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Webinar: Can Your Sales Methodology Help You Achieve Greater Heights?

Companies are increasingly implementing common selling methodologies to drive better performance. But how do you know when the time is right, and how do you select the best methodology for your business? Join Ray Bonis, Global Revenue Operations leader with Thryv and Bob Sanders, managing partner at Axiom as they discuss keys to selecting and implementing a winning sales methodology. With more than two decades experience each, Ray and Bob have helped dozens of companies successfully navigate the sales methodology project and have useful insights to ensure your project succeeds.

During this session, Ray and Bob cover a variety of topics, including:

  • The difference between sales methodology and sales process

  • Why and when you should implement a sales methodology

  • Differences between more and less effective methodologies

  • Criteria for select the methodology that’s right for you

  • Keys to implementing your sales methodology

Cowboys Training Camp

Developing the Sales Athletes on Your Team

With every change in sporting season, I am struck by the level of effort professional sports teams dedicate to winning. And as I obsess about my favorite team (full disclosure, I am a long-suffering Dallas Cowboys fan), I wonder if this is the year that they will finally put strategy, talent, and execution together to deliver a championship. While the Cowboys regularly disappoint, I do take solace that some of my other favorite teams like the Georgia Bulldogs, Atlanta Braves, and Dallas Stars have won championships more recently.

But as I consider the effort these teams expend, I also wonder when selling will fully embrace the approach to managing development and performance that professional sports teams all seem to employ. As we have written here before, selling is unique among business occupations in that it is simultaneously a production and performance job. When it comes to the production side of that coin, businesses focus incredible energy to understand and predict what salespeople and teams will deliver in terms of revenue, customers, and profit. Nearly every sales performance review will cover past performance versus plan, current pipeline metrics, and forecast future results – some will even dive into specific accounts and opportunities in an effort to improve the chances of winning. Sports teams certainly do this as well when they consider metrics like plays, yards gained, turnovers, time of possession, and of course points scored and points allowed.

However, if you ever attend team meetings for sports franchises, especially planning meetings among the coaching staff, you will hear another conversation that is practically non-existent in sales reviews – talent assessments and development plans.

For example, let’s suppose the offensive coaching staff for your favorite NFL team is having their Tuesday morning meeting. To be sure, this meeting will include a review of the offensive metrics from the prior week. However, it will likely also include a review of player performance – in fact, each player will likely be graded not just on the basis of WHAT they did (their metrics), but also based on HOW they performed (their skill and behavior). These conversations will likely include an evaluation of the overall development of each player, including next steps to continue their progression toward their optimum performance.

While player development is an integral part of performance management in sports, it is horribly lacking in business … even in the corporate job most analogous to being a professional athlete – the sales position. And while considerable energy may be spent talking about metrics, accounts, and opportunities, unless and until player development becomes an essential part of sales performance conversations, our teams will underperform against their true potential (Please, not Cowboys jokes here).

So, what would a sales ops or sales performance review look like with player development integrated into the conversation? Well we wouldn’t stop talking about pipeline and production, but we would add the topic of player development to ensure managers are dedicating attention to improving the skill of their players and thereby enabling better execution. This would include both qualitative and quantitative items such as:

  • The manager’s assessment of the current proficiency of each person on the team, including top opportunities to improve and development progress

  • Review of coaching metrics such as the number of coaching sessions conducted by managers and the developmental focus for the team

  • Developmental assignments given and completed by the team

Like any performance profession, all else being equal, results will improve when players get better. While it’s troubling how few sales teams actually integrate any player development discussion into their operational cadence, it also represents a tremendous opportunity for organizations that make this shift early. Adding player development to your sales performance conversations can help you gain a sustainable competitive advantage that improves a range of performance metrics including:

  • Sales

  • Margins

  • Customer satisfaction

  • Sales team attrition

  • Forecast accuracy

Want help? You can begin your journey by downloading our Guide to Sales Coaching here. And stay tuned as we will soon release an updated version of our book, with a more complete guide to creating a high-performing sales organization. You can also schedule time to talk with us directly to learn more about how you can integrate player development into your existing sales cadence.

At Axiom Sales Kinetics we’ve spent thirty years helping sales teams coach, learn, and sell more effectively. We offer a unique alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events, we embed our methodology into your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better sales results. To learn more about Selling the Axiom Way, our Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at


Steelers Season

Dear CEO, How Serious Are You About Sales Performance?

Today hundreds of CEOs will make a decision to replace their head of sales … again. Despite multiple attempts to select and equip the right sales leader, they will once again find their team underperforming with no clear plan other than replacing the person leading the team. In that regard, the sales function is very much like professional sports. When the owner or GM isn’t satisfied with the results and a change must be made, the head coach gets the axe.

And yet, there are sports franchises and sales organizations that have very little churn at the top and consistently outperform the competition. One such example in the sports world is the Pittsburgh Steelers. While the average tenure for an NFL head coach is 3.2 years, the Steelers last three head coaches have an average tenure of 17.3 years and six Superbowl victories between them (which, as I am a Cowboys fan, pains me greatly). So, what is it that perennial winners know, and do, that others don’t?

Performance Cultures Don’t Just Focus on Performance

Every organization wants to win. They all measure results and they all place high value on winning and are frustrated by losing. However, organizations that excel consistently create a culture that focuses on the behaviors and activities that produce winning outcomes, even more than they do on winning results. They understand that executing the right behaviors in the right way day in and day out will produce better outcomes over time. So, while they emphasize winning scores, they spend considerably more energy defining winning behaviors, identifying the skills and knowledge needed to execute these behaviors better than the competition and coaching their players to improve incrementally over time.

What does this mean for organizations that consistently sell better than their competition? For starters it means the CEO is engaged in defining and reinforcing their sales methodology to make certain it aligns with the overall promise the company is making to its customers. If the company’s core value depends on delivering a better customer experience, the CEO personally understands how the company’s sales methodology contributes to that experience. But can’t the CEO simply hire a great sales leader and leave it to this person to define the methodology? Unfortunately, they cannot! Even the most effective sales leader will need the active participation of the CEO to define and activate a comprehensive sales methodology. The reason for this is simple: optimum sales execution will require coordination with a variety of departments in the business, including marketing, customer care, operations, product, and even finance.  Only the CEO has the authority and perspective needed to ensure all departments in the organization are aligned around the same vision and support the same methodology. While CEO involvement in selecting and deploying the sales methodology is rare, we have seen multiple instances where the CEO actively participates, and in nearly every case the outcomes are considerably better.

Emphasize Leading Indicators

Next, it means the organization must measure performance differently. It doesn’t mean we no longer talk about deals or pipeline or forecasts, but it does mean we measure those things differently, often more objectively, more scientifically, and even more rigorously. However, we also measure the effectiveness of sales execution via artifacts such as customer insights and competency scores as well as the underlying skill and knowledge of people responsible for executing the sales methodology. It means we place as much emphasis in sales reviews on understanding if and how sales leaders are developing their teams as we do on what number they will deliver this quarter.

Only the CEO can affect this change because the questions they ask in their performance reviews with the head of sales will always drive, and even dominate the conversations that happen at each and every level. When CEOs inspect execution, sales coaching, and rep development with the same energy as last quarter’s results, everyone understands the cultural importance of continuous improvement and people become more effective. When they don’t do this, absent a string of incredibly hot products with extremely clear and compelling advantages, they miss targets and change leaders, only to find the same thing happening once again a short time later.

Want help creating a winning performance culture in your organization? You can begin your journey by downloading our Guide to Sales Coaching here. And stay tuned as we will soon release an updated version of our book, with a more complete guide to creating a high-performing sales organization. You can also schedule time to talk with us directly to learn more about how you can integrate player development into your existing sales cadence.

At Axiom Sales Kinetics we’ve spent thirty years helping sales teams coach, learn, and sell more effectively. We offer a unique alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events, we embed our methodology into your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better sales results. To learn more about Selling the Axiom Way, our Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at

The Power of Habit Book

Keystone Habits – Three Behaviors That Can Transform a Mediocre Sales Team into World Class Performers

People often ask us what change they could make that would have the greatest impact on sales performance for their team. I imagine they expect to hear things, “If you better qualify opportunities, you’ll waste less time on deals you cannot win.” Or maybe, “If you have meaningful business conversations, you’ll better understand how to impact your customers’ business.” Or possibly even, “If you help buyers develop differentiating criteria, you can build significantly more value and sell at higher margins.”

While all these things will definitely help INIDVIDUAL salespeople sell more, the most significant change for an ENTIRE TEAM is actually far more fundamental and has the potential to be considerably more impactful. The most significant change any sale team can make is to develop these three keystone habits that have the power to enable a mediocre team to become perennial winners.

What is a Keystone Habit?

In his best-selling book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg coined the term keystone habits, which he defines as “an individual pattern that is unintentionally capable of triggering other habits in the lives of people.” One of the things that is so fascinating about keystone habits is that they often-times do not represent the ultimate change or behavior we are seeking. Rather, keystone habits are enabling patterns that allow us to affect the change we are after.

An example from everyday life is exercise. Duhigg notes, “Typically, people who exercise, start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit cards less frequently and say they feel less stressed. Exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.” The implication of course is clear, if we want to eat less, be more productive, patient, and financially responsible, start by creating a habit of exercise and we will be on our way to affecting the other changes.

The Changes Salespeople Make

We’ve all been part of programs intended to help salespeople make some change that promises to improve their performance. We want them to prospect better, qualify more thoroughly, present in a more compelling fashion, build greater value, negotiate more effectively, populate the CRM with real data … the list varies by company, team, and even person. In each case however, a new habit is needed to help improve their sales effectiveness. So, sales enablement implements training, tools, and programs to affect these changes. Unfortunately, all too often, the desired changes are adopted by relatively few, while the majority of people continue to do the things they do, the way they’ve always done them. The stats are so often cited we’re tempted to accept them as unavoidable:

  • According to ATD, up to 80% of new skills are lost within 1 week of training if not used

  • A study by HR Chally showed up to 85% of sales training fails to deliver a positive ROI

Keystone Habits for Sales

Fortunately, there are three keystone habits for sales organizations that are so powerful as to trigger all manner of other positive changes. These simple, but essential habits form the foundational behaviors for a high-performing, adaptable sales organization.

Habit #1 – Learning

It seems almost condescending to propose that effective sales organizations must develop the habit of learning. However, over thirty years working with dozens of companies and hundreds of thousands of salespeople, it has becoming undeniably clear that most organizations are not in the habit of learning new skills, or growing existing skills, on a regular cadence. Sure, they conduct training sessions. But training events and learning are not the same thing.

In a learning organization, people continually get better as a core part of their jobs, not as an infrequent and separate activity. If learning were a habit, it would happen regularly and any new activity, new product, new strategy, or new market dynamic, could be easily integrated into the normal cadence of the sales organization with a high degree of comfort that the overwhelming majority would be able to apply what they learn quickly.

Habit #2 – Practice

It’s tempting to simply include practice with learning and shorten this list, but that would be a mistake. While practice is an integral part of the learning cycle for new skills, it is too often overlooked as a fundamental habit or discipline in the organization. Most sales teams practice with peers or coaches so infrequently that when they do it sparks a round of complaints that might seem more like teens objecting to chores than professionals mastering their craft. There is no substitute for practicing our selling skills in front of people who can offer meaningful coaching, and there is only one way to make role-playing less painful – do more of it!

Picture a professional sports franchise that doesn’t practice in front of one another, or their coaches and you can quickly imagine them losing regularly. The only reason that doesn’t already hold true for selling is that so few teams are engaged in regular practice that failing to do so isn’t as significant a handicap as it would be in sports. However, this is almost certain to change as the pressure to improve sales execution grows. Forward thinking sales teams should get ahead of this trend and integrate regular practice into their workflow so that they can better execute key selling behaviors and outperform their competition.

Habit #3 – Coaching

We’ve written and spoken extensively in the past about the critical importance of coaching, including in a recent webinar hosted by, which you can find here. Coaching is an essential keystone habit for the sales organization because done properly, it will drive the cadence of learning and practice that are so fundamental for the sales team. However, effective coaching must include root cause analysis and the assignment of learning and practice activities in order to promote the adoption of those other keystone habits. When managers revert to feedback instead of coaching, sellers don’t get better, and they don’t value the engagement. For more information on the difference between the feedback and coaching, download our Guide to Sales Coaching here.

Developing Keystone Habits

As Charles Duhigg has noted, developing new habits is not easy. However, for sales organizations that effectively adopt these keystone habits, the rewards are significant. When sales teams routinely acquire new knowledge, practice and refine their skills, and leverage effective coaching, they not only get better at sales engagement, but they also get better at everything else. New products are launched, new strategies implemented, new market conditions embraced, and new programs and tools adopted more effectively when teams have developed the habit of continuous learning and improvement. These keystone habits drive exceptional performance and the possibility of a sustainable competitive advantage

How will we develop these keystone habits? As all habits are formed by cue, routine, and reward, Mr. Duhigg advises that changing habits is best accomplished using existing cues and replacing the routines. How does this apply to our keystone habits for sales? Here is just one example to consider:

Leverage the Opportunity Review

Nearly all sales teams regularly engage in a review of open opportunities. Developing these keystone habits doesn’t require replacing this activity with something else. It merely requires updating the routine with new activities and rewarding the adoption of these new behaviors.

Current Pattern

Cue: Opportunity Review meeting between seller and manager

Existing Routine: Manager asks seller series of questions in order to understand how qualified the opportunity is and makes recommendations about next steps the seller should make to increase their chances of winning.

Reward: Assuming the feedback is useful, increase win rates. Even when that isn’t the case, manager encouragement affords some reward

New Pattern

Cue: Opportunity Review meeting between seller and manager

New Routine: Manager asks seller series of questions in order to understand how qualified the opportunity is and identifies areas where the seller can improve their skill. The manager assigns a learning activity based on the identified root cause of any gaps in the sellers understanding of the opportunity.

Reward: During their next meeting, the manager audits completion of the learning activity. Positive reinforcement is provided whenever assignments are completed and a role-play confirms the seller has improved their skills, providing an additional reward.

Beyond integrating the new habits for sellers, companies will need to create new routines for managers to ensure their coaching includes learning and practice activities that help cement the keystone habits. An important part of this will be measuring coaching frequency and activity for at least as long as it takes to form these new habits. One example for this would be to add a team effectiveness or personnel development item to the normal forecast review most senior leaders conduct with sales managers. This would help to cement the importance of coaching and development in addition to achieve sales objectives.

It certainly takes effort to form these keystone habits, but the potential payoff for organizations that succeed in doing so can be amazing. One organization we saw make tremendous progress in developing these habits was able to achieve 16% growth in revenue per rep. In another case, the Nashville office of a national technology provider consistently out-performed other markets in profitability, total revenue and quota attainment through three different market leaders.

Want to talk more about how your organization can develop these keystone habits, connect with us here to schedule a conversation.

At Axiom Sales Kinetics we’ve spent thirty years helping sales teams coach, learn, and sell more effectively. We offer a unique alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events, we embed our methodology into your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better sales results. To learn more about Selling the Axiom Way, our Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at

Do More

What Is Your Sales Enablement Initiative Really Enabling?

I have a bit of a confession to make. I am a life-long salesperson. In fact, I was raised by salespeople. So, I love hearing about sales enablement solutions that increase the selling time for salespeople. After all, as a salesperson, I hated administrative tasks. And at times, it truly felt my company would rather have me completing reports than meeting prospects.

Had anyone asked younger-me, I would happily have told them that the key to me selling more was eliminating as many administrative tasks as possible. I’m not sure how well that would have gone over with them, but that’s how I felt.

That wasn’t accurate for me then and may not be accurate for your salespeople now.

I had a conversation about this very topic not too long ago with a particularly bright sales enablement leader. She was reacting to complaints from the sales team that they were so overwhelmed with administrative tasks that they had no time to sell, let alone participate in the company’s newly launched sales training initiative.

Her comment to me was this, “The volume of work always expands to fill the available time.”

In other words, people weren’t skipping meetings with customers and prospects because of the plethora of administrative tasks. They either didn’t have enough customers and prospects to meet or weren’t adding enough value to justify securing meetings with target contacts. Therefore, a significant amount of time was “filled” with administrative tasks.

Before you start typing out your comment below about me being an idiot, let me explain further.

Remember that I said earlier that I, too, am a salesperson. And, yes, I’m not too fond of administrative work. Removing administrative burdens for salespeople is a GOOD THING. It just ISN’T THE ONLY THING that will make your enablement initiative a raging success. Consider research from CSO Insights that found over one recent year sales enablement initiatives increased 81%. However, in that same period, only 1/3 of the enablement initiatives met or exceeded the company’s expectations. We’ve all seen countless initiatives that were focused on “giving people more selling time”, but more time to do the same job in the same way, doesn’t necessarily produce better results. If we want our sales teams to have dramatically better results, we need to enable them to compete more effectively, and we need to think more holistically about what it is that we are really enabling. 

In one of our webinars with Sales Management Association, Building a Sales Dynasty, we talk about the four steps companies can take to build a true sales dynasty. We might just as easily have titled it “The Four Keys to Sale Enablement Excellence.” We won’t cover all four characteristics here, though. Instead, we will focus on what may be the greatest point of leverage for your sales enablement initiative – helping people achieve exceptional execution with your key selling models.

Ideal Selling Models

The initiative must start by defining the ideal selling models to enable sales success effectively. This generally includes the following (though the final three are not always required):

  1. Customer Conversation Models – Without commonly understood models for the five essential customer conversations, it is extraordinarily difficult to help salespeople improve their performance. More time to engage customers in the same way rarely produces better results.
  2. Funnel Management Models – Most companies measure the wrong metrics and use them in the wrong way. Every person in the organization should have their own sales success plan that defines what they must generate in terms of leading or predictive sales indicators. Universal funnel standards can actually do more harm than good and should be avoided (see “The Worst Metric in Sales” blog post we wrote).
  3. Opportunity Management – For organizations working with more complex opportunities with longer sales cycles, a model for analyzing the opportunities, sharing information, and building winning strategies is essential.
  4. Account Planning and Management – Some organizations earn tremendous revenue from existing customers. Therefore, the company must have a model for building and executing account plans that help continually improve the overall health of these key accounts.
  5. Partner Selling – For those companies selling through partners, a model for how to work with and sell through them is an absolute requirement.

Not only does this require considerable effort, but it also cannot be done by committee or by simply categorizing a few best practices from your top performers. Top performers achieve success in various ways, some of which may not be scalable across the organization. These models are clearly defined approaches to executing the behaviors that can be repeated consistently across your team. Like so many great athletes, your people will thrive when you combine their natural talents with a model or system that affords them a competitive advantage. Their success is then limited only by their commitment to continuous improvement. 

Coaching Model

Having said all that, we have now reached the sixth and arguably your most important model — the coaching model. The reality, proven every day with sales organizations far and wide, is that the interaction your sellers have with their managers will significantly impact their execution and performance more than anything else you do. That being the case, a top priority for any sales enablement initiative must be to help your managers become outstanding coaches. This is no easy task, as there are a number of obstacles to effective sales coaching. Yet these obstacles present tremendous opportunities for your sales enablement initiative — by removing them and helping transform your seller-manager conversations from feedback to coaching, this model will supercharge every other initiative you launch.

The good news is that sales enablement is growing in importance and influence in progressive sales organizations. Better still, the early struggles with underperforming initiatives create sustainable competitive advantages for organizations that can define and deploy winning sales enablement initiatives. Focus your enablement initiative on helping your managers become better coaches. Then, help your sellers become better at executing your critical selling behaviors. From there, you’ll see what great returns you achieve.

Want to make your next sales enablement initiative as successful as possible? Check out our webinar here for more on the impact sales managers can have. You can also schedule time to talk with us directly to learn more about how Axiom can help you implement sales models like the ones discussed here.

Axiom offers a unique alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events, we embed our methodology into your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better sales results. To learn more about Selling the Axiom Way, our Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at

Secret to Success

Are You Developing Transactional Relationships or Relational Transactions?

Relationships are that hard-to-quantify thing that almost every salesperson knows is key to their long-term success. At the same time, relationships that don’t produce results at some point are no longer considered fruitful. 

The ones that aren’t fruitful are called something else, right? We call those “friendships.” 

And while friendships are certainly wonderful, they’re not necessarily what salespeople are paid to develop. 

So, here’s a question to ask when evaluating your customer engagements: Are you developing transactional relationships or relational transactions 

What’s the Difference?

Perhaps the easiest way to think about the difference is to consider the objective. In transactional relationships, securing the transaction is the objective and the relationship, whatever it is, is in service to that objective. As a results, with transactional relationships, your value is defined by the last order in your interaction. In other words, the value of the relationship is equal to whatever value was delivered by the products and services most recently purchase.

On the other hand, with relational transactions, the primary objective is to build a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. Transactions, if and when they do occur, are based on that foundation. In other words, trust and mutual respect may ultimately lead to transactions, but transactions are not the point of the relationship – they are a biproduct of it.

At the core, the motive of a salesperson who builds transactional relationships is “How do I get my customers to buy?” The driving motivation for salespeople who develop relational transactions is “How do I help my customers make better decisions?”

A good rule of thumb: If we want a relationship that endures past our last meeting, we need to be just as concerned with our customer after placing the order as we were when we were earning that order. We want to be defined by our relationship, not our last transaction. 

6 Steps to Develop Relationship-Based Transactions

A shift in attitude may be essential to developing more relational transactions, but it isn’t sufficient. Beyond wanting to serve customers, we need to demonstrate that commitment by our actions. So, here are six steps we can take to ensure we are building relationships that last and deliver value well beyond our last transaction.

1. Be a trusted partner

It sounds simple, but it’s often overlooked. We need to make it clear to our customers in the first (and every) conversation that we intend to help them make the best decision, even if that means NOT buying from us. 

2. Seek insight, not information

Ask thought-provoking questions about the customer’s business state and gaps, not the questions that every other salesperson asks that scream, “Tell me what I need to learn so I can sell you!”

3. Guide them

Bring a point of view about not only the current challenges or problems our customer faces but the future challenges they should consider. Our perspective is to help guide, not simply to sell.

4. Help our customers define criteria

Help our customers define the criteria they’ll use to compare alternatives when making a decision. Make sure these criteria are based on the positive or negative impact they will make on the customer’s business drivers. Present any recommendations based on their unique requirements, not our standard pitch deck.

5. Be proactive

Be proactive about helping our customer manage the risk with any business decision by helping them feel confident with: 

  • How to identify the best solution among similar alternatives

  • How to best manage any disruption that could happen when implementing something new

  • How to ensure the ROI will meet expectations

6. Demonstrate you’re in it for the long run

Prove to the customer we’re way more concerned about what happens after they buy than we are about getting the order. Engage as proactively after you get the order, and even if you don’t, as you did at the early stages of the relationship.

The Last Word

Relational transactions are built on a promise that extends well beyond whatever product or service we sell. Therefore, these relationships are stronger, last longer, and provide a bigger return for us and our customer than one-off sales that progress no further than the exchange of money for a product. They increase customer retention and reduce our marketing costs. When we focus on the relationship first, more and better transactions will naturally result if and when they should. When we focus on the transaction first, we may win an initial order only to miss out on all the follow-on business and referrals that help trusted advisors consistently overachieve, usually with far less frustration than the transactional sellers around them.

Want to learn more about how you can leverage these and other best practices to build a winning sales team and sustainable competitive advantage? Let’s connect.

Axiom provides a unique alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events, we embed our methodology into your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better sales results. To learn more about our Mindful Selling Methodology, Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at

Women on computer

Make Your CRM Your Best Sales Training Resource

So much has already been written in recent years about the fundamental shift in how people buy and the corresponding need to change how sellers engage with these buyers. Today’s buyers are using the internet and social networks to research alternatives BEFORE engaging sellers, meaning sales professionals must shift from being the primary source of information about a solution to a collaborative partner or trusted advisor.

In this role, the salesperson must be capable of helping prospective buyers analyze their situation more thoroughly, develop clear and differentiating criteria, and ultimately make a more informed buying decision.

So how will sales enablement and learning and development professionals affect this change in selling behavior?

Unfortunately, this is an area where methods have not kept pace with the changing environment or seller profile. Despite the advances in neurosciences and technology, and the increased number of younger people entering the sales profession, companies continue to rely predominantly on traditional instructor-led sales training events to improve selling behaviors.

In this post, we will briefly examine the fatal flaws of this approach and describe an alternative that has the potential to radically improve sales force development — the CRM.

Why Traditional Sales Training Doesn’t Work

It may well be the worst secret in business – search for the phrase “sales training doesn’t work,” and you will see several thousand articles. Many of these articles were written by sales training companies and discuss why so few people adopt new behaviors after attending training events. From the forgetting curve to the lack of effective reinforcement and coaching, nearly every organization that has invested in sales training has experienced the disappointment of positive class reviews that only result in 10% to 20% adoption of new skills and behaviors.

So why do companies continue to spend billions of dollars annually on sales training?

There are two key reasons:

  1. First, some impact is better than no impact at all. While it certainly isn’t ideal, elevating the skills of 20% of the salespeople can improve performance and, in most cases, to a sufficient degree to justify the cost of the training.
  2. Second, the profession as a whole is generally led by people who HAVE applied skills they learned in traditional training events – either because they participated in training programs that lasted much longer or because they were among the relatively small percentage of people who could effectively manage their personal development AFTER the training event ended.

Unfortunately, their personal experience and associated success often keeps these sales leaders from fully appreciating the underlying reasons why most people won’t change after attending a training event. Armed with a better understanding of the root cause, many of these same leaders would likely work to drive the conventional sales training providers to deliver more innovative solutions.

When Sales Training Was Truly Effective

There was a point in time when sales training programs did produce dramatically better results. Back when organizations such as IBM, Xerox, and AT&T decided to bring the sales effort in-house and invest in developing professional sales teams, training programs lasted months. During this extended period, participants could acquire new skills and behaviors using the proven skill development learning cycle of Learn, Practice, Apply, and Evaluate (LPAE).

As each new skill or behavior was introduced, sellers explored it intellectually, practiced it in a controlled environment, and then applied it in real-world selling situations. In addition, these same sellers worked with sales coaches skilled at evaluating their performance, identifying any gaps, and providing the feedback and corrective action to shrink the gaps and further refine their execution. More recently, neuroscience has helped further explain the underlying reasons why this approach is so effective, including the critical role sleep cycles play in learning and development.

This leads us directly to the business change that destroyed sales training effectiveness – budget constraints.

Budget & Time Constraints

Over the past four decades, businesses have been forced to cut costs to compete and deliver the returns investors require. As a result, sales training programs that once lasted months now last days. In fact, many training and development professionals are hamstrung by their internal customers who demand comprehensive sales training programs but will only commit to “pulling the team out of the field” for two to three days. In this amount of time, even an exceptional instructor delivering the best training program will likely only lead students through the LPAE cycle once or twice.

No wonder training is less effective now than it was in the past – we have gone from dozens of LPAE cycles and continuous improvement over 6-12 months to a couple of cycles over two days with little to no effective follow-up after training.

In areas such as manufacturing, technology adoption helped bridge the gap when budget constraints forced companies to find ways to do more with fewer resources or in less time. However, this hasn’t yet taken hold for sales force development. Not that there isn’t a sea of new selling technologies, many of which will increase the efficiency of salespeople who use them. From CRM and CPQ to intelligent content delivery solutions, these technologies can help improve selling efficiency. What they do not accomplish is to actually help improve the effectiveness of the sales professional.

There simply isn’t technology to help sales organizations embed the LPAE model into their normal operating cadence so that sales teams continually improve while they work. Instead, we rely on outdated methods and settle for marginal improvements.

It’s time for business leaders, sales enablement professionals, and workforce development people to demand more.

Bringing a High-Tech, High-Touch Solution

The advent of the CRM as the “system of record” for sales organizations presents a tremendous opportunity to leverage technology to embed learning and development into the normal cadence of the sales organization. Further, the growth of CRM platforms the investment by third party partners has helped to create an ecosystem to support new solutions to this decades-old problem. As a result, it is now possible to embed the LPAE skill development model into the normal cadence of sales operations. To do this, companies will need an integrated solution that includes:

  • Comprehensive models or methodologies for coaching and selling customized to their unique selling environment. The selling model should help sellers to become their best selves by building collaborative relationships with prospects and customers, while the coaching model should help managers deliver true value to their sellers by helping them realize their full potential.

  • Micro-learning content based on these models and built based on a consumption paradigm, so each module is independent and delivers value to the learner in 20 minutes or less. This content should support both concept introduction and mental practice.

  • Learning technology and applications for selling, coaching, and account management that trigger the need for learning, deliver learning at the point of need, and track learning and the associated impact on selling behavior.

  • A partnering model whereby the solution provider is invested in helping the sales team drive sustainable change that gains momentum over time. The engagement team should be evaluated based on the same objectives as the client sales team to ensure this alignment.

This high-tech, high-touch model is already allowing some of today’s leading sales organizations to transition from training events to continuous learning and improvement. The rewards for making this shift can be significant. One global technology company improved revenue per rep by nearly 16% over two years while simultaneously reducing travel expenses and ramp-up time for onboarding new hires.

Let’s Wait Until Everyone is Using the CRM

Perhaps the most significant barrier to this new approach is the status quo. While the number of companies implementing CRM grows daily, many continue to struggle with adopting their new high-powered CRM solution. Contrary to common perception, integrating a continuous learning solution into the CRM should not be sequenced AFTER adoption. This solution will DRIVE adoption. The same company referenced above implemented the solution in coordination with their initial CRM deployment. By doing so, they dramatically reduced implementation expenses and enjoyed exceptional adoption. 

Sales enablement and learning and development professionals finally have an alternative to traditional training events. This radical new approach has the potential to transform the sales organization through continuous learning and improvement, engaged coaching, improved selling behaviors, and even greater CRM adoption.

Want to talk about how you can apply this approach in your organization? You can schedule a call with us here, we are happy to help in any way we can and you can be certain you’ll get ideas you can use, not a pitch.

At Axiom Sales Kinetics we’ve spent thirty years helping sales teams coach, learn, and sell more effectively. We offer a unique, mindful alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events, we embed our methodology into your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better sales results. To learn more about Selling the Axiom Way, our Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at

Man on mountain

A More Mindful Approach to Setting Sales Objectives

If you’ve read any of our other articles you know we are dedicated to elevating the sales profession and helping people achieve better results with less stress.

You Want Me to Do What?

Interestingly, one of the elements that induces stress into the sales profession is the sales objective, or as it is often referred to, quota. But why is that? Why do sales goals cause so much angst? I’ve felt it myself, both as a seller and sales leader. The instant the objective is set by my leadership, anxiety about it begins to build. Why is it so much higher than before? Is it realistic? How can I possibly achieve that? And so on.

From working with tens of thousands of salespeople and sales leaders, it is clear I am not alone. Sales objectives can actually create stress, not only when they are set, but anytime we experience a gap between our actual performance and the goal. And yet, we set goals in other areas of our lives and manage them with little to no stress. Whether in the area of fitness, relationships, or finances, goals in these areas often do more to inspire than stress us.

Why is that, and perhaps more importantly, how can we set sales objectives in a more mindful way so that they serve to help focus our efforts and inspire us?

Whose Goal is This Anyway?

For starters, let’s examine the difference in how sales objectives and personal goals are generally established. If you hire a personal trainer to help improve your health and fitness, the first question the trainer will likely ask is, “What is it that you’d like to accomplish?” The same applies to hiring a golf, tennis, piano, or cycling coach. They start by understanding what we want to accomplish. Unfortunately, that is NOT how most sales objectives are set. In a typical sales organization, the company establishes the overall sales target based on the revenue objectives for the business and that target is then divided among the sales team based on some rationale. Team leaders and individuals are then given their sales objectives at which point the nearly universal mental, if not spoken reaction is, “This is too high!”

And it simply doesn’t have to be this way. If companies would design their compensation plans to payout a competitive incentive for the sales results produced, and then share the plan with the team, managers could simply ask each salesperson how much they want to make under the plan. This would simultaneously lead to an objective the salesperson is more committed to achieving and one that is almost always higher than the quota the company would have assigned the person. That’s because most salespeople are self-motivated to earn more than what they would make at quota. It’s one of the most appreciated aspects of sales positions – the ability to control one’s own income more directly.

In addition, this approach would facilitate a conversation between the manager and seller that may provide more insight into the sellers underlying motivation. By asking each salesperson why they’ve selected that specific target, managers can understand and leverage each person’s unique motivation to help keep them focused during challenges faced along the journey to achieving that objective. In fact, one particularly savvy manager we know did exactly this and learned that her salesperson was targeting a specific income because he wanted to purchase a new BMW. One day after a joint call with that salesperson, the manager arranged for a surprise test drive at the local BMW dealer! As you can imagine, this built tremendous relational equity with the salesperson that would later make difficult coaching conversations significantly easier. 

Goals vs. Dreams

The second challenge with the common approach to establishing sales objectives is they often aren’t really goals, they’re dreams.

You see the difference between a goal and a dream is a plan. We mentioned earlier that selling is a unique profession in that people can set a target and then work backward mathematically to determine what they must achieve in terms of:

  • New Opportunities

  • New Proposals

  • Proposal Ratio

  • Closing Ratio

  • Average Sale Value

We refer to these as the predictive metrics, and setting unique weekly or monthly targets here is a key step in transforming a sales dream into a sales goal (more information about the value of individual predictive metrics can be found here). In fact, we refer to this combination of metrics as the Sales Success Plan. Unfortunately, we generally find less than 10% of the salespeople we meet know what they must achieve in terms of these predictive metrics in order to reach their sales and income objectives. This is a key miss and creates more stress while reducing the probability of success. As noted in this recent article by Luciana Paulise, dividing big goals into smaller steps or milestones can help reduce stress and increase the likelihood of success.

This is precisely why the next step personal trainers and coaches take immediately after understanding our individual goals is to help us create a plan that will get us from where we are now, to where we want to be. The plan generally focuses on breaking our goal into smaller pieces and identifying the practice regimen necessary to make regular, incremental progress. Good coaches will also focus on helping us create a plan that is sustainable. For example, they might create a plan based on a practice schedule of 45 mins per day rather than two hours even if we could commit to two hours per day for the first month or two as they want to help us avoid burnout and remain committed to the process.

Effective sales coaches can and should to the same for our salespeople. Once short-term targets are set in terms of the predictive metrics, managers and sellers can work together to uncover any gaps, identify the root cause of those gaps, and define corrective actions that will address the gaps. Coincidentally, this is exactly what performance coaches do in a variety of other fields such as athletics.

We’ve consistently found that allowing salespeople to set their own, personal sales objectives and then helping them develop a plan to achieve their objectives results in more motivated, less stressed, higher producing sales teams.

Some Tools to Help You Get Started

If you’re ready to try this more mindful approach, we have a variety of free tools to help you get started:

  • Sales Success Plan Template – a simple spread sheet to help you break your sales goal down into predictive metrics.

  • Guide to Sales Coaching – a brief overview of the Axiom GUIDE coaching model to help you set goals and develop salespeople through regular, structured coaching interactions.

  • One-on-One Outline – a tool to help you effectively apply the GUIDE coaching model to standard coaching conversations such as funnel reviews and opportunity reviews.

Want to talk through your situation or get some additional ideas about affecting this change in your organization? You can schedule a call with us here.

At Axiom Sales Kinetics we’ve spent thirty years helping sales teams coach, learn, and sell more effectively. We offer a unique, mindful alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events, we embed our methodology into your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better sales results. To learn more about Selling the Axiom Way, our Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at

Coaches and Player

What Can Great Sports Coaches Teach the Sales VP?

Not long ago, we noticed a study showed the average tenure of a VP of Sales had decreased about 1 ¼ month per year for seven straight years and at that point stood at just 19 months.

The reality is that VP of sales is like being the head coach of any performance profession in sports or the performing arts. They are tasked with delivering results fast and predictably while building a great culture and developing a strong core of leaders with salespeople who consistently outsell their competition. And if they fail to deliver quickly, they are often replaced.

While it could certainly be argued that replacing a senior sales leader isn’t the best or shortest path to improved performance, there is no denying that it happens frequently – just as it often does in professional sports. Meanwhile, there are a number of examples of head coaches who’ve made a career out of turning underperforming teams into perennial winner. Regardless of whether you’re a fan or not, it’s hard not to respect what great head coaches such as Nick Saban in college football, Pat Riley in the NBA, Bill Belichick in the NFL, and Sir Alex Ferguson from the EPL have been able to accomplish with teams that had previously struggled.

Fortunately, whether you are the struggling current head sales coach, or have just joined the team with a mandate to turn things around, there are great lessons ever sales VP can glean from successful coaches in other fields.

In fact, we believe there are at least four areas in which great coaches excel, and these areas are the foundation of their success. We’ll review these below, and then you can decide if they will become part of the foundation for your success.

1.   They put their system in place.

Their system is defined in three ways:

Their Principles — This defines the fundamental, universal, and non-negotiable truths they expect from everyone in their sales organization. Adhering to these principles gets people recognized and rewarded. Not adhering to these principles results in immediate and sometimes even public negative consequences.

One very successful VP of Sales I know laid down the law in her first 90 days that they would not win business or build relationships by frivolous spending on entertainment or gifts. She believed that wining and dining with prospects and customers was pointless if they couldn’t build relationships and create value based on their expertise and the company’s solutions. Those who hadn’t been abiding by this principle had to either change their approach or find another place to work.

Their Process — Great head coaches have a crystal clear and measurable definition for “what good looks like.” They have quantifiable and verifiable expectations for their team’s practice (learn), how their managers conduct pipeline and forecast reviews, how they should prepare for customer meetings, and how they should execute their sales process.

But great coaches don’t over-engineer or overly control the process. Otherwise, it comes across as something their team will comply with but won’t commit to. Hall of Fame football coach Bill Parcells would even have his team practice how he wanted them to line up for the national anthem, as he knew it set the tone for playing together with efficiency and preventing the chaos that often comes from ad-hoc processes.

Their Playbook — High-performing coaches know a critical driver to productivity and effectiveness is to get everyone doing their part to execute well-designed plays. In sales organizations, this means ensuring a common language for pipeline management, creating/pursuing/winning sales opportunities, and developing and executing account plans. It also means that essential tools (like CRM) are in place to reduce complexity — not add administrative burden 

2. They invest in developing their leaders.

For the great head coaches, there is nothing more important than developing their assistant coaches. In the sales profession, the head coach makes it their top priority to invest in equipping, coaching, and training their regional sales directors and front-Line managers. Sure, many sales VPs talk a good game about developing other leaders, and many do a great job of it. Unfortunately, you need only look at the calendar of some head sales coaches to see how little time they are spending with their sales directors and managers. Further, the head coach knows they need to define “what good looks like” for their leaders, provide them the tools, training, and resources to do the job, and then get out of the way.  

The best head coaches certainly have their way of doing things, but they leave enough room for their assistants to grow their capabilities in their own way. Great head coaches often define their own success by their disciples — which makes a lot of sense. If you can list a healthy number of the VP of sales’ disciples who are now leading their own sales organizations, you can be sure they are serious about investing in the development of their leaders.

3. They build and vigorously protect the desired culture.

A successful head coach can’t spend too much time building and PROTECTING the culture. To quote Edward Schein, an MIT professor and expert on corporate culture, we define the concept of culture as: “A pattern of shared basic assumptions that the group has learned as it solved its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore, to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems.” The most successful VPs of sales more often creates a culture of high accountability, radical helpfulness, relentless optimism, real grit, and the belief that learning and performing are not mutually exclusive things. And the most powerful way to build this kind of culture in a sales organization happens through sales coaching.

Unlike most sales organizations, the best sales VPs don’t allow their leaders to treat coaching as an optional activity. They make sales coaching a mandatory activity – many even require their sales leaders to get certified to ensure they’re coaching during pipeline, forecast, opportunity, and account reviews. They also measure and reward their leaders on the frequency and impact of their coaching while also applying negative consequences when managers don’t coach. 

4. They prevent complacency and continuously "top-grade" their team

A successful head coach is convinced the best day their organization has had hasn’t happened yet. They set increasingly high standards for the skills, knowledge, and commitment they expect from their organization. They challenge their people to grow into these high standards so that they always have a team of “A” players and protect against complacency.

As an example, wildly successful college football coach Nick Saban ‘top-grades’ his team each year because his greatest fear is complacency. He has a list of specific requirements for every position on his team at every level — right down to their height, weight, speed, intelligence, character, etc. If they don’t meet that top grade or standard, he won’t recruit that player. Or, in the case of his existing players, he won’t keep them on the team if they don’t meet these increasingly high standards. 

This may sound a little harsh, but he only wants players on his team who embrace the challenge of getting better every year. He clearly doesn’t want players who are satisfied with their past performance. Again, whether you’re a fan or not, it’s hard to argue with his team’s consistent success. What if the VP of sales applies this same approach to top-grading?

They’d be confident their organization is well positioned for growth, they’d be outlearning their competition, and they’d be consistently delivering the expected results.

Want to learn more about how you can leverage these and other best practices to build a winning sales team and sustainable competitive advantage? Let’s connect.

Axiom provides a unique alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events, we embed our methodology into your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better sales results. To learn more about our Mindful Selling Methodology, Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us

Women looking at view

Is it Time for a More Mindful Approach to Handling Objections?

Objections, whether a new issue we’ve never encountered or one we’ve heard a hundred times, tend to create stress for both buyer and seller. Buyers have often experienced such aggressive responses to their concerns in the past that the mere thought of sharing an issue with a salesperson makes them wildly uncomfortable. Meanwhile, salespeople have experienced scenarios where buyer “smoke screens” mask real issues, leaving them at a complete loss for how to help the buyer.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way – there is a more mindful approach to addressing buyer concerns that can facilitate a collaborative conversation that leaves both buyer and seller feeling valued and supported.

Quiet Confidence

Handling buyer concerns or objections often goes off the rails even before an issue is raised. Enthusiastic salespeople who have spent previous interactions working to understand their buyer’s business issues and decision criteria reach the presentation stage and unwittingly move from dialog to monologue. This can be triggered by even the most innocuous statement like, “We are really excited to show you our solution today, we are confident it’s the best alternative for your business and look forward to demonstrating why that is.”

Certainly, many salespeople have been taught to be enthusiastic about their own solution, but is that enthusiasm really going to encourage the buyer to share their honest feelings about what they see? For many of them, the answer is no. Once we have taken a position that we believe our solution is the best alternative, any feedback from them that is contrary to that may be perceived as challenging our position and launching a debate they simply want to avoid. This doesn’t mean they will buy from us in order to avoid the debate, it means they will stop communicating and we may not even uncover issues or concerns. This is an enormous problem because we cannot address issues that we aren’t able to identify.

In order to avoid this, we need to make clear throughout the engagement, and especially when presenting a recommendation, that our objective is NOT to convince them to buy from us. Instead, it is to help them figure out what is best for them. We need to demonstrate a quiet confidence that allows us to be vulnerable and open to the possibility that we don’t have the best solution. By demonstrating that helping them make the best decision is the ultimate win for us, we make it safe for them to share any concerns openly and honestly and thus overcome the first obstacle to handling an objection, which is not getting it at all.

Great, They are Telling Me What They Don’t Like … Now What?

Once we’ve created an environment where buyers are comfortable sharing concerns, we need to moderate our initial reaction when they share objections. Countless training programs have taught salespeople to be prepared for objections by having an answer at the ready for any objection they hear. However, anyone who’s had even one marriage counseling session (or sufficient emotional intelligence to know this without counseling 😉) knows that what people want most when they express a concern is to be heard and understood – they want to feel valued. What they don’t want is to feel marginalized, ignored, or categorized. When buyers raise concerns and we answer too quickly, we send a message that they aren’t unique, they aren’t special, they are just like everyone else. In fact, there is even an objection handling method called “feel, felt, found” that explicitly tells them they are just like other people. If our buyers don’t feel we genuinely care about their issue, they will be reluctant to engage in a conversation to address it.

So, when faced with a concern, we want to start by taking the time to fully understand it. What exactly do they mean by, “Your price is too high?” When they say something like, “I’m concerned about your service organization,” what are they worried will happen if they decide to work with us. If they tell us, “Your product doesn’t have feature X,” how do they feel this will impact their organization? In addition, we want to be certain we understand whether this is one of several concerns or is it perhaps the thing keeping them from moving forward and getting what they want to buy. Finally, we need to understand how significant the issue is; whether it could keep us from working together or is merely a minor distraction for them. When we take the time to understand the issue BEFORE trying to address it, we demonstrate a genuine concern for them that encourages a more open and honest conversation, and we avoid taking misguided actions that do more harm than good.

Discover the Solution Together

The good news with buyer objections is that there is almost always something – some set of actions that could be taken or adjustments that could be made – that would address the issue and allow them to move confidently forward with our solution. However, only the buyer can decide what that actually is – only the buyer can tell us what must be done in order for them to move from no to yes. Yet most salespeople are conditioned to offer up suggestions without ever engaging the buyer in the process. Believe me, I know!

I remember learning this lesson very early in my career when faced with what felt like a particularly challenging objection. After hearing the buyer’s concern (probably only superficially at that), I offered up my proposed solution, “Here’s what I can do, A, B, and C,” I said. To which my buyer replied, “Nope, that won’t do it.” So I tried again, “Ok, then how about we do D, E, and F?” I suggested. “Not gonna work,” was the response. This actually went on for a few more rounds before I was totally dumbfounded and asked a question that forever changed my approach. “What could we do to resolve this issue for you?” I asked, more out of exhaustion than insight. What my buyer said next was actually easier to get done than ANY of the ideas I had offered myself. Better yet, I learned an invaluable lesson about how all of us think when we are buyers.

As buyers, when we really want something, even if we have a concern, we may well have determined a path to address it before we’ve expressed the concern. As sellers, we need to remember this and give space for buyers to share with us what ideas they’ve come up with. Consider this part of the objection handling conversation to be less about us trying to get them to buy and more of a workshop where buyer and seller collaborate to figure out what can be done to address an issue. You may find yourself as surprised as I was.

If they don’t have ideas of their own, no worries. We can always contribute your ideas as well – it’s a workshop after all. However, one word of caution, when we do offer ideas, we should always offer them in the form of questions. For example, instead of saying what I did so many years ago, “Here’s what I can do for you…,” say something more like, “What if we could do this, would that address the issue and allow you to move forward?” By offering our ideas in the form of questions we are better able to avoid inadvertently making commitments even before we know if they will work.

Only Two Possible Answers

Despite all the stress we may feel about coming up with an answer to the buyer’s objection, if we take the approach outlined here, answering the objection is actually the easiest part of the entire process – because there are now only two possible answers to every objection we hear. Once we’ve worked with the buyer to determine what must be done to resolve the issue, the answer is either, “Yes, we can do that,” or “No, we cannot.” In some cases, buyers will have concerns that require something we simply cannot do. As salespeople it’s important to identify those situations – preferably as early as we possibly can – and to move forward knowing we did our best to understand and assist our buyer. While not every opportunity can be won, they can nearly always be understood.

Becoming Expert at Objection Handling

Naturally there’s a bit more to executing this consistently than we’ve had time to cover in a short blog post. No worries though, we want to help you become expert and handling buyer objections. So we are going to provide you with access to our online learning program on objection handling free of charge. Simply click here to register and you’ll have access to all the learning and practice modules you need to become fully proficient with this conversation … and well on your way to less stress and better results.

Want to talk through your most challenging objections or have a conversation to see if or how Axiom can help your sales organization? You can schedule a call with us here.

At Axiom Sales Kinetics we’ve spent thirty years helping sales teams coach, learn, and sell more effectively. We offer a unique, mindful alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events, we embed our methodology into your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better sales results. To learn more about Selling the Axiom Way, our Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at