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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!

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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!” »

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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?” »

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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” »


One of our clients just alerted us to an end-of-year campaign opportunity.

It seems that, until the end of this year (2014), small business owners can deduct the entire cost of capital purchases, up to $500,000 in value.

This is an increase on the standard $25k limit. And it’s only available until year’s end.

If you sell high-dollar-value new or used equipment, you might be able to use this for an end-of-year sales blitz! If so, you’re welcome to grab and modify this pre-approach email template.

Just, let me know if you have any success with it.

For more information, go here: http://www.section179.org/

And Merry Christmas!

Gift from Congress: twelve days remain to blow a hole in your 2014 tax bill!

Hi Sue

If you’re still thinking about upgrading your telephone system, I have, what might be, very good news.

It seems, due to the impenetrable machinations of our Congress, you can claim a 100% tax deduction on capital purchases up to $500,000 in value — but ONLY if you make the purchase by year’s end!

There are conditions, of course. And you can read about them here: http://www.section179.org/

I’ll give you a couple of hours to run this by your finance people, then I’ll give you a call to see if we can use this opportunity to reduce your tax bill (and to upgrade your office communications, of course!)

Chat soon


[concept only]

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I’m currently in the process of performing final edits to my book to ready it for publication. A big part of this process is modifying the manuscript to incorporate inside sales – which plays a much bigger role in SPE than it did when I started work on this book a few years ago. This chapter will probably end up being merged with the existing Chapter 3.

Introducing Inside Sales

This discussion is worthy of its own chapter for a couple of reasons.

First, as you’re about to discover, the odds are pretty good that you need an inside-sales team. And, what’s more, the creation of this team should probably take priority over whatever changes you plan to make to your outside sales activities.

And, second, our discussion of inside sales – is going to bring us face to face with a set of fundamental changes in the way most markets function. And that’s not a bad place to start.

The death of field sales

As I write this, The death of field sales is my most popular lecture topic. Most event organizers assume that I exaggerate in order to capture busy executives’ attention.

Well, it’s true that headlines often benefit from a little hyperbole, but there’s less exaggeration here than you might expect. In most markets, field sales is either dying, or its dead already!

Of course, I’m not heralding the end of field salespeople. There is a requirement for field salespeople in some (but definitely not all) markets now – and there will always be circumstances where face-to-face selling is indispensable.

What are on their way to extinction are environments where sales is essentially an outside activity. Even in engineer-to-order environments today (think JSG), only a tiny percentage of the total volume of activities required to originate and prosecute a sales opportunity are performed in the field. And those important field activities would simply not occur if it were not for the volume of work performed inside.

The fact is, sales today is an inside endeavor, supported, in some cases, with discrete field activities.

If you want proof, follow one of your field salespeople around for a week. What you’re likely to discover is that your field salesperson spends less than 10% of their time in the field. The balance of their time will be spent in an office of some kind (your head office, a branch office, a home office or a makeshift office in the backseat of a rental car!).

If my prediction is correct, your field salesperson is not really a field salesperson at all. They are an inside salesperson who performs occasional field activities.

There are still some markets where sales is essentially an outside activity. Trade tools, for example. Think of Snap‑on, whose operators pilot their white, red and black trucks direct to workshops and building sites and sell on the spot.

But, these markets are an exception, not the rule. It’s rare, today, to find customers who are happy for salespeople to drop-in, unannounced. Actually, in addition to making drop-ins impossible, most organizations go to quite some effort to rebuff even those salespeople who are polite enough to attempt to schedule a meeting in advance!

We have technology to blame for this disturbing state of affairs.

Fifty years ago, an organization’s (potential) customers were out there, in the field. Relative to today, they were isolated from their vendors. This is before fax machines and PBX’s were pervasive, and certainly before, email, websites and instant messaging. Salespeople bridged this geographic divide by visiting with customers in the field – and by ferrying information back and forth between their head offices and customers’ locations.

Today, customers are no longer isolated from their vendors. Vendors’ organizations are as close as the nearest web browser. And fax machines, private lines, email and instant messaging have made it easier for customers to communicate with representatives in organization’s head offices than it is to communicate with their salespeople!

That’s right, where field salespeople historically served to reduce the friction between vendors and their customers, today, it’s more likely that salespeople add friction! Certainly, it’s quite common to hear customers complaining that they can get better information and faster outcomes if they side-step salespeople and communicate direct with vendors’ head-office customer-service teams.

Salespeople have responded to this situation with a mixture of defiance and pragmatism. Continue reading “The Machine > Bonus chapter > The death of field sales” »


I’ll let you in on a secret.

Here at Ballistix, we all love fixing customer service teams. It’s easy to do. The transition to an optimal environment is low-cost and relatively risk-free. And the pay-off is huge.

The pay-off typically arrives in two tranches.

First, you get an incremental increase in business as a consequence of customers discovering that, all of a sudden, it’s easier to transact with you.

And, second, you get the ability to scale-up your sales team’s volume of meaningful selling interactions because now – of course – salespeople are no longer involved in customer service tasks.

Here’s an interview with Keith Cornelius – the leader of the customer service team over at Blast-One International in Columbus, Ohio. Keith describes the journey he’s been on to reengineer his team and to increase both the velocity and the quality of customer service activities.

(Can’t view YouTube? Use this link.)

You’ll learn why he did it, how he did it and what the consequences have been, now that he’s done it.

Keith talks about the physical changes he had to make to his customer service environment.  You’ll hear all about the banning (and burning) of notebooks. The importance of short, daily, stand-up work-in-progress meetings. And about the technology that’s required to make customer service sing – and how best to use it.

And Keith will tell you about the human side of the transition.  The apprehension of team members at the commencement of the journey.  About team members’ transition from doubting Thomases to believers. And, importantly, about the significance of watching (nay, obsessing over) one critical number!

You might be tempted to skip over this case study because it’s not directly focused on generating sales but, before you do, realize this: if your salespeople are currently involved in quoting, processing orders or solving customer’s transactional problems, your constraint isn’t sales, it’s customer service. Continue reading “No more notebooks: how Blast-One International boosted customer service quality” »