Trusted Advisor Physician

Are You a Trusted Advisor to Your Prospects and Customers?

Pause for a moment to reflect on the relationships you’ve had in your life. Think about the people you know care about you, people who would always put your interests first and would always act in your best interest, without regard to if/how it benefits them. These are the people we most trust. Now, think about people whose expertise you most value, the people you can count on for expert advice and counsel because they are particularly wise and thoughtful. If you were to list out the names of the people on these two lists and create a Venn diagram showing those people who appear on both lists, you’d have your list of trusted advisors.

As sales professionals, our ability to become trusted advisors to our prospects and customers has the potential to transform our sales performance AND our job satisfaction. Today we’ll look at what it means to be a trusted advisor and how sales professionals could fill this role for every prospect and customer they meet.

The Two Characteristics of Trusted Advisors

Nearly everyone has experienced the power and value of having a trusted advisor at some point in their lives or career. Perhaps this was a physician, attorney, accountant, or financial planner. Whatever their profession, trusted sales advisors demonstrate two critical characteristics that set them apart and make them invaluable resources.

First, they see our best interests as their number one priority. We never feel we have to withhold information or provide an incomplete picture of our situation because we are certain they will always do right by us. We never have to worry that serving their own self-interests will be in conflict with serving us, because they genuinely value the relationship and therefore believe that serving us is in their best interest.

Secondly, trusted advisors have the skill and knowledge needed to help us be successful. Let’s face it; we may share with friends and family and may have authentic, loving relationships. But that doesn’t mean you want your brother-in-law performing surgery or filing your taxes. Trusted sales advisors possess expertise they can leverage to help us.

However focused or broad their expertise may be, we also trust that they are authentic and will leverage it without purporting to have something to offer when they don’t. This unique balance of expertise and authenticity allows the trusted sales advisor to build lasting, productive relationships.

Why Become a Trusted Advisor?

Numerous studies illustrate the value of becoming trusted sales advisors. When sales professionals become trusted advisors in the eyes of their prospects and customers, they produce better results. More importantly, trusted advisors experience the internal reward that comes when one’s personal and professional life are aligned.

Far too often in this profession, sellers are told about the importance of authentic relationships just before they are taught a skill that puts them at odds with the people they are supposed to serve. This disconnect sabotages productive relationships and sales performance.

Trusted advisors never place their need for results above client needs because they don’t want to and don’t have to.

What Do Trusted Advisors Do?

Becoming a trusted advisor isn’t a one-time decision because developing the skill and knowledge to add value to our relationships isn’t a one-time event. One of the hallmarks of trusted advisors is that we trust in their expertise. This doesn’t happen by accident or by way of some communications tactic – trusted advisors invest in their own development and learn continuously as a means of providing the best possible value to the people they serve.

Not only does this mean they study within their field, whether it be medicine, finance, telecommunications, technology, or something else, but it also means they study more broadly to better understand the people and businesses they serve. This includes a pressing desire to improve how they can best interact with those they serve to add value constantly.

4 Steps to Becoming a Trusted Sales Advisor

For many professionals, there are proven models for how they should interact with their clients in order to provide the best value possible, and professional selling is no different. Want to become a trusted sales advisor? Do the following key things better than your competition and you’ll be valued by everyone you meet – even if they don’t immediately become customers. (We have included a reference to Axiom model for each of these conversations as reference only. It isn’t critical that you use Axiom models, only that you become highly skilled with an effective model for each.)

1. Learn about the people you serve — Trusted sales advisors are curious about the people they serve, not because they can sell something or that people will love them. They do it because they love to learn about others and genuinely appreciate the unique differences they find in every interaction with everyone they meet. But they aren’t random, either. They have a system to learn about others — a way to dive in on what is really important to each and every person they meet.

At Axiom, the model for deeply understanding prospects, customers, and their businesses is referred to as DIG (Description, Impact, and Gap)

2. Use what you’ve learned to help people make better decisions — Trusted sales advisors know that decisions create our experiences. They realize that even before someone can be served by a product or service, that person needs to become comfortable with their own decision. They also never take another person’s decision lightly, and they become experts at differentiated decision-making to help their prospects and customers and they use what they know to help their buyers make more informed decisions.

At Axiom, the model for developing these criteria is DICE (Description, Impact, Criterion, and Evidence) 

3. When you make a recommendation, be compelling — Trusted sales advisors speak in specific terms on issues that are important to the other person. They know people will do more to avoid near-term pain than they will to gain future benefits. So they learn to speak specifically about how today’s decisions impact today’s issues and tie this to a clear picture of a better future.

At Axiom, the methodology for presenting recommendations is PCSB (Problem, Cause, Solution, and Benefit).

4. Always collaborate to address concerns — Trusted sales advisors never consider another person’s concerns to be an objection to the advisor’s position. They understand that making good decisions can be difficult and would never minimize those concerns. They frame the concerns objectively to illuminate the real issue. By helping their buyers understand the true significance of the concern, they can work with that person to determine what can be done to resolve the issue.

At Axiom, the model for this interaction is IQRIQA (Identify, Quantify, Relate, Isolate, Qualify, and Answer).

Ready to become a trusted sales advisor to your prospects, customers, or sales team? For more than 25 years, Axiom has helped enterprise sales teams become trusted advisors. 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.

More importantly, we engage in an authentic relationship to become trusted advisors to your team. The result is ongoing upward sales momentum, stronger, longer-lasting relationships, and a sustainable, competitive advantage. To learn more about our Mindful Selling Methodology, Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at

Sales Excellence Journey

Why You Need a Sales Operating System

While Alabama football may not be playing for a national championship again this year, it’s nearly certain they will be in the mix again next year. Meanwhile, Georgia, led by a former Alabama assistant coach, may well repeat as national champions. And as I think about that, I’m reminded of the importance of a comprehensive sales operating system for competitive excellence. I know … quite a shift from football to sales. But bear with me.  

At Alabama, they don’t just have a scheme for offense and defense. They have a system for everything from who they recruit to how they practice and prepare to coach. And they are fanatically committed to that system. If this approach helps the Alabama football team achieve the highest winning percentage in college football, could it help your team win at a higher rate?


Let’s face it. A myriad of challenges besets the sales profession (I know, beset and myriad in the first sentence of a blog is frightening, but hang on). Buyers engage with sellers later in their evaluation than ever before – if they engage at all. More products are sold more often and without the involvement of a sales professional than ever before. Yet, despite losing control over information about our solutions, there is hope. When buyers engage with salespeople, that engagement will likely have more impact on their decision than the product, the price, and the company combined!

Whoop-de-doo, what does it all mean, Basil? (Blatant Austin Powers reference for fans of the trilogy).

Selling more effectively might be your company’s most important competitive advantage. Unfortunately, many companies leave sales excellence to chance and miss a great opportunity to differentiate themselves. These companies often have little to no formal processes for this critical business function.

They often lack predictive, leading indicators for sales performance, and their models for opportunity management, account management, and sales coaching are often poorly defined.

The result: sporadic achievement, missed forecasts, and mounting frustration.

Please understand me. It isn’t that these companies aren’t trying to sell better than their competition. Everyone wants to sell better, just like every college football team wants to win weekly. However, most companies still treat selling as something between black art and acquired skill. They either try to gain an advantage by hiring people who have already figured out how to sell, or they send everyone to training once a year, hoping that new skills will stick.

What these companies really need is a comprehensive system that drives superior execution of proven skills – they need a full-blown sales operating system.

Now, before you tap out because that project is too overwhelming even to consider, let us provide a four-point roadmap and reassure you that this can be done in the next 6 – 12 months.

Step 1: Implemeny Models

The first step on our journey is to implement models for your most important selling behaviors, including how your people will engage with prospects and customers. This cannot just be a fancy way to tell your company story. Prospects don’t meet with us because they think our story will be more entertaining than the season finale of Ted Lasso. They meet with us because they need help figuring out what is best for them, which means we need to understand them. Your customer engagement model should help you build great relationships by being completely aligned with your buyers’ needs at each step along their journey.

More than random skills models, your people need to know WHAT to do, WHEN, AND HOW to do it, and there should be some consistency and agreement about what poor, acceptable, and exceptional execution looks like. To facilitate this, you should have clear information objectives (what you want to know about prospects and customers) and models for everything from learning about their business to developing differentiating decision criteria and presenting recommendations based on their unique situation and criteria.

Key point – wherever possible, you need the ability to capture artifacts from these buyer interactions to facilitate effective execution of these models.

For example, if your people should be gathering specific information about their opportunities, such as business issues and differentiating criteria, this information should be available for review as artifacts of effective or perhaps ineffective execution.

Step 2: Sales Model

Second, you need a model for how your sales managers will coach and develop your people. In fact, sales coaching is arguably the single most important habit for a high-performing sales team to develop. This needs to include the cadence and approach for everything from funnel/pipeline reviews to opportunity and account plan reviews to joint sales calls. Once again, there must be measurable artifacts from effective coaching conversations, this time in the form of selling or developmental assignments. With nothing to measure, you will have no way to evaluate the effectiveness of your coaches and their ability to develop your team.

Step 3: Embed All Models into Your CRM

Your selling and coaching models must be embedded into your CRM. This means more than just creating a few fields and reports. The typical CRM is a great platform for sales success. Still, it doesn’t have applications to help people win opportunities, or coach and develop sellers. Done correctly, the CRM can help drive best practices and help you create accountability for better selling and coaching engagements.

Don’t be fooled by custom development projects with no clear behavioral models or disjointed point solutions that promise to drive any and all selling behaviors. Even more importantly, please don’t accept any solution that treats the learning and development of your team as an event that is separate from their work.

The most effective learning happens while people do their jobs, not apart from it.

Step 4: Recruit

Finally, once you define these models and embed them into your CRM with applications that are specifically designed to support execution and promote accountability, you are ready to recruit your players. Maybe you already have the right team in place, but candidly, the right players aren’t absolute. It depends on the system they are in.

Alabama has very strict guidelines for the type of players they will recruit. How committed are they? Each year, they are allowed just one exception to their profile. Not one per position, or one on offense and one on defense, just one … period! Once you know what system you are running, you can bring on talent that suits the system. And you can do it confidently, knowing that the right talent in the right system will consistently produce better outcomes. But how do you know you are on the right track? Do like all great teams, constantly measure everything and look for ways to adjust to optimize your results. If you’ve implemented the right models and tools, it will be easier than you think to see the full “causal chain” for your sales successes and failures, and you will be on the path to continuous improvement.

As Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban says, “Process guarantees success. A good process produces good results.”

Want to learn more? 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

Productive sales conversations

3 Ways to Improve Your C-Level Prospecting

I saw this happen regularly during my time as a COO — well-intentioned salespeople with their minds focused on C-level sales prospecting blowing up my phone, my inbox, or my LinkedIn as they try in vain to earn a spot on my calendar. Their promise: Guaranteed solutions to help my business be more efficient, spend less money, and protect our information.

Do I want to be more efficient? Definitely. Do I want to spend less money and protect our information? Who wouldn’t?

Am I accepting their meeting requests? Absolutely not! Allow me to explain a bit more …

If it’s Important, Don’t Insult Everyone Else While Trying to Get to the Top

I’m not blind to the fact that they may actually have something relevant to the top priorities in our business, in which case I should and would meet with him. But I simply can’t spend the time BEFORE I know if this is the case (more on this later). Therefore, not only was I the wrong person to initially evaluate their potential solutions, but they also missed a terrific opportunity to learn more about our business to ensure they weren’t wasting their time or ours.

Their mistakes may have been one or a combination of several assumptions:

  • Only the C-level contact knows the information needed to uncover a sales opportunity

  • Only the C-level contact has the authority to evaluate a solution and commit the company to buy it

  • The gatekeeper is intent on keeping me from the C-level contact

This is the point where so many well-meaning salespeople fail in their C-level sales prospecting efforts. Rather than asking our executive or others in the business a few questions about our business and the issues that matter most to us, these people insist that they can only speak with me. As a result, they don’t get through to me, offend the person who could have helped them be successful, and unknowingly have their smartly worded follow-up email quickly deleted in one swift keystroke.

You Have to Know Me to Help Me

If you want C-level sales prospecting success, you’d better have something important to say. In today’s hectic business climate, decision-makers have far more priorities than time to address them. Every day, there are tasks we don’t get to.

Balls get dropped, and important issues that should be addressed don’t earn a second of our time.

So, one of the most important tasks for an executive is to make absolutely certain that the critical things (Stephen Covey referred to these as the “Big Rocks”) get done. Failing to do so can mean the difference between success and failure — and failure simply isn’t an option. With all that said, why didn’t I make an exception and talk to the C-level sales prospector this morning?

It’s simple — they aren’t taking the time to know me or relating anything they do to the big rocks in our business. And I certainly can’t afford to let one of them remain undone while I educate this person about what the big issues are.

How Can You Improve Your C-Level Sales Prospecting?

1.   Know what problems you can solve — Before you make a single call, be certain that you know what it is you are looking to uncover. You have opportunities when businesses have and care about problems you can solve.

2.   Do some research and make every call count — Even the person who answers the phone may have information that will help you understand what value you can bring. Gather information BEFORE you reach out to a decision-maker, as this person likely won’t have the time or the inclination to educate you. Understanding the top priorities and challenges for a target company can be as easy as a quick call or a little online research, but it can pay enormous dividends.

3.   Be compelling — When and if you find a meaningful business problem you can solve, share it with the targeted contact. Don’t be secretive, and don’t make crazy promises. Simply share what you’ve learned, and if it is a real business priority, securing an appointment will be the easiest part of your day. Imagine the difference in a C-Level contacts reaction when you use some generic benefit statement claiming you can help their business versus their view when you share that you’ve learned about an important initiative they have that you can help them achieve.

Whether you are calling on net new accounts, or prospecting for new opportunities within existing customers, following these steps can help you fill your pipeline with more opportunities that close at a significantly higher rate.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming you can help — KNOW you can.

Want to learn more? 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

Enterprise Sales Sucess

A New Year’s Resolution for Your Enterprise Sales Team

It’s nearly that time again! From eating better to getting more exercise and spending more time with loved ones, in a few short weeks people everywhere will begin the new year intent on creating new healthy habits or abandoning old unhealthy ones. It seems like the perfect time to take a similar view of your enterprise sales team, and the good news is that just one simple change in 2023 could change everything about your sales performance now and for many years to come.

Keystone Habits for Enterprise Sales

In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg describes the power and importance of Keystone Habits. According to Mr. Duhigg, Keystone Habits are small changes people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives. In other words, slight changes that have a profound effect. Some common examples of Keystone Habits that can have significant impact include:

  • Regular family dinners

  • Exercise

  • Meditation

  • Daily planning

  • And yes, even making your bed

So, what are the keystone habits for your enterprise sales team?

Perhaps you think better prospecting is the key. Or, you have become convinced that they need to be better storytellers, use social media more effectively, challenge customers more, or provide better insights. While it may be true that improvements in these areas would help your salespeople produce better results, none of these are likely Keystone Habits for your salespeople. In fact, the Keystone Habits probably don’t require training as much as a structured approach to change management and tremendous discipline. Our suggested Keystone Habit for enterprise salespeople in 2023, the fundamental change that may have the farthest-reaching impact, will change what sellers do with the information they gather about their opportunities and accounts!

Capture, Record, and Share Information

Think about this for a moment. What is the natural tendency for most salespeople after leaving a customer meeting? What do they do with the information they gather? Most file it away, sometimes in the recesses of their minds or a folder inside a cabinet. Either way, they almost always store it.

Here is what they don’t do: they don’t share it.

Unless it is excellent news, they don’t generally run back and debrief with their manager and colleagues to compare what they uncovered to their target information objectives. They don’t produce a report that is circulated to any other team member who might be able to assist with the account or opportunity. And they most certainly don’t enter what they have gathered into any system or tool that can help them see what they have missed, objectively evaluate the opportunity, develop a better strategy, or identify opportunities to develop their skills. Because salespeople don’t have the habit of sharing information, let alone putting information into a tool, most tools can do little to help them become more effective. In addition, since there is little in the way of an objective view of a customer contact unless a sales manager actually observes it, real, meaningful coaching conversations essential to driving the adoption of any new skills are limited in frequency and scope. As a result, most training programs have little lasting impact.

Finally, and perhaps most critically, if you run an enterprise sales team with any turnover, critical information about your prospects and customers walks out the door every time a salesperson leaves the business. This puts your future revenue at risk.

A Small but Difficult Change

What if your people were in the habit of recording key information about opportunities and accounts and sharing that with relevant members of the team? What if you knew the evaluators for every opportunity in your pipeline? What if you knew the other alternatives your prospects were considering and the criteria they would use to determine which alternative to choose? What if you knew what their most pressing business issues are? What if, and please don’t freak out when we say this, but what if they actually recorded this information right in your CRM? After all, should a Customer Relationship Management system have information about the customer relationships you hope to manage?

Moreover, what if you knew which sellers on your team did and did not have this information for which specific opportunities?

How much better would the coaching be? How much more accurate would forecasting be? How much better could we serve customers if we only knew what information we had and what was missing? You see, it isn’t what we don’t know that dooms us – it’s what we don’t know that we don’t know. And in sales, this is our most fundamental problem – we don’t share what we do and don’t know about our opportunities and accounts in any scalable, efficient manner.

Imagine for a moment you work in a hospital with hundreds of patients and dozens of doctors and nurses. Your hospital is like most in terms of the care it provides and the processes it follows— with one minor exception. In your hospital, there are no patient charts. If a nurse or doctor wants to know something about the patient, she can either ask the patient or ask the last person who treated the patient. Can you imagine the frustration?! Every analysis requires a new level of exploration and rehashing of things that have already been covered multiple times.

That is precisely what it is like to be a sales manager talking with a seller about a key account or opportunity. Although enterprise sales teams spend millions on their CRM systems, most have little, if any, critical information about their key accounts and working opportunities.

2023 Enterprise Sales Resolution: Information Defines Opportunity

  • Now imagine how much more effective your team could be if they gathered and efficiently shared information such as:
  • Evaluators for each opportunity

  • Other alternatives being considered and any that are favored

  • Business issues affecting the prospect or customer

  • Criteria for making a buying decision

  • Decisions stages

They would not only win at a higher rate but also spend less time working opportunities that they cannot and will not win. Moreover, managers could have dramatically more effective and efficient coaching conversations because they would no longer need to spend so much time pulling information from sellers and could focus their energy on real gaps in the seller’s ability to elicit and leverage important information. In fact, our analysis shows that by leveraging the CRM to store and analyze this type of information, managers can save as much as 45 minutes per opportunity review and be more effective!

Finally, when key information is entered into a system leveraging predictive technology, the system itself can help the seller gain a more objective view of the opportunity and thereby forecast more accurately, develop better strategies, and even improve their skill and knowledge. With so much potential upside, isn’t it time you fully leverage your CRM and make it the tool it was meant to be – a tool that helps your team learn, coach, and sell with greater effectiveness than ever before? Make no mistake, this isn’t the right resolution for every sales team, especially more transactional teams with shorter sales cycles. But for enterprise sales organizations working complex opportunities, strategic accounts, and long sales cycles, this resolution has the power to dramatically alter their collective effectiveness.

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

CRM Data Entry

Does Your CRM Have the Data to Improve Sales Effectiveness? Part 1

We’ve had a spate of discussions recently about information and a general lack thereof in the typical CRM. To be clear, no one is suggesting that CRM solutions inherently lack information. What everyone seems to agree on, though, is that most CRMs have only a fraction of the prospect/customer information they could or should have.

Further, the consensus appears that most salespeople can’t or won’t populate information about their opportunities and accounts.

Lazy Salespeople?

For the record, I’m not the one taking this position. In my various conversations, it’s people who believe they “know” salespeople and that salespeople WILL NOT enter information into the CRM.

More specifically, these people believe salespeople will ONLY ENTER THE MINIMUM NECESSARY to get paid or comply with company policy. In fact, according to some self-described experts, that’s how it was, is, and always will be. Now, this may or may not be true for any given salesperson or team, but let’s concede for the point of this discussion, that it’s correct for the overwhelming majority of people. 

Assuming that this is the case, the questions we must answer are:

  • Does it matter?

  • Do we want more information about opportunities, accounts, and customers?

  • Why don’t our salespeople enter information into the CRM?

  • What, if anything, would drive change in this behavior?

  • If we can’t change this behavior, how useful will the CRM be in driving better sales performance?

Does It Matter?

Do we want more information about opportunities, accounts, and customers?

To some people, it doesn’t always matter. Certainly, you want to understand your customers, including the issues most important to them and the criteria they use to evaluate your solutions. However, there are some instances where the sales cycle is so short, and the transaction volume is so high that capturing this data doesn’t make practical sense.

To use an extreme example, a salesperson at a retail clothing store may do an excellent job understanding you and your criteria for purchasing a suit, but by the time this information is entered into the CRM, two or three more customers may have come and gone. Other technologies, including customer surveys, store heat maps, and sales data, MUST be used in those environments.

Let’s suppose you’re on the opposite end of the spectrum. Your salesperson is working on a seven or eight-figure opportunity that will involve multiple evaluators on the buyer’s side and several resources from your company. Perhaps the sales cycle will be 6, 12, or even 18 months, during which time dozens of conversations will occur between your team and your prospective customer. Now, imagine that all the information gathered in those discussions is kept only on a notepad of the person on your team who had the conversation. Or worse, it’s in their head!

What happens to this opportunity if your team changes? How can they systematically work and analyze an opportunity when they don’t know what they do or don’t know about the opportunity?

In this case, not only do you want information, but you need to have it in a system that will facilitate better analysis and collaboration that helps the team win. In this case, your CRM can and should be a virtual war room that the team uses to develop their winning strategy.

In fact, if the opportunity is significant enough, you won’t even settle for process gates and check boxes that demonstrate key points have been covered and the right information gathered – you will want to SEE the data. 

The reality is that most sales opportunities lie between these two extremes, but most salespeople avoid putting data into the CRM, irrespective of the opportunity. This leads us to the second question.

Why Don’t Our Salespeople Enter Information into the CRM?

Let’s begin by eliminating the wrong answer – they’re lazy.

Salespeople are neither lazy nor irresponsible. In fact, salespeople are quite the opposite.

So, why don’t salespeople enter data into the CRM as requested? Simple, the pain of entering it outweighs the benefit to them of doing so.

Salespeople are just like other human beings, and ALL human beings do what they believe is in their own best interest. Unfortunately, many companies implement their CRM solution with little thought to the benefit it will bring to the people who are expected to use it. Reports, dashboards, triggers, and workflows are all designed so that management can better understand what is happening in the field. However, they provide little to no value unless salespeople derive value from entering data into the system – otherwise there will simply be constant handwringing about how inadequate the information is.

The second reason people don’t enter data into the system is that doing so is too cumbersome. For this reason, some providers replace information with check boxes in their applications. For example, rather than requiring salespeople to enter the companies against whom they’re competing for a given opportunity, the application will display the question, “Do you know who you’re competing against?” and then the salesperson can select either yes or no.  

Unfortunately, the problem with this approach is that it doesn’t teach people to have better conversations with their prospects and customers. Instead, it teaches people to check the boxes that keep them from unwanted attention from management.

So, our salespeople don’t enter data because the pain is greater than the benefit. Don’t be too frustrated, hope is not lost. Be sure to check out the second in this two-part series to get practical suggestions about what we can do to address this challenge and make CRM a real sales effectiveness tool.

Want to learn more? 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


Why Your CRM Is Only as Good as the Data You Gather: Part II

Before you read this blog post, I invite you to read Part 1 here. In today’s post, we will discuss four steps you can take to improve CRM utilization and drive better business outcomes.

As you may recall from Part 1 of this blog, the ultimate reason salespeople don’t enter data into the CRM is because the personal cost-benefit analysis for them is skewed – the pain of doing it simply outweighs the benefit.

Many companies have tried and failed to remedy this by administering negative consequences for non-compliance, which generally, and unfortunately results in minimum compliance and bad data.

We Need To Do Better for Our Salespeople Before They Can Do Better for Us

The solution? We need to do a better job of aligning the CRM with the needs of your salespeople. Here are four quick recommendations to help ensure CRM systems HELP salespeople be more effective by entering meaningful data. The guaranteed result is better learning, better coaching, and better selling – the combination of which will produce dramatically better results.

1. Establish a common methodology.

You can’t align a system to dozens, let alone hundreds, of different selling methodologies. Therefore, the most fundamental step to making the CRM a valuable tool for salespeople is to get aligned around a single model and set of agreed-upon information objectives for qualifying opportunities.

Unless EVERYONE can agree on what information they want from prospects and customers, they won’t ever agree to enter it into the CRM.

2. Use the information to help salespeople win more business.

If you’ve defined a common set of information objectives, use what’s entered to help your sellers better understand their win probability and how to improve their chances of winning each opportunity they pursue. Not only will it benefit the salespeople by increasing their closing ratios, but it will also increase the accuracy and efficiency of sales forecasting — a major friction point for many sales teams.

3. Leverage the information to help them learn and develop.

When gathering information becomes a shared objective, and your salespeople see first-hand the indelible link between what they know about opportunities and how often they win, they will want to become more proficient. Leveraging your CRM investment to help them do so is the Holy Grail in the struggle to capture meaningful information. When the system can recommend solutions, learning, and winning strategies and tactics based on the data people enter, and when managers use this same data to provide more useful feedback and coaching, your people get significant rewards for their time investment.

 4. Make it easy to enter data.

Last, but certainly not least, it’s incumbent upon the sales operations/IT team to find ways to make data entry easier. Beyond employing pick lists and drop downs wherever possible, it’s critical to find ways to better leverage data already in the system.

For example, you may have multiple salespeople in various geographies calling on local decision-makers for a national or international company. Why should each and every person enter the same information about that company or the current solutions he or she is employing? Once the first rep or account manager has entered it, it should be available for the others to pull into their respective opportunities.

This single capability allows everyone to benefit from data across multiple opportunities without duplicating an administrative function.


No matter the severity or frequency of the stick, salespeople will continue to fight the directives to use CRM until leadership makes the CRM serve the salespeople. However, if done properly, this has the potential to transform your sales organization and provide you with a sustainable competitive advantage.

Seem impossible? Remember the words of Nelson Mandela when facing far greater obstacles than these, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Want to learn more? 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


Hidden Relationships Don’t Have to Derail Your Sales Opportunities

While virtually all salespeople want to understand the competitive landscape within each opportunity they pursue, few actually ask the right questions to uncover the right information to facilitate a candid, productive conversation with their buyers. In this video we share four questions every sales person should ask every buyer they meet. When they do, they will better understand the alternatives the buyer is considering, any favored alternative they may have, and possibly even uncover hidden relationships that will affect the buyer’s decision.

No matter what they learn, this information will allow buyer and seller to have a more candid conversation about the buyer’s true decision criteria. Win more, waste less time, experience less frustration.

This video will help people better understand:

  • Why salespeople don’t uncover alternatives and favored alternatives.
  • How the absence of this information can derail sales opportunities.
  • Four questions to uncover alternatives, favored alternatives, and begin developing differentiating criteria.


Click here for complimentary access to our online learning content on how to uncover alternatives and favored alternatives.

Frustrating Shopping

‘Tis the Season: The Key to Fixing Sales Forecasting Forever

For many companies, the holiday season is also the “create next year’s forecast” season. And often times, the exercise of creating that forecast can involve even more emotion and energy than battling mall crowds to find the perfect gift for a loved one. Unfortunately, there’s no magic bullet to developing a forecast that is 100% accurate. However, most companies can produce significantly more accurate forecasts with less negative energy surrounding the exercise. 

Let’s take a look at why forecasts matter, why they are so often inaccurate, and a few approaches that can help dramatically improve the result.

Why Do Sales Forecasts Matter?

Every company wants a way to predict results, drive performance, and promote accountability, which is why creating a forecast remains an important activity despite the pain and suffering. But when the sales forecasts are perpetually inaccurate, several groups are negatively impacted:

  • Investors and senior leaders can’t plan

  • Managers and sellers expend time and energy for nothing

  • Customers suffer because they’re pressured by sales reps trying to hit the forecast 

To put it simply, most companies need to improve their sales forecasting ability.

Forecast or Target?

Before we talk about common forecasting methods and ways to make them more effective, a quick word about what may be the most significant challenge to developing an accurate forecast – confusing an aggressive sales target with a sales forecast.

While it is certainly true that organizations across the spectrum face pressures to achieve targets that will please investors, building a forecast by having leadership pick a number that will appeal to investors is arguably the most fundamental reason for inaccurate forecasts. When sales leaders are given a number and told to make it happen, or that forecasting anything lower than this target would be considered failure, bad behaviors often ensue. This isn’t to say leaders shouldn’t challenge the sales organization to produce better results by establishing aggressive target.

However, goals and forecasts are not, and should not be the same thing. It is entirely acceptable to set an aggressive sales goal and work our way backward to see what we need to produce in terms of our predictive metrics in order to achieve a given target. (More on this below.)

We just don’t want to confuse what we want to accomplish with what we know we will accomplish. Since the sales forecast often drives a variety of other decision including the expense budget, we want to predict as accurately as we can, not as optimistically as we can.

Forecasting Methods

So, how do we create accurate forecasts without exhausting the organization? Here are three of the most common approaches to sales forecasting. None are completely right or wrong, but a given organization may need to apply more than one method to increase their accuracy.

1. Weighted Funnel 

The Weighted Funnel is used when organizations have no way of knowing with 100% certainty when a sale will close. Therefore, a sales rep selects deals that are supposed to close within a specific timeframe and have a particular value. A “win probability” is used to create a weighted value. 

The Pitfalls:

The close dates are often guesses and missing the close date by just a few days can result in missing the forecast by thousands or even millions of dollars.

The win probability isn’t determined using any metric that’s related to how the customer makes decisions. Often the win probability is based on the sales stage, such that later stage opportunities automatically have higher win probabilities. However, this can be wildly inaccurate for a given opportunity.

The Fix:

  • Base the win probabilities for each unique opportunity on the confirmed knowledge of the customer’s business issues, their decision criteria, their alternatives/options, and the compelling reason the customer must act. 

  • Test the customer’s evaluation and decision timeline and the date they need to commit to determine the close date. 

  • Don’t add a sale to the forecast unless it has a win probability of 35% to 50% and the decision timeline has been validated.

2. Rep Generated Forecast

This is the most common forecasting method, but it’s hard to manage. Typically, with this approach, each sales person provides their manager with a number they will “commit” to closing in the current period. Often times, they are also expected to provide an “upside” and/or “best case” number that represents what they may achieve if things go their way.

The Pitfalls

There are three perspectives to consider when sales forecasting: The sales rep, the sales manager, and the customer. Which one of these is usually left out of the forecasting discussion? If you said the customer, you’re exactly right. Too often, forecasting problems occur because there is too little consideration given to when and how the customer will make their decision.

Another challenge occurs when the sales rep and the manager aren’t in alignment on the objective of the forecast. The sales reps may think the objective is to provide an accurate forecast and therefore provide numbers they believe they can close in the forecast period. Meanwhile, the sales managers think the objective is to hit the previously established goals and pushes reps to commit to more sales because “it’s unacceptable to forecast failure”.

Finally, sales reps, especially those who are NOT achieving their objectives, can be notoriously optimistic. Meanwhile, some star performers can be well accomplished sand baggers. The combination requires a level of interpretation from sales managers that borders on divination as they try to balance their experiences against what reps have submitted.

Overtime, these challenges can produce a variety of dysfunctional behaviors and perpetually inaccurate forecasts that often get adjusted down dramatically in the final weeks or days in a given period.

The Fix

  • Reward accuracy in commitments.

  • Solicit input from sales reps using anonymous surveys to boost accuracy, objectivity, and credibility.

3. Mathematical Model

Sales is ultimately a production business. Performance can be predicted, and it can be predicted mathematically using five predictive metrics. The formula is simple: Activity X Proficiency = Sales.

Activity is measured in two ways:

  • The number of NEW opportunities required

  • The number of NEW proposals required

Proficiency is measured by:

  • The proposal ratio: The % of new opportunities converting to proposals

  • The close ratio: The % of proposals that turn into closed sales

  • Average sale value per opportunity

As discussed here, these predictive metrics can be used to create more attainable sales goals, something we refer to as the Sales Success Plan. However, they can also be used to predict future sales results. In order to achieve a given sales target, the appropriate combination of predictive metrics must be achieved. If they are not, the sales target cannot be achieved … mathematically impossible. Put another way, any miss in sales performance will be preceded by a miss in one or more of the predictive metrics.

Using these predictive metrics to generate a forecast can be particularly effective in an environment where we have a very large number of sellers and opportunities as the law of large numbers will ultimately help improve the mathematical accuracy of the forecast. This is also helpful in scenarios where the sales cycle is so short that sellers have difficulty delivering a forecast based on defined opportunities as they haven’t even met with some of them yet.

The Pitfalls

Many companies make the calculation too complicated with many variables, and the data set is insufficient.

The Fix

  • Keep it simple. Don’t use too many variables; continuously improve your model as you gather more data.

  • The mathematical model is an excellent choice to pair with another model to ensure forecasting accuracy. 

Next Steps

Armed with an understanding of some of the most common approaches to effective, accurate sales forecasting, teams can begin to transform the exercise from one of frustrating fantasy to a consistent and effective business process that improves profitability and efficiency. One final thought if you work for an organization that needs to make this transformation: you are about to align on a change initiative and there are a few keys to making the change stick: 

  • Management must align their objectives to the initiative

  • Objectives must be tied to rewards and consequences

  • You must demand data integrity! 

Select the forecasting method that meshes with your values. If you value accuracy, the rep-generated method is not a good choice since sales reps tend to overestimate their future performance. Continuously improve whatever method you choose with new data as it is received, then use that data to drive salespeople and managers to better results. With the correct approach, you can develop more accurate forecasts with less overall effort.

Want help creating more accurate forecasts and better sales performance? Axiom provides a unique alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events,we embed our methodologyinto your sales cadence, delivering dramatically better results. To learn more about our Mindful Selling Methodology, Kinetics Sales Effectiveness Platform, or our unique, guaranteed approach, please visit us at

Sales Metrics

Video and White Paper: The Truth About Sales Performance Metrics

Many organizations struggle to optimize sales performance – largely because they don’t have clear, meaningful metrics – but it doesn’t have to be this way.

As highlighted in three recent research journal articles, the unfortunate truth about sales performance metrics is that sales organizations typically focus most of their energy on the wrong metrics and generally use the metrics they are tracking in the wrong way. This results in a variety of associated dysfunctional selling behaviors that lead to missed objectives, decreased margins, and customer and sales team churn. In this paper we will examine the underlying challenges associated with many of the commonly used metrics and provide a framework for defining and leveraging improved sales performance measures. Readers will also be provided a list of sample metrics and recommended steps to implementing more effective sales performance measures in their organizations.

This white paper will help readers:

  • Better evaluate the quality of their sales performance metrics.

  • Guide the organization on how to properly use sales performance metrics to improve sales effectiveness.

  • Secure organizational alignment around the predictive metrics that can help them drive sales excellence.

Click here to review and download the white paper.

Exceptional Customer Experience

An Exceptional Customer Experience Begins With Your Sales Interactions

The customer experience continues to be an incredibly hot topic, largely driven by companies like Apple, who are relentlessly focused on providing customers with a great experience from start to finish. For companies with a sales team, delivering an exceptional customer experience really begins with the interactions buyers have with your salespeople.

Is Sales Serving the Customer?

Much of what has been written about sales effectiveness is focused on meeting the seller’s needs – helping them convince more people to buy their solutions. Please don’t get me wrong; many sales training programs stress the importance of understanding the customers and meeting their needs. But close examination finds that these approaches focus more on the seller winning a deal than on the buyer making a great decision.

So, let’s step back from our desired outcome – getting a sale – for a moment. What does a remarkable experience look like from the buyer’s perspective? When we consider our sales interactions in this light, we get a clear picture of three things our model must deliver to all prospects and customers to provide an exceptional customer experience.

Solve Their First Problem First

Too often, salespeople focus on figuring out how their products and services will solve customers’ problems and/or help them achieve objectives. On the surface, this seems appropriate and may become the right approach at some point in the process. However, every seller on your team must understand that any prospect or customer meeting with them has a problem that takes precedence over your products and services. As discussed in our blog, Solving The One Problem All Buyers Have, these buyers are struggling to figure out what is best for them. If they cannot get comfortable with their decision, they won’t be comfortable with our solution either.

Therefore, the primary service salespeople can and should provide is meaningful, expert decision-making assistance. This means salespeople must become experts at evaluating solutions and making informed business decisions — not just presentation skills, negotiating tactics, or closing techniques.

Teach Them Something They Don't Already Know

Another part of providing buyers with an exceptional experience is providing them with meaningful insights. Unfortunately, this is sometimes interpreted to mean that salespeople should try to tell buyers things about the buyer’s business they don’t already know. Now, perhaps you are one of the very few companies with the research staff and intelligence needed to make your sellers more of an expert at other people’s businesses than those who work in these companies every day. However, more often than not, this attempt to educate buyers about their business cannot be adequately supported and falls flat. This doesn’t mean we cannot provide meaningful insights, but it does mean we must shift our focus from general insights about their business to insights about how other companies are solving similar problems or evaluating similar alternatives.

For example, suppose your buyer has a defined project to evaluate how to best leverage new technology in their trucking company. As a provider of this technology, you may never know as much as they do about trucking. However, they will likely evaluate this once every several years or perhaps once in a career. But you talk with people about this technology, the associated business issues, and the criteria for evaluating solutions every day. They may only build one business case for this decision, and you may see three in a given week. You may even have helped those other companies to develop clear, differentiating decision criteria tied to their specific business objectives. Because of this, you have tremendous insights about how the technology can impact their business and the types of things other companies, possibly even other trucking companies, consider when evaluating this technology. These insights can help the customer make the most informed decision possible and provide an exceptional customer experience — provided you present them not as a salesperson but as a BUYING ASSISTANT, fully committed and exceptionally skilled at helping them figure this out.

Remain Passionately Dispassionate About Your Solution

Even if it makes sense to use the discovery or qualifying steps in your process to focus on helping the buyer define clear, differentiating decision criteria, what you must do when presenting your solution and addressing concerns may throw you for a loop. Even now, many experienced salespeople believe their passionate belief in their solution will somehow infect the buyer and convince them that it must be suitable for their business. Not only is this not likely, but the passionate belief salespeople also have in their own solutions may even reduce their chances of winning and detract from the customer experience. Think about it; people don’t generally want to be convinced or sold something. They simply want to be certain they are making the right decision. It isn’t the right decision to buy from a particular salesperson because that person is enthusiastic. Every buyer would expect that. A given decision is right because it is the best alternative based on the unique criteria of this particular buyer and their situation.

Therefore, our objective when presenting our solutions cannot be to convince them that we have the best alternative. Instead, it is to help them determine whether or not we have the best alternative for their business. Far too often, great work during discovery/qualifying is overshadowed later in the process because an overzealous seller believes they can persuade the buyer to purchase from them and overcome any objection they face with a forceful and confident presentation. 

Please don’t misunderstand; I am not advocating for weakness or insecurity. I am suggesting that confidence in the superiority of our solutions must be based on how well they are aligned with the buyers’ criteria. When we focus our energy on understanding our buyer’s business, using insights to help them to create clear differentiating criteria, and presenting our solutions based on this information instead of our unwavering belief that we should win every deal, we create an exceptional customer experience throughout the sales interaction. As one client recently told me, “selling this way transforms our relationships. Buyer’s actually ask us why other salespeople don’t treat them the same way.” Finally, presenting solutions based on the buyer’s criteria helps ensure that what they buy, and the experience they have with it after they buy it, is completely aligned with the expectations they had when they bought it. When their expectations and experience are aligned, or we over deliver, we have a satisfied customer who will be happy to refer us to others. And when they don’t … I think we all know how powerful and counterproductive buyer’s remorse can be!

Want to talk more about how your sales interactions can provide an exceptional customer experience? Axiom provides a unique alternative to traditional sales training. Unlike traditional sales training events,we embed our methodologyinto 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