When we combine the #1 issue for CEOs with today’s economic downturn, what emerges are 12.5 Rules of B2B sales productivity. Each by itself is a path to improved performance. The most productive firms are those who live by a combination of all 12.5:

Rule 1: focus on outcomes

Being busy isn’t productive. Busy is about activities and inputs. Productivity is about outcomes.

Rule 1.5: focus on creating buyer value

It’s the path to your outcomes. Your most productive practices will be about what you do for buyers, not what you do with them.

Rule 2: give Sales Reps more time for selling

Automate away time-consuming tasks. Automatically report the impacts on buyer journeys of sales efforts. Give Reps sales templates that get valuable information to buyers quickly.

Rule 3: enable repetition

It’s the key to craftsmanship. Structure the sales process with clear exit criteria for each pre-sales milestone. Make best practices the easiest practices and they’ll be the most repeated practices. Perfect practice makes perfect.

Rule 4: measure buyer behavior

What people say matters less than what they do. The inflection in a buyer’s voice can be misleading. Their behavior never is.

Rule 5: being helpful to buyers creates competitive advantage

For buyers, help is elusive and hard to find. Service buyers in timely, helpful, ways and they’ll engage with you. Use measures of buyer behavior to do so.

Rule 6: detect trigger events

Use systems that detect triggers such as early stage business problems, buyer product research, and buyers’ interests within the sales process.

Rule 7: help Reps invest their time and effort wisely

Give Reps feedback that lets them reach out to the right buyers, for the right reasons, at the right time.

Rule 8: conversations count

Deliver information and help to buyers in ways that yield synchronous communications. The more your buyers get to know and trust you, the higher the odds they’ll do business with you.

Rule 9: good conversations count more

Measure buyer behavior in ways that disclose the outcomes of conversations. A Rep sends a buyer detailed answers to their questions (an input). Has the buyer read those answers? If so, how quickly upon receipt? These are desired outcomes. They are, also, leading indicators of the scope and pace of future sales.

Rule 10: speed matters, more than ever

Disseminate leading indicators quickly to your sales team. If your ability to sense and adapt to sales realities is faster than your competitors’, you have an enormous advantage.

Rule 11: learn from patterns

Encourage learning. Provide training. Use aggregated metrics, based on buyer behavior, to see the effects on outcomes of small changes in sales practices. Make mistakes well, by making and correcting them fast. Learn more to earn more.

Rule 12: expect uncertainty

It’s the new norm.

These rules are my blending of our own experiences with related lessons learned from pundits such as John Holland, Neil Rackham, Jeffrey Gitomer, John Monoky, Verne Harnish, Chet Holmes, Victor Cheng, Jill Konrath, Greg Alexander, Jim Cecil, and Victoria Medvec. The wisdom is theirs.

The original 12 Rules, as cross-posted in June 2009 by Backbone Magazine, are available here. Notice how little’s changed.



John is the founder and CEO of innovative information inc., makers of Amacus. His firm provokes improved B2B sales productivity by helping sales teams see and improve the buyer value of their sales practices. Follow John at @jcousineau.



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