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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
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    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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Analytics, analytics, analytics!

Authored by Scott Runkle, SPI Sales Consultant

SPI attended the Sales Management Association’s fourth annual Sales Force Productivity Conference in Atlanta, Ga. Held each fall, the conference serves as the centerpiece of the Sales Management Association’s event calendar, with topics ranging from sales strategy, alignment and operations effectiveness to motivation, incentives and organic growth priorities.

SPI executives, Dave Christofaro, Director of Sales Talent Optimization, and Dr. Shane Douthitt, Director of Sales Talent Analytics, gave the keynote presentation at the conference. They focused on how sales leaders could overcome the odds, meet or exceed goals and increase ROI, providing the audience with a clear understanding of how to objectively assess sales talent and measure the ROI of sales training and enablement. Mr. Christofaro and Dr. Douthitt also led an interactive workshop and presented a concurrent session titled “Increase the Quality of Sales Hires by up to 67 percent.”

Mr. Christofaro identified two themes that arose for him during his time at the conference: (1) the overuse of the word “analytics” and (2) weak foundations.

“It seems that the biggest struggle for a sales executive seeking a solution best aligned with their company’s strategic initiatives would be the huge amount of vendors marketing their platform as analytics-based,” states Mr. Christofaro. “The overuse creates confusion on what analytics really are.” There are four levels of analytics - gap analysis, correlation, regression and structural equations modeling; only structural equations modeling shows causation. As can be seen in the figure below, the other approaches are based on guesses and assumptions but not truly driven by data nor analytics.

Next, Mr. Christofaro recalls a conversation he had at the conference with a head of sales in which the gentleman fully admitted that the criteria/model by which his company had to develop or hire people was weak. “Unless you start with a sales competency model, then you have a weak foundation,” says Mr. Christofaro. “If you’re using an off-the-shelf personality assessment for sales hiring, you have a weak foundation. If you’re trying to develop people and you haven’t defined what good looks like, you have a weak foundation. We urge companies to put in place a role-based sales competency model (strong foundation). That’s the starting point for everything related to sales talent.”

With regards to the sales competency model portion of the presentation, Mr. Christofaro noted that many attendees were seeking the silver bullet; several asked which competencies were most important. “A one-size-fits-all competency model is flawed. It’s important to keep in mind that each company is unique, and its competency model should be as well,” affirms Mr. Christofaro.

When working with its clients, SPI assesses and analyzes a team to statistically identify critical competencies for that particular team. During the conference discussion, it was apparent that the majority of attendees conducted personality assessments, a few tested on knowledge and even fewer used behavioral assessments (and these were never tailored for the business). “In essence, it’s as if these individuals are saying that they’re going to take whatever shoes you give them and wear those even though they aren’t individualized to the company or the role,” says Mr. Christofaro. “So you’re starting with a flawed, generic model rather than defining what size shoes you should wear and using that as the basis moving forward. Sales initiatives based off of a weak foundation won’t be effective.”

When SPI discussed hiring new sales talent, it was evident that most of the attendees conducted unstructured interviews, utilizing either random questions or a generic personality assessment. SPI warned of the ineffectiveness of unstructured interviews. According to Mr. Christofaro, “You might as well take a coin out of your pocket and flip it because the likelihood that you’ll find the right person is as statistically good. This analogy really resonated with the audience and we saw many heads nod in agreement.”

The solution to weak foundations and flawed models? A truly analytics-driven, one-size-fits-ONE approach (based on structural equations modeling). SPI’s approach uniquely identifies the specific causal drivers of sales performance for each organization. Through advanced analytics, sales leaders can statistically prove, based on analytics, which sales and leadership competencies drive business results. With this powerful insight, sales leaders can provide targeted development plans for each individual to accelerate and optimize business results and ROI. Isn’t that what everyone is truly seeking?

To learn more, visit:

Connect with Scott on LinkedIn >>>


Thriving in a Sea of Change; Selling in the Post ACA World

Authored by Mark Hood, Life Sciences Consultant at SPI

Sales success in today’s life sciences market comes to those individuals who are nimble and able to adapt their selling approach to a changing market.  The healthcare market is a fluid environment, stretched to capacity by emerging competitive threats, expanding industry dynamics, and constricting regulatory changes.

Expiring patents coupled with a lack of new blockbuster drugs are eroding profits and stifling growth in the pharmaceutical field while medical device firms continue to consolidate and outsource R&D overseas. An ever increasing aging populations coupled with an exploding rate of chronic disease states has forced biotechnology, pharma, and medical device, firms into an accelerated sense of focus in order to react to this new challenge. Finally, the ACA, (Affordable Care Act), is expected to provide healthcare to more than 30 million new patients in FY 2014 under a smothering mound of governmental regulation. The 2.3% medical device tax is funding the vast changes we are experiencing; no wonder your quota continues climb!

How does one reach or exceed his or her sales target in the midst of such chaos?  Many of our clients are thriving in this new paradigm by providing solution oriented offerings that improve patient outcomes.  Demonstrated outcomes grounded in clinical evidence allow sellers to navigate this tumultuous environment aligning with nurses, physicians, administrators, and “C” level executives.

Imagine possessing the Situational fluency that allows you to have conversations with healthcare practitioners, (HCP’s), managers, and executives, citing evidence, and driving outcomes-based solutions to key business issues.

Evidence-Based Medicine is a key component in building situational fluency in today’s healthcare environment. In fact, the ACGME requires certification in evidence based medicine for all post graduate medicine programs. Additionally, ACO’s must demonstrate the use of evidence based medicine in order to maintain accreditation.

In closing, know that in a sea of change, Evidence-Based Solution Selling® arms you with the knowledge and fluency to separate yourself from your peers and have unique, cogent, and relevant, conversations with HCP’s and administrators alike.

Mark Hood, Life Sciences Consultant, Sales Performance InternationalTo learn more about how your sales team can successfully and consistently sell to all levels of the healthcare decision tree and demonstrate fluency around evidence and outcomes, click here.

Would you like to talk with an expert? Connect with Mark Hood via LinkedIn:



Conquering the Fear of the Unknown Sales Candidate

Written by Dave Christofaro, Director, Sales Talent Optimization

Last week I had a conversation with the SVP of Sales Operations for a multi-billion dollar, global company.  They need to hire hundreds of new sales reps over the next 6-9 months as they revamp their sales force.  Their market has changed so much over the past 5 years — and it’s going to continue — that they expect upwards of 35-40% attrition.  But they’re dealing with a potentially derailing cultural challenge; sales managers are holding onto under-performing reps because they’d rather deal with the certainty of what they have, rather than the uncertainty of trying to hire a replacement rep.

Although the SVP’s comment just doesn’t make good business sense, I understand that hiring talented sales professionals is indeed a daunting task for managers.  First, there’s a global shortage (per Manpower’s annual Talent Shortage Survey).  Second, sales is such a complex role that the full suite of competencies, attributes and experience is tough to find.  And finally, sales people sell themselves well, which make it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.  So how does sales leadership conquer this fear of the unknown sales candidate and make better hiring decisions?  By obtaining better data and applying Sales Talent Analytics. 

First, you need better data.  For many companies, data about candidates is based on the results of a personality assessment, plus subjective feedback from unstructured interviews.  Personality assessments have their place, but their effectiveness is limited since they typically only account for 3-5% of the variance in performance.  The most impactful way to get better data is by using structured behavioral interview guides aligned to sales skills.  These skill-focused guides have the greatest impact on improving validity of the hiring process; a 4x increase!  Next, reduce the reliance on subjective feedback by gathering objective data on the candidate.  Sales knowledge assessments (i.e., situational judgment) are one tool for gathering objective data, by testing an individual’s knowledge of sales best-practices.  And of course, historical sales performance data is another form of objective data.

To cut through the complexity of the skill set and pinpoint exactly which 2 or 3 competencies or attributes are most important, apply Sales Talent Analytics.  This sales-specific form of analytics will statistically identify the competencies of your top-performers that set them apart from the rest of the team.  With this insight, sales leadership can narrow their interview process and tools on what is proven to drive success at their company. 

Dave Christofaro, Director of Sales Talent OptimizationBetter data, combined with Sales Talent Analytics, is statistically proven to improve the quality of new sales hires by up to 67%.  So rather than fear the unknown sales candidate, leverage the technology of today’s information age to conquer those fears.  

To learn more, visit:

Connect with Dave on LinkedIn >>>


B2B Nurture and Follow-up Strategies

B2B Nurture and Follow-up Strategies: an interview with Steve Wagner, Lead Gen Manager, SPI,  and Lead Lizard, a demand generation agency

Steve Wagner is a demand generation leader with a proven success record for driving revenue. As the Demand Generation Manager at Sales Performance International, he’s demonstrated his ability to cultivate and manage new departments by driving team collaboration, adaptability, and responsiveness. Demand generation captured his interest with its ability to uncover buyer insights and the levers that make them act. Keep reading to learn Steve’s best practices for nurture programs and follow-up strategies.

Connect with Steve Wagner directly:


Lead Lizard: What is your experience with demand generation, in terms of best practices strategy and program execution?

Steve: I’d say the single best practice that I use is to tier our CTA. For example, when you send an email campaign to a targeted list, you must have a way to identify the responders quickly and act in a responsive way. Too many businesses think that sending an email out will get prospects to discuss further, but you have to have a responder and a responsive follow up mechanism to the responders.

To those who opened an email and clicked on a link, have a plan of action to how you’re going to respond to those hand raisers. There are many different ways for folks to show interest now a days. Email openers and link clickers can get some soft demand generation as well. You’d be surprised by how often that turns into new business.

Lead Lizard: What’s your definition of sales nurturing?

Steve: To me, sales nurturing means providing timely, relevant, and value-adding content to prospects until they are “sales ready.” Sales nurturing builds thought leadership in your given space—it positions your company as a relevant expert in your field instead of a commodity or vendor services.

Lead Lizard: Does sales nurturing support your follow up strategies? If so, how?

Steve: Yes, it does. We use nurturing to identify what we call latent prospects—those who do not raise their hands but demonstrate interest through page visits, a document review, or whatever our campaign happens to be. Once we identify those latent prospects, we give them the opportunity to have a discovery call with our demand generation team.

This enables our team to learn more about the prospect’s business needs and initiative. Buyers are more aware of the marketing than ever before. They know that if they take actions on the site, they’re probably going to be marketed to.

We market in a non-confrontational way. We offer an olive branch to soft activity. We give them the opportunity to learn more, show them how to do it, and offer a direct line to call. If the prospect is not interested, we’ll share email information that enables them to reach out when the time is right. The softer approach is great for those who have not solely raised their hands.

Lead Lizard:
How do you set up and use nurturing programs?

Steve: Sales Performance International (SPI) has several different lines of business that we offer. We use content that we’ve created on our own or collaborated with other thought leaders in the industry for our lead nurturing content for various lines of business. If you look at SPI on one line of business, you’re going to continue to receive more information on that line of business. We use Pardot to create the content, execute the nurture program, and track its results.

Lead Lizard: Do you integrate Salesforce to further track lead nurturing results?

Steve: Our Pardot instance is integrated with Salesforce. We have it set up so that our nurtures are driven in Pardot, but we qualify at the demand gen level and ensure that they fit before we deliver to a sales rep.

This allows a rep to hit the ground running rather than do a rediscovery. You don’t want prospects to have to retread everything they’ve already learned from the marketing activities. Our process shortens the sales cycle in order to get a faster decision. Prospects get on the ground several stages ahead of where they otherwise would have been.

Lead Lizard:
How does demand generation assist follow-up calling strategies?

We own the entire process at SPI. We qualify and ensure that all prospects are a good fit for our sales consultants prior to handing them over.

Lead Lizard: What’s the biggest benefit of nurture programs and follow up strategies?

Steve: I’d say that the biggest benefit is that we’re staying top of mind with our prospects (and our entire prospect base) at every stage of their relationship with us. In the lead world, there are window shoppers that are not ready to take that next step but enjoy the content that we’re providing. The biggest nurturing benefit to me is that we’re giving our prospects relevant content to the nature of their relationship with us. We have a better sense of how close a prospect is to doing business with us. We have more control over who we want in our sales funnel. That leads to better prospects, opportunities, and customer quality.

Lead Lizard: How do you use nurturing to drive opportunities through the sales funnel?

Steve: Keeping a warm engagement through a nurturing program allows our sales consultants to get a decision more quickly. Nothing hurts an overall pipeline more than having stale opportunities. Nurturing assists this by lowering the average length of opportunity and helps keep the sales personnel focused on the right deals in their pipeline.

Let’s say a sales person is working on 25 opportunities per quarter—not everyone is going to respond to that consultant with the same frequency. What we can do is keep them engaged with nurturing programs while are sales reps are working with those who are raising their hands and wanting to move the process forward. At the end of the day, we’re not leaving anyone behind, so nurturing really helps at the opportunity level and builds street cred.

Lead Lizard:
Which analytics do you use to measure nurture program success?

Steve: We track pretty much everything. Open rates, CTR, unique opens, clicks, lead generation, and the percentage of those leads that converted to an opportunity are all items that we track. We don’t look at these all at the same time, obviously. We review these to make sure that our drip campaign is effective on the front end and is it leading to new business on the back end.

Lead Lizard: Are you able to share any nurturing victories from programs that you’ve run?

Steve: Something unique that I set up for my nurturing programs is the ability to get automatic notifications when prospects review some strategic content on our landing pages. Pardot does a great job of activity notifications. When I receive those notifications, I use a big data approach in order to better qualify prospects. With this approach, I identify prospects and reach out to them personally to invite them to learn more about the company through a brief phone call.

For example, if someone lands on a page and looks at one part of the website and then 10 minutes later, he looks at another part then I’ll take those actions into account. With this, you can see that he’s looking for solution “xyz,” and that SPI can help him with problems “abc.” It’s an identification of habit through their activity.

If I can call a prospects and invite them to a conversation without them raising their hand and saying they have the pain, they feel like I know their business more than the next guy.

Using this approach, I’ve identified and connected with a prospect who ended up being one of the largest new business wins in the company’s history. This all started from viewing his soft activity and inviting him to talk. If we had not taken this approach, that person probably would have just read a white paper or video review and walked away.

Lead Lizard:
Any final nurture or follow-up strategy recommendations?

Steve: I’d say always make sure there is responsibility and a plan of action for someone in your organization to regularly identify nurture responders. The goal is to be viewed as a thought leader and trusted advisor in the space. Since today’s buyers are more than half way through their purchase process before your first conversation, it’s important to have someone responsible for viewing this and reacting on a day-to-day basis.

To view the full interview - visit Lead Lizard:


Trends of Women in Sales

This article was written by Dana Mata, originally for LinkedIn Sales Solutions. Ms. Mata is now a sales consultant with Sales Performance International.

“…As a woman in sales, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed 25 rewarding years selling and leading in Silicon Valley. With incredible mentors, I quickly climbed (and sometimes cracked) the “corporate ladder” from telemarketer to CEO, each step witnessing a wide diversity gap for women in sales in all roles, especially leadership. Yes, past and present – women represent the minority in the room – like many others. Next, I’ll share how I got started in sales, how the sales role has collaboratively evolved, my recipe for sales career success, and simple solutions to help narrow the gender diversity gap together.

Ready, Set…

As a woman and single-mother, I knew that sales would be a natural fit for me. I love people, teamwork, solving problems and technology. In my first inside sales role at AT&T, I received world-class foundational sales training emphasizing consultative-solution style selling vs. products and features. I learned to listen carefully, discover deeply, and share insightfully, always focusing on maximizing value. Placing customer needs and objectives ahead of my own personal gain, and being passionately committed to identifying and solving business problems with relevant value-driven solutions have always been my priorities. More important than “closing deals,” is being recognized as a “valued consultant and trusted advisor,” being the ultimate reward, complement, and vote of customer confidence, while building trustworthy and transparent long-standing relationships.

The Perfect Partnership Storm

We now live in a fact based, data driven, decision making world where having – and knowing what do with – the right knowledge and skills are critical. Buyers are astutely aware of market offerings prior to any sales engagement. They already know what your product is. They want to know what it does and how it (you!) can help transform the way they do business and drive immediate measurable value. Overly aggressive sales people with a self-centered “bull in a china shop” approach will no longer make it through the door physically or virtually. It’s now imperative for sellers to be agile with deep and adaptive situational fluency while customizing and consistently directing the flow of relevant information and thought leadership.

Go-to Recipe for Sales Career Success

I truly believe that selling – like life – is a collaborative team sport and a fulfilling career for women – anyone – if:

  • You’re CURIOUS, with an insatiable desire to learn and openness to change.
  • You’re CONNECTED, and fully leverage social selling to expand mindshare.
  • You’re MOTIVATED, with the ability to set goals and execute to strategy…repeatedly.
  • You’re INSIGHTFUL, with visionary and analytic perspectives clearly communicated.
  • You’re DETERMINED, with focus and resiliency in pursuit of excellence and ultimate customer satisfaction.
  • Your “SOFT SKILLS” are refined, including effective communication, collaboration, emotional intelligence (EQ), social graces, and positivity. Indeed, soft skills are sexy again and here to stay, giving women – and anyone who masters them – a distinctly competitive, authentic, and transparent edge.


Simple Solutions to Narrow the Gender Diversity Gap
Organizational Changes

  1. Mirror Image? Don’t always hire “the man in the mirror.”  Pun intended. Instead, complement your teams with diverse recruiting efforts highlighting differentiated strengths and skills based upon key profiles for individual, team, and company success. Reflect, look, and think outside of the mirrored box and act responsibly, including eradicating gender biased job descriptions, such as “ninja,” “dragon slayer,” “whale hunter…” Sounds dangerous? Weapon and costume required?
  2. Transparent Diversification and Inclusivity. Champion diverse networks, groups, and actively participate in discussions that bring focus to helping women -any minority- further advance in sales and leadership roles. Let’s address this hefty “elephant in the room,” put a colorful bow on it, and have openly mindful, inclusive, collaborative, and productive discussions, like LinkedIn’s Koka Sexton and Alex Hisaka have done here!
  3. Develop. Encourage and implement leadership development programs within your (sales) organization. It starts with hiring, developing, and promoting qualified and diverse talent. Make your company an awesome place to work and grow. Invest now.


Individual Changes… (Listen up ladies – well, everyone!)

  1. Stretch. Remove self-imposed boundaries. Seek out and apply for stretch assignments and roles that will grow you and your (sales) career. No one is a “100% perfect match” for any job description. We all have shortfalls…initially. Don’t let that stop you from applying. Do seek solutions to rapidly augment potential skill gaps. Go!
  2. Communicate and Leverage.  Promote and sell yourself directly and indirectly through executive sponsors and mentors. Share your aspirational goals and how much you value their expert guidance and advocacy. Fully leverage your network – especially LinkedIn! Seek to understand. Mentor. Get engaged. Stay connected. Yes, “Lean In!”
  3. Learn. Continue to enhance your knowledge and expertise. Read, learn, attend seminars-webinars, obtain specialized degrees or certifications, and offer valuable and insightful comments on blogs and posts such as this one. Start now!
  4. Share. My eyes, ears, and soul are wide open and welcome your valued voice and  below perspectives on other creative and collaborative ways to help narrow the gender diversity gap for “Women In Sales,” through this amazing Linked(In)clusive open forum.



 Read the article on LinkedIn >>>