational Leadership particularly valuable for SDRs, as it measures two things –competence and commitment. You can break down competence into motivation and confidence. These components change quickly in SDRs.

Development levels D1-D4

Situational Leadership identifies four stages of development:

  • D1: Low competence, high commitment – an enthusiastic learner
  • D2: Low to some competence, low commitment – a disillusioned learner
  • D3: Moderate to high competence, variable commitment – capable but cautious
  • D4: High competence, high commitment – self-reliant achiever, ‘the manager’s dream’

All SDRs start at D1 on their first day. If you’ve ever been involved in onboarding SDRs, you’ll know that eager, bright-eyed look they all have. That’s what I’m talking about!

However, they don’t stay at D1 for long. Nor do you want them to. You want to move them as quickly as possible to D4, so they are producing excellent results with minimal guidance from you. The problem is the stages in-between, as well as the fact that once you have a D4, you have to keep them at that level.

How to manage each stage of development

Luckily, Situational Leadership sets out a way to achieve this. When you adapt your leadership style to match your SDR’s stage of development, you can manage them in a way that helps them level up.
Managing D1s is quite simple. They require direction. They are fresh in their role and new to your company, so you need to tell them what to do.

D2s are slightly different because while they are still relatively new to the job and lacking in skills, they think they know more than they actually do, especially compared to the new starters. Directing them will cause frustration, but they will respond well to coaching.

D3s still need to improve their skills, but their commitment is growing as they can see the relationship between skills and success. They need support rather than direction or coaching.

Finally D4s; their competence is high, so they require little direction. However, they need to be challenged in order to maintain their high commitment. The best way to manage them is through delegation.

Adapting by task

At a recent workshop for SDR leaders, we spent a long time thinking about the SDRs we manage and where they rank on the Situational Leadership scale, as well we as how we manage them. That’s where we came across a small problem.

No one is perfect at everything. You may be great at tennis but struggle to cook a three-course meal, for example. SDRs aren’t perfect at everything either. The role of SDR is a combination of lots of different jobs, from cold calling to booking meetings to entering data into the CRM. Few SDRs will be at D4 level for every task.

Career Path

For this reason, you have to adapt your leadership style by task, not by individual SDR. Your goal is to improve their competence, maintain motivation and build confidence.

What style are you?

To sum up, to move SDRs from D1 to D4 on the Situational Leadership scale, you need to be mindful of where each SDR is on the scale for each task, then adapt your style to match.

How do you do this? Sometimes it can be as simple as the way you phrase something. For example, think about the differences between the phrases below.

  • “Since you haven’t done this before, would it be helpful if I provided you with some direction, resources, and information?” (D1)
  • “Since you’re still learning, and may be discouraged, would it be helpful if I continue to provide you with some direction? And I’d also like to hear your ideas.” (D2)
  • “Since you know how to do this, what you need me to do is listen, rather than give advice, right?” (D3)
  • “I know you’re taking the lead, but I’m here, when and if you need me” (D4)

Over to you

Now, we’d like to know what you think. If you’re an SDR Manager, do you use Situational Leadership to help upskill your SDR team? What are your tips for identifying and managing SDRs at different stages of development?


Storytelling for sales success

When you bring storytelling into your sales technique, you immediately make it more effective. Let’s find out more. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin.

Since the beginning of humanity, we have passed on life lessons by telling stories. It’s the oldest form of transferring knowledge. Even today, it is still the most powerful way to put ideas into the world. You can make the hardest concepts simple enough for children to understand when you put them into a story; stories help us remember, as well as help humans connect at a personal level.

If you’re in sales, you’ve probably heard trainers talk about the importance of storytelling in your conversations before. In fact, you’ve probably read articles just like this one; or so you think. In this article, I’m going to share some practical tips on how to weave stories into your sales conversations so it really works.

Once upon a time…

Many sales teams have already woken up to the power of storytelling, aligning their marketing and sales departments so they can work together to create a vivid, relatable narrative that finds common ground with customers.

Even at the start of the sales process, where SDRs operate, there is room for storytelling. Here are some quick tips to get your storytelling started:

  • Move away from features and benefits and into stories. For example, rather than ‘Our product does X, Y and Z.’ try ‘One customer who I helped this summer found that X, Y and Z helped her achieve her goals.’
  • Storytelling isn’t just about naming your prospect’s organisation in your conversation; it’s about making that personal association and making them feel close to you. Use your prospect’s name and look for relevant connections as you talk to them.
  • Integrate stories into your cold call scripts and cold emails. It creates a positive association with your brand. In a world of power dialling, a strong brand helps you maximise these traditional strategies.
  • Have a sound framework to ensure brand consistency, but have some fun with storytelling too. Experiment to find out what kind of stories resonate best with your prospects.

The hero’s journey

Now, we’re going to help you take your storytelling to the next level. Although, it’s actually quite simple.
Whether or not you have ever heard of ‘the hero’s journey’, I guarantee you have read a book or seen a movie that uses it as a story arc. From Jane Eyre to Lord of the Rings, from Star Wars to Moana, it’s a story that is familiar and simple, yet inspirational and life-affirming, which is why people like it.

The hero’s journey goes like this:

  • The hero is called on a quest, usually because they have a problem to solve
  • Often with somebody’s help, they get close to solving their problem
  • It all goes briefly wrong, leaving our hero with two fixes to get out of
  • Our hero, usually through some kind of uncharacteristically daring act, achieves their goal. Achieving this goal has a massively transformative impact on their lives.

I’m sure you recognise that story, but you’re probably now wondering, ‘What does that have to do with sales?’

The customer as a hero

It’s easy to bring the hero’s journey, one of the most compelling storytelling concepts ever, into sales. When you’re talking to your prospect, position them as the hero. The story you tell is the journey they go on as they look to solve their problem.

The trick is to go really deep into the problem they want to solve. Spend a long time talking to your prospect about the pain they are facing. Approach it from as many angles as possible. That way, when they solve their problem (with the help of your product), you can show them the life-changing, transformative impact it will have on them.

Focus on the value through vivid analogies and bold statements. Enable your customers to understand the impact and how it will lead to them achieving their goals.

Remember, you’re not the hero. Your product isn’t the hero either. Your customer is the hero.

…and they all lived happily ever after

And now, we come to the end of our tale. Stories help you make difficult concepts sound simple, build connections and make your prospect feel like a hero. Make sure you use them in your next sales conversation.


Onboarding for success

Organisations lose time and money while they wait for their SDRs to get up to speed. Here’s how you can get them there quicker.

Recently, I was in the US, working with a tech company to onboard their new SDR reps. I’ve also spent a fair amount of time this year presenting at conferences around the world on how to ramp up new starters faster and more effectively, using a bootcamp structure. I wanted to share my thoughts on onboarding, because getting it right can have a significant impact on your revenue. I think many companies are missing an opportunity here.

Companies are losing time and money

According to GlassDoor research, on average, companies spend 52 days recruiting sales reps. That’s time that sales leaders spend interviewing candidates and dealing with recruiters, when they could be improving the performance of their team. There are also the costs of advertising the role and recruitment agency fees. There’s also a price for having an open role in the sales team, where no revenue can be generated until it is filled.

Once a company recruits a rep, it takes time to get them up to full productivity. On average, a company loses anything between 1% and 2.5% of its revenue during the time it takes for a rep to ramp up, according to a study from Mellon Financial Corp. So, it makes sense that the quicker they can build their capability, the better.

It seems clear that bringing new reps into a sales team takes longer than it should. It also leads to a bigger than necessary loss of revenue. Also, onboarding appears to be insufficient for the needs of sales reps. 46% of reps reported that their companies are not providing them with the training they need to be successful.

So, how can we improve onboarding to make it faster, more efficient and more effective?

A more efficient sales training program

At SalesWorks, we have a 4-step system for designing the optimal onboarding program.

When you run ABSD, you leverage your SDRs to execute a coordinated cadence, running multi-touch points across multiple buyer personas.

1 – Self-assessment

To design an onboarding and sales training program that works for your organisation, start by thinking about three things:

  • Where your team is now
  • Where you want it to be
  • How you are going to bridge that gap?

Assess your current reality. How long does it take for a new rep to reach full productivity at the moment? During that time, how much revenue are you missing out on? What would be the ideal, achievable figures?

2 – Impact training

Impact training is where you give your new reps the skills you believe they need to be a success in your organisation.

You need to think about sales skills and knowledge of product, but perhaps the most vital part is knowledge of the sales process. In a company that lacks proper sales training around this, each person on the team will execute their parts of the sales process differently. Standardisation is key.

Your impact training needs to be quick-hitting, bootcamp style training. It can be led by a virtual or live instructor. It needs to:

  • Give your new reps baseline knowledge
  • Set expectations and build foundations
  • Be motivational
  • Communicate best practices and processes
  • Build consensus around goals and processes

Finally on this, impact training doesn’t replace your 30-60-90 onboarding program. Be agile with your format. It can be the perfect environment to close your top performer, specialise in issues specific to new reps, consolidate and test.

3 – Reinforcement

You can’t expect new reps to learn something for the first time, then go and do it right every time. To create success from impact training, reinforcement is essential. You cannot overstate its importance.

Reinforcement shouldn’t be just telling them things you’ve already told them, however. Use it as a way to build on the baseline knowledge they already have. Think about how to take their application of strategy and tactics to the next level. Push your reps outside their comfort zones to try something different.

Live coaching is the most effective way to achieve this.

4 – Accountability

This is the stage where you move application to ownership and mastery. It’s an ongoing process with no end date. Sales managers, trainers and peers can play a role in this part of the training process with live coaching and training. However, ultimately, the responsibility lies with the rep themselves. How good do they want to be?

Evaluate and adapt

Your onboarding process should be something you monitor with a view to finding improvements. Use the data in your CRM to evaluate your success. How quickly are your new starters getting to full productivity? What are the skills that separate them from your top performers? There are always ways you can tweak your onboarding process to find marginal gains.

Finally, as you build your onboarding and enablement plan, ask yourself if it creates long-term change in the behaviour of your salespeople. Does this lead to positive results? This is the sign that you are on the right track.


5 things you need to know about cadences

Sales cadences can be an effective way to engage your target prospects and eventually sell to them. However, you’ve got to get them right. Let’s find out more.

Sales cadences are an essential component of creating a predictable, scalable sales process. When you have a preset sequence of events that you know can move a prospect along their journey to becoming a customer, you have a handle on how long it takes to move a lead through your pipeline. You also know how many leads you need in your pipeline to achieve your target.

In this article, we’re going to look in more depth at cadences. We’re going to look at why they’re important, as well as what you can do to create effective cadences in your sales team. Let’s go.

1 – Cadences are essential in today’s sales landscape

Unless you’re lucky enough to get through to the prospect the first time you call them, then close the deal on the spot, you’re going to need to follow up! However, the evidence shows that if you leave it up to the salesperson to choose when they follow up, you will rarely get the desired result:

  • The average B2B seller gives up on a prospect after 4 attempts to contact them
  • The average B2B buyer engages with the seller after 6 attempts

Cadences that set out what you say to a prospect, as well as how and when to say it, are therefore vital. They stop business slipping through the net.

Cadences also help salespeople stay motivated to persevere with a prospect, even in the face of being repeatedly ignored. Some cadences are a marathon rather than a sprint, requiring 20+ touches before you receive a response. You have to be patient.

2 – The more touchpoints, the better

Cadences that use multiple ways of contacting the prospect are the most effective. That’s because the majority of B2B buyers are millennials who spread themselves around numerous channels. Sometimes they are on the phone; sometimes they’re online or on social media. Sometimes they want to engage with content, other times they want to cut to the chase and know what you’re selling.

Go beyond just emailing and calling. Leverage thought leadership content to engage with them. Follow them on LinkedIn, then Like or Comment on their posts. Be everywhere they are.

3 – Video is vital

Remember that if you are selling to millennials, bringing video into the mix for your cadences is essential. Research by Cognism found that you can expect a 25% increase in conversions, if you use video at the right time.

You don’t have to have a Hollywood budget. Just a short one-minute video where you put your personality across can be the tipping point that gets the buyer to engage.

4 – Different cadences for different objectives

Whatever you’re looking to achieve in your sales process, there is a cadence out there that can help you. While most cadences are for new pipeline generation, you can also use them to, for example:

  • Win back customers
  • Renewals
  • Customer success and more

Remember, your cadence will vary depending on who you’re targeting. Ideally, you should have cadences laid down in your sales process for:

  • Inbound
  • Outbound
  • Different members of the decision-making committee
  • C-Level
  • Navigating to senior personas in organisations

5 – Use cadences to build relationships

At SalesWorks, we have found that using a cadence around social, you will be able to develop relationships with prospects earlier and with greater effectiveness. You will see an uptick in LinkedIn message reply rate, conversion rate and an increase in response rate of between 1% and 58%.

Notice that it’s about building relationships with the social touch cadence. Don’t try to sell your product or even book a meeting too early on. The thing is, no one wants to think they’re the object of your cadence. You have to make it look authentic and spontaneous. Personalisation can help you here.

Find out more

If you’re not using cadences in your sales team to engage your prospects, chances are you’re leaving money on the table. If you are using cadences, remember that even the best cadence can always be improved. Look for little tweaks you can make which could lead to a big improvement in results. A/B test your ideas and make your cadence even better.


The rising role of the SDR Manager

Do you have an SDR Manager in your sales team? If not, you could be missing out on significant rewards. Here’s everything you need to know.

As you grow your SDR team, it’s essential that new starters are onboarded and running successfully, building pipeline. If not, it can have a knock-on effect on the rest of the sales team, as well as marketing.

As companies invest more resources into their SDR team, on a quest for quality at the start of the sales funnel, the importance of the role of SDR Manager is growing. In high-performance sales teams, sales leaders are already pulled in many different directions. A dedicated SDR Manager can provide the time, effort and resources necessary to succeed.

Here are five reasons why an SDR Manager is an asset to any sales team.

1 – SDR Manager help SDRs perform better

SDR managers can work with their individual SDRs to help them perform better. Managers can coach them to get better at their day-to-day activities. Together, managers can work with their SDRs on trying new approaches and methods, looking for ways to improve the process. This should quickly lead to better results.

Managers can also help SDRs develop their skills for their next role in the sales team; the role of AE, for example.

2 – A bridge between SDRs and the wider organisation

SDRs speak to prospects and companies that fit your Ideal Customer Profile more than anyone else in your organisation. They know before anyone else what is happening at the frontline. They can bring unique insights about your market and product. However, because they are generally at the start of their career, they do not all have the confidence to speak up.

Your SDR Manager, with the experience to spot patterns and their consequences, can be the channel to provide feedback to the wider organisation.

3 – Hiring

Hiring SDRs can be time-consuming for sales leaders. It also can be quite commoditised, when you’re hiring on attitude and aptitude rather than years of experience.

A dedicated SDR Manager can take ownership of the hiring process for SDRs. They are just as knowledgeable as to what kind of person will be a successful SDR in your organisation.

They can build a repeatable and scalable hiring and onboarding process to maximise efficiency and future growth.

4 – Having an SDR Manager boosts retention

Attrition is always a challenge with SDRs. The average tenure for an SDR is less than 18 months. An SDR Manager can alleviate this problem through coaching. They can help SDRs feel more valued in their role and less likely to look elsewhere. They can help them map out career paths, then help them along their journey.

5 – It’s a great role for the SDR Manager

The SDR Manager role itself is an excellent way for people who want to progress in an organisation to show what they’re about. They have to wear many hats and become well-versed with managing millennials. They have responsibility for training, onboarding and helping SDRs progress in their career. They are managers and motivators.

It is a terrific opportunity for salespeople who want to get into management but are not experienced enough for other sales leadership roles yet. It could be what stops a great salesperson leaving to go elsewhere.

How to identify an SDR Manager

Demand for SDR Managers is growing quickly. Don’t run into a supply issue. As your team expands, identify potential team leads that you may be able to promote.

Here are some attributes you can look for:

  • Consistent overachievement – your SDR Manager should have a track record of producing exceptional results, whether that is qualified leads as an SDR or revenue as an AE.
  • A student of sales – Look for an SDR Manager who is devoted to the art and science that is sales. You need an SDR Manager who is knowledgeable about the way sales works and the different methods, as well as someone who is working hard to become successful.
  • Awareness – You see what a salesperson is really made of when things are not going well, not when they are flying high. Observe how they react and how open they are to change. Can they be flexible and think outside the box? This will help you see how they will be as a manager.

The importance of enablement

At SalesWorks, we often see companies promote high-performing individual contributors into SDR Manager roles, but it turns out they were not necessarily right for the role. We also see talented managers start a SDR Manager role, but struggle due to a lack of enablement.

That’s why we’re about to stage a 1-day workshop around SDR leadership, where our terrific team will help you build the habits and skills that equip you for success, all based around our comprehensive 4S framework.

To book your place, simply click here.


Why SDRs are your future AEs

Why hire new AEs into your sales team when you already have the talent in front of you? Here’s why great SDRs make great AEs.

If you’re expanding or filling gaps in your AE team, you may be on the phone to recruitment consultants and interviewing experienced candidates from other companies. This takes time, costs money and even when you’ve hired them, they might not be as good as you thought. It’s a problem.

However, the solution may be right under your nose. It’s the high-performers in your SDR team. Moving talented SDRs into AE roles brings benefits for them, but also to you and your organisation.

A word of caution

Hold on. Before you start, a word of caution first. The route from SDR to AE is the logical one. Most SDRs have the ambition of becoming AEs, but not all. Not every SDR does or should take this route. There are some SDRs in the industry who love working at the start of the sales process and do not want to change.

You also need to take experience into account. The average tenure for SDRs has increased from 14.3 months to 15.5 months. This is mostly driven by innovation in career paths and opportunities for other types of professional development that keep them in their job longer. Not all SDRs will be ready to take the leap yet. Be honest about that. If they are not ready yet, devise a plan for them to get there. Managing expectations is essential.

Now, here’s why SDRs make great AEs.

Talented SDRs already have many AE skills

SDRs are the lifeblood of any sales organisation. Just because they’re not at the glamorous end of the sales process, closing business, never underestimate their skills.

High-performing SDRs spend most of their day talking to customers. They are experts at qualifying prospects. Their knowledge of the product has to be flawless in order to overcome early objections. They have to be resilient to deal with the number of rejections of the face every day. What’s more, SDRs need to work meticulously to make the number of calls they need to every day.

These are all skills that transfer brilliantly over to the AE role. Plus, if you move an existing SDR into an AE role in your team, you already know that they fit in with your company culture.

Great SDRs show the initiative to progress

While being an SDR offers a great foundation to become an AE later on, the best SDRs will already be taking steps to ensure they can make the transition.

Becoming an AE does require different skills; you’re working through many more parts of the sales process, such as stakeholder management, RFPs, proof of concept, contraction negotiation and closing. However, SDRs can work to develop skills that will make them effective closers while still in the SDR role.

SDRs work with AEs daily. The best will use this to their advantage, observing the processes and attributes of the role. They will shadow their AEs; they will sit in on demos and collaborate on projects together.

Simplifying hiring

If you can hire AEs from your SDR team’s talent bench, it makes the whole process much more straightforward.

The SDR to AE promotion typically has lower attrition rates than external hires. It lowers your hiring costs as you don’t have to pay fees to recruitment consultants. Performance against target is higher on average, compared to external hires, at a lower cost per £/$.

Start your SDRs on the journey now

It’s a good idea to get your SDRs thinking about making the leap to AE level as soon as possible.

Firstly, it’s a great motivator. If an SDR sees the person they sit next to get a promotion to AE level, they will want to be next and will work hard to develop the right skills.

Next, it helps with retention. An SDR will not be looking elsewhere for an AE role if they know they can achieve that level of success at their current organisation.

Help them develop their skills. Draw up a plan for progress. Get them sitting in on demos and shadowing AEs. It will help them understand the right questions to ask and improve their own discovery process.

When you put it all together, moving SDRs into AE roles boosts performance and helps create a thriving, cohesive culture. What’s not to like?


7 reasons why I’m glad I started out as an SDR

It may not be the most glamorous job in the sales world, but I loved being an SDR and it was a great way to start my career. Here’s why.

When I told my friends that I’d landed a job at one of the largest financial software companies in the world, they were all thrilled for me. But when I told them I was going to be an SDR, the response was always the same; a blank look and then, ‘What’s an SDR?’ I graduated with a degree in economics, my friends were going into ‘cooler’ jobs such as PR, marketing, law and banking. (OK, not all cool, but at least people knew what they were!)

Today, most B2B companies have SDRs as part of their sales team, but I was an SDR before SDRs were really a thing. However, being an SDR was an excellent move. It enabled me to learn and develop sales skills as well as soft skills. Now, even as the Founder of a company, I still find myself drawing on the things I learned as an SDR. Here are 7 reasons why I’m glad I was an SDR.

1 – Learning the sales process

It was almost like they were speaking a different language! When I started as an SDR, I only had a basic idea of how sales worked. I didn’t know what a campaign really involved, or all the other sales metrics and words I was hearing. I had my Excel list of numbers to call, so I just got on with it.

As time went by I learned how the sales process worked and the part SDRs play in it. I even began to learn the language. Also, starting with only a sheet of paper and a phone made me appreciate the tools and structure we had today.

2 – Learning from successful people

I soon realised in my new company that I was surrounded by sales reps who had been at the company for many years, some for decades! It didn’t bother me though. In fact, I could use it to my advantage. I was on the same journey as these people, but they were further along and had found success.

I made it my mission to talk to everyone in the company, no matter what division they were in – legal, finance, marketing, anything. These people had the keys to success and would show me how to win.

One of the best pieces of advice I received was to immerse myself in the world of finance. Although I studied economics at university, there were still gaps in my knowledge. From then on, every morning I would read the financial news. My skills began to sharpen and the conversations I had with my prospects about their businesses improved.

I think I was unique amongst the SDRs with this approach, but it served me well.

3 – Experimenting

While, of course, you have to follow the sales process as an SDR, you have the ability to try new things in the search for success. It’s fine to experiment, take a risk, as long as you do it quickly, measure and learn from it. I got to try A/B approaches, new campaign tactics, anything to try and raise those metrics.

It was all part of an agile mindset. If things aren’t working, be solution-oriented. You can always find a way to improve your outreach cadence, leverage gatekeepers, personalise etc.

4 – Managing time

As an SDR, you soon find out how important time management is. You need to organise your day well if you are going to achieve everything you need to.

I created structured blocks across the day to hold me accountable, such as:

  • Researching
  • Calling
  • CRM

5 – Work ethic

It’s hard work being an SDR; large numbers of calls to make, being engaging on the phone all day, thinking on your feet.

Being an SDR taught me that hard work pays off. It gave me an inner drive to get results. I don’t know if I would’ve got that in any other job.

6 – Soft skills

As an SDR, I learned a wide range of sales skills. I learned how to cold call, overcome objections and close a call with an action. It wasn’t just sales skills, however. Being an SDR taught me soft skills, such as persuasion and business acumen. Business acumen leads to business conversations.

7 – Resilience

There are not many jobs that teach you resilience like being an SDR. It’s not easy spending significant amounts of valuable time researching a company, mapping out your approach, calling, emailing and more, only to get rejected. There are so many highs, but so many lows too.

The company I was working at had a 12 to 18-month sales cycle, so there was a substantial amount of time between me creating the opportunities and seeing them turn into revenue.

However, these highs and lows give you resilience. This resilience was what set me apart from the other reps sitting next to me. I could get 20 rejections in a day and still pick up the phone at 5.30 pm to try and get a meeting. Not everyone could do that, and it’s something that has stuck with me through my career.

The next step

Thinking back to my SDR days, I learned so much that has helped me get where I am today.

Throwing myself wholeheartedly into my SDR role, with a drive to learn and progress paid off hugely. I started to take on additional responsibilities within the team, as well as enablement and ownership to create and implement new processes across the team. I had AE’s asking me to help them with things beyond the usual hand-off and got to work on some of our largest enterprise accounts.

My journey of learning continued and that drove me to go even harder. The more I did, the more I learned. It was a cycle of development, that I try never to break.

If you were an SDR, or if you’re one now, why not leave a comment to let everyone know what you love about being an SDR.


Why is Emotional Intelligence so important in sales?

Skills around pitching and closing are essential for sales success, but so are skills that are harder to quantify. Let’s find out more about Emotional Intelligence.

Emotional Intelligence, sometimes called EQ or EI, is a concept first put forward by the psychologist and author Daniel Goleman in the mid-1990s. It concerns the ability of a person to recognise, manage and understand their emotions, as well as those of others.

Goleman stated five critical areas of Emotional Intelligence:

  • Self-awareness – identifying the state of your own emotions and how they may impact other people
  • Self-regulation – controlling your emotions to prevent negatively affecting others
  • Socialisation – building rapport, creating and maintaining connections
  • Empathy – identifying and responding to other people’s feelings
  • Motivation – the drive or enthusiasm to take on or complete a task

These skills are essential for success in all aspects of life, but in sales, EQ can spell the difference between good and great. Let’s find out why.

Rapport

Without EQ, it is impossible to build rapport with your prospects or customers. When you create an emotional connection, something that is over and above a salesperson trying to sell a product to a prospect, you instinctively get better.

When you genuinely connect with a prospect, you can understand the pain they are feeling and how you create impact with your product. Your win rates will rise, as will retention and customer satisfaction.

The emotional sell

People buy based on emotion, which they later justify with logic. So, the buying and sales journey should be an emotional experience for both parties.

When you possess high levels of EQ, you can create sales triggers that pull on your prospects’ emotions. You’re not pitching; you’re telling a story casting your prospect as the hero.

Resilience

Let’s be honest. Sales can be tough sometimes. You could be an SDR making 100 calls a day, with the vast majority of them saying, ‘No thanks.’ (If you’re lucky!) You could have worked for weeks on a deal, only to see it fall through because of circumstances outside of your control. You need high levels of resilience to handle these setbacks. You need to be able to pick yourself up after rejection, to make that next call or go to that next meeting.

When your EQ is finely-tuned, you stop taking rejection as a personal insult. You stop absorbing the negative energy.

High-performance

Personal success and high-performance do not happen without high levels of EQ. For example, EQ ensures consistency and helps you stay motivated.

We all have days when we’re not at our best, when we just ‘don’t feel like it.’ You need to be able to control your emotions and keep pushing on. You also need to be able to cover up these feelings to put on a professional face for your customer. Even if you’re having a bad day, you can’t let your customers see that.

Research shows that EQ is a critical trait that differentiates top performers from the rest.

Patience

EQ brings patience. Having a sense of urgency is vital in sales, but patience remains a virtue, especially as we move to a buyer-centric reality. 

You need to be able to delay your gratification. Sometimes the sales process from lead to deal can take months, even years. You need to be able to keep on prospecting with enthusiasm and energy, even when you know you may not see the benefit for a long time. This comes with EQ.

Empathy

Empathy helps build rapport, but it does so much more than that. When you listen to your prospect and step into their shoes, you can discover their goals, priorities and pain points. This means you can deliver a tailored solution based on the specific challenges they face.

Boosting your EQ

It is clear than increasing the levels of EQ in your organisation can only bring benefits. How do you go about doing that?

As a sales leader, you need to start with yourself. Be more in touch with your emotions and how they may affect other people in your orbit:

  • Listen more
  • Put yourself in other people’s shoes
  • Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability

Following on from yourself, you can start to build a high-EQ environment in your team and company. Coach them on how to listen and show empathy. Create an environment where positivity rules the day, where people give praise as a matter of course, where reps can face their setbacks with a smile.


7 lessons learned from my first year as a founder

Twelve months ago, I took the plunge and started my own company. As SalesWorks turns one, it’s time to look back and take stock.

We’re officially past the year mark since I founded SalesWorks. What a year it’s been! It’s been a year of hard work, overcoming challenges and finding solutions. It’s also been great fun.

With my first year behind me, I feel grounded, with a clear vision of how I want my company to move forward. Drawing on feedback from my customers and the market, I have defined a direction for SalesWorks, which you can see from the different services we have added in the last six months, such as ‘Supercharging your SDR team’ workshops and call Coaching As A Service.

One of the things that has most surprised me is how much I’ve learned in a year. In this article, I’m going to tell about seven of them. If you run your own company, maybe you recognise some of them.

1 – It’s all on you

It sounds obvious, but it still hits you hard when you start your business. You are steering the ship. Everything is down to you. No one else is going to build this business.

It’s a balancing act that takes a while to master. You know you have to let go of your old 9-5 mentality, but you don’t want to burn yourself out. It took ten months before I took my first holiday, mainly because I felt guilty if I wasn’t working all the time.

A year on, I find the feeling of responsibility liberating. The freedom to set my direction is something that I never had before.

2 – Take risks

As a founder setting a course for the growth of your company, your head is always buzzing with ideas you want to try. In amongst those ideas, there could be the a-ha moment that helps you scale your business.

Don’t be afraid to take risks to achieve your goals. Act fast and measure everything; that way if your idea doesn’t work, you minimise the damage and can move on knowing you tried. Learn more from your failures than you do your successes.

3 – Celebrate your successes

Failures are there to be learned from; successes are there to be celebrated.

In my first year in business, I’ve achieved some notable victories. I’ve worked with some of the largest and fastest-growing software companies in the industry. I’ve delivered results that have made a tangible difference to the performance of their businesses.

It’s good to reflect on these achievements. Don’t let them pass without considering their significance. Use them to spur you on to future success.

4 – Grow your network

Before I started SalesWorks, I worked at a 10,000 person company. Moving from that to just me was a big change. Things can get lonely if you don’t have people around you. However, from the first day, I decided to make a conscious effort to expand my network.

In the software sales industry, there are some excellent organisations putting on events where you can meet people, learn and share insights. I make sure I attend as many of these events as I can. Plus, when I connect with someone, I always try to grab a coffee with them to help build a stronger relationship. Basing myself at a WeWork has also been useful for meeting people.

It’s not just meeting people for the sake of it. Through this strategy, I’ve been able to partner up with other innovative tech companies and execute joint go-to-market initiatives.

5 – Spot your opportunity and move

We’ve all heard the sayings ‘The riches are in the niches’ and ‘If you sell to everyone, you sell to no one.’ However, when you’re trying to find your first customers, you feel you shouldn’t limit yourself. 

My background was in enterprise fintech, so I had a window on the SaaS industry. The nature of SaaS sales was changing dramatically. Companies were spending larger and larger budgets on digital marketing. This was creating a disjoint between sales and marketing, with account management teams sitting on a huge base of accounts that they were not actively managing. There is a massive opportunity here for them to cross-sell and upsell, that they were not taking.

If organisations could improve inside sales and sales development, it could make a significant difference to the bottom line. This is what led to the start of SalesWorks.

Find your niche and find it fast.

6 – Invest in the right places

You don’t have the skills to do everything you need to do when you start a business. Even, if you do have the skills, you certainly don’t have the time to execute on them.

Don’t try and do everything. Bring people in who can help you with marketing, finance, content, web design etc. This helps fuel the engine and streamlines your time, meaning you can focus on what you do best.

7 – Grow your ecosystem

An effective strategy for growth is to look for companies in your industry that complement what you do. If you can forge a partnership with them, you can help each other grow, as well as offer your clients end-to-end solutions.

At SalesWorks, partnering with the right tools, tech and service providers has enabled us to scale, while we delight our clients. An excellent example would be our partnership with Refract, the AI-powered call recording and analysis platform. By combining Refract’s tech with SalesWorks’ coaching expertise, we built an offering, Call Coaching As A Service.

Find out more

Thank you for reading the seven things I learned in my first year as a founder. It’s also important to note how becoming a founder changes you on a personal level. I’ve always been resilient and confident in my abilities. However, spending a year overcoming challenges and hitting targets with my business has made me even stronger in this way.

I look forward to writing an update to this article this time next year!


6 traits of high-performing SDRs

Following on from my article on what makes a high-performance SDR team, I want to look at the attributes of a top-performing individual SDR. It’s funny; SDR positions are generally the first steps on a salesperson’s career journey, but they’re also some of the toughest. The role of SDR is also extremely important. After all, you can’t close something you haven’t prospected.

When you have great SDRs in your team, your revenue figures reflect it. But how do you know what to look for in an SDR? Here are six traits I see in all the best ones.

1 – Passion

A great SDR understands the sales process and their place in it. But more than that, they are passionate at about it. It’s this passion that drives them to look for ways to improve the process.

They are also passionate about the company they work for and enthusiastic about the products they sell. You need this inner fire so you can sound as bright on the hundredth call of the day as you do on the first.

2 – Eagerness to learn

Even the highest performing SDRs know they can improve. Not only that; they strive for it. They realise that however well they are doing, they are only at the start of their sales journey. To be truly great salespeople, they need to learn and hone new skills. Raw talent only gets you so far.

Great SDRs are open to continuous learning. They seek out advice from people who can help them enhance their skills. They are coachable. They are curious. They look for, accept and take action on feedback.

3 – Accountability

The best SDRs hold themselves to higher standards personally and professionally. Then, they are accountable to these standards. On a personal level, honesty and integrity is everything.

Professionally, great SDRs do what they say will do. Whether it’s on a call to a client or talking to your team or leader about what you will achieve this month, they always deliver on what they say.

4 – Discipline

A modern SDR team will be part of a wider sales team that works to a systematic sales process. They turn leads into opportunities then customers in a consistent way, tested to perfection and proven to work. An SDR cannot be a lone wolf, trying new things on the fly to impress a prospect. They need the inner discipline to stick to the system.

That’s not to say an SDR can’t be creative. In fact, creativity is a hallmark of all the best SDRs. They are always looking for new ideas which may improve results. However, they discuss them with their team and formally test them, before adding them to the playbook.

5 – Resilience

The life of an SDR is tough. They may make hundreds of calls per day, with a vast majority of them saying ‘No thanks.’ That’s if they can get through to them in the first place.

A great SDR gets used to failure very quickly. However, they know that it’s how they deal with that failure that sets them apart from the crowd. When something knocks them down, they get back up again. When someone hangs up, they breathe, then smile and dial the next number.

This resilience could derive from a highly competitive spirit, or from a naturally optimistic nature. Failure can bring on an ‘I’ll show you’ attitude, or it can make you see the funny side. Either way, if it gets you back up and producing, it’s okay.

6 – Communication skills

The best SDRs are articulate. They are good speakers, skilled at getting their ideas across to their prospects. That said, these skills can be coached and will improve over time.

What is more important is that they are good listeners. They ask questions then listen to the answers. Then, they provide value based on those answers.

Top-performing SDRs are also great communicators within their teams. They may be the least experienced people in the room, but they have a point of view and are not shy about sharing it. Whether it’s offering feedback or sharing an idea that could help improve the sales process, good SDRs will speak up.


8 attributes of a high-performing SDR team

As more organisations recognise the value of having an SDR team in their sales organisation how do you make your SDR team stand out from your competitors’? At SalesWorks, we spend a great deal of our time looking at SDR teams. We’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. Here are eight traits we see in high-performing SDR teams, as well as what you can do to make sure your team possesses them.

What is high-performance?

Before we start with our list, it’s important to define what we mean by high-performance in an SDR team. Different companies will prioritise different things from their SDR team.

It could be the velocity at which they move opportunities through their pipeline. It could be the amount of revenue generated or the number of opportunities driven.

The best way to define high-performance so that it translates across organisations, is how well the performance of the SDR team aligns with the sales culture? Does the SDR team’s performance fit in with the vision set by the leader?

Now, let’s look at eight attributes for a high-performance sales team.

1 – Talented people

This sounds obvious. The SDR teams that perform best will have the best people in them. However, there’s more to it than that. The vision for your sales team starts with the talent that is already there. Once you have set your vision, you can hire people that match that vision and drive it forward.

What makes a top-performing SDR? That’s for the next article!

2 – Consistency

A high-performing SDR team will be part of a sales machine, designed to be predictable and scalable. The organisation should be able to replicate their sales process wherever they go across the world with perhaps a few minor tweaks. It should be able to run smoothly as people come and go.

In this setup, SDRs need to stick to a well-defined sales process. You cannot have top producers as lone wolves running their own show. Poor performers cannot be going outside the lines to try and improve. Consistency is key.

3 – A focus on the metrics that matter

Today’s tech-driven world of sales produces a large number of metrics. Depending on the vision and goals of your sales team, some will be essential, core metrics. Everyone in a high-performing SDR team will understand the core metrics, how they affect the team and how they can individually influence them. These metrics will drive every conversation within the team. How does an idea improve the core metrics?

A poor grasp of metrics is a hindrance to accountability. Common understanding creates opportunities to improve performance.

4 – A coaching culture

Even though they are by definition performing well, high-performance teams strive to improve. Team leaders will take time to manage, mentor and coach their staff. Conversely, SDRs will see coaching sessions as a chance to get feedback and advance, rather than criticism.

It takes time and conscious effort to establish a coaching culture. You need to get in the weeds. However, it’s worth it.

5 – Team goals

Sales used to be about looking after yourself first. Today, however, high-performance teams work together towards common goals. Great SDR teams will have goals to aim towards, sometimes based on revenue, but not necessarily. For example, teams may be aiming to make a certain number of calls across a week or month.

Each SDR will know what they personally have to contribute to make these goals a reality. While it’s a co-operative exercise, it can also drive healthy competition. Friendly rivalries can be great motivators in SDR teams, as well as incentives (SPIFFs) for team-oriented goals.

6 – Fun

SDRs in high-performing teams genuinely like each other. They have fun working together. They are close, sticking together through times of adversity, celebrating each other’s successes.

Leaders should create a culture where each member enjoys what they do and wants to succeed for their team. This relies on an understanding of what motivates each individual in the team. Different SDRs will be driven by different things.

7 – A goal-aligned comp plan

Compensation can be used to drive your team in the direction of your vision. For example, if your goal is to create grinders who bring make large quantities of calls every day, you can bonus them on call volumes. On the other hand, if you want people who feel secure enough in their roles that they can take time to nurture leads, which in turn leads to larger deal sizes, you can reward them accordingly.

8 – Automation and tech

In the highest-performing teams, leaders look at the sales process and the tasks individual SDRs need to complete. Then, they look to see if tech can make it quicker and easier. For example, if tech can reduce data entry or other admin tasks, SDRs can spend more time on the phone with customers.

Tech can aid SDRs in almost everything they do, from lead gen to emailing. Tech helps them keep track of their customers and their pipelines. You can also use tech to help SDRs improve. For example, call-recording software can help leaders find coaching opportunities.


How do your buyers buy?

Technology has changed the way customers make purchases. How have sales organisations have adapted to succeed in this brave new world?

There is a paradox at the heart of how sales leaders develop their teams:

Two technological advances have changed the way your customers buy your products. Firstly, the internet has completely transferred control of information to your customer. It means they can find out nearly everything there is to know about your product, including what other customers think about it, without having to talk to anyone from your company. Secondly, mobile technology has made your customers comfortable with buying from you without ever having to meet you. Now, you have to meet them where they are, via communication methods such as video calling or social media.

In this article, we’re going to look at the buyer’s journey in this connected new world. We’re also going to look at how the sales process has to adapt to cope with it. Let’s get started.

The new buyer’s journey

On average, your prospect is 60% of the way through the buyer’s journey before they have their first meaningful contact with your organisation. What have they been doing in that time?

Firstly, they identified a problem in their organisation that needs to be solved. Next, they researched possible solutions and drew up a list of vendors that may be able to help. After that, they found out as much as they could about these vendors and their products. This would’ve been using one or more of:

  • Content on the vendors’ websites
  • Downloadable content such as whitepapers, eBooks and video
  • Social media
  • Customer review sites
  • Word of mouth from their network

After this process, it may be time to start talking to the vendors still on their shortlist. That’s where you enter the story.

How sales has adapted

The first aspect of how sales organisations have adapted to succeed in this new world concerns giving potential buyers the best possible experience at the research stage. It’s important to remember that customers buy goods for personal use on Amazon. They expect the same seamless experience and level of service from B2B organisations too.

Marketing teams make sure the pre-sales experience is as effective as possible, moving the customer along their journey until the sales teams become involved. These could include:

  • Consistent branding across all customer touchpoints
  • Value-packed content to educate potential customers
  • A social media presence that displays the organisation’s human side

The next big change comes at the sales stage. Successful sales teams take a different approach, selling to buyers in the way they want to be sold to. Inside sales is a leaner, more automated sales method. It is more efficient and cost-effective than the traditional field sales approach. It leverages technology and data to maximise sales in the modern connected environment.

Inside sales methods, meeting buyers remotely rather than face-to-face, are now the norm in modern sales teams. Even traditional ‘outside’ salespeople now spend close to half their time selling remotely rather than in person.

The sales machine

The growth of inside sales has led to the rise of the sales machine, with SDRs at the start of the process to:

  • Make the calls – on average it takes 8 dials to achieve a meaningful conversation with a buyer
  • Generate interest
  • Qualify
  • Overcome objections
  • Schedule meetings – for AEs to pitch and close

SDR teams also provide data from the frontline to help sales leaders improve the machine.

This approach can bring tangible success. I once came across two companies who sold competitive products. One had an SDR team; one didn’t. The company with SDRs converted their leads at 40%.  The other organisation, who passed leads directly to quota-carrying sales reps, converted their leads at less than 5%.

Looking to the future

The B2B sales machine model enables buyers to make purchases in the way they want to, while driving efficiency in the organisation. As we progress and new technologies emerge, this trend will only continue.

Buyers will be happy to do even more business remotely and sales teams will have to adapt to that. They will invest in more inside salespeople, including SDRs. They will produce more content on more mediums, including mobile which is growing rapidly as a platform for business purchasing. Finally, they will look harder at more metrics in order to gain an edge on their competitors.


Why sales leaders need to spend more time coaching their reps

When you look at the time you spend coaching your reps as an investment rather than a cost, everybody wins.

There is a paradox at the heart of how sales leaders develop their teams:

  • 74% of organisations cite coaching as the most important role of a sales manager. However, on average, managers spend only 5% of their coaching.

In this article, we’re going to look at why this is the case. We’re also going to look at how coaching brings significant benefits to all levels of your organisation. Finally, we’re going to look at how sales leaders can improve the way they coach. Let’s dive in.

Why don’t sales leaders spend enough time coaching?

It’s a complex challenge that organisations and sales leaders face when trying to scale. So often, the focus is on short-term revenue to the detriment of everything else. If it doesn’t directly generate revenue, it becomes ‘something we’ll come back to’ rather than a priority. Coaching is seen as something that doesn’t instantly boost the numbers, so it has to take a back seat.

There are other reasons why sales leaders do not spend enough time coaching their reps:

  • Time pressures – There’s always something else to do.
  • Budget – If a company has £10K for either a marketing event or a training course for their reps, they will often choose the former.
  • Inexperience – Does the sales manager know what to fix? Do they have the right skill set to coach effectively?

There may be ambivalence toward coaching in the organisation. When you need to scale quickly, the long-term strategy may focus on hiring more reps rather than improving the ones you already have. If you need to focus on individual reps, it’s to deal with low performance.

There may also be a perception that the SDR role is ‘junior’ and quite straightforward, so they don’t actually need to be coached. Of course, this isn’t accurate at all. Finally, it’s possible that the reps themselves don’t see the value in coaching, seeing it as box-ticking rather than valuable personal development.

However, if you can get past all of these factors and spend more time coaching, you will see numerous benefits.

The benefits of coaching

You name it; coaching improves it. Coaching your sales reps brings advantages to all:

  • Bottom line – Coaching boosts revenue. It keeps your sales engine firing on all cylinders, helping reps win bigger deals from more customers.
  • Organisation – Today’s generation of young reps demand personal development. If they don’t get it, they will go elsewhere to find it. Coaching boosts staff retention.
  • Team – Coaching enhances a team’s dynamics by improving the way reps communicate with each other. It also helps bring teams together, boosting morale and helping them through challenging times.
  • Reps – Through coaching, reps enhance their skills. They boost their initiative, creativity and product knowledge. Plus, they feel that their company values them enough to invest time and resources in their development.
  • Customers – Well-coached reps will be able to provide your customers with a better service. It will reduce customer churn and boost referrals.

In a landscape where 57% of sales reps miss their quota, can you really afford to put coaching on the back burner?

What you need for effective coaching

The benefits of coaching are clear and numerous. To reap these rewards, you need to look at these areas:

  • Time – Time is the most precious resource, but it’s simple. Sales managers need to make time to spend coaching their reps. 5% is not enough.
  • Effort – Coaching cannot be box-ticking. You have to ‘want’ to do it.
  • Resources – Tech can boost your coaching’s value. For example, call recording and analysis software can help you coach your reps into improving how they deal with specific situations.
  • Skills – You cannot make coaching up as you go along. If you don’t have coaching skills, get them, or outsource to an experienced coach.

Delegation is essential. Someone needs to be responsible and accountable for coaching in your organisation. You can delegate it to someone in-house, or outsource your coaching to an external company.

SalesWorks – Call coaching as a service

At Salesworks, we’ve partnered with Refract to offer an end-to-end solution for your call coaching needs:

  • SDRs or Inside Sales reps who would benefit from 1-2-1 coaching through real-life scenarios.
  • Reps who need a refresher on areas such as discovery, building commitment, value creation, tone of voice and more
  • Reps looking for advanced call structure, call profile and call transitions coaching

By combining our experience with the power of Refract’s call analysis and coaching platform, we help organisations reap the numerous rewards of sales coaching. Plus, sales leaders have their time back to concentrate on driving revenue.

Visit the SalesWorks site to find out more.

Start today

Sales leaders are busy people, facing an exceptional number of different challenges and pressures. However, the extraordinary value of coaching means it should not be put on the ‘we’ll come back to it’ list.

Make time to sit down with your reps today. When you invest your time in coaching, everyone benefits from the return.


How to be comfortable being uncomfortable in sales

Anyone who’s been in sales for a decent amount of time knows it brings its fair share of discomfort.

That’s understandable – in the end, the sole purpose of your sales team is to maximise revenue for the business. By and large, that requires them to convince a prospect that your product or service is the best solution for their needs, and to do that quickly.

In turn, that means talking about cost and budget and exerting a degree of pressure in a relationship where you may not have progressed much beyond ‘how do you do?’

Some people take to that dynamic more readily than others, but few people would honestly say they haven’t ever felt uncomfortable getting down to the nitty gritty of a deal with someone they barely know and can’t necessarily read.

In the end, we’re all human and insecurity and a need to be liked are part of the human condition. But they tend to get in the way when you’re in a sales conversation and if you give into them, they’ll likely derail you.

Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is a necessity for any successful sales team and those who enjoy most success in their sales roles are those who have learned this alien art quickly.

1. Know your customer

In the end, the one thing you absolutely control is who choose to sell to. Your customers aren’t randomly allocated and it’s absolutely in your interests to know as much as you can about them and their needs. So make building an ideal customer profile the first thing you do.

To do that, you need to be totally focused on their need, not the requirement for you to make the sale. Find out what their decision-making process is – are you talking to the decision-maker or budget-holder? If you’re not, what information does that person need from your prospect to sell your product or service up the food chain.

And you need to know your competition. Make it your business to know more about the best of the rest than those competitors do themselves. Why is your offer better? How does it meet the customer need better?

What is the downstream benefit of buying from you, rather than from someone else?

This prequalifying of sales leads may seem obvious, but I’m always surprised at the number of businesses we work with who are so focussed on the sell they either don’t do it at all or don’t do it properly.

Prequalifying prospects weeds out those who won’t buy (whether that’s because they don’t really need your product, because they’re not the budget-holder or because they can’t afford it). And what does that leave you with?

Prospects who need your product or service and who are likely to buy it. What impact does that knowledge have on your inside sales team? To know that when they pick up the phone to begin a sales relationship, they’re going to be talking to someone who’s more likely than not to buy from them?

2. Don’t justify the price of what you’re selling

To be confident in the sale, your sales team needs to be confident in the product they’re selling. Yes, it might be a premium price, but there’s a reason for that and so your team has to have 100% faith in it.

One of the most uncomfortable moments in any sale is the point at which you drop the price bomb into the conversation.

This is the point at which many salespeople begin to gabble, filling the void that just opened up with justifications for the price.

Often, the best thing to do at this point is to stay quiet for a moment and use the silence to your advantage. Let the prospect process the information they’ve just been given. Then it’s an opportunity to re-cover the reasons why your product best meets their business need. You might have sales scripts to help with this – and this is the time they come into their own – especially if the script has case studies the prospect can relate to.

3. Don’t be scared to follow up

Many salespeople are reluctant to follow up with prospects for fear of bothering them and becoming a pain in the neck. But your job isn’t to worry about whether you’re pestering them – if you are, let them tell you that. Leaving them alone won’t make the sale more likely.

As humans, we’re predisposed to fear the worst. But to be comfortable in sales, you have to put that natural instinct to one side. If you haven’t heard from someone and you think you should have done, just fire them a follow-up text or email and find out where they’ve got to in their process.

Which brings us to tip number 4.

4. Get clarity

The psychology of truth is that as humans, we’re pretty good at avoiding it. It’s the false reassurance that somehow, by not knowing, we can pretend everything is all going swimmingly.

This is certainly true in sales, where we have a tendency to fear the word ‘no’.

In the end, salespeople need to make sales. Some people will buy from you, some people won’t. Knowing that gives you a certain amount of confidence. If someone buys, then it’s happy days and you can chalk one up for the team.

If someone doesn’t buy, it’s not going to kill you and you can move on to the next prospect and stop wasting time (and money) on a lost cause.

What kills businesses is waiting in the no-man’s land of ‘maybe’.

But some sales teams are reluctant to seek a definitive answer because while the lead is still live, it’s still possible. There’s a lot of evidence to show that it’s psychologically more comfortable to believe something can still happen than to know it can’t.

Yet, as the old saying goes, the truth sets you free – and being comfortable accepting that not every lead will turn into a sale gives you the resilience and resoluteness you need to tackle the next lead head on, unafraid of the outcome.

5. Listen

It sounds obvious, right – but on average only 40% of the conversations we have are spent listening. Listening is such a powerful tool in sales because when you stop using your mouth and start using your ears, you learn more about what your prospect needs to know from you.

The more you know before you open your mouth to speak, the more time you have to frame your sales script to the needs your product or service will meet in a way your prospect will find compelling.

Part of successful listening is knowing what questions to ask, and I think the key here is to ask lost of open questions: Tell me about your pain points. Tall to me about the immediate challenges ahead. What would help your business to deliver better/faster growth?

Open questions will allow you to gather more information. Closed questions that could be answered with yes or no won’t improve your chances of making a sale – if anything, in fact, it’ll harm them.

There are more secrets to successful sales than these five tips, of course. But if you only followed this advice and did nothing else, I’d be prepared to bet your closure rates would improve.

And I’m guessing you’d probably be very comfortable with that, right?


Game, Set and Match for SDRs!

Wimbledon is around the corner, we’ve just had Roland Garros and The Queens Club Tennis tournament is happening this week. Tennis is season is here!

Some stats for you:

  • A singles player makes 1000+ serves, during a 2 week tournament. That’s roughly 217 serves per match with 8-9 serves per game (both 1st & 2nd). This is for a player who goes on to win the whole tournament.
  • 3-6 miles of running per match, depending on the number of sets. It takes 6 matches to reach the final at Wimbledon. The 7th is the final. So running for between 21 to 42 miles (if 5 sets played every single match).
  • Per Match, winning players have to play potentially 30 games to win 16 of them (Best of 3 sets: 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 = 16) or 50 games played to win 26 games (Best of 5 sets: 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 = 26 games won to win the match).
  • Wining Wimbledon – Women’s Singles players: could play at up to 210 games, winning 112. Men’s Singles players: could play at least 350 games, winning 182.
  • The Tennis court is 78ft by 34ft but the overall playing surface can be as much as 132ft by 60ft. So to cover all those miles per game, that’s a lot of intense, high velocity short sprints & side to side movement!

The Tennis serve for me holds the most fascination and mystery. It’s a complex set of movements; rotation, swing, throw, jump and power. The best make it look so smooth. I have noticed these basic things, since I’ve started playing tennis again 1 year ago:

  1. They never look at the court. Once they start the serve motion all the focus is on the ball. They don’t need to look where to aim, they know.
  2. They throw the ball at least 4-6ft above the height of the tennis player. The tennis ball is sometimes in the air for a full 3 seconds! That’s quite some time.
  3. Visible moment of relaxation before every single serve. They breathe, relax shoulders, ungrip the hand slightly or a combination. They don’t rush into it. 
  4. They keep going. Even if they lose a hard fought point or the serve isn’t working or they’ve slipped on the grass. They keep going. You can sometimes see the mental struggles, as they re-group. They can’t just walk off. They need to finish the match. ps. from 1140 matches, 457 were won when the Winner had lost the first set!

If you are wondering how I’m going to apply this to SDRs, read-on! Plus don’t miss the bit about playing tennis with a frying pan 

  1. Great players have defined, dedicated time for practice, new skills, fitness & match play. 
    • Verbally practice your pitches everyday; get confident with the words and your tone of voice, so do this out loud.
    • Take time to learn & apply new skills. Training courses, live call feedback, workshops, SDR meet-ups, all make a difference. It’s very important to make sure you are being taught either new techniques or getting refreshers on the essential steps that lead to mastery. So ask and make sure there is time & money dedicated to helping you be the best.
    • Fitness is equivalent to research & preparation about your prospects. I am a huge fan of the 3×3 method. It’s quick, efficient and thorough. Never get on a call unprepared.
    • Lastly dedicate blocked time for outreach. Ideally block a good 2 hours and focus on a list, based on one persona or one vertical etc. Being specific like this for a dedicated time makes a huge difference to your focus and how your conversations will flow. 
  2. The serve is the most important shot, as is your opening sentence. It introduces you and your company. So practice and test your opening sentences regularly & often. What prospects hear or read first, will determine how the rest of the call goes. 
  3. Give yourself time – don’t rush the call. All tennis players relax visibly before they serve. Do the same. All tennis players use moments between shots to get back to the centre ground, to anticipate the next shot better. Do the same. Understand that the call will flow between you & the prospect. Centre yourself every time by focusing on understanding their needs better.
  4. There is a routine and a pattern to a tennis game, as there is with everything an SDR does. So use it. If it’s going well – build on the momentum of the previous call. If it isn’t going well – refresh, recharge & refocus for the next call. Stick to the routine even if you are having a bad day. You can’t walk off the court. Every game in every match makes you better. 
  5. Even under pressure they play relaxed, powerful tennis. In the same way, while under pressure, aim to have relaxed, purposeful conversations.

Ok, that’s it for the tennis analogy  Do let me know what you think. And go and watch some tennis! Watch the best tennis players in world at their day jobs  #SerenaSDRs #FedererSDRs ps. You can even play tennis with a frying pan! Watch the video  It’s all about technique (another blog on that soon!).


If you’re not doing video, you’re not optimising sales

As with all things in life, trends come and trends go, and for sales teams it’s no different. The way we’ve always done things isn’t the way we’ll always continue to do them, and the one tool that’s seems certain to be here to stay is video.

Last week I went to the Hypergrowth 2019 conference, the world’s fastest-growing business event organised by conversational marketing platform Drift.

There was plenty of eye-opening intel to take away from the day, but the session that really stood out came from Drift CEO David Cancel and VP of Strategy, Adam Schoenfeld, and dealt with the role of video in future sales strategy.

Anyone with half an eye on consumer trends will know that video is already hugely important in how users consume online content on a day to day basis. It’s the speed of channel growth that’s impressive.

Citing the likes of Cisco, Wordstream, Invisia, Insidesales.com and their own data, Cancel and Schoenfeld confidently predict that by 2021 – in just two years’ time – 82% of all internet traffic will be video.

In as little as a year, according to Cisco, around a million minutes of video will cross the internet every second. Put another way, a second’s worth of online video traffic in 2020 would take two years to watch.

You can read Adam Schoenfeld’s take on this in his blog on the subject. As he says, video is eating the world, and its potential and power is mind-boggling, even for those of us who understood the critical part it already plays in consumption habits.

The key, now, is how sales teams can leverage video to their advantage to drive better engagement through the sales process.

YouTube is and has for some time been one of the two largest search engines in the world, second only to its now-parent company Google. Sales teams – and particularly inside sales teams – can learn much from the nature of the 500 billion hours of video content consumed every day by its 1.3bn users.

The top two content ‘categories’ on YouTube in 2018? Product research videos and how-to instructional films. In that order. Unboxing videos were 10th.

This highly relevant because inside sales in particular thrives on the basis that buyers are comfortable using technology to inform their purchasing decisions in a remote sales relationship.

More than that, buyer markets are increasingly made up of millennials – currently estimated at 45%, but inevitably growing.

With that in mind, it’s clear that whether we’re talking about B2B or B2C, video must now be considered a primary element in any contemporary sales toolkit.

The questions that sales teams now need to answer are what type of video will best engage their buyer, and where in the funnel to use it.

That’s something that will come down to individual teams and will depend entirely on the depth of the existing relationship, the product or service being sold and the most effective way for video to sell the benefit (or start the conversation that does).

Well-produced, high-quality video doesn’t come cheap, so many businesses that are prepared to commit to creating or evolving their video content strategy will need to think carefully about how to get the most from their investment.

But there’s a place, too, for what might be described as ‘guerrilla’ video – the kind of short-form clip-based content shot on an iPhone or Android that engages the prospect in a conversation – not every video needs to ‘sell’ the product or service.

This was covered nicely by Cognism CRO Nazma Qurban at this week’s SaaStra Europa conference in Paris.

Video, then, is an inevitable part of sales and will become more important, not less. The businesses that integrate it into their sales structures will be the ones that will see the most benefit in their sectors, building trust through engagement that’s delivered in the right way, at the right time for the right audience.


Inside sales: mind the information gap

How do you measure the value and effectiveness of your sales strategy and structure? For some, it’s a question of revenue. For others, conversion or cost of sales. But there’s another consideration that critically impacts on all of those – and it’s one many organisations overlook when setting up their sales model.

If nature abhors a vacuum, then business abhors stagnation – and that’s never truer than when it comes to finding an innovative B2B sales strategy that delivers growth and scale.

According to Whitehall statistics, there were 2.2 million more businesses operating in the UK in 2018 than there were in 2000 – an increase of more than 60%. That’s 2.2 million more voices hunting for a share of markets that, for the most part, haven’t grown at the same pace.

There’s a lot of noise out there. The imperative to finding a winning sales strategy that delivers results in crowded markets whilst also being cost-effective to implement and run has never been greater and explains the rapid growth in the trend for many businesses to adopt the inside sales model.

We know the inside sales model has clear advantages: it’s more cost effective than running traditional field sales teams; digital confidence among buyers and consumers has enabled easy access to product or service research, meaning trusted ‘remote’ client relationships can be built quickly; and technology innovation has created alternate ways for sales teams to communicate with buyers – e.g. Zoom, Webex etc.

In many businesses, the true barrier to a successful sales strategy is the lack of information they have around their ideal customer profile.

This information gap – the unconsidered consideration I talked about at the top of this article – isn’t an issue for organisations that have an effective inside sales structure because the strength of inside sales is in having total clarity on the ICP to begin with.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for field teams in the modern sales landscape – most successful B2B sales operations use a hybrid approach – but it does mean that field sales teams need to bring something different to the party in terms of adding value to new or existing relationships in some way.

Where many companies see the greatest value of the inside sales model is at the early and late stages of customer and prospect engagement to drive net new business, upsell, cross sell and manage smaller accounts.

This is typically at the lead generation phase where it’s about higher volume and at repeat purchase points where it’s about scalability.

This makes all sorts of logical sense – leveraging email, social media and other digital or non-touch systems to identify potential buyers, markets and segments has become as much a part of modern sales practice as the more traditional – and now largely outmoded – techniques that predated them were in the past.

Similarly, inside sales also come into their own at the back end of the buyer journey as repeat business can be stimulated easily using the same tools and approaches.

That’s all well and good, of course, and an inside sales process that reduces cost of sale, generates and nurtures leads, delivers good conversion rates and drives revenue is one that easily justifies itself through the bottom line.

But for many businesses, the hiccup in that transactional inside sales journey comes at conversion. Often the team is generating and qualifying plenty of leads but then not managing to achieve desired conversion rates to close. This is a problem that affects a great many organisations and it’s one that’s rooted in how sales teams qualify the leads they generate.

The smart sales teams are the ones that have invested time and money in understanding not just their target addressable market, but their ideal customer profile at a forensic and granular level. They know where those people ‘live’, how, what and why they buy, how they define value and a hundred and one other behavioural attributes.

Just over a decade ago it took fewer than 4 attempts to reach a prospect. Today it takes 8 – and success is predicated on due diligence in identifying your market. In other words, what you know affects what you sell. The principle really is that simple. Implementing it successfully is a different matter.

There will always be window shoppers and tyre-kickers out there, people who may express a passing interest in a product or service but who are either too early in their buyer journey or don’t fit your ideal customer profile, or whose needs are mismatched with your offering.

A successful sales structure and strategy – particularly those like inside sales that are largely remote – are the result of a commitment to gaining market intelligence that allows you to identify, closely target and then expand your audience according to a known – or at least informed – ideal customer profile.

That not only results in better leads at the start of the buyer engagement process, higher conversion and increased revenue, it also supercharges customer stickiness, increasing potential for upsell and cross-sell (repeat business) and advocacy (referred business).

And those are the sales gifts that truly (and literally) keep on giving.