Sales Training – Beyond the Dreaded Role Play

By Roger McNamara

The Difference Between Roleplay Software & Conversation Intelligence
Typical sales training session

Often at the end of a sales training meeting there would be time allocated for role plays with fellow colleagues.  I always dreaded these as I always saw it as a test in artificial conditions to try and test what I was supposed to have learned. I can see folks now breaking off into pairs, spreading out across a conference room in some hotel somewhere. When we started to video tape these and play them back, I would always cringe. The seller would be so staccato in their delivery and the buyer would be unrealistically easy or hard depending on their rank in the organization. If you are in sales no doubt this has a familiar ring to it. In the back of my mind I always felt that this time was more of a time filler for the sales trainer and quite frankly a waste of time for the salespeople. I know there are some who might disagree with this, but nothing substitutes for the live environment, there is nothing like a real sales call to practice and learn.

I have always maintained that sales is an art, not a science. It is more of a personality than anything else. The art of the sale needs to be practiced and the live environment is a fantastic tool for achieving that. If you sell the type of product that is somewhat repetitive, in a short space of time you can hone your skills by making mistakes and learning from them. The repetitive nature of sales and sales calls serves to build confidence, the key ingredient of successful sellers. It stands to reason that the more you do something the better you should get at it. In sales this is particularly true, with reps comes experience and with experience comes higher success rates… for those who chose to learn . For those who do not, it can be a very tough (and very short) career.

Early in my sales career I was accustomed to making 15-20 cold calls a day. 15-20 times a day to practice the pitch, the delivery, the buzz words. I never saw cold calling as painful as it can be a chore. The practice made me better and better every day. Later in my career I might only do 2 sales calls per month and one might think that with less activity would come diminishing skills. During that time, I would seek meetings with internal groups to share sales skills. Unbeknownst to them, they were my practice subjects. It was there in my internal company meetings that I would practice my delivery, pitch, and language. There would always be questions at the end of these sessions that would serve to help me with objection handling and to refine my answers and gain confidence.

Sales training is a very key component of any salesperson’s success. If you are going to take people out of the field and away from their selling time where they earn their living, the training needs to be impactful and meaningful. It needs to be motivational and inspirational, the type that makes salespeople want to run through brick walls to get to their next sale. Too often it is scripted or comprises of the latest fad system when all that is required is a little common sense. Sales training is not product knowledge, but it is often confused with training for salespeople. When a new sales process or rule is put in place or a mandatory field is added to your trusty CRM system, it should not be billed as sales training when the Salesforce gets together. Sales training needs to be tactical, nothing else. 

Professional athletes study video and thus their opposition every day of the season. They learn about the characteristics of their opponent, their tendencies and thus their skill and reactions to make them more successful. Those that embrace this the most and apply their art and talent, cash the biggest checks. Telling these very same athletes that another row of seats has been added to the arena they play in is nice to know but hardly germane to increasing their productivity in play. Sales is the very same.

When was the last time your organization trained and discussed with you your Art? When was the last time you looked at the softer skills that really make your personality more successful? So much can be learned and carried sales call to sales call. What Psychological aspects of the selling process are you missing? What does it mean when your prospects act a certain way? Are you communicating in today’s environment the most effective way with the audience you are trying to reach?  Are you practicing “Salesperson Insanity”? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?

Sales by its very nature should not be complicated. You have a need, I have a product, we meet, form a bond, and discuss the value that can be delivered, a product is sold, and a sale is made. At its simplest this is what happens. A commonsensical approach to selling that takes full advantage of your Art form and personality with an emphasis on as many soft skills as possible is the best recipe for success. So, leave the role plays and video cameras at the door……. only sales professionals in here.

Roger McNamara Bio:

Roger is a 25+-year veteran of the Payments Industry, most recently as the Director of Business Development with American Express in the US. He has worked on the largest Acquisition targets for acceptance across multiple Industries and across the globe that include : Airlines, Communications, Technology, Cruise Lines, Entertainment, Fractional Jet, Freight, Government, Healthcare, Insurance, Oil & Gas, Residential Rent, Restaurants, QSR’s, Retail, Services, Supermarkets, Travel, Vehicle Sales,  B2B and Wholesale. Over that time, he has sold more than $200 Billion worth of Card processing and became an expert in Bankcard Interchange and Discount Rates, how they are calculated and what merchant pay to accept Credit and how this is dramatically different from what they believe they pay. He is an expert in Merchant Statement analysis and payment processing and the rules and regulations associated with payments and the associations. Roger has also developed the insight for Merchant Services Salesforces and salesforces in general to be able to better position their products and gain share particularly in B2B. Let him show you how you can too. He can be reached at or check out his website

Industrial Distribution: Who’s doing the selling?

(by Frank Hurtte) Let’s talk about selling.  More specifically, let’s discuss selling technical products – products that possess unique features differentiating them from the competition.

Further, let us define precisely what we mean by selling.  There are several definitions of types of selling.  This example illustrates the two most radically different types of selling:

Further comparing the two types of selling

Distributors specializing in transactional (only) selling generally carry multiple brands of the same product.   This “one-stop shopping” is advertised as a customer convenience; however, this works similarly to Walmart’s approach to selling colas.  When a customer walks into their local mega-center the company does not care if they buy Coke, Pepsi, RC, or some other brand.  Further, this approach also leads to “house brands” like Wally Worlds Sam’s Choice Cola. 

Amazon is another excellent example of transactional selling.  There is no need to walk into a store when you can open your phone or laptop and be instantly connected to Amazon.  Again, if the customer knows what they want, products can be purchased.  And like Walmart, Amazon doesn’t much care which product is selected as long as the purchase comes from Amazon. 

At both Walmart and Amazon, companies are offered opportunities to grow their sales for a fee.  If you happen to sell a generic product, it might work.   For example, at Walmart soft drink makers pay to have their product “featured” as you walk into the store and sometimes pay to offer deep discounts which are used to drive sales and sometimes to talk consumers into making an extra trip.  Similarly, Amazon offers manufacturers/sellers the ability to upgrade their accounts to designate their products as “featured,” thus giving the seller more visibility.

The same rule applies to “commodity-like” products and distributors.  If a customer wants a common product where the brand is not a consideration, they ask for it, sometimes using industry slang, and the customer service representative provides a price and delivery.

When distributors carry multiple brands of a commodity product, the smartest salespeople sell (using a generic form of the word) the brand/product which creates the greatest gross margin.   It is possible for a manufacturer to temporarily increase unit volume by dropping these margins.  The issue becomes, most manufacturers do not carefully calculate the increase necessary to offset the loss in margin.   Further, in time other credible competitors adjust their price making gains difficult.

Who sells the product? 

To answer this question, let’s further break down distributor selling.  Virtually every selling component is described below.  (If you have other points, send them along and we will add them!)

Mostly transaction activities

Advanced transactional activities

Active selling activities

Sales activities cost money for the distributor

Each of these activities costs money.  If the distributor does not provide the activity, then the onus falls onto the manufacturer.  Somebody pays – it’s just a matter of who ends up with the bill.

Sadly, most distributors have done a poor job of tracking the expenses tied to each of these activities.  Based on observations within the study of distributor association profit benchmarking reports, the “active selling” tasks require a gross margin percentage that is approximately 30-32 percent higher than “transactional selling.” 

Contrasting distributor types to see the need for higher margins

In the industrial sector, distributors operating in Electrical Distribution (members of the National Association of Electrical Distributors – NAED) and Automation Distribution (members of the Association for High Tech Distribution – AHTD) often sell to similar customer sets.  The primary difference comes in the types of products sold, with NAED members selling a higher percentage of “commodity-like” products. 

NAED members generally sell more replacement products to End Users in MRO environments.  Many of the transactions involve replacing a component that arrived in their manufacturing facility on a piece of machinery.  The customer usually knows the part number and description of the replacement part.  Even if the product is not a commodity, the selling effort is still largely transactional.

AHTD distributors, who tend to focus on new OEM applications and more technologically complex end-user needs, engage in more active selling.  While they do sell some replacement parts, the majority of their business is focused on active sales.

Profit Benchmarking Reports tell the story

Both AHTD and NAED participate in profit benchmarking.  Data from these indicate the typical gross
margin for an AHTD member is approximately 26 percent while the typical NAED member reports a gross margin hovering around 20 percent. 

Armed with this data, one could expect the bottom-line profitability of AHTD members to be substantially higher than that of NAED members.  However, the reports indicate the profit margin percentages for the groups to be approximately equal, pointing to an increased cost of sales activities.

What this means for manufacturers

Manufacturers must understand the difference between transactional and active selling.  While many manufacturers have created tiered distribution plans with terms like “market makers,” “market servers,” and other types of categorizations, the strategies appear to have failed. 

In a special report generated after nearly 20 in-depth interviews with highly focused active selling distributors, we arrived at these conclusions:

The problem is many times the situation is not black and white – there are hundreds of shades of gray.  Even the previously mentioned companies have salespeople probing into other types of business.  This creates issues.  Here are some problem points made by the distributors interviewed:

If this type of distributor can get an SPA this opens the doors for them to block out the market making distributor.

This is often influenced by field sales and reps who feel like they gain favor with the distributor by offering up the additional margins associated with being a market making distributor.

Large orders do not necessarily qualify a distributor for this role.

It is the role of a procurement department to drive unit price cost to the minimum level.  Opening up the distributor landscape to other distributors typically drives the prices down. 

Citing another recent report on small to midsized distributors in the market, we found many distributors who have become extremely specialized in specific technologies.  These distributors have created a niche by selling a few very focused product groups, mostly to OEMs serving one or two categories. 

These distributors state they must often switch their “active selling” direction because their manufacturing partners allow other distributors to apply margin pressure against them at their accounts.  This is disturbing because this group of distributors is truly creating market expanding services to the manufacture in at least several categories.

Manufacturers with the broadest product lines often fail to realize the specialized activities of this breed of distributor.  The result is extra energies are required of the manufacturer’s team to supplement the efforts of a more general distributor. 

The time is ripe to better understand who is doing the work

This is complicated.  First, product technologies shift.  For example, years ago, variable frequency drives were considered cutting-edge technology, yet today many classes of this product approach “commodity” status.  Second, some distributors fall into the middle ground – actively selling in some instances while transactionally selling in others. 

Further complicating things, manufacturer field sales teams (rep-based, direct employees, and regional managers) are often asked to judge distributor performance without much objective input.  Many bet on larger plays hoping they will ramp up their active selling activities. 

In the case of manufacturers with multiple distributors in the market, the manufacturer’s team probably knows the transactional distributor better than the active seller.  Why?  The active sellers often know the products better or at least as well as the factory salesperson.  And the nature of the sale precludes lots of day-to-day distributor/manufacturer interactions.


Manufacturers who understand the size and extent of the opportunity to expand market share in new products and technologies find ways to model and mold their channel sales efforts to match their distributor partners.  Strangely, many manufacturers do not fully understand the value of market share on some of their products.  Without this key piece of information, decisions surrounding the cost of sales activities are impossible.  Sad but true…

Frank Hurtte is one of the leading proponents of Knowledge-based distribution. A business should surround the products they sell with their engineering and technical expertise. Even though he is a speaker and consultant, he is first and foremost a Sales Engineer. For more info, please visit:

Inductive Automation Seeking 3 Great Positions-

Inductive Automation, the leader in cutting-edge software for the industrial sector and beyond, is looking to add talented people to our continuously growing team! Our signature product, Ignition, is a powerful integrated development environment with everything you need to create virtually any kind of industrial application – SCADA, IIoT, MES and beyond – all on one platform.

Inductive is a unique, innovative, and fun company with a strong mission: to empower our customers to swiftly turn great ideas into reality by removing all technological and economic obstacles. We have a huge passion for our product and our customers; no matter what role you might play in the company, you can sense that there is something special about what we do and who we are.

Technical Sales Representative

TSR’s work in a territory free sales environment, educating customers and prospective customers on our products.  They identify new opportunities through prospecting, cold calling, lead generation and probing new and existing accounts. 

The perfect candidate is comfortable leading face to face meetings and giving demonstrations in front of large groups. They have a degree or strong background in a technical field like Computer Science, Management Information Systems or Engineering. Most importantly they must be passionate about a cutting edge technology and a forever changing industry.

•           Provide knowledgeable demonstrations of our software, online or in person

•           Manage and grow existing customer accounts

•           Provide first tier of technical support

•           Accumulate a strong technical understanding of our industry

•           Understand customer needs and “close” sales

Applications Engineer

AE’s assist our Sales Engineering division by providing technical solutions for our customers.  They help with technical demonstrations and questions on Ignition projects, and design and maintain systems for ever-expanding company needs.

•           Database and application programming

•           Design and program test scenarios (primarily using Ignition)

•           Technical research and writing RFI/RFP responses

•           Create applications for managing and organizing detailed information

•           Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science/Engineering plus 2-3 years as a developer

•           Strong in programming languages such as Python and Java

  • Working knowledge of Window and Linux and SQL Databases

•           Excellent troubleshooting skills

Sales Engineer

SE’s provide technical demonstrations and education, architectures, and best practices to our end-users and Integrators. They partner with our sales team, creating and executing strategies to grow Ignition sales.

•           Become an SME for technical questions or architecture topics

•           Assist customers with their Ignition bidding processes

•           Ensure customers have the knowledge to succeed with Ignition

•           Participate in conferences and trade-shows

•           Assist with Ignition benchmark testing

•           Build Ignition Exchange resources

Here is a direct link to our Inductive Automation Careers page: Click Here. On the Careers page scroll down to view the available Career Opportunities, this is where you can view Company Divisions or View Open Positions.

If you are interested in the Technical Sales Representative role you can find it under the Sales Division.

If you are interested in the Applications Engineer role you can find it under the Sales Engineering Division.

If you are interested in the Sales Engineer role you can find it under the Sales Engineering Division.

On the bottom of the Careers page you can find Inductive Automation: Unique Benefits, Career Paths, and Company Values. If you have any questions about the jobs posting please email the HR Team at Jobs@inductiveautomation.comor call us at 800-266-7798.

Inductive Automation, LLC is an equal opportunity employer, and all qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, religion, color, national origin, sex, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, and status as a protected veteran or individual with a disability. Verification of US employment eligibility required.

Link to Inductive Automation website:

(NAASE makes no claims or representations regarding these open positions. All inquires must go through Inductive.)

Featured “Salesfolks” Opportunity: Inside Sales – software developer for staffing services

NAASE will be featuring a job/1099 opportunity on a regular basis that is brought to us by Salesfolks.

Have you heard about Salesfolks? Whether you are an independent sales contractor or just looking to moonlight as a salesperson for a side-hustle, you can find incredible on-demand, remote sales opportunities and make money by generating leads, referrals and signed contracts. Businesses use Salesfolks to cloud-source part or all their sales. Salesfolks is a way to find purpose and get paid by selling products and services on your own terms.  It’s free for salespeople. Signup at

Please note that the opportunities listed at SF are a 1099/ independent contractor type of sales/ sales engineering opportunity. Some are potentially full-time, while others are expected to be part-time/ flexible.

Here is an excerpt of this Opportunity:

Revelo: Inside sales – software developer staffing services

Be based in either the USA, Europe or Latin America (Remote position)
Be responsible for the sales cycle from first contact to the signing of the agreement and initial placement of candidates in client companies, using Revelo’s world class delivery technology and team to turbo-charge your work
Act as the main client contact and continue to place more candidates in each company account
Identify, prioritize and engage potential clients from the USA and Europe
Establish and build relationships by demonstrating strong knowledge of our product, the market, technology and recruitment;
Work closely with the team, bring your own ideas and strive for constant improvement.

Average Sale Value= $20,000 Commission rate= 5%

For further details, and to apply- visit:

(Note: All inquiries and applications need to go through the SF site and portal. NAASE makes no claims or representations.)

Ode to Inside Sales

The inside sales representative is often an unsung hero in many companies, and that is a shame. In many ways they are one of the absolute keys to revenue and the whole sales operation. Sometimes referred to as a different title (sales support, etc), here we will look at the value of ISR’s and also the possibility of converting an ISR to a sales engineer.

The first job I had out of college was as an inside sales rep. I had my Bachelor of Science degree, but this was my first “real” job. The truth is that inside sales is often an entry-level position at many companies- and there is nothing wrong with that. Some people remain as ISR’s their entire career, others manage an inside sales team, and others convert into outside sales/ account managers or possibly to sales engineers. More about that later.

Being quick on your feet, and solving problems

What did I learn in inside sales? Plenty, including:

company culture

product/service knowledge – technical

company structure/ who does what

working alongside an outside/field sales person

customer service

solving client problems / answering questions

quoting & proposals

dealing with our service or product providers

The truth is that all of these skills are needed to become a good sales engineer, or to become an account manager or account executive.

I recall many times throughout my career in outside sales or as a project manager- when I needed my supplier or some material, 85% of the time my first call was to “my” inside sales person at that company. They had the answers. They answered the phone (imagine that!). They got things done quickly. They valued me as a customer. In many cases, the times that I did reach out first to my account manager- all they did was hang up the phone and then call that same inside sales person!

For the company at-large, there is great value in simply engaging constantly with your inside sales team; they speak to more of your customers on a daily or weekly basis than any other position. They know the pain points of many of your clients. They know that the new upgraded widget won’t sell because it is too expensive (10 of you customers have told them so in the past month).

In summary, as a former inside sales rep and one who has relied on the ISR for most of my career, let’s give a virtual round of applause to this very needed, yet sometimes underappreciated, role! (And hiring managers- worth taking a look at these people for sales engineer openings….)

HORIBA is seeking (2) Elite Sales Performers

(The following job postings are brought to NAASE by Corporate Member HORIBA and their National Sales Manager, Michael Oweimrin. He can be reached directly at:

HORIBA is seeking an Elite Sales Performer for the North East Region of the United States specifically residing within Boston, MA or thereabouts.

Desired Qualifications and Responsibilities:

  • Currently selling capital equipment in the Pharma and Life Sciences Industry.  Capital equipment may range from UV-VIS, HPLC, Raman, FTIR, Microscopy, NIR, MS, and NMR.
  • Builds business by identifying and selling prospects; maintaining relationships with clients and expands network.
  • Maintains digital marketing portfolio including LinkedIn, ResearchGate, and more.
  • Sell company products, including Raman, XRF, ICP, Emission and others in the assigned territory with minimal amount of supervision.
  • Maintains relationships with clients by providing support, information, and guidance; researching and recommending new opportunities; recommending profit and service improvements.  Maintains customer/prospect database and activity.
  • Identifies product improvements or new products by remaining current on industry trends, market activities, and competitors.
  • Prepares reports by collecting, analyzing, and summarizing information including forecasts, activities, territory evaluation and so forth. 
  • Maintains quality service by establishing and enforcing organization standards.
  • Maintains professional and technical knowledge by attending educational workshops; reviewing professional publications; establishing personal networks; benchmarking state-of-the-art practices; participating in professional societies.
  • Product demonstrations and sample measurements for prospective customers
  • Preparing and presenting technical presentations and seminars to potential customers
  • Develop customer interest in equipment, prepare quotations and follow through for purchase orders.
  • Achieve assigned sales target and develop sales strategy
  • Attend trade shows
  • Contributes to team effort by accomplishing related results as needed.


  • Bachelor’s Degree in a scientific discipline, Masters or Ph.D. preferred, or equivalent experience.  Pharmaceutical degree is a Plus. 
  • Excellent communication and organizational skills
  • Travel required
  • Prior Sales experience required with minimum of 2-3 years.
  • Certified training preferably to have been received by a reputable Sales Training Program/Company.
  • Technical, capital equipment and optical / spectroscopy experience a requirement
  • Proficiency in MS Office, including Word, Power Point, Excel, CRM, and Digital Marketing
  • North East Sales engineer covering MA, CT, ME, NH, NY, RI, VT
  • Preference in having a business degree
  • Preferred knowledge in life science/pharma/medical field
  • Ability to present by themselves
  • Prospecting using contacts, digital media, and so forth
  • Ability to drive a sale from initial contact to close
  • Additional language preferred
  • Ability to create and deliver presentations
  • Self-motivated and goal-oriented, desire to deliver results
  • Fast, self-direct learning.

For more information on this NE Position, please reach out to Michael or visit the HORIBA site at WWW.HORIBA.COM.

HORIBA is also seeking an Elite Sales Performer for the Mid-Atlantic Region of the United States specifically residing within the territory.

**Must Have Experience Selling Capital Equipment**

Duties include:

  • Sell company products, including Fluorescence and Optical Spectroscopy Packages and Components in the assigned territory with minimal amount of supervision.
  • Handle customer inquiries, actively prospect, conduct product demonstrations and presentations effectively.
  • Develop customer interest in equipment, prepare quotations and follow through for purchase orders.
  • Achieve assigned sales target and develop sales strategy
  • Attend trade shows
  • Maintains digital marketing portfolio including LinkedIn, ResearchGate, and more.
  • Actively engages in new scientific markets and develop strong client partnerships.
  • Stay current with trends and competitors to identify improvements or recommend new products
  • Builds business by identifying and selling prospects; maintaining relationships with clients.
  • Identifies business opportunities by identifying prospects and evaluating their position in the industry; researching and analyzing sales options.
  • Sells products by establishing contact and developing relationships with prospects; recommending solutions.
  • Maintains relationships with clients by providing support, information, and guidance; researching and recommending new opportunities; recommending profit and service improvements. Maintains customer/prospect database and activity.
  • Identifies product improvements or new products by remaining current on industry trends, market activities, and competitors.
  • Prepares reports by collecting, analyzing, and summarizing information including forecasts, activities, territory evaluation and so forth. 
  • Maintains quality service by establishing and enforcing organization standards.
  • Maintains professional and technical knowledge by attending educational workshops; reviewing professional publications; establishing personal networks; benchmarking state-of-the-art practices; participating in professional societies.
  • Contributes to team effort by accomplishing related results as needed.

Full job description and the ability to apply directly can be found at the following link:

**This job posting is being published by NAASE as a courtesy to HORIBA, our Corporate Member. All job inquiries and other comments will need to be addressed to HORIBA. NAASE makes no specific claims or representations.

Give Your Sales Presentation a Narrative Arc to Excite and Engage Prospects

(written by the Nuvue team, via ) Too often, sales presentations underwhelm prospects because they fail to provide a compelling narrative arc. As a marketer, you’ve done your research and conducted your focus groups. You know your audience, and you understand exactly how your product meets their needs. But are you treating those details like a sales pitch—or a compelling story that grips your prospects like a page-turner?

All of us have experienced the “death by PowerPoint” feeling. At some point, many sales teams just accepted that presentations work like bulleted lists. You run through the major points and facts, but there’s no narrative to keep anyone engaged. There’s no real story or personality. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. In fact, it shouldn’t be that way.

If you really want to get your prospects on board and excited about moving to the next phase, you need to approach your presentations the same way you’ve been taught to design your website—like a book. In other words, your sales presentation needs to have a story, and that story needs to be told in a compelling way. Websites and books both lay out a clear path for the audience. Whether through intuitive navigation or a narrative arc, you’re guiding the audience through the story you want to tell.

It all starts with developing a presentation architecture that leads your audience through a defined, concise journey. It’s how you excite prospects, keep them engaged, and close the deal.

Tips for Telling a Better Sales Presentation Story

Countless sales teams across multiple industries are currently making do with disjointed sales presentations littered with bullet points and bloated copy. Most sales teams probably don’t even realize they have this problem. Creating a narrative arc within your sales stories is a major key to success, but it does take some work. Here’s what you have to do.

1. Give Your Narrative the Length It Needs

You don’t need to take the one-sheet out of your toolbox entirely. But you do need to understand when and how to use it. We’ve seen plenty of clients hyper-focused on the idea of the one-sheet. Their intentions are ultimately good. No one wants to burden their prospects with a lengthy presentation.

However, if those one-sheets are littered with excessive copy and poor design, what type of story are you telling? Is this the best way to represent your products and services?

The length of your presentation really doesn’t matter as much as your sales team might think. If your presentation tells a compelling story and leads your prospects on a concise journey, it has done its job regardless of length. Don’t try to do too much on a single slide or a single page just because you think the audience wants a shorter time commitment. The one-sheet can complement a sales story by distilling facts, but it can never replace the narrative.

2. Relate Your Sales Story Directly to Your Audience

One of the quickest ways to lose your audience in a sales presentation is by leading with a product or service pitch. You need to empathize with your prospects’ problems and explain how your product or service solves them right out of the gate. That’s how you relate to your audience. It’s not a matter of telling them how innovative your product is. It’s about demonstrating how your innovation allows your prospects to meet their challenges in new and better ways.

That solution shouldn’t just be tacked on at the end of the presentation, either. It should be woven throughout the story you’re telling. Relate to your audience by:

  • showing empathy
  • sharing your solution
  • showing how that solution will work for them

With so many elements to incorporate, it would be difficult to tell your full sales story on a single one-sheet.

3. Define Your Sales Story’s Narrative Arc

When crafting your sales story, working in incremental steps is the best way to build your narrative. A lot of companies have a story to tell but fail to present it in a single, unified narrative arc. Instead, it’s spread out across a fragmented series of assets—marketing materials, slightly differentiated sales decks, and so on. To nail your sales story, you must first pull these disparate elements together to craft a single, unified narrative arc.

Pulling these bits and pieces together in their most basic form—stripping away all design elements and working with as little copy as possible—helps to establish the high-level hierarchy of the more concise story. Identify the opportunity or the problem you’re addressing, and take only what you need to tell that part of the story. Then move on to the solution, doing the same exact thing. What you’re doing is creating an outline of your story’s chapters. Move the various pieces of the story’s puzzle around. Play with it until it flows in a natural, informative way. Take out any elements that distract from or add nothing to the story.

From there, it’s a matter of incorporating design elements and finishing touches to ensure that your presentation is on-brand and visually appealing . This may be possible using existing assets, or you may need more of a complete overhaul. But the important thing is to lead with your story. If you dive right in and try to overhaul every aspect of your sales presentation all once, you’re not going to achieve the action-driving results you need.

Make Your Sales Team Part of the Process to Tell a Better Story

You and your marketing team are the foremost experts on your organization’s offerings. Your sales teams will leverage sales decks and materials to land clients, but they aren’t the ones who should be tasked with telling your story. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be part of the process, though.

When you’re ready to revamp your sales story and give it that narrative structure it currently lacks, make sure all the relevant parties are brought in right at the start. Sales and marketing must work together for this process to succeed. Sales knows what they need to do their job, but they’re not copywriters, designers, or layout artists.

Once you’ve figured out what’s necessary to successfully package your sales presentation, it’s time to lock everything in and give it to the sales team in its final form. It takes work to get there, and you may need to bring in an outside team that specializes in this type of story design. But once it’s there, you’ll see a night-and-day difference in your sales presentation materials—and business development success, too.

Value of a 3rd Party General Competitor Analysis

Businesses, and all kinds of organizations including associations, can often get stuck by looking at their business and the overall market through their own lens and opinion. This can prove to be a substantial mistake. It is for this reason that NAASE entered into an engagement with International Growth Solutions ( ), for IGS to conduct a competitor and marketplace analysis for our Association’s Executives.

After approximately 2 weeks, IGS provided an excellent overview of the relevant Association “space”, which included the following in the Table of Contents of their report:


Means/Methods of Research and Data Points

Blind Spots

Appendix including a Competitor Overview

Managerial Recommendations

There were several highlights of the Report and the findings. There was an excellent analysis and explanation of “blind spots”. From the report:

Observation of companies’ strategic moves suggests that flaws exist in some competitive analysis. These flaws or blind spots result from a company’s mistaken or incomplete view of its industry and competition, inaccurate managerial perceptions, or ineffective organizational processes.
Some of such blind spots are particularly serious: (1) misjudging industry boundaries; (2) poor identification of the competition; (3) overemphasis on competitors’ visible competence; (4) overemphasis on where, not how, rivals compete; and (5) faulty assumptions about the competition. These blind spots can cause the selection of the wrong strategy. Flawed competitive analysis, resulting from these blind spots, weakens organizations’ ability to seize opportunities, ultimately leading to an erosion in the company’s market position and profitability.

The report then continued with some in-depth points on each of the 5 items noted above.

Mapping the Competitive Landscape

An excellent graphical representation of our competitive landscape was included, which mapped out Indirect Competitors, Direct Competitors, as well as Potential Competitors based on Resource Similarity & Market Commonality. The key outcome here is that businesses need to be fully aware of the multitude of INDIRECT competitors which can effect their success; there are typically many more indirect competitors than direct.

Appendix/ Listing – all in one place

The report included an extensive listing of “all” the direct and indirect competitors, with organization names, hyperlinks, sizes, age of business, main purposes, # LinkedIn Followers, location of HQ, and other data points listed. Moving forward, this is great to have all in one easy location, for a reference.

Stepping back, to Step Forward

This report was the kind of assistance needed to help build further success, especially for a small or medium business. Irregardless of any original or updated business plan, and/or current profitability. International Growth Solutions offers candid business and marketing research, on a time-sensitive basis- at an affordable rate.

How to create a good name for a tech product

(by Andra Guțui and Marcela Sărmășan) Naming a new technological product is not an easy task. Everyday new tech products are launched, and it has become more and more difficult to create proper names which can make a difference in this crowded market.

Which are the biggest challenges in naming tech products? 

  • Choosing too descriptive names which have almost zero chance to be trademarked 
  • Deciding to keep numerical codes as product names, or using generic terms used by the entire industry
  • Choosing too “engineered” names which mean everything for the internal engineering team and nothing for the target audience

In this article we will present you some advice to be followed in the naming process in order to help you overcome these challenges: 

  1. Start with two briefs 

When you must name a tech product, two big departments will be involved in this decision: engineering and marketing/sales. The engineers feel that their point of view must be important because they know how the product was built and which are its main functionalities and features. The marketing department feels that they know the best way to position the new product on the market. In many cases, the naming brief is done just with the representatives of a single side. If the company has a small marketing department, for sure, the lead will be taken by the engineering department. If the company is huge and the investors and shareholders trust the marketing department, then the engineers will be ignored. Our advice is to start the naming project with two briefs. One for the engineering department and one for the marketing department. Both sides are important and may bring an important input to the entire project.

  • 2. Find the common points from the two briefs

Unfortunately, you may discover that between the two departments there are zero common points, because engineers and marketers have very different visions and priorities. 

Engineers usually want:

  • very descriptive names
  • generic names
  • numerical codes because many of them do not value the importance of a branded product name
  • similar names with the names used by the competition
  • invented names taken from their internal language (technical “slang”)

Marketers usually want:

  • suggestive or metaphorical names
  • names with a cool and fresh sound
  • Too fanciful names which are too strange for the engineering department

As always, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Both sides will bring an interesting input in the naming process. The engineers will present the best functionalities and features of the product and the marketers know everything about benefits, market positioning and sales. 

  • Hints to get inspired

After deciding the right naming directions together with the two departments, you must start to search for terms, ideas and new words in order to name your products. Here are some ideas which may inspire you: 

  • Main differences between your product and the products of your competitors. Main differences mean those differences which may be considered real strengths in your market
  • Key features or key benefits of your product. Make a list with all of them.
  • Key functionalities of the new product
  • Key aspects of the technology implemented behind the product
  • Key aspects from the process when the client uses your product
  • Other fields which can be metaphorically connected with the technology world: superheroes world, historically important characters from your industry, disruptive moments in the history related to your technology, animal world when you discover that certain aspects from the animal’s life are related to your product specifications, important natural phenomena.
  • Try avoiding too generic a term

If you want to make a difference on the market, do not start with a similar name overused in your industry. Everybody uses terms like “innovation”, “edge”, “cloud”, “tech”, “online”, “internet” etc. Try to be more original, more creative and avoid the stereotypes. If you are too similar, you will be forgotten. 

Naming a technological product is not easy, since you have to communicate tech features in a way that is easy for consumers to understand. Having your target audience in mind when launching new tech products is crucial. They have to understand at least one thing about the product by just hearing its name. 

A good name takes time to be created. Take your time to conduct this process in a professional manner and start with the briefing part, where you establish all the criteria that the new name has to meet.

Remember one important rule: you have spent years developing a tech product that may change your industry. Do not name it in two days. 

Namzya is a specialized naming agency which has named brands, products and services for more than 20 corporations. Among its clients are companies like: TATA Motors, MAN Truck & Bus, Nespresso, Lavazza, Adama, Amplifon, Franke, Arcelik (Beko brand), Verisure, Atlantic Grupa, ART Fertility Clinics. 

It was founded by Andra Guțui and Marcela Sărmășan, who were also featured in Forbes 30 under 30 (Romania). 

For more information, please visit: 

5 Key Ways to Drive Customer Experience into Product Strategy

(by Stephanie O’Connell)

How hard is it to be your customer?

Customer experience is how customers perceive and feel about your product or service. What kind of impression it leaves on them and the lasting impact they have about your company as a brand.

In a world where software can become a commodity and empowered consumers can replace your solution for another solution, companies need to be reliably delivering a memorable customer experience in order for your organization and your brand to survive.

Thinking about customer experience means not only thinking about your solution’s usability, but  also about how the product can drive each stage of the product roadmap and customer journey to ensure that customers recognize ongoing value.

The customer experience is the next competitive battleground- Jerry Gregoire

Increasing Role of Customer Experience

A good customer experience plan will increase customer retention, strengthen customer satisfaction, increase cross- selling and up selling opportunities and drive product roadmaps. Companies should incorporate superior products with equally important superior customer experiences.

Some companies don’t understand why they should worry about customer experience when it comes to product. But ask yourself who are you designing the product for?

Customer experience is important for any business structure, but it should be built into the Product Teams strategy when it comes to planning a product roadmap for an existing solution or when in the initial stages of something new.

Customer Experience: Five Key Elements

When creating a plan to incorporate customer experience into your product strategy there are five key elements that you can review internally straight away in order to see ROI. These examples can translate the customers voice into actionable takeaways for your team in order to improve the customers’ overall experience.

1. Identify your companies’ touchpoints

Customer touchpoints are all the points of contact that your company has with their prospects and customers. Determining your touchpoints is the first step toward creating an engaging customer experience program.
Three categories of touchpoints can be: Before Purchase, During Purchase and After Purchase.


  • Before Purchase- social media, word of mouth, advertising, marketing
    • During Purchase- Website, Staff Interaction with Pre-sales/ Sales
    • After Purchase- Billing, Staff interaction with Operations Department, Help Center, Follow Ups, Renewals

A negative experience during any touchpoint may set back all your efforts to deliver a quality customer experience. To improve customer satisfaction, your team needs to ensure that each outlined touchpoint ends up being a positive experience.

2. When building new products, it is key to remember what the customer wants from you.
By considering how your customers see and value you, you can learn how to develop and maintain your credibility within your industry. Credibility and reliability are everything in software. This is what makes end- users champions of your product.

3. Always prioritize customer experience

A company’s mission should be far larger than what your solution solves in your industry. Your company should create core values that celebrates and measures quality customer experiences.

Customer experience doesn’t fall to just one department. This is organizational wide from the marketing material, sales demo, implementation to after the customer has left.

Ideas you can implement now:
Moving forward the customer voice is always considered during discussions, plans and decisions. Your team should be asking “how will this help our customer?” and “what value does this deliver?”

4. Talk to your customers/ prospects

When speaking with your customers and prospects it’s valuable to use their feedback to plan your product roadmap.

Perception vs Reality. In other words what the product team is envisioning but the reality is what the customer is actually experiencing. It is always better to understand your customers problems before you sink any money or time into a product that may be unwanted. The only way to truly understand their friction points is to ask them.

Most customer experience strategies can include:

  • Custom Crafted Surveys
  • Open Ended Questions
  • Customer Interviews

Ideas you can implement now:
Have your staff follow up to customer requests without being asked. Customers appreciate not having to chase someone for a response or repeatedly ask to be kept up to date on open issues.

Add a communication tool into your product for automating feedback. If a live chat doesn’t fit with your product, you can also utilize the support ticketing system you may have. By creating a category labelled Feature Requests, when a customer has an ask or provides feedback about a certain product, the ticket can be categorized as a feature request so that the product team can review internally every quarter to see if any of those ideas fit in with the company’s roadmap or would be considered an easy win with quick ROI.

Allow your customers to mark their satisfaction level after an implementation and/or support ticket. Some companies are afraid of the repercussions by starting with low results, but it will be tough to improve if you don’t know where your customer satisfaction currently lies.

5. Emphasizing Data Insights

It’s important to celebrate the good moments but even more impactful is facing the hard facts by digging into the areas you need to improve.

Analytics has a large role to play. This doesn’t come from just data collection but from your customer base, by gathering insights from the feedback received.

Ideas you can implement now:
Scroll heatmaps can be used to determine which areas of your product are the most and least used, this can prompt the team to investigate the reasons why.

Segment your data for different customer behaviours. This will allow you to review particular customers who may be performing worse or better then others while using the same product.

Align the organization around the customer. It’s important not to just develop guiding principles but your team needs to use the data that is compiled to follow through on supporting those principles.

Final Thoughts

If the product you sell does what it’s designed to do, and the service you provide is meeting or even better by exceeding expectations, there is one additional measure you can take to bring your experience to a whole new level.

Be easier & convenient to do business with.Questions to consider to get started:
Does your Pre-sales team promptly schedule demo requests for prospects or current clients?
Is signing a contract or SOW a complicated process?
Are all departments responsive to questions (implementation, customer support, accounting, sales etc)?
Can your customers call your support team directly if there is an urgent issue? or are they required to submit an email and wait in queue.
Do your company’s hours of operations reflect the time zones they do business in?

When creating your customer experience program to align with product strategy, make sure that the customer experience is embedded throughout the entire design and development process.

(Stephanie O’Connell is a Solution Engineer for a software firm, and she is also a Member of the Advisory Board for NAASE.)

The Impact of Market Orientation and Market Intelligence on Organizational Performance

(By Inna Hüessmanns, MBA) In recent years, academic studies have focused on the concept of market orientation with the aim of understanding the effect of market orientation on organizational performance. Empirical evidence indicates that market orientation is positively associated with superior performance.

Organizations that better respond to market requirements and changing market conditions enjoy sustainable competitive advantage and superior profitability. Market orientation represents superior capabilities in understanding and satisfying customers. Its key components are:

  • A customer oriented corporate culture.
  • Systematic generation, dissemination, and utilization of market intelligence.
  • Interfunctional utilization of market intelligence.

Market-oriented organizations have superior market intelligence capabilities, such as market sensing, customer analysis and customer linking, competitive intelligence, and channel management capabilities. These capabilities deliver superior market insights that guide spanning capabilities.

In contrast, the capabilities of internally oriented organizations are poorly guided by market considerations.

Every organization develops capabilities to produce and deliver its products or services. Some capabilities must be superior if the business is to outperform the competition. These are the distinctive capabilities that support a valuable market position that is difficult to match and permit organizations to deliver superior value to customers in a cost-effective way.

Spanning capabilities are exercised through processes used to satisfy customers’ needs identified by the market intelligence capabilities. Market intelligence dissemination, sales processes, and new product development processes are examples of these processes. Managing these processes so they cannot be readily matched by competitors is very different from managing vertical functions in a traditional hierarchical organization. Many internal boundaries must be crossed, and market intelligence should be readily available to all departments.

Market Intelligence as a Distinctive Capability

Market orientation emphasizes the ability of organizations to continuously learn about their customers, competitors, channel partners, and industry trends in order to act on trends in present and target markets. In market-oriented organizations the processes for generating, interpreting, and utilizing market intelligence are more systematic, thoughtful, and anticipatory than in internally focused organizations.

Three components of a market-oriented organization can be distinguished: customer orientation, competitor orientation, and interfunctional coordination.

The Figure below explains the key components of a market-oriented organization.

Market-oriented organizations have the capabilities to anticipate industry trends and changes of customers’ strategies ahead of their competitors.

Market intelligence represents a know-what advantage that enables organizations to be both more effective and efficient.

Customer Orientation and Analysis

Customer orientation places the highest priority on continuously analysing customers’ needs and finding ways to provide superior customer value. Customer oriented organizations innovate throughout their entire business system, as opposed to solely in products or services.

Competitor Orientation and Customer Analysis

Competitor orientation and analysis entail gathering intelligence on the following and other questions and facilitate innovations: (1) What is the basis for your organization`s competitive advantage? (2) Who are the competitors? (3) What technologies do they offer? and (4) Do they represent an attractive alternative from the perspective of the target customers? (5) What does your organization need to survive competition?

Interfunctional Coordination

Interfunctional coordination is one of the core components of market orientation.

Empirical evidence indicates that coordinated dissemination of market intelligence among various functions was instrumental in the organization’s responsiveness to customer needs.

Innovation and Performance

A market-oriented culture facilitates organizational innovativeness, and this relationship appears even stronger in turbulent environmental settings. In turbulent environmental settings, organizations with superior market intelligence exhibit superior responsiveness, typically through organizational innovativeness, in dealing with the turbulences in the environment.

In summary, a market-oriented corporate culture and a proper execution of market orientation are significant factors in achieving superior corporate performance.

Managerial Recommendations:

Many organizations have tried to become market oriented but have failed to sustain this orientation.

The challenge is to understand how market orientation can be achieved and sustained. The most distinctive features of market-oriented organizations are their mastery of the market intelligence generating capabilities.

We help you to understand your customers’ needs, analyze your company’s performance against competition, understand your long-term growth opportunities, train your salesforce in market intelligence, and develop a market-oriented organization.

For market intelligence and change program consulting and implementation enquiries please contact:

Inna Hüessmanns, MBA

International Growth Solutions


#StrategicInsight: Blind Spots #5 & Sales Enablement

(By Michael Dodgson)

Learning about the blind spots in your #salesfunnel can provide significant benefits to your sales teams. In these two images, you can see that one level of the sales funnel is struggling but the level below is performing quite well.

Do your sales funnel have areas where you have higher conversion rates? Why is this?

Symptoms of the blind spot: ignoring new leads.

At a Fortune 500 company, I started up a demand generation marketing team to provide better leads to our sales teams. This included setting up a call center, online PPC and SEO marketing, microsites, promotions, events, trade shows, content creation … the works. In that year my team generated nearly $20 million in marketing qualified leads (MQLs).

But, for one division, #Salesforce reporting showed the ROI on the activities was terrible. In fact, most leads were never addressed. What the heck?

To research the problem I had my telemarketers conduct a quick customer satisfaction survey and I learned that 75% of the leads were never contacted, or if they did, the sales team did not know the products well.

When I collaborated with sales management we looked at the problem, conducted some research and talked with our reps. What is up? …

We learned that because our process to request special pricing for large projects depended on HQs response time. In many cases the approval for special pricing took days, and in the worst cases could take a month or longer. Well, that’s a problem!

This result was shocking. If the sales team was spending too long on the final stages of the selling process then the result was that upstream sales and marketing efforts were being wasted. Clearly, the processes were broken and we had limited options in our region.

Thus, to make marketing more useful for this division I considered many options. Try to set up special pricing exception rules for the local GEO – nope. Not allowed. We tried getting better at forecasting and promoting what we have – yet large custom projects often required specialized capabilities only available in high-end, high-cost products with problematic forecasting and very high cost of inventory.

Finally, one option we ended up using was to change the marketing messages on special orders so they knew these items would be specially built at the factory and shipped based on their order. And this would take 3-6 months. Then, marketing focused on high run-rate products that were forecasted and were available in most channels.

Sales Enablement = Communication

The sales teams were much happier because customers were not abandoned and the volume of leads was directed to channel partners, not to the internal sales team. And, when the channel partners had opportunities and the large clients were properly prepared with a 3-6 month delivery time expectation, the process ran more smoothly.

Thus, through analysis of the sales funnel we learned why there was a conversion problem. Now, this is an unusual situation for an unusual company. Many software companies would lose their mind if this type of delay in the purchase process existed. Similarly, channel partners and distributors will communicate manufacturer offers but they will focus on what they know will sell and that is available – but clever business leaders will now focus on product quality because it impacts their customer loyalty.

In short, every business is different and has different problem areas … opportunity areas. And, each opportunity has a myriad of options that could address the situation. Approaching the problem from a “help make selling easier” is one role of a great product manager who knows the business environment and can find useful solutions. This approach helped identify that this division could not handle more business opportunities so I used the same methodology to help another division and targeted channel partner sales increased by 400% based on YoY analysis.

(This article is the 5th in a multi-part series by the author. To reach Michael, please visit )