Ten takeways from the AA-ISP Leadership Summit #LS2012


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Finishing up two and a half amazing days in Dallas with 400 inside sales professionals, some amazing speakers and a combination of vendors & thought leaders at the forefront of what’s working in sales today.

The takeaways were numerous, but here are 10 points that stood out to me in particular.

1. The funnel analogy isn’t as accurate and relevant today

At best, it’s not a funnel anymore but a bowtie (with the middle representing the first sale and the beginning of long-term customer value). But the buyer-centric sales process today is a combination of a circle, a cloud and a relatively non-linear process that the buyer controls. The funnel also assumes a one-time process, and we know that buyers backtrack, generate referrals, and sometimes take much longer to become active and ready to buy. We’ll probably still call it a funnel for awhile, but we need to operate and manage it much differently.

2. Have a strategy for taking notes at great events like this
This was one of those conferences where not only were there a ton of great ideas shared, but they came so fast and furious that a previously-created note-taking strategy was a life-saver. Here’s an outline of how I take & process notes, as well as the strategy I use while traveling in particular.

3. Inside sales role is growing in influence

This isn’t just telemarketing and cold calling. And it’s more than just remote sales. With more and more companies moving from field sales to inside sales, the topics discussed this week weren’t specific to a particular go-to-market strategy or sales approach. They were just about…sales. It was refreshing, and highly relevant to anybody in a sales function (directly or indirectly).

4. The inside sales industry isn’t actively using social media much
We talk a ton about social selling, but few “in the trenches” inside sales reps and managers (based on this event anyway) are using it. If you look at the event’s tweetstream and pull out anybody participating as a consultant or vendor, there were very few bag-carrying contributors. We have a long way to go.

5. Prospects don’t have time for us

Our prospects are busier than ever, and they don’t have time for your long-winded sales pitch. They don’t have time for your full consultative question set either. Respect their time, engage them when and how they want. Build a sales process completely around how your buyers learn, educate themselves and try to solve problems. Jill Konrath did an excellent job demonstrating this, and it was a consistent theme throughout the conference.

6. It’s all about people
This includes motivating and empowering your reps, as well as understanding and relating to your buyers. In B2B especially, it may be the company that cuts the check, but it’s a real-live person that makes a buying (and renewal) decision. Invest in relationships, focus on what people care about, what makes them happy. Inside your company, and with your customers and prospects, there’s nothing more important.

7. Big data is within reach of everyone, and will replace marketing media costs soon
The concept of “big data” is intimidating to most, but it really means accessing, filtering and leveraging the vast amount of information to what’s meaningful to your business, your clients and your sales process. Put another way, I believe that the information now freely available will replace the vast majority of marketing lead generation budgets in 6-10 years. Everything you need to know about your prospects – what they care about, what problems they’re trying to solve, when they’re ready to engage and buy – is all locked up in data. Unlock that problem, and you’ll accelerate sales at a fraction of the cost. That’s big data, and it’s coming fast.

8. The buyer’s decision has nothing to with your quota, sales process or career goals
We build sales processes based on how we want to sell, not how the buyer wants to buy. We build sales quotas based on how much we want to sell in a given month or quarter, not based on how many prospects are ready to move forward and solve a prescient problem. We focus our goals on what we want, not what the prospect and customer needs. And all of this is, of course, backwards. The buyer is in charge. And the more we realize that, build our systems and processes around it, and add enormous value to prospects at the top of our pipelines, the more sales we’ll end up with to fuel those quotas and career goals.

9. Technology exists to support your system; it is not your system
Too many companies buy sales & marketing support systems, then build their sales process around and into it. This, of course, is also backwards. Build your process first. Define how your buyer operates, and how best to engage with them in parallel along their purchase and decision-making path. Then, add and customize the right technology systems to support your selling system.

10. More marketing professionals should be at conference like this

Maybe we should require salespeople to attend more marketing conferences, and require their marketing counterparts to attend conferences like this. It would be great to get them to the same conferences and really solve the sales/marketing integration issues, but at minimum it would be hugely valuable for more lead generation specialists to dig into the issues their sales counterparts are struggling with every day. I bet there would be a lot of brainstorming and solution identification in real-time at these events and over beers afterward.

If you too were at the Leadership Summit this week, would love to hear your thoughts, insights and takeaways in the comments below.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Heinz
Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.


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