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Getting Salespeople On-Board and Up to Quota

A whopping 45.4% of salespeople miss their quota according to the CSO Insights 2015 Sales Compensation and Performance Management Study, only 54.6% of sales professionals produce enough revenue to meet quota. This deficiency raises an important question:

What is the number one reason your salespeople miss quota?

There are many reasons that sales reps don’t make quota, but what would be the number one reason?

  • Not enough qualified leads?
  • Lack of sales training?
  • No formal sales process in place?
  • Managers can’t effectively coach reps?
  • Ramping up reps is too slow?
  • Lost opportunities to no decision?
  • Competition beating us on price?
  • Sales burdened with administrative tasks?
  • Sales team not properly led?
  • Reps assigned unrealistic quotes?
  • Deals not closed, but still in pipeline?
  • Salespeople not properly hired?

The number one reason I found why reps were not meeting their numbers was,

“Their inability to provide insight into a buyer, adding value and starting relevant conversations.”

In other words, sell their value. Many of the sales processes had salespeople leading with product and service discussions, rather than what was important to the customer.

Qvidian in its 2015 Sales Execution Trends study asked U.S. sales professionals what are the most important goals to executive management: Their ratings were:

  1. 90% Improving overall quota attainment
  2. 94% Increasing win rates
  3. 83% Deal sizes─which could both help salespeople reach their targets

The main  problems to achieving their goals

  1. 42% of leaders pointed the finger at an overly high number of no decisions
  2. 41% said their salespeople weren’t able to effectively sell value.

Aligning your Sales Process with How Customers Buy

The most important decision we make as salespeople is how to connect with our customers/clients/prospects. They expect a perspective; not a sales pitch.

Prospects are not solely focused on your products or services. When they make a purchase decision to solve a business problem, their need is seldom met solely by buying a single product or stand-alone solution. The product or service offering is part of the total solution.

Let me give you an example that you may be all too familiar with. You review your sales funnel pipeline, and you see an opportunity stuck in the funnel. Every review of the sales funnel, the update for a closing date is pushed out. There are many excuses for the reality, but the status is the same─the opportunity is stuck in the funnel. Doesn’t this sound painfully familiar?

As you review the sales process steps, you see that you or the sales rep have completed everything; it’s now a decision you are waiting on from the prospect. Everything’s complete on your side. So the salesperson forecasts the opportunity and projects a close date. However, that salesperson followed his sales process, which was not aligned with the customer/client’s buying process. The prospect isn’t yet certain of the need to change, or change now, but the salesperson is certain it is time to close because, from his standpoint, he has done everything his process dictates.


So to begin with, your sales process needs to be aligned with how your prospects buy. You may want to start with mapping your target prospect’s buying process.

Finding the Undiscovered Need

We’ve all faced trying to find a prospect’s need and fill it. This effort doesn’t sound like a difficult thing to do, especially if you’ve done your homework and understand how to attach your solution. However, the problem with this kind of approach today is that your competition is doing the same thing. As a result, there is no differentiation and not a lot of motivation for the prospect to change the status quo.

Here is an example. A recent Harvard Business Review article quoted CSO as saying,

“Our customers are coming to the table armed to the teeth with a deep understanding of their problem and a well-scoped RFP for a solution. It’s turning many of our sales conversations into (simply) fulfillment conversations.”

“We do a good job of engaging with potential clients, uncover the need to reduce expense loads, reduce the investment funds to improve performance and communication, and offer solid communication and administration services, only to find ourselves in that dreaded RFP process.”

This lack of differentiation is turning many of these conversations into a commoditized solution. With the only differentiation between vendors being price points. Organizations who want to stand out from the crowd need to be better positioned as a value-added provider or seen as a trusted advisor.

To avoid the perception of being simply “another” vendor and lumped into a commoditized price comparison, your messaging has to create a clear contrast between your solution and that of your competitors. Traditional content strategies begin with gaining a firm understanding of who your buyer is, as well as what his needs and problems are. In this way, you can then develop messaging which resonates with your target audience. While this point is indeed where you want to begin, creating contrast against your competitors requires you to expand your strategy further by discovering not only the unmet needs of your prospects but by helping them understand their as yet undiscovered and unconsidered needs.

Undiscovered needs fall in the realm of insight selling and thought leadership, focusing on emerging needs and alternative perspectives that buyers might not yet have considered or even be aware of. Both of these strategies call for vendors to position themselves as trusted advisors with inside industry knowledge, and sources buyers will look to for industry insights.

These approaches require you to become an expert on all things affecting your target market’s business, including topic areas that not only help prospects fix or accomplish something but things they need to avoid─pending regulations, or trends in related industries, which will reverberate within your prospect’s organization.

While prospects nowadays tend to approach vendors with a well-defined set of needs, you can capitalize on your insightful knowledge and out-of-the-box thinking by letting prospects know which questions they should be asking, revealing needs they didn’t know they had. Properly done, these strategies engage prospects early in their buyer’s journey, aiding them in their problem-solving process. To be that trusted advisor, you need to show them issues they didn’t see and help them find a solution before they discover it on their own, or the competition does. This diagram illustrates the point.

In our retirement advisor example above, the prospect already understood his issues, and the advisor brought a solution that the prospect was fully aware of. The competition brought one, too. The only thing to discuss at this point is price. This example is one of those opportunities that the sales person sees as deep in the funnel and continues to change the close date on.

Corporate Visions Research & Stanford Business School Professor Dr. Zakary Tormala

validates precisely how much of an impact this approach can have on an opportunity.

CSO studied the recruiting of 400 people and dividing them equally into four groups. They then developed a specific scenario, telling everyone in the study to imagine themselves as a business owner whose company had enjoyed a recent run of success, but is now facing an economic downturn and struggling to stay open. To cope with cash flow challenges created by slow sales and slow customer payments, they’re looking for a financial lending partner to offer them a $10 million line of credit. This cash infusion represents the “stated need.” The study then was delivered into four different lender pitches to each group:

  • Pitch 1 responded to the stated need, as indicated in the situation above with a competitive offer for the money and typical corporate presentation content.
  • Pitch 2 responded to the stated need with similar positioning, and also introduced “value-added services” in a typical effort most companies employ to create differentiation.
  • Pitch 3 responded to the stated need with similar content as the first two but then introduced an unconsidered need at the end of the presentation.
  • Pitch 4 opened with the unconsidered need first and then responded to the stated need later in the presentation.

In the third and fourth pitches, the unconsidered need was based on the insight that 42% of businesses that take cash infusions during a recession fail due to underlying problems they were unaware they had.

Both of these lenders then said they could come in and analyze the business to make sure there were no hidden problem areas that might prevent them from maximizing the line of credit. Both lender pitches also touted their in-house expertise at conducting this kind of assessment.

So which of the four conditions proved the most powerful?

In the areas of uniqueness and quality, there was a statistically significant effect based on presentation type, and it suggested that both of the unconsidered needs pitches outperformed the first two conditions. Interestingly enough, pitches one and two—stated need and value-added services—did not differ on these measures.

One Clear Winner

When Professor Tormala took a look at the more important choice and attitude measures, he concluded that the unconsidered needs first condition outperformed the other three pitches, which didn’t differ from each other.

By combining the choice and attitude measures with the uniqueness and quality findings, the data suggest that only when unconsidered needs come first do they increase the persuasive power of a pitch. This finding is consistent with uncertainty principles, which hold that when you inject unexpected information into a conversation, you can boost decision processing.

So what’s the key takeaway? You stand to significantly improve your prospect conversations by introducing your prospects to unconsidered needs—but only if you do it early.

Unconsidered needs ask you to determine how you can better address and bring value to your prospect’s underserved target markets. Can your solution help them expand their market, increase revenue, improve profitability, or shave costs in places not previously considered? Or can your solution help them avoid the inevitable?

Answering these questions, as well as gaining the valuable insights necessary regardless of which strategy you adopt, requires you to first acquire a deep understanding of your buyer and their industry. Talking to your prospects about their known needs, can help you identify additional unmet needs. Prospect surveys are a great way of engaging buyers in such conversations. So, too, can you use these same surveys to pose questions that reveal the issues you believe prospects should be contemplating regarding their undiscovered and unconsidered needs.



How easy is it to waste the opportunity you have created by poor on-boarding?

Certainly, having faith that “they will get it” is not a strategy. Without real investment of your time, on-boarding is going to be hit and miss. So, let’s look at that investment and how best spend time with nu-joins.
The bottom-line is that even experienced sales people need a solid relationship with their leader, where they have confidence in their willingness and ability to coach so they reach quota quickly. And you can only be effective quickly if they have a firm grip on what they need to know about what they are selling and who they should be selling to.  It’s mastering that application that is difficult. For example an ASTD study showed that 90% of sales training initiatives failed. We solve this application problem with research-based personal learning and coaching system that goes beyond teaching to create Sales Mastery. But first, here’s our thinking behind our approach.

How do you set up nu-joins for success quickly to reach expected standards and quotas?

One problem is that they want to please and will demonstrate a superficial understanding of what they are supposed to know yet can’t deploy such knowledge in real time, say, in front of a customer. The first challenge is effectively imparting new knowledge to Nu-Joins and existing sales people. We’ve all experienced lectures and how much we didn’t retain. Also, how those lecturing us seemed distant even aloof. So, we ask:

What risks do you run in sabotaging your relationship with Nu-Joins by “lecturing” to them?

It’s a leader’s role to help align nu-joins on the “Why” of what they learn. To help them really “get it” and align at a deeper level. So, when your time is limited and the pressure for results rises – What should you spend your time on as a leader? How about reducing the time you spend helping them acquire knowledge? Let’s face it; knowledge only describes the territory not the skills to navigate by. You know there’s no replacement for dialogue building nu-join confidence in what they are selling. It’s inefficient and relationship-damaging to rely on pushing information at them and has a real price. Ineffective and inefficient learning increases the pressure to perform. When nu-Joins lack confidence in their knowledge they take short cuts. When this behavior impacts customers, then the rot sets in. We all know inexperienced and ignorant sales people ask fewer questions and rely more and more on feature-dumping. This sets up sales failure. And you know what rejection will do to a person’s confidence? They will disengage and either leave or wait for you to fire them.
To prevent such problems see if you like our thinking.

Sales Mastery Definition:

The ability to rapidly assess a customer situation, recall the right facts about their product or service then pick the right question or statement and use that selected behavior in a customer aligned way

The crucial element, of course, is execution speed. Speed so fast that there’s no time to stop and think. In sports, it is called muscle mastery and in neuroscience – Rapid Adaptive Reasoning Ability. It’s rapid because it operates sub-consciously where the brain has far more capacity than conscious thinking. For salespeople such mastery does double duty. It creates seamless performance because this work is done sub-consciously while freeing up conscious thinking to really listen to the client.

To reach mastery any training and coaching system has to achieve four objectives which when used in combination will dramatically improve sales performance. They are:
1. Create the expectation in your salespeople that they are just like high performing athletes setting progressively higher goals for themselves
2. Develop mental toughness that the highest performing professional athletic coaches use to create top performers
3. Help senior executives remove common structural barriers to increasing sales performance and create peak sales performance environment.
4. Develop custom product, sales and coaching training that reduces time to performance for new salespeople as well as your current sales team.

To find out how we can help call Nick Anderson (616) 745-8667 or