Tag Archives: Sales

5 Questions to Elevate Your Mid-Year Review

Self Evaluation
How would you rate your performance this year?  It’s hard to believe, but it’s almost mid-year.  Don’t let this milestone get away from you; this is a great time to reflect on what’s working and not in your performance.  But while it’s easy and customary to focus on the year-to-date metrics versus objectives, my challenge to you is to use this milestone as a platform to drive a broader and more strategic conversation with your leadership.  Think about it, the metrics are black and white and there’s little you can do to change them now – but if you focus on the strategy, you can meaningfully impact your and your organization’s performance for the back half.

 Strategy V Tactics MatrixTo help you self-diagnose and prepare for your discussion, here are 5 questions for your mid-year:


  1. Why do you believe your strategy is still valid?  Who cares if you knocked out your tactics if the strategy is off!  Reminds me of the strategy matrix which shows that if you’re executing very well on the wrong strategy you’re just killing yourself faster.
  1. How has the market evolved?  Time to reevaluate your macro trends assumptions.  Ideally, these should not dramatically change, but there are always surprises.
  1. How has the competitive landscape changed?  Consider shifts from complementary, replacement or substitute entrants.
  1. How can the relevancy and differentiation of your value proposition with your target audience be improved? Talk to you customers to validate before you answer this one.
  1. What was your biggest opportunity cost?  You’ll never have a scientific answer, but if you think about where you spent most of your time and budget with little result the Pareto Principle will highlight your opportunity.

Mid YearMid-year is a great time to reassess and if need be change direction while still leaving enough time to make a difference in your performance this year.  Answers these questions and you’ll drive better discussions with your teams.  More importantly, the answers should shift your behavior and position you for improved performance this year.



Best Personality Type for Sales

Hire an ‘Ambivert’ or Learn to Become One

Are you in sales?  Yes, you are. Think about it, your title may not say so, but essentially you make a living selling. You may label it To sell is humaninfluencing, persuasion, cajoling, convincing, trading or exchanging—but if you use the general definition of selling: “to hand over something in exchange for money or to persuade someone of the merits of” then hopefully you’ll agree with Dan Pink, author of To Sell is Human (Riverhead Books, 2013) that we’re all in sales.

A seller’s market

In general, sales people have had a traditionally negative stereotype. The typical car salesman comes top of mind. People have associated sales roles with adjectives like pushy, sleazy, and manipulative—you get the point.

Historically, sales people could afford to take on an aggressive stance because it was a seller’s market, where the salesperson had exclusive information. In this context, the customer needed to interact with this gatekeeper. In this traditional model, extroverts— outgoing, gregarious and talkative—were hired and promoted in the sales ranks.

A buyer’s market

Pink details in his book how the sales playing field has been changed and the customer now has the advantage. Much of development has come with the advances of technology, access to information, increased global competition and consumerism.  Today, if a customer knows what they want, they can access most, if not all of the information without involving a sales person.

As the selling dynamics have shifted from seller to buyer, Pink identifies 3 key qualities a sales person must posses in the today’s environment:

1.  Attunement: fully understanding your target’s perspective as the prelude to help them

2.  Buoyancy—resilience through multiple cycles of rejections

3.  Clarity—expertise to make sense of complex situations and providing insights for problem finding

These qualities are not found in the traditionally extroverted salesperson.

The Rise of the Ambivert

A study conducted by Adam Grant, professor at the University of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Management developed and deployed a personality scale from 1-7.  The scores from 1-2 were considered introverts and scores from  6-7 were considered extroverts. In the middle, scores from 3 to 5 were considered ambiverts—a person whose personality has a balance of extrovert and introvert features.

Additionally, the study mapped personality scores to sales productivity. Quantitatively, introverts produced $120/hour, extroverts $125/hour and ambiverts $155/hour.  Surprisingly, the ambivert group that scored the highest productivity of $208/hour scored a 4 in the personality scale, right in the middle of the ambivert range.

Unlike the extremes in the scales, ambiverts know when to talk and when to listen;  when to support and when to push. They are able to manage more selling situations, customers from broader spectrums of personality and leverage both skill sets of the personality spectrum for the benefit of the sale. In short, Pink and the research conclude that ambiverts are the best personality type to sell in today’s environment.


The book and the accompanying study demystify the stereotype that extroverts make the best sales people. To find out where you fall on the scale, take the brief indicator at http://www.danpink.com/assessment/. The good news is that we can all work on balancing our skills and becoming better ambiverts. If you’re looking for a pragmatic how-to book to balance your personality skills, I would recommend this book, it’s a how-to manual packed with exercises in every chapter.

Published in PM360

Sales Book Review : The Challenger Sale – Taking Control of the Customer Conversation

What are the characteristics of the high performance sales representative in the complex B2B environment?  To answer that, think of the sales representative that you seek advice from or would drop your next appointment to meet with.  If you need more than one hand to count these professionals, consider yourself lucky.  Then consider how you can help your organization develop these types of representatives to sell your product. 

The Research behind the book

untitledIn 2010, The Corporate Executive Board Companywhere Mathew Dixon and Brent Adamson, authors of The Challenger Sale, consult — commissioned a study of 2,400 B2B decision-makers to understand what contributed to customer loyalty.  Surprisingly, 53% of the drivers were attributed to the sales experience, a category dependent on an individual sales representative’s performance.  In a nut shell, customers buy B2B products and services from representatives whomake them smarter.”  That means they provide uniquely valuable perspectives on the market, educate on new issues and outcomes, navigate the risk/reward trade-offs, and gain widespread support from all stakeholders.  These findings led to further research in order to understand what types of representatives performed best in B2B scenarios. 

Analyzing research on over 6,000 sales professionals, Dixon and Adamson developed three key findings:

1.       There are five types of sales representatives:

  • The Relationship Builder: Gets along with everyone, builds strong coalitions
  • The Hard Worker: Self- motivated, does not give up easily, goes the extra mile
  • The Problem Solver: Responsive, detailed, seeks answers
  • The Lone Wolf: Mercenary, difficult to control, generally gets results
  • The Challenger: Understands customer’s business, debates, pushes customers

 2.       There is one clear winning profile. The Challenger scored the highest in performance ratings versus all other groups.  The top characteristics of a Challenger representative are:

  • Offers the customers unique perspectives
  • Has strong two-way communication skills
  • Knows the individual customer’s value drivers
  • Can identify economic drivers of the customer’s business
  • Is comfortable discussing finances
  • Earns the right to pressure the customer

3.       Challengers are the next evolution of the solutions representative. The more complex the sale, the more likely that Challenger representatives will be among the high performers. The challenger model has three phases which are designed to build constructive tension:

  • Teach: Reframe the way customers view their business by providing unknown value-added insights
  • Tailor: Link data-backed projected outcomes to stakeholder’s individual goals
  • Take control: Pursue the sales agenda in a direct way at every phase, without being aggressive

Research into action

The good news is that Challenger representatives are made, not born.  The Challenger model is a set of skills.   Most representatives have the basics to build from.  Training, coaching and development will nurture these skills into behaviors. 

A caution: building a Challenger sales organization is a long journey.  The reason why the challenger representative can create constructive tension is that they intimately know the customer’s business and their products at a mastery level.  To achieve this end demands a comprehensive curriculum.  This is a not an easy or rapid transformation, it is one that requires both individual and corporate capability, resources and patience. 

Still, think back on the representative you envisioned at the beginning of this review.  If you want that type of representative selling your product or service, you can build it and The Challenger Sale offers you a great model.  In addition, The Corporate Executive Board, through their Sales Executive Council, offers many resources to help you along the way. 

Good selling!

Published in PM360