How’s Your Sales Process Confidence Measuring Up to the Results It’s Generating?

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This is a Guest blog post from Sales and Sales Management expert Chris Tully.

We’re just about halfway through the year and are coming out of an eventful prior 18 months. Finally, we’re seeing enough consistency in the market to take swift and effective action to move forward with a good amount of confidence… something many of us have been lacking for a while. When thinking about how to finish strong in 2021 and the best way to prepare for break-out growth in 2022, ask yourself: “what do I have to do to make sure that where I’m going now brings short-term results and positions us to make a huge difference long-term?”    In my role, I find that sifting through all the parts and pieces of the Sales Organization can be overwhelming for Owners and Sales Leaders, leaving some not knowing how to make heads or tails out of it all. While several areas of your Sales Function may need to be retooled or realigned to match the evolving economy, I’ve found that it’s crucial to begin evaluating the potential for adjustment at the heart: The Sales Process, or as I like to say, “the nucleus that feeds the whole.”

Given the considerable changes these past many months, whatever current Sales Process you had established previously is likely not reflective of new demand. This is due to drastic shifts in the evolving economy, such as how buyers buy and assemble themselves, communication method adjustments, changes in customers’ organization structures, impact to market trends, etc. Beyond these external changes, quite possibly your business has also gone through internal strategic changes relating to your target buyer and customer base. Have you taken time to think about the impact of all these shifts?   

Time and time again, I’ve witnessed it necessary to have a successful or proven process to drive sales success, similarly to process-driven models in other departments. I like to say that hypothetically, this means if you drop a new member into your Sales Team and have them follow the roadmap you laid out, they are able to deliver the same consistent results as other team members. You can dial in this type of repeatable measure of success when you take the time to “look under the covers,” so to say, by evaluating and fine tuning your Sales Process.

However, before you take action on retooling your Sales Process, first let’s work through a couple of self-administered strength tests to determine if you’re working upon a solid foundation. I’ve noted two vital components to consider when determining the effectiveness or completeness of your current Sales Process.

STRENGTH TEST 1 Does your current Sales Process account for the best practice elements outlined in my building block model, and have your salespeople been properly trained on how to navigate the roadmap you’ve given them?

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Maybe you think that your process is successful and doesn’t need to be rebuilt. That’s great! But, I encourage you to verify this assumption given that the majority of 2,000+ Owners and Sales Leaders revealed that their Sales Process didn’t include the clarity necessary to drive desired results.   

THOUGHT PROVOKING TRIVIA   What percentage of small to mid-sized businesses don’t know what needs to occur at each stage of the sales cycle?   a. 54%   b. 61%   c. 73%   d. 86%   Find out the answer at the end of my blog.

I welcome you to leverage me as a sounding board to learn if there is merit in you investing resources to test the strength of your critically important Sales Process.

STRENGTH TEST 2 Do you see strong evidence that your Sales Process is producing desired results? A comprehensive response may take some investigation on your part. Below, I recommend specific research areas to conduct your due diligence in answering the previous question:

  • Is the Sales Process documented with clarity?
  • Is the Owner or Sales Leader engaged with the salespeople often enough to observe the Sales Process in real-world selling situations?
  • Is the Sales Pipeline showing good movement?
  • Are the salespeople performing consistently?
  • Does the Sales Team regularly achieve forecast accuracy?
  • Are closed deals meeting profitability targets?

I’ll discuss tuning your pipeline and leveraging technology to provide better conversion rate visibility in a future blog.   It’s essential to understand that by comparing your Sales Process confidence to the results it’s generating and taking subsequent action now, you’ll be positioning yourself to finish strong in 2021. Even more impactful, you’ll also be setting yourself up for a record-breaking 2022 and beyond!

THOUGHT PROVOKING TRIVIA ANSWER 86% of small to mid-sized business owners reported that they don’t know exactly what needs to occur during sale cycle stages. * So, how confident are you that your Sales Process is actually delivering the desired results? I can help. Schedule a time to chat.   *Data compiled from 2,355 Owners and Sales Leaders that took Sales Xceleration Sales Agility Assessment® through December 2021.

About the Author  I am a part of a sub-group of Sales Xceleration Advisors dedicated to pooling our knowledge and expertise to generate insights, tips, and tools to help business leaders exponentially grow their revenue. We are seasoned  Executive Sales Leaders that have guided B2B businesses ranging from start-up to Fortune 500. I welcome any special requests you may have for future writing topics.

Chris Tully

Chris is the President of Sales Growth Advisors LLC, a sales consulting firm focused on increasing revenue growth and improving profitability.   He can be reached at chris@salesgrowthadvisor.com.

Chris Tully_Sales Growth Advisors

Make Your Sales Team Thrive: The Importance of Adapting to Virtual Selling

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This is a Guest blog post from sales and sales management expert Chris Tully.

Did you know virtual selling has been in the making for 94-years with the first video call dating back to 1927? Talk about it taking a while for technology to catch on! Learn more about the interesting start to video calls below.

The video call has come a long way to become a regular part of consumer mainstream technology over the last few years. But, over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the corporate world much faster into using video conference calls as a virtual selling platform and for day-to-day customer interaction. This idea brings to mind the old phrase, “It’s nice to put a face with the name.” There is a lot of psychology that goes into how a relationship develops because of the connection in seeing and “knowing” someone’s face and being able to read and react to their body language. There is a certain rapport and trust that is built. Today, the video call is a differentiator attributed to sales success. 

Now that sellers and buyers have embraced the benefits of virtual interaction, there is no going back. Sure, buyers and sellers will begin to meet again in the office, but a full return to in-person selling seems highly unlikely. Owners and Sales Leaders committed to their growth plans need to teach and equip their sales teams to perform at a high level in the virtual-driven business world.

Why is it that buyers continually express that sellers are falling short in how they engage in the virtual selling landscape? It’s due to buyers and sellers experiencing different benefits and challenges from this type of engagement. The internet is alive with online content on this topic, but the primary obstacle sellers face is failing to understand how virtual selling translates in to the three most important areas of sales:

  1. CONNECT – Gaining the buyer’s attention
  2. EARN – Developing trust
  3. SHARE – Presenting solutions

Sellers must understand how different their impact is to their buyer and transform their customer engagement and sales processes from direct human selling. Learning the gaps of virtual selling will create the path to bridging them. Sellers that effectively make the pivot will enjoy many more sales opportunities and create a larger pipeline with a faster sales cycle.

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Successful virtual selling begins with learning to make connections without direct contact. This idea is directly related to Emotional Contagion, which is the phenomenon of having one person’s emotions and related behaviors directly trigger similar emotions and behaviors in other people. Back in the 90’s a group of scientists measured emotional contagion in the most effective salespeople nationwide. *This is because 50% of the information in a conversation is non-verbal. This means that we lose a large amount of data intake when we shift from in-person meetings (in 3-D) to video conferencing (in 2-D) due to a dramatically smaller view of the customer and their surroundings. This challenge grows tenfold when the salesperson utilizes solely phone communication (1-D). Although it plays a part, sales success is not because of great products or services. It is the result of an expert understanding of emotions and the ability to navigate them. When a salesperson is face-to-face with a buyer, it is easier for them to understand objection cues, minimize communication issues, ask for the next step, and gain commitment to close the sale.

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Here are ten practical tips to help Owners and Sales Leaders guide their salespeople to more success in the 2-D virtual selling world: Five counter-productive virtual selling behaviors to avoid:

  • Jumping on a call on time but failing to check your audio and video in advance.
  • Wearing clothes that you would not normally wear during a face-to-face meeting.
  • Having poor internet connection that regularly freezes.
  • Failing to prepare in advance to learn the buyer’s interests and needs.
  • Talking too much and not allowing the customer to consistently engage.

Five things that positively influence video calls:

  • Allow ample time between virtual meetings to give yourself the time to mentally prepare.
  • Prep for the meeting by finding ways to connect with buyers to gain and maintain their attention.
  • Learn to manage the sales process with fewer cues (less Emotional Contagion).
  • Continually gain verbal validation from the buyer before moving onto the next topic.
  • Prevent the buyer from taking control and cutting the sales process short.

While the virtual selling world is new, it’s going to stay around quite a while longer and maybe become a permanent part of the sales process. Properly guiding your salespeople through this transformation will ensure that virtual selling is an effective way to grow your sales and business for years to come.

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

Back to Basics: Tips to Help Struggling Sales Reps

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This is a Guest blog post from Sales and Sales Management expert Chris Tully.

It’s common for sales professionals – both new and seasoned veterans – to run into bumps in the road from time to time that results in a struggle to achieve sales goals. Changing market conditions, taking on a new territory, loss of “that big deal” they invested lots of time into, and a variety of other causes can all be contributing factors to missed sales goals. Whatever the reason, Owners and Sales Leaders need to find ways to positively support their struggling sales reps to help them get them back on the right track.

A starting point to isolating skill gaps is to go back to basics by utilizing a proven sales call planning methodology. The Sales Leader will benefit by leveraging the model as a diagnostic tool. The salesperson will find it to be a helpful guide that enables them to produce stronger, more consistent customer engagement results.

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Every sales interaction should be intentional.  Sales reps must always keep in mind that the customer being called on typically has limited time and budget, and a plethora of other options to choose from. Effective call planning relates to all sales interactions, at all stages of the customer lifecycle. Investing time in call planning is a best practice for any salesperson who is looking for better control of their sales process and customer relationships, not just a struggling sales rep. When a call is made with clear direction and purpose, it provides the salesperson with more confidence and the customer with a better experience, which will lead to greater success.

Below, I have an outline of my Sales Call Planning Methodology that has proven successful:

  • Pre-Call Planning
    • Call Objectives
    • Discovery Questions
    • Value Proposition / Points of Differentiation
    • Desired Next Steps
  • In-Call Action
    • Key Information Gathered During Call
    • Resulting Action Items – Sales Rep and Customer assignments
    • Next Step Agreement
  • Post-Call Review
    • Was the Call Objective achieved?
    • What could have been done differently?
    • Key Take-aways

As you can see, an effective approach to sales call planning involves action items for the salesperson before, during, and after the call. With planning, sales reps will gain a clear view of what they want to get out of the interaction, and the ability to envision what the end result will be. Remember: Every sales interaction should be intentional. When a call is made with purpose, it’s going to have a greater impact. 

In addition to equipping your salespeople with a sales call planning method, sales coaching involvement is critical, especially for a struggling sales rep. The most effective involvement is when the Owner or Sales Leader participates in sales calls (in-person, or video calls). Be sure to spend time before entering the call by asking the salesperson about their pre-call plan. Just as important, spend time immediately after by talking through post-call review elements. This is when the most powerful learning can occur. Another effective coaching method is to utilize the sales call planning model as a diagnostic tool during the Sales Leader’s routine one-on-one meetings with each salesperson. After the sales team has had proper training on sales call planning, this can be a productive method to keep a pulse on how well the salesperson is able to independently approach their sales calls to achieve desired outcomes. 

Both coaching methods will enable Owners and Sales Leaders to quickly identify areas a salesperson may need help to improve their sales competency. Listen closely for these coaching opportunities as your sales rep shares how they navigated the sales call:

  • Based on who their calls are with, are they clear on target market and who they should be meeting with (i.e. the appropriate buyer persona)?
  • Have they set their call objectives and desired next steps to align with your proven sales process?
  • How well are they differentiating their product/service? Do they have a clear understanding of the company’s full value proposition and the ability to effectively articulate it?
  • Do they have a succinct and agreed upon next step established?

Implementing a “back to basics” methodology, like sales call planning is a step in the right direction to help your struggling sales rep but it is commonly not the full solution. For long term success, it’s critical to evaluate the current sales infrastructure in which your salesperson operates. Without a best practices platform that effectively integrates people, process and systems, Owners and Sales Leaders will continually find themselves chasing symptoms instead of fixing root cause problems.

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

What Does Effective Sales Coaching Look Like?

What Does Effective Sales Coaching Look Like

This is a Guest Blog post from Chris Tully.

What Does Effective Sales Coaching Look Like?

Although much of the world is still experiencing pandemic-related restrictions, business owners are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. We constantly hear the phrase “new normal” and it is something that must be adopted by businesses and sales teams who want to come out on top. By embracing the mindset that the new obstacles can be overcome, resilient companies are seeing this as a time of investment into sales strategy and sales coaching to seize the opportunity!

A downturn in the market has historically been a time we’ve seen creative business leaders forged a path to leapfrog their competition. Whether this be on large playing fields or in the small business sector, the key is the ability to propel forward swiftly. One of the key battlegrounds to achieve this kind of success is in the sales trenches. That’s why it’s a critical time to revisit what effective coaching looks like. For owners who fill these shoes, self-evaluation is key to assess their ability and willingness to invest themselves more deeply.

There are four key things that sales leaders need to do in order to effectively coach and lead their sales teams through unprecedented market conditions:

  • Partner with your salespeople and dig deep into market conditions and changes necessary to the sales process. By experiencing the environment firsthand and uniting with your team in the trenches, you will more quickly be able to devise alternative approaches and tools. Gaining buy-in from your sellers happens naturally through this approach because they are involved in the development process while also gaining experiential training on the fly.
    
  • Review and revise sales metrics to align with today’s selling world. Virtual selling has dramatically impacted indicators such as Sales Cycle Length, Number of Outreaches, Presentations and Quotes, etc. Break down prospecting and sales stages to isolate additive areas to monitor productivity until your salespeople have fully adapted to their new environment.
    
  • No matter the previous track record, hold all sales team members consistently accountable to the newly defined metrics. The ability to benchmark performance across multiple salespeople will expedite the solidification of new methods being introduced. It is likely you’ll find tenured salespeople more open than typical during these unprecedented times given that they are also striving to reclaim their high-performance level.
    
  • This is an ideal time to span across industries you’ve previously seen the greatest success. To do so effectively, develop a laser focused strategy by refining your sales process to accommodate varying industries. Equip your salespeople with industry specific sales playbooks to include unique sales messaging, insights into market trends and conditions, customized buyer process stage mapping, etc. Empowering your team with this level of preparation will give them confidence and clarity as they explore new areas.

If you’re an owner who holds the sales leader seat in your organization, it’s time to scrutinize options to fulfill the granular level of leadership needed right now. The unique solution of an Outsourced VP of Sales may be the answer. This resource is equipped to coach and manage your sales team while also partnering with senior leadership to formulate company pivots or directional changes. This allows the Owner to focus on big picture objectives while having peace of mind that sales implementation is being led by a professional that is familiar with “what it takes” to come out on top.

How do you determine your company’s sales objectives each year? Do you have a documented sales process that is consistently followed? What keeps you up late at night thinking about your business? Take my FREE SALES ASSESSMENT QUIZ today to gain exposure into key questions you want to be asking yourself to stimulate new ideas.Click to take my Sales Assessment Quiz

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Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

How to Use CRM to Add Value to Your Sales Team

This is a Guest Blog Post by Chris Tully.

Your customer relationship management (CRM) software system is filled with details about the people and companies most important to your business. But are you using CRM to add value to your sales team?

If you haven’t set up a CRM system to actively monitor and effectively track the steps your sales team takes with business opportunities, then you’re both walking around with your eyes closed. You can’t see what the sales team is doing – and neither can they.

If It’s Not in CRM It Didn’t Happen

About one-third of small to mid-sized businesses I encounter don’t have a CRM system. They are still managing the business on email and spreadsheets. About half of the remaining businesses have purchased CRM software but haven’t fully implemented it. Still others use their CRM for marketing or customer service, but not sales – missing the value of integrating the functions.

In my opinion, if sales activities are not visible in CRM they didn’t actually happen. I’d go so far as to say that if your sales team closed a deal that was not in CRM, hold back the commission. That may sound draconian, but I believe you’d only have to do that once to make the point.

Sales CRM is highly effective for the money. You and your team have the ability to see leads as they are captured, follow the progression of contact and communication through your sales stages, and easily record results. This allows the sales leader to be a more effective coach, gives immediate visibility to results, and provides some insurance if one of your salespeople leaves.

In the bigger picture, capturing all stages of the sales cycle allows you and the team to analyze what works best and recreate the most successful steps – continually refining and improving your sales effectiveness and growing your business.

CRM Guides the Sales Path

Clearly defining sales stages is valuable for your team. For example, Salesforce CRM software allows you to customize the objectives of each stage, enabling a sort of “guided path” to follow. Within the software, there are a series of questions that have to be answered positively before someone can progress. Seeing the hurdles that have to be cleared to reach those objectives can only help your sales force improve.

A good CRM helps the team better quantify sales leads. They can build a qualification score to see how strong each lead is (or becomes) by assigning points as the deal progresses. For example, is a compelling event driving the customer’s decision on the deal? Is an economic ROI stated or implied? Has the decision maker gotten involved in the evaluation of your proposal? All of this allows you as a leader to monitor progress and assess effectiveness.

The more disciplined your sales team is in following an effective, repeatable process and quantifying deals against the rubric you set up, the better they will be as salespeople and the more you’ll increase your company’s sales.

CRM Engagement Is Key to Adding Value

In order for your sales team to embrace CRM, the system has to:

  • Be easy to use
  • Add value by supporting and guiding the sales process
  • Be the “ground truth” of all sales reporting to and by company leadership

Promote engagement by taking two giant steps to successful CRM implementation: get used to asking questions of your sales team that can only be answered by referring back to the CRM, and make your CRM the source for all sales reporting in the company.

You’ll be able to quickly customize reports to illustrate specific sales performance indicators, and visually represent the team’s up-to-the-moment performance in the key metrics you choose to display on your dashboard.

Choosing a CRM System

There are at least 10 good cloud-based CRM systems out there that can meet the needs of most sales teams. There are also sites to help you decide which system to choose. Final choice will be your personal preference, but from my perspective you can’t go wrong with SalesforceHubSpot, or Pipedrive.

Selection and implementation are important. However, engagement is what will make or break CRM effectiveness. The single most important quality of a CRM system is that it adds value to your sales team – it should make their work easier, and help them be more successful.

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”

How to Make the Move to a Virtual Sales Force

This is a Guest blog post from Chris Tully

Tips for Hiring a Virtual Sales Team | Lucidchart Blog

 

As we start our sixth month of quarantine across America, it is time to come to grips with the fact that some version of “virtual selling” is here to stay. What this means for leadership is that just adapting in-person techniques to digital/virtual sales will no longer get the job done.
Instead, teach your team how to make the move to a virtual sales force.

Leaders are preparing for a greater virtual sales presence than anticipated earlier in the pandemic. A recently released Gartner study reports that in June, “a remarkable 23% of CSOs reported plans to permanently shift field sales to virtual sales roles” with another 36% unsure whether or not to do the same.

The study provides a framework for leadership to enable virtual selling. Here are key skills and tools to help your team effectively sell from remote settings.

Provide Virtual Sales Force Tools

High-speed Internet – This is mandatory for smooth virtual communications and presentations. You should consider funding team members’ Internet access upgrades since they are working from home by necessity. Salespeople represent your company – do you want potential clients to equate poor quality audio/video with the quality of your products or services? Spend the money, and upgrade those plans to gigabit internet, where possible.

High-end wired or wireless headsets
 – Salespeople are keen observers of body language. Without the advantage of being in the room with clients, it’s even more important for them to be able to hear the nuances of everything that’s said.

A reliable meeting platform
 – Zoom, MSFT Teams, Mitel MiCollab, GoToMeeting, Cisco Enable, Google Meet, and more: these are what companies are using and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Standardize the best solution for your company based on your existing technology stack. Be prepared to train your sales people on several platforms – they’ll need to be nimble enough to navigate clients’ preferred platforms, too.

Get your CFO onboard that these are all essential purchases right now and for the foreseeable future.

Tightly Integrate Sales and Marketing

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital B2B buying and selling. A McKinsey & Company survey report and infographic highlight the shift from in-person to digital, and what B2B sellers need to do to adapt.

Integrate sales and marketing processes
 – You need a demand generation strategy across platforms. The strategy should have well thought out social media, email, and outbound telesales support, and well-defined sales processes once a lead arrives. Make sure all your sales channels are incentivized to collaborate.

Optimize your e-commerce channel
 – For buyers’ ease and convenience, re-design to address top buyer frustrations with company websites. These are difficulty finding products, a long ordering process, hard-to-find contact information, and technical glitches.

Utilize online sales-enablement functions that intersect with buyers
 – AI-based conversational analytics help manage the full sales pipeline. Solutions such as sales chat bots, which reach back into your product database and answer questions, are becoming quite popular. These tools exist to improve customer experience and aid client problem-solving. They also improve the leads you capture from site visitors and help build your knowledge about their buying preferences.

Provide a robust CRM solution – 
Make sure both sales and marketing can access the same data. Customer relationship management (CRM) software should give your teams access to a full sales and marketing mix such as contacts, accounts, opportunity management, and campaigns, so both teams can work seamlessly toward increasing your revenue.

Provide Virtual Sales Force Training and Readiness

Sales people have limited attention spans (just like clients). So here are some hints for re-thinking sales training.

Deliver virtual training in tight 60-minute sessions
 – Break each session down into two parts: 50% presentation and 50% interaction (case studies, conversation, and questions). Limit training content to only the most valuable information, with a focus on understanding the client’s perspective.

Record and digitally archive sessions
 so they’re accessible to the team – This will be valuable for those who miss a session, need a refresher, and for future team members.

Role-play behaviors
 – How you talk with clients and how they respond is different virtually than in person. Role play across all stages of a sale, from first introduction to close. Have team members take turns being the sales person and the client; their calls will be more effective as a result.

Practice using presentation tools
 – Because everyone will be training from different remote locations, practice using multiple presentational tools and platforms with each other. This also helps people find the tools that are the most comfortable for them, which will support their ease and confidence in front of clients.

Changing to a virtual sales force also changes the way you think about and manage your sales team. Be prepared to reallocate your investments, and rethink sales strategies and performance metrics.

 

 

 

Chris Tully is Founder of SALES GROWTH ADVISORS. He can be reached at (571) 329-4343 and ctully@salesxceleration.com

“For more than 25 years, I’ve led sales organizations in public and private technology companies, with teams as large as 400 people, and significant revenue responsibility.
I founded Sales Growth Advisors to help mid-market CEOs execute proven strategies to accelerate their top line revenue. I have a great appreciation for how hard it is to start and grow a business, and it is gratifying to me to do what I am ‘best at’ to help companies grow faster and more effectively.
Let’s get acquainted. I am certain I can offer you an experienced perspective to help you with your growth strategy.”