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Sales 2.0: an interview with Anneke Seley & Brent Holloway


Interview by: Alistair Craven

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Image: Anneke SeleyAnneke Seley was the twelfth employee at Oracle and the designer of OracleDirect, the company’s revolutionary inside sales operation.

She is currently the CEO and founder of Phone Works, a sales strategy and implementation consultancy that helps large and small businesses build and restructure sales teams to achieve predictable, measurable, and sustainable sales growth, using Sales 2.0 principles.

Brent Holloway is a practicing sales manager whose sales team generates millions of dollars every quarter selling by phone and Internet. Image: Brent Holloway

He has more than a decade of experience in sales and sales management with high technology companies. Brent was the twelfth employee and first telesales manager at Blue Pumpkin Software, which grew to more than 350 employees before being acquired by Witness Systems. Brent currently manages a sales team at Verint Systems that has increased incremental revenue from existing customers while increasing profit and leveraging field sales resources. He has led the reorganization of inside sales teams by implementing processes to produce consistent double digit annual growth while reducing costs and improving customer satisfaction.

AC: Can you provide us with a quick definition of what you mean by Sales 2.0? What inspired you to write a book about it?

Anneke Seley & Brent Holloway:

Sales 2.0 is about improving business results through the use of innovative sales practices, focused on creating value for both buyer and seller, and enabled by Web 2.0 and next-generation technology. It is as much about strategy, people, and process if not more so, than technology. Sales 2.0 requires changing sales culture and thinking about sales as a science – a measurable, repeatable, and predictable function – as well as an art. At the strategic level, Sales 2.0 involves aligning sales and marketing resources and redesigning sales organizations to reach more customers by phone and Web to reduce cost of sales and leverage expensive field sales forces, resulting in increased revenue.

We are both inspired by the actual results we have achieved and the tremendous additional potential that Sales 2.0 brings in our jobs today as a leader of an innovative sales strategy and implementation consulting business and as a practicing sales manager, leading a team of high-productivity reps. We wanted to share our experiences and knowledge and at the same time create a Sales 2.0 community where we can learn from other people.

AC: You note that the high-tech revolution has changed the way people talk to each other, but hasn’t led to a revolution in sales strategies. Why is this so?

Anneke Seley & Brent Holloway:

Many companies are less inclined to experiment with their sales organization than they are with other parts of their business, largely because of the concern that change could have a negative impact on revenue. But change is a requirement due to changing customer preferences, market, and economic factors, and most Sales 2.0 strategies and technologies can be implemented with minimal risk. The greater risk is not adopting the types of changes and opportunities available in Sales 2.0.

"Many companies are less inclined to experiment with their sales organization than they are with other parts of their business, largely because of the concern that change could have a negative impact on revenue."

We also believe the principles of Sales 2.0, which represent a shifting mindset about selling, are still evolving and innovative companies are continually improving their sales operations. Many successful companies have built their businesses from the ground up with Sales 2.0, and many established companies have already begun transforming their sales organization with Sales 2.0 strategies and technologies.

AC: In the book you state that the way we have been selling in the past is “too expensive, too slow, too unpredictable, and too hazardous to relationships.” Can you elaborate on this?

Anneke Seley & Brent Holloway:

Every day in the news we hear about high-profit company failures. Clearly there is room for improvement in the traditional sales approaches that have served business for years or even decades, but are no longer effective primarily because of economics and changes in customer buying behaviour.

Sales 2.0 includes many key principles including:

  • sales reps focus on the needs of buyers and reps sell in the way that buyers want to buy.
  • Sales reps use the phone and Web to increase their access to customers, increase efficiency, and reduce cost of sales
  • Measurable sales process and analytics make revenue predictable
  • Technology enables reps to accelerate sales cycles

The Sales 1.0 company still has too many salespeople travelling to sell products or services that do not require an onsite visit, and even worse, travelling to sell something that may not be profitable. In addition, sales resource alignment and optimization are Sales 2.0 principles that accelerate sales cycles, lower the cost of sales, improve predictability of revenue, and improve relationships with their customers.

Here are some examples of how a Sales 2.0 organization might be organized: the field salespeople remain focused on the most strategic opportunities that warrant onsite visits. A telesales group can handle a high volume of opportunities and sales related activities that do not require a face to face interaction. Many customer opportunities can be managed by a telesales organization, which increases sales while improving relationships. A sales development team specializes in creating qualified opportunities for the quota carrying salespeople. Optimizing the alignment and the right number of sales resources within these components of a sales organization is an opportunity for productivity improvement and the right mix is unique for every business based on their products, price points, competition, and other factors.

AC: In the early days of the Internet, many sales teams felt threatened by the arrival of a medium that could potentially replace some of their duties. Would you say any of this fear and resentment remains today?

Anneke Seley & Brent Holloway:

Fear and resentment toward new technologies does still exist for some salespeople, but it also creates opportunities that should outweigh most concerns. The Internet has made information more accessible to buyers, which to some degree reduces our duty of educating buyers and shifts the power balance from sales people to our customers. However, most products, at least in the business-to-business market, still require a skilled salesperson that embraces process and technology while building authentic relationships with prospects to effectively make sales happen. Salespeople who are open to change and new technologies would resent the idea of having to go back and do their jobs without the technologies that are available today.

AC: Sales 2.0 suggests that selling can be made more scientific as opposed to selling being largely considered as an art form. What friction do you think this is likely to cause in sales teams?

Anneke Seley & Brent Holloway:

We recently wrote a blog post on “Measurements and Morale”, in which we stated the need to maintain good relationships with our salespeople can be at odds with a management approach with too many measurements that could make salespeople feel micromanaged. To prevent any friction on this point, it is important for us to measure only what really matters, and to link how these measurements can help each salesperson be more successful.

Selling is both art and science, and there is more science to selling than many people realize. The science part comes largely from measuring the sales organization and the sales process in ways that were not possible before Sales 2.0 technologies. The intelligence gathered from those measurements can help a sales organization make better decisions and improve predictability of their results. Even selling skills which were often though of as an art, can be measured and improved with consulting as well as technology.

AC: You discuss the importance of collaboration between sales and marketing departments. Why do you think organizations struggle when it comes to cross-functional working and collaboration with other teams?

Anneke Seley & Brent Holloway:

The struggle between sales and marketing often exists because they do not have common goals, or a clear incentive or motivation to work well together. For example, a sales development (lead generation) team may report to a marketing leader and they may have a goal to produce a specific number of sales leads.

"Selling is both art and science, and there is more science to selling than many people realize."

But if the sales team is not truly involved with the qualification criteria, questions, and lead ranking process, then there will likely be some friction between the groups. It is not uncommon for marketing to complain that the sales organization is not effectively closing the sales leads that marketing created, while the sales team complains that marketing produced only unqualified leads. This is a challenge that can be avoided by better sales and marketing collaboration up front. Creating a common goal, supported by incentive compensation, and increasing the frequency of communication between sales and marketing is a relatively easy way to improve collaboration and results.

AC: You note that best practice sharing is imperative for process improvement and collaboration. How can this be encouraged in an environment that is typically viewed as competitive, full of strong personalities, and high-powered?

Anneke Seley & Brent Holloway:

Salespeople and managers need to believe that best practice sharing and collaboration will help them be more successful in achieving their individual goals. In addition to pursuing our individual goals, we are working toward a common goal (i.e. a more successful company, higher stock price, etc.) that also benefits us individually, and best practice sharing is one method to improve results. On my team calls, we generally have a few best practice ideas that are discussed and some people enjoy sharing their experiences, while everyone appreciates getting ideas that are working in the real world. It is true that salespeople are competitive, and that mentality can coexist within an environment of collaboration and best practice sharing. But team sales goals and bonuses can help underline the importance of collaboration and sharing of successful sales practices.

AC: From your research, what would you say were some of the classic mistakes companies can make in implementing online sales strategies?

Anneke Seley & Brent Holloway:

Online sales tools like web collaboration can increase the efficiency of the sales team, but we need to build some level of a relationship with the customer and keep the interactions personalized. We need to maintain quality as we increase the quantity of interactions. Just because we can present to many more customers or prospects through web meetings vs face to face does not mean we should used a canned company presentation or do any less call preparation than we would for an on-site presentation.

AC: The book highlights several case studies about Sales 2.0 practices. Which stands out as the most impressive to you, and why?

Anneke Seley & Brent Holloway:

For us it is the Syneron case study, because they are not a software company. This shows that the Sales 2.0 principles are not limited to one industry. It also demonstrates that a forward-thinking CEO can secure a competitive advantage by being the first to implement innovative sales practices in a market. Companies that do not evolve will be left behind.

AC: Hundreds of suppliers provide CRM software to help companies streamline their sales processes, but many have come under criticism for claiming to have a “silver bullet” solution only for organizations to be distracted by the technology and lose sight of what really matters: their customers. What is your take on this?

Anneke Seley & Brent Holloway:

According to CSO Insights, the best performing companies have a combination of the strongest customer relationships AND the most consistent use of sales process. This is the art and science we talk about in Sales 2.0. Agreed, some technology vendors focus too much on selling their unique features that differentiate them from the competition but the good ones are able to translate how those unique features result in better business results for their customers. Customer-centricity is at the heart of Sales 2.0 and many CRM vendors are realizing this and integrating “social selling” – emphasizing personalized , pertinent and timely messages – into their “CRM 2.0” or “Social CRM” systems.

We are impressed by how many Sales 2.0 technology vendors include the end customer as part of the value proposition. The latest technology advancements in web conferencing, CRM, account research, business analytics, e-mail and website tracking, sales training, online contracting, sales portals, and online communities all have measurable benefits to the end customer. In this competitive market, those technology vendors that lose sight of their customers will not survive.

AC: If you were asked to list three key messages for managers to take away from your book, what would they be, and why?

Anneke Seley & Brent Holloway:

  1. Examine your sales and supporting marketing strategy to align and optimize your sales and marketing resources. Develop a sales organization that has the right types of sales resources (e.g. phone and Web-based reps vs face-to-face reps) doing appropriate sales activities.
  2. Define your sales process according to how your customers buy and use it strategically. Measure it, and constantly look for ways to make it better for both you and the customer.
  3. Be open to change and stay current. You should assume that it is a competitive business requirement to learn about and test new processes and technologies.

AC: Finally, are there any closing comments you wish to make?

Anneke Seley & Brent Holloway:

One of the key principles in Sales 2.0 is continuing to evolve, learn and collaborate. We encourage you to visit our book’s website at for more information and an opportunity to share your thoughts with other sales managers and executives.

June 2009.

Sales 2.0: an interview with Anneke Seley & Brent Holloway