Author: <span>Cien</span>

The Board’s Role in Sales Oversight

The Board’s Role in Sales Oversight

00Blog: The Science of Sales, FeaturedTags: , , , , , January, 20

Think back to the last board meeting you attended that addressed sales. The directors likely looked at the sales numbers, compared them to plan, and probably noticed some room for improvement.


But for board members of early-stage or high-growth companies, a higher-intensity focus on sales is necessary since these organizations may not have the same resources as larger, well-funded businesses. If you are actively serving on an early-stage company’s board—or are thinking of serving on one—you should keep several key sales-related concerns in mind in order to help mentor leadership, improve results, and increase sales transparency.


Customer Acquisition and Satisfaction

While it is probably unrealistic for the board to be completely familiar with all deals and sales representatives, directors can help sales and business development departments work on potentially game-changing deals. These deals should be reviewed in board meetings, and chances are that the board may have other ways to reach those target customers or partners and influence decisions. Being aware of these critical deals can enable a board member to deliver extra value.


Go-to-Market Strategy

The board also should be kept abreast of the company’s current go-to-market strategy. Elements of this strategy may include an emphasis on direct versus channel sales or the introduction of new customer acquisition strategies (such as “freemium” models) since these elements can greatly affect the company’s growth rate and potential. Having objective measurements around the company leaders’ performance against the strategy is the key to rapidly scaling sales teams. Sales problems like slow ramping, low win-rates, long sales cycles, and call reluctance can be symptoms of a failure to execute well against the strategy.


As the company grows, the board’s role no doubt will shift; however, until that time, an all-hands-on-deck approach may lead to the best outcomes for the early-stage company.


Sales as Strategy

Early-stage companies are under a lot of pressure to grow quickly. Budgets and sales models that are presented to the board must be bottom-up models, not top-down, and must be updated monthly with actual results to provide an accurate and dynamic revenue ramp-up forecast. Many times, startups can benefit from using sales as a strategic lever, tweaking their approach to completely change the growth trajectory for the better. For example, one technology company obtained a distribution deal with a leading travel portal, which lent credibility and allowed the number of sales reps to be multiplied. A company I co-founded introduced a much simpler version of the product that put it instantly on the map in its target market and allowed the company to acquire new customers at a much lower cost.


Identify Underlying Issues

Many company boards have problems with the transparency of sales teams and in understanding why adding sales reps does not correlate with increased sales. An important issue for these companies and their boards is determining the factors that might be limiting sales growth. In fact, many sales teams struggle until something fundamentally changes. The underlying problem may not be attributable to the sales team at all but instead to imprecise marketing positioning, immature technology, and perhaps a lack of applicable reference accounts. If these types of problems are present, the sales team will almost always struggle. However, when such problems are appropriately addressed, sales can flourish, and the sales leader’s ability to recruit and coach his or her team can make a huge difference in growing the business.


As a company scales, the board can play a critical oversight role in vetting the go-to-market sales strategy, assisting with contacts for game-changing deals, holding leadership accountable, and looking for areas of opportunity to advocate for fundamental changes that can break sales teams free and accelerate results. Over time, the board’s role no doubt will shift; however, until that time, an all-hands-on-deck approach to sales may lead to the best outcome.


This article was written by Margot Carter. Margot is an experienced lead director recognized by WomenInc. as one of the 2019 Most Influential Corporate Board Directors. She is also a cofounder of Cien, an artificial intelligence-powered sales performance company. The original version of this article was published on the official blog of the National Association of Corporate Directors.


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What the Board Thinks of Your Sales Numbers

00Blog: The Science of Sales, FeaturedTags: , , , , , December, 19

A few days ago, I had a conversation with a member of our Board.  As a Director who sits on several high tech start up boards, she has attended more than her share of Board reviews.

Her comments could be summarized in saying that Sales Leaders who are not making their numbers all say the same things. 

The head of sales provides some general reasons, like “Our sales cycles are getting longer”…“Some reps are not ramping up as quickly as expected”…“Our competitor loss rate has increased lately.”

Next, the sales leader shares the KPI dashboards tracking these areas and describes the new training program or sales tool being put in place to improve them.

As a longtime C-suite executive and board member, she has seen this scenario many times. Inevitably, the C-suite hears this tale and starts to wonder how much longer that Sales Leader will be in place.

She went on to say that sales problems like slow ramping, low win-rates, long sales cycles and call reluctance are the symptoms, not the underlying disease.


Just like a doctor performs a thorough examination when you show up with a fever, sales leaders need to diagnose the root causes of problems, and treat them with individualized improvement plans.

If you have a handful of sales reps, that’s easy enough to do. However, coaching at scale and keeping track of individual progress can be very difficult. 

Think about that the next time you are presenting numbers to C-Suite or the Board.  There is no cure-all solution for getting sales reps to 100% quota attainment. Go with a plan to make each rep the best he or she can be.

That happens to be why Cien was founded. AI excels at finding patterns. We know patterns exist in sales behavior that contributed to success or failure, and we want to harness the power of AI and machine learning to improve sales productivity.

Cien was established to help sales functions reach 100% of quota. No two sales representatives are exactly alike. What works well for one may fall short for another.  If you’d like to find out what lost revenue may be hiding in your organization, you may want to put our technology to work for you.


See if you qualify for Cien’s Hidden Revenue Assessment

As a result, instead of talking about mediocre sales results at your next board meeting, you may just be the one offering real solutions.

By Joe Lupton


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The Problem with Sales Performance Programs

11Blog: The Science of Sales, FeaturedTags: , , , , , , , December, 19

Whether you’re a numbers person or not, advances in technology and data management are continuously creating new opportunities for transforming and improving an organization’s sales effectiveness.

To understand how sales managers can improve their teams’ sales performance, we spoke with Mike Kunkle, founder of Transforming Sales Results, LLC and Vice President of Sales Enablement Services for the recently-rebranded SPARXiQ (formerly SPA and SPASIGMA). Mike is an internationally recognized sales force transformation expert with over 20 years experience designing sales learning systems and guiding companies through all aspects of sales transformation.

The Problem with Performance Management Programs

Mike points out that sales managers often lack an analytical approach to management which prevents them from seeing the forest for the trees. This should be of particular concern to sales leaders of fast growing companies as often the need for sales analytics increases with the size of the team. Research suggests that poor tracking of individual and team metrics is often the primary cause for low sales performance.

To achieve its full potential, a sales team needs to have reliable data available for analysis. While simple in theory, this is often trickier in practice, particularly for teams in which CRM adoption is relatively low.

For those teams, Mike recommends they make the move from CRM to DRM, from “Could Really Matter” to “Does Really Matter,” by ensuring that the CRM implementation, policies, and usage benefits the sales reps, as well as management.

In addition, most B2B sales organizations track team performance by focusing on low level activities such as the number of calls made or emails sent by sales person. And while the quality of these activities is often hard to measure, they can have a direct impact on how sales managers assess their team’s performance.

To address declining team performance many organizations turn to performance management programs. Dealing with performance improvement initiatives can often be challenging for certain sales organizations. When presented with more scientific approaches to sales management, sales leaders tend to stick to their tried and tested ways.

Spend More Time Coaching and Less Time Reporting

To help a sales team achieve its full potential, sales managers need to spend more time coaching and less time reporting. This can be complex at a collective level when a company has a culture that values “managing up” more than getting things done. This can also be challenging at the individual level because sales managers are typically gifted at selling, but not necessarily at managing and coaching.

Part of this, explains Mike, involves getting to know your team members better by measuring not their results vs. objectives, their activities (what and how much), and their sales methodology (how they do the activities – or the quality of the activities). Mike calls this the ROAM method (Results, Objectives, Activities and Methodology), which is a key part of his sales coaching system.

To improve team performance, you need to identify who needs coaching and what type of coaching is needed for each person, to close key performance gaps.

A simple way to do this is to measure conversion rate across the different pipeline stages. Create a dashboard of the recent historical averages of top, middle, and bottom producers and compare the conversion ratios to a specific sales team or individual. This will allow you to see how each rep on a given team is doing at each stage of the buying process and identify the biggest opportunities for improvement, whether it’s help with generating leads, moving deals from stage 2 to 3, or closing.

Management Needs Coaching Too

Sales managers often get caught up focusing on ‘making the numbers’ when sometimes it’s their very own skills that need improvement. Management coaching often gets neglected because senior leaders tend to operate with a specific playbook in mind that was developed in the past. But the right thing for a sales team to do yesterday may not be the best way forward today.

The biggest risk in sales management is failing to recognize that contexts, people and businesses change.


Use AI to Identify What Works

Sales leaders need to rethink how they support and enable their teams. Supporting an effective learning system is one way sales leaders can improve their team’s productivity.  Another way is to implement AI and machine learning to help isolate each factor that influences the sales process.

While there are a lot of tools to help sales reps be more productive, few are geared at helping sales teams as a whole. Implementing new sales tools and training salespeople to use them is far from trivial, emphasizes Mike. The key is to incorporate the tools and training into a coherent and usable process that helps sales professionals rather than drags them down. If they can achieve this, sales managers can make better business decisions and their teams can enjoy greater levels of effectiveness and success.

About Mike Kunkle

Mike Kunkle is an internationally recognized sales transformation, sales training and sales enablement expert.

Mike has spent 35 years in the sales profession and 25 years as a corporate leader or consultant, helping companies drive dramatic revenue growth through best-in-class training strategies and his proven-effective sales transformation methodologies. At one company, as a result of six projects, he and his team were credited with enabling an accretive $398MM in revenue, year-over-year. At another, within 9 months, newly-hired sales reps with 120 days on the job were outperforming incumbent reps with 5 years with the company. Mike is the founder of Transforming Sales Results, LLC, and today, works as the Vice President of Sales Enablement Services for SPARXiQ (formerly SPA & SPASIGMA), where he advises clients, writes, speaks at conferences, develops and leads webinars, designs sales training courses, delivers workshops, and designs sales enablement systems that get results.

You can connect with Mike on Linkedin and follow him on Twitter.


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AI-for-Sales Company Launches New Hidden Revenue Assessment

Cien Launches New Hidden Revenue Assessment

01Featured, Press ReleasesTags: , , , , November, 19

Dallas, TX, November 20th, 2019 – Cien Inc., a leading provider of AI-powered sales performance solutions, today announced the launch of its new Hidden Revenue Assessment.


Cien’s Hidden Revenue Assessment applies over 100+ AI models to a company’s CRM data to reveal the factors that are preventing their teams from achieving their sales quotas. Proprietary AI models automatically create “scorecards” that help identify issues in sales enablement, training and onboarding as well as provide a basis for more personalized coaching.


While other applications focus on quantitative factors that can be typically found in activity-based dashboards and KPIs, Cien’s assessments stand out by measuring qualitative and intangible factors and tie them back directly to a company’s revenue. Examples of intangible factors measured by Cien include skills such as a sales person’s ability to effectively engage customers, a propensity to focus on smaller deals, closing skills, product knowledge or work ethic.


This allows sales leaders to prioritize and track the financial impact of changing specific sales rep behaviors. Cien’s Hidden Revenue Assessment typically uncovers 15 to 20 percent of unrealized revenue due to gaps in selling skills or inefficient sales processes. To date, the company performs more than 117M sales-related predictions per day and has uncovered nearly $130M of unrealized revenue for B2B technology companies. 


One of those companies, Wide Eyes Technologies, a leading visual search provider for global Ecommerce companies, used Cien’s Hidden Revenue Assessment to identify their team’s individual strengths and weaknesses.


“With Cien, we are better able to understand where each salesperson needs to improve from a training, coaching and enablement perspective,” says Lisa Farioli, who runs the company’s sales operations.


Currently available to customers, Cien helps SaaS leaders from around the world get their sales teams to 100% quota attainment.


“When it comes to managing sales teams, it’s important to understand that no sales rep is created equal, and no opportunity is created equal,” explains Cien’s Co-founder and CEO Rob Käll.


Cien’s Hidden Revenue Assessment is easily accessible for qualifying companies. For more information visit




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outreach sales engagement cien podcast

Cien on Outreach’s Sales Engagement Podcast

00Blog: The Science of Sales, FeaturedTags: , , , , November, 19

“It’s not that a rep has to be amazing at everything. They just can’t be terrible at anything.” – Rob Käll, Cien CEO.

Cien’s CEO and co-founder, Rob Käll joined Joe Vignolo on Outreach’s Sales Engagement Podcast. is a leading sales engagement platform that accelerates revenue growth by optimizing interactions throughout the customer lifecycle.

In the podcast, Rob Käll explains how sales managers can find nuggets in their sales data to measure and improve rep productivity.

Rob and Joe discuss the validity of traditional measuring indicators, such as managers looking at the nature of calls and emails instead of just the numbers, as well as identifying and solving weak areas in reps, which can add more value to the company.

While you could be looking at traditional sales KPIs such as the number of connected calls, responded emails, opportunities created, meetings held, you run the risk of painting a distorted picture of what’s really going on in your sales team.

To understand your sales reps’ productivity, explains Rob Käll, you need a complete view of your sales environment, which you can get by looking at three distinct areas:

1. Lead and pipeline factors

These are the things that have been delivered by your marketing team. At times you have leads that are great quality and other times not.

2. People factors

These are softer metrics like, work ethic, product knowledge, closing ability and communication skills.

3. Macro factors

These are elements that are typically outside of your control but can still affect your ability to sell. These are factors such as competitive pressures, seasonality or business cycles.

While all three of factors can be challenging to measure, applying machine learning and natural language processing to your CRM data can help you understand how your sales team is performing in these areas.


“Cien’s goal isn’t to replace Salesforce or, but to help you understand how your team can move the needle.”


Tune into the full episode to uncover what Rob has to say about how productivity should be defined, measured and how to achieve predictable growth.


episode 49 sales engagement podcast

Time Stamps

  • Sales Productivity: 2:02
  • Hidden KPIs: 3:06
  • Measuring Indicators: 5:06
  • Advice to Sales Leaders: 6:47
  • About Cien: 9:12
  • What Sales Managers Can Do: 11:36
  • Productivity Results: 14:56
  • Takeaway: 17:52

You can connect with Rob on LinkedIn or Twitter.


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