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CustomerCentric Selling® Sales Training Blog

Sales Tips: Avoid "Inbounditis"

Posted by Jill Perez on May 25, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Avoid "Inbounditis"

By Frank Visgatis, President & Chief Operating Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

sales tips for handling inbound leadsWhen you combine the availability of information via the Internet, blogs, discussion groups, LinkedIn, etc., over the last several years and couple it with the much touted “research” that has supposedly documented that 60% of the buying cycle is now completed prior to a salesperson being contacted and you get the perfect formula for “inbounditis.”

Inbounditis is the disease that causes salespeople to abandon proactive prospecting activities and simply spend their time responding to inbound inquiries.

While it’s always nice (and easy) to talk to people who want to talk to you, I would suggest that it is not always the best use of your time. Typically the person reaching out is a mid-to-low level individual who has either been tasked with simply gathering information or, in many cases, undertaken an “evaluation” with no authorization by senior management and, therefore, no real funding secured internally.

Think about trying this approach: The next time you get a web inquiry or an email from an alleged “prospect,” look at the name of the company, go online and identify three or four senior executives from that company and then proactively prospect to them rather than simply responding to the initial request for information. If there is a real evaluation underway, the executives will likely be aware of it. You may very well get delegated back to that person who initially reached out to you, but at least you will have established some visibility with the real decision makers. 

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Topics: sales tips, sales pipelines, sales pipeline, selling tips, sales process, sales approach, selling process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique, selling approach, inbound sales

Sales Tips: How to Clean Your Pipeline

Posted by Jill Perez on May 18, 2016 2:16:25 PM

Sales Tips: How to Clean Your Sales Pipeline

By Frank Visgatis, President & Chief Operating Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

cleaning your sales pipelineIt’s officially Spring. In addition to getting your yard and outdoor areas ready for the (eventual) warm weather, I’d suggest that you think about doing some “spring cleaning” with your pipeline as well.

Too often as the months pass by, the same “opportunities” roll over from month to month to month. I have seen some salespeople’s pipelines that have deals in them that started in the Clinton administration. Rather than delude yourself for eight or nine more months, think about scrubbing your pipeline now so that if you need to start rebuilding, you are doing it sooner rather than later.

A simple way to “sanitize” your pipeline is to follow this process:

1. Select your top 5 or 10 opportunities.

2. For each of those opportunities, ask these questions:

a. Did I find them, or did they find me?

b. If they found me, how am I differentiating myself from my competition?

c. Do I know what is driving their evaluation at a business level?

d. Do I have a good understanding of their current situation (i.e. how they do things today without your offering)?

e. Do they believe that our offering will help them achieve their goals, solve their problems and/or satisfy their needs?

f. Have I established a business case that justifies them spending money with me?

g. Am I dealing with just one person, or have I gained access to all of the key stakeholders?

h. If I am dealing with just one person, is that person willing to help me get access to the other stakeholders?

i. Have we established a mutually agreed-to plan that documents the steps of their evaluation and their desired timeline for implementation?

Pro Tip: If you can’t answer one or more of these questions, or you don’t like some of the answers you’re coming up with, consider qualifying the deal out of your pipeline before you spend the next six months only to get bad news anyway. 

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Topics: sales tips, sales pipelines, sales pipeline, selling tips, sales process, sales approach, selling process, crm, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique, selling approach, pipeline management

Sales Tips: Time to Revisit Your Sales Process

Posted by Jill Perez on May 18, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Time to Revisit Your Sales Process

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Over the weekend I gave thought to changes in buying behavior. It prompted me to wonder if companies have modified their sales process milestones developed in the 90’s and imbedded them into their CRM software? I’d guess few companies have gone through that exercise. I was surprised to realize it’s probably okay but vendors should consider incorporating steps from customer buying processes into their sales processes.

When you step back, a company’s sales process is a roadmap representing the most efficient way to lead to buying decisions. If there is adequate value, this approach provides good outcomes for customers and vendors. If not, it’s better for both parties to find out sooner rather than later. The steps defined years ago are likely still valid. It’s the entry points that may have changed.

sales processLet me over-simplify by outlining a top-down selling process: 

  • Initiate contact at an executive level, uncover desired business goals, determine the capabilities that can allow goals to be achieved, quantify value, and gain access to other people that would be involved in the buying decision.
  • Interview stakeholders to quantify value and then present an enterprise view of estimated cost vs. benefit to the executives interviewed.
  • If potential value is sufficient, work with lower levels to get granular about offerings, implementation, support, etc. This amounts to a detailed product evaluation to determine fit and cost.
  • Present a proposal with a detailed cost vs. benefit analysis and ask the buying committee to make a decision.

Selling doesn’t have to be a zero sum game. Both parties continue only if sufficient value warrants the commitment of resources to proceed with the evaluation. Deep product dives without strong businesses cases make no sense.

Since Y2K, many changes in buying behavior have been fueled by a desire to avoid being taken advantage of by sellers and vendors. This was made possible by the volume of product information posted on websites (vendor opinions) and social networking that provided buyers transparent information from trusted people about offerings, service, support, etc. I believe researchers have made life more difficult for their companies and vendors invited to participate in product “bake-offs.”

researchersSales cycles begun by researchers diverge from the optimal sequence of a sales process and often skip steps. When prospect companies begin product evaluations, mid to lower level staff start doing searches in a given space to identify vendors to evaluate and begin to determine which features/capabilities should be part of their requirements list. 

Ironically this behavior mirrors the selling behavior of mediocre salespeople. They start at low levels and engage in premature product discussions. Since launching CustomerCentric Selling® in 2002, we’ve said the most common reasons for “no decision” outcomes are:

  • Failure to identify desired business outcomes
  • Failure to create visions of the capabilities needed to achieve outcomes
  • Failure to identify value
  • Failure to gain access to power
  • No agreed-upon plan for how offerings will be evaluated 

Competent sellers recognize that when contacted by researchers it’s likely they will have to: 

  • Learn the high-level requirements and determine if their offering provides them.
  • Learn the enterprise business goals and the value of achieving them.
  • For each goal, learn what capabilities relevant to achieving the goal have been identified.
  • Do a thorough diagnosis to uncover new capabilities.
  • Qualify a champion to provide access to Key Players.

These sellers realize the entry point (product evaluation) is further downstream than it should be. It will be necessary to go backward before moving forward if the buyer is willing. The selling steps are the same, but the order has changed. It will be more difficult to gain access to Key Players. Without a champion, walking away from opportunities may well be the best course of action.

While well intentioned, researchers and mediocre sellers waste their organizations’ time, effort and resources. They vary from the prescribed approach defined in a sales process. Product evaluations should only be done after adequate potential value has been identified. This approach benefits both parties. 

Sales Book

Need some help to increase sales? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to get started and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

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Topics: sales tips, selling tips, sales process, sales approach, selling process, crm, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique, selling approach

Sales Tips: Benefits of a Defined Sales Process

Posted by Jill Perez on May 12, 2016 3:42:11 PM

Sales Tips: Benefits of a Defined Sales Process

By Gary Walker, EVP of Channel Sales & Operations, CustomerCentric Selling®

Increase Sales“Are there any benefits to following a defined sales process?” 

Would you agree that most salespeople typically hate to be held to a documented/prescribed sales process? Would you also agree that regardless of the direction and training they have been given, they prefer to do what they have always done - with or without the desired success?

Unfortunately, we are creatures of habit. It takes courage to change. But for salespeople and their management, with the courage to adopt and follow a defined ‘customer-centric’ sales process, there are many benefits, such as:

  • Understanding where the prospect is in their evaluation/buying process 
  • Following a set of clearly defined steps, sales best practices, that take the prospect from interest development to closure
  • Improved productivity/efficiency 
  • Improved personal sales effectiveness
  • Reduced cost of sale
  • Improved forecasting accuracy
  • Increased WIN rates
    • In a report published by CSO Insights entitled Optimizing Sales Performance for the High Tech Market, sales organizations that adopt and implement a defined sales process where sales rep adoption is actively managed and changes to the process are made proactively as needed, enjoy a WIN rate of  55.2% compared to 40% to those that don’t.

Do yourself, your sales team and your company a favor. Invest in adopting and implementing a defined sales process. The potential benefits to everyone are HUGE.

You can click here to contact us and learn about our sales process for your sales team, or you can click the image below to view our available public workshops.

Sales Training Workshops

Need some help to increase sales? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to get started and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

Read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

Topics: sales tips, selling tips, sales process, sales approach, selling process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique, selling approach

Sales Tips: How to Differentiate Yourself with Senior Executives

Posted by Jill Perez on May 11, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Differentiate Yourself with Senior Executives

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

sales tips to stand out from competitorsIf sellers are unfamiliar with a vendor they are competing with some companies have competitive analysis groups to help with positioning. They often arm sellers with “knock-offs” (specific features they feel are advantages). The danger of this approach is two-fold: 

  1. The differentiators are the opinions of the vendor, not necessarily the buyers’
  2. Focusing on a handful of features can interfere with sellers doing a good job of selling their offerings

Today’s reality is that development times and product cycles are getting compressed. Professor Rita Gunther McGrath of Columbia Business School [who was a guest in Episode 19 of our Sales Rehab podcast] has written books on the subject and indicates that long-term sustainable competitive product advantages are the exception rather than the rule. 

Even if a vendor enjoyed a product advantage, it would be hard to leverage it when calling at very high levels. Consider a seller calling on a CFO to sell a hosted CRM offering. I’d venture to say that as sellers climb the ladders of prospect organizations the calls should become less product-intense. The calls four CRM vendors would make on a CFO would sound hauntingly similar. Few executive buyers will tolerate sellers getting granular about product differences.

So what IS a differentiator?

One of the few sustainable competitive advantages is providing superior buying experiences for executive buyers. This can be achieved by doing these six (6) things:

  1. Discovering business outcomes they would like to achieve
  2. Helping them understand why outcomes are difficult to achieve in their current environment
  3. Presenting only the capabilities relevant to address the barriers to achieving the goal
  4. Establishing value
  5. Empowering buyers to achieve the desired goal(s)
  6. Integrating the executive’s buying process with the vendor’s selling process

It used to be that if all things were fairly equal (price, product, etc.) the better salesperson would win the lion’s share of opportunities. Today I believe vendors (website, messaging and sales approach) that provide superior buying experiences are most likely to prevail.  

If you'd like to hear our podcast with Rita Gunther McGrath as well as our latest episode with Ken Allred and other notable guests, click the image below to download all episode for FREE from iTunes.

Ken Allred joins Sales Rehab with Frank Visgatis

Need some help to increase sales? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to get started and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

Read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

Topics: sales tips, selling tips, sales process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique, sales advantage, selling advantage, sales differentiators, selling differentiators, competitive advantage

Sales Tips: WHY Do Sellers Lose?

Posted by Jill Perez on May 4, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: WHY Do Sellers Lose?

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Understanding Sales LossesOften times after a painful loss (large transaction/long sales cycle), sellers will be asked to find out why they lost in hopes of getting smarter about things to do or avoid. While that all seems to be logical, it is difficult to find out why a seller loses.

Informing sellers that they’ve lost in an odd way is analogous to trying to make a clean break from someone you were dating in school. The person who wants to end the relationship tries to leave little room for discussion. One of the more effective techniques in achieving this goal was for the person wanting to end the relationship to say, “I’m not good enough. You deserve better.” or another commonly used excuse, “It’s not you, it’s me.” This leaves virtually nothing to talk about or discuss, is self-deprecating and places no blame on the person being dumped.

In a similar fashion when a company has evaluated 4 vendors and chooses the winner, they have to deliver bad news to the other 3 vendors and want to do it in a way that closes things down quickly. To start, a white lie softens the blow: “We’ve chosen another vendor but wanted you to know it was a difficult decision and unfortunately you came in second.” While usually unaware, it’s as though all eliminated vendors wind up in a 3-way tie. The most common reasons given are: 

  • “The pricing was very close. If only you had been a little cheaper.” Some sellers take this at face value and blame price for the loss. When you step back, had you been the vendor of choice you would have been given a chance to ”sharpen your pencil.” In my mind the only time sellers can blame price for losses is when the buyer gave them a number that they couldn’t meet.

  • Another way to let sellers down is to say: “It was a hard decision. If only you had (a feature name) this could have had a different outcome. That’s why I chose Vendor A and you were a close second.” Once again it may be time to step back. If you spend a great deal of time in this opportunity and didn't realize there was a key feature that you were missing, then this opportunity wasn’t qualified.

Beyond that there are times when the feature cited wasn’t the cause of the loss. My view is that many sellers file loss reports and are relieved to be able to pass along features as reasons for losses. Sadly, there are occasions where changes in offerings are made that won’t make much of a difference.

One of my Partners says in all of his years in selling, he has never met Column C. Most of the time I believe the primary reason opportunities are lost is that sellers get out-sold. Rest assured, few if any buyers would share that with a salesperson. Most people will choose to avoid uncomfortable conversations.

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Need some help to increase sales? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to get started and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

Read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

Topics: sales tips, selling tips, sales process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique, loss reports, sales losses

Sales Tips: Different Media, Same Results

Posted by Jill Perez on Apr 26, 2016 12:00:00 PM

Sales Tips: Different Media, Same Results

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

sales tips for types of buyers and leadsTwo decades ago tradeshows were in vogue. Especially technology companies who enthusiastically spent millions of dollars from renting space, setting up booths, time and travel for personnel to staff them, collateral, demo equipment etc. Few vendors gave thought to the fact that the vast majority of attendees were interested in products. People visiting booths had little or no desire to learn about what if any potential payback or value could be realized. Visitors to booths were not executives and were unable to fund unbudgeted initiatives. 

The true beneficiaries of these tradeshows were vendors that had hot, disruptive technologies. As Geoffrey Moore (Crossing the Chasm, Inside The Tornado and other books) would tell you, Early Market buyers tend to find you. Many times they realize potential areas of benefit that the vendor itself was unaware of. Finding or being found by Early Market buyers (Innovators and Early Adopters) is a rare case where leading with offerings is the right thing to do. 

Mr. Moore would also tell you that 80-85% of the potential revenue for offerings would come from Mainstream Market buyers (Early Majority, Late Majority and Laggards). These people and companies aren’t ready to buy until: 

  • An offering “crosses the chasm” with several beachhead customers in a given segment
  • Offerings/vendors are perceived as being stable/viable
  • Vendors can provide strong references
  • Vendors can show detailed cost vs. benefit analyses to justify expenditures

In stark contrast, Early Market buyers readily take risks with unproven offerings that offer strong payback. They believe implementing offerings early can provide competitive advantages. Mainstream Market buyers fear making mistakes and wait until it appears an offering has become or appears to have the potential to become an industry standard. Chances to “boldly go where few have gone before” will paralyze them with fear. Evaluations will be deferred until several other companies have bought. A frequent outcome when Mainstream Market buyers evaluate Early Market offerings is “no decision.”

Following up on the “treasure trove of bingo cards” for tradeshows that drew technical staff was a horrible misuse of sellers’ time. Some visitors visited booths because they were enticed by trinkets or T-shirts (adult trick or treating?). In the clear light of day, these were poor entry points with people that couldn’t buy, were primarily interested in offerings and had little or no interest in potential value. The net results were “bottom-up” sales campaigns where sellers struggled to gain access to people that could see value and find budget.

I’ve always despised tradeshows. In my sales career I had the misfortune of having to man booths a few times. It felt demeaning and was tremendously unrewarding. Later, on behalf of my clients as a sales consultant, I hated tradeshows because they confuse activity with progress and seldom deliver the desired bump in top-line revenue.

Fast forward to today. Thankfully tradeshows aren’t nearly as common as they once were. Sadly, they in many ways aren’t necessary because they’ve been replaced with a cheaper medium: Website “leads” that in my mind are electronic bingo cards providing the same low entry points and low close rates.

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Need some help to increase sales? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to get started and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

Read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

Topics: sales tips, selling tips, sales process, business development, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique

Sales Tips: The Advantage of Being Delegated DOWN

Posted by Jill Perez on Apr 21, 2016 3:51:40 PM

Sales Tips: The Advantage of Being Delegated DOWN

By Gary Walker, EVP of Channel Sales & Operations, CustomerCentric Selling®

Sales Tips for being delegated down“When prospecting, is there any advantage to being delegated down?”

I just recently conducted two Prospecting & Business Development Work Sessions, one in Seattle and another in Atlanta. This particular question came up in both sessions while we were discussing who salespeople should be targeting, attempting to engage with (remember, you can’t sell to someone who can’t buy) and how difficult it is.

If you can speak with the senior person you’re targeting and attempting to engage with, that is a WIN. If in attempting to reach that senior executive you get delegated down to someone else within the prospect organization, you should also consider that a WIN. Why? Because the #1 reason given by senior executives for engaging with a salesperson they don’t know is: A referral from someone within inside the company. 84% of executives surveyed indicated they would accept a meeting/call when the referral comes from someone within their company.

By calling high and getting ‘delegated down’ you have in effect created your own ‘referral’. Unfortunately, most salespeople don’t know what to do next. I’m instructing you to send a Request a Meeting to the person you have been delegated to. In the subject line and body of the Request a Meeting, indicate who referred you to them, along with the high probability issue or triggering event you would like to discuss. Pre-call planning goes a long way here.

If the person declines or ignores your Meeting Request, you have the right to go back to the senior executive who delegated you down/referred you initially and ask them to intercede on your behalf.

I hope you found this tactical Sales Thought helpful. Give it a try and let me know how it works for you: gwalker@customercentric.com 

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Topics: sales tips, selling tips, sales process, sales prospecting, prospecting, prospecting skills, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique

Sales Tips: Don't Be Blinded by "Bingo Cards"

Posted by Jill Perez on Apr 19, 2016 1:29:40 PM

Sales Tips: Don't Be Blinded by "Bingo Cards"

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Years ago I had just taught my first workshop for a client. During the class when covering the Business Development module, I emphasized how few attendees of tradeshows were actually buyers. Many quickly found a vendor giving out bags and then were ready for what amounted to adult trick or treating. Their interest was in learning about offerings rather than improving business results.

sales tips for handling website leadsThe net was that following up on “bingo cards” from tradeshows was a great waste of time for salespeople with few of these calls starting buying cycles. At the first break, someone from Marketing informed me they had signed up for a booth at a telecom trade show attended mostly by technical staff. He asked advice as to how to get something from the money that would be spent.

My suggestion was to have some attractive T-shirts printed and do a “quid pro quo” with attendees. In order to get a shirt, attendees had to answer a brief questionnaire that went something like:

The last time your telecom system crashed. what title within your organization complained the most and how did they say their business day was disrupted?

They took that approach and after the show shared with me they had gotten fewer “leads” than in past years, but were more optimistic because they did have some executive titles and valid business issues that had been mentioned.

Fast-forward to today and my suggestion is to realize that if you are selling complex/expensive offerings, website visitors are not optimal entry points. A few suggestions:

  • While nurturing, try to introduce business issues and titles that may be impacted.
  • Understand that these contacts probably should serve as coaches in introducing sellers to their managers and potentially higher levels.
  • If/when asked for references/demos/tech support conversations, realize the potential for getting access to higher levels in exchange for the resources you allocate.

Without being able to access higher levels, many website leads are the electronic equivalent of bingo cards from tradeshows.

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Need some help to increase sales? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to get started and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

Read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

Topics: sales tips, selling tips, sales process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique

Sales Tips: How "Hurt and Rescue" Leads Naturally to Your Offerings

Posted by Jill Perez on Apr 13, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: "Hurt and Rescue" Earns You the Right to Talk Product with Executive Buyers

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

sales tips for hurt and rescue sales approachI’d like to share a few observations about average salespeople. I believe they: 

  • Talk too much
  • Talk mostly about their products/offerings
  • Don’t ask enough questions

This shouldn’t come as a great surprise to companies that hire them and immediately subject sellers to product training. Unless sellers know better and can convert what they learned into a coherent 30-minute call on business people, product training points them in the direction of making product pitches.

Executive level buyers have neither the time nor interest to learn all about offerings (tolerate “pitches”). Superior sellers realize that during calls a more effective sequence is to:

  1. Have buyers conclude sellers are sincere and competent
  2. Uncover business outcomes buyers would like to improve
  3. Help buyers understand why they can’t achieve the desired results
  4. Only present features that are relevant to achieving the desired goals

This nets out to being more patient than most sellers by asking questions to find out a buyer’s current situation and listening to the answers. By uncovering needs, sellers earn the right to talk about relevant features/capabilities.

Expose the Hurt and Offer the Rescue
Ultimately, Sales can be viewed as a “hurt and rescue” exercise. By that I mean having buyers share goals they can’t achieve and helping them understand why their current approach is “broken.” After doing so, empower/rescue them by helping them understand the specific capabilities they need. This approach should yield superior buying experiences and can be a differentiator when offerings and pricing are similar. 

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Need some help to increase sales? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to get started and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

Read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

Topics: sales tips, selling tips, sales process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique

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