How to Use Sales Qualification Frameworks to Maximize Selling Time

Over the past several months, I’ve spent more time at my satellite office on the East Coast. It’s a beautiful location that sits along a tidal river whose shores I walk most evenings.

On these walks, I’m struck by how much the landscape changes between low and high tide and how the wildlife adapts to this constant push and pull.

It’s an excellent reminder of how prevalent change is and that this motion of advancing and falling back is baked into many elements of our lives… except the sales qualification process!

Think about it: an opp advances through the sales cycles. And it stays there.

It lives; it lives; it lives… until it dies.

In reality, the buying process is more similar to a tidal river than CRM stages. It is a continual process filled with back and forth – not a discreet event.

With that being said, I get it. It is incredibly tempting to cling to all opportunities right now. Yet, nothing will sap your energies faster than chasing opportunities that will never close.

When you eliminate no-decision opportunities from your pipeline using a sales qualification framework, you greatly increase productivity and close rates. Let’s look at how to bake this into your selling routine.

A Proven Sales Qualification Framework:

First, look at what you have to gain. In my experience from working with our clients, roughly 1/3 of all opps are won, 1/3 are lost and 1/3 result in a no-decision. If you cut no-decisions in half, you could be in for a 42% close rate.

Now, how do you get there? It all comes down to a proven sales qualification process founded on four simple questions.

Should the prospect buy?

Think about this from the prospect’s perspective. What’s driving the prospect’s need to change and to do so right now? It can only be one thing: a business issue.

You must adequately understand the complex and cross-functional problems that get in the way of key business objectives, i.e., the business issue. Once identified, it’s about effectively positioning your product/service as the unique solution to the problems that make the business issue so convoluted.

If unsure, answer the following questions:

  • What is the high-level business issue?
  • What are the barriers to solving it?
  • What is the ideal solution to these problems?
  • How does your solution solve those problems?
  • How will solving these problems impact the business, the buying committee and other stakeholders?
  • In the decision-maker’s mind, is your solution the best alternative?

Should the prospect buy?

You’ve checked all of the boxes above. You know the business issue inside and out and can demonstrate how your solution will directly impact it.

Is it really worth it, though?

No matter what you’re selling, you’re selling change. To serve up a compelling reason to change your product/solution must be worth it – even after you consider all of the factors that go into implementation: time/money spent, departmental priorities, organizational culture and competing initiatives.

To honestly balance the scales, answer these questions:

  • How does your product/solution impact a pressing business need?
  • What/Who will be involved in implementing your solution, and do you understand their needs/desires?
  • Why is your solution the ideal solution when you consider competing initiatives?
  • What is the projected ROI of your solution?
  • What makes your ROI projections credible?

I want to call your attention to that last question. ROI is fantastic. You can throw incredible ROI stats in front of potential customers – before you do, ensure those stats are built on an unshakable foundation and believable.

Can they buy?

It will always be tempting to cling to internal champions or to engage with the member of the buying committee who responds to your calls/emails.

However, if you are not talking to the final decision-maker, you’re in for a curve ball that could cost you the deal.

Now, there are tactics you can use to access power and accelerate your relationship with these decision-makers. And it’s key to implement a plan for engaging these individuals sooner rather than later.

To see where you’re at, start with these questions:

  • Who is involved in the decision?
  • Have you met with everyone involved?
  • Who has signing power?

When will they buy?

When you lack insight into the prospect’s buying process, you set yourself up for last-minute roadblocks. To mitigate risk, work with the buyer to outline a two-way understanding of a company’s crucial business issues and the activities required to resolve them – and put it in writing. This mutual plan is a potent tool for building buyer confidence.

Begin with these questions:

  • Which departments will review the final contract?
  • How long does it take to receive approval?
  • Do these departments have deadlines for reviewing contracts?
  • How is procurement involved?
  • Who will sign the purchase order, and will they be out of the office anytime in the buying window?

As counterintuitive as it may sound, using this sales qualification framework is most crucial at times when you’re most convinced the opportunity will close. By adopting this buyer-centric framework and consistently applying it to your deals, you will maximize your selling time – and see your win rates rise as predictably as the incoming tide.

For more selling advice, check out:

As always, Sell with Value,


The Proven Playbook for Strategic Account Planning and Expansion

On the surface, strategic account planning seems simple. You have access. You have the relationships. And the customer has a vested interest in meeting with you to ensure they receive the value they expect – what could go wrong?

Two problems stand in your way: inefficient resource allocation and a lack of buyer confidence.
Effective account planning never happens by accident. You must be deliberate and methodical in your approach – and when you get it right, the benefits speak for themselves:

● Sellers who regularly use strategic account plans are 2x more likely to identify significant growth opportunities. (Gartner)
Research shows that sales professionals who actively use account plans are far more likely to build buyer confidence, resulting in low-regret deals.

Yet, how do you efficiently identify high-potential opportunities and create a focused plan for execution, time and priority management? In this post, I’ll share a proven playbook that’s worked for me – from my first field sales job as an account manager to today.



Remember: The overarching goal of account expansion is not merely to grow the account by any means necessary, but to improve it – adding impactful value to the organization and creating a lasting partnership. With this in mind, step one is research.

Account intelligence is your best friend. You’ll need to develop workflows for uncovering a target account’s organizational structure, business goals and challenges, and their plans for growth broken down by individual business units. The good news is that there are SaaS tools in the market that make this process efficient and intuitive.

On the other hand, if you’re doing the research the old-fashioned way, uncover the information that enables you to answer these questions:

● What markets are they operating in, and what drives those markets?
● Are those markets growing, contracting or holding steady?
● Are there industry trends, opportunities or threats to their business?
● What are the profitability trends over the past several years, and have mergers, acquisitions or divestitures impacted these?
● Who are the key stakeholders, and which of these would be interested in your offering?

Ideally, you should know this information for any target account. To drive account expansion and customer value, it’s imperative to develop an advanced understanding of the above.

White-Space Analysis

From here, perform a white-space analysis – it can be as high-level or as granular as needed. The idea is to create a visual representation of the areas where you haven’t sold your products to create opportunities and increase the revenue you’ll earn from the account. A simple Excel spreadsheet can be all you need to get started. The next step is to map stakeholders and relationships across the organization to identify the executives who will likely be involved in a decision to purchase and install your products and services.

Apply the same exercise to help keep track of the competition. Where is the competition installed, and is there an opportunity to educate prospects on the contrasting elements of your offerings? Ultimately, you must find a way to successfully differentiate while adding incremental value.

Human-to-Human Connection

Prospecting inside of existing accounts is still prospecting. Once you’ve identified the individuals you’ll need to gain access to, focus on earning that first meeting with value-added interruptions and targeted content.

It’s also an excellent opportunity to put your pre-existing relationships to work for you. Who can your current contacts introduce you to or invite to your next call? Maybe your contact is even willing to share their successes in working with you with their colleagues. Consider partnering with your clients to offer a short webinar to their peers across the company.

Now, this isn’t a sale pitch. It’s a value-add on issues that the audience is currently facing. Once they identify you as a valuable resource, you’ll have the opportunity to develop rapport and determine if you can add value to them and their business area.

And never forget the power of your network – decision-makers change jobs regularly. There might be someone outside of the company but in your network who is willing to broker a warm introduction.


Despite the frenzy of many sales orgs to go after new customers, high-growth organizations always see the value of customer retention and expansion. When sales professionals focus on improving the accounts they work with and adding value at every turn, you’ll enjoy the benefits of expansion sales and create customers for life.

            For more selling advice, check out:

As always, Sell with Value,


Strategies for Selling to the C-suite

When you’re sick, what do you do? Google your symptoms, right?

Instantly, you’re presented with a slew of information: A headache is most likely a headache – though it could be hay fever, a sinus infection, the flu or even the prelude to a rare neurological condition.

The rabbit hole of information is never-ending if you choose to go down it, and in the end, we’re never fully confident in our conclusions.

Now, imagine doing the same thing on the scale of a global organization. Research and compile all of the symptoms, underlying conditions and environmental factors that affect the health of a business – then try to muddle through all of the possible solutions in the marketplace.

It seems nebulous, doesn’t it?

That’s exactly the boat that C-suite executives find themselves in. Confronted with serious inflation of information, executive buyers become confused – and when they’re confused, they do nothing. This is doubly true in economic times like the present. When the economy seems to be continually hovering on the edge of a recession, the de facto response is to wait and see.

However, inaction is not always the best answer. To effectively sell to C-level executives, you must position yourself as a trusted business advisor who helps executives synthesize information and trends to instill confidence in their buying decisions – and that starts with understanding their position.

Understanding Executive-level Buyers

As hinted at above, senior executives spend their time strategizing about issues with far-reaching consequences – everything from economic conditions to industry dynamics and social issues. They track any and all drivers powerful enough to shift markets – and to appear credible and relevant, you’ll need to do the same.

The true value you bring to senior executives is not product knowledge or the outcomes you’re selling, it’s the experience an executive has in meeting with you, the actionable ideas that can expand their thinking. And to do that, you’ll need to become conversant in the language of business: finance.

At a minimum, you should be able to digest and understand three financial statements:

  • Income Statement or Profit and Loss: Look at the year-over-year (YOY) performance, tracking total revenue growth rate, net income growth rate and profit margin growth rate.
  • Balance Sheet: Be on the lookout for net cash generated by operating activities increasing over time and track net cash from financial activities for insight into borrowing trends and compare to industry standards.
  • Statement of Cash Flows: Investigate both assets and liabilities and how they relate to sales trends.

How to Prepare for Executive Sales Calls

Most sales reps invest significant effort in becoming product experts – they memorize features and functions and internalize ROI stats. This knowledge is always there. If they are nervous or excited or confused about where to take the conversation next, they reach for this repository and fall into the trap of a product-centric approach.

Guess what?

Executives do not care about your product.

Executives are not product users or product experts. They are there to make impactful business decisions and see them through – all an executive truly cares about is their own issues, and how they’re going to lead their company to success, so you’ll need to tailor the conversation appropriately. Before going into any executive sales call, equip yourself with a solid understanding of the executive’s business and its financial health – you should be able to answer the following questions:

Company Information:

  • What is the company’s business and its products/services?
  • Who are its customers, and how does the business go to market?
  • Are there industry trends, opportunities, challenges or threats currently impacting their business?


  • How have revenues, net profits and profit margins changed over the past several years?
  • As you analyze the above, what does it tell you about the health of the business?
  • What’s its fiscal year, and how does this impact budget cycles?

Why You Should Sell to C-suite Executives

Many sellers are understandably intimidated by selling to the C-suite – don’t be one of them. You do not have to be an executive’s peer to become a trusted advisor. If you internalize this fact, you gain incredible advantages:

  • A Behind the Scenes View: To sell to C-level buyers, you have to understand the business issues that are getting in the way of the company’s goals and demonstrate how your solution will impact them. Well, there’s no one at the company with a better understanding of the high-level business strategy and its challenges than the executive who created it.
  • Credibility and Access: An introduction from the C-suite goes a long way to helping you build credibility, trust and rapport with key stakeholders across the organization.
  • Faster Sales Cycles: C-level executives are paid to make decisions quickly – they need impactful solutions, now. As a result, sales cycles tend to be shorter.


Despite continued hesitation by many buyers, forward-thinking executives will always be on the lookout for thoughtful advisors and sound solutions to propel the business forward. By doing your research, becoming conversant in the language of business and engaging on a human level, you’ll be able to uniquely position your solution and positively impact the organizations you’re selling into.

For more selling advice, check out:

As always, Sell with Value,


Buyer-Centric Selling Explained: Six Best Practices

Three weeks ago, I attended the Gartner CSO & Sales Leader Conference in Las Vegas – let me tell you why it was the ideal location.

In any major Las Vegas casino, you’re confronted with the strange dichotomy of human emotion and technology. The gambling experience is rooted in powerful human emotions – while the management of that experience is facilitated by advanced tech. And at a sales conference where AI-based technology was table stakes for vendors and a central theme of many conversations, human emotion carried the day.

As Gartner made clear in the keynote on day one – and as I’ve been saying for months – there’s one thing AI cannot do very well: instill confidence in buying decisions. Gartner calls this “value affirmation,” and it stems from all of the human-to-human interactions that buyers use to validate buying decisions.

Why should we care?

Because value affirmation increases the chance of a high-quality deal by 30%, and it’s more than twice as likely to occur when working with a human rep versus a purely digital buying experience – so the solution would seem to be to emphasize human-to-human interactions and adopt a buyer-centric mindset.

Here’s where us humans get in our own way.

As I mentioned in my last post, I can’t tell you how many people have told me they do buyer-centric selling through pitch decks or using ROI calculators.

Now, don’t get me wrong. A well-crafted presentation and an ROI calculator are tools that can be put to tremendous use, and they are merely that: tools. Instilling confidence in those tools depends on adopting a buyer-centric approach founded on human-to-human connection.

Except, what happens when different roles within your organization have different understandings of what buyer-centric selling truly means? It’s only natural, and yet the consequences on customer experience can be severe.

Using our recent research study, “From Selling to Solving: The Buyer-Centric Approach to Sales Success,” let’s look at how companies can avoid that fate and foster alignment on best practices.

Step 1: Use a Common Enterprise Language to Establish a Buyer-Centric Culture

To be truly buyer-centric, sales organizations need to adopt a common language. Training is a phenomenal way to jump-start this journey, and long-term success also comes down to how sales leaders and processes reinforce this language. Every aspect of the buying process should be designed with the customer in mind and as opportunities for knowledge collection. And it’s that common language that facilitates a revenue team’s ability to amass the knowledge to better understand buyers’ needs and preferences and continuously improve their sales approach.

Step 2: Create Feedback Loops

As I mentioned last month, one of the more profound benefits of a common framework and language is the creation of efficient feedback loops. When all cross-functional roles contributing to revenue growth use the same criteria to evaluate and discuss opportunities, it speeds time to insight and enables teams to align on driving customer value and loyalty.
These feedback loops can also be harnessed to forge new dialogues with prospects and clients – and to help identify additional needs and expand opportunities for improved revenue growth and customer value.

Step 3: Address Contextual Challenges

Sales problems often appear as the tip of the iceberg. To be buyer-centric, you’ll need to address the underlying condition; begin by examining two categories of problems:

  • Issues with Tech – The proliferation of revenue tech has overloaded sellers and hindered productivity. However, tech can significantly impact selling behaviors, but its impact depends on how it is integrated into seller workflows and used to enhance buyer-centric behaviors. The right tech helps salespeople prepare and engage at the right moment, in the right way, to build buyer confidence.
  • Issues With Sales Skills – For salespeople to foster meaningful conversations and shape solutions that support client goals, training must support the facilitation and management of the buyer’s process.

Step 4: Measure and Reward Buyer-Centric Behaviors

Buyer-centric selling begins with top-down agreement on the behaviors that matter. Work with enablement to ensure you’re supporting and measuring the leading indicators that will drive revenue results. And to emphasize the importance of a buyer-centric approach, sales organizations should experiment with incentivizing customer-centric outcomes, such as providing performance-based incentives tied to account expansion and customer retention and incorporating customer feedback into evaluations.

Step 5: Leverage Data and Analytics

From qualification tools to marketing analytics, never underestimate the impact of an integrated tech stack that facilitates information sharing across cross-functional teams. The objective should be to understand how seemingly similar buyers are different and the ways in which a salesperson could adjust their behaviors and positioning to keep the buyer in the driver’s seat while simultaneously steering them toward the best outcomes.

Step 6: Provide Ongoing Sales Training and Support

Continuous learning and development are essential, and sales training is the crucial component in creating lasting behavioral change. This can include regular coaching sessions, ongoing instructor-led and online training programs, and access to just-in-time learning and industry resources. The key word is “continuous” since changing selling behaviors isn’t typically accomplished in a single, once-per-year training.

Once you successfully identify and develop the right sales behaviors, support can come through technology. For example, embedding on-demand learning inside of CRM and leveraging qualification tools, plan creation templates and account planning add-ons can expedite buyer-centric selling and enable frontline managers with advanced insight into measuring and cultivating buyer-centric behaviors.


In the end, high-quality deals will always depend on building buyer confidence – and to do that, sales orgs must cultivate the behaviors that lead to credibility, trust and rapport, and the impactful business conversations that rest on these foundations.

For more selling advice, check out:

As always, Sell with Value,


Build a Better Customer Experience with a Shared Framework, Language and Toolset

What do revenue operations, buyer-centric selling and value-based selling have in common? At their core, they are concerned with one principle: aligning the revenue engine to the way buyers want to buy. And while most organizations understand the concepts and their theoretical impact on customer experience (CX), there remains a significant gap between theory and practice:

  • Our latest research study, “From Selling to Solving: The Buyer-Centric Approach to Sales Success,” shows that nearly two-thirds (61%) of sales leaders believe in using a buyer-centric sales approach even if it makes the sales cycle longer because it’s more effective – yet, less than half think their organizations demonstrate a higher mastery of buyer-centric sales skills than the competition.
  • Forrester’s “The Rise Of Revenue Operations” report reveals that most organizations recognize the power of revenue ops, but only 25% embrace the core tenants.
  • From personal experience, I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me that their organization practices value-based selling, only to discover that extent of their “value-based selling” is including the company’s value proposition in pitch decks and cold-call scripts.

Why the disconnect? Why do so many organizations agree on the value of these customer-focused GTM motions and fail to integrate the core tenants into their revenue DNA?

It all comes down to a lack of top-down support, siloed departments and segmented tech stacks. The good news is that companies can overcome these challenges with a shared framework, language and toolset. 

Shared Framework and Language for Cross-Functional Teams

Investing in and adopting a new sales methodology is a leap for any organization – and when done correctly, results in a dramatic increase in revenue performance. Companies encounter problems when they fail to coach to and integrate one common framework and language into their revenue DNA, so let’s look at how to prevent that.

Leadership Buy-in and Unifed Goals

The first step for aligning your revenue function is agreement on a strategic plan for growth. If you’re considering rolling out a new sales methodology, have recently undergone leadership changes or are in the midst of mergers or acquisitions – I highly encourage you to involve key stakeholders early on in the process and train them on the new methodology before your customer-facing teams. Top-down support and goal alignment must be in place from the beginning.

This goes doubly for frontline managers. Make no mistake, initiatives live and die at this level. Frontline sales leadership must thoroughly understand the tenants of the new system and be trained on how to coach to it. Remember: there’s no “silver bullet” for driving adoption, but if there was one, it would be the support of firstline managers. 

Aligning the Revenue Engine

When we talk about improving CX, it’s tempting to only consider customer-facing roles – yet, multiple roles beyond the revenue function play a part in driving revenue growth and customer loyalty.

For instance, when you’re dealing with complex sales that require extensive proposals, individuals from across the organization are often involved. If those individuals are trained to view opportunities through the same lens as your sales force, they provide additional insight into the qualification and proposal process to ensure resources aren’t wasted. Moving higher up the funnel, the same can be said about marketing – when all marketing assets align with the common language that is your sales methodology, messaging becomes more targeted and impactful.

In turn, this cross-functional communication framework facilitates feedback loops across the organization. When sales, marketing, finance, billing, and customer support and success all use the same criteria to evaluate and discuss new and existing business, it greatly improves knowledge-sharing – allowing teams to align on driving customer value and loyalty.

The key is to ensure all revenue-impacting roles work from the same communications framework. Like musicians in an orchestra, different roles have different responsibilities – but they’re all playing from the same musical score. It’s imperative that all teams have objective criteria for evaluating deals and a shared vocabulary for communicating both internally and externally.

Shared Toolset

The importance of a single source of truth (SSOT) cannot be overlooked. And, while many revenue teams have taken that step, the proliferation of revenue tech has made it all too easy to set out with that goal in mind and wind up with a bloated and/or segmented tech stack at the end of the journey.

The ideal tech stack varies considerably according to company size and composition, industry and products/services – and there are four basic elements beyond an SSOT that benefit cross-functional teams:

Qualification Tools, Playbooks and Plan Generators

Once you’ve selected the right sales methodology, make it easy for revenue teams to implement. These SaaS tools allow teams to efficiently prepare for calls, capture vital intelligence in the voice of the customer, easily identify and mitigate areas of risk and keep deals on track with mutual plans. They enable intel to be easily shared across teams and provide leadership with easy-to-use dashboards and reports that enable analysis and optimization at scale.

Whatever solution you choose, ensure that it seamlessly integrates with your other revenue applications to avoid asking your teams to learn a new system and wasting precious selling time on redundant admin work or platform switching. 

Conversational Intelligence

As you know, these AI-driven tools track and analyze your sales calls and can be set up to monitor for leading indicators like the number, distribution and types of questions revenue professionals ask. You’re likely well acquainted with this tool’s ability to transform coaching conversations. From a CX perspective, its true value lies in the ability to capture the voice of the customer and identify patterns in business needs and how they describe those needs.

Marketing Automation & Analytics

Insight into how prospects and customers engage with your company’s sphere of influence – i.e., all the ways in which your company impacts the market, increases awareness and provides assets – can be a tremendous aid for sales and customer support and success. It enables teams to identify additional needs, be more proactive in onboarding and education efforts and refine the messaging they use to approach new customers.

Account Planning Tools

When it comes to complex and geographically-distributed accounts, these tools help teams identify where to spend their limited time and resources – and if it’s worth it. By identifying opportunities quickly, easily evaluating their value and efficiently bringing in the players and tasks you’ll need to begin engaging, revenue teams can expand their footprint in key accounts at scale. And as with the earlier examples, this detailed insight into account behavior further enables feedback loops that make it more likely you’ll attract similar opportunities in the future.


As revenue teams continue to face unrelenting uncertainty, strategic initiatives for improving CX and building customer loyalty will gather momentum. Revenue leaders must reevaluate their process and focus on building the behaviors that uncover and align to the buyer’s process – then invest in the technology that helps cross-functional teams reinforce and execute those buyer-centric behaviors. And remember: Regardless of your growth model, tech stack, service/product or industry, sales will always come down to human-to-human connection and building buyer confidence in the end. 

For more selling advice, check out:

As always, Sell with Value,


One Framework for Better Sales Emails, InMails and Warm Calls

You’re the SVP of Sales at an engineering firm that designs braking technology for major car manufacturers – and you’ve been tasked with growing revenue 20% YOY.

Easier said than done, especially since your cost of acquisition skyrocketed during the pandemic. But you have a plan: a sales transformation at scale that will rebuild the way your company goes to market. You’re confident – after all, you did it before at your last company.

Still, in an attempt to mitigate risk, your CFO is now involved in all major purchasing decisions. Unless you get her approval, your entire initiative stops on a dime. Plus, you routinely go up against your counterparts from marketing and enablement for the same funds, so imagine what it feels like to open this email first thing on a Tuesday morning:


I am sending a similar email to Shana Wilcox and Randall Hawkins to determine who at Willmire             Engineering would have the most interest in speaking with me about driving qualified leads and sales productivity.

Working with other companies in the automotive engineering space and executives in your role, we have achieved a 55% increase in sales velocity and 35% improvement in win rates – resulting in a 30% reduction in cost of acquisition.

I have time this Wednesday or Friday from 9 – 12 PT to talk in more detail about your current challenges. If that doesn’t work, please suggest a time that does.

Thank you,

Kiley Jones

I don’t know about you, but if this were me, Kiley would have my attention.

Why it Works

Kiley is able to connect with prospects and instantly pique their interest because she has done the research, identified likely business challenges already on an executive’s radar, used a strategically-choreographed sales prospecting cadence across multiple channels – and builds effective sales emails, LinkedIn InMails and warm calls using the A-I-M Framework.

A-I-M stands for Anxiety, Influence, and Motivation – and it’s a potent template for sales emails and other forms of prospecting outreach that leverages the neuroscience behind how we react to situations to generate intrigue and engagement. It’s powerful because it shows that you are relevant, knowledgeable and credible – and it’s the antithesis to a product-first approach. Let’s look at how it breaks down and how you can use it to write better sales emails and other messaging:


Leveraging anxiety can inspire urgency or shake a prospect out of their complacency. It triggers curiosity and makes them seek a new solution or understanding.

In the example above, Kiley uses her industry experience and research to predict that the executives at Willmire Engineering are competing for capital when she writes: “I am sending a similar email to Shana Wilcox and Randall Hawkins to determine who at Willmire Engineering would have the most interest in speaking with me about driving qualified leads and sales productivity.”


Now that you’ve gotten their attention, here’s the component you’ll use to prove your credibility and move the conversation in a more comfortable direction by showcasing the results you’ve brought to similar individuals in the past: “Working with other companies and executives in your role, we have achieved a 55% increase in sales velocity and 35% improvement in win rates – resulting in a 30% reduction in cost of acquisition.”

Notice that there is absolutely no detail on the product/service Kiley is selling. It’s not about her or her agenda – it’s about the value she brings to her customers, value that is tied to KPIs that Tim is likely charged with influencing.


Here’s where you inspire action: “I have time this Wednesday or Friday from 9 – 12 PT to talk in more detail about your current challenges. If that doesn’t work, please suggest a time that does.” From Tim’s perspective, this provides a concrete action he can take to ensure he’s not left out of the loop.


The true power of the A-I-M Framework is its universality – while the above example focused on an email that included all three components, you’ll leverage different elements at different times. For example, your first few touches should also be focused on value, so you’ll be sharing resources from your company’s Sphere of Influence or relevant 3rd-party research. Then, you might make a phone call and leave a voicemail that touches on all three parts. From there, your next email is focused on influence and includes a case study that speaks to the prospect’s likely business issues. If you receive no response, it might be time for a more anxiety-focused email. You get the idea–you’re searching for that key motivating element that will resonate with a prospect and provoke action.

For more selling advice, check out:

As always, Sell with Value,


Chasing Sales Efficiency Won’t Make You More Effective

Generating reliable, top-of-funnel activity is notoriously difficult these days, not to mention expensive and time-consuming. After all, your outreach must be hyper-personalized, timely and add value to the potential buyer. We all agree on this – at least, in principle.

The reality tends to play out differently. Desperate to scale success and paint a picture of sales activity for stakeholders, some sales leaders fall into the trap of thinking more is better:

If 200 emails translate to seven meetings, then 800 emails will translate to 28 meetings, and 2000 emails will…

You see where this is going.

I’ve heard of small teams going as far as to send 225K emails over the course of a quarter.

How many new opportunities typically result from these whirlwinds of activity?

You guessed it – zero.

The Trap of Untargeted Outreach

Whenever I see leaders hyper-focused on making reps more efficient so they can conduct more outreach with less effort, I can’t help but ask, What’s helping them be more effective?

Don’t get me wrong – sales tech can be tremendously useful. It helps you automate and amplify, but there’s a hidden pitfall here: What if you’re amplifying the wrong behaviors?

Chasing efficiency over effectiveness has five primary consequences:

  1. Damages your company and personal brand: Buyers are bombarded with outreach and have no patience for sellers who get it wrong. A recent study by Lusha found that 49% of B2B sellers believe that poorly targeted outreach damages a company’s reputation.
  2. Annoys Prospects: Why should a prospect invest their time with you after you show them that you didn’t do the basic research to understand how you could add value to them?
  3. Impacts Sales Performance: The same Lusha study reported that 52% of sellers believe it leads to ongoing missed sales, and 37% think it leads to immediate loss of sales.
  4. Builds the Wrong Habits: It’s all too tempting to lean on tech and untargeted techniques to hit a desired number – but the actual power of sales tech lies in its ability to make sales more human.
  5. Damages Team Morale: When sellers focus the majority of their time and energies on activities that lead to lackluster sporadic results, they feel more like cogs in a machine than strategic professionals, and morale plummets.

How to Focus on Effectiveness

Research = Credibility

It all comes down to developing the behaviors that build relationships – and that starts with a credible perspective.

According to LinkedIn’s 2022 State of Sales Report, sales tech usage exploded during the pandemic, with 91% of sellers at large companies using sales tech at least once per week. However, top performers aren’t using it to send more emails. They’re leveraging sales tech to be more human, to form better relationships: 89% of top performers report that they do research “all the time” before reaching out to any potential buyer.

To deliver the right tailored messages at the right time, you have to put in the work and do the research. Tech solutions like LinkedIn’s Deep Sales and ZoomInfo, can help you identify potential buyers, gain a better understanding of likely buying committee makeup and get the timing right thanks to intent data.

Once you’ve identified the right prospects, digging deeper into their company’s financials will enable you to develop compelling messaging that simultaneously establishes your credibility. Spend 10-15 minutes on the company’s annual report with particular attention to:

  • The CEO’s letter: It’s been wordsmithed again and again, but the priorities haven’t changed.
  • Financial Statements and Supplementary Data: Are they growing or not growing? What are the trends?
  • Risk Factors: They’ve done the hard work of assessing the threats to their business – better be informed.

Better Business Conversations

Here too, more isn’t always better. discovered that asking too many questions actually decreases your win rate – and a clear link between longer prospect responses and sales success.

Our research supports this. Top-performing reps don’t interrogate the prospect, they get potential buyers talking with well-crafted open-ended questions, gain crucial insight with probing questions and test their understanding with rapport-building confirming questions.

Ultimately, sales will always be about human connection. B2B buyers will always seek out credible sales professionals who can provide them the one thing that AI cannot: confidence in their buying decision. By carefully balancing efficiency with effectiveness, you elevate yourself from “seller” to “strategic business advisor” and better meet buyers wherever they are in the process to forge long-term relationships that will fuel revenue growth in 2023 and beyond.

Need more advice on scaling your sales success? Check out some of our recent thought leadership content:

Until next time, happy selling,


5 Keys to Closing Sales Before the End of the Year

The understatement of the year? Selling in 2022 has been difficult.

As we look to the end of Q4, external factors continue to play havoc with our ability to win new business. From the lingering effects of the pandemic to supply chain disruptions to continued inflation, we’re fighting an unpredictable economic environment – and yet, there are reasons to be hopeful.

To close business in Q4, you must be strategic, deliberate and honestly evaluate your opportunities to determine where you’ll have the most impact – it all comes down to these five keys.

Step 1: Power

Let’s face it – relationships with potential buyers are hard-won these days.

After weeks or months of carefully building rapport with a champion, sellers are rightfully hesitant to do anything that may put that relationship at risk.

However, if your champion does not have the power to buy, they will never buy.

It’s as simple as that.

For proven techniques on engaging C-level executives, watch this refresher video.

Now that you know how to access decision-makers, don’t forget to form a solid understanding of the prospect’s buying process and identify everyone who can influence the deal. After all, 86% of sellers have lost a deal or had it delayed in the past year by a decision-maker changing roles (Linked State of Sales 2022).

Step 2: Differentiation

You’ve forged relationships with the entire buying committee. Well done – but will they change?

You might sell consulting services or janitorial supplies or SaaS. At the end of the day, we’re all selling the same thing: change.

And change is frightening, especially with a potential recession looming on the horizon. You must provide buyers with a clear and compelling reason to change.

To do that, ensure you’re truly differentiated. Being different will make marketing’s job easier, but true differentiation takes place on the customer level when you connect your solution to the prospect’s unique business issues.

To evaluate your position, ask yourself:

  • Why does your difference matter?
  • Does your prospect care about your differentiator?
  • Have you connected your solution to your prospect’s business issues and drivers?

Step 3: Business and Personal Value

Say it with me: People make logical, business decisions for personal, emotional reasons.

Yes, you must first build an airtight case for the ROI of your solution, demonstrating how it will impact the prospect’s company and further its business goals.

Then you must do the same on the individual level.

From outreach to contract signing, always focus on the buyer’s agenda to ensure the value you’re offering is quantified on both levels.

Step 4: Process, Plan, Timing

‘Tis the season of holidays and treasured time with loved ones… and the season of travel, purchasing deadlines and surprise out-of-office responses.

To close business in Q4, ensure you’re aligned on three crucial elements:

  • Process: Do you have a thorough understanding of the prospect’s buying process? How many signatures will be on that PO? How long will the contract take to get through procurement? You’ll need to understand every step along the way to avoid costly surprises.
  • Plan: Do you have a mutual plan in writing? The most important word in that sentence is mutual.
  • Timing: Expenses may need to be pushed into the next quarter, or it might be advantageous to use up year-end dollars. Get creative with terms and conditions to make it easier to buy.

Step 5: Objections and Surprises

Nothing sidelines a deal like last-minute objections.

If this happens to you, take it in stride. After all, objections at this stage are often requests for more information in disguise. Remember to get them all out on the table so that you can dispel them all and move the deal forward.

Need a refresher? You can always rely on this five-step process for handling sales objections.

Now that we’ve covered the five keys to closing sales in Q4, you’re good to go, right?

Well, not so fast.

There’s one final question to ask yourself: What are you missing?

Have you uncovered all internal deadlines within the prospect’s company? Does legal have a cutoff date for reviewing contracts? When will everyone who needs to sign go on vacation for the holidays? Find out now and adjust your timeline accordingly.

Despite the challenges we face as sales professionals, there will always be problems worth solving. Salespeople who come with solutions to pressing business problems and can demonstrate the impact on the organizational level will not only find sales success – they will become vital to businesses that thrive in 2023 and beyond.

Start that journey today by using the checklist above to ensure that the crucial Q4 deal you’re chasing comes through on time.

Until next time, happy selling,


5 Ways to Negotiate a Win-Win

Early in my sales career, my company hired a phenomenal negotiator to put us through a rigorous one-day training.

We learned how to focus on the other individual, generate a feeling of safety, use their language to increase rapport, and tactics for isolating and overcoming obstacles.

At the end of the event, I was confident and energized… until I found out that the procurement officers at my largest client had gone through the same training – two full weeks of it!

That’s what we’re up against as sales professionals, so you’d better be prepared.

Let’s look at five dependable tactics you can use to negotiate a win-win with your most demanding buyers.

1: Choose Your Moment

Before entering into any negotiation, always review the questions that are crucial to closing any deal:

  • Can they buy?
  • Will they change?
  • Are you differentiated
  • What’s in it for them?
  • Is the timing right?

Many sales reps dive into negotiations at the first sign of hesitation – but if you haven’t created urgency by connecting your solution to problems worth solving right now, no mix of embellishments and discounts will magically close the deal.

Instead of incentivizing quick action, you compromise price integrity early in the process and put yourself at an incredible disadvantage.

2: Know What’s Negotiable

Can you offer a price discount if the client commits to a case study and features your company as a preferred partner?

Can you compromise on deliverables to reach a win-win?

Both are viable solutions. And to offer anything, you must first fully understand what you’re empowered to change.

It’s all about collaborating to find joint value here. Still, if you offer something you’re not authorized to provide, you only risk damaging credibility, trust and rapport – the critical ingredients for complex B2B purchases.

3: Make a Trade

Once you understand all the bargaining chips at your disposal, it’s time to get to work. The first tool at your disposal is the trade-off.

Both examples above fall into this category. The main idea is to listen to the buyer’s position, identify areas of flexibility, and get creative where and when you can.

For example, if you get the sense that one of your deliverables isn’t valued as highly as others, there’s an opportunity to reduce while maintaining price integrity. Alternatively, if the total price is a sticking point and those budgets dry up at year-end, it may be advantageous to offer a discount if the client prepays for services.

4: Sweeten the Deal

Think high-value, low-cost deliverables.

If you host an industry event like Dreamforce, including complimentary passes is a fantastic tactic. Another option is to offer additional training hours or user seats if applicable.

Think back to discovery and uncover additional personal and professional value you can add with these embellishments.

5: Compromise

Sometimes, you have to compromise. Once you’ve isolated the sticking point – whether it’s based on deliverables, terms and conditions or price – find the middle ground that will satisfy both parties.

The key to compromises is to look at a single category: Isolate, confirm and then split the difference.
In the end, companies and humans are incredibly dynamic – especially in Q4 of 2022. And everyone always wants to feel like they’re getting a good deal. No matter your industry, product or tenure, these tactics have served me well over my thirty years in sales. I’m confident they’ll help you propel your business forward as well.

Until next time, happy selling,