How much data do I need for Predictive Analytics

Leads vs. Referrals — Knowing the Difference.

If you can effectively develop relationships your sales efforts will go from good to great. However, it is important to understand the difference between leads vs. referrals. Most people who get leads from business relationships, think they are referrals and that they have succeeded. This is not true. There is a difference between a lead and a referral. Understanding this difference will change the way you call, email, or text leads, and a large difference in how you get the business from that person. Let’s look at the difference. (more…)

Effective Sales Process: Be a Billboard in a Crowd, a Therapist 1 on 1

This post is part of a series of interviews with experts in business intelligence, sales management, marketing, customer retention, management and strategic planning.  Everyday, the CAN team interacts with clients, mentors, and friends who are leaders in their fields, and we started this series to share their expertise.

One of my mentors and friends in sales, Vanessa Shoemaker, recently reminded me that salespeople need to be a billboard in a crowd, and a therapist 1 on 1. She reminded me of how easy it is for salespeople to get focused on being either a billboard or a therapist, instead of both.  Billboards piqué people’s interest to learn more. Being a billboard is essential to stand out in a crowd and to get meetings with new prospects. Therapists learn about people and their needs and wants, then prescribe the right solution. Being a therapist is essential to understanding your prospects enough to build trust and recommend solutions that are going to provide them the most value. (Related Post on Qualifying) A billboard says the right things, a therapists asks the right questions. (more…)

Contemporary Analysis: Focusing New Salespeople

New salespeople often struggle to focus on the right opportunities, and this often keeps them from meeting their quotas or closing unprofitable deals. However, new salespeople should not be faulted for their lack of focus, because generating an ever increasing number of opportunities is an essential responsibility of a salesperson. It is up to sales managers to focus their teams on the right deals. At CAN we use the following techniques to focus our inexperienced salespeople so they start closing the right deals as quickly as possible.

Focus on a Lead Product

Most companies have multiple products, and effective salespeople always lead with one product. They know that when meeting new people that they do not have time or the customer’s focus to explain each product. Without a lead product it is easy for inexperienced salespeople to come across as confused or under trained. We recommend having each new recruit select a lead product that they are most interested in or most experienced with. This will reduce training time, simplify introductions and increase confidence.

Client Profiles

Once salespeople have a lead product that they can use when meeting new prospects, the next step is to develop a profile that they can use to qualify prospective clients. For your profile to be effective it needs to reflect reality and then used to approve only deals that fit the profile. The simplest way to make sure that you client profile reflects reality is to describe your last 5 closed deals that were profitable, loyal and active.

Justify Opportunities

It is important to force salespeople to be realistic about the quality of the opportunities in their pipeline. Each sales person at CAN has to explain a prospects need, willingness and resources before an opportunity is added to the sales pipeline. Also, every 2 weeks the CAN sales team gets together to review current, lost and closed opportunities.  Our discussion focuses primarily on what actions each person needs to take to make sure they meet their quota, what sources and tools people are using to find opportunities, and how opportunities are changing based on changes in season or economics. At the conclusion of each meeting, the goal is to make sure that each salesperson has a plan for the next 2 weeks that will help them make sure they meet their quota.

Align Incentives

Your incentive structure is essential to focusing your team because salespeople respond well to incentives. The best method I have found to design a sales incentive plan has been to describe my desired client experience from first encounter to close, and design my incentive structure accordingly. For example I would increase base salary if I wanted a more consultative sale instead of a commodity style sale.

Utilize Milestones

It is important to review relationships with your people, and one of the most interesting tools that I have used is to setup specific terms with milestones. Each term at CAN is 1 month, but that should vary depending on the natural metronome of your organization. The purpose of the terms is to have evaluate whether or not the relationship should continue. It is important that this be a two way process. You want to judge whether your salesperson is worth the continued investment, and also whether your salesperson could produce more value somewhere else in or outside the organization.

Why I Blog for Customers Instead of Fans

I stopped blogging in November 2010 after almost a year of daily updates because I realized that, while people were reading my materials, my clients weren’t.  I realized then that I needed to change the focus of my writing.  Previously I had been writing about what I found interesting and focused on the number of people reading my blog.  As a result, this actually had a negative impact on my brand because I was spending my time blogging instead of helping my clients achieve their goals.  While I still think blogging is important, my focus has shifted to helping clients meet their Sales, Marketing, Retention, Management and Planning goals rather than on the number of visits per day.
My change in focus has changed how I select content for my blog, how I promote it, and what metrics I use to measure success. I now focus on blogging about conversations that I have with customers, because if one customers values a specific conversation it is likely that other customers will find the post valuable.  (This post is actually the result of a conversation with a customer.) Instead of promoting my posts for mass consumption, I now recommend posts to specific people that will find them valuable and encourage them to engage in the conversation.  My metric for success is no longer the number of visits to my site or read times, but instead how many people tell me that the content on my blog has helped them with their business.
In the spirit of blogging for customers instead of fans, what specifically would you like me to research and write on?

Working on a computer

A Simple 6 Step B2B Sales Process

The following is an introduction to the basic sales process we teach new sales reps at CAN.  Our 6 step sales process guides them from selecting the right prospects, making first contact, selecting your sales approach, your first face-to-face meeting, determining next steps, and getting the deal closed. I hope that it will help you build a reliable sales strategy you can use to close more deals. (Learn how we predicted who was most likely to enroll at a Top 10 Online University) 

Sales Process Step 1: Select the Right Prospects

Investing the time to carefully select your prospects is essential because you want to make sure that you are investing your time and energy on developing the right opportunities. I recommend looking for people that have the need, willingness and resources to purchase what you sell. Focusing your efforts will help ensure that you invest in providing your prospects with a great client experience. At CAN, in addition using predictive analytics for lead generation, our salespeople spend a lot of time looking through business cards and LinkedIn connections from trade shows and networking events.

Sales Process Step 2: Make First Contact

Once you have selected your targets the next step is to make first contact. Your goal at first contact is to simply get a meeting. This is especially true if you prospect is not familiar with who you are. We have found using a combination of email and LinkedIn messages work the best. One of CAN’s sales reps studied the linguistic patterns behind  our most successful emails and developed the following formula to produce good results when sending requests for the first meeting to prospects:
Greeting + Lead in {positive emotion} + profit/growth hook + Who We Are + the product and results + Outcome for Client + Meeting Request with 2 possible options + Close = Meeting
The following is example of a meeting request email from one of the CAN salespeople;

Good morning. We spoke briefly at the alumni center after your presentation on CompanyX and building a start-up within a company. Based on your experience and position at CompanyX, I think you might be interested in my company, Contemporary Analysis.

Contemporary Analysis uses mathematics and big data to predict and influence human behavior. One of our products, Pulse, applies predictive analytics to analyze the profitability, loyalty and activity of individuals in your client portfolio. This allows you to focus your marketing and customer service efforts, anticipate trends in your portfolio, and engineer greater retention and profitability by contacting the right people at the right time. I would like to explore how you could use Pulse and perhaps some of CAN’s other solutions to increase sales for the CompanyX family. Are you available to meet this week or next at our office at 1209 Harney #200, online via Skype or over the phone? I am available on Monday after noon and Tuesday at 10am and 1:30pm.

Thank you,


As a tip, I recommend scheduling your meeting request emails to be sent at 7:00 am on a Monday or Tuesday. This is optimal because most people check their emails when they first get into the office, and on a Monday or Tuesday their schedules are the most open to explore new opportunities. Also, it makes people feel like they were your first priority of the day. If someone does not respond to your email, I recommend connecting with them using LinkedIn or another social network.

Sales Process Step 3: Select your Sales Approach

Once your prospect has agreed to meet with you it is important to prepare for your face-to-face meeting. One of the most important steps in preparing is to select your sales approach. Different people require different approaches, and while it take a little bit of research selecting the right approach will help you make the best first impression possible. The following are 5 typical sales approaches. The key to success is imitation of the person. You don’t want to mock the person, but you want the person to be able to see a little bit of himself or herself in you. If you can successfully do this, the people that you talk to will be more trusting and will connect with you quicker.
1. The Ego: This person wants to feel important, and they will most likely respond to you and possibly purchase your product to satisfy an egotistical need.
2. The Expert: The person considers themselves to be an expert in their field, and will expect you to have a minimum knowledge of their field, or to be an expert if you are approaching them about something in their field.
3. The Good Samaritan: These people are very open to being contacted, but they don’t want to be sold. They want to help out and listen to someone.
4. The Skeptic: With skeptical people you want to lead with facts and figures. They won’t agree to a meeting with you unless you have Case Studies, Testimonials, and or an impressive client list.
5. The Explorer: These people are very open to being contacted, because they love learning about new things. When you approach them about an opportunity, it has to be unique and also be exciting. If it is these to things you will most likely get a meeting.

Sales Process Step 4: The Face-to-Face Meeting

Typically in business-to-business sales your prospects are only able to meet with you once or twice before they decide whether or not they are going to purchase. Because of this, it is essential to make the most of your face-to-face and then move the sale forward using emails and voicemail.
During the first meeting you want to make sure you understand what your prospect the person wants to achieve, what their budget is, and who the key decision makers are. Your goal is to ask as many questions as possible, because this establishes rapport with the prospects and it becomes harder to get answers to the tough questions once you are on longer face-to-face or over the phone.

When learning about your prospects goals make sure to remember that people buy things and companies pay for them. So you don’t want to focus just on the company’s goals, but also the aspirations your prospect has and what pressures they are under. While your solution still needs to produce results for your client the company, helping your client the person will help you win the contract and future contracts.

Sales Process Step 5: Determine Next Steps

During your face-to-face meeting you want to move the call as far as possible towards a decision as possible. However, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to get a decision either for a sale or no sale during your first meeting. The following are definitions that the CAN sales team uses to evaluate the outcome of every client interaction, and this helps us determine where opportunities are in the sales cycle. Having clear definitions of where opportunities are in the sales cycle allows our sales team to determine what next steps to take and which opportunities to prioritize to make sure we meet our sales quotas for the next 15, 30 and 60 days.
Advances (Successful): An advance is when an event takes place either during the call or after the call that moves the sale toward a decision. The events need to represent an agreement with the customer that moves the sale forward toward the ultimate decision. Advancements take many forms, but invariably they involve an action that moves the sale forward. Typical advances might include:

  • A customer’s agreement to attend an off-site demonstration.
  • A clearance that will get you in front of a higher level decision maker.
  • An agreement to run a trial or test of your product.
  • Access to parts of the account that were previously inaccessible to you.

Continuations (Unsuccessful): Where the sale will continue but where no specific action has been agreed upon by the customer to move it forward. Continuations are often a way to politely get rid of a seller. These calls do not result in an agreed action, yet neither do they involve a “No” from the customer. Typical examples would be calls that end with a customer saying:

  • “Thank you for coming. Why don’t you visit us again the next time you’re in the area.”
  • “Fantastic presentation, we’re very impressed. Let’s meet again some time.”
  • “We liked what we saw and we’ll be in touch if we need to take things further.”

Orders (Successful): This is when the lead closes the deal by signing a contract or paying. This is not a “I am 99.9% likely to close,” event. Orders have to be contractual or monetary.
No-Sale (Unsuccessful): This is when a customer actively refuses your principal call objective. Good examples of this are when a client tells you that they aren’t interested, won’t agree to a future meeting or denies your request to see a more senior person in the account.
Your goal is to choose next steps that continue to move the sale forward until you either receive an order or a no sale.

Sales Process Step 6: When and How to Close the Deal

Once you have led your prospect to the realization that they have the need, willingness and resources to purchase what you sell, the simplest close is to simply ask for the business and then wait until your prospect breaks the silence. Even if it takes 10 minutes, they will eventually break the silence, and if they are confident that you have the solution necessary to achieve their goals they will most likely respond by agreeing to purchase what you sell.

Learn more about the right sales leads for your business:

[contact-form-7 id=”4046″ title=”Sales Leads eBook – A Simple 6 Step B2B Sales Process”]

Insurance Client Stories-Contemporary Analysis

CAN has been fortunate to help a number of Life and Health Insurance companies work smart.  It has been a great relationship because clients from Life and Health Insurance companies understand what we do as they are experts in using mathematics to forecast human behavior on a biological side, and CAN is an expert in applying predictive analytics to forecast human behavior on a marketing and sales side.  Our customers invest in developing new products, and we use math to make sure they can distribute them most effectively.  The following are some of the solutions we have developed:
Marketing ROI with Terrain: Our clients wanted to know the ROI of their marketing campaigns, but had been struggling to develop a system that was able to determine the impact that their marketing was having on sales.  We agreed that it would be too difficult to explain the impact that a company’s marketing was having and instead we used CAN’s Terrain system to explain the impact that the economy and seasonal fluctuations had on sales.  With every predictive model their is a residual x-factor that can not be explained in detail.  So instead of including the economy, a major driver of purchasing decisions, in the X-factor, we included the company’s marketing in the X-factor.  While they did not exactly accomplish their goal of measuring the ROI of their marketing activity, we were able to explain how economics and seasonality impacted sales and the residual could be attributed to marketing, competitors and other factors.  Now our clients can get a reasonable idea if marketing is impacting sales.
Client Management: Using Pulse, CAN helped our clients understand and improve their client portfolio by modeling the factors of client profitability, loyalty and claim activity.  Each week we provide our client with a list of the clients that are at risk of leaving within the next 90 days, and a list of sales leads that have a high probability of being profitable and loyal clients.  Each month we provide them with a report on their client portfolio relative to the population and their goals.

Sales Management: Using Beacon, CAN has worked to connect agents and brokerages to our clients home offices.  Beacon has been used to focus the development of leads and marketing materials to best serve the needs of agents and brokerages.  Beacon also has been used to improve communications with training, regulations and promotions between home offices and agents by segmenting agents by learning styles and providing communication guidelines to our clients.

Scaling 1 to 1

As a  business owner and salesperson I require time to myself to think, rest and connect with people, however their are always others that want my attention.  I have had to resort to locking myself in my office and forcing myself to focus at the expense of the world around me.  However this alienates people and can be very lonely.  The following is a list of my ideas about how to scale 1 to 1.  I decided to put my ideas into a blog post because I want to share my ideas about how to scale 1 to 1.

A Chauffeur to the Virtual World: It is important that you and your employees are always carrying business cards because they are the easiest way to chauffeur realtime face to face interactions to non-time sensitive virtual interactions.  This allows you to spread out interactions so that you eliminate bottlenecks.  It is important to ask for the other person’s business card to make sure they know that you actually want to connect.  Explain that as much as you want to jump into the relationship right now, you want to reconnect at a later time so that you can give your full attention.

Transition Meetings: In order to scale 1 to 1 it is essential to move interactions from the physical to virtual. I resisted moving my meetings from physical to virtual.  However, over the last year I have moved almost all of my meeting to the virtual world.  I was sick of spending hours driving back and forth, and showing up late to meetings because of traffic, exhaustion and bad planning.  The key to moving meeting to the virtual world is to properly set up your virtual meeting room.  At first my virtual meetings felt awkward and where full of technical difficulties, and thus it was difficult to establish rapport with the people I was meeting.  After investing in a camera, professional grade studio microphone, a professional physical space, and a wired internet connection, I was able to establish the same rapport with my clients as my physical meetings.  I think the key was that I was comfortable, especially since I didn’t have to hold a microphone.  On the software side of virtual meetings I highly recommend using Skype and  They are very simple systems that load very quickly.
A Lobby Full of Ideas: Developing a lobby allows you to add value to people that you have just met and also your current clients when you are not around. CAN’s lobby is composed of a set of standard emails that are well thought out with content specific to different types of people we meet in different circumstances.  For example we have a list of our favorite things that we send to people we have just met introduce them to a few of our favorite things, our products and our company.  The goal of our lobby is to enhance the CAN customer experience by introducing potential customer to CAN and our products so that we can spend our face-to-face time engaged in learning about our customers and not telling them about CAN.  CAN is currently working on a series of emails specifically for people we have just met, people interested in our 5 products, and clients of our 5 products.
Scale Conversations: You can use your blog to scale 1 to 1 by writing about frequent conversations that you have, and then inviting people you engage with to add their thoughts.  This moves your realtime face-to-face interactions to a non-time sensitive virtual interaction, and you can network your new connections with other people that are having a similar conversation.

Stop Persuading and Start Selling: How to Qualify Your Clients

Their are a lot of salespeople that are confused about their roles as salespeople.  Salespeople do not exist to persuade, manipulate or pressure us to purchase things that we don’t need.  Their job is to connect people to the resources (people, services, and products) that they need to do our jobs and enjoy their lives.
It is relatively easy to get people to sign on the line that is dotted, however it takes a true salesperson and a lot of work to get the right people to sign.  This requires that management holds salespeople responsible for the clients they sell, salespeople have to have a simple way to qualify prospects, and marketing to develop products people want.  This doesn’t mean that salespeople aren’t responsible to meet or exceed their quota each month, but that they need to fulfill their quote by closing people that have the need, willingness and resources to purchase.
If you qualify your clients to make sure they have the need, willingness and resources to purchase your products and services you will cultivate a loyal, profitable and active client base, have an appreciative operations team, and a more sustainable business.  The following are questions salespeople can use to make sure they are selling to the right prospects:

  1. Define the Problem and Solution: What problem does my prospect need to solve? What product or service (not necessarily mine) will be the best solution to my prospects problem?  If you can clearly define your prospects problem, and your product or service is the best solution then proceed with the sale.  If their is better solution that you don’t sell, provide them with an introduction to someone that can help them.  While you will forfeit the immediate sale you will help establish yourself as a trusted advisor, and the prospect and their connections will come to you first when they have a problem.  This will provide you with a steady stream of potential clients that will trust your advice when your product/service is the best solution to their problem.
  2. Priced to Deliver: Does my prospect have the resource to purchase my solution at a price I can afford to deliver an exceptional final product? While offering a discount might help you close the deal quicker, you never want to discount your price to a point where it becomes difficult to deliver an exceptional final product because you don’t have enough time, resources or you have to spend your time selling instead of producing.  In my experience people typically stop caring about the price once they have signed, and then they only care about the final deliverable, so it is essential to price your products or services so you can deliver an exceptional final product.
  3. Willingness to Close: Is my prospect willing to invest the required time to understand my solution, get the right people in the room, work to implement my solution, and make the necessary political and financial concessions?  Willingness goes beyond just acknowledging that they have a problem and you have the solution, and having them be willing to sign a contract.  Real willingness is a commitment to implement your solution and extract full value from your solution, and this requires willingness to promote your solution internally to get adoption, get the decision makers to buy in, and put financial and political capital on the line.


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