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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