Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Think Executives Are Purely Rational Decision-Makers? Think Again.

A myth has long swirled around the topic of executive decision-making, and it stems from the broad and untested perception that executives are strictly rational agents—logical and analytical in their approach to business decisions.

Now that we’ve put that premise to the test, we can also put that perception to its rest. Because it’s not true. New research from Corporate Visions reveals that intuitions and emotions have far more sway over the executive decision-making process than many sellers—or executives, for that matter—realize.

The study—which had 113 executive participants from a wide array of industries, including software, oil, finance and aerospace—yielded many unexpected findings about how much emotions influence executive buying decisions. Perhaps most compelling among them was the idea that you can provide executives with the exact same “math” with respect to a business proposition, but get significantly different results depending on how you frame the situation.

Specifically, the study tested the principle of loss aversion, an idea pioneered by social psychologists Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, which says that people are more willing to make a change or seek a risk to avoid a loss than to acquire a gain.

The study revealed that executives, across both personal and professional scenarios, are not exempt from this principle. They demonstrate a far greater appetite for the “risky choice” when you simply change the way you frame the scenario.

Words trump math!

Purely rational decision-makers executives are not! To learn more about the study and its findings—and what implications they may have for your message development and delivery—check out this article in based on the research we did with our partner, persuasion expert, Dr. Zakary Tormala.

Read the article here.

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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Why the Best Story Wins

Why do customers choose you?

That’s the question we recently asked the market, hoping to get an idea about what factors actually create differentiation.

So, what is it? Products? Price? Brand reputation?

How about none of the above. Nearly two-thirds of respondents ranked sales conversations as the most important factor in creating competitive differentiation. That’s nearly 20 percentage points higher than product quality/innovation, ranked as the second most important factor.

The implication is clear: Great customer conversations come down to a great story, and the best story, told the best way, wins every time.

A great story stems from an awareness that your prospects are resistant to doing something different from what they’re doing today. In other words, your biggest enemy isn’t your other competitors, but your buyer’s status quo. That means marketers and salespeople need to develop and deliver a “why change” story that gives prospects a pathway to change that’s compelling, actionable, and—most importantly—can help them overcome the business challenges that are hurting them today.

Below are four steps to help structure a great “why change” story across your messaging, content and skills – one that guides prospects on a pathway to a new and safer alternative to their current situation.

  • Step One: Lead with an Insight – Tell your prospect something they don’t know about a problem or missed opportunity they didn’t know they had, revealing inconsistencies or uncertainties in the way they’re doing business today. This is the basic idea behind a messaging approach based on “unconsidered needs.” Research from Corporate Visions shows that this approach—instead of the traditional “voice of the customer” approach, where you respond only to the needs your prospects tell you they have—can give you a statistically significant advantage in the area of differentiation.
  • Step Two: Disrupt the status quo – Show your prospects why their status quo situation is unsafe and untenable. Highlight visually—ideally, with a whiteboard-style presentation—how sticking with the status quo could prevent prospects from realizing their most crucial business goals.
  • Step Three: Tie your prospect’s unsafe current situation to a “new safe scenario – You can do this by depicting a contrasting pathway that resolves the issues you’ve identified. That resolution point is key. Research from Corporate Visions shows that creating risk around your prospect’s current situation isn’t compelling enough to incite buyers to change. To make your message actionable, you need to link the factors that make their current situation risky with a resolution alternative that can solve these business challenges. The Corporate Visions study shows that you can make a bigger impact on the factors that drive buyer action by delivering a story that resolves the risks you’ve identified.
  • Step Four: Prove it – Finish your story by highlighting a comparable scenario where you helped another company find a “new safe” through your solution. Once again, if you’re in the field, create a sharp visual contrast between the pain that company was experiencing in its status quo situation and the value and relief they gained by switching to yours.

For more on how to tell a “why change” story that disrupts the status quo with principles rooted in decision-making science, check out this eBook at

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Friday, June 17, 2016

CVI Perspectives: ‘Chunking:’ Why Everyone is “end to end, innovative, and world-class”

By Rob Perrilleon, VP Consulting, Corporate Visions

In my last post, you heard about the Curse of Knowledge, and how it can lead to overly technical language that confuses the audience. There iScreen Shot 2016-02-25 at 10.25.52 AMs another communication trap where you think you are using clear, easy to understand business language, but the message is as unclear to the customer as the technical-speak.

When we talk to clients about their differentiation, certain terms come up almost every time: “comprehensive (or end-to-end) solutions,” “our experience and expertise,” “focus on client’s success,” or “our people.” These are not complex or technical terms, so why are they still meaningless to the customer? Ask yourself, do any of your competitors say, “We have limited capabilities, we’re new to this business, we hire anyone with a pulse, and we don’t really care about your success”? Of course not! Everyone makes those claims, so they all sound the same to the customer. What’s interesting is how passionately most people defend those empty statements. “I know, but we really mean it!” is the typical response.

So what’s going on here? Why do people want to make these claims, even when they admit that they don’t convey any differentiation? The answer is a term called “chunking,” originally coined by the psychologist George Miller. Miller established that humans have a fixed number of slots in working memory to store information. Chunking is simply combining pieces of information, so they occupy fewer slots. Anyone who learned to remember the names of the Great Lakes with the mnemonic “HOMES” chunked five pieces of information into one.

Chunking works great in communications, but only when both parties understand what’s being chunked. The question “Can you give me a ride to the airport for my 6:00 flight?” has a lot of chunking going on. How do you get to the airport? How long does it take? Is there traffic at that time of day? How far in advance do you need to get there? Depending on who you’re talking to, the original question may be fine, but some people will need it all explained to them.

And that’s the connection to those meaningless differentiation claims. I have no doubt that the person who says “end to end solutions,” is not only sincere, but also has a very clear picture of what ‘end to end’ means, how that differs from their competition, and what value it delivers to the customer. The problem is that the customer doesn’t have that depth of knowledge, so they don’t know the underlying chunked information, and all that meaning is lost on them. Recall one of the key principles of the Curse of Knowledge: Most people will overestimate how much their customers know about them.

How do you overcome this? Just like with the Curse of Knowledge, don’t overestimate your customers’ understanding of your capabilities. Then, ‘unpack’ some of that chunked information. Even better, draw some contrast to your competitors. For example, instead of saying “end to end,” try something like, “Since A, B, C and D are so interrelated, it’s important to get them all from one place. You’ll only get in-house capabilities in all four areas, fully integrated, with successful implementations, from one place – us. Other providers have gaps, or rely on third party integrations, but that’s not the end to end solution you really need.”

It’s a little longer, but it means a lot more than just “end to end.”

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Monday, May 23, 2016

Webcast: Sales and Marketing Content That Challenges the Status Quo

Did you know the types of insights mScreen Shot 2016-05-23 at 9.26.21 AMarketers and salespeople feel are most effective are exactly the opposite of the insights they believe their companies are delivering in their marketing and sales content?

It’s time to reverse that trend and start delivering the types of distinct, forward-looking insights that make the biggest impact on positive selling outcomes—and help you defeat your prospect’s status quo.

Join Tim Riesterer and Jamie Shanks (Sales For Life) as they discuss how to create messaging and content that smash engagement benchmarks and compel prospects to consider doing something different than what they’re doing today.

Date: Tuesday, May 31  

Time: 2 PM EST / 11 AM PST


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Thursday, May 19, 2016

CVI Perspectives: Two Things a Salesperson Never Wants to Hear—and How to Respond When You Do

By Conrad Smith, VP Consulting Services, Corporate Visions

Smith04We see you as a commodity.”

Ouch. Painful words after years of great service. The first time I heard a customer say those words, I was indignant until I realized how they saw me was far more important than how I saw myself.

Take a discerning look at your competitors and yourselves. There’s probably a lot of sameness. Change is a lot easier when your customer sees your product or solution as the same product or solution they can get someplace else. Take a look at your products and solutions through your customer’s eyes. How does your product or solution interact with your customer’s business? What ideas can you bring to improve how your product or solution affects inflection points and latencies within your customer’s business? What if you could improve the order to cash flow for your customers? What if you could reposition your solution to bring value not only to your customer, but your customer’s customer? If your customers believe they can buy your solution and products somewhere else, it’s incumbent on you to sell the value that you bring beyond the product and service.

“It’s not you, really, it’s me.”

Of course it’s not you. It’s never been you. It’s always been the customer. A mistake that a lot of salespeople make is losing focus on the customer, and particularly, the right customer. It’s very easy to become complacent with your day-to-day, long-term relationships. These relationships are fed by the status quo. These are the people who need your product or service and they give you the next purchase order. You may be surprised to find out you haven’t been having the right conversation with the right person. Quantifying business value means measuring the impact that your ideas are creating for your customer. You need to have that business conversation with the right person in the organization who understands and appreciates the business value you create. This means more than making sure that your product or service delivers to the specified requirements. This means going beyond to measure business impact created and expanding relationships to make sure that people throughout your customer’s organization know that value has been created and quantified.

After you create great ideas that drive improvements throughout your customer’s organization, and after you quantify those impacts and communicate them to the right people, the process will start all over again. Your customers are far more likely to remember any part of the relationship that did not go well than they are to remember the value you create. Being consistently focused on bringing new ideas, that are all about your customer and their business, and making sure the right executive decision makers hear those ideas, are ways you can do your best to make sure you aren’t on the receiving end of the call that ends the big relationship.

Good luck and good selling.

To learn more about making a compelling business case to executives in your existing accounts—and about making an impact in new ones—check out this short whiteboard video:

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Saturday, May 7, 2016

CVI Perspectives: Why Your Pipeline Problem is Actually a Conversation Problem

By Eric Nitschke, Director of Product Marketing and Sales Enablement, Corporate Visions

Eric NitschkeBaseball season is upon us—it’s an exciting time in my household, but it also comes with discouragement since this doesn’t seem to be “the year” for my team. The coach’s explanation for the team’s lackluster play? The players are young, the team is still coming together—and in the end, we get the answer no sports fan ever wants to hear: It’s a process.

Unfortunately, I often hear the same answer from sales organizations looking to improve the conversion of leads and opportunities to billable revenue. A client recently noted that their deals either close right away, or take forever to close—if at all.

Naturally they want to know how and why that happens, so they embarked on an exhaustive pipeline progression analysis to find out why. They looked at marketing and sales qualification of leads, broke down the timelines, determined how long leads were in the pipeline, and calculated the quote-to close-ratio.

Their result? Reps weren’t following “the process”—they weren’t developing their engagement plans, filling out their opportunity sheets, or checking off all the boxes in their CRM system.

That’s all important, but it misses the point. Studies show that 89 percent of first sales meetings fail to get a second meeting because the seller hasn’t shown business value. And business executives value that level of expertise and four times more than just having a great relationship with a seller. In fact, 74 percent of executive buyers will choose to work with the company that creates a buying vision.

Fixing sales process issues only helps fix the few deals that manage to get to the second call. And often those opportunities are doomed for reduced prices and squeezed margins because they didn’t start from a position of differentiation.

Even sellers who are “leading with insight” could be hurting their pipeline progression. One recent study by Corporate Visions and Dr. Zakary Tormala revealed that asking diagnostic questions and providing insights requires a very specific cadence and timing if you want to get prospects to admit their pain. Similarly, another study by the same team found that creating risk with a great insight is only the start of a status quo-busting conversation. To actually open prospects up to change, you need to also show how you can resolve the risks you’ve identified with the alternative, safe scenario you’re proposing.

Solving the challenges in pipeline progression isn’t a process problem—it’s a conversation problem. If you want sellers to close long-term business, you have to help them succeed in the first sales call. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Defeat the status quo with neuroscience: Sellers that jump right to the conversation about why your company and products can help solve buyer challenges miss the fact that many buyers still haven’t committed to doing anything different. That’s called the “status quo bias,” and as sellers, it’s a bigger enemy than the competitors in your market. The good news: You can overcome buyer inaction with a “why change” story that reveals inconsistencies or uncertainties in the way your prospect is doing business today. By making prospects aware of the costs of doing nothing, you’ll bring about a shift in the way they perceive change, and make them more open to the possibility of doing something different with you.
  • Create a buying vision with social psychology: Researcher Daniel Kahneman noted that people are two to three times more motivated to make a change to avoid a loss than they are to achieve a gain. Sellers can inject uniqueness and urgency into customer conversations by messaging to prospects’ unconsidered needs—challenges or issues they’ve overlooked or underestimated. By basing your selling message around unconsidered needs, you can show prospects how the pain of doing nothing is actually far greater than the pain of change. That will create the buying vision you need to get to a second meeting.
  • Use behavioral economics to tell visual stories: The Picture Superiority Effect points to the profound impact that simple visuals can have on a customer conversation, and speaks to the idea that prospects process change emotionally, not rationally. Visual storytelling through a simple “why change” story provides the insights and contrast you need to convince your prospect that he or she is unsafe in their current situation, and that you are uniquely qualified to guide them to a new and better change scenario.

In baseball, teams and managers who ask fans to “trust the process” may be glossing over a weak farm system and clear skills gaps in their current players. And much like those managers, companies that think the sales process is the key to fixing pipeline progress may be missing the point. Pipeline progression can only be successful if reps are equipped to nail the first conversation—it’s the only way to get customers to “play ball.”

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Saturday, April 30, 2016

You’re Only as Good as Your Last Idea

By Conrad Smith, VP Consulting Services, Corporate Visions

Have you ever sold Smith04the big deal that eventually became the big customer and is now your company’s top account? Winning the big deal is one of the rewards of a sales effort done well. Long-lasting customer relationships are rewarded with repeat revenue. You achieve your quota, get rewarded with club trips, and your quota increases, which is good because your company is growing. It’s all a wonderful thing, until it isn’t.

The nightmare begins when you get the call informing you, “We decided to make a few changes.” In that moment, the relationship seems lost without reason. Your subconscious recalls that buying and consuming doesn’t always equal value and you remember from all your sales training and business experience that business value is different than product performance. Then you break into a cold sweat. Losing a big account is never a good thing.

We work with thousands of salespeople every year and when we ask why customers buy from them, we hear answers like “we’re embedded,” or “we’ve got long-standing relationships.” The one I like the most is, “it’s just too hard to change”. Getting a customer to change their status quo is far more difficult than it seems. In fact, 60 percent of customers will choose no decision when faced with a purchase decision. Changing vendors without business value is rare. If changing is so hard, why do some companies end long-standing relationships?

You only get credit for the value you create.

When you allow a competitor the opportunity to create, or re-create, the buying vision, you open the door to lose everything. When ideas stop flowing, when the relationship becomes stale, and when the focus comes off the customer, you create the opportunity for your customer to find better solutions elsewhere. Executives don’t wake up in the morning thinking that they’d like to expend the effort, energy, and expense of bringing on a new supplier. So you have to ask yourself: How is it that companies find themselves in a situation where their customer says they have to make a change?

Think about it. Your customer knows you, your company, your products or services, and your processes. They didn’t throw you out after the first trial or even after the first couple of years. They kept buying your solutions and services for years, perhaps decades, and then something changed. Or did it? Every business is searching for new ideas. Executives create initiatives to drive change throughout their organization. Every business is striving to create an unfair competitive advantage by bringing ideas to their organization to differentiate themselves in the market. Executives are going to find those ideas from within their organization, they’re going to seek ideas from their suppliers, or they will go to the market to find the ideas. You can either be part of the solution or stand by and watch as your competitors step up to the challenge. Embrace the expanding pie theory as you bring new ideas. Become fearless and forget about protecting your entrenched revenue. Your ideas will bring growth, not only for your customer but also to your organization. Look to change the way your customer is running their business versus how you can sell more of your product. Challenge yourself to create a list of ideas about business improvements. Constantly refresh the list. Don’t get stuck with trying to find the one big idea. Small ideas executed very well and focused on a specific improvement will end up having a big impact. And no matter what you do, always have the next idea ready.

Stay tuned for my follow-up piece on keeping your most important accounts coming back to your solutions.

Good luck and good selling.

To learn more about making a compelling business case to executives in your existing accounts—and about making an impact in new ones—check out this short whiteboard video:

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Monday, April 11, 2016

CVI Perspectives: Do Sales People Really Know What Training They Need Most?

By Tim Riesterer, chief strategy officer, Corporate Visions

Tim-1-close.jpgMany companies rely on asking salespeople what training they think they most need and want when planning their skills training program. Is it possible, however, that salespeople may not actually know what training is best for them? And, asking this question may actually lead your training plans astray?

I’ve talked before about the concept of “declared preferences” (what they say or feel) versus “revealed” preferences (what they actually do). It’s a concept most often referred to by behavioral economists to explain the discrepancies between opinion polls and actual behaviors.

Well, the same can possibly be said for salespeople’s ability to judge their needs training versus what the results of a behavioral outcomes-based assessment says they actually need most.

First a quick backstory: Last year, when we published our latest book, The Three Value Conversations (McGraw-Hill), we launched a parallel self-assessment tool aligned to the key skills and concepts detailed in the book.

Specifically, the assessment measures sales reps’ proficiency in three critical areas: creating value (differentiation skills), elevating value (executive conversation skills), and capturing value (negotiation skills). Since that time, nearly 300 sales professionals have taken the online behavioral assessment.

In each of the three value scenarios, we asked reps what selling challenge they felt was their biggest selling hurdle (from a list of six). And, then we compared their feelings with what their actual answers to the behavioral outcome survey indicated.

In each case, we found a discrepancy. The challenge reps believed was their biggest problem area did not correspond to the one that was indicated by their answers to the questions:

Create Value (Objective: Defeat the status quo and differentiate your solutions)

  • Participants declared: Illustrating a sharp contrast between a customer’s current state and a desired future state was their top challenge.
  • The data revealed, however: Creating and confirming urgency by stirring emotions is their actual top challenge.

Elevate Value (Objective: Make a business case that passes muster with executive buyers)

  • Participants declared: Winning access to executive buyers rather than being delegated down was their top challenge.
  • The data revealed, however: Identifying specific financial metrics that their solution will impact is their actual top challenge.

Capture Value (Objective: Protect pricing and expand deal size during tense negotiations)

  • Participants declared: Getting customers to reveal underlying motivations was their top challenge.
  • The data revealed, however: Gaining agreement to mutually beneficial terms in response to your concession plan is their actual top challenge.

These findings hint at a natural contradiction between the results of personal opinion-based questions (declared preference) and behavioral outcomes-based questions (revealed preference).

In light of these results, you may be wondering: Is my team underperforming where I think (or they believe) they’re underperforming, or does my team have skills gaps I’ve either underestimated or haven’t even considered?

Only one way to find out: Have them take this short self-assessment to see where your team is performing well and where there may be room for improvement.

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Monday, April 4, 2016

IBM, in Partnership with Corporate Visions, Named ATD Excellence in Practice Winner

PLEASANTON, Calif., April 4, 2016 — Corporate Visions’ work with IBM will be honored at the 2016 Association for Talent Development Conference & Exposition, May 22-25 in Denver. The leading marketing and sales messaging, content and skills training company, Corporate Visions Inc. is one of two training partners who, in partnership with IBM, will be recognized as a 2015 Excellence in Practice Awards winner. The other IBM training partner set to be honored is Alpharetta, Ga.-based FinListics Solutions.

Specifically, IBM and their training partners will be recognized in the area of Financial Selling Enablement for Sellers and Sales Leaders, part of the Sales Enablement category. The award recognizes practices that foster and enable world-class sales competencies and standards that guide and empower sales leaders and sales training professionals to develop the next generation of salespeople, according to the ATD website.

Conrad Smith, VP Consulting at Corporate Visions, said companies like IBM rely on Corporate Visions’ Executive Conversations skills training to build confidence and develop the critical competencies needed to deliver the right business conversation to the right business executive.

“IBM’s sellers apply five competencies to an active account to develop a more compelling conversation that’s in the right language for their targeted executive,” Smith said. “The five competencies include business knowledge, customer research, financial acumen, executive engagement and return on investment.”

Smith, who will co-present with IBM’s Dave Jenkins at the 2016 ATD Conference & Expo, added that on the strength of this engagement, Corporate Visions and IBM have been able to forge a true partnership that’s led to above average financial and organizational results.

According to ATD, past award winners in the category have demonstrated “clear and measurable results of achieving organizational goals, meeting a demonstrated need, having appropriate design values, and clearly aligning with other performance improvement initiatives.”

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Friday, April 1, 2016

New Study with Persuasion Expert Reveals Leading with Insight Outperforms Traditional Sales Questioning Approaches

CVI Perspectives: Rethinking “Best Practices” and Whether They’re Really Best for You

By Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy Officer, Corporate Visions

With two sentences, the magazine Fast Company may have destroyed everything you’ve ever thought about so-called “best practices.” In a recent article they wrote:

Tim-1-close“Best practices don’t make you the best. They make you the average of everyone else who follows them.”

Whoa. Mind blown!

There’s an entire industry of analysts who identify and report on best practices and thousands of subscribing companies and professionals who get those findings and attempt to imitate the recommendations.

Admittedly, there’s a deep-seated human instinct to play it safe and follow, rather than to be audacious and lead, at work here. Otherwise, people wouldn’t be paying tens of thousands of dollars to get the annual best practices reports. And, then paying even more to have those analysts come to your company and provide color commentary on their observations of other people’s work.

But, why is the reliance on best practices so pervasive? After all, those who adhere to best practices surely understand the importance of competitive differentiation. And certainly no one wants to look or sound or feel like carbon copies of their competition. So why are so many companies doing something that keeps them in lockstep with everyone else, potentially at the cost of one of the most important business goals—differentiation?

One of the strongest points in the article is that the term “best practices” is itself a misnomer, based on the creaky logic that what is “good” or “smart” now will remain so indefinitely. As the author notes, seldom are people willing to do the work to find out how long a practice actually stays the ‘best,’ or whether it’s applicable across various situations and contexts.

If you’re interested in how this applies to marketing and sales messaging… Download our award-winning eBook to discover why putting too much stock in best practices could be leading you astray.

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

CVI Perspectives: Is Your Content Marketing Hurting Your Bottom Line?

By Eric Nitschke, Senior Content Strategist, Corporate Visions

The “Law of Unintended Consequences” often rears its ugly head when our best plans result in side effects we never anticipated…and often really didn’t want.

While it’s bothersome and even harmful when it happens in your personal life, it can be devastating when unintended consequences in your content marketing and social selling actually hurt your company’s profitability.

Eric NitschkeAt the heart of content marketing and social selling is the basic premise that to get closer to your customers’ hearts and wallets, you should align your content and social strategies with what you see and read on social media. Social listening, monitoring blog comments, and tracking analyst reports are all good tactics to stay aware of trends and topics that are top of mind with your customers and prospects. Unfortunately, the unintended consequences come when you count on those customer comments and analyst reports to drive profitable sales.

Classic economic studies point to customer “declared preference” versus “revealed preference” as a real-life buying trend. The idea is that people will say one thing when nothing is on the line, and then behave in a completely opposite way when money and personal reputation are at stake. That’s principle applies to social media. Sure, customers may hint at certain thoughts and ideas on social networking sites and collaboration portals, but when it comes right down to it, they’ll only buy if you present a compelling value.

The other exposure to social listening comes from the influx of data and information that show up in 140-character headlines and sleek infographics. Don’t be fooled: Most of these data points are based on analyst surveys, news headlines, and Google searches. So while they’re interesting data points, they’re essentially worthless without greater context and analysis. Even worse—they’re the same data points your competitors have access to.

The result of basing your messaging and content on well-thumbed analyst reports and buzzy topics? A lack of differentiation, leaving you in a competitive bake-off that does nothing but commoditize your product and force a combative negotiation for your sellers that could end in excessive discounting and eventually hurt your bottom line.

How can you create content marketing and social selling strategies that can fuel profitable engagements? Focus your stories and content around the unconsidered needs of your customers—the challenges or missed opportunities they didn’t know about and didn’t realize could hurt them. Speak to these needs to show them they’re focusing on lower-order, tactical issues instead of the ones that will definitely impact them down the road.

The best way to do that? Assemble a cross-functional team to dig deeper into finding new, emerging threats, challenges, obligations, and opportunities that your prospect may not realize exist, or whose size and speed of impact on her business she’s underappreciated.

Your job isn’t necessarily to tell them they’re focusing too much time, money or effort on the wrong problem. Rather, it’s to use the conversation to point out how their problem is really just a symptom of a different and larger problem. That’s the conversation that will make you truly different, helping you drive buying decisions and avoid the unintended consequence of a commoditized message.

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Corporate Visions Named Top 20 Sales Training Company by’s annual list honors the best providers of training services and technologies

PLEASANTON, Calif. – February 25, 2016 – Corporate Visions, Inc., the leading marketing and sales messaging, content and training company, today announced it has been named to’s Top 20 Sales Training Companies again this year. The prestigious annual list recognizes the best providers in the sales training marketplace.TI_Top-20-Badges_SalesTraining_small[1]

The 2016 honorees represent the top sales training companies that provide outstanding service, boasting a proven track record of delivering superior sales training and improving the impact of the sales organization. Nominees for this year’s list were evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Industry recognition and impact on the sales training industry
  • Innovation in the sales training market
  • Company size and growth potential
  • Breadth of service offering
  • Strengths of clients served
  • Geographic reach

“The companies considered for the 2016 Top 20 Sales Training Companies list are some of the most impressive we’ve ever evaluated,” said Ken Taylor, president, Training Industry, Inc. “This year’s list continues to highlight the best providers of sales training, one of the segments in the training industry that is very open to innovation even though the majority of its services are delivered through instructor-led training.”

Throughout 2015, Corporate Visions took a number of steps to strengthen its sales training leadership, including:

  • Introducing Virtual Coach™, a platform allowing salespeople to access video-based, deal stage-specific reinforcement content inside their CRM, driving higher skills training adoption in the field, and providing skills coaching even when managers don’t.
  • Publishing a new book, The Three Value Conversations, which was just named the top sales book of 2015 by Top Sales World. This continues the company’s track record of thought leadership in sales messaging and customer conversation skills. The book, a follow-up to Conversations That Win the Complex Sale, helps sales professionals create, elevate and capture more value in their deals.
  • Expanding the research and science-based foundation of its sales skills training by conducting four original sales conversation effectiveness experiments (here’s an example) with Dr. Zakary Tormala, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. And, collaborating with Dr. Margaret Neale, a renowned negotiations researcher at Stanford, on the company’s new negotiations skills training program.

“Corporate Visions is dedicated helping marketing and salespeople with the messaging, content and skills training required to have more effective conversations that move customers off their status quo, and ultimately close more profitable deals,” said Tim Riesterer, chief strategy officer for Corporate Visions. “We are constantly looking for new ways to bolster our training portfolio through original research, new offerings, and solutions updates, and to be recognized as a top sales training company by is validation of our efforts.”

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CVI Perspectives: When You Know Too Much

By Rob Perrilleon, VP Consulting, Corporate Visions

Have you ever played the game Pictionary? If so, you’ve probably had the maddening experience of drawing a perfectly clear picture, but nobody on your team can guess what it is. What’s worse, while you draw clear pictures every time it’s your turn, your team mates always draw some mess of lines that looks nothing like their clue word. No wonder you’re behind!

So what’s going on, and what does that have to do with sales and marketing messaging?

The phenomenon is callScreen Shot 2016-02-25 at 10.25.52 AMed the “Curse of Knowledge,” and it’s one of the most common obstacles to effective communication. The Curse of Knowledge has three parts:

First, it says that experts in a topic overestimate the expertise of their audience when talking about that topic. Secondly, the research shows that the more expert you are on a topic, the more you overestimate the knowledge level of your audience. Thirdly, even when experts are fully aware that their audience is not as knowledgeable as they are, they still can’t fully correct for the effect. [1]

What does this look like in selling? The most flagrant offense is using your own company jargon. Hopefully you’re past that.

But what about when you’re discussing your solutions, or even having a higher-level business conversation about your industry? Many salespeople, in an attempt to build credibility and sound knowledgeable, overestimate the knowledge of their customer, and leave them confused.

I can just about guess what you’re saying now: Wait a minute. My customers know way more than I do. They’ve spent their career in the field, they have advanced degrees. They’re the experts here. I can’t possibly be the one with the curse of knowledge.

Valid points, but: What are they experts on, and what are you expert on? For starters, your customer is not an expert on your products and solutions. Don’t assume they know how your solutions work, or more importantly, what that means to them.

Your customer also has broader responsibilities than the one area you want to talk to them about. If you sell encryption software to a Chief Security Officer, they have to be knowledgeable about all aspects of information security, not just encryption. If you sell automation controls to a factory manager, they have to run the entire factory, and can’t have the depth you have about your products.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that you should dumb down your message. You do have to establish your credibility. In fact, a certain amount of jargon can be used as an identifier that you belong to their group. (Linguists call this “in-group language”.) Just make sure that it is industry jargon, and not your company’s.

The key is to recognize where your expertise is, and how your expertise is different from that of your customer. You can then adjust your conversation to the right level of detail. When it comes to the topics your customer really cares about – the challenges that others like them are facing, how your solutions are different, and what that means to them – you may find that a little more detail will make your message easier to understand.

The Curse of Knowledge can make for some good laughs in the game of Pictionary. Even when you can’t get your team mates to understand your drawing, they do eventually get to see the answer and appreciate your efforts. In sales, you have a lot more to lose if you can’t get the customer to understand your message. So understand what expertise you can offer, and don’t miss your opportunity to add value by assuming the customer already knows the right answer.


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Monday, February 22, 2016

The Death of Boring: A C2C 2016 Recap

“B2B does not mean ‘Be too boring.’”

Author David Meerman Scott said it in his keynote at Content2Conversion 2016 in Scottsdale. It was one of those remarks that seemed to divide the room, producing ripples of laughter in some corners, squirms of unease in others. But whether you were laughing smugly or wincing in pain, you could probably appreciate his point.

For too long, B2B marketing and sales messages have suffered from a certain insularity, a sameness of look, tone and style evidenced by tired jargon (“scalable,” “world-class,” “innovation!”), stock photography (women smiling with salad, as Meerman Scott hilariously pointed out), overuse of trendy, nostalgic fonts (“lobster” has found its way onto soda bottles), and the reliance on decades-old messaging “best practices” (how long has “voice of the customer” been around?). Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 12.19.35 PM

For prospects and customers, the net effect of all this has been boredom, and when it comes to converting excitement into pipeline with your messaging and content, boredom has a cost. That’s why Meerman Scott’s remark had such a palpable impact on the room.

One way to guarantee you’re not boring anyone in your customer conversations? Tell prospects something they don’t know about a problem or missed opportunity they didn’t know they had.

That topic was a focal point of Tim Riesterer’s Wednesday morning keynote, where he discussed the message differentiation you can gain by identifying and introducing your prospects’ “unconsidered needs.” You can then strengthen your differentiation by linking the needs you’ve brought into the conversation to your unexpected capabilities, showing how you—and you alone—are positioned to solve their most pressing business problems. That messaging approach, unlike the traditional “voice of the customer” model, will increase your prospect’s urgency to leave the status quo and expand the need for your offerings.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 12.16.35 PM

And get this: The results of a study Corporate Visions conducted with Dr. Zakary Tormala, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, revealed that a messaging approach based on unconsidered needs was seen as 41 percent more unexpected and unique than more traditional approaches. Check out the research brief here, which includes an example of what an unconsidered needs-based message looks and sounds like.

Typically, unconsidered needs come in three different forms. By addressing them in your messaging, content and skills, you’ll deliver the story you need to defeat your prospect’s status quo and distinguish your solutions.

  • Under-valued Needs – These are rapidly approaching trends or problems whose impact has been underestimated by your prospects. Your job is to assert the gravity of these potential problems, underscoring how the risks associated with them could put your prospect’s desired business outcomes in jeopardy. You can do this by using provocative insights and research that, together, amplify the size and speed of these problems, transforming them in your prospect’s mind from mere afterthoughts into urgent priorities. You can then connect these new, more serious considerations to your previously unspecified strengths.
  • Un-Met Needs – Your prospect or customer doesn’t realize they have these needs because they’ve relied on workarounds and stopgap measures to hide the source of their pain. But make no mistake: That pain is real, and it’s your job to show how their current situation is unsustainable because of it. Having done so, you can lead your prospect toward the fact that you have a more viable, long-term solution.
  • Unknown Needs – These are longer-range issues that come to light when a vendor has a fix for a problem the prospect wasn’t aware he or she had. By identifying these “off-the-radar” problems and bringing them into the life cycle of the buying decision, you can expand the value of your deals.

Meerman Scott was right: B2B messaging doesn’t have to be boring. To make it clear to prospects that you aren’t boring, and that you are different and better, don’t just focus on solving problems your prospects know about, but on finding ones they don’t.

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Friday, February 12, 2016

CVI Perspectives: Who Doesn’t Love a Good Underdog Story?

By Cheryl Geoffrion, VP of Consulting Services, Corporate Visions

Who doesn’t love a good underdog story? The come-from-behind against all odds, unpredictable and improbable win that brings people to their feet and tears to their eyes. We are moved by these stories; they touch our heart and inspire us to believe anything is possible. So why is it we are so inspired by these underdog stories and yet resist being the underdog ourselves?

Cheryl GeoffrionIn your professional sales conversations, the last thing you want to feel like is the underdog. Traditional sales and negotiation teachings are all about you finding YOUR power or taking a strong and confident stand to retake power. The belief is that whoever has the power has the advantage in the negotiation. When the other party has more power than you do, your natural reaction to that dynamic is to power up so you can level the playing field. This assumption is intuitive, it’s instinctual, and it’s been proven to be wrong.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath, he challenges our beliefs and explores a different perspective of advantages and disadvantages. He uses the classic underdog story of David and Goliath to show that there are advantages to being in the low power position and that what may look like a disadvantage may be an advantage after all. He delves into the rules of engagement that shape the outcome of these underdog “battles.”

As the story goes, the giant Goliath was expecting to fight a warrior just like himself… someone who would step forward dressed in armor and do battle in hand-to-hand combat. It never occurred to him or anyone else there that the battle would be fought on anything other than those conventional terms. But the little shepherd boy David chooses to use completely different tactics, substituting speed and surprise for brute strength, and wins the battle with a sling and a stone. The accepted belief of the time, of course, was that the power advantage was completely with Goliath and David had no chance of winning.

We’ve seen this scenario play itself out time and again over the years where battles are won and lost between opposing forces of differing strengths. Gladwell highlights a study done by political scientist Ivan ArreguĂ­n-Toft who reviewed every war fought in the past 200 years in which one side was at least 10 times as powerful—in terms of armed might and population—as its opponent. The Goliaths, he found, won 71.5 percent of the time. Even more interesting, he went back and re-analyzed his data looking for what happened when the underdogs acknowledged their weakness and chose an unconventional strategy. In those cases, the “David’s” winning percentage went from 28.5 to 63.6 percent. When underdogs choose not to play by Goliath’s rules, they win, “even when everything we think we know about power says they shouldn’t.

So how does the underdog story play out in complex B2B sales conversations?

According to ES Research, over the last five years there has been a significant shift in the power dynamic between buyer and seller. Polls now show you and your customers are in complete agreement: the buyer has the most power. Customers come to you with a list of what they want and expect you to simply fill the order. They expect you to come to them to do battle on their field, using their weapons of choice, and they are the ones who set the terms of engagement.

Well, given the finding above about the benefits of a counterintuitive, unexpected approaches, it doesn’t seem to make any sense to enter negotiations by playing the game the way you and everyone else is used to playing it and trying to regain the high power position.

The research on “The Benefits of Dominance Complementarity in Negotiations,” a fancy name for the study of power, specifically proves that when you try to match the “power level” of the person on the other side of the negotiations table, you get worse outcomes, not better. What the studies show is that when two high power parties come together, less value is created in the negotiation, therefore there is less value to claim. This can end with either no deal or a worse deal for both parties. Trying to reduce their power doesn’t work any better.

Your customers have become the Goliath in the room! And, you are firmly planted in the low-power position. This study shows that when you maintain the low power / high power dynamic that already exists in the negotiation instead of trying to exert more or equal dominance, your outcomes are better for both the buyer and seller.

What does this mean for your negotiations approach? This is the first of our series to show you how to optimize your negotiations by using your LOW POWER ADVANTAGE the way David did, applying unexpected, counterintuitive skills to capture maximum value.

To learn more about how this approach to negotiations works, check out this solution brief.

Source: L.Z. Tiedens, M.M. Unzueta, and M.J. Young. “An Unconscious Desire for Hierarchy? The Motivated Perception of Dominance Complementarity in Task Partners.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 93, no. 3. 2007.

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Monday, February 8, 2016

Insights That Excite vs. Incite: A C2C Preview

We’ve been thinking a lot about insights lately, and we’re betting you have been too. Frankly, it’s an anxious time for would-be insights providers. That’s because some of the old formulas for insights development and delivery aren’t holding up well with time. Later this month at Content2Conversion, Tim Riesterer, our chief strategy officer, will unveil new research that validates that idea – and demonstrates that not all insights-based approaches are created equal.

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 11.47.51 AMWhen we’ve talked about insights in the past, you might’ve heard us railing against things like “true but useless” information, repackaged third party data points, interesting numbers with no change narrative around them, or the over-reliance on anecdotal evidence to support bold claims. And you might’ve seen us cast our lot in favor of insights based on original, company-generated research, as well as messaging and content built around counterintuitive perspectives that force prospects to think differently about how they’re doing things today.

But all these points about what insights should or shouldn’t be speak to one simple question—a question that should serve as a litmus test when it comes to insights development: What separates insights that excite prospects for a fleeting moment, versus insights that incite them to take meaningful action?

That question was the driving force of a recent experiment Corporate Visions conducted with Dr. Zakary Tormala, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. The purpose of the study was to gain a better understanding about what type of insights-based story has the biggest influence in terms of inciting buyers to take action.

Specifically, the study tested the messaging effectiveness of two different types of insights-based approaches:

  • Risk only insights designed to make prospects feel their status quo is “unsafe” by introducing them to surprising new industry data, statistics or studies.
  • Risk + Resolution insights that similarly make the status quo feel unsafe, but that also introduce solutions that resolve the prospect to a “new safe” in the same message.

The study found that by delivering an insights-based message that includes both risk and resolution, you stand to gain a statistically significant advantage in two of the most important areas for buyer persuasion. To learn where—and by how much!—your messaging and content can gain an advantage with this approach, join Tim Riesterer for his mainstage session at Content2Conversion on Wednesday, Feb. 17 at 8:40 a.m.

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Thursday, January 7, 2016

You Got the Skills. Do You Have the Story?

When companies dedicate serious budget to skills training, sales leaders seriously expect to see high adoption, behavior changes and revenue impact.

In other words, they’re banking on their new skills making the most profound selling impact possible. But how do you actually ensure that happens? What’s the secret?

As it turns out, getting the most out of your skills training may depend on having a differentiated, content-driven story behind it.

In other words, real, customer-facing messaging and content assets that are aligned to the skills your reps are being trained on, so they can actually have a real-world conversation the day after they leave the room.

Screen Shot 2016-01-07 at 9.45.03 AMAn analysis by Beyond ROI, a company that measures the effectiveness of skills training, found that training is enhanced in terms of adoption and impact when you embed an actual selling story into your skills training program, as opposed to relying on hypothetical situations constructed in the workshop, or using generic or even tailored case studies.

Just what kind of impact can an actual, concrete message have on skills delivery?

Beyond ROI, examining companies who combined Corporate Visions’ skills training and story development, found that such companies reported:

  • 75 percent larger progressed opportunities, compared to companies who just experienced skills training.
  • A 5-10 percent increase in adoption levels of the new skills just by adding story content to the training, compared to companies who only completed skills training.

So, not only does this combination produce greater impact on business results, it also ensures more salespeople are using the skills they were trained on. And, by training reps on messaging in addition to skills, you ensure that your customers hear a consistent story across the field, and from lead to pipeline to close.

Consistency. Adoption. Results. For marketers and sales leaders, what could be more powerful than that?

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