The 2017 A to Z Guide for Modern Sales Professionals

With so many different resources on sales available online – it can be difficult to find an up to date guide on the key concepts for both seasoned professionals and beginners alike. Taking into account the latest developments in the field – I have put together this A to Z guide for modern sales professionals – which uses an easy to learn acronym to help the content stick. If you would like the PDF copy please let me know in the comments below.

A – Account

The best sales reps I have seen have a target list of 20-30 key accounts. Scrutinize any rep or sales leader who mandates more than 50.  Many sales/marketing technology vendors have been touting “account based sales” as a new phenomenon – however the best sales performers have been gathering sales intelligence and engaging multiple stakeholders within an organization for decades. What is new is how this engagement can be scaled and optimized using data-driven technology.

B – Business Type

B2C or B2B. In B2C– low touch, high volume challenges face the modern day professional. Changes in consumer buying patterns and developments in marketing capabilities are seeing self-service models develop where sales reps play more of a supportive function than an outbound role. This being said; the most lucrative positions financially often involve a high proportion of outbound work. B2B is characterized by longer sales cycle, multiple decision makers and lower volumes; with reps not breaking even until 3-6 months into the role. B2B is defined as small business (SME), mid-market and enterprise. SME sales can be very similar to B2C sales as the entity is normally under the ownership of a sole proprietor – who takes ownership of purchases on their own credit card. Successful enterprise reps normally have demonstrated results in B2C & SME roles – with most large sales orgs granting this role based on performance on

C- Contract Value

Typically contract value is an extremely important metric when measuring the impact of a sales deal. Annual contract value (ACV) is one of the most common numbers used to evaluate the traction of SaaS (software-as-a-service) companies. Contract values which are smaller and have no renewal criteria are more likely to more through the legal/procurement process faster. On the other hand – more sizeable agreements avoid potential churn situations and can prevent competitors from buying out the contract to win the business

D- Decision Maker

Often the hardest part of the sales journey is figuring out who the actual person making the decision is. Sales people often mistake their coach (someone who appears like a supporter but isn’t willing to put their name to the project) or their champion (someone who is actively campaigning internally for the deal to finalize) for the decision maker. Often a champion may have access to the decision maker but does not have the level of influence to force an outcome. Successful sales people are able to figure who the decision maker is early in the deal cycle and engage them throughout – so when the deal arrives for signing no further meetings are required.

E – Enablement

Enablement in a sales context refers to all reps within the organization having the information, tools and processes in place to help them sell. The definition of sales enablement continues to morph on a daily basis. Based on recent studies – the goal of sales enablement is to focus on increasing productivity and minimizing inefficiencies in sales processes to maximize output. Leading sales enablement professionals have a solid command of data and reporting in combination with practical skills – to isolate opportunities for support and improvement.

F – Field Skills

Inside sales reps (who never leave the office) often find themselves transitioning into a field role over time as higher earning potential normally demands on-site meetings. Field reps are accustomed to rental cars, airports and receiving free water from reception after hours on the road. The individuals who thrive in the field are known for a command of body language, being presentable and are such frequent guests inside their target accounts that they no longer need a name badge.

G – Gate Keeper

Gate Keepers stand between sales people are their next conversation. When cold calling switchboards was more common; there was more of an artform in creating a story-arc to have a call passed through to an important C-level. Given that most people don’t bother as much as they used to with direct calls – gatekeepers can be disarmed with creative conversation and direct mail. In modern times – the persona of a gate keeper has evolved to encompass any individual who seeks to prevent the message from reaching those who matter including; junior & mid-level managers.

H – Hierarchy of Needs

Any key sales person needs to establish the needs of the prospect in priority order and frame the solution as an antidote to these pain points. In many cases, prospects may not wish to divulge their desires or may not admit that they have any needs – in this case a sales rep needs to actively work to create a moment of realization; where the prospect is enlightened to the fact that they may be overlooking an opportunity for improvement

I – Individualism

How much of the deal is generic sales process and how much has a flavor unique to the sales rep involved? Often it can be difficult to strike a balance – however the best sales reps are typically remembered distinctively and this can lead to further deal opportunities as clients share the experience with other potential prospects. Areas of individualism include appearance, presentation style, use of gifts and follow up tactics.

J – Joviality

Sales reps who master the art of tasteful humor can use it to open doors, create engaging conversations and to build likeability which helps when deals need to gain momentum internally or other competitors enter the equation.

K – KPIs

Often a question most sales people overlook is how the person they are talking too is measured by their management. If KPIs are discovered and then tied back to how the product delivers value – soft inquiries can be transformed into real opportunities driven by an internal champion who perceives the value.

L – Leads

The magic L word. In recent times, the refinement of digital engagement in the buyer’s journey has fostered debate as to whether sales or marketing owns lead generation. Although there are several firms going against the trend – today inbound lead generation is typically driven by paid marketing and outbound lead generation sits with sales (now referred to as sales development). Most firms use email marketing as a primary method of driving interest. Given that both sales and marketing use this as a communication channel, friction often evolves due to duplicitous efforts in the outreach process.

M – Margin

Buyers and sellers have opposing goals. Sellers want to preserve as much margin as possible whilst buyers want to erode the price point to increase economic value. Regardless of RRP (recommended retail price) the beauty of economics ensures that in every deal buyers and sellers will meet at an equilibrium price point which addresses both of their needs. Thus top sales performers are able to continually increase perceived value to preserve margins but can also win respect by discounting to earn trust. Firms face difficulties when pricing lacks clarity; lack of flexibility can prevent client onboarding and market level pricing can prevent deals being done for fear of existing customers and competitors becoming aware of discrepancies.

N – Networking

With rising life expectancy comes one certainty, we will all have to be working longer. Given that word of mouth is still the biggest accelerant for any deal cycle – sales professionals who continue to preserve and add value to their network will experience the most fruitful results. Many of the best reps use face-to-face events, personal channels like texting and add value via directly connecting people in need to build a strong advocate network.

O – Objections

Although objections are commonly considered a negative signal, what is exciting is that at least the prospect is engaged enough to offer resistance. Often the individuals who rebuke the most become the best champions as they have the courage to overcome the objections of senior management in relation to moving ahead with the project. Objections can go hand in hand with rejection – that is why reps who have a history of tolerating adversity in harder roles generally have the fortitude to excel in enterprise accounts where they are continually having to evangelize a new solution in a relatively stagnant status quo

P – Pipeline

Pipeline or the “Master List” refers to a document or CRM report which showcases where all engaged customers are in the buyer process. Most sales reps struggle to maintain an up-to-date pipeline given the manual labor involved in maintaining the records. This can be the bane for managers and sales operations staff who struggle to make accurate forecasts thus sales reps must balance tangible results with time taken to do “lead maintenance.” Pipeline can often take 6-12 months to develop and managers should constantly check that the right accounts are being targeted in line with historical reports & findings. Additionally, managers should make sure that reps are prioritizing accounts with the greatest chance of success in that quarter to ensure that commits are made.

Q – Quota

Quota can be a difficult metric to set. In high growth businesses – managers may want to set quotas more around acquiring new logos than gross margin/revenue, in order to onboard as much business as possible. In more established firms, reps have a responsibility to hit a mark which is roughly 3.5x – 6.5x of yearly earnings. If a quota exceeds this amount, questions around the tangibility of this metric need to be brought into question. Furthermore, reps need to make sure that if they are in a position to exceed their quota continually – that they negotiate higher levels of compensation to account for outperforming their peers. Often accelerators can be non-existent or commissions can be capped – leading to reps ‘sandbagging’ opportunities (leaving them for the next reportable quarter)

R – Relationships

In the world of enterprise sales, building an honest and genuine relationship with prospective clients can often be the difference between success and failure. Often positive relationships in the sales process are indicative of company culture; as customer success and support should also operate by a similar ethos. If there is a disconnect between teams after the deal has been signed – building too much of a relationship can also be a barrier to success as the absence of the rep in active conversation may hinder deal development.

S – Social Selling

More frequently customers are spending their time online and seek 3rd party opinions from their peers on platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter. Because so many sales people have jumped on board the band wagon; use of these platforms to create genuine connections visibly lacks authenticity and has a palpable degree of artificiality. In addition, mass adding of contacts dilutes the impact of posts if they receive low levels of engagement. To counter this, the best reps forge relationships over longer time periods around genuine mutual interests – adding value prior to asking for something in return.

T – Telephone Sales

The phone isn’t dead, in fact it is even more powerful. Given that email has risen as the primary method of solicitation and that the art of cold calling is dying with the number of retiring practitioners; there is a real opportunity for sales people to harness the power of a voice-to-voice interaction to create interest. Furthermore, developments in data enrichment and dialing have given reps the ability to connect with more people than ever before. Finally, in terms of deals that stall – picking up the phone and having a real conversation can be the differentiator between reps who deliver and those that are found wanting.

U – Upselling

Once the deal is done – the real opportunity usual begins. Given the self-service digital economy and the common practice of ‘land and expand’ most sales reps need to have a separate process in place for engaging other key stakeholders in an account once it has been secured. A rising technique is to use in depth reviews from participants in the pilot project to get the attention of decision makers higher up in the org.

V – Value

A prospect purchases a product when Perceived Value is Greater than Price (PV > P). Since price is not the first point of call, reps must attempt to create value through informative demonstrations, finding and building relevance among discovered pain points and establishing personal motivation within each stakeholder. Value can also be demonstrated by highlighting how companies with similar problems have succeeded in short space of time with the given solution.

W – Whale Accounts

Whale accounts refer to large opportunities which have the opportunity to either a) change the fate of an organization or b) change the fate of a sales rep to the extent that they could spend almost their entire time servicing the one account. Although lucrative, whale accounts are often treated with caution by experienced sales managers who have seen reps get caught up in length cycles and miss successive quotas. Large accounts are often referred to as whales due to their size, but analogous to the tale of Moby Dick (the albino whale which cost the hunter their life) – the use of the term also highlights the importance of exercising caution.

X – X-ray Vision

Sales performers need to be able to take key learnings and account research to uncover the real desires of the prospect. Often what is said and what is thought are two different matters – sales pros are often compared to as psychics in the way they are able to read the situation and adjust their approach.  In a similar vein, if the account in question doesn’t exhibits the characteristics of success – they have a sense of when is the right time to ‘pull the rip cord’ and move to another opportunity. Inversely, they develop a nose for the kinds of companies and individuals with whom a deal can be done.

Y – Yes

Everything in sales is a path to yes. Common questions which sales reps forget to ask are “Have you implemented a solution like this before? What were the criteria that mattered most? Did you have the final sign off on the decision? Is there flexibility in the budget to accommodate this? How many other people in the organization need to buy-in for this to go ahead?” The most important thing for a rep is to establish what needs to be done for the deal to transform from a potential deal to a committed opportunity. Unless all criteria are met, more work needs to be done.

Z – Zealousness

Successful sales people always have something in common – effort. Often those that put the most effort into their accounts are the ones that come out on top. This being said – putting in effort based on strategic goals and based on continual learnings is the ideal formula. In addition to this, zeal for the product is also a positive emotion for your prospects to experience. If someone is apathetic in relation to their own offering – how can they expect other people to show interest?

About The Author

Dailius Wilson

Dailius Wilson is the 24 year old founder of WolfofYorkStreet.com – helping the world's top SaaS companies to optimise their sales and marketing efforts. Dailius is currently a Director at TrustRadius and a digital blogger at increasemyonlinebusiness.com. Dailius was named as one of the Top 30 Entrepreneurs in Australia for 2015 by Anthill Online and was ranked in the Top 100 SEO Experts in the World. Dailius has also been a guest on the Ellen Degeneres Show and has over 10,000,000 views on Youtube