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5 Best Insights I Picked Up from Sales Leaders at Dreamforce

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DreamforceTradeshowHere’s what I learned at one of the biggest sales events of the year.

Dreamforce? A great sales event? That all depends on the effort you put in. It’s up to you to network with clients and prospects, meet new people, and attend sessions to learn from top sales leaders.

Of course, being a sales event, this year’s Dreamforce included the usual annoyances: Marketing speakers who said maddeningly naive things about sales. (“Marketing has a direct line to the customer without going to sales”? Did I hear that right?) And pesky salespeople at the Expo who pressured me to let them scan my badge so they could spam me for the rest of eternity. (Not happening.)

But overall, Dreamforce is always a great experience. This year’s event was even more exciting than usual, because Salesforce included multiple sessions on women in sales, driving home the point that our profession needs more women, and that saleswomen have what it takes to be rainmakers.  #WomenSellDF15

Here are five of my favorite insights from Dreamforce ‘15 and partner events:

1. Diversity pays dividends.

Lori Richardson led a panel of experts for “The Payoff for More Women in Sales.” They shared hard data that proves diversity of opinions creates new opportunities for sales teams, and makes everyone more successful. Elizabeth Graham of Thomson Reuters also shared insights into what motivates women. Want to help saleswomen succeed? She says sales leaders must provide positive reinforcement and encouragement for women in sales to be their best selves. (Learn more.)

2. Success in sales requires grit.

At the Sales Loft Bold Brunch, Kristina McMillan—a sales development practice leader for TOPO—outlined five attributes that make women in sales successful. My favorite was “grit”—having the mental toughness and perseverance to stay the course and make bold moves. She recounted her experience in track and field. After hours of practice, most everyone left. Who was left in the weight room? The top performing women. That’s grit. (The other four attributes include preparation, ability to listen, empathy, and relationships.)

3. Sales is ever-evolving, so sales leaders must transform the way their teams work.

In his presentation, “Get Ready for a New Kind of Customer Success,” Salesforce founder and CEO Marc Benioff spoke about transformation. He says this is where sales leaders and CEOs must spend time; they must lead with transformation and a spirit that resonates throughout the company. (Watch the video.)

It’s really the same when shifting to referral selling. Transformation is a big word, but it’s accurate. Business transformation doesn’t happen with the click of a switch, an order to subordinates, or telling salespeople they should ask for referrals. Unless referral selling is adopted as a significant strategy to drive revenue, followed by skills building and ongoing reinforcement and accountability, nothing changes.

4. Salespeople must be lifelong students.

Want salespeople to succeed? Coach, coach, coach. Trish Bertuzzi, president of The Bridge Group, said learning is the new coin of the realm. She also warns sales leaders to watch out for “WTF,” wasted technology funds. (Watch the video.)

My favorite part of every day is learning something new. It might be during a conversation with a prospect or client, reading an article or a printed book (yes, I still do that), listening to children, or speaking with colleagues. If we’re not learning, we’re dead. I opt for the former.

5. Relationships still seal the deal.

While most Dreamforce speakers talked about the power of sales technology, the Brainshark panel at the InsideView Open Lounge focused on people. CEO Joe Gustafson used sports analogies to describe sales readiness. Others cited the importance of being nimble and agile, fostering a culture of curiosity, focusing on the customer rather than yourself, and teaching new sales reps about your buyers—their problems and needs—before you put them to work.

I couldn’t agree more. When you focus on your buyers and spend time getting to know them, you build relationships that drive sales and result in referrals to other great clients.

BONUS: Women rock at sales.

Barry Trailer of CSO Insights joined me for my Dreamforce presentation: “Big Deals and High Heels™: Why Women Are Naturals at Selling.” We talked about the differences in how men and women’s brains are “wired,” why those differences matter, and what unique qualities make women rock stars at selling. The big takeaway: Sales leaders must help both sexes adjust their communication to be heard, understood, and get work done. (Watch the video.)

If you missed the big event, you can view most of the sessions online.

Connect with No More Cold Calling

Follow Joanne on Google+ or Twitter @ReferralSales, or connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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