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  • The Collaborative Sale: Solution Selling in a Buyer Driven World
    The Collaborative Sale: Solution Selling in a Buyer Driven World
    by Keith M. Eades, Timothy T. Sullivan
  • The New Solution Selling: The Revolutionary Sales Process That is Changing the Way People Sell
    The New Solution Selling: The Revolutionary Sales Process That is Changing the Way People Sell
    by Keith M. Eades, Keith Eades
  • The Solution Selling Fieldbook: Practical Tools, Application Exercises, Templates and Scripts for Effective Sales Execution
    The Solution Selling Fieldbook: Practical Tools, Application Exercises, Templates and Scripts for Effective Sales Execution
    by Keith M. Eades, James N. Touchstone, Timothy T. Sullivan
  • The Solution-Centric Organization
    The Solution-Centric Organization
    by Keith M. Eades, Robert Kear
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Why Leave Revenue Growth to Chance in 2015?

A Daunting Array of Options for Sales Leaders

Is your company’s business goal to shrink… to achieve LESS business, to gain LESS revenue, or LESS market share? What company decides ‘contraction’ is their business goal? In all likelihood, the answer is simple. None. The challenge of sustained growth and profitability are constant and universal in every global company – and that pressure passes relentlessly through to every sales organization.

Recent research illustrates emphatically (see The Agile Sales Organization) that effective selling is being disrupted by more forces than ever before. Against the backdrop of increasing change, in the more than 150 global sales organizations we work with annually, the litany of sales problems has remained somewhat persistent:

  • Low quota attainment
  • Low competitive win rates
  • Lengthy sales cycles
  • High customer acquisition costs
  • Failure to maximize revenue in strategic accounts
  • Frequent discounting to win
  • Difficulty cross-selling and up-selling
  • Lengthy ramp-up times
  • Highly informed buyers finding their own solutions

Not exhaustive, but you get the picture. On a (possibly) positive note, each of these challenges have potential antidotes – in fact maybe dozens of antidotes. For example, there are at least 200 identifiable companies today that prescribe solutions for some aspect of “sales enablement.” And that is only one subset of the “solution provider” marketplace for sales which can also include sales training providers, sales technology providers, sales method providers…. and so on and so on… all with their own ideas, processes, recomendations and best-practices.  So which among these potential “antidotes” might actually solve the sales problem YOUR company is experiencing today?

Any number of ideas might be viable – there is no shortage of potential “solutions.” It might be sales analytics, it might be sales training, it might be technology enablement, it might be embracing a new type of seller profile, it might be improved talent acquisition, it might be improved messaging, it might be social media, it might be …

And every solution to the aforementioned problems has a beautifully documented case study (or three) that will instill confidence that the proposed offering will have an impact on your organization. And so, how does the rational sales leader proceed? Because the reality is that if every solution performed as well as case studies and value calculators would indicate – we would collectively be awash in a utopian paradise of sales excellence. In fact, let’s just intuitively pick a few reasonable sounding ideas and pre-order those President’s Club Lamborghini’s and 110% quota attainment cruises now – before supply runs short.

What Really Matters?

In seriousness, it would be unfair to say that companies make irrational decisions in terms of growing their businesses. In most cases there is a legitimate effort to think clearly about providing differentiated, valuable products and solutions to their customers. And organizations generally make a sincere effort to align their organizations and human capital around the goals of their business. But those best laid plans often have a complicating factor. Because for thousands of global companies, there’s also a universal reality.

Between their beautifully conceived offerings and the buyer exists that interesting collection of people known as “the sales force.”  And in the majority of companies, the human capital costs of the sales organization comprises a significant share of corporate operating expenses.  Investing in sales performance improvement solutions isn’t inherently a bad idea – some offerings might actually work well for your organization. For example, if your organization has no coherent “framework” for selling – by all means move from ad hoc behavior to some semblance of order and management science (we encounter and address this often). But conversely, many ideas might also not work well at all – even if they’ve benefitted other organizations that seem similar to yours.  

So before we survey this daunting array of sales improvement alternatives and invest in one or more of them, it might be valuable to pose a simple question.

What do OUR sales people actually need to be good at?

Because until we’re able to answer this question with a high level of validity, most of the investments we make are at best, educated guesswork. There has been extensive research, data collection, and analysis of the innate traits and learnable competencies of “successful” sales professionals. Within this collective research and benchmarking there is some good news and some not so good news.

On the good news front, broad based and vertical industry research and benchmarks have helped to dispel many common misconceptions about “ideal” traits and competencies of sales people (e.g., extroversion is a predictor of sales success). In addition, talent assessment, analytics, and benchmarking have led the movement to a more rational thought process about what it may take to succeed in various types of sales roles. Some researchers have also gone as far as to posit an “ideal” profile for effective selling in today’s business climate (which we will discuss further in a future post).

While potentially better than intuition or opinion, these approaches provide us with a blunt instrument of sorts. Because even if a set of specific traits and capabilities correlate with 50% of high performers in companies somewhat like yours, that doesn’t remotely guarantee that the same outcomes will occur for your organization. Beyond that, the statistical methods applied in many of the case studies and broader research studies might not survive serious mathematical scrutiny.

A great number of case studies and even “formal” (appearing) research studies are little more than correlation-based analyses. In many cases these types of ostensibly “empirical” approaches don’t consider numerous factors that actually could (and do) have a cause and effect impact on outcomes. Some may utilize some form of regression analysis, but rarely do these types of initiatives apply causal analytics. As importantly, the current situation and environment of your business might entail variables and factors that are considerably different than the company or aggregate research sample a conclusion is based on.

So with hundreds of possible ideas and solutions that a sales leader could potentially apply to improve the abilities of sales people how do we better answer the question; what do our sales people actually need to be good at? And of equal importance - then how do we capitalize on that understanding to create impact on our business goals?

In the next post, we will begin to explore how to cut through the noise and get focused on human capital investments in sales that have the highest probability of impacting your company’s specific business goals. Stay tuned. 


Robert Kear, Partner and CMO, Sales Performance International



Change Your Daily Selling Habits. Become a Micro-Marketer 

by Chris Carlson, Director of Channel Development at SPI

In order to succeed in sales, sellers need to be able to generate as much as 70% of their own leads to make their sales numbers.  This according to a recent study conducted by CustomerThink and cited by Koka Sexton in his whitepaper last year “7 Ways Sales Professionals Drive Revenue with Social Selling”. 

Sellers who want to control their own destiny and exceed quota, must develop and incorporate new habits into their sales processes.  From creating demand using LinkedIn Posts, to monitoring of client Twitter feeds, these activities will set you up for success in the era of social selling.

Here’s my story of how I became a micro-marketer and what you can learn from my experiences.

First, know that everything I did next came with a certain level of hesitation and an initial feeling of discomfort. Like anything new, practice and persistence is key.  This was true for blogging, and regularly monitoring client posts on LinkedIn and Twitter. 

Here’s how I got started.  I would spend two hours per week researching my target clients and what they were posting or commenting on.  Then, I started posting regularly on key industry or ‘best practice’ groups on LinkedIn.  Further, I scheduled another 30 minutes to review top sales articles and when I found good ones, I commented and shared these with my network.    

The Early Results:

What initially happened was that people in my target demographic started viewing my profile or reaching out to me on LinkedIn wanting to connect.  In late 2014, I closed my first deal that could be sourced to a LinkedIn interaction.  I am currently working on another as I write this article.  Three such deals were in my pipeline for Q4 2014 and I have one Win, one Loss, and one still deciding currently from this group.  All began as LinkedIn interactions.

Kick off 2015 with a Social Selling Bang

Get started with Social Selling in 2015 by identifying goals against which you can measure your success. For example, how many meetings would you like this to lead to monthly?  How many more leads in the pipeline would you like to see generated as a result of Social Selling activities? Once you have penciled in goals, take the next step and complete the following action items:

  1. Build a Social Selling Strategy Plan:
    1. What will you tackle first?
    2. How much time can you allocate?
    3. Where do you think your time will be best spent given your goals and audience
  2. Schedule different activities in 30 minute blocks throughout the week, this can include:
    1. Account planning and researching key players
    2. Posting on blogs and in relevant industry groups
    3. Reaching out to people in your LinkedIn network
    4. Discovering new contacts and identifying warm introductions

Build a routine of activities that you can repeat often and track results against. For example, if you start sharing content within LinkedIn, what posts receive the most engagement or comments? What type of prospects are responding most positively, and what commonalities do they share (i.e. title, company size, or industry)? 

Your social selling activities should be methodical and connected so that you are building relationships, sharing valued information, and ultimately leading your prospect through a story that culminates in how you can help them solve a problem.  There is a right way to gain access to and influence early stage buyers, but it means behavior changes and increasing your micro-marketing activities.  

Learn more and follow the LinkedIn discussion >>
Connect with Chris on LinkedIn >>


Happy Holidays from SPI!

At this special time of year as we celebrate the Holidays, SPI wants to say thank you to all of our past and current clients, to our partners, and to the individuals and teams we collaborate with daily in the pursuit of success. Thank you for a great 2014.

We have had the great pleasure to work with the world’s best and most dedicated professionals, from all parts of the globe, for over 25 years. It is our collaborative spirit, and mutual partnerships that make our jobs a joy and keep our passion for sales success and transformation alive.

From the SPI family to yours we wish you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year!

Warmest Regards,

Keith Eades and the entire global
Sales Performance International team


Healthcare's Changing Business and Practice Models...Implications?

Authored by Brad Ansley, SPI Director, Life Sciences

In today’s healthcare environment both the business model and practice model for healthcare providers have changed. In keeping with the law of cause and effect, these changes have forced practitioners to re-calibrate their expectations of sales professionals in the healthcare market. Successful sales teams align themselves with these new expectations to deliver credible solutions to critical practice or patient issues that are based on the best available clinical evidence.

To understand what the new expectations are and how to align to them, we first need to look at the market pressures that are driving the changes.

From a business perspective physicians and healthcare organizations (providers) must improve patient outcomes while decreasing the cost of care to maximize reimbursement. This means focusing on coordinated care to decrease redundancy and waste. From a practice perspective, they are charged with using the latest clinical evidence to drive consistency and use of the best treatment practices. In fact, U.S. regulatory changes provide both “push” and “pull” pressure to drive providers to adopt this model.

To pull providers into the model, the Medicare Shared Savings program from the Department of Health and Human Services creates incentives for provider networks (i.e. Accountable Care Organizations or ACO’s) to take on financial risk for the care they deliver and the population they serve. In return these organizations can earn up to 50-60% of the cost of care savings that they create. To insure quality care these organizations must meet 33 specific quality standards within the year and meet several criteria like “… define, establish, implement, and periodically update its processes to promote evidence-based medicine”.

To push providers to this new model, U.S. regulators have amped up the production of clinical evidence to provide clinicians with the data they need to practice evidence-based medicine. In fact, new regulations called for the creation of the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) and allocated approximately $5B in funding over a 10 year period to fulfill their mandate. The “mandate of the PCORI is to improve the quality and relevance of evidence available to help patients, caregivers, clinicians, employers, insurers, and policy makers make informed health decisions.” This means a significant addition to the amount of clinical data available in the market.

In light of the additional emphasis on clinical data, consider this: in 1996 the British Medical Journal published an article that touted that “medical knowledge would increase four fold during a professional [medical] lifetime”. If multiple sources report that physicians are already overwhelmed with the amount of clinical data available, imagine the impact that an additional $5B in comparative effectiveness research (CER) will have on their ability to keep up with the latest clinical evidence.

So, what impact do these changes have on the expectations of providers in the healthcare market?  With limited time, an overload of clinical data and quality standards to meet, providers expect representatives to deliver value by doing more than selling a product.  They expect representatives to help them achieve success by having a higher level of customer intimacy or situational fluency.  This means understanding the organizations goals, treatment protocols, and practice characteristics as well as understanding the impact of any recommended changes on the organization.  They also expect representatives to have multiple touch points, marshal appropriate corporate resources and provide objective clinical support based in the principles of evidence-based medicine for any recommended solutions.  Keep in mind; physicians are trained in medical school on the process of evidence-based medicine to analyze clinical data for validity, statistical significance and clinical relevance.  Additionally, they are being held accountable to integrate this process in their overall practice.  However, in today’s fast paced environment, they have little time to incorporate EBM into their daily practice.   This is an opportunity for representatives to provide value to the provider.  In fact, a recent white paper titled Selling on Outcomes from Boston Consulting Group stated:  “Hospitals, drug companies, and device makers that cannot demonstrate that their procedures, medications, and products genuinely add value will suffer.  Winners, by contrast, will be those that build sustainable competitive advantage through better access to, and analysis of, clinical data; through deeper insight about how to improve outcomes.” 

Can your representatives accomplish this?  To answer this question, Life Sciences companies today are finding that the use of data analytics provides the needed understanding of the competencies that drive business.  Once understood, they can then assess the proficiency level of their sales team for those competencies.  This provides a clear, defensible picture of areas of developmental focus that can be measured.  Companies are also reviewing (or adapting) their sales process to make sure it is aligned with the new buying paradigm of healthcare stakeholders.  Additionally, these companies want to make sure that their representatives are speaking the language of their customer:  the language of evidence-based medicine.    

To learn more about how you can align your sales team to the new expectations of healthcare stakeholders click here.

Connect with Brad Ansley on LinkedIn today! >>> 


Clinical Conversations Matter!

If you’re a patient suffering from Type II Diabetes, which statement would you trust more to increase your quality of life? “My drug is the best because it stimulates the body to produce insulin,” or “In a clinical study titled, ‘Effects of a dietary supplement A on abnormal glucose levels in Type II Diabetes patients…,” published in New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Houser found that dietary supplement A effectively regulates blood sugar levels with fewer side effects than therapies X, Y, and Z in patients suffering from Type II Diabetes.” For most patients, health care providers (HCPs) and clinical sales professionals, the latter elicits objectivity, adds genuine value, and instills confidence, which lead to fostering credibility. And yet, only a fraction of the life sciences sales professionals have evolved from the ostentatious “American pharmaceutical [and medical device] salesperson” to the trusted clinical advisor.

In a world where health care is becoming increasingly personalized, the need for objectivity in treatment outcomes is critical. Clinical conversations founded on the principles of Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM) minimize the risk of prescribing treatments based on biased research and/or clever sales tactics, and truly focus on the best possible care solutions for the patient. The 2014-2015 Sermo Survey results indicate that HPCs want to engage in clinical conversations with sales professionals who provide meaningful and unbiased information “using a high science sales approach that seamlessly incorporates clinical study results into a dialog to address specific issues concerning each physician’s practice.” A clinical sales professional who is committed to objectively presenting relevant clinical data in support of a care solution will be recognized among his peers and valued by HCPs.

The question that life sciences sales professionals should address, is how can they provide value in a technology-driven environment where approximately 94% of HCPs use smartphones and 77% use iPads for personal and/or professional needs? The majority of those same physicians (55%) desire for their sales reps to engage with them virtually. HCPs are zealous for clinical conversations grounded in EBM and focused on clinical research. Evidence shows that clinical sales representatives who leverage technology to engage is such clinical conversations will add value and excel in what some critics have touted “a dying profession.”

Synonyms of “credibility” include words like trustworthiness, reliability, dependability, reputation, and integrity. To embody these characteristics, clinical sales professionals must be objective in presenting clinical evidence and consistently add value when engaging in clinical conversations. According to Hoovers, to achieve the status of a trusted advisor, sellers in general must understand their audience, be relevant to the buyer, and approach the sale organically. For clinical sales professionals, this means researching your target HCPs and their patient demographic, sharing clinical data that is germane to their practice, and understanding how your product fits within their current treatment paradigm.

Recent market trends suggest that clinical sales representatives can still add value, but the days of the sales rep who walks into a clinical setting, drops off a business card and a few drug samples, and receives a call back from an enthusiastic physician are long gone. In today’s changing health care environment, the “hybrid” clinical sales representative who leverages technology to connect and share unbiased, relevant information will add value and ultimately become the sought-after trusted advisor.

To learn more, visit