CRO Rule #1 - Why Sales Training Doesn't Work

CRO Rule #1
If all four tires on  a car are flat, putting some air in one tire does not remedy the situation.  That is why companies know sales training alone doesn’t work, and it won’t until they implement the three remaining core processes of a closed-loop Revenue System.

I grant you it is a simple analogy, but you see the wisdom in it.  Revenue development has many components of which sales training is a singular piece to a larger puzzle.  Here is a graphic representation of a CRO’s role:

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These are the activities that lead to a closed-loop, Revenue-as-a-System engine that drives department-wide success.  The 5M’s Sales Process is a key component, but it is only 1 “tire” on the car.

Execution Isn't The Problem


Our RoundTable program is totally results-focused meaning our executive membership knows the leadership road to results is always a combination of 3 components – Leadership, Strategy and Execution.

Many times we observe non-member leadership putting all their performance shortfalls on execution. More successful executives have learned that where the problem appears is not always where the problem exists. Our members say it best – culture eats strategy for lunch every day. When culture and strategy are not aligned (a core leadership responsibility) execution becomes an intermittent compromise at best…and terminally toxic at worst.

Leadership and Strategy exist inside the business – execution takes those “assets” outside to your market. That’s how it works so be careful not to define results as solely an execution issue.

Top 10 Signs Your Revenue System Needs Upgrading


1. Discounting is our primary closing strategy

2. All sales and marketing related promotional materials are feature / benefit focused.

3. Every sales presentation starts and ends with the company plaque in the lobby promoting the company’s on-going commitment to quality, service and support.

4. Forecast updates only require moving out the projected close dates.

5. New account business is on everyone’s goal sheet but we are not closing any new accounts.

6. Sales expense is the only number above plan.

7. Everyone in sales works a 40 hr. week as an account manager.

8. Reps say the sales cycle is getting longer due to all the new technology they have to explain first.

9. The names change on the forecast but the bottom line numbers don’t.

10. The only turnover in sales is with existing accounts.

Defining Your Differentiating Value

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The first step moving from a features & benefits-based, go-to-market model to a Differentiating Value (DV) approach is defining your Differentiating Value.

In B2B revenue models, the first question to ask is: How does my product / service improve the customer’s business? Forget the traditional quality, service and support pontifications. In B2B, quality, service and support are simply expected and all three are claimed by every competitor anyway so you get no differentiating points on these issues.

Look at the transaction from the prospect’s world and define how their overall performance is improved by having your product / service. That is your Differentiating Value and you can never have too much DV. Most prospects are already buying from someone else today so the more DV-based improvements your products deliver to the prospect’s business, the better platform you have for revenue growth.

The question always comes up…“What if they are happy with a competitor’s product and there doesn’t seem to be a benefit to making change?” This happens every day in sales. Our observation is one of two situations typically applies. If your product delivers substantial, compelling DV to your market and the sales rep has asked all the Critical Qualifying Questions for Motivation but the prospect is not responding, your rep is 1.) not connecting with the emotional buyer or 2.) the prospect is not a ‘fit’ for your DV. Assuming the prospect is not a fit for your DV, it is better to know that as early as possible in the sales cycle so you don’t waste time pursuing and forecasting dead end deals.

Brand is NOT Differentiating Value


We spend a lot of time helping clients understand their Differentiating Value – what they bring to the market that is unique and/or better than the competition. The process is straight forward.

Differentiating Value is not:

  1. Features and benefits
  2. Value platform
  3. Brand
  4. Quality, service or support proclamations

Sales people have been trained to memorize and mimic the slogans and sound bites that always accompany these concepts. STOP! These exist in your world but not the prospect’s. If you base your positioning on these items, you will always enjoy longer sales cycles and perpetual discount requests – especially if your sales people lead with “We are the #1 brand in the market.”

Differentiating Value only exists in the prospect’s world – not yours. It is what the prospect is buying and that is typically not how you get paid. One of our clients is a materials science company that manufactures polymer pipe for the plumbing industry. Their engineered products allow homeowners to operate all water consumption devices (dishwasher, clothes washer, lawn sprinkler, etc.) concurrently and still have family and guests able to use all the showers in the house. Prospects are buying a convenience life style but the payment transaction is based on linear feet of pipe purchased. This is Differentiating Value.

5 Brutal Leadership Comments

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Whatever you do, avoid these statements.

After decades of working with companies to improve their revenue performance, we have heard a litany of comments from leadership teams that will cause any engaged employee (or outside resource) to urgently start the quest for another opportunity.

The 5 most atrocious are:

1. The only job the sales department has is to keep manufacturing running at 90+% capacity.
2. Customers would be “stupid” not to buy this.
3. Forecasting should only happen after sales writes the order.
4. Sales needs to find smarter customers.
5. If we have to downsize, sales will be the first to go.

If you encounter one of these…Good Luck!
Regarding your next opportunity – contact us and we will connect you with one of our CRO RoundTable member companies.

Revenue-savvy leadership is never a commodity.

The Sales Funnel is Dead!

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The new age of digital disruption is re-engineering the world of sales.

Many companies today are doing “OK” selling more to long established customers where they have inside traction but their new-logo business is best described as underperforming (aka nonexistent). The tough question Chief Revenue Officers address in planning sessions is: Why can we sell to our current base but we can’t grow new base? The real answer is – the game has changed and new rules apply.

Consider the new B2B prospect profile:

►74% of B2B buyers conduct MORE THAN HALF their research on-line before talking to a salesperson (Forrester)

►90% of B2B buyers say they NEVER RESPOND to cold outreach (HBR)

►75% of B2B buyers NOW USE SOCIAL MEDIA to research vendors (IDC)

►74% of buyers choose the sales rep that was FIRST to add value and insight (Corporate Visions)

Now apply this profile to your business. Obviously the first obsolete concept is the dinosaur sales funnel and all associated sales/marketing programs that reference it as a productivity metric. The new revenue models are based on digital merry-go-rounds. Prospects can get on and off anytime (welcome to the 24×7 revenue day) and will leave no tracks indicating they were ever there if your digital platforms lack effective engagement offers and Contact Us is not an effective offer.

At RoundTable, we work on getting the new basics right including:

  • Sales cycle & productivity tracking tools
  • Lead generation & routes (channels) to market
  • Talent profiles for inside/outside sales roles
  • Merry-go-round platforms for creating new logo opportunities

We are experiencing a time of rapid change within the sales paradigm. You, as a CRO, will have to make significant adjustments to continue to stay in a revenue-leading market position.

We can help.

Analog vs Digital - the Contrast of Operations vs. Sales


The gap between operations and sales in organizations is always obvious and can be explained by their respective measurement cultures.

In operations, improving a process from 93.4% successful performance to 93.9% can be cause for an over the top celebration. Even improving it to 93.5% confirms positive progress is being made and everyone gets knuckles for their positive efforts. If the number drops to 93.2%, everyone goes into do-over mode to drive the process % higher. The model is totally analog in terms of everyone’s focus on evolving improvements.

In sales, there are no 93.5% orders. Orders are binary outcomes meaning you win or lose (commission plan gets a 1 or 0 multiplier). Everyone with a 0 multiplier finished “second” and there are NO do-overs. This fundamental measurement (and celebration) difference requires totally different employee profiles and leadership cultures to perform successfully. What works inside never works outside – the circuitry is wrong…it is that simple.

If you would like to learn how the RoundTable can help you win in the digital world of sales, please consider attending one of our upcoming briefings.

The 5 Must-Have Components for Revenue as a System in 2018


After 6+ years of hosting monthly roundtable meetings with revenue leaders from a diversified combination of businesses, it’s clear there is a core list of components CRO’s need to have in hand at the start of the year for maximizing success and driving revenue growth. 

The core components of Revenue as a System:

1)  Lead generation system – Differentiating Value (DV) is defined by target segments and campaigns are loaded for launch through all media channels.  It is never about what you say, it is more about what the prospect remembers about you.  The DV messages are 100% translated into the prospect’s world.   Response systems operate under time-is-of-the-essence priorities so nothing goes past a couple hours, worst case, without a direct engagement (not an auto-responder).  The goal is always a response time in minutes to connect in the prospect’s “window of interest.

2)  Revenue team roles – The right mix is a combination of inside and outside resources with the new business development goals assigned to specific hunters and not diluted across everyone’s goal sheets.  The hunters have line of sight vision to the targets and the tools to pursue them.  The right talent means trained and ready to handle all levels of communication - especially qualifying.

3)  Structured sales process based on your Differentiating Value – Selling is a communication process and your Differentiating Value (DV) is why prospects decide to do business with you.  As such, a CRO cannot invest the time to learn the unique qualifying approach of every sales rep in their organization.  I have tried it – it doesn’t work and the individual process I was exposed to were totally ineffective.  Qualifying is all about asking the right questions.  Every sale typically consists of 4-6 Critical Qualifying Questions (CQQ’s) that objectively determine if, how and when the deal comes together.  Sales reps never want to get a “no,” but the reality is getting more no’s than yes’s is the way it works.  It is far better to get the no before you invest a lot of resources into deals where you are not even on the list for consideration.

4)  Structured forecast process – Forecast accuracy is the report card of your qualifying system.  Sales reps know it is always better to be optimistic vs. realistic when forecasting.  Due to that approach, management does not know exactly what’s in their pipeline.  This is a common survival technique to buy more time without going under a formal “get-well” plan.  A bankable forecast process can be achieved - the challenge lies with your qualifying execution.  The key is to hold your salespeople accountable to qualifying suspects for motivation, money, methodology and market before moving prospects on/through the forecast.

5)  Properly-aligned incentive systems – Incentives are the most underutilized tool in the CRO’s arsenal.  The days of one-size-fits-all spreadsheet plans never really worked…and they still don’t.   It is important for plans to both recognize behaviors and reward results.  Incentive plans can include a variety of components – forecast accuracy, mix of sales performance by product and/or accounts, new logo accounts, etc.  No two businesses are identical so no two plans have the same focus.  It starts with understanding your specific sales model and building the incentive plan around key performance thresholds.  In the end, much of successful selling comes down to doing the right behaviors consistently.  Your incentive plan should creatively incent those behaviors.

This is just one of the revenue-focused topics we discuss at the RoundTable.  If you would like to learn more about the executive peer group, register to attend one of our upcoming briefings in the Twin Cities or Chicago.  Visit our Executive Briefings page here.

What Matters Most in Selling

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That’s it.  End of post.  No, we’ll go a bit deeper.  I write this post as I sit at a Caribou Coffee right next to an actual sales interview.  It is fascinating to observe as the candidate is doing fairly well.  He is qualifying the position which is excellent.

He is falling down in that he is asking the right questions and then answering them HIMSELF.  Disappointing.

There is an elegance to strong qualifying…almost an artistry.  The questions flow in a conversational manner, the prospect is comfortable in answering and the information is gained by the salesperson.  It is enjoyable to watch from my perspective.

When you are interviewing sales candidates, it is important to watch for more than just the answers they provide.  Pay attention to their questions, their strategy in answering, their conversational approach, etc.  Even watch for candidates who are able to ask difficult questions.  Imagine them selling for your company – will your prospects buy from them.

In the end, the salesperson’s ability to qualify, a job, a prospect, a deal, is the backbone of all good selling.