Sales 2.0 Conference 2016: Restructuring Mind-Sets Will Lead to Higher Performance

BOSTON — Sales success is largely dependent on cultivating and maintaining a positive mind-set, a workable skill set, and a powerful tool set, speakers agreed during this year's Sales 2.0 conference at the Westin Waterfront on Monday.

In his morning keynote, Gerhard Gschwandtner, founder and CEO of the Selling Power media company, shared some insights to illustrate that positive thinking can lead to desired results. He recalled a meeting with Marc Benioff, during his early years at Salesforce.com, when the company's CEO confidently asserted that he planned for it to become the major player it is today, all through outstanding marketing. The notion was outlandish, but necessary, Gschwandtner explained. "A precondition to peak performance," Gschwandtner emphasized, "is shutting out negative thoughts." Thus, Gschwandtner encouraged attendees to tap into their teams' personal aspirations, set seemingly unreachable goals in motion, and proceed with confidence, all while looking toward leaders they respect for guidance.

Jennifer Stanley, a partner at McKinsey & Company, seconded Gschwandtner's remarks and urged attendees to uproot some of the more problematic mind-sets that they've come to accept as standard. The source of complications for many professionals, for instance, is the idea that paying attention to multiple things at once is beneficial. But, though we tend to think we're being more effective by taking such an approach, Stanley said, "the biological reality is that we're not," as we're more liable to making errors, taking longer to accomplish each task, and, ultimately, irritating our customers.

A common resulting mistake is to assume that the more interactions a salesperson has with a customer, the better. (It's not uncommon for companies to dedicate upwards of 60 percent of their working time to customer interactions, Stanley pointed out.) On the contrary, "customers [have told McKinsey that] they are bombarded by too much contact from salespeople," Stanley said. "They're telling us they don't want or need it," and require more focused meetings. Thus, Stanley added that  to close more deals, sales professionals shouldn't simply be spending time with customers—"it's about [spending] purposeful time" with them.   

Though easier said than done, it's vital for sales pros to challenge a number of other universally accepted "truths" that hold them back, recommended J. Steven Osborne, CEO of Top Gun Sales Performance, a sales training company. Among these is the notion that sales is a numbers game; that technology (without proper implementation) can fix all of a company's problems; that the sheer amount of contacts someone has will lead to more sales; and that sales training—rather than certification—is commensurate with success. "The reason we tell ourselves [these] lies is because we want to believe them," Osborne said. "They serve our purpose." But reiterating these lies is not likely to lead to growth, he warned.

During his keynote, Dustin Grosse, CEO of ClearSlide, addressed research from CSO Insights that finds that one of the two top concerns for sales leaders in 2016 is to accelerate overall sales productivity. Grosse agreed with much of what was said earlier in the day, noting that to be more productive, we must constantly make an effort to focus on what is most important and cancel out the noise. While Grosse represents a software vendor, he conceded that "there are so many tools out there, it can be overwhelming" to choose the ones that are most essential and fitting. 

To help, Grosse offered four things to look for in sales tools: They should prioritize deals, save time, improve data and insights (by automatically syncing all newly entered data into CRM), and accelerate the sales on-boarding and pitching processes.

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