Storytelling in Sales: Notes from Prezi Podcast “The Narrative”

My friends at Prezi invited me to join them for an episode of The Narrative. It’s a podcast aimed to expose the power of storytelling in business.

I sat down with host David Hooker to share my approach to storytelling in sales and sales development.

This piece is not a transcript of the episode. Instead, it’s a supplement filled with insights and actions to get you thinking about narratives and how to better craft them. It’s incredible how often stories are needed.

Consider these examples:

  • How well does your LinkedIn profile complement (not repeat) your resume? What’s your story for how you add value to an organization?
  • How do you, or how does your team, broadcast its results? How do you highlight the journey of going from x to y?
  • Why would a live audience, especially one comprised of prospects, want to listen to your presentation? How can they relate to your theme? What’s in it for them and how can they apply what you’re telling them?
  • How do you tell prospects – in a fast, brief phone conversation – it’s worth their time to keep talking with you?

Like it or not, you’re always telling a story. The question is, are you good at it? If you are, how do you stay sharp? If you’re not, how do you improve? 

David and I chat about what I’ve seen work in my career. Take a listen. If you like the episode (it’s Episode #2, by the way) share it with others.

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Show notes from Episode #2 of The Narrative

00:51 Introduction from host David Hooker.

01:37 David asks about selling for United Parcel Service (UPS), where I started my sales career in 1994.

At UPS, I was a “back door salesman” for close to six years. Most sales calls happened in the shipping area, which is typically located in the back of the building.

My learning experience at UPS was rich. It became the bedrock for my understanding of sales, management, customer service, and leadership.

While I was at UPS, the company continually raised the standards of the sales force in many ways. From how we dressed (women and men wore business suits) to how we communicated (daily huddles), we illustrated a high-caliber operation.

We opened team meetings by reading and reflecting on excerpts from the UPS Policy Book. Reading aloud our commitment to integrity, values, and management philosophies really set the tone for serving the marketplace. What does your company or team’s policy book say? What’s your mission?

The entire sales team received subscriptions to Selling Power magazine. Issues simply arrived in my mailbox each month. I could’ve thrown them out or read them from cover to cover: I chose the latter. I read and applied tips from Editor-in-Chief Gerhard Gschwandtner and contributor Jeffrey Gitomer, both of whom I later met (and keep learning from).

Covers from the now legendary Selling Power magazine.

As UPS salespeople, we were also immersed in Neil Rackham’s SPIN Selling methodology. We applied lessons from the book, from classes, and from exercises that earned us certifications.

Finally, we were given a series of books titled Our Partnership Legacy. The books (I still own three of the five) captured talks given by UPS founders and executives at management conferences. The transcripts underscored the obligation leaders have to serve their customers, people, and communities. Pure gold for students of business, leadership, and storytelling.

02:23 Has storytelling been present throughout my career? Was I telling stories as I walked through the back door?

Storytelling has been around since the dawn of humankind. It’s not going anywhere either.  Of course, I’d have stories for my customer visits, but the story was about the customer, not me or my company.

For example, I might have said:

“Remember my last visit, when you were telling me about that band you liked? Well, I just read they’re releasing a new record this summer. The second it’s out, I’m bringing you a copy. In a Rolling Stone article, the lead vocalist felt they showed grace under pressure by finishing the record before going way over budget. The last time I visited, you were dealing with tight deadlines for that shipment to New York. I drew up a few options for streamlining it next time. Let’s grab a few minutes to walk through them.”    

Kevin Avery from Sales Benchmark Index (SBI) suggests we “tell stories that compel your customers to act by answering the key question, “Why change?” Sometimes buyers will change just so they can work with you. When you establish rapport and credibility, become a trusted advisor, and they like you, it could serve as the catalyst for them to move forward with your offering.

Check out SBI’s Guide to Better Storytelling.

Frame stories using the Guide to Better Storytelling

03:01 Has the need to tell stories to prospects changed over the past two decades?

No. There are just different ways to tell stories today. In fact, two decades ago, we were sowing the seeds for how we tell stories today.

Channels for storytelling have evolved since the 1990’s when you think about the internet, reality television, and 24/7 news becoming mainstream. Watch this discussion with Vanity Fair’s editor, David Friend. He talks with former White House Press Secretary, Dee Dee Myers, and filmmaker, Judd Apatow, about how storytelling has grown over the past two decades.

03:28 As a sales leader, how do you get the importance of storytelling through to a large-scale, global team?

People learn differently. Delivering a message to a team of people located across the globe requires mindfulness of geography, language, culture, and learning styles. The Memletics Learning Style (Memory + Athletics = Memletics) trains your brain, like athletes train for competition. 

Accommodate people’s learning styles by delivering messages in different formats. For example, while you listen (aural) to this podcast episode, you’re reading (verbal) my detailed show notes, clicking the links I’ve shared, looking at images (visual) in this post, and sharing your comments (social) below. 🙂

There are seven Memletic Styles of learning.

Gary Vaynerchuk calls this “content on content on content.” The next time an update is sent to your team, especially a critical one, perhaps it’s broadcasted on an All Hands call + by email + in a video clip + from a laminated 3×5 card left on everyone’s desk + by text or WhatsApp.

One time our marketing operations (MOPs) team updated our inbound lead statuses and service level agreements (SLAs). To ensure the change was communicated and adopted by our global team of sales development reps (SDRs), the MOPs team made the announcement at our company’s annual sales kickoff (SKO) meeting. It was an opportune time since every SDR was attending SKO.

As part of the announcement, the MOPs team slipped a laminated 8×10 of the new lead statuses and SLAs into large red envelopes. An envelope was then slid under the hotel room door of every SDR.

An effective way to deliver news to your team is to hand deliver it.

News of the lead status updates traveled fast, was seen by all stakeholders, and was memorable. It was a tangible, physical way of delivering the story.

04:32 Are new hires, especially ones just starting their sales careers, aware of the power of storytelling?

It depends. Whether new hires are aware or not, their sales leader must integrate storytelling into the experience.

Effective leaders direct teams by starting with the why. “The company is on a healthy trajectory towards an IPO. A healthy IPO places us prominently in the market, enables the public to invest in our (and our customers’) success, and expands our ecosystem so we help a broader audience.”

Leaders then tell how it’ll get done. “Let’s aim to produce 2x the opportunities currently in the pipeline by end-of-year. We’ll tweak the qualification criteria, implement a deliberate prospecting campaign against specific target accounts, involve several different teams, and add one hour to each workday to execute our plan.”

Finally, leaders will explain what is happening. “Everyone, our team is hyper-focused on creating 2x the opportunities we have in our pipeline. Unless you’re working with them to accomplish this goal, let them do their thing.”

An easy way to consider this approach is by learning about Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle:

Hey Salesperson: WHY go with you? HOW does it help me? WHAT changes for me?

05:29 What does “learning the hard way” look like when getting storytelling wrong?

Telling a story goes wrong when it’s not persuasive, doesn’t have a proper beginning-middle-end, doesn’t have a conflict that’s resolved (or on its way to resolution), or doesn’t introduce a protagonist and antagonist.

Another way stories go wrong, especially in business, is when data is improperly used or misrepresented. As this Harvard Business Review article explains, “quantitative information is uniquely able to capture attention, convey a story visually and bolster your credibility.”

Say you’re a sales development leader, presenting year-over-year (YoY) pipeline contribution figures to your company’s sales leaders (your #1 customers). It’s assumed you own your business within the business and are fully aware of key performance indicators. Yet, you often rely on your operations team to “check the math” and provide the actual figures.

Now it’s time for the final QBR of the year, where you present in front of the sales leaders. If you mistakenly tell the sales leaders your team grew pipeline 88% YoY, but it was really HALF that, you’ve got a problem. In an instant, you risk losing credibility, rapport, and respect. The damage could be systemic, too, as your team’s credibility is also in question.

That’s how storytelling can go wrong.

Former Dell executive, Jim Stikeleather, shares tips for mitigating this risk. When using data to tell a story, it’s important to:

  1. Find the compelling narrative. Ask yourself, “Is there really a story to tell?”
  2. Think about your audience. What does the audience know about the topic, and how well do they know it?
  3. Be objective and offer balance. This comes from alternative representations and showing visualizations devoid of bias.
  4. Don’t censor. Don’t be selective about the data you include or exclude.
  5. Edit, edit, edit! Really work to explain the data, not decorate it.

06:09 What’s the worst story I’ve told or heard told?

I tell the story of a phone call I got at work one day. A sales development rep called to thank me for attending his company’s conference and sell me on his product offering.

He hadn’t done any research prior to the call. Hence, he missed that I was a speaker at the conference and was also connected to several of the company’s executives. If he invested time to learn about me the call would’ve gone well. Alas, that wasn’t the case. I ended up writing about it here.

An effective way to make phone calls conversational is by asking great questions. While yes/no questions are powerful when used at the right time, open-ended questions are the way to go.

Remember to “create space” in your conversations, for the other person to process the dialogue and respond in kind. The best conversation starters and open-ended questions come from Barry Rhein’s Selling Through Curiosity program.

07:37 A good story, then, is a two-way street? Where questions are asked and there’s a conversation? And preparation is key?

Get good at writing. Outline sales conversations before they happen. The better acquainted you are with when you’re at the beginning, middle, and end, the easier it is to navigate and establish conversation flow.

Let’s go back to the sales rep who called me after his company’s conference. If he outlined how he wanted the conversation to go, but also kept in mind how it could go, the call would’ve likely gone well.

See the conversation first in your mind. Guide the prospect through it like a sherpa, knowing where the key questions will surface, knowing how it will likely play out.

10:38 A big portion of a salesperson’s work is preparation, right? From lead qualification to putting the right person on the right account in the right territory, isn’t preparation something good salespeople have done for a long time?

Preparation is imperative, but here’s the catch: Don’t spend too much time preparing and not executing or taking action.

11:25 What kind of impact are you seeing with sales reps that have a good conversation flow?

The best sales reps actually have a story to tell. Take a face-to-face meeting, for example. Reps who establish flow keep things simple. They may mirror and match the person they’re speaking with by tilting their head in the same direction or crossing their arms at the same time.

Looking people in the eyes will never get old, in terms of authenticity. Author Leil Lowndes, in her book How to Talk to Anyone, suggests the “Sticky Eyes” technique:

“Pretend your eyes are glued to your conversation partner’s with sticky warm taffy. Don’t break eye contact, even after he or she has finished speaking. When you must look away, do it ever so slowly, reluctantly, stretching the gooey taffy until the tiny string finally breaks.”

Address people by their name. In his classic book How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie wrote: “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

13:05 Tell us about the five barriers.

Throughout my career, I’ve seen salespeople at all levels fail because of one or all of these obstacles. I’ve even experienced it myself. Not fun.

The five barriers are:

  1. Obscurity
  2. Lack of Focus
  3. Inactivity
  4. No Conversation Flow
  5. Failure to Keep Improving

Lack of conversation flow (and storytelling) can have serious consequences. For salespeople, it can stunt career growth, damage relationships with field reps, and prevent your company from landing new customers.

16:19 What’s your advice for salespeople on what tools to use at pivotal points in the sales process, when they must transfer their idea to the prospect?

Sooner rather than later, salespeople need to stop talking and start showing. Most feel limited in how to show their offering or sell their idea.

The traditional slide presentation can put people to sleep. It comes with monotonous bullet points, old school bar charts and graphs, and poorly combined color schemes. A-player reps leverage the strengths of their marketing colleagues or become architects in building killer, compelling presentations.

There’s a number of tools to use in addition to Prezi and other presentation programs. None will work well for you until you embrace all components of a great presentation:

  • Keep things simple: font, text, bullets
  • Use high-resolution, crisp images
  • Create flow with transitions
  • Empower color schemes and palettes

There is a science and an art to selling – this is the art part. Consider your presentation’s aesthetics! For example, let’s talk about colors.

Use a color scheme generator or the color wheel as a guide for complementing colors and setting the mood.

Smart color choices are potent. Choose wisely. (Graphic: Bull Marketing)

Effective sales reps help prospects engineer a vision of the Promised Land (what GREAT looks like). Visual presentations serve as an extension of the sales rep, as a conduit for conveying the rep’s offering or idea. When you’ve got your prospect’s attention, take advantage of it by keeping things simple, tending to the details, and making the presentation pop.

18:22 Companies invest millions of dollars in lead generation, account intelligence, tools, and technology. However, there’s always a reliance on salespeople to produce the magic in the moment. Shouldn’t companies invest more in enabling the salespeople in those moments?

Last I checked, businesses were comprised of people. Therefore, companies must ensure their salespeople develop people skills. Tap into the power of influence to create win-win situations.

Robert Cialdini introduced six principles for us to reference when persuading others:

  1. Reciprocation – be the first to give, give to get
  2. Scarcity – the rule of the rare, exclusive features and offers
  3. Authority – showing and knowing, illustrating credibility and rapport
  4. Consistency – the starting point, sequential success
  5. Liking – making friends to influence people
  6. Consensus – people proof, people power

Draw on these principles when telling your story, especially about how your offering will solve your prospects’ problems. Ideally, you’ll arrive at a point where your presentation accomplishes these six principles on its own.

19:50 The stereotypical sales presentation connotes a drab, dry vibe, unless the salesperson is on.

Craft presentations that resonate, whether you’re presenting them yourself or they’re doing it on their own. One of the best guides to achieving high level presenting is the book Resonate by Nancy Duarte (download it here for free).

In it, Nancy implores you to ask “How badly do I want my idea to live?” Answer that question and you’ll light a fire within yourself to frame-up – and deliver – a presentation that’s nails.

When presenting in front of an audience, never fail from the front of the room. Break the fourth wall by walking into and among the audience members. Put your hand on the presentation screen, place deliberate inflections in your speech to emphasize points, and make it conversational.

Engaging your audience is tougher to do online, which puts more weight on the presentation to live on its own. Video is an exceptional alternative. No matter what channel you choose, preparation is imperative and the aim is to resonate.

21:35 The role of visuals is getting more important. What are examples of staying coherent, compelling, and interesting in a digital world?

Geofilters are overlays on Snapchat and Instagram Stories that allow viewers to feel like they’re there with you. Filters enable story creators to add the outdoor temperature, or the location, or an emoji to give depth and emotion to their visuals.

Did you see the Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio? While the bossa nova classic, “Girl from Ipanema” played, model Gisele Bundchen dazzled the crowd with a catwalk across the entire stadium.

As she walked to the soundtrack of the song, the audience cheered and sang the lyrics. Each of Gisele’s steps left a fluid, trace of light beneath her, giving millions of viewers at home a sharp impression of the country’s spirit.

So, what’s your story?

Stories often follow arcs. A theme is exposed, which lifts towards a climax and tumbles downward to resolution. The same applies to your own storytelling evolution. Keep that 5th barrier in mind and never stop learning. All the resources are there if you just look for them.

Thanks to the team at Prezi for having me on The Narrative and waving the storytelling flag.

The SDR Chronicles #100 – On Brand, Accountability, and Thinking Long-Term (Show Notes)

Filmed on Thursday, March 2, 2017 in Atlanta, GA. That day, Morgan and I both attended SalesLoft’s Rainmaker Conference at the Loews Atlanta Hotel.

At the time, Morgan had already released 53 episodes of The SDR Chronicles. We both knew he was aiming to publish at least 100 episodes, so acted as if he’d already done it. This was key. It held Morgan accountable and drove him to “see it” through.

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HOW TO BUILD A BRAND, STAY ACCOUNTABLE, AND THINK LONG-TERM

01:00 Ralph Barsi introduces himself and tells the story of how Morgan created The SDR Chronicles.

It was inspired by Ralph’s Sales Hacker article from September 2015, titled How the Best SDRs Overcome Obscurity.

One of the biggest barriers SDRs face is no one knows them. Often, their emails and calls get no response. That’s why SDRs must focus on building their brand. The more value they add to the marketplace, the more valuable they will become (from Jim Rohn).

01:32 The article challenged SDRs…

I’ve searched and searched, and I’ve not yet found a YouTube channel hosted by an SDR, for SDRs. Is it you? Are you the one that will lead the pack? If so, your sales development kin will eat it up.

Here are ideas for your first few episodes:

– Why you want to start a career in sales development
– How to get quickly acquainted with using Salesforce
– What your initial emails to prospects must say and include
– How to address salary increase with your boss
– How to handle getting people’s voicemail greeting all day long
– Efficient ways to sort through lots of inbound leads
– The best sales development tools to use this year

You can share “stories from the bullpen,” and feature sales development reps from everywhere. Once in a while, sales development leaders or senior sales leaders are featured, to discuss career path progression, best practices, and “things you should be doing now to lock down a successful sales career.”

01:58 Here’s the tweet Morgan sent Ralph, saying he’d rise to the occasion.

03:09 How do you build your brand?

  • One way to do it is through video.
  • Find out where your audience is and who they are and go there.
  • If you’re a great writer, then write; if you’re a great speaker, get on stage and speak.

Triple-down on your strengths. Go from A to B, not A to Z. Produce one episode or one post or one article. Over time, you’ll create a mountain of value.

04:29 What if you don’t have time to create content?

  • Having no time is just not an excuse. You’re given the same amount of time as us.
  • Tell us what’s not working for you. People love stories about resilience, about others picking themselves up, dusting themselves off, and carrying on after failing.

05:41 How do you create more time?

Download Brendon Burchard’s 1-Page Productivity Planner here: http://bit.ly/1-page-planner

Craft your days around three P’s: People, Projects, and Priorities

  • Identify 3 projects and the 5 things required to move the projects forward.
  • Who are the people you must reach out to and the people you must hear from?
  • What are the main priorities you must complete, no matter what?

Be yourself. If you despise writing, like Morgan, but love making videos, have your videos transcribed, so your audience can read your content if they wish.

07:02 How’s life for Morgan since creating the first episode of The SDR Chronicles?

“Everything has changed.”

  • The respect level is different. Morgan now has friends and mentors he would not have had if he hadn’t created the show. This is a perfect example of adding value and becoming valuable in the process.
  • You must shine. Do this by showing up and doing the work.
  • Many people now consider Morgan as “the Voice of SDRs,” a thought leader and expert.

08:28 A-Players, B-Players, and C-Players – which one are you?

A-Players carry Moleskine journals and write down what they see and hear. B-Players will take their journals into a meeting, take great notes, but then do nothing with what they’ve learned. C-Players show up empty-handed.

09:49 How do you stay accountable?

  • Grant Cardone says success is your duty, obligation, and responsibility.
  • Share your unique strengths and gifts with others.
  • Each of us needs all of us and all of us need each of us (also from Jim Rohn).

10:59 Where can you find that accountability?

  • Find a mentor (someone in a higher role than you) and a buddy (someone in the same role as you).
  • Mentors can hold you accountable to do what you say you’ll do.
  • Morgan holds himself accountable by publicly posting content. That way, his audience will expect him to produce.

12:15 What happens when you don’t want to be held accountable and would rather do your own thing?

This depends on who you’re trying to serve. For example, if you’re a parent and/or a spouse and you decide not to be held accountable, you cause systemic, negative impact.

Face outward. Start considering those influenced by or dependent on you.

13:12 What can you do to hold yourself accountable?

What is your purpose? Why are you in the role? Why are you waking up every day and showing up at this particular place?

  • Do you have a trigger? If so, what (or who or where) is it?

14:32 How to think long-term

Engineer where you want to be and by when. Make it specific. Go from x to y in 7 months, for example (taken from The 4 Disciplines of Execution).

Life is not short, life is long (Chris Rock). There’s plenty of time to crush it, as long as you put in the work every day. Exercise daily discipline, lay brick by brick, go from A to B. Success is sequential.

15:30 Considering the benefits of taking a long-term approach, why are people thinking short-term?

We live in a rushed world. We face a deluge of information each minute, which develops a temporary-fast-quick-let’s go mindset.

There’s value in surrounding yourself with people who are in it for the long haul. Morgan likens it to the Law of Association, which talks about contiguity – the sequential occurrence of stimulus and response, causing their association in the mind. “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”

Keep in mind that if you concentrate on being a really good SDR, you’ll eventually be a really good salesperson.

17:16 The SDR to AE path. Many SDRs say, “I want to be an AE right now.”

  • Before earning the role of Account Executive (AE), you must master the craft of sales development. Otherwise, you will skip learning critical sales skills like prospecting or diligently following-up on an inbound lead (which costs money to marketing/demand generation teams), or educating yourself on the audience of prospects you’re calling.
  • Ignore these fundamental skills and steps and you’ll face an uphill climb when you become an AE.
  • AE’s are busy trying to close deals. It’s imperative AE’s know how to handle deal mechanics (moving your deals through the funnel). Fail to do this well and you’ll find yourself on a performance improvement plan.

Many deals are lost because of basic steps missed early in the process. It’s better to lose in the first round than the fifteenth.

19:36 Master the fundamentals as an SDR.

  • Practice the “chest pass” and the “bounce pass” of sales development.
  • A lot of salespeople get caught up in the closing process, banging the gong when a deal is won, and the celebrations that follow. All of that is cool, but none of that happens unless sales fundamentals are used.
  • Speaking of basketball, watch 2-time NBA MVP Stephen Curry’s pre-game warmup routine – it illustrates the basics in dribbling and shooting.
  • Make every phone call and email better than your last one. Get really good at writing and learn from books like Writing That Works.

21:52 How do you set up long-term goals?

Create systems. Losers have goals and winners have systems (Scott Adams).

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Morgan’s added tremendous value to our profession and has become more valuable in the process. Thanks for stepping up, Morgan. It was an honor to join you for #100!

Before You Look for the Next Gig

When I’m on the road, it’s Uber that usually gets me around town. (I need to try Lyft, too!)

One morning, though, I chose a taxi. Mind you, I’ve heard cab drivers all over the world complain about Uber. THIS cab driver, however, had no case.

He started driving and “kinda knew” the “general vicinity” of my destination. It turns out he had recently gotten a new phone but wasn’t yet acquainted with the map apps (Google Maps, Waze, etc.). Dude, what?!

I handed him my phone. He held it in his right hand while he steered with his left. Needless to say, we arrived safely, but homeboy did not have his shit together.

Consider this: Half of a company’s employees are disengaged at work, looking for another gig.

If you’re one of them, make sure you’re a) at the top of the leaderboard, b) significantly contributing to the business, c) bringing a positive, bright attitude to work every day, and d) able to show / support / backup / prove your track record of success.

If you cannot demonstrate these traits, you have no case. Get back to work – on your job, on your habits, and on yourself.

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My friends at AlwaysHired asked me to answer a few questions for their blog. The first part is here and the second will get published this summer.

How to Prepare for a Sales Development QBR

“The general who wins a battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought.” Sun Tzu

It is common practice in business to have field sales reps (those in a closing role) present Quarterly Business Reviews (QBRs). The reviews are held just before a new quarter begins.

Sales Development Reps (SDRs), however, usually participate in the QBR presentation vs. prepare one themselves.

Two reasons why SDRs must learn to prepare a QBR:

(1) They learn to plan their work and work their plan and

(2) elevate their competencies, for when they are in a closing role.

Whether or not you’re asked to prepare and present a QBR, prepare one anyway – for yourself and the field sales reps you serve.

QBR’s are typically created in PowerPoint or Prezi, but can take on a variety of forms. Download this template.

The following suggestions assume the SDR is in a business-to-business (B2B) selling environment. They support field sales reps in a given territory, and are responsible for inbound lead qualification, outbound prospecting, or both.

Questions You Should Consider While Preparing

Thought-provoking questions (of yourself) will ensure you’ve thoroughly planned through the upcoming quarter. They’ll also open-up your mind, allowing you to approach your QBR creatively and with confidence.

  • How well does my QBR align with the overarching goals of the entire sales team?
  • How closely have I looked at the data in my CRM?
  • Can I articulate the milestones and trends in this territory?
  • Have I reviewed this with the field sales rep(s) I support?
  • Is this QBR insightful, informative, and concise?
  • How well have I anticipated and prepared for questions that may come up?
  • Is this the best I can do?

Most QBR presentations last one hour, so plan to build no more than five, maybe six slides. Tell a tight story for each slide, stick to the agenda, and you won’t need more slides.

For example, when reviewing the previous quarter, you could talk about the challenges you faced at the start of the quarter, and how you planned to address them. Then show the results of your efforts, and what insights you now have, heading into a brand new quarter.

Agenda Items to Include in Your QBR

When considering the agenda, think past, present, future. Use a tone of ownership, accountability, and leadership – telling things like they are, and no worse than they are; with an action plan you’re excited to execute.

The QBR summarizes your most current 30-60-90 day plan for the territory.

(1) Review of the Previous Quarter

Wins. For SDR’s, wins could mean a few things. Show the results, and also highlight how well you did against quota.  

  • # of opportunities created from inbound leads or target accounts
  • # of completed meetings
  • % of completed meetings with decision makers
  • # of completed online demos

Losses. For SDR’s, losses are defined by opportunities NOT added to the pipeline…or added, but removed, within a specific timeframe.

  • # of opportunities created that fell through (Closed Canceled or Closed Lost)
  • # of leads or contacts that have not responded
  • # of competitive takeaways
  • % of target accounts not yet contacted
  • % of meetings booked that have not yet occurred

Findings. Tell the organization what you’re seeing in the territory or in the role. Are people taking your calls? Have you run into the same competitors over and over again? Is your product offering resonating in the territory? Is Marketing supportive of your efforts?

  • The territory is comprised of only two verticals (oil & gas and manufacturing). We sell very little to those verticals.
  • There are two potential channel partners in the territory that we should contact.
  • In 80% of my conversations, these 3 features drove the whole discussion.
  • The competition will continue winning these RFP’s if we can’t update this particular piece of our product.

(2) Approach for the Current Quarter

When qualifying accounts or prospecting in a territory, you DON’T want to wake up and learn your high-value prospects went with a competitor. That news stings even more when you never even had a conversation with them.

Approach the quarter proactively – get started on the action plan, meet with key stakeholders (territory managers, counterparts from other departments, colleagues from your Sales Development team, your sales leader), and manage risk.

  • Key logos you have targeted, plan to engage, and intend to convert to pipeline
  • Competitive landscape (incumbents, FUD they’re spreading in your territory, relevant news)
  • Action plan (demand generation efforts, upcoming industry events, referrals, outreach cadence)

(3) Recommendations

This is your chance to suggest where help is needed and from what resources. Perhaps Sales Engineers can get involved in more initial calls; or maybe Marketing can craft relevant case studies to align with your territory; or the Sales Enablement team can invest in a tool to help automate and track your emails?

Whatever the need, backup your observations, suggestions, and requests with data. And socialize the need with the respective department, prior to raising the issue in the QBR.

One More Thing

Start preparing your QBR 2-4 weeks in advance of the new quarter. If Q1 begins on January 1, for example, then start framing-up your QBR around December 7.

If you’re NOT in Sales Development, and want to see what QBR’s look like for other roles, check out these articles:

 

If You Choose Sales Development as Your Profession, then Represent

If You Choose Sales Development, then Represent

Live from Dreamforce 2014

For technology fans, this year’s Dreamforce conference was off the charts. Bruno Mars and Cake performed, Tony Robbins kept everyone inspired and out of their seats; and influencers from Neil Young to Marc Andreessen to Reid Hoffman graced the stage.

Meanwhile, exhibitors like InsideSales.com hosted a number of Sales Experts, speaking on a wide range of sales topics. It was an honor joining the likes of Trish Bertuzzi, Anthony Iannarino, Jill Rowley, Barry Trailer, Kyle Porter, and Ken Krogue (to name a few) to share thoughts on our beloved profession.

They are all esteemed representatives of Sales and Sales Development, which fell right in line with the theme of my presentation: If You’re in Sales Development, Then You Must Represent.

“Representing” means leading by example, showing Sales and Sales Development in the best light, and serving the ecosystem. If you’ve chosen this as YOUR profession, then represent us well.

An Introduction to Hiring for the Modern SDR

An Introduction to Hiring for the Modern SDR

An eBook to Help Sales Development Leaders

Betts Recruiting is the premier recruiting firm that partners with the fastest growing, most innovative technology organizations in the US and Europe. The Betts team works intimately with hiring managers to fill Sales Development and revenue-generating roles.

A newly published eBook reveals what Betts Recruiting sees as “the modern SDR” (Sales Development Representative). The book helps Sales Development leaders find the best SDR’s on the market and build that dream team.

It’s exciting to see the Achievers SDR organization featured! Many Achievers SDR’s were sourced from Betts, and have continued to exceed quota and lead by example. If you’re building a team and seeking the best SDR’s, this eBook will certainly guide your approach.

How to Kill It in Sales in Q4

This was written to promote two different webinars.  – Wednesday, October 22, 2014 hosted by BrightTALK.
 – Thursday, October 23, 2014 hosted by Data.com

The Secret: Plan Your Work and Work Your Plan

4899931October is a special month for sales teams. Most companies in the US follow a calendar fiscal year, and see October as a start to the final quarter of the year (Q4). This is when sales teams need to close-out deals and finish the year strong. At the same time, sales plans and Quarterly Business Reviews need preparation, to ensure the coming year starts right. No matter how you look at it, October is when salespeople need to plan their work and work their plan.

Think and act with these mindsets, and you’ll kill it in Q4.

Everything is Urgent

Major events like OpenWorld and Dreamforce BOTH occur in October; and each carves a week out of attendees’ schedules. People return to the office with maybe six weeks left in the quarter. December is typically when businesses wrap-up the year and head out for the holidays (which makes scheduling a meeting difficult).
  • Whip your email inbox into shape. Invest time responding to the most important messages, deleting the irrelevant ones, and organizing the others.
  • Schedule same-day or same-week appointments. Don’t procrastinate! Whether following-up on inbound leads or prospecting into an account, suggest meeting with the prospect that afternoon, or just 1-2 days later. After all, you’re just as booked as everyone else.
  • Walk faster. That’s right. When you put pep in your step, and literally pick up your pace, you generate a sense of hustle that becomes infectious to everyone around you.

Make Each Week Super Productive

There’s no time to screw around in Q4. Hack away at the unessential and tackle the tasks that will move you forward. Plan your success.
  • Take a “bookends” approach to the week: Mondays and Fridays are for internal meetings, research, and administrative work; Tuesdays to Thursdays are for sacred prospecting and meetings with prospects and customers.
  • Zero-in on who and what are most important. Talk to people you must contact or hear from to get things done.

See the Ball, Hit the Ball

People already know what’s required to win, but most don’t do that stuff. If you had a crappy year in sales, then create new habits, new rituals. Act like the best and you will become the best.
  • Select tools that will fine-tune the machine that is you. From Evernote to Momentum to Outlook, there’s a bottomless toolbox of technologies that will help.
  • Simply decide to finish the year strong. There are so many helpful ways to make it happen, so pick a few that make sense to you.
Try these out today and Q4 will be a breeze.
How to Motivate the Hell Out of Your Sales Team

How to Motivate the Hell Out of Your Sales Team

Tech businesses are experiencing a movement, called sales acceleration. It means to increase the velocity of the sales process. Ken Krogue and Dave Elkington, founders of InsideSales.com, hosted an online summit this year that featured thought leaders, authors, and specialists in sales acceleration.

In order to move any sales process along, sales reps must be motivated. Leaders regularly struggle with inspiring and re-inspiring their teams to take action. The problem is they, the leaders as people, aren’t motivating or inspiring.

In this brief talk, five areas are exposed to help leaders turn things around and motivate their team. A motivated sales team drives sales acceleration, which drives revenue to the bottom line.

How to Nail an SDR Interview: 7 Tips

6108332SALES DEVELOPMENT REPRESENTATIVES (SDRs) play a critical role in B2B organizations. They are responsible for inbound lead qualification and outbound prospecting. SDRs drive revenue pipeline for the business, by qualifying (and disqualifying) prospective accounts. 

Interviewing well for a spot on the sales development team is equally critical.  Just as SDRs must give fabulous first impressions to potential customers, interview candidates should do the same to hiring managers.

Use these 7 tips to nail the face-to-face interview and ensure a next step in the hiring process. 

#1  Know Your Audience

Find as much intelligence as you can on the company and the hiring manager. Make sure to also research anyone else interviewing you. Your findings will help break the ice and drive your questions.

Gather information from management team bio’s, press releases, upcoming events, and customer case studies. This will acquaint you with who buys from the company, as well as what’s most important to the company’s ecosystem.

How involved the hiring manager in the industry? How long have they worked at the company? Where were they before? Who do you know that might know the hiring manager? What milestones have they accomplished in their career, so far? Perhaps there’s a video of them as a panelist or giving a presentation.

Your awareness will give you a sense of company and manager personality, interest, and disposition. Your preparation will immediately differentiate you from the other candidates.

#2  Prepare A 30-60-90 Day Plan

New SDRs consume value, or “ramp up,” for the first 4 ½ months in the role. When they reach the “breakeven point,” they start to contribute value to the organization. The faster you touch the breakeven point, the better – everyone wins.
Go into the interview having outlined a plan for tackling the first 30-60-90 days in the role. When you invest time thinking about and visualizing the first three months, it’ll amaze you how many deep, thought-provoking questions will surface. Write these questions down and have them with you at the interview.

#3  If You’re On Time, You’re Late

Don’t arrive late for the interview! Some hiring managers will send you home. Actually, don’t arrive too early either. This could make you seem anxious or desperate.
Aim to arrive 10-15 minutes prior to the meeting. Work closely with your recruiter or hiring manager to confirm time, location, and people involved with the interview.

#4  Look Sharp

7503781Legendary UCLA coach, John Wooden, personally showed players how to properly put on socks and lace shoestrings, to underscore attention to detail.  “A casual approach to executing the details of a job,” he once said, “ensures that the job will be done poorly.  And then another job will be done poorly.  It grows.

”Hiring managers want the best version of you. They want you to demonstrate that you’ve got your act together, that you “want the ball.”

Dress sharp.  Contrary to popular belief, gentlemen still wear suits and ties to the interview. And ladies still wear business suits. This also includes having copies of your resume, a pen, and a notebook on-hand. Every detail is noticed.

#5  Keep It Conversational

The best interviewees (and SDRs) keep things conversational and ask open-ended questions. You need to do the same.

Based on your research (see #1), have at least three relevant points to mention or inquire about during the interview. For example, you can bring up a recent article, video, or event that featured the company or interviewer:  “So, in learning more about the company, I came across an article where you said ‘Innovation is at the top of our list this year.’  Tell me about that!  What areas will you focus on first?”

Start from a macro level – think corporate initiatives, industry trends, product innovation, competition, and market cap. Then move to a micro level – think SDR team, recent performance, expectations in the role, needs of the hiring manager. Macro-to-micro questions will make for a productive, informative conversation.

Lastly, avoid asking yes-no questions.  They limit discussion and box you and the interviewer into a corner.

#6  Smile!

4598049The best managers hire candidates with great attitudes!

Managers also look for integrity, work ethic, intelligence, and a proven ability to get things done and accomplish goals.

Sales Development is freaking hard work.  It’s a grind that requires fierce discipline, time management, exceptional communication, pure determination, and overcoming rejection. It is not for the faint of heart, the miserable, the unorganized, or the rain clouds.

Exude enthusiasm, confidence, and leadership from the outset. People always remember how you made them feel. Prospective customers will, too.  Know “how others would describe you,” particularly your references.

#7  Close ‘Em!

Closing the hiring manager at the end of an SDR interview is imperative.  It is your duty and obligation, as a fledgling sales professional.  
“So, can you tell me what the next step is?” is not a closing question.
Consider asking these closing questions:
 – “I enjoyed our discussion today! Based on what you learned about me, are there reservations you have that I can address right now?” 
 – “Considering what we’ve talked about today, how do I compare to current SDRs on the team?”
 – “I’d welcome an opportunity to join the team. Based on today’s conversation, I’m confident I’ll immediately contribute. If it makes sense, can I spend a few minutes talking with your best SDR?”  
Closing this part of the process also means closing the loop. Thank everyone involved. A follow-up email is important, but a handwritten thank you note is essential.

Start Preparing Today

The need for great SDRs will continue to increase. Be mindful of these seven tips when interviewing for a Sales Development Representative role.  

You will have an advantage over competing candidates, leave a strong impression in the hiring manager’s mind, and likely advance to the next step in the process. Use the slides below to keep you on track and go get that job!

 

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The Advantage of Sales Plybooks

The Advantage of Using Sales Playbooks

Today’s B2B sales leaders keep talking about sales playbooks.  Google the term and you’ll see.
Over the last three years, for example, the largest Inside Sales association has featured playbook presentations in a third of its local and national events.

Experts like Reality Works GroupThe Bridge Group, and Qvidian advise and even craft sales playbooks for organizations, while powerful CRM apps guide sales teams through complex buying cycles online.

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If your company is considering a playbook, or looking to modify one that’s already in place, focus on WHY, WHAT, HOW, and WHO.  Then you can determine WHEN to empower the sales team with it (Hint: Now!).

WHY YOU NEED A PLAYBOOK

  1. To generate pipeline and drive revenue.
  2. To gather disparate, decentralized information into on place.
  3. To standardize messaging.
  4. To ramp new hires.
  5. To reinforce struggling reps and remind experienced reps.
  6. To increase productivity of reps.
  7. To drive a corporate initiative.
  8. To prevent things from falling through the cracks.
  9. To influence behavior.

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WHAT YOU NEED IN A PLAYBOOK

  1. A Table of Contents!  Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em.
  2. Checklists at the end of every section / chapter.  Leave no stone unturned, skip NO steps.
  3. Inspirational quotes.  Keep the team fired up and ready to rock at all times.
  4. Methodologies.  Whether it’s Solution Selling, Miller Heiman, Sandler, Challenger SellingJohn Barrows, or a hybrid of them all, it’s imperative to include them in your playbook.
  5. Email templates, talk tracks, qualification and discovery questions.  (Remember: Keep the questions open-ended.  Avoid yes-no questions!)
  6. A map of where to get / when to use marketing collateral, testimonials, and customer success stories.

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HOW YOU’LL DISTRIBUTE THE PLAYBOOK

  1. The “old school” way.  Hardcopy, spiral-bound book.  We’re talkin’ coffee stains on the pages, notes chicken-scratched throughout the book, and easy to carry around.
  2. eBook format.  Really simple to update and maintain version control.  Downloadable and portable.
  3. Mobile.  There are 6.8 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide.  It’s simply where professionals live.

3786832WHO TO CHOOSE AS A STAKEHOLDER

  1. A sales leader that can oversee the project, collaborate with other teams (Marketing and Sales Ops, for example), and write well.
  2. A senior executive that supports the effort and drives adoption and usage.
  3. A representative from the Marketing organizationthat provides collateral and influences use of an SLA.
  4. A great graphic designer.
  5. A team lead.  An account executive that will gather feedback from the team and share use cases.

 

So, hop to it!  Start framing-up your sales organization’s playbook today.  The resources, the purpose, and the revenue targets are there.  If you’ve got questions or feedback, please share them in the Comments section below.