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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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Thursday
Aug212014

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 >>>

Tuesday
Jul292014

Your Leading Indicators are Lagging

Manpower’s annual Talent Shortage Survey provides a sobering fact for sales leaders — qualified sales representatives are the #2 hardest role to fill (#1 is Skilled Trade).  That’s why more companies are investing in sales talent analytics initiatives to better attract, develop and retain top talent.  But buyer beware!  The term ‘analytics’ can be a wolf in sheep’s clothing; in other words, not all analytics are what they seem.  The three primary levels of analytics are as follows:

  1. Correlation analytics measures an association between 2 variables.  Think shark attacks and ice cream sales.  There’s a correlation primarily because both increase in warm summer months.
  2. Regression analytics measures a one-way dependency among variables.  Think rainfall on crop production.  Crops are dependent on rainfall; however, rainfall is not dependent on crops.
  3. Causation (Structural Equation Modeling) analytics measures a cause-effect relationship between variables.  Think about statistically proving which skills / competencies make top-performing sales reps.  Causation analytics are the most powerful form of analytics.


If you’re evaluating a sales talent analytics project that relies upon predictive (another term to describe correlation or regression) analytics, then the approach is outdated.  In other words, you may make Executive Boardroom decisions based on incomplete analysis because your leading indicators are lagging.  

But here’s the good news.  It is now possible to leverage the power of causation analytics for hiring, developing and retaining top sales talent.

Learn More »

Wednesday
Jul232014

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?

global.spisales.com/TalentOptimization

Friday
Jul182014

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!

Learn More >

Tuesday
Jul012014

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?