Sales Management

Why You Should Fire Your Sales Manager Or Boss

The Sales Manager’s job is to provide an environment within which their sales people can succeed. This means providing intrinsic competitive value in the product, service or solution being sold. Then viable territories and targets, the right levels of support, training and enablement tools, demand generation leadership, and remove internal roadblocks. What more could you possibly ask for? Well for me there is one more thing – positive values and leadership. Success is a partnership and all the elements need to be in place for a team to be effective. Synergy is amazingly powerful stuff when everything comes together.

But life is too short to work with people you neither like nor respect. The first boss I fired was good person and we remain friends today but he could not provide me with a viable territory. It wasn't really his fault, and he had been told to hire a sales person to 'dominate the white space'... LOL! I discovered, painfully, that the 'white space' is that part of the market that's already being serviced by your competitors or where there is little need for what is being offered.

But before I had the difficult conversation about our future together I worked hard for 6 months ‘trail-blazing our value proposition’ into a new vertical. I did the analysis by sizing the market, profiling potential clients and finding the industry influencers. I ran demand generation initiatives by working closely with marketing and I met with the industry leaders. I adopted a top-down selling approach to overcome the resistance we were encountering at mid-levels.

I felt I had earned the right and am committed to success and I said to my boss: “Either you’re going to fire me in 9 months for poor performance or I’m going to fire you in the 60 days for not providing me with a patch in which I can be successful. I’m happy to keep building this new vertical but I also need additional territory if I am to make my number.”

Seriously, when you're at the interview, always ask: What's my territory going to be, how viable is it? Also ask: 'What happened here to make this role available – why wasn't my predecessor successful?'

Before we continue, have a smile watching this video about Joshua Peters and Michael Blunt from my book. At the end of this post share your most outrageous stories concerning someone firing their boss. Perhaps via e-mail telling them to open their top drawer where the security pass, laptop and final expense claim is sitting?

In one of my posts I provide guidance to sales managers on who belongs in their sales team and how do they decide who needs to be managed-out? The "rule of 24" helps them make the decision but for sales people assessing whether to fire their boss I recommend the three Cs. The following is an excerpt from my Book, The Joshua Principle.

Success is a 50:50 proposition. By this I mean that you bring fifty percent of the potential for success and your employer represents the other side of the equation. You know that companies look for Competence, Commitment, and Character or Cultural fit when hiring someone and you should also consider these same things in evaluating your potential employer. In addition to the three Cs, you need them to discuss the three Ps. You should evaluate the potential for success within their organization based upon their response to the following topics: People, Proposition and Patch. Your employer has an obligation to provide an environment within which you can be successful. This means that they need to have people you are proud to work with (competent, committed and of good character), and a value proposition that is uniquely differentiated in the market; and a territory – patch – that is viable with an achievable quota.

Another good reason to fire your boss, or client for that matter, is when there is misalignment of values. An immutable law of selling is that people buy from those they like and trust... they also stay and work with those they like and trust.

Is your boss a person of integrity? The best boss I ever had was a woman. I think we need more female leaders because they are naturally wired for better relationships and better morality. People who are trying hard need to be nurtured, not napalmed with flame-thrower forecast pressure from lunatic managers seeking to manage what cannot be managed – revenue. Jason Jordan will convince you this is true.

Another boss I fired was the regional VP and I was country manager for Australia. He was a slippery soul, very cunning and good at self-optimization. He was happy to bold-face lie to staff about them being okay, and then instruct me quietly later to fire them. He happily abused his expense account and travelled internationally for his own personal purposes, staying in the finest hotels with limousines driving him everywhere. I didn't handle it at all well but I learned much about how not to fire your boss.

The last time I fired my boss was after receiving an e-mail telling me to fire 40% of my employees in 48 hours by booking 15 minute back-to-back appointments before office hours in a hotel lobby to then hand them envelopes and advise they were locked out of the office and all systems. It was suggested that I follow the script and tell them that someone would be in touch to make a time for them come and collect a box with their stuff in it. At the time we were the most profitable region in the world – #1 amongst 40 offices globally. But when acquisitions happen, strange decisions get made. This true story is featured in an upcoming book on leadership written by Anthony Howard: Humanise, Why Human Centred Leadership Is The Key To The 21st Century.

So as you consider your current career; does your boss care about you, is he committed to your success? Is she competent? Do you have aligned values? Choose those with whom you share your life; especially with your work.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Photo is of legendary voice artist and actor, Matt Wills. Video was produced byJoel Philips who also plays role of Joshua Peters. Joel is a man of many talents... musician, actor, producer and leader.

Main image photo by: Michael Blunt (aka: Matt Wills)

Pharrell Wins Grammys Because He's A Master Salesperson

Pharrell is a humble, stylish and confident genius but it didn't come overnight. He applied the timeless principles of a master closer to become an overnight sensation, put out a smash hit to accompany the international box office hit from Universal Pictures 'Despicable Me' and cleaned up at the Grammys. Here's how he did it:

Anthony Robbins has been saying it for decades – "Selling is about changing someone's emotional state." Being a musician has so much in common with professional selling: Endless personal rejection requiring a deep well of determination and you have to give your all to be successful... no holding back!

We've all seen it on American Idol or Australia's Got Talent or The Voice – Keith Urban telling the contestant that they "didn't really sell it" or Simon Cowell on X Factor saying: "I didn't believe you." The greatest songs take us somewhere emotionally because they tell a story of love, tragedy, redemption... they reach in and tear our hearts out or lift us to heaven with happiness.

Emotion has far more impact than production values. Passion takes you further than mere professionalism. Yes, you've got to be able entertain and sing pitch-perfect... but that's just the ticket to the dance concert. It's ability to transfer emotion that creates Grammy winners and sales legends.

You've got to believe in yourself, especially when others don't. Don't let the song inside you go unsung or as Wayne Dyer profoundly puts it: "Don't die with your music still inside of you." Stop telling and start selling what you passionately believe in. Show it and dare to wear your heart on your sleeve!

Pharrell gets the concept of building in a unique differentiator. His productions with N.E.R.D. cemented his prowess as a producer blending rock, funk and hip hop. He didn't sound like anybody else that came before: the hybrid synergy created an 'original' sound. Differentiating your product and service in sales is paramount. You can differentiate your own selling style by pulling from old school and new school approaches.

Pharrell understands the Ogilvy "one-word" brand equity. Just check out his signature hat by Los Angeles hat designer Nick Fouquet. The hat has become an icon as has his sound. Some sales people I know wear a pocket square or rock a theme color for their company. I'm not suggesting a gimmick but if it's an authentic point of flair it may make sense. My business mentor, Anthony Howard, embraces this with conservative panache. In no case am I the arbiter of business fashion but I can equate his hat to something that makes you say: 'wow, how cool'! What part of your solution, product or service stands out from the crowd? How can you work to uniquely differentiate yourself in the marketplace?

Pharrell stood out from day one as a gifted skateboarder and began to produce other artists, collaborating with great commercial success including Jay-Z, Gwen Stefani, Robin Thicke, Daft Punk and Snoop Dogg. He embraces the synergy that comes from collaboration. The tie here is the concept of team selling where we fly in with a talented solutions consultant and work with our own internal C-Suite to make the deal happen.

The last piece that makes Pharrell a master salesperson is his ability to be a super networker. He is one of the most connected men in the entire music industry. His productions were in such hot demand because he helped pioneer a new technology called Reason by PropellerHead software that made tapestries of sound against canvases and mash-ups all digitally emulating analogue capabilities. He pushed the software to the limit and everyone wanted one of his tracks as a backdrop. You need to become a super networker in your industry, test out cutting edge software for B2B lead generation, trigger event tracking, drip campaigns and marketing automation and push the envelope as a B2B content marketer with LinkedIn Publisher. Think to yourself: What would Pharrell do here? How might he innovate?

Now it's your turn: What's your song inside? What metaphorical music is dying to get out? What other parallels do you see between music and selling? What music gets you pumped up to go out and give your all?

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main Image Photo by Flickr: Shawn Ahmed

Strategic Social Selling Defined... By Someone Actually Doing It.

There are so many people out there giving advice on strategic B2B and social selling yet so few have achieved consistently in the heat of battle, survived jungle guerrilla warfare, lived in the desert of selling into the white space and adapted to embrace social maneuverability with old school battleship clout.

Read this article with confidence. I've personally won hundreds of millions of dollars of deals over three decades in multiple industries. I sold to IBM themselves at 70% higher prices than the incumbent competition and it was the biggest deal ever in the industry. My record was never broken and even more than two decades they are still a customer. I've won President's Club in the telecommunications industry; earned Asia-Pacific Account Manager of the Year in the IT industry; sold the biggest deal in the world for a tier-one software company which earned hundreds of thousands of dollars in commission from a single deal. Just over two years ago I left the corner office as Managing Director and went out on my own to do consulting. Less than 90 days ago I truly embraced social and the results are shocking (case study by LinkedIn themselves in the next 30 days). Here it is now!

I want to help you define Strategic Social Selling, but first let's define it without social. Before we can understand what good looks like, let's look at the bad. This is reactive selling. The type of selling where you are disrespected and treated like a mere commodity, where they jerk your chain and bark orders to complete inane tender documents within unreasonable deadlines, to perform magical demonstrations with almost no time to prepare, where they won't tell you who will be in the audience or what their roles are.

The illustration below shows the buyer's journey in its varied forms but the defining element of reactive selling is that the customer is in the driver's seat from beginning to end. They decide when to invite you in to their process and on their rules. There is inevitably a focus on price, assessment of features and functions, ratings of risk versus bang for buck; and you are blocked from talking with the real decision makers, instead being forced to comply with their process and timing. It feels like you're flying blind. Many adhere to old adage: If you didn't influence their tender, don't bother responding... delete. But I have won business where we were late the party in government deals... it can be done.


Strategic selling, on the other hand, is defined by being proactive in researching, targeting and planning. The best sellers seek alignment with the ideal prospective customer rather than attempting to raise the dead through extreme evangelism. The way they achieve this is by focusing on win review with their best customers to identify the triggers that caused them to invest in a solution. There is a very important distinction here – it is NOT about discovering why they bought from you over the competition; it's instead about identifying trigger events that caused them to decide they had a serious problem or opportunity (before they decided who to invest with; you or your competitors).

Continue looking at the far right of the illustration below and notice that it is the completion of the customer experience. Sales people are wired to behave as if closing the sale is the end of what matters but in this model there is an entire group of new items extending to the right. For the customer, it's where the risk begins and they want to buy from someone who cares about their entire lifecycle to deliver the outcomes they are seeking. Customer eXperience (CX) is the new sales model for driving sustainable competitive advantage. Sellers who take the time to do post-implementation reviews with ROI validation are the ones who generate the most powerful case studies and testimonials.

But there is another magical thing to also focus on to create ultimate buyer empathy, insight and alignment... it is the power of thinking about your customer's customer. B2B2C is what you're really doing. The sellers who genuinely care about their customer's challenges and opportunities, to help them reduce costs, gain market share, reduce customer churn, improve customer satisfaction, and more; are the one's who change the rules on the competition through the way they sell. It demands that sales people go vertically deep in industry segments and it requires substantial investment... this is where insight selling or Challenger ideation occurs.


Now look to the left and notice the first [upward] red arrow. Differentiation occurs in the way that selling occurs rather than in what is actually being sold. The way we sell has always been more important than what we sell and in social selling its never been more important. The sales person and how they sell is the single biggest differentiator and Corporate Executive Board research proved it. The very best prepare fully, arrive early and engage at the most senior levels. They challenge the status quo with evidenced business insights while setting an agenda with an inbuilt bias within requirements toward their strengths. Finally, they embed their unique value in a compelling business case to overcome apathy and the status quo. They use risk as a weapon and fear as a positive motivator to position as lowest risk and best value. They create a strong focus on business value creation and risk mitigation while aligning with those who have genuine power within the power-base political structure.

But there is more to #StrategicSocialSelling than an early engagement, proactive approach. Notice the second [downward] red arrow. This is where your activities in social result in you being invited to participate in the the most important part of the buyer's journey. It takes a serious investment of time and real skill to operate at this level. The very best sales people today embrace this role and become micro-marketers to drive their own demand-generation machines.

At any given time, only 3% of your market is actively buying. 56% are not ready, 40% are poised to begin. - Steve Richard, Vorsight

And now... lets add the X-factor to Strategic Selling which is Social Selling 3.0. The term 'Social Selling' is a misnomer because in the context of business-to-business (B2B), the best social sellers don't sell at all. They do not engage in digital spamming, interrupt marketing or push selling at any time. They instead use proven old school methods of selling on new school social platforms to deliver massive leverage, scale and amplification of their efforts. In the slide below I provide some examples. Yes, I know that the platforms referenced are not exhaustive but they are the most important in B2B. CRM encompasses social collaboration and there are many best of breed collaboration tools. The Holy Grail of sales enablement is in fact when it all comes together for deal coaching and this link provides my detailed blog on the topic. Let's explore the Pillars of Social Selling.

Social Listening: Are you segmenting and targeting your ideal buyers and putting feelers out to filter out their signal from the noise? This can be done with tools like HootSuite and TweetDeck. I'm surprised at how few sellers are creating basic Twitter Lists to listen by segments of 25 individuals or less that are actually practical to track. Stephen Covey said, 'seek first to understand than be understood.' You must first open your ears, heart and mind. Be present and make sure that you have a dashboard set up to glean every aspect of what your dream prospects are putting out into the social ether: press releases, white papers, reflections on the annual report, balance sheet, interviews, YouTube videos (subscribe to their channel), Tweets, Facebook shares, Google+ updates, Pinterest boards, Instagram, SlideShare and even search the first 15 pages of search results of Google with a fine toothed comb.

Measure twice cut once — English Proverb

Social Publishing: Don't just blog - that's Web 2.0. Take the plunge on LinkedIn Publisher into Web 3.0 - the web of context and social proximity. Understand the inter-relationships of your networks and network's networks. Share your subject matter expertise and thought leadership on here daily. The network effects and engagement are without parallel. I controversially advocate moving your blog to LinkedIn where you'll get exponential views, reads, likes, shares and comments. Basic math unveils this. Imagine you're a rockstar with 200,000 followers of a traditional blog. Now let's just say you've written the most compelling article ever and you manage to get a 5% open rate. That's just 10K people that read it. But the reality is more like 2% that will actually read it - not just open it, skim it or star it for later. At 2% we're at 4,000 people and that's the grim reality of the blogosphere in 2015. Blogs are often reliant upon an email list, auto-opened in gmail or ignored.

By moving my blog to LinkedIn I've had many posts reach over 10,000 views, another climbed to 200,000. It's rare to have a LinkedIn publish read over 1,000 times and what I notice on here is that engenders 400 shares in many cases and two dozen comments. I respond to them all thoughtfully. How do you become a subject matter expert in the vertical you're selling into overnight? Paradoxically, writing everyday on here will do it. Parkinson's Law states that 'work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.' I set the goal to produce the highest quality piece of content I could in LinkedIn Publisher every day for the last 90 days and many days the inspiration flooded me from following all of you, and I was able to put out more than that. Plant seeds and be curious...

The second huge way to amp up your social publishing, is to get in front of as many qualified buyers as you can and bring those insights and that pattern recognition back to what you write. As Andy Rudin calls it 'mind the string.' Start to compile a list of links as you peruse the internet so that you can cross-reference and backlink to them in your posts. I also keep an ever-growing Evernote file with thousands of topics; I'll often mash up a few to craft a post. Other than becoming a great B2B writer by traditional means and cutting your teeth at GigaOm, becoming a phenomenal social publisher is more so about overcoming fear. If you got into a career in sales because brevity is your strong suit, you love picking up the phone and talking with clients - well, you're probably already a top producer. I would suggest writing in LinkedIn as if you're writing a letter to your biggest client helping to explain how your solution solves their technology challenge. You'll notice you write volumes every day in email sharing your hard-won expertise and insight so carry that intensity and your authentic voice into social publishing. The fastest way to build compelling posts is mashups: newsjack a current event mixed with a sport you know about and mix in some business rules: bingo - an intriguing post based on your real world experience and strong opinions to polarize!

Here are the top four links that I've found that completely changed the game for me in LinkedIn Publisher. I've taken a wildly data-driven approach architecting my social publishing blueprint from these sources like Dave Kerpen who has had the highest read Publish of all time with over 2MM views:

Social Research and Social Engagement: Challenger Sale leaves most readers with this burning question: 'But how do I get upstream with insight?' I know I need to 'teach with new insight' but how do I generate it? The world is crying out for a prequel rather than a sequel to Challenger! Social research will allow you to understand the precise moment when to strike. Passively monitoring the leads in the top accounts in your territory will bear fruit. A) You'll start to notice patterns in what your prospects are posting that will influence the insights you can share. B) You'll start to notice a consensus (near ubiquity) of challenges and strategic objectives both harmonic and dissonant to competitors. The differentiators in your suite of solutions emerge to be shared and amplified. C) With a deep understanding of trigger events, you can be there during the most powerful one: changes and transitions. Read Craig Elias and Tibor Shanto's book 'Shift' for the blueprint on this.

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. - Abraham Lincoln

Awareness and bad supplier triggers are often not enough to impel a change from the status quo. The best type of research you can do is on previous signers, buyers or advocates in past or current accounts that have now either been promoted, switched into a new role where they have the ability to disrupt a new company's culture [and spend money - 7 figures - in the first 90 days] or are broadcasting a recent understanding of the emergent paradigm. Engagement is all about subtlety. Blasting updates at a Twitter handle can and will hurt you. Awkward connect requests or InMails that are super relevant but non sequitur out of left field will cause a 'crickets' response. Engagement has to be meaningful for them, not just formulaic and self-serving for you. My favorite email each week is the company leader that explains in the preamble how they are 'personally inviting me' or 'wrote to me personally.' Then I check the from address and it's been spit out by a mkt-auto drip campaign! I wrote an entire post about the subtleties and nuances of how to move from 'interesting to interested' here that very much speaks to the ladder of engagement and slowly warming up prospects from a simmer to a roaring boil in social media.

Social Collaboration: It's amazing what happens once you start to form digital bonds with a super network across the globe. You'll attract thought leaders with radio shows reaching out to interview you. Bloggers in vertical industries will look to feature your writings to a broader audience. You may be invited to mastermind groups, to contribute to white paper studies by software companies, guest blog on other highly read sites, participate in social hangouts and even new speaking, coaching and training opportunities will emerge. This is all social collaboration in its highest form as you're building a virtual network to brainstorm, become a master mind and push the entire industry forward. The best way to collaborate is to embrace open source - give your IP away freely (with attribution, of course) and co-create. Social collaboration is about an ongoing value exchange and creation of innovative ideas. Once you're writing daily, open up an email address so readers can provide feedback and request topics. When a reader leaves a candid comment, ask questions to draw the conversation out further. Why do they disagree or feel passionately on the subject?

Social collaboration is the concept of synergy, the result of many minds coming together creates the mastermind in stark contrast to the bureaucratic hive mind of the closed water cooler confines of the traditional organizational hierarchy and strict command and control. Social media plays a democratizing role flattening the Earth into a global village of a vibrant knowledge economy advancing all industries.

Let's say you're building out a white paper or report. Look how PureMatter asked the top 50 social sellers that Onalytica rated with their analytics process what they thought the biggest challenge organizations will face as they look to implement social selling. This is the quintessence of social collaboration because it creates a feedback loop of new insight and collective knowledge sharing and brainstorming in real-time. Corporations can do this with their customer base. Authors can collaborate with their readers to push their work even farther forward and closer to the customer's true reality. Sellers can collaborate with customers during the course of the decision phase of the buying process to further customise a solution that is bullet proofed against competitors. Further interacting with social to provide service and to garner and share key case studies is key. Nobody sells your product better than your satisfied customers and we must sell to our customers in their own words.

The key to success with strategic social selling is 'strategy.' If you're looking for a speaker and workshop leader at your conference to transform the way people sell and train your team on how they can deftly leverage strategic social selling at every aspect of the deal funnel to accelerate results, please contact me here on LinkedIn, and I can bring all of this to life for you.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main Image Photo: US Air Force (USAF) Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Dirk Smith, Commander, 94th Fighter Squadron (FS), peels away from USAF Major (MAJ) Kevin Dolata, Assistant Director of Operations, 94th FS, during the delivery flight of the first F/A-22A Raptor fighters to the 94th FS at Langley Air Force Base (AFB), Virginia (VA). The 94th FS is the second squadron at Langley to receive the new stealth fighter.


12 Reasons Why You Should Be Fired In Sales

I work with many sales people across multiple industries every month in my role of mentoring and deal coaching. Many meetings feel like Ground Hog Day or maybe I’m just becoming grumpy in my old age; but here are common shortcomings I see in sales people that make them worthy of being fired.

If you’re a sales manager or CEO, send this to the entire sales team and put them on notice that they will be held to account. If you’re an individual sales contributor, address all of these issues now to save your career. I’m serious – stop screwing around with your success; be the professional you’re paid to be. Here are the things (in no particular order) that make your boss look bad and you look amateurish.

  1. Not being across the detail of your key deals. Stop giving long-winded waffling answers when asked about the status of an important deal. The senior executives above you are busy and don’t want a bedtime story. Be succinct in your responses. Start at the end and provide a summary before diving into detail. Say something like: ‘It’s forecast for the 13th and their executive sponsor has confirmed with me that the date is confirmed with their internal team. Everyone in the power-base is on board and procurement is in the loop. There are two risks that I am managing…’
  2. Failing to have a strategy. Never use the words ‘hope’ or ‘hopefully’. In every major deal you need to be thinking about what could go wrong and manage the risks. You must have a strategy for relationships, the competition (including their internal options), and engineering their processes for evaluation, selection and procurement. Hope is not a strategy. Being passive and failing to create any level of positive tension is professional malpractice. You're not a professional visitor or observer who reports back. Make it happen by building positive relationships with the right people inside the customer organization.
  3. Failing to work hard. Sustained success is never the result of consistent luck. Work ethic is prerequisite for anyone performing at the top. If you’re not 'blowing your numbers away', then you sure as heck had better be seen to be working hard. Work ethic is what smooths out the peaks and troughs of sales performance; to be consistent month-in and month-out. The time to be working hard is when you don't feel you have a weak pipeline of qualified opportunities – things change quickly. earn your success with the sweat of your brow. Look yourself in the mirror, and your boss in the eye, knowing you've earned the right to be successful.
  4. Wasting time and being late for meetings. Every meeting should have an agenda and confirmed in advance. Time is precious. If you can't manage yourself, how in the world can you manage complex sales processes and expensive company resources. If you don't respect the time of others, why should they respect you? Being on time means being at least 5 minutes early. Sit in a nearby coffee shop and prepare, think, plan – take the stress out of meetings. Arrive early and stake the perfect seat, arrange the room. Every pilot knows that their mind must arrive well before the plane if they are to be truly professional.
  5. Failing to take notes and follow-up. It staggers me how often I see sales people not taking any notes in meetings. ‘I have a good memory’, they say. I don’t care if you have the memory of an elephant! It’s about the customer, not you. They need to see you being fully there and vitally interested in their every word. Taking notes also enables you to break eye contact (the only reason you should) and show them that they are important, that you don't want to forget, that you’ll follow-up, that you’re a professional. Imagine how you would feel if a builder came to your home to provide a quote for your big renovation and he didn’t measure anything and failed to write anything down... 'I have a good memory love; no worries, she'll be right'... Next!
  6. Not using sales tools provided to you. Your company has invested huge sums of money in sales methodologies and tools... use them! By all means pragmatically, but use them nevertheless. Show people that you've qualified the opportunity and that you have actions in play to address weaknesses and gaps. Complete call plans and share with your boss before all important meetings. Build close plans on all the big deals to show you understand the customer’s internal approval gates, procurement processes, compelling events and dates. Here is an ideal meta framework for opportunity management.
  7. Not keeping the CRM up to date. How can you claim to be a professional when the CRM shows that the deal is still at qualification or discovery stage yet you submitted the proposal last week? Why is the CRM ‘next step’ something that is trivial and happened 3 weeks ago? Why are all of your forecast close dates the last day of the quarter? Professionals keep their records up-to-date to help their boss help them – if you want the resources of the organization invested to help you pursue big opportunities, then earn respect and support by how you operate. How can marketing assist you with inviting prospects to events if you don't bother to put them in the system. Why should you be allocated any more leads when most of the ones you've been given are languishing in the CRM without any notes or change in status? No wonder so many marketing and management people have low opinions of sales people. 
  8. Being a shocking lone wolf. Being a lone gunslinger cowboy may suit your persona but success in complex enterprise selling is always a team effort. It’s amazing what can be achieved when you don't care who gets the credit. Work well with others; collaborate and be a team player. If you read between the lines, The Challenger Sale says to fire Lone Wolves when they start missing their numbers.
  9. Being a ‘Social Selling’ illiterate. LinkedIn is the new phone for securing appointments. Your LinkedIn profile is the platform for establishing your credibility before you even meet. Your LinkedIn Publisher posts are how you set the agenda and deal with objections in advance. Twitter is how you amplify your insightful publishing to spread the word. YouTube is how you avoid having to do high risk, time wasting, tire kicking, mind-numbing, Russian roulette high risk demos. Social selling is highly relevant in the world of B2B enterprise selling... get on board before your career sails away without you!
  10. Failing to create the necessary value to fund your role. One of my European clients did an extensive study concerning the cost to the company every time a sales person pulled-up outside a client's premises. Field selling is expensive... here is the answer $476. The number is accurate – they have annual revenues in excess of $1 billion in Australia and hundreds of sales people. They asked two questions of every manager and sales person in the company: When you visit a customer or prospect, are you creating $500 of value for them and us? If you asked the customer and your boss to split it; $250 each – would they be willing to both write you a check?
  11. Breaking the circle of trust. Lying to your boss is the beginning of the end of your relationship with her. Trust is everything – with customers, colleagues, your partner, everyone! Without trust you have nothing in professional sales. Your personal reputation is the most precious thing you have. Who is in the mirror staring back at you? Is there a look of conviction or an empty suit hoping not to be found-out. Don't cheat your boss out of time or steal their money. Be honest about the state of your deals.
  12. Inaccurate forecasting and fantasy pipeline. Everyone above you has the living crap beaten out of them when they miss their numbers. It felt like I aged a whole year at the end of every quarter when I was managing the region for American corporations. Regular ugly surprises at the eleventh hour make heads explode. Squirming out of commitments damages you enormously... be a person of your word and don't over-promise. Bad news early is manageable but consistently delivering ugly surprises at 3 minutes to midnight is terminal – for you or your boss.

Beyond stupidity, incompetence or arrogance; are there other factors that destroy a sales career worthy of mention – what are they?

P.S. Here is what I tell sales managers concerning who belongs, or not, in their team. Every sales person should understand this formula.

Just to be balanced (a chip on both shoulders) my next post will be on why sales managers and other bosses should be fired.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main image photo by Flickr: Emilio Küffer

Top 5 Reasons To Fire A Top Sales Performer

I'm not a fan of 'stack ranking' which is the practice of creating a performance table and firing the bottom 10% to 15% every year. It's usually carried out summarily on a quarterly basis targeting the bottom 3-5% of sales non-performers. Think, Lord Of The Flies meets Celebrity Apprentice, for the right image in your mind.

Numbers never lie but numbers never tell the whole story either... real leaders dig deep and uncover root cause before firing-up the flame thrower. Sales performance is a partnership between the sales person, their manager and the company providing intrinsic value in the market offering. Getting up to speed takes time and sales success can be a complex equation.

Yet the biggest mistake I consistently made when leading companies and sales teams was holding on to the wrong people for too long. I deluded myself into thinking that my inaction was driven by good values (be patient and continue to help) but in hindsight, maybe my weakness was driven by fear. We all worry that if we fire sales people, then we won't have the resources to go get the revenue so desperately needed. We are almost always desperate because head office piles quota uplift upon quota uplift in their relentless pursuit of shareholder value! They compound the problem by fiddling while Rome burns withholding headcount approvals and nitpicking over recruitment fees. Mixed signals from on high seem commonplace.

Today I work with sales leaders and CEOs and I'm constantly exhorting them to make the tough decisions concerning their teams. Retaining the wrong people always turns caustic but before that, they consume endless amounts of energy and time. Jim Collins agrees with me and if you want proof, read his classic leadership tome, Good to Great. It's one of the first things that he nails: Get the wrong people off the bus and don't worry about having some empty seats... the right people will get on the bus and fill them.

At the end of this article I'll give you my 'Rule of 24' for deciding who needs to go and who should stay, but now here are my top 5 egregious traits that should cause you to target a sales person for negative attention.

1. Phil The Corporate Psychopath: Life is way too short to work with nasty politically motivated whack-jobs who spend most of their day plotting and scheming how to 'do people over' who are just trying to do their jobs. Their twisted evolutionary 'survival of the nastiest' ethos destroys a culture and leaves a trail of destruction. Yet all this is usually veiled behind a charming facade. The warning signs are that they're a control freak, emotionally manipulative narcissist who happily seeks to burn you out. They think nothing of telling lies and are masterful at managing-up, climbing the corporate ladder by using the knives they've wedged in the backs of others as their foot-holds. They have a very nasty side when challenged and are uber-competitive, casually stealing other peoples ideas and taking the credit, while masterfully positioning others for the fall when something they're working on goes badly.

If you work for one of these people, forget talking to the Human Remains department, just go find another job and leave as soon as you can. If one of these people works for you, regardless of their apparent high performance, manage them out as fast as you can. Nasty people don't belong in your team.

2. Mike The Network Marketer: Your customers belong to you, not the sales person. The employment contract they signed states it clearly and every relationship they build while on your dime is a corporate asset. Yes, people build personal relationships with clients, and customers sometimes choose to follow sales people when they move... that's their right. But for a sales person to be leaning on your customers to join their side business is wrong, plain and simple!

Back in the late 1980s I was in the Amway business for 6 years and did pretty well, earning the equivalent of an annual salary on the side and was front-line to one of the biggest couples globally today. But I built my network of well over 1,000 down-line without compromising my employer or my integrity. While I was at my MLM peak and a sales manager in the corporate world, I fired a sales person who worked for me when his customer complained about being invited under false pretenses for dinner only to be pitched 'the plan'. We had a clear understanding that neither of us would engage in this behavior... it was a sacrosanct rule.... fired.

3. Side Deal Sam The Slippery Snake: Overt corruption can bring a business to its knees, especially side agreement letters hidden in the drawer or commitments that no-one wants the auditors to see; these end careers and for good reason. People who sign business with zombie skeletons hiding in the closet have no place; neither do sales people who have corrupt arrangements with resellers or 'partners'. Transparency in dealings is essential. You cannot afford to be associated with an employee doing dodgy deals. Dishonest people must be terminated.

Here's a law of life – your reputation is everything. Integrity is a prerequisite for sustained success but 'integrity' goes beyond mere honesty. It is about being a person of your word and being someone who does everything possible to honor commitments. No weasel words, no wriggling out of what has been promised. No commitments that cannot be fulfilled. Make no mistake, being mercurial or duplicitous always comes home to fester.

4. Lester The Liar: Honesty is the foundation on which every successful career is built, so if trust has been broken, the person's career is effectively over. Lying through omission, cheating on expenses, lying about whether you're working or not, misleading people about the relationships you have or the meetings that have occurred... it's the kiss of death. Without trust at every level, there is nothing. If you don't trust your employee, don't keep them around.

5. Harry The Sexual Harasser: You have an obligation to protect everyone in your employment and also your customers. Slimy sexual predators have no place in your employ, and neither do bigots and racists. Your own team culture is a sub-set of the corporate values so be very clear about what you stand for. No preachy holier than thou Pollyanna persona... just you being the real deal about standing for what is right. Understand people's real values and beliefs... it is a real predictor of behavior.

I promised you that I would provide my framework for deciding who belongs in your team and who should go. Here it is: The Rule of 24.

Bonus list... not worthy of firing someone but notable mention:

Virgil The Victim: The very best sales people find a way to be successful despite their environment. They find a way to create success. Victims endlessly drain energy, time and resources. Everyone needs to be resourceful and show initiative.

Nelly The Nasty Gossip: Negativity is poison and gossip is the cancer of the workplace. Yet it's amazing how many nasty gossips package their toxin in pretty packages. 'I'm really concerned about...' If people are concerned, challenge them about what they are going to do to help.

Neville The Negative Naysayer: 'I don't want to be negative but... ' And then they go on to be wrist-slashingly negative. You've heard it many times. People with negative attitudes bring people around them down. Sales is difficult enough without attempting it with a defeatist attitude.

Bill The Empty Suit: Social selling means that we sell naked. If the emperor has no clothes then the whole world will know... all they have to do is look at the profile in LinkedIn or run a basic Google search. A person's social proximity reveals much about the company they keep. Does their social profile show substance and insight; and can they carry a conversation with some gravitas?

Liam The Luddite: Everyone in sales today must be technology savvy. This includes being able to leverage social platforms and conduct online research. Success in selling requires people to create mash-ups on methodology and technology to listen, engage, build brand, collaborate and sell effectively.

Sid the sloth: Work ethic is an essential element of sustained, predictable success. Anyone who does not work hard should have a big question mark above them. There is no room for sloppy in highly competitive markets. As the manager of a sloppy employee, you will inevitably be dragged into rewriting their proposals and salvaging your own brand.

Now it's over to you. What are the traits you see that destroy careers, or worst still, warrant dismissal?

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main image photo by Flickr: Mike Poresky

Why Listening Is The Master Key To Sales Excellence

God gave us two ears and one mouth. Why is active listening the meta skillset, the most obvious one to leverage, yet the hardest to develop? Rackham always talks about how if you're listening most of the time, the deal is likely to close.

Is your sales call so valuable that your client would write a check for your visit? - Rackham

I would challenge you to speak only 25% of the time. Buy the book Power Questions by Andrew Sobel. Come to the meeting prepared with the Who, What, Where and especially starting with Why. It's all about the quality of your informed questions coupled with your ability to peel the onion back to the root problems. This is why I've often tongue in cheek, compared question-based selling to numbers based accounting. I would argue they are mutually exclusive, even an oxymoron.

I've often wondered if I sent in a green salesperson who was an extraordinarily 'present' listener into a highly charged sales setting with the brass muckety-mucks and just encouraged her to interview the client, if she would literally perform better than a seasoned rep looking to take the high horse pulpit.

Listening is a muscle, mentally and physically because it requires will power and self control; and it becomes stronger the more you use it. I think the crux of this is being present in the moment; being fully there as I describe it within the context of my RSVPselling methodology. Excellence in execution and being there fully round out the wheel for complex B2B selling that is Relationships - Strategy - Value creation - Process alignment. Recently, a manager who had read my book was subconsciously applying this method in coaching one of his reps.

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. - Michaelangelo

Many would posit we were put on Earth to better ourselves in every way that we can. Sales is a game of infinite spirals where those that win, practice positive psychology to get in the 'flow' and then do the impossible – pulling revenue out of thin air. They make it look easy, what appears to be effortless mastery. The angel you are sculpting is really you, so if you were to look at 100 critical success factors that create the coveted sales eagle, mythical strategic selling Sphynx – listening would be the number one pick.

Master your ability to get to the root of problems, realizing that what clients mostly tell you at first, will be the symptoms masking the root problem.

We all recall the classic Dale Carnegie story where he takes the meeting, doesn't say a word and the executive later comments, 'You're the best conversationalist I've ever met!"

Brevity is the soul of wit. - Shakespeare

The best way to become a better listener is not to restrain yourself like Houdini but instead to work on the quality of your questions. SPIN is rife with great ideas as are books on consultative methods, as dismissed as consultative selling has become. Clients are intuitive and will sniff you out if you are disingenuous or do not truly care. There's been way too much emphasis placed on X or Y type of selling.

Relationships of trust, value creation, insight and interactive listening the entire way have always been the fundamentals. Even if the buyer is further along in the sales process, or we could argue the sales process has become a buying process, we must listen, 'seeking first to understand before attempting to be understood.' We now just have a leg up on our competition if they get lazy. We can listen before we even meet our dream prospects: to trigger events, to press releases, by reading an annual report and via myriad social platforms and filters.

Here's a formula that could double your income this year.

  1. Be fully there – present. (Cell phone off)
  2. Actually care. (Mean it!)
  3. Speak 25% of the time – only ask insight provoking questions. (The classic probing techniques only make them feel like it's an interrogation and will backfire!)

4. Show that you understand by asking a question to the corollary concept. (Peel the onion!)

5. Don't talk about yourself, your company, your product or solution... just focus on them.

6. Keep comfortable eye contact versus undressing them with your eyes...

I read many posts about whether or not sales executives should take notes. The bigger risk is missing the finer points of the problem which inhibits your ability to craft a more coherent solution. If this is Evernote, Moleskine or even recording the call on your iPhone, make the questions count. Go deeper than the next competitor because you will then be able to craft a proposal that sells to your customer in their own words. Collaborate with several meetings as you craft the value hypothesis and work to build a strong business case backed by hard numbers – conservative ROI estimates.

Insights are all the rage right now. There are 2 bestsellers on them! But how can an insight penetrate the account when your dream client can't get a word in edgewise. Collaboration is the great secret to the modern strategic sale. When we co-create the solution with multiple stakeholders we render ourselves indispensable as trusted advisors.

Whether you sell services, products or a SaaS blend, listening will separate you from the wolf pack of aggressive proposal pushers. The most confident data dumper, walking brochure can't touch a thoughtful introvert armed with insatiable curiosity.

Social selling also hinges upon listening and powerful questions – create content as your currency to speak to these questions – proactively. IMHO, 75% of what you share should be reflections on OPC, as Jill Rowley sagaciously calls it – Other People's Content. It's all about them, it always was and always will be. Any President's Club Winner who has been off to the islands many times will tell you that with Mai Tai in hand while between karaoke sessions.

BuzzSumo is a phenomenal tool for listening to trends to figure out what you're going to write about. Any type of Twitter filtration or listening technology is phenomenal too. I prefer to make lists of Savvy Tweeps in TweetDeck. In the Enterprise, a full blown scenario of Radian6 is fully worth it to allow brands to listen and respond with high levels of customer services, 24/7 on every continent.

Now it's your turn: What are your secrets to improving listening on calls, in face-to-face meetings and even board room presentations? What are some books and strategies you've found to improve the quality of questioning? Would you agree that collaboration is the new key to winning the enterprise sale? Which social listening tools do you use and in what ratio do you listen versus posting about yourself or your offering? – I'd love to hear from you in the comments below.

Ad as a bonus for reading all the way to the bottom of this post, here is the best sales training video ever made on how to really listen... Amy is masterful.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main image photo by Flickr: Beverly & Pack

How many salespeople will be left?

Pundits and analysts have predicted the demise of all sellers by 2020. With 18MM sellers this is a bit of a Nostradamus hubris causing some serious cognitive dissonance. One CEO actually declared he'd never hire a salesperson again but then a second glance revealed almost comically that all his customer service reps are actually already doing some pseudo transactional selling. It's been posited that 30% of field selling will be going away very soon.

Would you agree? Is Sales as we know it going away to be replaced by AI or is it just morphing into something that is going to look a great deal more like a combination of sales and marketing?

Phil Fernandez, the founder of Marketo, talks about the rise of the Director of Demand Generation in his prescient book "Revenue Disruption." These futuristic specialists take a bold, data-driven approach to driving leads into the business. Perhaps the new roles that emerge toward 2020 will be something more towards this side of the spectrum and top of the funnel.

I unleashed a furious debate on this topic in the Strategic Selling Group so I wanted to bubble it up to the LinkedIn Publishing Gods. There are two camps that seem to be emerging on this topic:

Camp ONE: Let's just automate the blazes out of everything and run it all through a big dashboard! Spreadsheet jockeys rejoice in exaltation!

Camp TWO: Complexity and commoditization may actually render the field seller even more relevant than ever before. After all, who's going to navigate the prospect through the morass of data and confusing solution sets?

There's an executive management viewpoint of lowering cost of sales but we don't want to rob Peter to pay Paul here. It's critical that core high-touch functions within enterprise customer accounts not be eroded by short term gain.

I would posit a Camp THREE: The sales people of the future that win must be ninjas with Social Selling, analytics, consultative methods meet insight selling and have tremendous amounts of EQ meets business acumen.

Simon Gibbard describes the sales leader of the future as follows: "You get marketing. Marketing is the new sales, and you’ve got your arms around it. You write copy. You get SEO, paid and earned media. You know how to promote a post on Facebook and LinkedIn. You’ve got a Slideshare account and you use Buffer. Google alerts flag up opportunities to have new conversations. You speak the language of marketing and it makes you a better salesperson. The us and them days are over."

Do you agree that Marketing is the new Sales? Or, as Peter Strohkorb has coined in his stirring manifesto, the age of "SMARKETING!" has arrived.

One thing is for certain, it's a battle royale to stay relevant: relevant to your own CEO with SVP of Sales attrition at an all-time high.

Air Ross declared in his latest e-newsletter: "Studies have said the average B2B sales team loses 27% of its members per year – whether they quit or are fired. That is INSANE!"

So even before the Singularity emerges knocking us all out, we're already seeing enterprises hemorrhaging talent. Some of this could be chalked up to poor management and stratospheric targets coupled with an insidious lack of specialization, to be sure. It seems to be pre-quake jitters.

The modern sales practitioner must not risk becoming too specialized. Futurist Jacob Morgan extolls the learning worker over the knowledge worker as the knowledge worker gets paid for what he knows but the learning worker? She has the agility to adapt and constantly learn how to learn. That's what's so sensational about Jill Konrath's clairvoyant book Agile Selling, it truly allows a holistic approach to life-long learning and up-skilling in organizations.

Ability to learn is the meta-skillset of the perma-employed, ever-adapting sales lion of 2050. I have no doubt!

I've pulled some quotes from this debate for your reading pleasure. Please join the rousing global chorus in the comments below.

Michael Bonner sounds off: "Here's the problem. It turns out that the world does not actually get simpler over time. Marketing has no way to automatically assist someone with a complex decision. Even if they can come up with docs for every possible objection, the majority of people don't want to have to do all the study. How would they ever know when they knew enough. Complex decisions need discussion with experts. Review the studies that show that the quality of the selling experience was a major factor in many B2B and big-ticket sales. That probably won't change by 2020. Computers are a lot of things. Many of them wonderful. They are also cold, heartless, achingly stupid and insensitive (Okay, so it can replace some salespeople)."

John Smibert's contribution: "The sales profession won't die (although many sales roles may). It will change and adapt as the world, and buyers in particular, change and adapt. The profession will find new (or modified) ways to create value for the buyer - to enable a fair exchange of value in ways that cannot be done without human interaction. I believe the sales profession has an exciting and changing future. I predict there will be wonderful new opportunities for salespeople in 2020. As always, those who change and adapt will survive and grow - and those that don't won't."

Shelly Revivo believes: "Nonsense. Automation will innovate but the human element will always be critical. Automation simply helps with profitability and loss elimination of the 80/20 rule."

Adam Thorp explains: "The cost of sales is very very high. So what do you do – you automate. You automate to give sellers more time to sell and you automate to reduce the reliance on a large sales team. Using the 80/20 rule, in theory you can retain those top 20% or performers, still retain 80% of your revenue and see a significant increase in profitability due to the reduction in head count and cost of sale. Change in inevitable. You only have to look at the major players in sales performance management (ie CallidusCloud), sales enablement (ie SAVO), and sales automation ( to see where the market is going. I remember less than 3 or 4 years ago people saying marketing automation was a just a fad and couldn’t be effective – just look at that space now.

Tracey Preston Cook's mind blowing contribution: "65% of all new careers that will be in existence 10 years from now, have not even been fully identified and many are not currently understood. Most are based on technology either emerging now, or disruptive technologies that are yet to be developed. The question we are asking about sales is one that taps into the fear of our selling futures (I've felt it too - it's normal to fear). It's why we pay attention to predictive statements...positive or negative. What you are selling will change many many many times...that's why you should learn everything you can about sales. Read everything not nailed down. Watch everything not obscured. Listen and observe the best. Learn. Learn. Then learn some more."

Ivonne Teoh reads the tea leaves: "With longer lifespans of 140+ (ask your insurance agent), I wonder what the governments have in mind with new advances of technology and AI for the population. Less people working (displaced by robots), how to support that lifestyle. Gschwandtner may be wrong about the exact year, but it is still on the cards? I don't like telemarketers! They ring at the wrong time, some even selling funeral insurance! Being forced to make a decision where I'm not given enough time to check the info, is a big turn off."

Now it's your turn: Is it just a little history repeating or will sales fall away? Do you believe field sales is toast to be replaced by holo-conferencing? Is the field of sales stronger than ever? What's your message to the CEO of tomorrow as she's looking to make the call on hiring sales leaders? What mix of live salespeople and sales automation is ideal?

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main image photo by Flickr: DDW Fotografia

Could you function without your CRM?

Garbage in, garbage out. GIGO. The modern Customer Relationship Management system or 'CRM' is all too often a repository for the inaccurate. There is little way to enforce a culture where sales people are reformed citizens and tidy record keepers. The customer data is always changing. Here are some bold ideas:

  • What if LinkedIn opened up its API to synchronize with all CRM systems so that the data is almost always accurate, up to the minute? Wouldn't this move alone revolutionize the space?
  • What if LinkedIn launched its own CRM product. How many more features does Sales Navigator actually need to be an effective catch-all solution in this way?
  • We're seeing more and more autofill via LinkedIn, so couldn't prospects just hit a single button from your front-of-site to download a white paper by filling in pre-populated, accurate LinkedIn credentials that transition seamlessly into your database of record?
  • Is all the clicking and syncing and searching in CRM shredding our collective productivity? How many hours are we actually wasting on manual processes inside antiquated UIs?
  • Could you theoretically function more effectively with just a white board, phone and email du jour? How about an airplane and a cup of coffee?
  • Is there sufficiently advanced technology being built that will disrupt CRMas we know it?
  • Could Social Selling, Web 3.0 – the web of Context, Big Data, Predictive Analytics and Automation play a far greater role out-of-the-box to help solve the above issues?
  • When are marketing automation, drip campaigns and B2B lead gen actually going to get smarter and more sophisticated with personalization beyond the first name andfirmographic telegraphing to present key insights to each type of executive stakeholder?
  • What if wearable technology could play a role? Google Glass could pull in real-time data to keep the CRM accurate. A snapshot with a smart contact lens of a business card could serve to update that file automatically after or even 'during' a meeting?
  • Will wearables and machine learning technology take voice recognition and Siri to a level of an always-on, executive assistant keeping all our data straight?
  • Is there a bright future for CRM or will the sector continue to decay behind the scenes while savvier marketing teams continue to put lipstick on a pig, shellacking an advanced-looking coating on a shell of an ancient engine?
  • What is the role of social proximity to serve up networked intelligence based on geolocation, network node overlays and prescience about who we 'should be talking to?' We have the data, now how do we get to it?

These questions are mere icing on the iceberg cake of perplexing issues, no doubt. It will take bold, antifragile, resilient and innovative entrepreneurs within the legacy systems to disrupt themselves in skunk works-like divisions that crop up.

Or, a new breed of CRM and CXM will appear that starts to erode their grip on market share. We've seen these tectonic shifts in so many industries as of late. It's never been easier to launch a startup company and challenge incumbents because of the cloud, CapEx can be virtually eliminated with a controlled OpEx burn.

Who will be the next disruptors in CRM? There's one thing we can never doubt. Ideas are powerful and one big bold idea has the power to change the world and uproot industries in inexplicable ways.

How can CRM be re-imagined from the ground up, with First Principles Elon Musk Physics Thinking. Which portion of the features does your organization actually use? What is the 20% generating 80% of the results? What is glaringly missing? How can we tie back all the ROI of our finest social selling efforts and reflect this within a holistic picture of multi-channel outreach in the modern Full Funnel Marketing approach?

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main image photo by Flickr: Roland Tanglao


Closing Time! Waterboarding Your Prospects For Commitment

If only we could invite prospects and clients to the office and then whisk them into the interrogation room for some water-boarding and fingernail therapy on the last day of the quarter. That would get results... surely more effective than discounting and begging.

I've seen it all and it's not pretty. The boss, two levels above and based overseas, issues the edict: 'Get the deal closed, discount but tell them it's time-bombed and the price goes up if they jerk us around, lean on the relationship, go sit in their reception area until they bring you the signed contract, phone them at home, winners find a way, use the goat close if you have to, coffee is for closers... 'selling is easy'.... yeah, right.

All that does is annoy your client, damage relationships and hammer a stake in the ground concerning the cheapest price they can get at the end of your next quarter. Here's the truth about closing in large enterprise sales environments: If you didn't set-up the deal right in the first place, all you're going to do is cause damage if you push for the order when the customer is not ready to buy.

Understand the customer's process and timing. Build a project alignment plan to validate every step through to them being live and implemented, deriving the business benefits of your solution. Hope is not a strategy so instead act as if you are a project manager... a real professional.

Everyone wants to hire 'closers' but closing is a process that starts from the very first interaction... it's not a roll of the dice, apply the blow-torch, kneel in prayer kind of event at the end of a roller-coaster ride with the prospect. Professional selling is all about relationships of trust focused on the creation of value, navigating politics and processes to deliver outcomes that are good for all concerned... except your competition! The very best sales people and sales manager understand that opening is more important closing because it sets the agenda.

I've written previously about why you deserve to be fired in sales. Almost all the stress in closing is caused by not being across the detail of your deal, or not having real understanding of their timing and process. Maybe you're oblivious as to who is really making the decision and who needs to sign-off. And now for your viewing pleasure, and to put you in mood.... it's closing time.

Not really... focus on opening time instead, close early for commitment and mutual actions... it's a dance in which both buyer and seller need to engage and where both take turns leading. Waltz together creating mutual trust and compelling value and also understand the politics and processes on both sides to make win/win a reality instead of a cliche. Is your coach in the deal someone who has real power? The biggest mistake sales people make is that they build relationship with the wrong people.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main image photo by Flickr: Andres Rodriguez

5 Musical Secrets For Sales. Billy Idol Meets Pharrell Williams

We're all fighting for cut-through in a world where buyers have become masterful at positioning all sellers as mere commodities. This is why the way we sell, and our ability to build relationships of trust and value, will always remain the most powerful form of lasting differentiation.

I've been mentoring a sales person who was once a professional musician; and he has applied the lessons of musical performance to strategic B2B and social selling like no-one I've ever come across before. I never had any real musical talent which is why I became a drummer in my youth [joke but true] and we were discussing the nuances of musicianship and how it relates to professional selling. He wants to remain anonymous but here is his wisdom:

How do you become a rock star performer in professional selling?

1. Be a masterful technician. Know your stuff and be a master of your craft. It can take 10,000 hours to hone it so fall in love with the growth mindset versus fixed, curiosity and the challenge which is the journey itself. To improvise, you must first learn the fundamentals in order to break the rules. Don't distract with gaffes rather be thoroughly competent in using the tools of the trade. Remove distraction in the way you play – no bum notes, minimal fret noise, no popping in the vocals, and no feedback.

2. Be all about your audience. I went and saw the Eagles a few years ago with my teenage son and they were incredible. Vocals were pristine, musicianship impeccable, production mind-blowing... but they made sure they gave the audience what they wanted with lots of their hits from the 70's and 80's. I've seen resurrection bands focus too much on their new stuff which is interesting for them but not what the audience wants. Needless to say, John Cougar Mellencamp's greatest burden is "Jack & Diane" as Billy Joel's is "Piano Man" but as savvy business people, they almost always play them!  

3. Transfer emotion and give yourself fully to those you serve. Never just go through the motions; every song needs to be sold and to do so you need to 'be the real deal' – committed and passionate. Don't fall into the trap of allowing 'production values' (slides and slick collateral) to get in the way. You must be a true believer in your own message if you are to have any change of transferring enthusiasm and confidence to others. At the end of the day, you need to look the entire audience in the eye as if you're singing to just one person in the room. Just like transfixing all the stakeholders at the board room table, they each need to believe you.

4. Less is more. It's so easy for musicians to overplay. As Sinatra and Mile Davis remarked on, the most powerful note is often the silence. This equates to listening and reading your audience - the modern enabled buyer. Create space for the important points to sit. But also create context and ask powerful open questions... not to manipulate but to facilitate their epiphany – people are best convinced for reasons they themselves discover.

5. Shine though with humility. Be a Billy Idol screaming, "give me more, more, more"... prospecting and rejection; snarling at defeat. Also sing with joy likePharrell Williams being "happy, happy" but avoid the trap of hearing what you hope for. Be true to yourself in how you operate and sing a song of insight while also asking your customer to show you the way rather than assuming you have the answers before you even really understand their situation. Challenger, I'm afraid to say, in the hands of the inept and short-cut merchants, has done as much damage. Make sure they like you before you shake the snow globe of their world view! We need to go deep in our quest to serve our markets and clients. A little humility with passion goes a long way.

The greatest musicians of all time have often explained it as a higher power moving through them. So allow yourself as a salesperson to be inspired by those you seek to bring to an understanding of a new paradigm. Allow yourself to be constantly curious with the mystery of where the technology could go. Move it from a one way flow to complete collaboration over time where you grow together. Is that not the essence of great live music? 

Zig Ziglar famously said: "Information makes people think; emotion makes people act." We need touch people's hearts as well as their minds by understanding why our message is important and then deliver with integrity, harnessing everything we've got within us.

Last week, my good friend Joel Phillips delivered a solo performance to more than 8,000 people of a song he had written. He held people spellbound, alone on stage with his guitar. People wept and were blown away because of the genuine emotion he gave. Here's a shot of him taken by someone in the audience... the real deal.

Be an artist in how you operate with a song in your heart as you transfer emotion rather than mere information. Also be willing to fail... have the courage of an emerging artist authentically laying it all out there. Don't be afraid to bend the genre, although there are umpteen selling systems and methodologies, blaze a trail by changing the approach until you've customized one that cracks the code for your solution and works best for your company and experience in the field.

Now it's over to you, what 'performance' tips do you have for truly connecting with an audience?

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main image photo by Flickr: Billy Idol by Dena Flows

Social Research: Pillar Three of Strategic B2B Social Selling

Intelligent social research allows you to effectively target the right organizations and engage people at the right time with insight and context.

Social research enables you to create a hypothesis of value and an engagement strategy to overcome the competition (including 'do nothing' / status quo competition). Research and planning is how you build the foundation of efficient and effective engagement.

Research has always been important for strategic sellers and the internet, especially LinkedIn, has transformed the way it's done. Anyone who fails to prepare for a meeting deserves a bad outcome. These are the research areas to focus on for B2B sellers:

  • Research the organization you are targeting.
  • Research your buyer's industry trends, threats and opportunities.
  • Research the buyer roles who will need to be engaged and influenced.
  • Research individuals and their connections.

When it comes to researching individual people and their relevance to a sales campaign, we can almost make the argument that the internet itself, Google searching and email are all secondary and tertiary channels to LinkedIn. The fact that we can transparently see an individual's social proximity is massively powerful. Success leaves clues and here are common practices and techniques used by the best sellers today:

  • They are masterful in the use of search engine tools for refining and creating 'saved searches.'
  • They read daily about their customer's industry in newspapers and online forums.
  • They actively seek conversations with those who understand the trends, challenges and opportunities within the industries they serve.
  • They embrace the concepts of Challenger Selling to earn high value conversations with the most senior people.
  • The majority of their searches in a given business day are performed within LinkedIn to map the political power base and understand connections.
  • They study the interrelationships of their own company via TeamLink to understand how their internal networks overlay with that of prospects.
  • They create mash-up organizational charts for account planning and mapping the power base, buying center and competitor threats.
  • They contribute to and leverage internal CRM systems as a single source of the truth about a current customer's status. This is critical to understanding who are the best references for supporting selling efforts to new named accounts.

Research can easily become overwhelming or paralyzing. It is therefore essential to have purpose and pragmatism in our research efforts. Here is what I recommend concerning your focus and priority in research.

  1. Create your value conversation with the potential customer. Read The Challenger Sale and obsess about how you can create game changing value for the customer. Value as they define it, not a value proposition from your marketing department
  2. Understand the political power base and create a winning relationship strategy to both 'sell to power' and help them gain consensus within their teams.
  3. Decide which competitive engagement strategy is best for defeating the competition and also ensuring that they actually go ahead with purchase and implementation

Jamie Shanks has provided this list of social research tools that can make you hyper-efficient. Glassdoor is especially powerful for understanding the real culture of an organization.

In all of this, don't neglect your CRM. It's where you should be creating the single source of truth about your accounts and opportunities. It's where your strategy documents should live and be shared with your team. Having said that, the rocket fuel of B2B selling is LinkedIn Sales Navigator and here's why LinkedIn is the quintessential sales dashboard:

  • There's a growing number of people that just connect LinkedIn to Twitter, Facebook & Google+ but only utilize LinkedIn as their core network. 
  • LinkedIn has cracked the code on making a social network into a profitable business model with 2.21B in revenue in 2014. 
  • They've essentially transcended the restrictions of "social networking" nomenclature / classification and become something entirely new: a human-centric virtual world mapping the economic graph.
  • Who else is mapping the global economic graph? I'd be hard-pressed to answer that question which further highlights the level of blue ocean strategy and divergent, focused and memorable value curves they've effectively exploited.
  • The majority of executive buyers are looking for sales people to teach them new insights. LinkedIn has become the global hub for subject matter expertise as it flexes into both Publishing 3.0 and Learning 3.0. 

CRM could literally melt away were Navigator to allow for just a few extra features like: Sorting of lead lists, designation of current contacts and opportunity management with minimal stage creation. Just a few basic classic CRM functions could help LinkedIn Sales Navigator be an end-to-end enterprise selling tool. Unlike CRM, LinkedIn has self-healing data.

Research and prepare before charging in. Now it's over to you; how do you leverage social to hit the sweet spot for effective research? How do you make your social research matter? 

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main image photo by Flickr: Marc Smith NodeXL Twitter Network Graphs: Social CRM

B2B Social Selling Demystified – Five Strategic Pillars

We live in the age of personal brands. This article will provide you with a framework for creating your own personal social strategy in the world of complex business-to-business (B2B) selling.

It’s important because the vast majority of buyers do research before a meeting. What will they see when they look at your LinkedIn profile or blog? We all need to show our value online before we’re invited to have a conversation.

This is the first of a series of posts where I define strategic social selling and the 5 pillars that enable the best results.


Understand that the term ‘Social Selling’ is a misnomer. Those who spam, push, annoy, narcissistically drone or aggressively sell are unfollowed and disconnected as quick as a click. Here’s my definition of ‘Social Selling’ for B2B:

The strategy and process of building quality networks online that accelerate the speed of business and efficiency of selling. It is achieved with human engagement through social listeningsocial publishingsocial researchsocial engagement, and social collaboration.

In this definition, technology is merely an enabler but can be leveraged to create truly incredible results with the right strategy. As an example, here is my own case study with the results from just 90 days of intelligent effort. Obviously, social engagement is supported by technology and social platforms but it’s really all about human interaction and providing real value through insight or assistance with relevant content.

Social platforms, especially LinkedIn have driven the era of personal brands and the reality that we now sell naked. The days of being able to project a manufactured persona are gone… people can quickly uncover the reality of who you are, how you operate, how well you’re connected, and the value you offer… all before you ever get to say a single word on the phone or face-to-face. Social proximity is a real factor that enhances or undermines potential connection, often without the seller ever discovering how their network (or lack thereof) helped or hindered their efforts.

Your social strategy will depend on what you’re seeking to achieve and where your market is but don't fall into the trap of becoming busy in social without having a strategy for both connection and content. As an example, think about the reasons for posting in LinkedIn Publisher. Are you seeking to attract and build an audience platform? Are you wanting to provide insights and credibility to support your new business meeting requests? Are you wanting to proactively deal with potential objections you could encounter? Are you seeking to associate yourself with admired brands and thought leaders? Are you perhaps chipping away at commonly held myths about your disruptive solution set to cause a sea change? 

Social selling is a strategy, not a set of technologies. Once you know what you’re seeking to achieve and have defined goals and metrics, then you can design your strategy and action plan to cascade down to the five pillars. I will cover these in detail with subsequent posts but here’s an overview.

Social Listening: The process of proactively searching and monitoring for trigger events that provide potential opportunities to improve your own customer service, intercept competitors' customers, or engage potential clients early in their own buying process. Hootsuite and TweetDeck are just two examples of tools that could be used. Salesforce Radian6 is an excellent tool for Analysis in enterprise environments. Oracle and others also have excellent tools.

Social Publishing: Publishing insights, opinions and valuable information to attract audience or evidence credibility and value. Here is a brutal truth for sellers today: If you can't write, then you can’t sell. You need to impress with both your business value (what you do for your clients) and the values by which you operate (your ethos and the way you engage and deliver). LinkedIn Publisher is the number one blogging platform on the planet based on mathematical network effects, propensity for virality and it integrates with your personal brand. Some pundits have named this "networked blogging." Twitter can be used to amplify your publishing efforts as the spokes to your LinkedIn economic graph hub. What are your potential customers looking for online before they look for you? You need to publish in a way that leverages search engines (SEO) so they find you as a source of insight and education early in their buying cycle. It's rare that a single meeting occurs in the software technology space, without a thorough scouting of LinkedIn profiles. Aren't you employing this type of research? 

Social Research: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe” – Abraham Lincoln. Anyone who initiates contact or arrives at a meeting having failed to do their homework is an amateur. Social research allows you to identify social proximity, background, financial performance, industry trends, competitor relationships, common interests and much more. The amount of information freely available online to research individuals, corporations and industries is staggering.

Social Engagement: By listening for relevance, attracting interest and establishing credibility through publishing, and by doing your research – you’re now ready to engage. Social enables you to be where your clients are in forums, blogs and special interest groups. The best social sellers engage with context and relevance and their success rate being above 90% for securing meetings. LinkedIn’s own research has found that those who use their platform extensively before initiating contact are 50% more likely to achieve their sales targets/quotas.

Social Collaboration: We live in a world of mash-ups for creating best of breed solutions for sales, marketing and project management. The best sales people execute flexibly and collaborate online using tools such as Skype, go-to-meeting, Drop Box, Google Docs and many others. They also utilize their own CRM software and other tools to rally internal resources and manage expectations. The very best sellers are engineers of outcomes rather than mere warriors of persuasion. Research from the Rain Group unearthed that "collaboration" is one of the rarest experiences for executive buyers. They crave this and social allows you to do it. Further, it transfers the psychology of ownership of the ideas to buy from seller to buyer. 

Have a strategy for engaging in a personal, human way before you jump into social media platforms and technologies. Where are your customers online and what are they looking for before they search for you? Forget push marketing and interrupt selling; instead engage buyers early in their online journey by attracting them to you with useful information, insights and value.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main image photo by Flickr: Brian, Revelation in Blue

Social Listening: Pillar One of Strategic B2B Social Selling

Social Listening: The process of proactively searching for trigger events that provide potential opportunities to improve your own customer service, intercept competitors' customers, or engage a potential client early in their own buying process.

Selling has always been about being a great listener... social selling is no different. But in modern selling there are many tools that can be used to automate the listening process; Hootsuite and TweetDeck are two examples. But before you start configuring your listening tools you need to have a clear understanding of what you're listening for.

Have you segmented your markets and identified the various buyer roles that you can target effectively? Who are the competitors where you have a track record of switching their customers over to your solutions? What events create awareness of need or that amplify perceptions of pain?

What negative events motivate people to take action to change the status quo? Is it scandal, legislative changes, new compliance obligations, suppliers being acquired or dropping the ball, competitor reps moving on or retiring? The list is endless but the point here is that you need to know what you're listening for. I'm surprised at how few sellers are creating basic Google Alerts or Twitter lists to listen by segments.

Stephen Covey said, "seek first to understand than be understood." You must first open your ears, heart and mind.

Practice social listening with a trigger event oriented focal point. In the past, organizations have focused on the territory or target list without ranking the accounts by propensity to buy based on the most compelling triggers. In the old days of solution selling, questioning was leveraged to uncover the "compelling event." Now that's just table stakes. The compelling event should be self evident through effective listening. You should know that going in. Now it's up to you to meet that golden opportunity with disruptive insight to open this account and gain preferred status upstream educating and enabling your prospects along the buyer's journey collaborative. Develop trust and help them to realize that business transformation is possible by implementing your solution. They'll also get a flavor for what the working relationship will be like.  

Beyond the obvious Google Alerts, make sure that you have a dashboard set up to glean every aspect of what your dream prospects are putting out into the social ether: press releases, white papers, reflections on the annual report, balance sheet, interviews, YouTube videos (subscribe to their channel), Tweets, Facebook shares, Google+ updates, Pinterest boards, Instagram, SlideShare and even search the first 15 pages of search results of Google with a fine toothed comb. Successful strategic selling starts with a keen interest and insatiable curiosity. 

Create you own social listening headphones! Or even better, a social selling war room. The main picture in this post is of the Dell Social Listening and Social Media Command Center.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator now compiles all these updates in one place so you can track leads and accounts, the updates their sharing, news related to the companies, and it even suggests leads to you and how you're connected via your overlapping networks. is a phenomenal free tool I'd recommend for competitive analysis and triggers invented by Jim Fowler, the founder of Jigsaw, that became Also consider tools such as insideview and techwalkeralerts. All of these products below are excellent social listening and monitoring tools.

Also read the old world newspaper (an oldie buy a goodie) online. Subscribe to services such as Meltwater. Listen by tuning search engines, subscribing to RSS feeds or content aggregation services. Here are the big social platforms to monitor if you are committed to strategic social selling.

LinkedIn is ideal for monitoring buyer roles changing in target organizations or listening to issues, trends, hot topics, opinions and opportunities in special interest groups. Those who actively use LinkedIn are 50% more likely to achieve their sales targets! failure to use LinkedIn in B2B selling is negligence!

Facebook if you're in the world of B2C. Two-thirds of social happens in Facebook and there 1 billions searches every day! Facebook continues to be giant in social.

Twitter is the megaphone of social amplification and the most rapid notification system on the planet. Use tools such as TweetDeck to build you listening lists.

Here is a post on why listening is the timeless skill we all need to master.  Now it's over to you... Where do you get the best results in social listening? What are your tips for others?

Here's how to get back to my Social Selling overview.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main image photo by Flickr: Geoff Livingston; Dell's Social Media Command Center

Social Publishing: Pillar Two of Strategic B2B Social Selling

Social Publishing: Writing original content and publishing insights, opinions and valuable information to attract customers and evidence credibility and value.

Whether you’re looking for your next role or seeking an appointment with the CXO of a target prospect; you need to show your value online to earn a conversation. This is because the majority of buyers research before a meeting; so what will they see when they look at your LinkedIn profile or blog? You need to impress with both your business value (what you do for your clients) and the values by which you operate.

I recommend that you publish where your audience is and LinkedIn Publisher is therefore the ideal platform; not just because it's connected to your professional profile but because the reach is staggering:

  • LinkedIn Publisher is the number one blogging platform on the planet
  • LinkedIn has 350,000,000 members and 2 people join per second
  • LinkedIn has 200,000,000 unique views of pages per day
  • 40% of LinkedIn members use it daily
  • 60% of B2B buyers research before engaging

Don't just blog - that's Web 2.0. Take the plunge on LinkedIn Publisher into Web 3.0 - the web of context and social proximity. Understand the inter-relationships of your networks and network's networks. Share your subject matter expertise and thought leadership on here daily. The network effects and engagement are without parallel. I controversially advocate moving your blog to LinkedIn where you'll get exponential views, reads, likes, shares and comments.

Here is real case study example. In December 2012 I wrote a paper and published it on my website... over nearly two years I had less than 100 downloads. During that time I also re-purposed it into a website blog and over 14 months I had less than 300 reads. Here is a screenshot of the white paper.

In November 2014 I re-purposed it into two blog posts in LinkedIn publisher (two bottom left posts in screenshot below) and the results have been staggering with well over 200,000 reads and incredible engagement. The screenshot below provides an example of the results I was achieving within 30 days of switching my content publishing to LinkedIn.

I've adopted a strategy of quality content publishing to show both my value and my values... and I've been astounded by the results after just 90 days. Since adopting a content publishing strategy, business is coming to me and the conversations are completely different. Instead of me being asked to justify why I am the best person to deliver keynotes, consulting and training workshops; I'm instead being asked if I'm available and what I charge. Don't let anyone tell you that social selling does not monetize!

If you're a sales person, I recommend that you write your own original content as it adds credibility to your LinkedIn profile and it's the best way to learn about what you want to talk about with customers. At the very least, use LinkedIn Updates and Twitter to be a content aggregator and curator, making yourself a valued hub of other people's relevant content enhanced with your insights. Importantly, never plagiarize other people's content and always attribute source where ever possible. If you're the leader within a business, be intentional about your writing strategy to build following around a personal employee brand you trust.

The fastest way to build compelling topical posts is to newsjack current events(President Obama) and here is an example from when Harrison Ford crashed is WWII aircraft on a golf course. I've written other detailed posts that provide many tips and advice for social publishing and all of these are essential reading:

Now it's over to you... I believe that in today's world, if you can't write, you can't sell and that sales people should be content creators and content curators. Feel free to weigh-in. How do you achieve the best results with publishing to attract clients? What are your tips for others?

Here is how to go back to my Social Selling overview.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main image photo by Flickr: redspotte

Do We Ever Really Learn From Sales Failure?

I've recently had the privilege of getting to know Cian Mcloughlin as part of a Sales Masterminds group that's been formed in Australasia and led by John Smibert (Strategic Selling Group in LinkedIn). Cian has real insights into how to drive massive success in complex selling and I asked him about the role of win and loss reviews, why they're important and what mistakes companies make. Here is his wisdom... the rest of this post is from him (with pics from me).

“You don’t learn from successes; you don’t learn from awards; you don’t learn from celebrity; you only learn from wounds and scars and mistakes and failures. And that’s the truth.”  Jane Fonda.

Not all scars, in life or in business, should be seen as badges of honor. Most of my business battle-scars (with the possible exception of my grey hair) I wear on the inside. Earned in hard fought deals lost at the 11th hour or sales skirmishes over before a single power-point had been fired in anger.

The thing about scars, be they from life or business, is we should always learn from them. It’s one thing to lose a deal or miss out on a promotion at work, but before the scar has even begun to form, you need to be asking yourself “what can I take away from this experience, how do I learn from it and ensure I’m better, smarter and more prepared next time around?”

Unfortunately the vast majority of professional sales organisations, I’m talking big companies spending inordinate amounts of time and money prospecting for new business, actually spend very little time or money trying to understand why they won or lost a deal in the first place. We all know line attributed to but almost certainly never uttered by Einstein “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome”. You can guarantee whoever did say it, didn’t work in the b2b sales world!

The amount of wastage, duplication and chasing of lost causes which occurs across the business world is borderline criminal. I wouldn’t even hazard a guess at the real and opportunity costs associated with sales organisations (be they technology, professional services, engineering & construction, utilities, oil & gas companies) responding to numerous tenders, conducting lengthy cycles with would-be customers or undertaking hugely expensive proof of concepts, only to lose the deal and walk away with nothing.

My personal opinion (and I’ll be the first to admit I’m biased) is that win, lose or draw if you’ve conducted a professional sales process, you’ve earned the right to extract some value from the experience and the vast majority of b2b customers out there agree with me. So, the next time you’re conducting a major deal, whether you’re in the box seat or staring down the barrel of defeat, pause for a moment and ask yourself the following questions. Win, lose or draw…

  • What insights could this client give me to improve or refine my sales skills and do an even better job next time?
  • Could their feedback help me to distance myself from my competition in some small but important way?
  • Am I winning this deal on product, price or my ability to present a compelling, credible and believable story?
  • Am I losing on product, price or my inability to engage, inspire or educate my prospective client?

I suppose the real question you should be asking is what lesson could this new new scar teach me?

Follow Cian in LinkedIn and read his posts. He has held senior sales and channel management roles in a number of the world’s largest IT software companies, including Cognos and SAP, in 2011 Cian became the founder and CEO of Trinity Perspectives, a boutique sales consultancy firm based in Sydney. He also co-authored an Amazon #1 bestseller ‘Secrets of Business Success”, and is a regular sales and marketing commentator in the mainstream media including Sky News Business, The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main image photo by Flickr: Erik Charlton Fire Eater

5 Ways To Overcome Adversity – And Rise Like A Phoenix

Bernadette McClelland is part of Sales Masterminds Australasia and it's been my privilege to get to know her. She's overcome setbacks with health, sexism and in business, both personal and professional. I asked her for some advice on how to overcome adversity and here is her wisdom.

Bernadette responded instantly with: "There are a couple of things I learned along the way: A problem shared is a problem halved, and there really is light at the end of the tunnel. I said , "I thought that was usually a train coming the other way." She just smiled.

I now this is an important topic because sales and leadership is filled with difficulties and life always throws us a curve-ball. I asked her why she feels passionate about being resilient. Here is her response.

  • Three people I know in senior roles both on a local scale and a global scale were made redundant last week alone and they're hurting.
  • Forty-four small businesses per week close their doors every day in the state of Victoria, Australia and I understand that pain.
  • The role of a salesperson is one of the top 10 jobs that show an increase in depression caused by stress for failing to meet budget and uncertainty about commissions. For men, this is impacting their identity and their ability to be the responsible provider and protector of families and I actually see it in my clients.

So what do you do to bridge that chasm when the gap becomes too wide? How do you overcome real adversity and how do you reinvent yourself when what you know and are comfortable with is no longer in your control?

A back-story here to provide context. I was a successful saleswoman in corporate Australia and decided to take a break and 'do my own thing' based on passion and a desire to help salespeople become more successful. I was still stuck in a corporate way of thinking and it didn't work as well as I had wanted. No biggie. It allowed me to purchase a retail shop in country Victoria instead which was super successful and we ended up buying out one of our national wholesalers and began to import our own designer products which also was a great business. Six years of success.

Then, left of field, an accident, a life defining illness, twelve months bedridden, liquidation, bankruptcy, a betrayal on the job front for my husband and before we knew it we found ourselves on Centrelink [welfare]. We were homeless as we had just lost our two properties and we were flat broke with no money – only 4 years ago! On one hand, it was enough for my husband to think thoughts no one wants to think and on the other hand it allowed me to revisit what I really wanted to do if I got well.

Re-inventing myself meant getting clear on a dream no matter how big. As I lay there I decided I would do what I should never have walked away from but I'd add a little bit more color and juice and lead from the front 'to be Australia's leading female expert in sales' whatever that meant! But the words didn't really matter. What was important was it led me down a path.

And the path it led me to included people I love and respect and have as colleagues, friends and business acquaintances all around the world - people like Tony Robbins and his team of life changers who invited me in as the APAC coach for his business and executive clients, Matt Church and the team of thought leaders who helped launch my ability to capture, package and sell my thoughts, Jill Konrath and the team of women sales professionals who provide me unlimited support as a female minority in the sales space, you (Tony Hughes) and John Smibert and the Australasian team of sales master minders who invited me in to be one of the women leading change in the profession of selling.

So, here I am today doing, a second chance, doing what I love which is working with awesome clients to help them grow their businesses yes, but more importantly helping them bridge the gap between their goals in business and life and their potential to step into their day to day leadership roles. Business people just like me who relish working with someone to call them on their stuff, brainstorm with them on ways to achieve those results that matter the most and most importantly be OK with who they are.

With my husband stepping into a different identity and now in a national sales management role and me standing for a more real and authentic way of selling on a global change making scale, how did we overcome adversity and reinvent ourselves? Five key things:

  1. We asked ourselves some pretty tough questions - who were we at our core, what value did we bring to not just our table, but any table, who were we going to hang around and have as part of our lives and who were we going to distance ourselves from - friends and family?
  2. We reframed our situation - instead of viewing what had happened as having lost everything, we decided that for the first time in our lives we were debt free, we were, and are young for our age and we backed ourselves and our value. What an awesome baseline to start from
  3. We spent every last cent, on investing in our growth - if we were the ones who created the problem, and in fact were big enough to take 100% responsibility, then how could we be the ones to fix the problem to move us forward. We couldn't! We needed fresh perspectives, new voices and new ways of thinking.
  4. We looked forward with an intention to serve other people and contribute to their growth, not just because it boosts the feel good factor, because there is nothing like waking up in the morning to a day that has purpose , that helps others and creates an upward spiral. When you look backwards and focus only on yourself then the spiral will, by default, take you down.
  5. We held the faith and I don't mean religious beliefs but a firm belief that 'it is written'. We redefined success and were willing to play the long game based on the right rules, the right people and the right values, so that everyone's scorecard is a win.

Times are tough, results don't come as easily, marriages break down more, people stress out, houses get repossessed, businesses go bust and people die. But winter passes and by being the real deal, by being vulnerable and open, you can become whoever you want and create those results that matter the most.

Bernadette McClelland is a sales leadership consultant, an executive coach and an international speaker who works with executives and companies in growth mode looking to jump-start results by quickly bridging their corporate goals with revenue potential. She is passionate about raising the bar for leadership, and B2B sales, to be more 'real' and transparent.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main image photo by: Bernadette McClelland

Shut-up and Embrace These 10 Attributes for Success

I recently read Dave Warawa's book: Shut Up! Stop talking And Start Making Money. It's a good read for anyone starting out in professional selling and he identifies 10 attributes for sustained success. With Dave's permission here is an edited excerpt of his ten attributes directly from the book.

  1. Ambition: Lazy salespeople are not successful. Unless you have very strong personal aspirations to succeed, it’s not going to happen for you. Success doesn’t go around looking for people. You need to seek it. A very successful life insurance salesperson once told me, “There’s a big bag of money waiting for you out there. You just have to go pick it up.” Do you have the ambition to pick up your big bag of money?
  2. Motivation: Motivation, closely related to ambition, is in fact only applicable to those Professional Salespeople who have ambition. If you’re ambitious and motivated, you’re moving in the right direction. Now answer this: “At what speed are you travelling?” That is your measure of motivation.
  3. Confidence: Sales is not for the weak or timid. You need to believe in yourself and your product. You have to be able to look people in the eye, listen to their needs and put together a convincing proposition to make them want to buy. While product knowledge can be learned, personal confidence is harder to teach. It is, however, a necessity.
  4. Integrity: Focus on your customer’s needs at all times. Professional Salespeople never recommend a product or service that they wouldn’t buy themselves based on similar need. Your personal integrity goes beyond the best interests of your employer’s. Your customer comes first; your company second; you third. Keep those priorities straight and you will always have customers and a career as a Professional Salesperson. If you’re not currently working with an employer who understands that, find a new employer.
  5. Respect and Likeability: When was the last time you bought something from someone who you disliked or had no respect for? If customers don’t like you, they won’t give you their business. Period. People will go to great measures and inconvenience themselves to find someone they admire so they can buy from them. Customers who don’t like you will take all the great information you provided and make the sale easy for the first likeable salesperson who sells a similar product or service. You do the work. Another salesperson makes the sale.Perhaps the first lesson of sales should be this:Don’t be a jerk. Don’t give people a reason not to buy from you.
  6. Passion: Every successful Professional Salesperson has buckets of passion! You need to love what you do and believe wholeheartedly in what you sell. Passion gets you out of bed in the morning and puts a smile on your face that transfers to your customers. They are swept up in your belief, enthusiasm and positive energy. Passion is the fuel that makes the fire burn bright.
  7. Persistence: Remember the word “No” and what it stands forI’m not interested in what you have to offer at this given point in time. Persistence enables Professional Salespeople to make the most of the essential role of timing in the sales process. Tactful and diplomatic persistence pays off.
  8. Work Ethic: Without a strong work ethic, any success you have will be short-lived. Professional Salespeople work hard. They have to build relationships with many people, dedicate the time to understand their needs, desires and feelings and treat each customer with a positive attitude. An intense work ethic is a principle of sales success. Easy sales are rare. For every one that occurs, many other potential sales slip away for reasons beyond the control of the Professional Salesperson. That’s after working long and hard doing everything within your power to convince someone to buy.

Together, the preceding eight attributes are the cornerstones of success. You need each and every one of them, in no small amount, to become accomplished in the sales industry. Without the ninth necessary attribute, though, they hardly matter. So what’s this ninth, most necessary attribute of Professional Salespeople?

9. Drive: How bad do you want it versus how bad do you need it? Drive is the internal engine that pushes Professional Salespeople. It doesn’t make them pushy; it makes them bear down and do what needs to be done over the long term. Drive is the practical application of AmbitionIt gives you theConfidence to believe in yourself. Drive requires Integrity for those who want to like the person they see in the mirror. It pushes you to earn Respectwhile being Likeable to receive the support of your customers and co-workers.Drive reinforces your MotivationIt’s fueled by Passion, enablesPersistence and is apparent in Work Ethic. Drive is the power that determines the height and speed of your sales success.

Take away drive and the other eight necessary attributes have no self-sustaining energy. That’s why it’s the most necessary attribute of Professional Salespeople.

Beyond these nine most necessary attributes for sustained sales success, what attribute could be left to discuss? Only the one that is common to all Sales Superstars... it's attribute #10: Their attitude

Sales Superstars do not wish to recognize hardships as excuses for failure. They attain their goals and then acknowledge the obstacles that were in their path. It’s their perspective and attitude that makes them different. They don’t belong to the coffee club and moan about their challenges to their co-workers. They understand the true meaning of the cliché “misery loves company.” They socialize with positive-minded people only and, because of this, may not be the most popular people on the sales floor.

They are fiercely competitive in one of two ways:

  • They either need to be the top Professional Salesperson in their division or they need to be consistently beating their results from the previous year.
  • They are the top earners in the company and make incredible commissions. Their annual incomes exceed many doctors, lawyers and those with actual Master’s degrees. They dare not tell their neighbors or family about what they earn for fear of jealousy and alienation.

Dave can be found here in LinkedIn and you'll find a link to buy his book.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main image photo From Dave Warawa's book cover - Shut Up! Stop Talking and Start Making Money

Test Your Social Selling Effectiveness

John Dougan, ex-Huthwaite / MHI Global is now with Sales ITV in Australia and he's initiating some very interesting research that I'll be commenting on in the coming weeks. John thinks that if you believe that 'social' changes selling behavior, then you shouldn’t be in sales!

In his article ‘Evolution not Revolution’, John explains how social selling is very simple and effective for professional sellers to communicate with customers. Social is a component of all that has gone before it and does not work on its own; nothing works on its own. He highlights that even the skills and behaviours that are required to be successful online are consistent with those that are required to be successful offline.

I've long advocated that the best sellers today bring proven old world techniques to new social platforms and tools. We live in the age of mash-ups with methodology, process and tools to drive sales effectiveness. Social is without doubt most powerful for research and connection. John and I agree that new tools are changing how we engage and collaborate and that both buyers and sellers need to be supported differently in today’s complex business environment. But‘Social Selling’ is a mere cliche for many sales people and worse, a complete mystery to others.

John Dougan says, "There is however, a meaningful transition to social engagement where those adept at developing personal brand, and who can develop a select network, can credibly connect to reap the rewards of improved customer experience."

How mature is your organization concerning social selling? Click here to complete a 2 minute survey and watch for the results in coming weeks. Were there other questions that John should have asked in his research survey?

If you'd like social selling defined is business to business (B2B) context, see my 6 part series which covers the 5 pillars of social selling.

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main image photo by Flickr: Robert Huffstutter

Key Social Selling Metrics. What Should You Measure?

Social selling is all the rage but poorly understood. All the rules of professional selling in the physical world apply to online social selling. We need to build networks of trust and engage thoughtfully with context and value. In B2B social selling I've nominated 6 pillars for sales success:

All of your social selling activites should be focused of getting on the phone with the person!!!!!!

Call on the phone.jpg

I've written previously about the key metrics to measure in CRM but how do you drive the right behaviors and activities in social? What gets measured gets done yet according to Jason Jordan and Michelle Vazzana in Cracking The Sales Management Code, 83% of what is measured (typically in CRM systems) cannot be managed. That's because you can’t manage results, only activities and inputs. This is a profound point... we must focus on coaching and managing the right activities that feed into objectives (KPIs) that in turn create revenue and margin results.

I’ve worked in large corporations where there has been an insane focus on the forecast call… endlessly asking the same questions of sales people, baiting them to go and blow the deal with inappropriate pressure and also train customers about end-of-quarter discounts that will always be available (despite hollow threats to put the price back up). Opening is far more important than closing and if you want accurate forecasting, then understand the customer’s process and timing for the necessary approvals and administrative tasks. Want more revenue, then coach and manage the activities that create and progress opportunities. We need to earn revenue in the way we engage and by creating real business value for the customer.

In today's world, sales people need to be micro-marketers and value engineers, leveraging technology and tools to greater greater yields in delivering ever increasing revenue targets in relentlessly commoditizing markets. Sales people need to rediscover the lost art of writing... I firmly believe that if you can't write, then you can't sell. I also believe that sales management is the weak link in the revenue chain and sale managers need to coach and also hold their people to account for executing the right inputs the right way, consistently week-in and week-out.

What should we focus on and what should we measure? It all depends on what you're seeking to achieve... what's your strategy? As an example; are you publishing to attract audience or to evidence your credibility? Here are potential input metrics to measure as you take your team on the journey of B2B social selling. Don't try and implement too many... pick the few that will make the difference based on your social selling maturity and strategy.

  • Trigger events captured (eg; new decision driver or buyer roles who joining target industry organizations, regulatory changes, scandals, mergers and acquisitions).
  • Unique content created (eg; LinkedIn Updates shared, LinkedIn Publisher or other blog posts published, Linkedin Group discussions initiated, Tweets generated).
  • Unique content views, comments, likes, shares, retweets and stars.
  • Other people's content curated (eg; retweets, likes, shares, comments, Google+, etc.).
  • Researched thought leadership papers written, strategies documented, account plans created.
  • LinkedIn Sales Navigator 'accounts' and 'leads' created.
  • Customer industry associated joined and meetings attended.
  • Tailored InMails sent with accept and response rate.
  • Phone calls made and meetings booked.
  • Emails sent.
  • Inbound connection requests (this could be the cornerstone metric for successful content publishing moving from push to pull)
  • Referral requests per day
  • Profile views
  • Monthly LinkedIn SSI (Social Selling Index) change
  • Visibility rank in LinkedIn network
  • LinkedIn connection count
  • Appointments set from all this both on phone and on site

 And specifically for LinkedIn's Sales Navigator:

  • Leads saved
  • Accounts saved
  • Custom leadbuilder searches saved
  • TeamLink referral requests
  • Trigger events tracked, most important job changes, promotions and lead recommendations

How will you measure each metric? Will you be able to trust the data? Which few have the biggest impact? How will you recognize and reward the leaders who embrace the social selling journey?

This is an excellent post by LinkedIn's Alex Hisaka on Measuring Your Team’s Social Selling Performance. It's a must read on this topic. Here also is a brilliantarticle on social ROI by Kevan Lee from Buffer (an app I use in my social strategy).

The last of the 5 pillars is 'social collaboration' and CRM is an important tool for sharing information across a team as your pursue complex opportunities and manage large accounts.

Bonus content: What to measure in CRM.

Published research nominates the failure rate of CRM implementations at more than 30% with one research paper nominating the figure at 70%! But in my opinion failure has nothing to do the CRM technology. Every organization needs a CRM to be truly customer-centric and it should be the platform on which process automation and deal coaching occurs. Here are the 8 things I recommend you manage in a CRM for complex B2B solution selling because there is an ‘activity lever’ can be pulled:

1. Qualified pipeline as a percentage of target / quota. I recommend 3-5 times coverage and if it’s low, the sales person can execute activities to build the pipeline

2. Opportunity qualification score. A qualification snapshot should be done progressively as deal moves through stages. Poor scores should create actions to gather intelligence or execute tasks that improve the situation

3. Number of meetings that progress the sale (with call plans completed). Call plans should be forms within your CRM, not Word documents, and the meeting notes and actions from the call should also be logged in CRM.

4. Discovery completed. This is different to the qualification process. It’s all the information you need to be able to properly propose a solution. Again, this should reside within your CRM so that when you move from selling to implementing, and then to supporting; you have a single view of the client for all aspects of customer lifecycle.

5. Number of opportunities reviewed by sales manager. Again within the CRM with your sales methodology integrated and evidenced by a new qualification snapshot score and actions created.(TAS Dealmaker, Pipeline Manager and Sales Pipeliner are excellent plugins for Salesforce CRM. Oracle and SugarCRM also have good solutions to align to process).

6. Proposals submitted (accepted and validated by the customer) following documented discovery process.

7. Deal time in each stage (excessive time in a stage reduces likelihood of winning). This is the most difficult in the list to ‘pull an activity lever’, but we should nevertheless understand the customer’s process and timing.

8. Close plans validated by customer. Close plans are the secret to accurate forecasting. Best practice is to rename the document to ‘Project Alignment Plan’ and then sit with the customer to validate that we are all on the same page and can meet their expectations with resources and timing. (eg; have our legal people available for contract negotiations at the right time, have our project manager available for kick-off planning when needed, etc.)

If you valued this article, please hit the ‘like' and ‘share’ buttons below. This article was originally published in LinkedIn here where you can comment. Also follow the award winning LinkedIn blog here or visit Tony’s leadership blog at his keynote speaker website:

Main image photo by Flickr: Stevie Spiers - Does he measure up