April 13th, 2017

Understanding Selling Challenges in 2017: Negotiation Insights

Sales Negotiation Insights

In our 2017 Selling Challenges Survey, more than 350 sales professionals  were asked “What will be your toughest negotiation challenge in 2017?” The top responses included:

Gaining Higher Prices (24%) Closing Win-Win Deals (20%) Maintaining Profitability (11%)

“Gaining higher prices” has been the top negotiating challenge for three years running. This year’s top challenges indicate a laser-sharp focus on negotiation outcomes — prices, wins, and profits. “Closing win-win deals” shows the value sellers place on building trust and credibility in order to develop long-term, productive relationships. “Maintaining profitability” is a challenge made visible by the greater availability of real-time sales data, which allows organizations to be smarter about decisions affecting profits. “Managing procurement” is another response worth noting, rising from 4% in 2016 to 11% in 2017. This reflects the increasing involvement of procurement staff as they join the decision-making team late in the process without any emotional attachment to the deal. Their role is to drive down price or get additional products or services for the same price. While this specific challenge didn’t make the top three, its impact is reflected there.

Richardson’s Negotiation Insights

Trust and credibility are keys to managing relationships with customers and closing win-win deals. Sellers can’t claim trusted advisor status; it has to be earned. Being a trusted partner begins with integrity but also requires skill and strategy, which can be learned and practiced.

Sellers need a » Continue Reading.

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April 11th, 2017

Understanding Selling Challenges in 2017: Prospecting Insights

prospecting insights 2017

In our annual selling challenges survey, we asked more than 350 sales professionals to tell us about their biggest challenges in prospecting  in 2017:

17% of respondents reported that creating a targeted prospecting strategy would be their greatest challenge 14% said that the quality of leads from marketing would be their greatest challenge 12% said gaining appointments would be their greatest challenge

These results tell us time is a precious commodity, especially as demands for productivity increase in an increasingly difficult selling environment. Being able to create a targeted prospecting strategy is essential to avoid wasting time, making this the number one prospecting challenge in 2017.

Compared with 2016 responses, this year’s top challenges indicate a trend toward greater targeting and quality of leads. Sellers are homing in on ways to become more strategic in their prospecting efforts, while being less concerned with the “how” — which sales and marketing enablement tools to use — in identifying triggers for their accounts. The availability of data through lead generation and research tools has lifted some of this burden from sellers. The problem, however, is that without a plan for how best to use this data, sellers can easily get lost in the sheer volume available.

The top two prospecting challenges from 2016 dropped off this year’s list. With more sales enablement tools being used, sellers are easily able to research companies as possible targets and to set triggers for their accounts.

» Continue Reading.

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April 7th, 2017

Social Learning in the Digital Age

Social learning tools

With time short and budgets tight, it’s becoming a rare occasion when sales teams actually come together, meeting face to face. The result is often a lack of interaction among team members.

At Richardson, we understand the barriers keeping teams apart, but we also know relationships add value in forming strong sales teams. We believe the answer to bridging this gap lies in technology. Over the past year, we’ve been prototyping and refining a new approach to blended learning that incorporates strong social elements to bring the benefits of social interaction in learning to geographically dispersed teams. This new approach to training works within the realities of today’s sales environment. It is one that doesn’t take sellers out of the field for too long. One flexible enough to work as a standalone online solution or combined with minimal classroom time. One that forges connections between sellers.

Social Learning Tools

Leaderboards allow sellers to see their own progress and compare it against the progress of their teammates. Elements like games, quizzes, answering questions, unlocking achievement badges all promote social interactions. Friendly gameplay appeals to sellers’ natural competitive instincts while reinforcing learning and skill development.

With discussion threads, sellers can talk with others on their team and even have private conversations with managers. They can share comments and questions, and reply to those others have posted. They can discuss best » Continue Reading.

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March 30th, 2017

New Research: Understanding Selling Challenges in 2017

Overcoming Selling Challenges in 2017

Richardson has just launched a new research piece, “Understanding Selling Challenges in 2017.” This annual study of field reps, senior sales professionals, and sales leaders across industries aims to paint a clear picture of existing sales challenges and how they are evolving.

This year’s report continues to highlight a challenging sales environment driven by ongoing shifts in buyer behaviors, competitive pressures, and operational trends. It also suggests that there has never been a better time to understand, challenge, and change how sales are made. With unprecedented access to mobile and digital technologies, sellers can understand their buyers better than ever before, creating new opportunities to build lasting engagements in today’s hyper-connected world.

The new customer expectation — regardless of industry — is one of value and trust. As a result, sales success in 2017 and beyond means acting as a true business advisor by delivering value through authentic curiosity, prepared relevancy, and unmatched credibility.

Survey Details

Over the past few months, Richardson surveyed over 350 sales professionals, managers, and leaders from all industries to gain insight into the challenges they expected to face in 2017. We asked questions that touched upon every phase of the sales cycle, from prospecting to closing. The study compares these results to the results from previous years. In 2017, we dug deeper, expanding our survey to include questions about productivity, team selling, and buyer perceptions.

Our team carefully reviewed the data » Continue Reading.

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March 28th, 2017

Active Learning Speeds Mastery of Skills

active learning for accelerated skill mastery

A one-size-fits-all approach to sales training is guaranteed to fail. That’s especially true with sales forces that span multiple generations and learning styles. What it takes to engage all kinds of learners is an approach to training that is flexible, personalized, bite-sized, and active.

At Richardson, we believe a blended-learning approach is needed to meet learners where they already are. Learning methodology should be constructed of independent blocks of content that build on one another. Each topic should deliver layers of content so learners can proceed at their own pace and dive deeper into topics of interest.

To promote active learning of skills and behaviors takes a systematic approach to learning and practice. At Richardson, we have identified four components to simplify the process:

1) See It. In this initial stage, learners are introduced to fundamental concepts, including why they are important, the behavioral science behind them, and best practices. Lessons should establish a common language for discussing the topic and expressing what it means within the learner’s organization. Scenario-based videos can be used to demonstrate both effective and ineffective behaviors, with learners challenged to identify the differences.

2) Try It. The next step is for learners to make decisions based on what they’ve learned. Again, videos can be used, with learners selecting from several possible responses to scenarios. Feedback allows learners to see whether or not they truly understand the lesson while learning even more about the topic.

3) » Continue Reading.

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March 22nd, 2017

Put Gameplay to Work for Your Sellers

Sales organizations face steep hurdles in today’s increasingly competitive market, where mobile technologies and ultra-informed buyers have forever changed the selling environment. Sales professionals — from new hires to veteran sellers — need the knowledge and skills to navigate in a digital world while still making personal connections with clients.

At Richardson, we know that learning to compete in new ways requires a new approach to training. While foundational sales skills are as relevant today as they ever were, the technology to engage, motivate, deliver, and reinforce learning has leapfrogged ahead. Combining technology with elements of gameplay is called gamification, and it is proving an effective way to keep learners engaged in content.

More rigorous than the name suggests, gamification applies game-design elements and principles in learning situations to create fun and engaging experiences. Games bring out natural tendencies to achieve, compete, and gain status or recognition. The serious business of making learning enjoyable leads to lessons that are sticky, meaning they are more easily and better retained. Online contests and leaderboards add friendly, competitive pressures within sales teams, which intensify engagement.

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March 16th, 2017

Benchmarks Verify Progress in Learning

using benchmarks to motivate learners in sales training

Multitasking. Mobile meetings. Doing more with less. Slimmer windows of opportunity. Today’s sales environment is faster, more demanding, and infinitely more challenging than ever before. Sellers need 21st-century skills, but time is too precious a commodity to spend much of it in training classrooms. When sales organizations do invest in their people, they demand results and ways to measure progress.

At Richardson, we constructed our new blended-learning, cloud-based platform, Accelerate™, with numerous measurement benchmarks. These both track and motivate each learner’s performance while giving leaders desired insights into individual and team progress.

Sales organizations have long used the Richardson SkillGauge™ diagnostic tool to assess and validate skills. Now, we are taking a similar approach in Accelerate in the form of Baseline Check, which occurs at the launch of the training program, and a Final Check several months after the program’s conclusion.

The Baseline Check is an assessment that benchmarks each seller’s starting point and prepares them to learn. The Final Check validates learning progress and shows exactly how far each learner has come.

Between these two points in time, as learners work through activities and exercises, Accelerate delivers formative quizzes that check progress and redirect effort. Through confidence scoring on each activity, learners self-identify where they feel strong and where things are a bit shaky. They can then go back and review concepts needing more attention.

The ability of Accelerate technology » Continue Reading.

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March 7th, 2017

What Role Does Ethics Play in Selling?

The archetypal salesperson is a dinosaur. Whether the picture we have in our minds is Alec Baldwin’s character in “Glengarry Glen Ross” from 1992, Vin Diesel or Giovanni Ribisi in the 2000 movie “Boiler Room,” or just about any other film or TV show with salespeople. The easy stereotype to reinforce is that of an unethical con artist focused on making the sale no matter what it takes.

Unfortunately, there can be a kernel of truth to the stereotype, as headlines revealing scandals and unethical selling practices attest to. The mistrust of those in the selling profession has always been a challenge for salespeople, but now it is more elevated than ever. Simply put:

Buyers don’t want to buy from salespeople. They want to work with executives and consultants who understand their businesses. They don’t want a short-term fix; they want long-term solutions.

Today’s ultra-informed buyer is doing more research and due diligence ahead of time before ever contacting a salesperson. Sometimes, their research is not great research, but right or wrong, they’ve done their homework and think they know what’s what. Their preparation requires salespeople to come in as consultants if they want to be part of the decision-making process. Showing up with slick sales pitches won’t work anymore.

The cumulative impact of all these factors means that if a salesperson takes a shortcut, if there is even the appearance of impropriety, it impacts more than a single deal. » Continue Reading.

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