Boost sales by understanding healthcare economics

Selling medical devices

MedTech sales

ORTHOKNOW asked Dick to prepare an article for its August issue on sales and understanding healthcare economics. In the article he discusses skills salespeople need to be successful including understanding changing customers, buying process, business environment and decision criteria.

Regardless of the MedTech products you are selling, the points in this article certainly apply. Take a read …

Download your copy of Dick’s article here: OK081

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Coaching sales strategy – 4 tips for sales managers

Coaching sales strategy

Coaching sales strategy

Ask sales managers and salespeople what makes them successful. The answer we hear most often is: The best salespeople sell strategically and the best coaches help them learn how to do it.  Sales managers can’t help salespeople become more talented, but they can help them become more skilled.

However like a lot of good ideas, coaching sales strategy is easy to say but no so easy to do.  Let’s explore some ideas for getting it right.

4 tips for coaching sales strategy

Select the Right Account. A classic trap for sales managers is spreading their coaching efforts too thinly. If you want to improve your strategy coaching begin by selecting the right account on which to focus your efforts. Several selection criteria may be considered, but one stands out as particularly important – high revenue potential.

Rarely does a salesperson have an account base in which all the accounts have equal potential for revenue growth. In conjunction with the salesperson, the sales manager should target for strategic coaching those accounts that have the greatest potential for revenue growth. How many accounts? With the “too-thin trap” in mind, it’s probably best to limit your coaching efforts to two or three key accounts. The best advice for maximizing your strategy coaching time is: do a really good job coaching a few, high-payoff accounts.

Establish the Expectations. There is no such thing as a generic winning strategy when selling in a complex market. Capturing the business is not about selecting a strategy; it’s about formulating a strategy. And formulating strategy is all about having more and better information than the competition.

For an effective and efficient strategy coaching session, sales managers should establish the expectation that the account executive will come to the session with the right information in hand. At a minimum, the salesperson should have information about the business situation in the account, the account’s business objectives, and details about the buying process and players – plus some initial thoughts about the solution.

Focus On Strategy and Skills. When formulating a strategy for a complex account, it’s a mistake to coach strategy independent of skills. Even the best strategy will fail unless what goes on in front of the customer is executed skillfully. This means the last step in any strategy coaching session should be to plan the first call in the execution of that strategy. In some cases, it may be appropriate for the sales manager to go on the call to help the salesperson sell. Or, the call could serve as a coaching opportunity to further develop the skills required to carry out the strategy.

Download free white paper – Getting Sales Strategy Right in Major Accounts

Leverage Time. The greatest barrier to coaching is lack of time. By selecting the right accounts and establishing expectations about preparation, you can improve the efficiency of the coaching effort. Another way to leverage time is to consider alternatives to one-on-one coaching sessions. While coaching sales skills is usually done individually because of the observation and feedback requirements, strategy coaching can often be done in small groups.

Frequently, the types of accounts and the dilemmas faced will be common to many members of the sales team. In such cases, its feasible – even advantageous – to involve two or three members of the team in a strategy session because everyone will benefit from discussions of all the targeted accounts.

There is little doubt that the best salespeople sell strategically. And, the best coaches are really good at helping them learn how to do it.  The greatest problem is simply not doing it and unfortunately that happens way too often. The second problem is failing to recognize that effective strategy coaching is hard to do.

What to learn more about sales strategy? Download our white paper - Getting Sales Strategy Right in Major Accounts.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Achieving sales excellence – a story about sweet spots

Sales success - find the sweet spots in sales calls

Sweet spot on gathering information

Achieving sales excellence is not a business as usual challenge.  Industries are going through transformational changes that are impacting what companies buy, how they buy, and what they are willing to pay for it.

So how does a salesperson engaged in a complex B2B sale know what they need to know and do what they need to do in this business environment?  The first overarching answer is one is unlikely to get there by simply doing a better job doing of what everyone else is doing.  If differentiation is the goal, and it should be, you need to do something different rather than something better.

So, what might that look like?  In situations such as these, where a different strategy is needed, it’s always a great idea to seek an answer by starting with the notion that you “must get on the customer’s side of the table.”

Today the person on the other side of the table brings a different set of pressures, opportunities, and needs than in times past.  They are more concerned about the unknown than the known. They look at the big picture vs. individual snapshots. And, most importantly they are seeking fresh perspectives on problems that matter.

If that is the person with whom you are about to have a business conversation, how do you stand out from everyone else?  How do you bring a piece of value others will not?  Let’s take a look at what doesn’t work, and then explore what might.

Most people in sales are well schooled in the Discovery Conversation.  This conversation starts with the salesperson asking questions about a problem they believe the customer is concerned about. It continues with a further exploration of the problem and then a discussion about how the problem can be solved.

If this is the type of discussion, then successful differentiation is an unlikely. Why?

  • It is the same set of questions that have been asked by all the other salespeople.
  • More importantly, the time spent vs. the value received doesn’t work out very well.  Time is spent on educating the sales person about a problem the customer already understands.  This is a good way to have a short meeting and a great approach for not having a second.

What’s the alternative?  One option is the Point of View conversation.  The Point of View discussion focuses on helping the customer bring a fresh perspective to framing the problem and to consider creative and innovative alternative solutions.

This, of course, is one of those ideas that is easy to say and not so easy to do.  It requires hard work and expertise but customers will understand and value the difference because the time is spent with the customer learning something they didn’t know vs. the salesperson learning something the customer already knew.

So what are requirements for getting that right?  The fundamental requirement is you must to know the trends and shifting economics of the customer’s industry and have a comprehensive up-to-date picture of the company’s strategic direction and business challenges.  Let’s highlight three sweet spots for getting that right.

  • Tap into Internal Resources.  Sales reps need to make sure they are optimizing the use of the resources provided by internal Marketing and Sales Enablement functions. Although the quantity and quality will vary by company, this is a good place to start when getting the required data and information.
  • Leverage External Technology.  Here the good news is there are now affordable information sources that can be acquired from external sources.  The good ones are available on tablets and smartphones so they can be use as a just-in-time source of information.  A best-of-breed example is Sweetspot.  Sweetspot is a great tool for sales reps because it provides in-depth, up-to-date information about an extensive variety of industries and the companies within those industries in an easy-to-use format.
  • Review with Sales Manager.   Particularly if one is calling on a Senior Executive, it makes great sense to spend time with your Sales Manager using the required information to formulate a compelling perspective for your dialogue with the Senior Executive.  Senior Executives will clearly appreciate that you spent the time to understand their company and to bring new insights to the discussion versus a well-rehearsed product pitch.

Anytime a transformation change is going on in an industry, a new set of winners and losers emerge.  One answer for being among the former is to increase the sales intelligence of your team to enable them to make a difference that matters.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC




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Getting sales coaching right – a picture is worth 1000 words

info_7-Effective-Sales1Sales coaching is an important topic among sales leaders. However, ask any sales managers about how they spend their time and you’ll hear about all sorts of things from “putting out fires” to “helping their sales team sell” to “getting those reports to corporate.”

When you ask about sales coaching, you will resoundingly hear how important it is.  However if you turn up the listening volume, you will also hear about how and why there is just not enough time to do it.

Much has been written about sales coaching – what works and what doesn’t. We’ve written our fair share of sales coaching blogs, too. Recently we came across an infographic that caught our eye – 7 Effective Sales Coaching Best Practices. We thought it provided some sound guidance in a memorable format for sales managers that are trying to get it right.

Take a look and see what you think?


If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC



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Isolating the swing factors for making big-ticket sales training investments

Sales training investments

Sales training investments

While sales training programs aren’t multi-billion dollar investments, we think some of the points the McKinsey & Co principals shared around considerations in making multi-billion dollar purchasing decisions have implications for sales training investments – whether in the millions or the tens of thousands.

To ascertain what it takes to prepare to make high-stake decisions, McKinsey staff interviewed executives in multiple industries. The result is a belief that the good practices their interviewees’ used when making decisions can be widely applied.  Let’s take a look and translate the results to sales training investments

Focus on the swing factors.  The more complex the project, the more uncertainties affect the cost and the payoffs of the investment.  However, when all is said and done, they found that only a handful of factors really impact success.   It’s those few … the swing factors that require focus and consideration.

What might this mean for sales training purchasing decisions?

Assuming you’ve done the requisite screening and you’re looking at a high-quality, highly customized sales training, the sales training program itself is unlikely to be a swing factor.  More importantly nor will the cost – that is you can pay more and get less.

But there are considerations that are likely to be swing factors – for example: senior management involvement, what you do before the program to position it and what you do after it to reinforce the skills learned in the program.  In addition:

  • Recognize swing factors are not static. During the planning, implementation and post-sales training program, new swing factors are likely to emerge.  For example, during the planning, senior management could launch a new sales initiative that is all about moving from selling individual products to selling an integrated solution.  The swing factor is the ability to address the nature of the program to be responsive to emerging shifts.
  • Be able to better assess risk and payoff.   If you use both quantitative and qualitative data to assess the value and risk of the project one is likely to end up with a more comprehensive picture.  As the McKinsey authors noted – restricting to one or the other can miss key points. This is certainly true with sales training.  For example, two qualitative factors often underemphasized that can impact the project are: the degree to which you can get the sales team committed to the project and the degree to which you can sustain an effective and efficient front-line sales manager sales coaching effort post program.
  • Keep decision biases in check. Everyone has biases (knowingly or not) when making decisions. Being aware is the first step. Putting processes in place to minimize bias creeping into the decision is the second.   Like any field the biases in sales training are highly specific to the company making the decision and to the individual decision makers.  However, there are a couple that tend to pop up more often than some others.

For example, senior managers going with a training company or even a specific program because they went through it when they were a rep so even though it is now 20 years later they suggest the same program.  A second bias is related to the failure to consider new technology-based methodologies like online sales training or software based coaching program because they are “new or “hard to implement.”

In the last five years a lot of exciting things have been happening in sales training  – the options and alternatives are significantly greater and more interesting.  But in the end, it is always about how do you decide to decide.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC



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Medical Sales – Blog Round-up – Summer 2014

medical device sales training

Medical Sales

If you missed some of our medical sales and medical device blog posts, here’s a chance to look at some of our most popular posts  – in the Medical Sales – Blog Round-up.

The 4 blogs are:

  • Medical sales – grabbing physician attention
  • MedTech sales: when customers change – so must you
  • Pharma – new challenge, new sales strategy, new sales training
  • MedTech sales – past success doesn’t guarantee future wins

Click here to take a read.

You’ll also find links to our free white papers, ebooks, and mobile app that you might have missed:

If you find the Medical Sales – Blog Round-up helpful, why not subscribe to the Sales Training Connection?

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4 best practices for mentoring new sales reps – An STC Classic

A Classic - '63 Corvette

A Classic – ’63 Corvette

Mentoring new sales reps is a technique many companies use to “jump start” new sales reps. It’s a logical approach providing new sales reps with an opportunity to work with someone besides their sales manager to learn about the customer base, product portfolios, marshaling internal resources, etc.

Sometimes companies put in place formal sales rep mentoring programs.  In those situations, mentors are given training as to what mentoring is, how to be an effective mentor, roles and responsibilities, feedback techniques, and so forth.  Many companies consider the mentoring program as part of a “pre-management” development effort for the sales reps serving as mentors.

In other cases the mentoring effort is less formal.  Regardless, 4 best practices around sales mentoring that are worth highlighting:

4 best practices for sales mentoring

  • Position the mentoring program. Make sure everyone on the sales team knows mentoring is going to happen, why, and what’s it all about. This is the first step in laying the groundwork for a successful sales mentoring effort. Not only does this let everyone on the sales team know that mentoring is happening; it builds initial support.

As a part of this initiate positioning, sales managers should reinforce the message that mentoring is worthwhile.  If a sales manager has had other sales people on their team who have had a positive mentoring experience … sharing those experiences provides a powerful message.

  • Set expectations. Setting expectations includeswhat the sales person will get out of the mentoring process and what their responsibilities will be.  Time should also be devoted to helping the mentor understand their role and responsibilities.  Discussions should also occur between the sales person being mentored, the mentor, and the sales manager – summarizing roles and responsibilities, procedures, expectations and surfacing any concerns those participating in the mentor process might have..
  • Develop a plan. The biggest trap in implementing a mentoring process is that it that it turns into a  ‘just follow me around and watch what I do” exercise.

The sales person and mentor should work out a plan that will enable the sales person to meet the goals that were developed as a result of initial expectation setting.

As a part of this planning the mentor should assess the capability of the sales person they’re working with – level of sales skills, product knowledge, industry knowledge, etc.  This assessment will help the mentor determine the missing pieces that need “filling in” to meet sales person and sales manager expectations for the mentoring process.

  • Don’t forget closure. The relationship between the mentor and the sales person should not go on forever, the formal mentoring process isn’t open-ended. Closure is a planned ending to the mentoring relationship. It’s more than lunch or dinner.  It’s an opportunity for all parties – the sales person, mentor, and sales manager – to celebrate their success as well as to reflect on what they’ve learned through the process and what changes can be made to improve the mentoring process.

If some basic structure and planning are provided, mentoring can be a valuable part of a company’s developmental efforts.  Mentoring should not, however, be viewed as a substitute for coaching or for formal training. Mentoring, coaching, and sales training are all viable processes to help sales rep get up to speed and maintain a high level of competency.  It all works best when thought is given to how each piece can contribute to building a superior sales team.

Training new sales reps and getting them up to speed quickly is critical to the success of a sales team. Some additional blog posts on this topic include:

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Motivating salespeople – lessons from West Point

Lessons from West Point for motivating salespeople

Lessons from West Point for motivating salespeople

What can 11,320 cadets entering nine West Point classes tell salespeople about motivation?  As it turns out – maybe a lot according to a recent study.

As reported in a New York Times article, upon entering the cadets rated how much a set of motives influenced their decisions to attend the academy.  Two types of motives were studied.  For example, motives included a desire to get a good job later in life – considered to be an instrumental motive because the relationship was indirect – and a desire to be trained as a leader in the U.S. Army – an internal motive since there was an inherent relationship between the decision and the end result.

What’s interesting to us is how the cadets fared after graduating. As the study authors (Amy Wrzesniewski and Barry Schwartz) report:

“The stronger their internal motives were to attend West Point, the more likely cadets were to graduate and become commissioned officers. Also unsurprisingly, cadets with internal motives did better in the military (as evidenced by early promotion recommendations) than did those without internal motives and were also more likely to stay in the military after their five years of mandatory service – unless (and this is the surprising part) they also had strong instrumental motives.

They went on to share:

“Remarkably, cadets with strong internal and strong instrumental motives for attending West Point performed worse on every measure than did those with strong internal motives but weak instrumental ones. They were less likely to graduate, less outstanding as military officers and less committed to staying in the military.”

The authors believe the implication of these findings is significant:

“Whenever a person performs a task well, there are typically both internal and instrumental consequences. A conscientious student learns (internal) and gets good grades (instrumental). A skilled doctor cures patients (internal) and makes a good living (instrumental). But just because activities can have both internal and instrumental consequences does not mean that the people who thrive in these activities have both internal and instrumental motives.

And here’s where the implications for salespeople comes in:

“Our study suggests that efforts should be made to structure activities so that instrumental consequences do not become motives. Helping people focus on the meaning and impact of their work, rather than on, say, the financial returns is the best way to improve not only the quality of their work but also — counterintuitive though it may seem — their financial success.”

All of us in Sales, regardless what we do, have a propensity to focus on whatever it takes to get salespeople motivated – whether internal or instrumental motives.

The authors conclude:

“Rendering an activity more attractive by emphasizing both internal and instrumental motives is completely understandable, but it may have the unintended effect of weakening the internal motives so essential to success.”

What do you think? What are the implications for how we train, manage and coach, and compensate salespeople?

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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Our most popular sales blog posts …

Curious as to which sales blog posts have been most popular? So were we! We’ve compiled them for you into the Summer 2014 edition of the Best of the Sales Training Connection. Take a look …

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Sales strategy – stop, pause, reassess

Sales Strategy - Stop, Pause, Reassess

Sales Strategy – Stop, Pause, Reassess

Last week, I was talking with a sales manager who shared an interesting story about sales strategy reviews. She had just finished conducting sales strategy reviews for the top 20 accounts in her geography. Her observation was interesting – “Let’s not talk about the quality of the sales strategy reviews – some were great and some left much to be desired. I expected that. What I didn’t expect was how the sales reps executed their sales strategies.”

I wasn’t quite sure what she meant – and asked her to tell me more. That’s where it got interesting. She said that during some of the strategy review sessions it felt like some sales reps just kept pounding a hammer on the pegs, like that old, familiar child’s toy. “In other words, she said, the sales reps kept continuing pursing their sales strategy – whether it fit or not – like a hammer pounding down on pegs. They never stopped, paused, and reassessed.”

Download free white paper – Getting Sales Strategy Right in Major Accounts

That got us thinking. How often do sales managers sit through strategy review sessions like these? Our guess is way too often! Yet, it’s so important salespeople take the time – especially in larger accounts – to stop, pause, and reassess. Not only will it ensure that salespeople don’t continue pursuing the wrong account strategy – it also provides the opportunity to modify their sales strategy … increasing the probability of closing a sale since the modified sales strategy should be a far better fit.

In addition it provides the opportunity to consider the fundamental point that this may just be a chase after a bad piece of business.

What advice should sales managers share with their sales teams, especially during those strategy review sessions?

The pauses don’t have to be very long. In fact, it’s very likely that if you pause for a few hours or even a day or two, it’s likely that after you modify your sales strategy and reengage with the account, very little may would have occurred – except that you have a clearer vision of what you want to do.

Regardless of your sales strategy, navigating an account is never a straight line. Successful salespeople craft a sales strategy and then periodically pause and reassess – modifying as need be.


What to learn more about sales strategy? Download our white paper - Getting Sales Strategy Right in Major Accounts.

If you found this post helpful, you might want to join the conversation and subscribe to the Sales Training Connection.

©2014 Sales Momentum, LLC

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