How to Run a Bulletproof Negotiation

Negotiation is one of the most difficult, and in my opinion, poorly understood aspects of the sales process.  If there's at least one thing I've learned about leading sales reps, epecially less experiences ones, they do not know how to negotiate effectively.  Even if they run a flawless sales process, they give up loads of value after having created so much in everything they did prior.  While the customer ultimately gets the better end of this deal, it's not effective for building a business over the long term.  Heavy discounting erodes margin and eliminates a business's ability to invest back into their own people, which in turn, limits the quality of the total customer experience.   

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Why You Need to Know People.AI, and How They Solve (at least) Four Big Sales Problems

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Imagine the following world if you're a sales leader: 

  • Never worrying about whether or not your sales reps are logging activities in CRM, 
  • Never second guessing if your CRM is actually worth the investment because "no one uses it", 
  • Never trying to decipher the code behind what makes some reps successful at your company and others fail

Now, if you're a sales reps, imagine the following world: 

  • Never logging a single activity in CRM again, 
  • You spend all of your time ACTUALLY SELLING, 
  • Always knowing that what you're doing is driving results, 
  • Clearly understanding what the best reps at your company do so that you can model their behavior and crush your numbers consistently. 

All sounds pretty good right?  Sounds like an imaginary world?  Sounds impossible?  Sounds like science fiction?  Well, it's NOT.  Meet: People.AI

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Source and image credit: people.ai

Here's why all of this matters.  I'll give it to you from a sales leader's perspective and I'll also pepper in People.AI's perspective along the way...

[Author's Note: My aplogies in advance to the team at People.AI if I took some creative liberties in the interpretation of how you solve sales rep and sales leader challenges.  I'm coachable, so if you want ammendments in a follow up, I'm all ears.] 

Problem #1: Sales Reps Only Spend 32% of Their Time Selling 

According to Docurated's State of Sales Productivity Report, sales reps only spend 32% of their time selling.  What!?  If you're a sales leader and this doesn't absolutely scare your pants off, nothing will.  And you probably won't be in a sales org for long if it doesn't.  

At least 20% of this problem can be attributed to CRM, admin work and reporting.  Imagine if you had an extra 20% of your time back.  That's literally one whole day per week!  

This stark reality is only further validated by organizations such as IDC and McKinsey which estimate that sales reps waste anywhere from 10 to 20 hours PER WEEK on unproductive tasks.  Using an example of a 1,000-person company, this leads to $50M in lost revenue opportunities and a waste of more than $5M in annual salary.  THAT IS VERY MATERIAL and does not need to be happening.  

Docurated: How Sales Reps Spend Their Time

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Source: Docurated State of Sales Productivity Report

Solution: How People.AI Solves the "Reps aren't spending time selling" problem

The People.AI solution to this is REALLY, REALLY simple.  All sales activities will be tracked... automatically.  Let me say that again because it is so important -- THEY TRACK ALL SALES ACTIVITY AUTOMATICALLY.  I think the team over there is still figuring out exactly which tools they'll integrate with and I haven't tested myself yet so I can't say for certain.  

But if I had to predict the future and/or current state now, they probably will enable automatic integration with phone systems (haven't done my research here yet), mail servers (I know they integrate with MS Office and Google), major CRMs like Salesforce (and hopefully HubSpot CRM soon too!), and major meeting management tools like WebEx, GoToMeeting, UberConference, and more.  I would also suspect that they'll eventually integrate with powerdialers and other sales enablement tools in the not-so-distant future.  What a wonderful world that will be! Here's their own explanation from their site: 

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Problem #2: Only 57% of Sales Reps Log All the Calls They Make (and Other Activity) 

According to IKO System, only 57% of sales reps log all of their calls.  This means that over 1/3 of your sales force is logging their activity.  How can a sales rep understand whether or not what they're doing is actually working if they only have 66% visibility into their own activities?  How can sales managers actually coach their reps if they don't fully understand what their reps are doing?  How can sales leaders and executives make training and enablement investment decisions with bad data?  The bottom line for all three -- they cannot.  

Even if you feel like this number is high, I can tell you from experience, it's not.  It actually feels generous.  My gut is that less than half (best case) of all sales activity actually makes it into CRM.  Why? Because most CRMs were NOT designed with the end user in mind.  They were designed with decision-makers and executives in mind.  And what do those people care about?  Their precious reports.  Well, the reports are only as good as the data that goes into them and by and large, most organizations put crap data into CRM, so they get the same out in their reports. 

Solution: How People.AI Solves the "CRM adoption rate" problem

This one is so simple that I'm going to keep my explanation short.  People.AI's solution to the "our sales reps don't adopt CRM; therefore, we have crap data in the CRM" problem is this... "That's fine, our technology will adopt your CRM on behalf of your sales reps".   Now, don't get carried away, I don't think they do things like automatic contact enrichment the way you might get from Data.com, Sales Navigator, or HubSpot Lead Intelligence, but hey... just getting the activities auto-logged in the CRM by itself is a major win.  And it's probably the most annoying part of being a rep, or being a manager for that matter.   Here's their own explanation from their site: 

 

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Problem #3: Sales Reps Don't Know How to Prioritize their Own Time

This story is best told through a handful of statistics.  The bottom line is that even the best sales reps don't really know what they're doing.  They obviously follow up with MQLs and PQLs (or try to) and continue talking with people that are giving them buying signs.  But we know as leaders that there are SO many rabbit roles that a rep can fall down, that prioritizing which activities are literally the next most valuable for a sales rep is -- or has historically been -- a fool's errand.  Here are some sample data points from the National Sales Executive Association and CSO Insights

  • 45% of sales reps report needing help figuring out which accounts to prioritize. - 
  • 48% of sales people never follow up with a prospect;
  • 25% of sales people make a second contact and stop;
  • 12% of sales people only make three contacts and stop;
  • only 10% of sales people make more than three contacts;
  • AND YET, 80% of sales are made on the 5th-12th contact
Sources: National Sales Executive Association and Sales Performance Optimization Study via CSO Insights

Solution: How People.AI Solves the "next most valuable activity" problem

Now, building off of the first two problems that People.AI solves -- not spending time selling, and low CRM adoption -- this is where the system starts to get very interesting.  Because all of this data is now being accurately input and logged into the CRM, the system can now start to make intelligent recommendations around the next most valuable activity a rep should be spending time on.  As they say in their own words, the system will help identify deals at risk, provide early warnings of quota misses/ goal misses, and even create an activity-based roadmap to win deals.  I haven't seen exactly how this works yet, but if they can even deliver on HALF of the promise, it's going to be big for the market. 

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Problem #4: Successful Sales Reps Are Often Viewed as a Black Box, an Outlier, or an Exception

There are literally countless articles written about what makes some sales rep better than others.  Some will tell you that they're just born with it.  Some will tell you that it's the gift of gab.  Others will apply a hyper-analytical framework to it such as an OMG assessment, or the Challenger Sale framework.  The reality is that no one really knows how to manufacture consistently high performing sales reps and part of the reason that it's so hard to replicate is that there's no clear understanding behind exactly what a top rep does every single day.  As the engineers at People.AI would probably tell you themselves, "In part, we are building the GitHub for sales professionals."   

Even the top rep him or herself might not be able to tell you.  While it's also a mistake to think that you can turn your entire sales team into an army of top producers, there are ways to turn your "As" into "A+s", your "Bs" into "As", and "Cs" into "Bs". 

Solution: How People.AI Solves the "top reps are a black box" problem

And finally, we come to the "El Dorado" of sales challenges -- how to understand exactly what top reps do to be successful, and using that knowledge to teach others how to improve.  Again, because all of the sales activity data is automatically logged in CRM -- think internal meetings, exteral meetings, internal calls, external calls, inbound calls, outbound calls, inbound emails, outbound emails, EVERYTHING (eventuallty) -- we will now be able to understand the "genetic activity sequence" that goes into top performer's sales DNA!  Now, we may not be able to clone it due to skill or will issues, but just having an understanding of what makes the best reps tick will be incredibly powerful not just for those reps, but for all others aspiring to improve and/or just coming into the sales org.  Man, the impact this could have on truly improving Productivity Per Rep, foreasts that result from these numbers, and time-to-imapct for new reps ramping in!  Wow. Wow. Wow. 

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TL;DR: In a Hyphenated Word, People.AI Has the Potential to be "Game-Changing" 

The last time I was ever this excited about a product, it was HubSpot.  And that was HubSpot five years ago.  I still work there now (and love it), and have been continually floored by the products the company innovates and brings to market for both marketing and sales teams... but I've got to hand it to the team at People.AI for bringing their own product as far as it has come already.  They're only in their infancy, and as long as they continue to build the product in line with the promise it holds, they're going to do wonderful, amazing, tremendous things for the world of sales.  

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Brian Signorelli
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