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CustomerCentric Selling® Sales Training Blog

Sales Tips: Garbage In, Garbage Out

Posted by Jill Perez on Feb 22, 2017 12:15:00 PM

Sales Tips: Grading Opportunities - Garbage In, Garbage Out

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

grading pipeline opportunitiesAs computers proliferated, a new acronym was coined to summarize what was probably the biggest challenge to IT:

GIGO (Garbage In - Garbage Out)

Ultimately programs process data by executing rigid rules. In doing so, inaccurate data will provide flawed information that management will use to make decisions.

The major reason Sales Force Automation (SFA) failed was that technology absent process merely speeds up the mess. Sellers that were below quota would enter unqualified opportunities to artificially inflate their pipelines. While often glossed over, the fact is that salespeople were the data entry people for SFA software. It ultimately produced neater looking reports that were just as far off the mark as the spreadsheets that had been used. 

By the mid-90’s SFA needed to die and was replaced by CRM. At that time I worked with a CRM vendor. During a workshop I was teaching I asked the VP Sales (Phil) if he was using their offering to forecast. He gave me an enthusiastic “yes,” fired up his laptop and told me that he was within about 5% of his forecast every quarter.

Entering Pipeline OpportunitiesHe then proceeded to tell me he had defined seven (7) pipeline milestones. From the first month of being hired, each rep’s historical close rate at each milestone was captured. Moving forward for each rep they multiplied the total revenue at each stage by the historical close rate to create revenue forecast. He was proud to show me his approach.

At this point I asked him: 

Phil, do your sellers tell prospects they’ll have similar forecast accuracy rates?

After he agreed I asked him HOW that would happen. He asked what I meant. At that point I told him the reason his forecasts were so accurate was that his system knew how inaccurate each seller had been in the past. Instead of him making “seat of the pants” guesses as to how much to discount the forecast, the software was doing that based upon each rep’s history. It would take months for new clients to capture the data that was needed. Whenever a new hire joined or new offerings were brought to market, data would have to be captured before the CRM software could make accurate projections. 

Most systems have ways to edit data to eliminate errors. Leaving grading of opportunities up to salespeople is dangerous until you understand how over-optimistic they are over time.

In my mind, once bad opportunities enter pipelines they have a way of lingering. In my next article I’ll discuss how first level sales managers should be grading opportunities based upon buyer actions rather than seller opinions.

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Topics: Sales Training, sales tips, sales forecasts, sales forecasting, sales pipelines, sales pipeline, selling tips, sales strategy, sales training workshop, sales training workshops, Sales managers, sales management, sales process, sales methodology, sales process management, sales coaching, sales team, sales training company, improve sales performance, sales training success, sales training methodology, sales approach, sales training approach, sales training methodology approach, sales skills, selling skills, selling strategy, increase revenue, improved sales performance

Sales Tips: No More Excuses

Posted by Jill Perez on Feb 20, 2017 3:31:24 PM

Sales Tips: No More Excuses for Coming Up Short

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

Losing Seller"I could have won that business. If only I had a lower price."

Pricing that was too high and/or lack of some particular feature or function are often the reasons given by prospects to salespeople after having competed for and lost a potential piece of business. That information is then relayed back to sales management either via a formal Loss Report or through a post sales ‘autopsy’ discussion. After hearing this common theme a number of times, a responsive product development staff may decide that the ‘missing feature’ that was being blamed for the loss will be placed on a list of ‘required enhancements’ for inclusion in the next product release. Sales and marketing management, in an attempt to be responsive, may change its pricing or give their salespeople more pricing flexibility when competing for new business. And what happens?

Salespeople continue to compete and lose at the same rate. Why?

Because, in the final analysis: It was never price or feature/function. The salesperson was simply outsold.

In an attempt to make my point, let me ask you two (2) questions:

1. How many times have you competed for a piece of business and lost that business to a more expensive product? That’s right, they could have bought your product for less money, but opted for a more expensive product.

2. How many times have you lost a piece of business to a competitor's inferior offeringYours was better in almost every respect, but the prospect chose your competitor's offering.

If you answered those two questions honestly, what conclusion did you reach?

Reality: Prospects don’t buy the cheapest and they don’t buy the best. They buy what best meets their particular needs and requirements. That is the essence of CustomerCentric Selling®.

Now the question becomes, do you want your salespeople to function at a superior level and win more business? Or if you're a salesperson reading this, do you want to arm yourself with the sales skills, strategies, and tactics to become better, more successful, and a more valuable salesperson to your employer? If you do, then I'd like to invite you to join me in Denver, March 7-10th for my first public CustomerCentric Selling® workshop of 2017 that is open to everyone. I currently have only six (6) seats remaining in this workshop so you will need to register today. To register now, click this link or click below.

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Topics: Sales Training, sales tips, sales forecasts, sales forecasting, sales pipelines, sales pipeline, selling tips, sales strategy, sales training workshop, sales training workshops, Sales managers, sales management, sales process, sales methodology, sales process management, sales coaching, sales team, sales training company, improve sales performance, sales training success, sales training methodology, sales approach, sales training approach, sales training methodology approach, sales skills, selling skills, selling strategy, increase revenue, improved sales performance

Sales Tips: Quantity vs. Quality in Sales Pipelines

Posted by Jill Perez on Feb 15, 2017 12:00:00 PM

Sales Tips: Quantity vs. Quality and Making Sales Numbers

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Activity vs. ProgressAt the start of my sales career my manager set targets for me for how many calls per week to make, how many proposals per month to issue, the number of cold prospecting calls that should be made each week, etc. I was forbidden to be in the office between the hours of 9 AM and 4 PM. While this structure was helpful in most respects, Jeff dictated the quantity of work and even though I was unaware at the start, it was up to me to improve the quality of my efforts. The hope of all this activity was that it would yield quota performance or better.

At the start of the fourth quarter each year, the branch had weekly performance review meetings until everyone had made quota for the year. I subsequently learned my manager had a bonus for having every seller make the performance club. Some of the review meetings were brutal. Each salesperson had to discuss their top 3 opportunities. People soon learned that being honest during a meeting by saying you didn’t have 3 deals to discuss was unacceptable. Some of the most creative selling was done to convince the manager that numbers would be made.

As a sales manager I noticed something curious… 

Sellers that made their numbers had fewer, more highly qualified opportunities in their pipelines. 

If you added up all of the transactions for a seller NOT making his/her numbers, it would approach the GDP of some small nations. Of course, the problem was that most of the opportunities weren’t qualified.

I believe the most significant thing a sales manager can do for sellers is have them realize the difference between activity and progress during buying cycles.

The worst possible use of a seller’s time is going the distance and losing to another vendor or to no decision. Pursuing opportunities that aren’t qualified can keep a manager off a seller’s back for a time, but not for the long term. 

If a higher percentage of sellers realized the difference between activity and progress, pipelines throughout the world would yield higher revenue.

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Topics: Sales Training, sales tips, sales forecasts, sales forecasting, sales pipelines, sales pipeline, selling tips, sales strategy, sales training workshop, sales training workshops, Sales managers, sales management, sales process, sales methodology, sales process management, sales coaching, sales team, sales training company, improve sales performance, sales training success, sales training methodology, sales approach, sales training approach, sales training methodology approach, sales skills, selling skills, selling strategy, increase revenue, improved sales performance

Sales Tips: Enabling Excellence

Posted by Jill Perez on Feb 7, 2017 2:56:45 PM

Sales Tips: Achieving Excellence through Process

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Sales ExcellenceHaving watched Sunday’s Super Bowl, it was an amazing comeback driven by a coach who is being acknowledged as being the GOAT (greatest of all time). The Patriots don’t typically spend big money for “A Player” free agents. Bill Belichick has a way of breaking down the role of each position into teachable components. If and when injuries arise (or free agent defections occur) there’s no panic. The next man up usually fills in admirably. 

The lifeblood of organizations is top-line revenue. It isn’t and shouldn’t just be up to the Sales organization. 

Product Development, Product Marketing, Marketing and Sales all play a role in the overall result. The closer Product Development can be to having offerings that address buyer and market needs, the easier it is for top-line revenue objectives to be achieved. I suppose it is the equivalent of the Patriots’ General Manager providing Belichick the talent pool needed to be competitive. 

Of the four organizations I mentioned, the largest headcount is often the Sales staff. A survey by Sales Benchmark Index found that having a sales process can allow organizations to: 

  • Achieving Top-line Revenue Increase win rates from 19% to 33%
  • Increase average selling price by 10%
  • Shorten sale cycles

The four (4) prerequisites to having a sales process to allow B/C Players to emulate A Players are:

  1. Standard milestones for the various types of transactions sellers must achieve
  2. A standard skill set for salespeople
  3. Sales ready messaging® to position offerings specific to titles and desired business outcomes
  4. Defined buyer actions so that sales managers can grade opportunities without solely having to rely upon seller opinions

In the same way Bill Belichick gets more out of his players by having them execute plays using a standard approach, so it is sales process can allow organizations to have A, B and C Players perform at higher levels. In the process they can make a superior buying experience a differentiator.

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Topics: Sales Training, sales tips, sales forecasts, sales forecasting, sales pipelines, sales pipeline, selling tips, sales strategy, sales training workshop, sales training workshops, Sales managers, sales management, sales process, sales methodology, sales process management, sales coaching, sales team, sales training company, improve sales performance, sales training success, sales training methodology, sales approach, sales training approach, sales training methodology approach, sales skills, selling skills, selling strategy, increase revenue, improved sales performance

Sales Tips: Quality Control and Seller Productivity

Posted by Jill Perez on Jan 30, 2017 3:29:59 PM

Sales Tips: Determining "Forecast" vs. "Sunshine Pump"

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Technology and Productivity ImprovementsFor decades, companies have strived to improve productivity and reduce costs through the use of technology. It’s astonishing to realize how infrequently most of us interact with bank tellers or have to get boarding passes by waiting in line for a service representative. Looking forward, you can see Uber, Lyft and other companies utilizing self-driving cars to eliminate the cost of drivers. 

As is often the case, selling has resisted productivity improvements resulting from implementing technology. While the inventions of the automobile and telephone dramatically changed the landscape of selling, recent technologies have had smaller impacts. Many sellers feel updating pipelines using CRM takes away from their selling time, especially if the system doesn’t fit the workflow of developing and working on opportunities.

In my mind, the single most important way to positively impact seller productivity is to empower managers to qualify opportunities on an ongoing basis.

The desired result would be that sellers work only on transactions with reasonable chances of closing. In my experience as a sales manager, once unqualified opportunities enter a seller’s pipeline, they stay in longer than they should and updating a forecast meant massaging close dates on deals with very low probabilities of closing.

Viewing Opportunities through Sunglasses“Forecast” vs. “Sunshine Pump”
It has always amazed me that companies refer to a seller’s monthly report as a “forecast.” That may be an accurate term for sellers that are year-to-date or better against quota. Sellers that aren’t year-to-date crank up the “sunshine pump” with quantity and little or no regard for quality. If they could sell to clients as effectively as they sell their managers on their forecast, they’d be making or exceeding their numbers!

Sales managers should be the filter that ensures whatever enters a pipeline is worthy of a seller’s time. That said, they should also realize qualification (more accurately, disqualification) decisions need to be made on an ongoing basis.

A critical step in defining milestones is having as many as possible based upon buyer actions rather than seller opinions.

Some steps in the CCS® sales process include: 

  • Qualifying champions that will provide access to members of buying committees.
  • Validating that access was granted.
  • Negotiating a Sequence of Events that reflects the prospect’s buying timeframe.
  • Creating cost vs. benefits with buyers to determine if product evaluations are warranted.

Many managers tacitly accept pipelines from sellers that have many “story opportunities” in them. It may be painful, but a cursory analysis of the cost of competing and losing could be a sobering exercise. For new or struggling salespeople, sales managers should be concerned about quality control of all opportunities that are actively being worked on.

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Topics: Sales Training, sales tips, sales forecasts, sales forecasting, sales pipelines, sales pipeline, selling tips, sales strategy, sales training workshop, sales training workshops, Sales managers, sales management, sales process, sales methodology, sales process management, sales coaching, sales team, sales training company, improve sales performance, sales training success, sales training methodology, sales approach, sales training approach, sales training methodology approach, sales skills, selling skills, selling strategy, increase revenue, improved sales performance

Sales Tips: Leaders Are Readers

Posted by Jill Perez on Jan 26, 2017 5:00:12 PM

Sales Tips: Leaders Are Readers

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

What was the last book you read to sharpen the saw?I was recently invited to address my son’s high school Accounting/Junior Achievement class to share with them my journey as an entrepreneur. Much to the horror of my kids, I accepted. 

While the talk went well, and I believe was well received, it ended on somewhat of a troubling note.

Toward the end of my talk, I asked for a show of hands as to, “Who reads books other than the books they have to read for school?

Not a single hand, including those of my own kids, was raised.

The following day I spoke at a Sales Kickoff meeting and posed the question, just in a slightly different context:

“How many of you have read in the last 12 months, or are currently reading, a book about sales or business best practices?”

Sadly, the response was the same as those high school students.

As I reflected on this situation, my initial disappointment turned to downright confusion. While I could understand the response from a group of teenagers carrying a huge study load and counting the days until the end of the school year, what excuse does a highly paid business professional have for not continually trying to sharpen the saw?

Who among us are SO smart that we aren’t capable of learning something new that will give us a competitive advantage in an increasingly information-driven world? Not me.

I set a personal goal, albeit one I consistently fall short of, to read at least two books each month that will give me new insights into business, psychology or my own chosen discipline – sales.

Whether it is reading a book or attending a seminar, how many of you invest in your own professional development?

If you aren’t, you should be. 

“Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” – Harry S. Truman

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Topics: Sales Training, sales tips, sales forecasts, sales forecasting, sales pipelines, sales pipeline, selling tips, sales strategy, sales training workshop, sales training workshops, Sales managers, sales management, sales process, sales methodology, sales process management, sales coaching, sales team, sales training company, improve sales performance, sales training success, sales training methodology, sales approach, sales training approach, sales training methodology approach, sales skills, selling skills, selling strategy, increase revenue, improved sales performance

Sales Tips: Exposing the Hurt

Posted by Jill Perez on Jan 24, 2017 2:20:30 PM

Sales Tips: Exposing the Hurt, Offering the Fixes

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Exposing the Hurt with Buyers Earns the Right to Talk FeaturesBad things happen early in calls when sellers mention products. The two buyer responses that seem most common:

  • “I don’t need it.”
  • “How much does it cost?”

These seller wounds are self-inflicted. Little good comes of referring to products prematurely. In the clear light of day early in calls, sellers likely don’t know whether or not there is a need and certainly would want to defer pricing discussions until after some potential value had been established. In other words, sellers should earn the right to mention products/features.

When buyers share either a desired business outcome or problems, they often don’t know the reasons they can’t achieve/address them. In such instances, sales can be viewed as a “hurt and rescue” mission. By that I mean sellers must help buyers realize how their current way of doing business is “broken.” A critical part of diagnoses is knowing that within their offerings, sellers have “fixes.”

It would be cruel and unusual to hurt buyers and leave them hanging. The diagnostic questions should be designed to allow sellers to offer only those “fixes” that are relevant to buyers achieving desired business outcomes. Based upon the way buyers answer questions sellers should be aware of which features/capabilities should be offered. 

Product training is rampant for sellers. Few executives will sit still and tolerate “spray and pray” pitches. By asking the right questions and listening to the answers sellers can take a different approach to selling. By doing so, they can earn the right to mention only those parts of offerings that are relevant. That said, one size does not fit all. Different titles are likely to have different desired outcomes and need different features. 

Taking this approach allows sellers to build value in the minds of buyers so that pricing should seem much more reasonable than it would have been in the first few minutes of a call.

Boston Sales Training Workshop

Topics: Sales Training, sales tips, sales forecasts, sales forecasting, sales pipelines, sales pipeline, selling tips, sales strategy, sales training workshop, sales training workshops, Sales managers, sales management, sales process, sales methodology, sales process management, sales coaching, sales team, sales training company, improve sales performance, sales training success, sales training methodology, sales approach, sales training approach, sales training methodology approach, sales skills, selling skills, selling strategy, increase revenue, improved sales performance

Sales Tips: Handling Requests for Brochures

Posted by Jill Perez on Jan 18, 2017 12:00:00 PM

Sales Tips: Handling Requests for Brochures

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

Sales Tips for Handling Brochure Requests"Can you send me a brochure?"

Sometimes buyers want to get salespeople to leave them alone. An effective ploy is asking sellers to send information, a request that inexperienced sellers think is a positive sign. The problem is that it gives the prospect ways to put sellers off: 

  • “I haven’t had a chance to review it yet.” (And they never will.)
  • “I’ve reviewed it and don’t feel this is the right time.”

Awhile back I was working with a prospect that provided furnished condos as an alternative to hotel rooms for consultants or support people that had lengthy engagements in a location. He wanted to have his sales staff “up their game” and was considering two other sales training companies before we started our conversation.

I was at least twice as expensive as the other vendors and he was on the fence as to whether to spend more money than he had budgeted. We were going back and forth as I answered some of his questions, but there came a time when there was a lull in the conversation. He broke the silence by asking if I could send him a brochure.

I recognized that it was his way of blowing me off and my retort caught him off guard. I said to him:

“At this point, I don’t think a brochure is going to move things forward. What you’re really telling me is that we aren’t going to do business.”

Amazingly, he agreed. I suggested that we schedule a time to have another look at potential value and payback to determine if it was the right decision. As you probably suspect, he wound up becoming a customer.

What to do?

If and when you have a prospect early on ask for a brochure, my suggestion is to respond that you have several offerings and in order to send the most relevant material or collateral you’d like to have a further discussion. In theory the buyer has expressed interest with his/her request and it is reasonable to ask for further discussion.

What appears to be an innocuous request can bring a quick end to a buying cycle.

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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!

Topics: Sales Training, sales tips, selling tips, sales training workshop, sales training workshops, sales process, sales methodology, sales training company, improve sales performance, sales training success, sales approach, sales training approach, selling process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique, sales performance, selling approach

Sales Tips: Maintaining Contact with Decision Makers

Posted by Jill Perez on Jan 11, 2017 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Maintaining Contact with Decision Makers

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

Through the years in selling I’ve witnessed several instances where senior executives (and their admins) have been masters of delegating salespeople to lower levels. These executives have a great deal on their plates and often are being pulled in many directions if they can’t delegate.

Executive Decision MakersWithin CCS® we show sellers how to use “quid pro quo” approaches to gain access to higher levels. For example, if someone that can’t buy asks for a demonstration, sellers can ask:

“You indicated that Janet would be involved in approving this initiative. If you like what you see in the demo can we schedule a meeting with her?”

This “give-get” approach is a way to navigate from lower to higher levels within an organization.

When sellers begin at decision maker levels:

  • Opportunities can be more quickly qualified
  • Larger transactions are likely
  • Shorter buying cycles will often result

That said, many sellers get delegated but in the hand-off lose contact with decision makers. It isn’t unusual for decision makers to volunteer access to other people in their organizations. Sometimes the seller must ask. In either case, a seller is giving his/her time and expertise (resources), making it reasonable to ask for something in return.

When access is granted, sellers can say:

“I look forward to calling on others in your organization. These calls should allow me to provide an enterprise view of value for all stakeholders in this decision. What I’d like to do is keep you abreast of progress and hope ultimately to determine if I can get consensus that there is sufficient value to warrant further evaluation of our offerings. Does that sound reasonable?” 

I’ve also worked with several senior executives that exhibited Attention Deficit Disorder behavior once they delegate. For that reason it makes sense to try to keep the senior executives in the loop and appraised of progress as buying cycles proceed to maximize the chances of a favorable outcomes.

Share Your Success and Be Rewarded!

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!

Topics: Sales Training, sales tips, selling tips, sales training workshop, sales training workshops, sales process, sales methodology, sales training company, improve sales performance, sales training success, sales approach, sales training approach, selling process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique, sales performance, selling approach

Sales Tips: Warning for VPs of Underperforming Sales Teams

Posted by Jill Perez on Jan 10, 2017 6:18:39 PM

Sales Tips: Warning for VPs of Underperforming Sales Teams

By Gary Walker, EVP of Channel Sales & Operations, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

Youre_fired.pngWhat do Chip Kelly (49ers), Mike McCoy (Chargers), and Rex Ryan (Bills) all have in common?

They were all head coaches of NFL teams that ended with losing seasons and...they were fired before the playoffs have even started!

VPs of underperforming sales teams have, and will, find themselves in the same position as these three former NFL head coaches. The sales leader is gone and the sales team, for the most part, remains intact. Isn't that what happens? 

Listed below are the top five (5) complaints that I've been asked to help the senior sales executives I’ve spoken with address during their 2017 sales kick-offs:

  1. "We continue to lose more good opportunities to 'no decision' than to any single, named competitor."
  2. "My reps think selling means discounting until the prospects says YES."
  3. "I'm told we hire sales talent. Unfortunately they are all doing their own thing and closing nothing." 
  4. "We are great talking feature and function. However, we're  unable to converse effectively with the executives who can buy, fund and implement our offering.”
  5. "My reps continue to blame their losses on features and price. I feel we are simply being outsold."

Do these sound familiar to you? Like I explain to them, I can talk about these issues, acknowledge them. However, they simply can’t be corrected via a one or two hour kick-off presentation speech. They just can’t.

I’m conducting a CustomerCentric Selling® workshop in Denver, March 7-10. Maybe you should plan on attending. See how other senior sales executives have chosen to correct some of the same issues that may be holding your team back and preventing them from being everything you would like them to be in 2017.  

Sales Training Workshop - Denver, March 7-10

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!

Topics: Sales Training, sales tips, selling tips, sales training workshop, sales training workshops, sales process, sales methodology, sales training company, improve sales performance, sales training success, sales approach, sales training approach, selling process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique, sales performance, selling approach