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Is Your Sales Process Sales Ready? w/ Jim Ninivaggi [Episode 614]

Jim Ninivaggi, Chief Readiness Officer at Brainshark, Inc., joins me on this episode.


  • Jim says the single biggest challenge facing sales reps today is not having learned the core basic fundamental skills. Jim learned sales in an era of intensive training. Reps today are expected to know basics — but they don’t.
  • Having a sales process is not the same as knowing how to engage another human being and connect with them using fundamental behaviors that build relationships. It’s not easy to know the skills required to sell successfully.
  • Habits precede skills. Demonstrating empathy is a necessary habit. These habits are not being taught. Jim teaches salespeople to open a call as he learned at Xerox.
  • Recent research says small talk is absolutely an essential part of building a relationship. LinkedIn and Facebook can provide material for conversation. People want to know, like, and trust you. A relationship allows that.
  • The sales profession has an issue where sellers believe they are selling to personas, not to people. Framing a person as a persona leads to assumptions that may be false. Personas are only outlines. Know the person.
  • Brainshark is a sales readiness software platform that creates learning content for sales reps so they are ready to articulate the right messages to their customers. Jim’s makes sure his own customer-facing staff is ready to sell.
  • Jim is sure he’s the first and only Chief Readiness Officer. More should follow. Andy shares an example of the influence of a customer service rep. All customer-facing staff are important to customer acquisition and retention.
  • Readiness needs to be at the heart of an organization, relating to establishing and deepening customer relationships. Feel urgency at each contact. Maximize the value of each interaction. Ask if you satisfied their needs.
  • A selling culture is a service culture. How are we connecting with someone to be in a place to help them? A rep who is not ready and does poorly in an interaction hurts the brand and there is a cost to the company.
  • A rep needs to know how a customer makes a decision. Andy cites Herbert Simon’s work on decision-making with maximizers and satisficers. Jim talks about who drives the sales process with an example.
  • At each phase of the buying process, ask how you can simplify the decision-making process for the customer to get to the next phase or to buy. What does the buyer need? Can a legal review be initiated earlier, for example?
  • Andy notes the ‘oral traditions’ of the sales cycle. Don’t assume but ask the customer how much time they need at each phase. Consider when the customer expects and needs to make a decision.