Subscribe now
Get The Machine sampler (first 4 chapters) free the instant you subscribe! You'll also receive each of my posts, fresh in your inbox. 
(You'll get The Machine sampler in your inbox the instant you subscribe!)
THE SMALL PRINT: We know you're taking a risk when you entrust us with your email address, so we commit: (a) to NEVER spam you; (b) to NEVER sell or rent your data to anyone; (c) to ALWAYS make it easy for you to unsubscribe; (d) to ONLY send you stuff you reasonably expect to receive; (e) to contact you LESS frequently than you would reasonably expect.

I’ve noticed an interesting trend.

I’m seeing organizations starting to celebrate the fact that they’re implementing SPE—inside the organization, and even outside!

I’m thinking, maybe the popularity of The Machine is empowering executives to be a little bolder. Or maybe we’re just doing a better job of selling the end-state. Either way, it’s a nice trend.

Thermogroup UK

The boldest example is Thermogroup in Kent (UK). Thermogroup manufactures and distributes underfloor heating systems.

When I arrived at Thermogroup to run a two-day Solution Design Workshop, I wasn’t too surprised to find the room rigged with video recording equipment. Our clients often record these workshops for internal reference.

But I was surprised the other day when Thermogroup turned some of their footage into a promotional video and a blog post—heralding the SPE initiative. Think about the level of commitment this signals to the rest of the organization.


Another example is Carusele in North Carolina (USA). Carusele sells branded content as a packaged media offering.

Shortly after their inside sales team kicked off with its first campaign, Dave Ryan (their creative director) stayed late and created a chalk mural to celebrate the initiative.

Furthermore, Jim Tobin, Carusele’s president took it upon himself to create a video for the sales team members, demonstrating how he handles common objections.

The Machine Chalk


From day-one, Lamar made a significant commitment to their SPE initiative (a small, HQ based inside sales team). Lamar is one of the largest outdoor advertising companies in North America.

For starters, they made one of their most senior executives responsible for this initiative. When it came time to recruit inside salespeople, they ran billboards around Baton Rouge and threw a mixer to introduce candidates to Lamar. And, to date, they are the only organization we work with that maintains twice-daily role-playing sessions to ensure that their salespeople’s phone technique is always sharp.

What really impressed me, though, was that Lamar had one of their marketing crew attend a full-day phone-skills workshop we ran for them. After lunch this person disappeared and made a set of posters containing key ideas for the training. When the inside sales team arrived at work the next day, their work area was already decorated with these posters!

Lamar Posters

The power of celebration

It’s true that these are feel-good stories. But they’re not just feel-good stories. I’ve been doing this long enough to know that leadership teams that telegraph their commitment to major initiatives like this tend to inspire a similar level of commitment from their team leaders.

Consequently, these initiatives become shared adventures, rather than change management exercises!

Add your comment

It’s all the rage nowadays. Build a team of Sales Development Reps (or SDRs) to multiply the productivity of your salespeople.

Thing is, as anyone who’s watched Boiler Room knows, this is not exactly a new idea. Boiler Room features a New York bucket shop that uses a call center and high-pressure sales techniques to move stocks of lesser-known companies. In the movie, junior salespeople make hundreds of calls, attempting to engage prospects, then, once they have engagement, they transfer those prospects to more experienced closers.

Today’s SDR is the same basic idea, with a fresh lick of paint (and a cool infographic). From the customer’s perspective, the experience is comparable. And from the organization’s perspective, SDR’s are a needlessly expensive way to improve salespeople’s productivity.


I’m a fan of applying division-of-labor to sales (after all, I wrote the book that advocates that). But I’m not a fan of the SDR idea.

Two reasons why:

  1. Your most valuable prospects find junior salespeople’s qualifying questions insulting and resent that these individuals cannot (or will not) answer technical questions
  2. Because SDRs churn through hundreds of prospects, your approach to the marketplace ends up being totally untargeted

The qualification fallacy

The SDR idea appeals to those sales managers who believe that you canqualify sales into existence. That is to say that they believe the essential nature of the sales process is to filter-out all those prospects who will not buy — leaving only the sure things, standing, with their credit cards at the ready.

In most environments, though, prospects cannot be qualified into purchasing — they need to be convinced, or actually sold. And the most critical selling conversation is — you guessed it — the very first one.

My advice, then, is that you should insist that your experienced, capable salespeople have those critical initial conversations with potential customers.

Okay, I know what you’re thinking! How do you avoid your salespeople’s limited capacity being consumed by people with no potential to purchase (non-prospects, in other words). Continue reading “If you really like wasting money and annoying prospects then, go ahead, hire a team of Sales Development Reps” »


So, The Machine (my new book) has an easter egg in it.

At the end of Chapter 1, there’s a link you can use to subscribe (free) to a short course called, Beyond The Machine.

Since the release of the book, the BTM short course has been getting rave reviews. And, better than rave reviews, I’ve been getting serious heat from students of the course who want me to release classes faster!

The course contains 6 classes. Each takes the form of a video (with accompanying documents and a discussion forum) and each video runs for 20 minutes or so. Importantly, there is virtually no overlap between the course content and the content of The Machine. In other words, all the content in the short course is new stuff—stuff you can’t just get elsewhere.

The course is designed to teach readers of The Machine exactly how we go about implementing SPE for our clients, here at Ballistix. This is a step-by-step guide to the implementation of SPE. No theory. Only practice. And, let me tell you, almost everything you’ll learn in this course (if you’re brave enough to take it) is counter-intuitive.

The first four classes address questions like: (1) how to maintain sales activity levels while you are making changes to the design of your sales environment, (2) how to re-engineer your customer service function to get to >90% on-time case completion, (3) how to generate sales opportunities and (4) how to prosecute those sales opportunities. The last two classes (which I’m working on now) address: (5) how to use sales-related technology and (6) how to manage your sales and customer service teams.

The bad news is that you have to buy The Machine to get access to the entire short course. But the good (nay, great) news is that you can watch Class 4 right here and right now!

I’ve even included the course accoutrements below. So get to it, and let me know what you think in the forum!

Non YouTube link

If you can’t use YouTube or if you need to download this class for offline access, use this link.

Workflow Diagram

You can download the workflow referenced in this video as a PDF file and follow along. It’s here.

Discuss this Class

If you’d like to discuss the content of this class with fellow travellers—or ask a question of Justin—here’s the place to do it.

Schedule a Best Practice Briefing


I’m getting tired of battling marketing departments over their irrational devotion to Inbound (and Content) Marketing.

It seems that marketing folks can’t help but fall violently in love with these concepts, rendering them useless to the rest of the organization.

Here’s my beef.

I know, from personal experience, that the content marketing thing works, in certain environments. (And, I’m enormously grateful that my business happens to be one of those environments.)

But, I also know from experience with our clients that content marketing does not work at scale in most environments.

I heard a presentation from a marketing person the other day who was supposed to be generating sales opportunities to feed a team of five inside salespeople. He was excited to report that his content marketing efforts had resulted in him generating 65 high-scoring sales opportunities from a list of 11,000 email addresses.

Here’s the problem. Those 5 inside salespeople consume 12 opportunities, on average, each day.

So, if our content-marketing buddy wants to feed those five salespeople, he needs to repeat this feat every day. And if, to avoid email fatigue, he decides to mail his list only weekly, he needs to rapidly increase his house list from 11,000 to 55,000 contacts.

Now, you could argue that the fault here is with sales for building a team that’s larger than the opportunity flow. But, here’s the thing. This organization knows that there are hundreds of selling conversations occurring every day in its marketplace. Problem is, those conversations are occurring between potential customers and their competitors’ salespeople.

This organization simply cannot afford to wait for marketing to slowly scale up their opportunity-generation efforts, hamstrung by their ideological devotion to Inbound Marketing.

Where Inbound Marketing is concerned, the problem this organization has is, like most other organizations, it does not have a massive point of difference and it’s products are not high-involvement for their customers.

So the notion of building a ‘thought-leadership platform’ or whatever the content-marketing folks call it, is untenable.

To return to our story.

I pointed out to the marketing guy that his model could not scale and had to be revised if he we were to keep the inside sales team fully loaded with opportunities. I explained how we could devise offers that were targeted to micro-segments and then compile lists, send pre-approach campaigns and push opportunities (at scale) to inside salespeople’s opportunity queues.

He reacted as if I’d suggested he sell his soul to the devil. It was clear to the rest of the organization that he could not get behind this idea. It was also clear to the rest of the organization that it made no sense to retard the firm’s growth out of deference to this marketing ideology de jour.

Ironically, the whole notion of inbound marketing is a distinction without much of a difference. The idea of prospects following a breadcrumb trail to your door is an alluring one. But the fact is that, at some point, the marketer has to alert them to the existence of that trail. Like it or not, there must be some kind of disturbance to the natural order (or interruption, as they call it) or those breadcrumbs will go unnoticed.

I think it’s time that people started questioning this ideology. It’s not as generally applicable nor as scalable as the software vendors who perpetuate it would have us think (sorry, Hubspot).

And, in my experience, the all too common mindless devotion to this ideology is retarding the growth of organizations and turning marketing people into zombies: out of touch and of limited use for the rest of their organizations.

The Machine wins GOLD in Sales category in the 2016 Axiom Business Book Awards!

TheMachineCoverI’m delighted to report that The Machine won Gold in this year’s Axiom Business Book awards.

You can read more here.

The Machine is on sale now, on Amazon.com and in Barnes & Noble and most US bookstores (including most Airport Bookshops).

If you haven’t ordered your copy yet, please get to it! And, as soon as it arrives, sign up for the free short course at the end of Chapter 1. (You’ll be shocked to discover how much value is packed into this short course.)

If you have received your copy of The Machine already, please, please get over to Amazon and write a review. I really, truly need your review right now!


Orbitform is one of the silent revolutionaries profiled in The Machine.

If you turn to page 101, you’ll find the story of Madison—an organization that found it necessary to create their own hybrid SPE model.

Officially, Madison’s story is an amalgam of three organizations’ experiences but, unofficially—between just you and me, dear reader—Madison is 95% Orbitform!

A couple of days ago I sat down with Phil Sponsler, the President of Orbitform and discussed his experiences implementing Orbitform’s hybrid SPE model. We talk about why a hybrid model is necessary, how it works and how Orbitform has benefited from transitioning to this new model over (primarily) the last 24 months.

The highlight of the video is hearing Phil (who’s not prone to hyperbole) say “wildly significant” three times, when referencing both Orbitform’s revenue growth and the resulting increase in profitability!

Orbitform is a Michigan-based manufacturer of forming and fastening machines.

This is a great story. Enjoy.

[Can’t view YouTube? Use this link.]

The Machine: on sale now!

TheMachineCoverThe Machine is on sale now, on Amazon.com and in Barnes & Noble and most US bookstores.

If you haven’t ordered your copy yet, please get to it! And, as soon as it arrives, sign up for the free short course at the end of Chapter 1. (You’ll be shocked to discover how much value is packed into this short course.)

If you have received your copy of The Machine already, please, please get over to Amazon and write a review. I really, truly need your review right now!

Add your comment

Here’s a quick update.

As you can see below, The Machine is finished, it has a new cover, a handful of Advance Reader copies are loose in the wild and it’s so damn good that it’s even making Andrew Warner—the tough-as-nails interviewer of tech startups—smile!

Andrew Warner reads The Machine

In more news, The Machine will be available in bookstores and online retailers on October 20, 2015.

Prior to then, we’ll be running one or two webinars where we’ll offer some exciting bonuses to those people who preorder. If you’ve preordered already, don’t worry, you’ll be able to submit your receipt after the webinar to claim your bonuses!

Our distributor (Greenleaf Book Group) is reporting that the book is getting picked-up by all the major chains and by most independent bookstores too. The Machine will also be featured in Hudson Airport bookstores (though this representation comes at quite a cost, let me tell you!)

Fortunately, we’re not having to pay for all of our good news. Executive Book Summaries has selected The Machine as the one of the 30 business books they will summarize next year. (They pay us for that!) Here’s a direct quote.

“We look at business books every hour, every day, and got so excited when we saw your book. We vote by a large committee on which books we are going to cover as the Best of the Year. Your book got a unanimous YES vote. That rarely happens.

Rebecca Clement, Publisher
Soundview Executive Book Summaries

A huge thankyou to a number of clients and friends of Ballistix who read Advance Reader copies and who wrote reviews for the Advance Praise section of the book. You can read (heavily edited versions of) these reviews in the extract below.

Oh, and yes, before you ask, there will be Kindle and Audible versions in the weeks following the hardcover release. (And, yes, I’ll be reading the Audible book.)


As I write, I’m flying back to LA after attending the Inside Sales Professionals annual conference in Chicago.

Today, I presented The Death of Field Sales, an introduction to our inside-out approach to the design of the sales function.

Here are my observations on state of the inside-sales community.

The good

First, inside sales is exploding. A number of speakers presented data that showed that, as field sales teams shrink, inside teams are growing. But not just growing. Exploding! Some are reporting a 300% year-on-year growth in US inside-sales headcount. And I suspect the same is true of other developed countries too.

The other exciting thing is that the inside-sales community seems to be well aware of the power of inside sales. Many organizations have inside sales teams that are outperforming their field counterparts and a number are prosecuting major sales opportunities inside.

The other good news I can report is that, when I posited my two starting assumptions for the design of the sales function, I got immediate and unreserved agreement from everyone in my workshop:

  • Sales is essentially an inside function
  • Sales is a team—not an individual—endeavor

The not so good

The not so good news is that inside sales teams have adopted a number of practices from the traditional sales model that would have been better off left in the field (or, better still, eliminated altogether).

For example, although everyone seemed to agree that sales is a team endeavor, inside salespeople are being encouraged to own their own accounts, to prospect and to engage in social outreach (including publishing their own blog posts!).

Although, many in the community reject that inside salespeople are second-class citizens (relative to field salespeople) I still heard a number of industry leaders admit (from the stage) that they employ low-cost, less-experienced candidates and introduce them to a career path that starts inside and delivers them, at some point, to the field (where, presumably, real salespeople work?).

And, need I say, talk of commission-based comp plans was everywhere.

My deck. For more information, read this.

My presentation

In my presentation, I lead audience members from the starting assumptions above through the process of reimagining their sales functions. Continue reading “The future is inside sales. It’s just not your momma’s inside sales!” »

Add your comment

An introduction to unit economics (and to a drunk and his car keys)

This business is growing at a predictable 20% per year, but you can’t see that from the chart of top-line revenues below.

You can’t see this growth if you look at a profit-and-loss report or a cashflow analysis either.

Consequently, the board is pressuring the management team to shut down their expensive sales experiment. This doesn’t sit well with the management team’s intuition but the facts are the facts.


This company is fictitious. But the story is a common one—and there’s a chance it might be playing-out in your organization right now. Read on to discover the backstory, why the facts are in conflict with reality and what management can do to reconcile this conflict.

The backstory

Our fictitious company commenced a new sales initiative on January 1. It employed two inside salespeople and, consequently, increased annual operating expenses by $200k. Now, 12 months on, the board is examining the organization’s financials and pointing out that it makes no sense to maintain this initiative.

Now, here’s the thing. The organization that generated that revenue chart above really is growing at 20% per year. I know that because I built the model that generated these numbers—and 20% annual growth is hard-wired into the model.

So the 20% annual growth isn’t in dispute (you can download my model and check for yourself). However, the board’s conclusion isn’t in dispute either. Their conclusion may be in conflict with reality but it’s NOT in conflict with the evidence provided by the organization’s management team. Even the most rigorous analysis of the organization’s financial reports will not reveal the truth. Consequently, the management team is about to agree to shut down their inside sales team—a move that will do serious damage to the longer-term outlook of the organization. Continue reading “This business is growing at a predictable 20% per year. So why does the board want to shut-down its growth engine?” »

Add your comment

Sales meetings, properly run, have a tremendous impact on sales performance.

But most sales managers are reluctant to run them and, when they do, they run them in precisely the wrong fashion because of a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of motivation.

Why run a sales meeting?

We should touch on why before we get to how.

If you believe all of the common assumptions about sales commissions, you could be excused for presuming that sales meetings are redundant. After all, if salespeople are motivated to sell by the comp plan, why interrupt them with a sales meeting?

Of course, the comp plan does not guarantee positive behaviors (although it’s pretty-much guaranteed to drive a handful of negative ones) so it’s incumbent upon managers to engineer environments that harness salespeople’s natural motivation.

Sales meetings are the most important element of a carefully engineered sales environment.

Sales meetings:

  1. Enable salespeople to understand the relationship between their activities and the performance of the overall organization
  2. Provide salespeople with short term feedback on their performance – which is particularly important when they are working on longer-lead-time deals
  3. Enable salespeople to benchmark themselves against their colleagues
  4. Enable salespeople to drill critical communication techniques

How NOT to run a sales meeting

I suspect many sales managers are reluctant to run sales meetings because they believe that they need to put on a show for their salespeople. They need to train them and motivate them, after all.

But a good sales meeting is not a training session and it’s definitely not a motivational talk. A good sales meeting is an opportunity for salespeople to get reacquainted with the larger machine to which they belong and to compare their performance with that of their colleagues. For salespeople, this is inherently motivational.

Sales managers should be facilitating sales meetings, not presenting them. (It’s all about the salespeople. Not the sales manager!)

Sales meeting: run sheet

Let’s start with a run sheet for an ideal sales meeting.

7:45Team lead reviews reporting dashboard and ensures all reports are accurate: remedies if not
8:00Team gathers (or logs-in) and prepares for meeting
8:10Meeting starts
Review high-level metrics, in aggregate. Sales this period, activity this period and current queue sizes (forward-booked meetings, opportunities and prospects). Confirm health of overall system.
8:15Review metrics for each salesperson (sales, activity and queue sizes). Review list of last period’s activities and discuss what went well and what didn't go so well. Dig deep!
8:25Select 3-4 late-stage opportunities and discuss what’s required to increase their velocity.
8:30Select problem area (communication skill) from previous discussion, agree on ideal technique and drill as team.
8:40Meeting ends

Data first

The first thing that you should notice about this sales meeting is that it’s data driven.

The sales environment is a complex one. Sales opportunities are complex. The sales value chain is complex too (with researchers, campaign coordinators, sales coordinators, salespeople and project leaders all working together to originate and prosecute opportunities). And the larger organization adds still more complexity (with sales needing to interface effectively with customer service and engineering, etc). Plus, to add insult to injury, each salesperson is likely to be engaged with up to 100 sales opportunities at any one point in time.

It’s simply impossible to have a meaningful discussion about sales without all team members staring at the one dashboard. It’s okay to voice opinions as long as they are opinions about data – as opposed to opinions masquerading as data!

You should design your dashboard around your sales meeting – and not the other way around.

If you don’t have a fancy dashboard, at a minimum, examine salespeople’s calendars in your sales meeting (in conjunction with opportunity lists in CRM). Get salespeople to use group calendaring properly – and to color-code meetings by type. Continue reading “How to run a sales meeting” »