B2B Sales and the Herd Mentality: Are You Following or Leading?

B2B Sales is more challenging than ever. Are you following the old herd or leading the new pack?

Customers’ buying habits are changing. The fast pace of technology only accelerates this change with an overwhelming amount of messages and shifting priorities clamoring for people’s undivided attention.

There’s also an intergenerational shift in the workforce as boomers retire and millennials take over which creates a multitude of buyers with different needs. Every one of those individual buyers demands specific valuable insights; something they don’t know, for improved performance from sales teams.

Research from Gartner/CEB states in the shifting B2B executive landscape, alignment of critical stakeholders before any major purchase is highly important. So more people hop on the buying cycle and key people-not as far along in their Buyer’s Journey because of shifting priorities-come in late. Multiple buyers like this in the process result in delays due to repeated activities, frustrating sales teams.  Drawn out sales cycles negatively affect everyone involved in your sales campaigns, sales, presales, services and your executives, sapping productivity.

Our research shows the sales teams who struggle the most with the Buyer 2.0 exhibit these “old behaviors”:

  1. They don’t understand and connect with customers personally: People want human connection as well as business results. 90% of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously(crowdspring) so having the ability to emotionally connect with people in their harried world is more important than ever
  2. They don’t understand the customer’s business problems deep enough to provide insight: Because “customers are coming into the sale armed with better product knowledge than ever before. The average customer is more than halfway through the decision-making process by the time they talk with a sales rep, according to some estimates,” (Agile CRM) oftentimes they don’t have the time or energy to provide the finer points of their business problems. But without understanding the business problem it’s hard to offer insights and differentiation, so talk turns to a well-known subject: the product.
  3. They rush to demo features and functions: It’s not unusual. According to Gartner, 73% Sales reps focus too much on product. We observe that many sales teams rush to demo the features of the product because this is their wheelhouse, but jumping right to knowledge of the product will not cause them to win the deal. If anything, rushing to demo without digging in deep to the problems elongate the sales cycle, confuses the customer, halts progress, and many times causes you to miss the opportunity for understanding. But we all train on, know, and love our product.

Which behaviors are you most guilty of? Are you or sales and marketing guilty of using the same old process and methodology or are you adapting to the new buyer? Quickly adapting to align with shifting customer wants and needs is imperative. How will you leave the herd mentality, set yourself apart, and lead the pack?

CI Squared Sales Workshop


4 Trends That Are Changing Sales



Naughty or Nice?


Family can bring out the best and the worst in us!

Why is it that what is touted as the “most wonderful time of the year” can bring on such angst and anxiety?  According to psychologist Leonard Felder, author of When Difficult Relatives Happen to Good People, “most Americans experience significant tension at one or more family events each year.”  Felder found, in a random sample of more than 1,350 people, 75% had at least 1 family member who gets on their nerves (Trespicio, CNN). At least 1? Try 5 or 6! 

The holiday season means different celebrations for people, but it always means togetherness, family, and a haul of interactions leading people to fall into two groups as they anticipate the holidays: those who struggle or those elated. With expectations set to have a wonderful time, different personalities, and overall heightened emotions, the holidays emphasize that struggle. How we react to those situations (naughty or nice?) stems from the core layers and building blocks of our personalities.

During the holidays with large groups of people around, understanding ourselves and others comes in handy. While it isn’t practical to start teaching emotional intelligence to each member of your family, slowing down a little to learn how to better understand the people in your life can make for a much happier holiday.

When we start to better understand what aspects of personality drives our loved-ones’ behavior, we can adapt our own behavior to allow more effective interaction, and put it in the right perspective.  For example, maybe your mom’s thorough detail-orientation for decorating the house drives you nuts. Why can’t she be like your sister who just takes the decorations and gets it done? But they do things 2 different ways, and approaching both your sister and your mom the same way will be ineffective. It is helpful to know who we’re dealing with, what drives their behavior, and therefore how to improve communication skills.

Having an insightful handle on different personalities, not just family dynamics, is invaluable. That insight will help you adapt to improve interactions, not just around the holiday dinner table but in every aspect of your professional/personal life. In the corporate world, having a positive, fruitful interaction with coworkers or clients begins with knowing who they are as people and their motivators. How effective could the sales and marketing be if they harnessed the knowledge of personality to improve communication skills for sales people and business sales techniques?

American automobile executive Lee Iacocca said it best: “You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.”

Everyone has a core personality formed by the basic principles or nature, nurture, and a combination of the two. While we cannot change our personality, we can grow an acute awareness of who we are, and our nuances. To understand others, the first step is understanding ourselves. Do you accurately know your personality profile? Think about where yourself and others fall on the DiSC personality map below. Start looking at stressful holiday situations differently and they will change. Aim to understand, not escape.

Communication Style


“…we need to know our own personality, as well as others’ personality. That is, the characteristics of each and how to flex our styles for more effective interaction and communication.” (The Art of The Nudge, pg. 73)

Nudge: Whether you are naughty or nice, gather and communicate mindfully to make the most of your holidays.

Other Points of View


How Each Myers-Briggs Personality Type Prepares For The Holidays



Good Communication Good Business

Marketing vs Sales: No One Wins

2/3 of salespeople believe marketers are wasting time on fancy events and branding activities when they would be better served focusing on tactics that directly impact the sales pipeline. Similarly, the majority of marketing pros consider salespeople boastful and showmen.” (Dan Sincavage B2B Community)

Marketing and sales share the same end goal: gain and retain customers. But different time horizons for results, branding strategies, focus, and methods get in the way of a synchronized team leveraging content. The fast pace of communication in our Digital World exacerbates the conflict between sales and marketing.

Recently, a VP of Marketing relayed to us their marketing department’s discordance with sales. Though they thoroughly researched business sales techniques, Buyer Personae and competitive differentiators, worked with excellent editing and publishing, Marketing still felt like they were throwing clear, accessible content over the wall to Sales. And the VP of Sales agreed with that. His team did not use the provided content as it was too high level, not focused on the current prospect, and difficult to research and find.

Criticism of the current system helped the VP of Marketing understand why his team looked at the successful sales reps as “rogue Agents” blazing their own trail. Furthermore, the VP of Sales was astonished at the amount of time and effort to create usable tools for the sales teams. Both VPs started imagining the productivity gains they could deliver if this all worked differently and cohesively.

CI Squared inquired how this conflict was affecting revenue, costs and profit margins, customer satisfaction or employee engagement. The VPs both laughed and said, “besides the dirty looks in the hallway and exasperation on both sides?” But they began to analyze the effects on the aforementioned areas of business which aligned with major research on sales and marketing operations:

Energy and resources wasted. Though marketing invests in research, writing, editing, printing, and publishing content, according to Sirius Decisions, 65% remains unused by sales.

Opportunity wasted If marketing wasn’t spending time on unusable content, what could they be doing? Could these other activities increase productivity and lead to higher revenues?

Time wasted– According to Aberdeen Group, sales reps spend 43 hours per month searching for the right content instead of selling in front of the customer, wasting valuable selling and customer facing time.  What if those 43 hours were used to accelerate a deal, or find a new one?

Revenue lost-Misaligned content can result in delivering the wrong message that negatively affects the customer. It creates friction, misunderstanding of your solution, the customer not feeling heard leading to longer sales cycle, drawn out buy-in or even loss of a big deal.

Calculating these specific numbers caused these two executives to take action and develop an integrated sales team development plan and collaborative framework for Marketing to deliver content that Sales could use. In addition, they established improved communication skills in the form of a feedback loop for Sales to circle back to Marketing with constructive dialogue and questions. In effect, a common culture and language to increase productivity and revenue was created. CI2 was lucky enough to partner with them on this journey with astounding results.

Despite the enormity of this problem, most executives only see the tip of this massive iceberg.  Do you know the magnitude of this problem in your Company? If you think it’s smooth sailing, validate your intuitions with two groups Copyrighters and Sales people. Ask one of your copyrighters how and when sales uses their content. Ask 2 salespeople how they use marketing content and how much time they spend monthly building their own?

If these answers disturb you, we would love to help.

Other Points of View:





Are You More Like Twitter or Instagram?

A picture is worth a thousand words…

A picture is worth a thousand words, so they say, but the updated version of that phrase sounds more like… put together the pictures with the words and you’ll experience unprecedented engagement and communications. Undeniably we still live in a text based society, but visuals have elevated the game. Both Twitter and Instagram are storytelling techniques helping businesses succeed in content distribution, sales, and branding.

In a sea of social media apps, Instagram is trending (how ironic) and here’s why… Twitter started with 140 characters of text and evolved into allowing users to add pictures and/or follow links out to the web, white papers, videos, and more. Many times, the final landing spot is far removed from the original post, creating space and time in the “connection”. Industry analysts have called this part of the twitter-net “noisy,” with many external moving parts.

Instagram, on the other hand, has played it cool. The app aims to keep you within their community and asks you to observe one post at a time. The evolution here is that Instagram now strikes a perfect and equal balance between words and pictures with prolific captions, commenting abilities, and an array of picture editing possibilities. They cornered the market for influential storytelling including text, pictures and now interactive responses. Data shows that users agree. Instagram has 400 million users monthly as compared to Twitter’s 316 million. And when engagement is measured, Instagram wins hands-down boasting billions of “shares” within their app world.

We already know why storytelling works, and pictures elevate this tool. In the past, the more bullet points and  information stuffed into your PowerPoint was thought to heighten the effectiveness and professionalism. Not true. It turns out, “Cognitive scientists say it’s impossible for us to multitask as well as we think we can. The brain cannot do two things at once and do them equally well. When it comes to presentation design, we can’t read text on the screen and listen to the speaker while retaining all of the information.” (Gallo)

So how do we combat that, and make ourselves the most impactful presenters?

“University of Washington biologist John Medina has done extensive research into how the brain processes information. According to his book, Brain Rules, “We are incredible at remembering pictures. Hear a piece of information, and three days later you’ll remember 10 percent of it.  Add a picture and you’ll remember 65 percent.”” (Gallo) Not only will the audience remember it, but the transfer of information happens much faster too. In their research on the subject, the company 3M reveals that visual aids “have been found to improve learning by up to 400 percent….and we can process visuals 60,000 times faster than text.” Powerful data like that motivates changes in what and how we consume and present information.

Like Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai and his new minimalist presentations, let’s begin to consider revamping your typical designs. Who are you more like when presenting? Twitter or Instagram? Comb through and identify which bullet points can be replaced with pictures that tell a story or create an emotional connection. Don’t assume the audience will know exactly what you mean when choosing a picture so do include a concise, relevant explanation. Engagement and understanding will soar. Visuals emerge through language too, so think of how you can set the stage or scenario of a situation in the stories you tell as well. It starts with “Imagine this…”

Nudge: Think in pictures. Look for ways to incorporate more visuals whether it’s verbally or by adding graphics and photography in your presentation.





Are You A Loser?

Are You A Loser?

“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game,” according to the losers and their parents

You win deals, you lose deals, and some deals are left hanging. You can’t win every one right? Or can you? You can get closer. First, get to know the standard at which to gauge your win rates. In our 3 years of significant research we found the 40/30/30 model, a metric used at end of sales pipelines which represents the average win rate for high performing companies. Most companies who claim to have higher win rates do not measure every deal a real sales person touches. If you have 10 deals in the pipeline you’ll win 40% of them, lose 30% and 30% will be left with no decision. Look at your company’s own win rates then analyze: 

1. What’s happening in the good deals? What’s happening in the bad deals? 

2. Why do you lose? 

3. How much time did sales reps spend on lost deals? 

4. Did you understand the customer? 

Conducting a lost sale analysis was just the tip of the iceberg for one of our customers realizing why and how they lost a significant deal. This customer, a large software company, brought in their sales team to sell to a customer, yet they did not understand what the customer wanted and when they wanted it. Consequently, their boss had 12 members of the team charge ahead for 12 months on a product for future integration only to bring it back to their customer and have it solidly rejected. The timeline for this product was way too long and the CFO, justifiably, chose a company who could provide correct software quicker. Our customer realized lack of understanding was the crux of the problem. They were proposing a perceived solution that they thought would fill their customer’s needs when in reality, for the customer the benefits were too far out on the timeline compared to the competition. 

Time wasted. People wasted. Customer good will squandered. How much do you really lose by competing for a piece of business for this long with no apparent customer solution?  They didn’t “lose fast” and move on. They didn’t know to walk away because they did not gather the customer’s story well, understanding them and their struggles. The best of the best know where to focus their time, energy and resources to increase probabilities of winning deals. Lose fast and convert the no decisions. 
Helping your customer uncover their real struggles is key. Then analyze the implications of those struggles to their business. Who’s affected and why? Is this tipping point enough for them to take action? What needs to shift? Can your company play a key role in solving their problem? 

Communication and gathering the whole story and struggles are at the heart of a successful interaction whether you win, lose or somewhere in between. Understanding the customer and their struggles leads to you knowing exactly what they want and what you can offer to solve it. You’ll now know where you can’t win and gain courage to lose fast. Value your time and move on to win the next deal. What would happen to your performance in you changed 40/30/30 into 50/25/ 25? 

Nudge: Be curious – Ask open ended questions and LISTEN to gain better insight of your customer’s real struggles. Want to become a better listener and get the whole story?  Contact CI Squared to learn more shopkins@cisquared.net. 




The Challenger Sale…

The Challenger Sale

The Challenger Sale by CEB is based upon research that shows buying has fundamentally changed since 2008, and that Solution Selling is no longer effective in a complex buying world. Executive buyers and users look for different things in the buying cycle, and just diagnosing needs and pitching does not lead to purchases. Also, having great relationships without insight and customer value is not effective. Executives are most interested in buying from an organization, so they want multiple people on the supplier side to be responsive to a project.  Most importantly, they want collaborative buy-in from their own people before taking the risk on large projects, both to ensure the right decision and to get commitment from the beginning. However, users also want an individual relationship with someone from the supplier side—someone who is responsive and provides ideas and insight to help them and their companies succeed and perform.

The CEB’s research shows that there are 5 profiles of sales reps executing in complex sales. Two are high performing: The Challengers and The Lone Wolves. Lone Wolves cannot be replicated across an organization, and they often create conflict in a team-based sale. Thus, the characteristics of this type of rep cannot and should not be replicated.

Challengers, on the other hand, do three things differently than the other profiles. These three characteristics allow them to deliver insight and high performance. First, Challengers teach with unique insight into a business. Secondly, they tailor their messages to individuals based upon these insights, and, thirdly, they take control of the sale by focusing on next steps, money conversations, and how to complete the purchase and move to implementation. However, to make this Selling Framework a competitive advantage, it entails broad scale change and organizational adoption by all reps with aid from marketing/sales operations and good coaching sales managers.

The CEB has developed training programs and tools to both initially train and continue to build on these organizational capabilities of Challengers. One item mentioned frequently throughout their book is the use of STORY as a tool to influence buyers—having conversations with buyers by both telling and getting stories. The CEB also maintains that natural Challengers must challenge the prospect to give them new ideas and insights particularly when they disagree.  However, they do not teach or train how to do this, and it is perhaps the most critical skill in interacting with prospects. Challenging someone creates conflict, and this is a difficult task and skill to execute effectively—Nice to mention, very hard to do well.

At CI² we absolutely believe that the world is getting more complex and the risk of large purchases is huge. Some sellers have adapted to this and some have not. We believe that the ability/skill of telling compelling stories and gathering insightful stories from your customers is fundamental to detailed execution whenever you are leading, persuading, or trying to influence others.  Current brain science based upon tests done with FMRI technology demonstrates why this is so critical for people making decisions or moving to adopt changes. The training we implement at CI² is practical, skill-based learning that will compliment the Challenger Sale principles, as well as most other in-vogue frameworks. Story Gathering is one of the critical skills needed to interact with the new Buyer 2.0, helping him/her and you to get results. Business outcomes our prospects want are:  increased revenues, increased sales productivity, increased profitability, increased customer satisfaction, and increased employee satisfaction; all leading to greater shareholder value.  Learning gather impactful stories will give you the advantage you need to tell, inspire and motivate others to Action. This critical skill will turbocharge your sales results and lead to higher performance.

John Geraci, CI Squared Co-Founder and President

True or False: Life Stories Have a Place in the Business World

True or False: Life Stories Have a Place in the Business World

Life Stories

A song in the new film La La Land (Chazelle, 2016) contains the lyrics: “Someone in the crowd could be the one you need to know”, describing the fortuitous serendipity which evolves into a meaningful meeting or interaction with someone. Do just a few people have magnificent stories or do only the tenacious find them? Actually, everyone has a story that is meaningful in its own way, including your boss, coworkers, family members and friends. For example, CI Squared’s President John Geraci and his colleague Bill, who have shared a 20 year friendship, discovered that Bill had no idea about a significant event shaping John’s life until Bill watched John’s “Why” video recently. The sharing of life stories have the ability to bond people in an unprecedented way.

We’ve heard it before: technology impedes human interaction and connection. When you’re not connecting or bonding with your colleagues, the work suffers greatly. People know this. What they don’t know is that life stories are a solution to the problem.

Life stories are a composition of noteworthy events like the best scenes of a movie edited together. People could argue the workplace is not a cozy camp fire, therefore compelling anecdotes have no place; but they do. As people start to open up, you understand them in a beneficial way, finally understanding why the person is the way they are and therefore able to Nudge them to a higher performance. A more empathetic culture develops from understanding. Businesses with a more empathetic culture and people who easily work, communicate and collaborate together can only thrive. Truly Understanding others’ stories is a way to construct this culture.

Events in life stories do not have to be particularly formidable, as the simple act of sharing and understanding is monumental. A vulnerable moment holds the potential to change relationships and even business outcomes. CI Squared’s Chief Architect Christine remembers the story of a workshop/Storytelling breakout session where best failure stories were being shared. Out of the 6 people, one man shared a story of his son’s extraordinarily rare learning disability and feelings of failure and remorse as he struggled to help his son. Suddenly, someone else in the group spoke up. They went on to explain that their son too had the exact same learning disability. Two people who had never spoken were now irrevocably bonded through shared life stories. They went on to deliver the largest revenue deal for their unit that year.

Ask yourself: What would it mean to you if someone knew your story? Empathized with you in a different way? Would you be inspired to help the team achieve and succeed and they, you? How do your stories influence people? What’s the most fascinating thing you know about your neighbor at work? If you’re not telling, asking and gathering, you’re missing people, both colleagues and customers. Making a conscious effort to tell your story and gather the stories of others has unparalleled business benefits. Ask, then listen and you won’t need fortuitous serendipity to meaningfully connect with your colleagues. Find in someone an opportunity to learn something new and connect with a life story.

Nudge: at your next team meeting tell your colleagues a story about yourself that will bond you with them and  to you in a unique way. The result is an extraordinary impact just waiting to be experienced in work process, relationships and Revenue, Profit/Cost, Customer Satisfaction, Employee Engagement and Shareholder Value.

“…stories…that make a point, cause us to feel something, and lead us to take action, a NUDGE.” (The Art of the Nudge Pg. 85)

Other Points of View:



Casting your Vote on Election Tuesday and How You Vote Every day!

Understanding How Behavioral Economics Affects Our Decisions

During election season we are barraged with instructions and influences, it has been nonstop.  But how are these messages influencing us?  This is the perfect time to highlight how and why bias plays a role, not only in our election, but the everyday decisions we make too.

We vote or decide on thoughts efficiently and quickly via our subconscious mind. We decide who to vote for president, what to wear, whether to eat ice cream or carrots. Our brain goes through a whirlwind of voting, using a risk vs. reward assessment which we call “behavioral economics” every second. Defined in the article “The Marketplace of Perceptions” in Harvard Magazine Behavioral Economics is: …“the study of how real people actually make choices, which draws on insights from both psychology and economics.”

So much happens subconsciously before we select a candidate or the ice cream; the end result of this myriad of influences is an actual decision.  We already know that the world influences our decision-making by creating biases, through advertisements, data, experiences and stories. Our own biases are established via our personal stories. Biases may be fluid or more fixed depending on actual life experience.

What has influenced you? How can the story be changed to influence a decision and the bias that exists within your subconscious? Should it be changed? What story do we tell and why? 

Behavioral economists (and campaign managers!) know the world preys, or more gently, thrives on how people feel in the present because people are biased to what is current. This is a “confirmation” of our existing bias with some comfort coming from agreement with others.  The stories we hear are weighted or clouded by the seduction of instant gratification, costs and benefits. This can result in consequential decision making. In the moment, we’re not thinking about how carrots are good for us in the future, we’re thinking about how ice cream tastes good right now!

Our bias now stands at the front of our brains, especially during an election season. Political commercials make statements about which people to vote for or who not to vote for. This compels our confirmation bias. A seed is planted and a positive or negative commercial can impact our opinions. Once we opt-in, we’re weighing the risks and rewards of each candidate and deciding which one we think will be best for the country. Based on these commercials, past experiences, history, facts and emotions: is your bias in check?

The best decisions can be made when we purposefully “slow down to speed up”. Understanding the story, we tell ourselves, recognizing our own biases and the what or who are informing our bias, allows solid decision-making. Effective decision making comes from taking the time to consider these components in voting whether business and personal.

No matter who, please remember the most important decision on Tuesday, November 8th is to exercise your right to vote and cast a ballot!

November Nudge:  Think about, what stories you hear or tell yourself that inform your biases?

Other Points of View

Harvard Magazine: Why we procrastinate, buy, borrow, & grab chocolate


Psychology of Success: 5 Cognitive Biases That Affect Your Work Success


Effective “Inception” Requires a Mastery of Storytelling

Why we gave “Inception” with DiCaprio two thumbs up!

“I specialize in a very specific type of security. Subconscious security.” Since movies have been made, we’ve never seen something quite like Christopher Nolan’s cerebral yet hugely enjoyable 2010 film Inception, and we’ll probably never see anything like it again. This endures as a film that elevated originality and creativity all while taking its foundational ideas from textbook facts about dreams and the subconscious mind. Of course the film took creative liberties when it comes to the brain, but post-viewing, audiences pondered the idea that the subconscious rules all.

Led by Leonardo DiCaprio, the mission of the “dream team” is to implant an idea in a rival character’s subconscious that will influence the rest of his decisions and result in the breaking apart of his business empire. It’s one simple thought, whittled down to one sentence. When meeting with a client you’re more or less attempting to do the same thing; implanting a positive idea about your business to affect their business decisions, because it all comes back to one thing: the subconscious rules all. Stories inform emotions, emotions inform actions. We all have a conscious brain, what we are actively thinking about now, and a subconscious brain, stuff that is going on beneath the surface. Our conscious brain methodically deals in facts and figures and can process only up to 9 things at a time while our subconscious brain is a messy composite of deeply influential experiences and emotions, processing millions of ideas simultaneously.  Thinking in stories, the subconscious brain moves with lightning speed and serves information up to our conscious brains on its own terms. Now this is both fascinating and frightening as we realize that the subconscious could be a great enabler and deciding factor.

The “dream team” in Inception knows this, so they hold a meeting and essentially Story Gather. Harnessing thorough research, they identify what story they will tell to the rival character and what story he will tell himself, therefore activating his subconscious and causing a small idea to grow. They need to sell this idea; you want to sell your product or concept. They turn a business concept or product into an emotional idea through the information that is available. Because our subconscious rules, how can you make the final quarter push to harness this knowledge?  You want to use stories because you’re dealing with the subconscious brain, which is the decision maker.

Psychologists used to use a famous drawing to explain feelings and action, called the Event Feeling Action Cycle. Now we have discovered the powerful truth that what is really happening is, as an event occurs our fast subconscious brain crafts a story based upon all the relevant data stored under the surface, the same place our dreams come from.  This story is served up to the conscious brain and subsequently makes us feel one way or another. Based upon our feelings, we take action based upon our biased Story, whether factual or not. What I store is what I thought I experienced. Another person could experience the same thing yet interpret it differently; nonetheless we are both biased by our subconscious brain and how we relate this event to the rest of our shared Stories. Effective “inception” requires a mastery of storytelling; knowing which stories to use and knowing what story the client tells themselves. What story will spark emotions in their subconscious, which is the thing that truly drives them?