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Published Books
  • 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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Proving the ROI of Sales Training

At a recent Learning and Development (L&D) conference, Steve – an L&D leader – stood up and told a story. 

…He had just attended one of his company’s events and was placed at the same dinner table as his CEO. For the benefit of the CEO, introductions were made and each person described their role with the company. Steve introduced himself as the Vice President of L&D.  After introductions were done and conversation resumed at the table, the CEO turned to Steve and asked, “Can you please describe for me the value your team has brought to our organization?  And I’d prefer you not discuss hours of training provided, number of workshops provided or number of courses completed per person.”

At this point in the story, every L&D professional in the room had their eyes squarely fixed on Steve, anticipating that the next words out of his mouth would help them each answer that same, age-old question for their organizations. Steve was about to share the secrets of the Universe. Steve was about to provide them with…the Holy Grail. 

The anticipation was building to a crescendo.  You could have heard a pin drop. After moments of perplexed silence, someone in the audience just couldn’t take it anymore and blurted out, “SO, WHAT WAS YOUR ANSWER?” Steve scanned the faces in the room and answered, “I didn’t have one.”

The CEO in this story is like most. According to the ROI Institute, a research and consulting organization, 92 out of 96 Fortune 500 CEOs said that they are most interested in learning the business impact of their L&D programs, but only 8% see that happening at their companies now. With companies spending an average of $3,000-$6,000 per person on sales training, it’s no wonder that CEO’s want to quantify the ROI.  Here’s the good news. There are proven approaches that leverage Sales Talent Analytics, and they absolutely help organizations prove the business impact / ROI of sales training. Want to learn more?


Sales Assessments: from Snake Oil to Predictive Analytics

The sales assessment industry has changed dramatically over the past few years. From the types of assessments that are used, to what they are being used for, the market looks very different today than what it did just 5-10 years ago. The purpose of this article is to really help shed a little light on how sales assessments have evolved, and how we visualize them being used moving forward. Let’s look at how this market has evolved:

Traditional Sales Assessments: Traditionally the most common tool used to assess sales people has been the personality based assessment. For years people believed that good sales people were assertive, aggressive, persuasive, had good communication skills, etc. It was simply believed if you possessed more of these traits, you would be a better sales person. The problem with this line of thought is that if you have 100 sales people in a room, 80 of them might have these personality traits. In other words, personality traits often do a good job of describing who goes into sales, but they do little to differentiate top and bottom performers, to predict success, or certainly to provide any type of developmental road map. In fact, research shows on average using a personality assessment only improves your odds of making a better hire by about 12% (when implemented perfectly). This is a pretty small predictive lift if you are trying to make better decisions regarding new hires. The other challenge for using personality assessments is that they cannot easily be tied to any type of sales training for targeted development. It is said they measure your DNA, or even your potential, but either way it has literally nothing to do with your actual current skill level. It is also pretty hard to train someone against assertiveness, aggressiveness, persuasiveness – not sure I have ever seen any of these on a performance management plan either. The bottom line, the traditional tools provide a small predictive lift for making better new hires, but they had little to no impact (nor were they typically even used) when it came to any type of targeted development for sales people or teams. They may not have been snake oil, but seldom have they lived up to the promises made when they were bought.

Sales Assessments in 2014: Sales assessments today have evolved primarily in two critical ways: 1) what they measure 2) how they are used. Today’s tools no longer rely on personality traits, rather they focus on critical sales competencies (competencies proven to tie directly to targeted business outcomes). The assessments are used not only for making critical new hires, but for targeting development at the team and individual levels as well. When used correctly they can show an ROI by tying directly to your targeted business outcomes. Let’s look at this in more detail from two perspectives (new hires / targeted development):

  • Assessments for New Hires: to truly be predictive, assessments must be very granular per what is required to be successful in a given role. Rather than measure people against personality traits, focus on behaviors critical to success in the role and assess the candidates using sales specific knowledge assessments, behavioral interviews, and role plays. This type of multi-hurdle approach provides insight as to the person’s actual understanding of specific sales skills and best practices, and is a far better indicator of a person’s potential job fit. It is not focused on “DNA”, personality or potential, but rather on how well the candidate’s current skills and behaviors compare to what is required to be successful in the target sale role. The results can be used not only for making hiring decisions, but for developmental during the critical onboarding process.
  • Assessments for Targeted Development: Both sales knowledge and behavioral based assessments can be used to develop people based on their true current skill levels, something personality tools could never be used for. Now we can create knowledge baselines, train, then reassess 12 months later to measure the impact of our programs, and tie that directly to targeted outcomes. We are not guessing as to what training is needed, we are using analytics to drive targeted training.

Summary: the assessments being offered to clients today by SPI offer solutions focused on targeted business outcomes, and can be used for either new hires or developing existing teams. Far from snake oil, they are not a stand-alone silver bullet, but rather a strategic component of a larger sales talent management solution that is focused, and driven, by proven sales analytics. Big data maybe changing the world, but it is certainly changing the way sales assessments are being used in 2014!

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Guest Blog: Discrepancies – Women in Sales

Authored by Barbara Giamanco

Guest contributor, Barbara GiamancoBy most accounts, I’ve had a pretty successful sales career. When I first began selling technology solutions, the ratio of women to men was pretty off kilter. By now, you would expect that the ratio of women to men in sales would have become a little more equal. Unfortunately, the statistics from a Women in Sales study conducted by LinkedIn tell a different story.

Following Google’s lead, LinkedIn recently released its workforce diversity data report. The workforce of this global technology company is mostly male – 61%. These statistics led the LinkedIn Sales Solutions team to conduct an analysis of the LinkedIn member network to measure the representation of women by job function, title, industry, and more.

The study that the LinkedIn team conducted reveal some telling results related to women in sales. They found that 39% of women are represented in sales roles; however, as women in sales positions begin moving up in seniority, the percentage of women holding senior positions decreases. As you might have guessed, the lowest percentage of representation is at the VP and CXO levels.

Sales can be a pretty competitive business and roles have largely been dominated by men. Historical discussions of diversity in the workplace have typically focused on the idea that there weren’t enough women in the workforce, hence the discrepancy, but I don’t believe that’s the whole story.

Though women still lag behind, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, in 2013 women made up 57.2% of the workforce and men lead at 69.7%.

I think the first problem is that women largely do not choose a career in sales. The second problem is that for the ones that do choose this career path, they aren’t advancing into senior level positions like the men. I ask “why” on both counts.

I want to make it clear that I’m not a fan of us versus them. That serves no purpose, in my opinion. In my mind, the path to improvement comes from a unified, “we” need to do something about this situation.

Diversity of gender, thinking and approach are needed for businesses to enjoy optimal success. Women bring their own uniqueness to selling, as do men. We need both.

It does concern me that women are not advancing as quickly into senior roles. And before anyone assumes that I think women are held back in some way, let me make clear that I believe we need to investigate further.

Here are few reasons we may be seeing the leadership discrepancy:

  1. Women are not encouraged, coached or groomed for these positions.
  2. Women who may be interested in advancing don’t actually make their desire known.
  3. Women often try to go it alone, and we all know it takes a village.
  4. Women feel unqualified for the role and therefore, they don’t pursue stretch assignments.
  5. Women may not feel they can make the necessary commitment to an advanced role based on personal life circumstances.

The folks at LinkedIn have made a personal commitment to keep this conversation moving forward. They’ve pulled together a group of women in sales that includes me, Jill Konrath, Joanne Black, Trish Bertuzzi, Lori Richardson, Josiane Feigon and Jill Rowley to share our success tips, advice and highlight our own personal success stories to help build awareness of this issue.

Check out the Infographic and share it with your networks, your peers and leadership inside your companies. Together, change is possible!

Please post your comments – why do you think there is such a discrepancy between women and men in sales and sales leadership roles? What can we do about it?


Succeed with Social Selling in a Buyer 2.0 World

Recent research shows that today’s buyers are far more sophisticated in their purchasing cycles than ever before.  There is a plethora of information, data, and product reviews at everyone’s fingertips.  The ability to research even a simple transaction like buying new tires for your car is amazing these days.  You can literally find thousands of quotes, articles, reviews of specific tire performance, compare local dealers, etc. in 15 minutes or less.  Before you set foot into that tire store, you’re so much more informed than a typical tire buyer just 10-15 years ago.  In the B2B market, a new level of financial buyer called ‘Supply Chain’ can add to the complexity. Buyers are highly informed, independent, have many purchase options, and they are willing to do their own leg work ahead of engaging a sales person. We call this Buyer 2.0!

In order to be successful in today’s B2B sales marketplace, sellers need a new approach to aligning with your buyers. In the recently published book, The Collaborative Sale (by Keith M. Eades and Timothy T. Sullivan, Wiley 2014) sales people are presented with three key roles they need to embrace to succeed:

1) A Micro-Marketer (i.e. someone that can generate business demand)             

2) A Visualizer (i.e. collaborate with the customer to form a vision of the solution)

3) A Value Driver (i.e. confront risk adverse buyers by positioning value early and often)

So what does this have to do with Social Selling? Let’s look more in depth at the Micro-Marketer role. To move back to the front of the sales cycle and engage with buyers early, sellers must incorporate tactics typically considered marketing’s responsibility.  Begin by developing your ‘Personal Brand’ online via LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and other social profiles.  Keep your professional profiles professional and focus your positioning around your unique or advanced expertise.  Need help? This video offers examples of how to build a good personal brand

Next, build credibility in the marketplace.  Participate in business groups and online discussions, write and share content relevant to your customers, be aware of industry trends, seek referrals from clients and coworkers, and work to be viewed as a visionary or subject matter expert in a given field.  Grow your network and connect with industry experts, clients and potential prospects by engaging in social conversations. Most importantly, develop Situational Fluency in your market so you contribute valuable and relevant insights to your social sphere.

While most sales people agree with this principle, many lag behind voicing objections that social media is time consuming, they have a quota to pursue, or social selling doesn’t yield quick results. There are many tools available to sellers to streamline their efficiency and effectiveness in social selling. For example, LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator helps sales people search for potential prospects via filters and granular search criteria within LinkedIn’s large user base (i.e. 290+ million).  These searches can be saved and used for drip marketing and other social media campaigns run by an individual or with corporate marketing’s support.  To align with buyers and create demand for your solutions, social selling is essential in today’s ever-changing global marketplace.

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Sales Talent Optimization Solutions

According to the ROI Institute, a research and consulting organization, 92 out of 96 Fortune 500 CEOs said that they are most interested in learning the business impact of their learning and development programs, but only 8% see that happening at their companies now. With companies spending an average of $3,000-$6,000 per person on sales training, it’s no wonder that CEO’s want to quantify the ROI.

Here’s the good news. There are proven approaches that leverage Sales Talent Analytics, and they absolutely help organizations prove the business impact/ROI of sales training.

STEP 1: Identify Critical Business Outcomes
STEP 2: Capture Big Learning Data
STEP 3: Conduct Sales Talent Analytics to Identify Cause-Effect
STEP 4: Prioritize Development
STEP 5: Track Progress and Measure ROI

Our newest white paper, Sales Talent Optimization Solutions, explains each of these steps and how companies who leverage Sales Talent Analytics are proving and improving the focus, value and ROI of sales training. 

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