Paul McGhee

Scaling Sales – Welcome!

Posted by | Sales Productivity | One Comment
Increasing sales productivity in business-to-business environments with complex sales cycles has been a never-ending pursuit.  In his book 'Birth of a Salesman',   Walter Friedman chronicles the 200 page playbook (later scaled down to 55 pages) that John Patterson, the founder of NCR, assembled in the late 19th century in his attempt to get his salepeople to systematically present and sell his cash registers.

Patterson was unusually focused on sales tools for his salesforce and was rewarded with one of the most successful companies in business history.  But this level of focus on tools to scale sales is unusual and the problem of low sales productivity is still very much with us.  CSO Insights documents in their annual survey of 1300 sales executives that only 52% of sales reps made their quotas in 2009.

This blog will pursue the conversation of B2B sales productivity, its role in scaling sales organizations and the critical role of sales tools in capturing sales best practices and driving sales growth.

Best Practice Customer Stories

Posted by | best practices, customer stories | One Comment

We’ve been busy delivering sales playbooks and haven’t posted in over a year. We’ve learned a lot from the 12 projects we’ve delivered since the last article and would like to share some of these insights here. This post is about the best way to frame and deliver an important sales tool, the customer story.

Customer Stories Are Key to Establishing Credibility

For the sales rep, credibility is king. The more credibility a sales rep has with a prospect, the more likley a win. But how do you establish credibility? Knowing your product and features is a good start, but it won't be enough in most sales cycles.

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“Thought Bubble” Inflation: The Sales / Service Handoff

Posted by | sales service | 2 Comments

Setting good expectations in sales and tightly managing  scope in services sounds like a great way to fix misaligned customer expectations.  

Much easier written than done. And it's a good start, but does miss a key piece of the puzzle.

As a 3-time VP Sales selling technology solutions to business people, I've spent a lot of time hearing from from the service team how my reps need to set better expectations during the sales cycle.  Services often has a point.  And so I've spent a lot of time more precisely productizing service offerings,  tightening up statement of works, including members of the service team in the sales cycle, creating tools and infrastructure to address the issue and working with reps to be as clear as possible about the what's and the when's.

But none of that addresses the often surprising - and harder to manage -- culprit of customer internal communications. 

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Retooling for the Recession

Posted by | Uncategorized | No Comments
Tom Lavey, Sales Scale Partners

I'm happy to introduce Tom's first post.  I had the pleasure of working with Tom both at Oracle when he was building out its application sales organization and then again when he was on my board of advisers at Nimblefish.  Tom is a leading expert in target marketing strategy, sales models, value pricing strategies, negotiation and just plain old selling!   He is one of the very few software folks who has driven over $1BB of software sales and he has done it through all kinds of economies so his thoughts on selling in this recession are particularly interesting.

Seven Changes to Make on a Rainy Day

You bet. It's time to buckle up. Change the way you do things. Take advantage of what you have and start improving your bottom line today. Polish the car and get it serviced instead of buying a new one. Paint the house instead of moving. Focus on local festivals instead of traveling to new continents. In other words, take this time to re-examine what's real today. Fix it. Make it better. Benefit from it.

If you are in business today you have customers, real live people who depend on your product to get their work done. You have a market that works. It may be soft, but you know that it works. Under normal conditions the organizations in those markets need your solution. So why not take this time to capitalize on your existing customers and re-sell into your market? Polish your organization. Re-paint your product. Focus on your market. Stay home.

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Sales Resource Prioritizer

Posted by | opportunity scoring | No Comments

This post is the 4th in a series of 5 posts highlighting best practice tools to measure winnable opportunities.  This was for a solution with a higher average selling price.


This sales cycle was a high ticket (ASP > $1M) create demand sales cycle where we needed to be smart about continually assessing fit and winnability because it was a long and resource intensive sales cycle: creative, technical and client services people were needed in every sales cycle in addition to an executive sponsor and the sales people themselves.

We had enough reps but not enough of these other folks (who also had day jobs outside of the sales cycle) to work all the opportunities.  We needed a fair and generally understood way of disqualifying opportunities because the ad hoc refereeing of resources at the sales meeting was not working well.

We tracked 2 phases of fit in a simple spreadsheet with this sales resource prioritizer.

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Winnability Scoring #2

Posted by | opportunity scoring | No Comments

This post is the 3nd in a series of 5 posts highlighting best practice tools to measure winnable opportunities.  Here we had a medium average selling price and this scorer is integrated into Goldmine.

I used a simpler approach to ‘winnability’ tracking with a sales force that hadn’t been using opportunities to track deals.   They were selling into an emerging market so a combination of solution fit and the ‘desire to buy anything’ was a good proxy for ‘winnability’ -- our competition was prospect inaction vs. specific competitors.

Many of the reps came from relationship sales backgrounds (versus solution selling backgrounds) so once they had client interest, standard operating procedure was to send out a quote and hope for the best while they used a combination of charm and persistence to try and forge a friendship.

But in fact, they were often engaged in a ‘create demand’ sale with multiple buying influences and a product that had an implementation period of a few months. Placing all their chips on a typically low-level friend in the account wasn’t helping drive the opportunities and so there were many stalled accounts. To win more consistently, they needed to add more value during the buying process and also qualify opportunities better by asking the right questions and talking to the right people.

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Winnability Scoring #1

Posted by | opportunity scoring | No Comments

This post is the 2nd in a series of 5 posts highlighting best practice tools to measure winnable opportunities.  Here we had a low average selling price and were using

Many salesforces equate how far along they are in a deal with the probability of winning that deal.  So, the qualification stage might be a 10% probability of winning and the contract negotiation stage might show an 80% probability of winning.

There is logic to this approach but it is one-dimensional.  You may be at an early stage with a prospect who has bought from you at their previous company and have a high likelihood of winning or be at a later stage in 3rd place with a very low probability of winning. 

Stage completion probabilities also suffer a timing problem when used for pipelines and forecasts– what happens when you have completed most of the opportunity stages – say you’re 80% complete  -- and although you are confident you will win, there is a good chance the deal will roll into next period?

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Measuring Winnable Opportunities

Posted by | opportunity scoring | One Comment

This post is the 1st in a series of 5 posts highlighting best practice tools to measure winnable opportunities. This tool was developed for a low average selling price solution ($30K) on its way to a medium average selling price ($100K+).

  Getting your sales team to focus on winnable opportunities can be a challenge. 

I’ve spent my career selling technology but had an interesting conversation on the topic of focusing on attractive and winnable opportunities with a friend outside the industry the other day. 

He works at a mid-sized engineering firm and several folks – including the founders – are responsible for selling new business.  It turns out that only one of the new business folks (a non-founder) sells profitable projects.  Even though it costs $25K+ to work up a bid, no discipline is used to figure out where their firm adds the most value and where they are most likely to win.  So they ‘quote and hope’ and lose a lot of proposals and win a lot of unprofitable business.  But they don't know any other way.

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New Rep Checklist

Posted by | Sales Productivity | One Comment
Sales reps are typically more mobile, work with more external contacts and draw on a broader base of internal support than the average employee.  This leads to a surprising amount of infrastructure that a sales rep needs in addition to the standard computer, phone, voicemail, employee phone list, business cards etc. that all employees need. 

Understanding all the pieces and getting the rep fully set-up in their first week is important for a fast rep ramp and is tricky because rep set-up can get lost in the cracks between sales / sales operations, HR, IT / telephony, development, and office management.
Having a new rep checklist that includes all the pieces across all the functions with the owners and the delivery dates noted is a good way to get a handle on this situation.  I started such a checklist a few companies back and have been adding to it ever since.  It has become a valuable sales management tool and my last checklist had 25 rep-specific items!

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