If you want to eliminate a lot of stress from your sales job try doing this…

It all starts with you. Everything.

There are some things you can control and some things you can’t.

One of the things you can control is how you use language to frame a situation. The right words can affect, not only how you feel, but also influence the way others see you as a professional.

Drowning? Slammed? Be Mindful of your language…it affects your wellbeing and productivity.

Here is a little story and tip for operating at peak performance, reducing stress and feeling good.

I recently received an email back from a former client of mine after I congratulated him on his new role and suggested we arrange a call to share our “what’s new” news together. Here is his reply.

“Hi Matt,

I am about 1.5 months into the role at the moment and a tad over indexed. Give me a month to get my feet under me and we can catch up then. Hope you are well man!”

“Over indexed.” What a wonderful use of emotionally de-escalating language!

Many people unconsciously use words that increase their anxiety and stress levels. They say things like they are “slammed,” “drowning” or “grinding away.” Phrases like this give off a negative vibe to anyone who hears them and also impacts productivity and happiness.

If you say something enough you actually internalize it until it  becomes your reality.

Be mindful of the words you habitually use to describe your state.

Are you “furious” or a bit “peeved”?

“Frustrated” or “fascinated”?

“Starving” or “peckish”?

Likewise, you can tweak positive emotions up.

Are you “happy” or “overjoyed”?

See what I mean?

The words you use, just as how you hold your body (for another day), can dramatically alter your emotional state and how you project yourself to others. In sales this is especially important!

So choose your words carefully.

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Chief Sales Officers! You want your salespeople to sell value – and yet…

The people designing your sales curriculum and approach have never had and can’t execute the business conversations you need.

EVERY sales leader I speak with wants his or her sales force to sell “value.”

It’s become one of those overused words that’s  meaning has been lost in time to corporate and sales guru buzzword bingo.

Ask a group of salespeople and sales leaders to define value and you’ll get a different definition each time. Even CEOs overuse the term without truly understanding what they mean when they say it.

Recently I’ve met with sales and enablement leaders at some leading and very successful enterprises who are retooling their sales approaches and heard some worrying information in my discovery conversations.

The common thread in these conversations is the sales leader’s desire for his/her sales force to be able to:

  1. Have “broader and deeper business conversations” with senior decision-making executives that tie back to the ‘value’ of their solutions
  2. Be proactive – share insight and ideas that help to position the salesperson as an expert
  3. Build a reputation for being competitively distinct as a sales organization in order to attract and retain the best talent

These desires aren’t new. I heard the same 10 years ago. So why isn’t the conversation changing?

I’d like to suggest that it’s for the following reasons.

  1. No common definition of what ‘value’ means internally (and more importantly how it relates to the customers definition).
  2. There is no plan to help guide the customer to articulate what they define as  value and guide them to make their own case for change
  3. The people who are tasked with designing sales onboarding and skills curriculum have never done the job of having a ‘broad, deep business conversation’ with a C level executive – they simply don’t know what good looks like or how to do it. So how can they build these elements into your internal programs?
  4. Hiring profiles need to change – less sales hustle and more curiosity and critical thinking skills that enable a business or transformational conversation
  5. Lack of clarity and definition of what the purpose of sales is

And, I’m only going to unpack the first few of these in this article..

The issue of value

The biggest challenge with value is that sales leaders believe that salespeople need to be able to show customers the value of their solution; the potential ROI, cost savings, revenue increases, efficiencies, productivity gains, results and impact of their offerings.

These are important…

And, the problem with showing/demonstrating value is a matter of sequencing in a conversation and social proof.

If your salesperson tells the customer what they can expect in terms of ROI, gains, reductions, results, impact before the customer has shared what their beliefs as to the potential outcomes are, then it’s a bit like me telling you how devilishly handsome I am.

I’m a salesperson, of course I’d say that, right? And, how believable are you finding that statement right now…?

If on the other hand, your salesperson can guide your customer to articulate the value of the difference that they, the customer believe would be achieved by addressing their challenges or achieving their objectives in $, then your customer is effectively telling your salesperson how handsome or beautiful your salesperson is…sorry, I mean how valuable your solution/product/service is.

See the difference?

Whose numbers and case for change is more believable for your customer – your salesperson’s or your customers own beliefs and business case? (Of course, your salesperson can advise if the customer is being over optimistic or overly pragmatic)

The customer is selling themselves using their own social proof, not that of your salesperson. Much, much more persuasive.

The issue of Sales Enablement

Gloves off time.

How can somebody in HR, Learning and Development, Sales Enablement who has never executed a broad, deep business conversation that has guided a C level executive to build their own case for change (based on the customers beliefs about value) possibly know how to build a sales onboarding approach that helps sales people to execute business conversations?

That’s why so many salespeople dread attending their internal sales programs and often don’t respect these functions. It’s because they know the trainer hasn’t walked a mile in the salesperson’s shoes.

In addition, there’s another reason why most sales people still struggle to have business conversations. Because, most internal training tends to be product/solution/service led. Picture this.

An internal product expert leads a conversation about the new product/solution, it’s features and function and why it’s better than competitive alternatives. They then share a few customer wins so sales have some reference brands to use. Then they tell sales to go and sell it.

What’s the problem here you may be asking?

Well, the whole focus of the internal training has been “why choose us” – and has failed to incorporate any or much of the customers priorities or needs which have to be captured in a “why change?” and “why now?” framework.

And because these critical elements of customer focus are missing, salespeople “show up and throw up” features and benefits, focused on “why choose us” without engaging in any sort of  value uncovering business conversation.

Sales leader and salesperson then wonder why they’re not invited back for a second meeting with the senior executive. (Research shows that 58% of executives are disappointed with their first meeting – and only 7% of first meetings result in a continuation)

The remedy for this is internal sales programs that:

  • follow the “Why change, why now, why choose us” framework
  • involve executives from customers (to share before and after stories and value created/difference)
  • show salespeople and their leaders how to guide the customer to articulate their value (business and personal win)

This is the way to build unshakeable confidence and competence in your salespeople to have business conversations.

Until that happens, expect the same feature/function conversations that don’t link back to the value of your offerings and salespeople who aren’t confident and proficient at speaking with senior decision makers…you know, the people who can say “yes.”

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Inconsistent prospecting and sales results

If your organization is getting insufficient sales results, it’s generally for one of two reasons.

The first is a lack of clarity. Many sales people just aren’t clear on the purpose of sales (why they do it).

Is it just to sell stuff? Meet an arbitrary quota? Crush their number? Make commissions?

All of those reasons are not very purposeful or inspiring over the long term.

The second reason also has to do with clarity. Specifically, there is no clear understanding of the value and outcomes of what’s being sold to clients.

My view is that sales is about making a dramatic and measurable improvement to your customer’s business and personal condition.

And being very clear on what that measurable impact is motivates sales people in a way that goes much deeper than just selling for the sake of selling.

If you’re a sales person ask your leadership for the numbers that prove TO YOU that what your selling is going to make a difference.

And, if you’re in leadership and you want to improve how your sales teams perform, then maybe it’s time for a chat. Send me a quick email and let’s have the conversation matt@matthewconway.com or call me on +1 647 402 2096 or visit my website https://matthewconway.com

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CEOs and Sales Leaders! Is your Director of Inside Sales unintentionally sabotaging your growth efforts?

“They’re not our target customer.”

“They don’t buy what we sell.”

I’m paraphrasing – and, this is what I’ve heard from several leaders of BDRs, SDRs and inside sales teams (who do outbound prospecting) who have pushed back when I’ve advocated taking a top down approach – that is, prospecting to the CEO of that ‘must win’ or ‘named account.’

I get it. I do.

The CEO may not be the buyer or user of your service, product or solution – and after an internal referral or one call, you may never need to speak with that CEO again (although I strongly recommend keeping them in the loop).

AND, it’s the fastest way my clients know how to get conversations started with the account they want to do business with. Prospecting cycles get reduced from weeks or months, 7 to 15 touches to seconds, minutes and hours with between 1 to 3 touches.

Imagine the impact this approach would make to your business…

Here’s are a couple of typical outcomes.

“Using Matt’s methods the first week, I secured a meeting with a hard to reach client (CEO) in 26 minutes and had a meaningful pitch to another client I was trying to engage for 18 months! I highly recommend Matt to evaluate how you are selling as his methods have worked for me.” Sr. Manager, Business Development

“My Senior Enterprise Director has been trying to get into ACCOUNT for years. I just got a meeting with the VP Operations in 6 minutes…” Business Development Associate

When the CEO of a company decides that a conversation or referral is warranted it loosens the grip of “status quo” bias. Mid-level executives who are tasked with executing and operationalizing existing initiatives are suddenly made aware that this is, or could be, a new change initiative that is a high priority. And that is what sales is, introducing new process, technology or behaviour. So, start your sales motion with people who are change orientated (for avoidance of doubt, that is the C suite).

So why do many inside sales leaders tell their reps to start their prospecting cycles at VP, Director or Manager level?

In my experience, there are two reasons.

  1. Ideal Customer Profiles
  2. Generational behaviours

An Ideal Customer Profile typically describes the person(s) who may have bought your service, product or solution in the past. It tends to focus on VP and below titles and is often pulled together by marketing.

However most marketers have never prospected or had to set a cold appointment. Sorry marketing folks, I love you for a great deal of what you do. You get my drift…

In addition, most ICP’s don’t take into account the circumstances, reasons or trigger events that cause mid level prospects to contact your company or the 1 out of 100 contacted who take your reps call. 95% of mid level buyers are fine with the status quo…until they aren’t. That’s usually because they’ve been tasked by their C suite to fix or find something to do business differently. So ICP’s are at best incomplete.

Generational behaviours…many inside sales leaders have learned to call on mid-level executives because that is what their leaders did when they were reps and they simply haven’t considered “going high.”

While it may be counterintuitive to what they believe works,  speaking to the top level execs directly actually accelerates prospecting results; namely conversations with or referrals to people who can actually say “yes” (or “no” quickly) to what it is that you sell.

Without someone clearly showing sales teams why they need to start high and then show them how to do it properly, they simply repeat the behaviours of predecessors –  and perpetuate unproductive habits and processes that are passed on from one generation of prospectors to another.

Be a ‘transitionary’ leader. Break that cycle of generational dysfunction.

If you’re an executive reading this, ask your inside sales leader what the job titles they instruct their reps to call on – or just have a peek at the job titles of the people attached to the opportunities in your pipeline. If you see lots of VP, Dir and Manager titles, you may want to have a chat with your inside sales leader about that. Long sales cycles and low proposal to win rates lie ahead. Just sayin’.

(If you’re an inside sales leader reading this, contact me for some stats on the difference that you will make by going high: + show rates, + call quality, + number of calls/meetings, + number of opportunities generated from calls, + $ value of opportunities. It could lead to your next promotion.)

“Matt is the world’s greatest authority on teaching salespeople to prospect and sell to the C-level.” – Gerhard Gschwandtner, CEO Selling Power Magazine, Advisory Board Member Sales Enablement Society

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Convert more opportunities into wins with this one sales tip

Here’s a counterintuitive idea for the corporate world: empathy sells.

A coaching client of mine, an excellent salesman, told me he was feeling nervous about a sale. He was in the final stages, and the client had narrowed it down to his company and a competitor. They offered essentially the same services, and my friend’s services were marginally more expensive—so how could he be sure that he would win the deal?

“Well,” I said, “have you asked about the client’s personal win?”

Behind every purchase decision, there’s always two things going on. There’s the surface-level value, the logical considerations, i.e. does this make financial sense, will this save my company money, will it be profitable. That’s what you’re usually thrashing out in the early to mid stages of a sales discovery conversation.

But underneath that is an emotional decision, which is usually invisible to both the buyer and the salesperson. People do things, essentially, because it serves them on an emotional or unconscious level. And really skilled salespeople, at the top of their game, are going to tap into this underlying decision to serve their customer’s best interest and win the deal. They’re going to use empathy—that is, they are going to think from the perspective of the customer—to figure out the customer’s personal win.

Eventually, you should get to the stage where you sort out the business and financial side of a deal. The next question you need to ask your customer is—what do you, personally, want to get out of or stand to gain from this? What’s the personal win for you if you go ahead with this? And in my experience, this question is always followed by silence.

That silence is pure gold. Too often, sales conversations end up being a sort of casual, boilerplate patter on both sides – like you’re exchanging pleasantries at the water cooler. If you can break through that, and have a meaningful connection with your client, you’ll be rewarded with dead quiet—because, for the first time in that conversation, they’re really thinking.

Value is created when you take your client to places they’ve never been before, and introduce them to concepts they’ve never thought about. Just like that, you’ve differentiated yourself from your competitors.

The personal win could be anything, depending on who you’re talking to. An executive with a high-octane lifestyle and a stressful workday might want to buy your solution because it will free up more time so he can go sailing with his wife more often.

Whether it’s success, relaxation, or obligation, everyone has their underlying drives and desires.  And it’s your job as a salesperson to figure out what that is.

Most of the time the customer won’t even be clear about what their personal win is.  But when you can help them articulate it, you immediately differentiate yourself…and gain a new friend.

My client went back to his customer and asked her about her personal win. It turned out she needed to get a large project under her belt to get the promotion she wanted. When she awarded him the contract, he asked why she chose him. She said she gave it to him because he asked her what she wanted, what was in it for her. The other sales person hadn’t. One question made all the difference.

Remember, when you’re making deals, the numbers and business case are only half the story. Sure, ostensibly, you’re trying to increase revenues, or streamline, or halve operating costs; but you’re also dealing with a human being, not a spreadsheet. Being personable, discerning, and figuring out what your client wants as an individual: that’s the key to success in sales. Lock down the personal win, and you’ve got a happy client.

(Note for sales leaders: If your team suffers low proposal to win rates, start expecting and coaching for a clearly defined business case in your sales people’s proposals (ideally to the ultimate decision maker).

Also, ask your sales people what the personal win for each buyer is. And while the personal win may not be included in a proposal, particularly if several people are involved in the evaluation process, this is good deal hygiene. A business case and personal win are LEAD indicators for successful deals.)

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The classic sales mistake I made so you don’t have to

Do your SDRs prospect senior decision makers whose job it is to introduce change – or into mid-level executives whose job is to execute on already decided initiatives? Can they create budget, or are they assigned a budget by someone with more authority?

Here’s my story. Read it and take the lesson for your own sales team.

I sometimes partner with a leading-edge AI predictive analytics company that helps sales organizations improve pipeline accuracy up to 99% by running really sophisticated win/loss probability scenarios.

The clients I’ve introduced them to, really value the service they provide. So I’m always keen to introduce them to people who I think would benefit from their service and will appreciate the intro. It’s my way of adding additional value to my network beyond my own New Business Sales Advisory, Consulting, Training and Coaching services.

Recently I was on LinkedIn and came across a contact of mine who I hadn’t been in touch with for quite some time – because her job title, Director of Sales Operations, isn’t usually the level I approach directly for my core business. (I sometimes work with sales ops after I have been engaged by CEOs or Sales Leaders as part of wider sales transformation initiatives and I introduce my AI partner if I think my client will benefit)

Sales/Inside Sales Leaders and SDRs! Look at the pressure your mid level “ideal” prospects are under…and why they aren’t really all that ideal…

I decided to ping this Sales Ops Director and send a note about my AI partner and how she and her sales org would benefit from having a chat with them.

Now, for those of you who know me and my approach to new business sales, which is to always start at the CEO when prospecting, you’ll have spotted how I am already violating my own rule/not eating my own dog food. And, I was aware that I was doing that, because I wasn’t really prospecting, rather I was thinking how I could be helpful to her – and if you’ve had a prior relationship and already have trust, you can sometimes overcome status quo bias.

Silly me! This wasn’t one of those times.

I could and should have predicted the outcome…

“Hey Matt, great to hear from you. Long time! This service sounds amazing, but I am completely under water and don’t have a second to devote to new initiatives. Could you reach out in 6 months?”

Now this from a person who knows me, and has done so for several years.

What do you think happens when your SDRs prospect into a mid ranking executive – VP, Director, Manager who they don’t know from Adam/Eve?

The result is lots of drudgery…7 to 15 touches over months only to get involved in drawn out conversations, long sales cycles and proposals that don’t end in a win. And it’s because you’re prospecting to the wrong people.

Research from The Chasm Group shows that 85% of budgets are assigned to “existing initiatives.” So unless you’re speaking directly to the budget-makers everyone else rarely have the bandwidth or will to take on new projects without direction from their executive team.

Your team needs to be prospecting budget creators whose focus is on growing the business and who are open to change ideas/initiatives.

So, by all means keep your SDRs or salespeople prospecting to these mid level job titles if you want an anemic pipeline, long sales cycles and low win rates. And keep asking bright, motivated (for the time being) people to exert their best efforts and energy on low probability outcomes. Drudgery is part of life. Got to “respect the grind/hustle” right? Pah! Nonsense.

Learn from my momentary misstep.

Shift your team’s prospecting focus from middle to top executives. You’ll fill your pipeline with more, better quality opportunities, far faster. I predict less stress, a better quality of life and more success  for everyone.

If you want to have a conversation and explore some ideas on how you and your team could benefit from taking an Executive Access approach to prospecting, then get in contact.

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Three things keeping CEOs and Sales Leaders up at night

I’m constantly speaking to CEOs and sales leaders from across the world about their growth challenges and objectives – sharing ideas and insights that dramatically accelerate their and their team’s success. I love it. Totally rewarding.

And, what’s really interesting is how often these conversations are repeated…whether they happen with potential clients in London, Toronto or San Francisco.

These CEOs and sales leaders are frustrated by three things.

  1. There’s lots of prospecting without results
  2. Sales cycles that take far too long
  3. Even when they get to the proposal stage they aren’t getting enough wins.

If that sounds familiar to you I’m going to tell you why.

  1. Your messaging is backwards
  2. Your salespeople are prospecting to the wrong level
  3. They don’t know how to write a proper prospecting letter, email or LinkedIn message that gets the people who can say “yes” excited to meet them.

If you want to improve how your sales teams perform, then maybe it’s time for a chat. Send me a quick email and let’s have the conversation or call me on +1 647 402 2096

How to Get Meetings with CEOs

In today’s hyper-competitive market, what are your new business sales hunters doing differently to accelerate your sales cycle and improve your win rates?

If they’re anything like the growth leaders I work with, they’re making sure their salespeople are prospecting to and speaking with the person who can say yes to what you sell – the ultimate decision maker: the CEO or their designated senior executive.

Most salespeople claim they’re proficient at getting meetings with C-level executives. If I had a dollar for every CV I’ve read that makes this claim…

If that were true, CEOs and other senior executives would do nothing but be in meetings with salespeople. Clearly, this isn’t the case.

So, for those sales leaders who focus their team on getting meetings and having conversations at the highest level, there is an opportunity for significant competitive advantage.

And, if most sales leaders were being candid, they’d admit they’re probably not proficient at getting meetings at this level either – and that’s why most of their salespeople spend their time prospecting to mid-level executives, because they model what their leaders know, do, and expect.

Getting meetings with C-level execs or their senior designate isn’t hard. In fact, it’s often much, much quicker to get an appointment with (or referral from) the CEO than getting a meeting with a mid-ranking exec who is vested in the status quo. This applies in all B2B sales – even if the CEO isn’t the main buyer for the product, service, or solution you sell.

It just takes a mindset tweak and some new skills. Even first-time salespeople can get amazing results very quickly when they know how.

“My first CEO response was under one minute after sending my message!” Nate, Sales Development Representative

“My Senior Enterprise Director has been trying to get into this account for years. I just got a meeting with the VP Operations in six minutes.” Cody, Business Development Associate

So can more experienced sales reps.

“I secured a meeting with a hard-to-reach CEO in 26 minutes and had a meaningful pitch to another client I was trying to engage for 18 months!” Kevin, Sr. Manager, Business Development

“I spent two years with one of my prospects without any response using the old mindset of approaching mid-level managers. After the session, the result was amazing: CEO meeting in nine hours after one email with no follow-up.” Samer, Client Partner

There are three things you can do so your new business sales team gets results like these.

#1: Make sure your value proposition focuses on the outcomes and impact your client can expect – and that other clients get – because of working with you. Rather than saying, “We help companies to…” (which is how most value props start, and why they sound the same) demonstrate immediate credibility and social proof by saying, “Clients like ABC and XYZ say they get (results/outcome/impact) because they choose to work with [name of your company].” “Choose to work with [name of your company]” is actually an embedded suggestion that pre-conditions your potential customer to choose to work with you.

#2: Go high! Once your messaging is more client focused, just switching your attention on getting meetings with more senior executives will mean you get meetings with more senior executives – as senior executives are always on the lookout for new initiatives that will accelerate time to market, increase revenue, decrease costs, improve efficiencies, and more. They’re wired that way. And research shows they appreciate salespeople who bring new ideas to them.

#3: Teach your salespeople to write well or share messages that work. Ask your sales team to send you the prospecting emails/letters that generate the most meetings for them. Tweak them to appeal to senior execs’ motivations and share the best ones with everyone so they’re not reinventing the wheel every day (otherwise, you’re paying your expensive salespeople to be copywriters).

Doing these three things has helped new business salespeople increase the number of appointments they get by 23%-400% percent. Even more importantly, appointment to opportunity conversion improves by as much as 94% and pipeline value increases by as much as 166%. And, because these are conversations with true decision makers, salespeople sell more in less time.

If you want to cut through the clutter and fill your sales pipeline with quality opportunities, you must approach prospecting differently than you may be doing today. In the words of Mark Twain:

Whenever you find that you’re on the side of the majority, it’s time to pause and reflect.”

And, if you want to accelerate the process, contact me at matt@matthewconway.com or +1 647-402-2096. I’ll be happy to share some additional ideas and insights.

And, if you found this article helpful and valuable, please share it with your network on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Thank you.

Matt Conway is an advisor, executive coach and speaker on go-to-market strategy and sales acceleration. Clients who work with him say they dramatically accelerate their time-to-market, revenue, and sales cycles; and improve their win rates. Matt is a 2018 Selling Power Magazine Leading Sales Consultant.

www.matthewconway.com