Categories Articles, Sales and Marketing

Dreamforce  ’15 is over, and you’re just starting to recover from 4 straight days of intense sessions, networking, and learning.

In all the craziness of Dreamforce, you may have unfortunately missed some of the sales-focused sessions you really wanted to attend. It happens! This is an overwhelming event with so much to do that it’s nearly impossible to do everything.

Specifically, you might not have been able to experience the incredibly valuable Sales Summit. This event-within-the-event was all day on Tuesday at Dreamforce, featuring sessions from some of the biggest names in sales. This track is intended to help sales leaders stay on the cutting edge, learn management techniques, and come back to the office with real, strategic learnings that can be implemented at their company.

I personally attended three of the sessions during the Sales Summit, and only wish I could have gone to more. If you weren’t able to go yourself, here are my top takeaways and the most valuable quotes from these informative sessions, and how you can apply these lessons to your sales team today.

4 Powerful Strategies to Empower Sales Enablement

Mark Hunter, Founder and CEO of The Sales Hunter
Walter Rogers, CEO of CCI
Tim Clarke, Product Marketing Senior Manager for Sales Cloud at Salesforce

Sales enablement has become a hot topic in the world of sales, but it’s also led to a lot of confusion. What does it really mean, and how can sales leaders better enable their reps to succeed?

In this session, Walter Rogers and Mark Hunter explained that enablement is all about setting your reps on the path to success. This includes:

Small Changes to Meetings Can Have Big Results

Enablement can be quickly improved just by changing simple things like how you organize meetings, and how often you meet with your sales reps. Rogers shared how sales leaders can make one small change to how they hold forecasting meetings, and quickly see a huge change in the focus and motivation of their sales team.

“Most companies have one meeting: the forecast meeting,” he said. “They talk about what’s going to close inside the period, but never talk about what’s going to happen in the next reporting period. Then you’re always playing catch up. But there’s a super easy solution: you split it into two meetings. You have a forecast meeting and a separate pipeline meeting. You’ll be amazed at the quantity and quality of future pipeline as well as the increase of forecast accuracy.”

Focus on Leading, Not Lagging, Indicators

Hunter noted that many sales organizations also spend far too much time examining lagging indicators instead of leading indicators, and never get ahead of their own pipeline. He explained that sales leaders need to be looking carefully at metrics through the sales funnel — but only the right metrics.

“Just because you can measure it, doesn’t mean you should,” Hunter explained. “If it’s easy to measure, I don’t care. When we look at employee engagement, don’t ask how many contacts are they making; ask what is the quality? Ask your salesperson: ‘What did you learn about the customer? How are you going to use that information on the next sales call?’ Don’t just expect it to show up in the Salesforce dashboard.”

Onboarding New Sales Reps is Crucial

They discussed how a strong onboarding process can be the difference between a rep that leaves the company after a year, and one who becomes a loyal and productive employee.

“New reps go through a formal onboarding process, but the most important part of that is one-on-one time with the manager,” Rogers said. “The number one reason that top performers leave is a poor relationship with their manager. The one thing sales enablement can control is the amount of time that’s given to develop talent in the organization. You have to invest in those people and help them develop those careers. Those organizations that can do that achieve a 22% improvement in productivity.?

Creating an Achievement-Oriented Culture

The session also focused on how to build a sales culture that pushes reps to be constantly learning from their peers, improving their skills, and always pushing to achieve more.

“Organizations fail to achieve because they accept the fact that they don’t have to achieve,” Hunter said. “I love the idea of setting a stretch goal, because it creates a culture of achievement. As a sales leader, you want that competition. It drives reps to a whole additional level.”

The Challenger Customer

Brent Adamson, Principal Executive Advisor at CEB

In this data-packed session, Brent Adamson, the author of the best-selling book “The Challenger Sale” shared a glimpse into his newest book, “The Challenger Customer.” Instead of focusing on what makes top sales reps succeed, this book delves into the challenges of selling to today’s B2B buyer.

After four years of research, CEB has some revealing findings to share.

More Stakeholders Leads to Less Decisions

Adamson explained that every sales rep has experienced the same problem:

“A deal moves through all of the stages, and then nothing happens,” he explained. “It just sits there in the pipeline somewhere after stage 5 — after a huge amount of time and investment from the sales rep — and it doesn’t move.”

Reps in this scenario didn’t do anything wrong, Adamson said. The problem isn’t on the sales side, it’s on the buying side. B2B buyers need agreement from so many stakeholders that so often, the deal dies before it can be closed. In fact, as the buying team grows larger, the likelihood of purchasing a product goes down:

  • With a team of 1, buyers are 81% likely to purchase a product in 6 months
  • When the team increases to 6+, the likelihood of purchase drops to 31%.
  • And, on average, 5.4 people are involved in a B2B buying decision today.

What does this mean for sales reps? It means that reps have to change how they’re approaching the sale. They don’t just need to convince one prospect, they need to sell to an entire team.

“When the 5.4 [buyers] come together, you know what they decide to do? Nothing. You’re competing against the status quo,” Adamson explained.

Adjusting to a Longer Sales Cycle

“The first challenge in selling to the 5.4 is getting access to every one of them,” he said. “It takes so much time! What we’re seeing in our data, is really long sales cycles. And once you get in there, how do you win them over? Each one is different, with different agenda, and different metrics to measure success.”

Adamson explained that the best sales reps are able to find the right prospect who will not only understand the benefits of your product, but push for the purchase across the team.

“Those customers are oriented toward new ideas and tactics and they’re good at getting people excited and moving forward around those ideas,” he said. “They’re the drivers of change, the builders of consensus. They’re the mobilizers.”

The Future-Proof Sales Force

Vincent Cotte, Senior Manager of Product Marketing APAC at Salesforce
Donal Daly, CEO, The TAS Group
Mike Derezin, Vice President of Sales Solutions at LinkedIn
Dan Perry, Principal at Sales Benchmark Index

This session was all about looking into the future, and making sure your sales team is on track to succeed. Management is changing, technology is changing, the sales force is changing, and so is the B2B market. If you don’t stay on top of it, your business could be left behind.

Sales Coaching is the New Sales Management

Part of the biggest change to sales today is the people who are working in it, according to Perry.

“Millennials don’t want managers, they want to be led,” he explained. “Sales leaders need to coach their people. We’ve seen through our benchmarking that there’s the biggest impact when coaching is performed on a consistent basis, week over week, in a cadence. We believe that in the future, sales leaders will coach 75% of the time. The reason they don’t coach now is they are doing too many things out of their description. Get clarity in your roles, have your front line sales leader coach, and that will drive the biggest impact.”

Online Reputation Will Matter More

Derezin explained that he sees the world moving away from outbound sales, and more towards inbound. In fact, he believes that a company’s online reputation will matter more than their sales team.

“I think increasingly B2B sellers will have reputations, and buyers will choose who they want to buy from,” Derezin said. “Think about sellers ratings on eBay — why won’t that carry over to sales? There’s a stigma in sales of the aggressive sales rep. I think there will be a world where you have ratings, you’ll agree to a code of conduct, how you will treat the customer, and over time the buyer will look at a seller, and based on that and relationships they have in common, they’ll choose who they want to engage with.”

Less Sales People Doing More

Derezin said he also sees the sales force moving to more inside sales, and less outside sales. Buyers don’t believe they need face-to-face interaction, even though most sales reps believe in it.

“What the future holds is what the buyers tell us,” he explained. “They’re telling us they don’t need sales reps. Buyers think they know what the problems are at times, but they don’t. You’ll have less sales people in the future, but they will be more impactful. They will be able to get to the heart of the customer’s issues and solve it.”

It’s Not About Big Data, It’s About Big Insights

The future will continue to be focused on data and analytics, according to Daly, but it will also be more focused.

“There is not a deficit in data, there is a deficit of insight,” Daly said. “They need to be thinking less about big data and more about big insights. There’s really only 4 things that change: the number of deals you work on, your average deal size, your win rate, and your sales cycle. You’re the arbiter of the tools techniques and solutions that can help you get that data. If you think of those four questions — that’s a future proof sales force.”

 

Hopefully these Dreamforce session recaps will give you a glimpse into what you missed and give you some powerful takeaways that you can apply to your own team. With the right effort, you can get value and learn long after the event is over.

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