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As the world enters into a new and ever-evolving post-pandemic landscape, sales leaders are hyper-focused now more than ever on mastering the art of selling.

My guest in this episode of The Modern Selling Podcast is a Harvard Business School professor, market researcher, and best-selling author who has spent decades studying the data behind what really drives sales.

Don’t miss this eye-opening conversation with Frank Cespedes, as he dispels the biggest sales myths and explains the must-use strategies to consistently get sales results.

Frank Cespedes is one of Harvard Business School’s best-kept secrets. He spent 12 years as a Managing Partner of a professional services firm, where he helped countless companies navigate go-to-market and strategy issues. He has written for numerous publications, and is the author of six books, including, Aligning Strategy and Sales, which was cited as “The Best Sales Book of the Year” by Strategy & Business, “A Must Read” by Gartner, and “Perhaps the Best Sales Book Ever” by Forbes. 

Listen to this episode to hear the most important sales lessons from Frank’s newest book, Sales Management That Works: How to Sell in a World That Never Stops Changing. 

Grab your copy here on Amazon.

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Did the Pandemic Change How We Sell?

The short and very surprising answer is: NO.

With so many B2B and B2C companies shifting to expand their digital offerings (Vengreso included!), most sales managers rushed to invest in growing their online infrastructure – making the role of the traditional salesperson obsolete.

Well, so we thought.

However, when you examine the data as closely as Frank has, it reveals that many sales leaders are misallocating sales resources based on unsubstantiated assumptions.

So, I asked Frank to share some of his findings. “The percentage of total retail sales that were done via e-commerce at the beginning of 2020, when the pandemic hit, was 11.4%. But, when I ask executives, I typically get estimates from 30% to 60%. In other words, people are not just a little bit off, they’re orders of magnitude off!”

What’s even more startling is the small impact on online retail sales that the pandemic restrictions actually had.

Frank says, “During those maximum lockdown conditions, e-commerce as a percentage of total retail sales only went up to 15.1% – and it’s been trending down since then.”

Listen to the episode to hear his unique B2B insights and the major ‘allocation’ mistake Frank found that’s sinking B2B sales.

What is Affecting Sales Right Now?

The buying journey is much more complex, as customers can navigate seamlessly between offline and online channels to buy a single product. 

And, these buying behaviors must inform and influence the tasks of the sales team. But, are companies really adapting to this shift?

Frank doesn’t think so. “The most important thing about selling is the buyer who buys – why they buy, and how they buy. This is where technology online has had its biggest impact.”

In his new book, Sales Management That Works, he outlines the three most important questions that sales teams need to be asking right now to position themselves for growth:

  1. When is the right time and the wrong time to interact with buyers?
  2. What is the best channel approach to sales – offline or online?
  3. How do we shift from an ‘individual contributor’ model to an ecosystem of sales managers?

Join in to hear what Frank believes are the right answers to these pressing sales questions.

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How to Hire The Right Sales Staff in Today’s Market

Sales hiring comes with a host of inherent challenges that aren’t present in other industries.

Unlike other positions, Frank found that less than 300 out of the 5,000 colleges and universities in the country even offer a sales course.

“This is an occupation, where the vast majority of people start out knowing very, very little about what they’re going to get paid for.” 

Frank shares an interesting perspective of how the hiring process should be approached. I was happy to hear that Vengreso’s ‘hiring template’ is checking all of his boxes.

According to his research, sales hiring must include:

  1. Multiple interviews that allow candidates to be screened by both sales leaders and their sales peers.
  2. Skills and behavioral testing via real world selling scenarios.
  3. Mandatory probationary periods even after hiring to assess the candidate’s fit.

This can seem like a lot of time invested to hire one sales rep, however, as Frank points out, “If you add up the amount of money that is spent on hiring and the opportunity costs inherent to training, that number annually, is bigger than the biggest CapEx decisions.”

So, with this amount of money at stake, nailing the sales hiring process is key to every company’s success.

Be sure to listen to the entire episode to hear the ‘bizarre’ sales hiring story I share that illustrates the power of having the right hiring process in place.

How Sales Leaders Can Improve Sales Training

I wasn’t surprised when Frank shared that, “most sales reps forget about 80% of what they learn in sales training seminars within 60 to 70 days.” In fact, this is what we have been preaching for the last 3.5 years even before the pandemic and what became the cornerstone of our evangelizing a virtual sales program

This is why highly-targeted sales training that is designed for adult learners and that will continually reinforce the right selling behaviors is so important.

We predicted this at Vengreso, in 2018, when we began to move our sales training from in-person to online.

We figured out early on that online sales training would only be effective if it was focused on how to change our client’s sales team’s behavior(s), so they could become better modern sellers.

But, is sales training the only way to improve your sales team’s performance? That’s a question I asked Frank and his answer wasn’t what I expected.

Join the conversation to hear what Frank’s data suggests is the most powerful tool to explode your sales team’s potential.

I learned that “most #salesreps forget 80% of what they learn in #salestraining within 60 to 70 days.” 😲 Listen to what Frank suggests is the most powerful tool for your #salesteam on this ep of @GoModernSelling #salesmanagement Click To Tweet
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