CustomerCentric Selling® Sales Training Blog

Sales Tips: Funding "Maybes"

Posted by Jill Perez on Jan 21, 2015 11:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Funding "Maybes"

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

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

0-maybe

Sales is a challenging occupation. Over time many sellers must learn how to execute product sales, sell professional services, sell desired business outcomes and manage buying committees. Selling intangible offerings raises the bar. 

A very challenging situation is asking buyers to spend money on things that might happen. I suppose for B2C life insurance decisions, major barriers sellers face is that people don’t want to think about dying, nor do they want to pay money for something that would provide benefit many years (hopefully) in the future.

As a B2B example, consider a salesperson calling on a mid-level IT manager at Target the week before the breach. I suspect it would have been a tough climb for many reasons:

  • It is likely budget didn't exist.
  • Mid-level managers have operational responsibility and make few strategic decisions.
  • The prospect likely would have been defensive about data security.
  • The prospect wouldn’t have an enterprise view of the full impact of a breach, but rather the costs of overtime, etc. that IT would incur.

Within days of the breach that same mid-level manager would likely have been barraged by data security sellers and willing to listen to what they had to offer.

When selling what amounts to insurance against things that might happen, it is critical for sellers to gain access to senior executive levels early in the process. Unless organizations are aware of exposures at a high level and understand the full impact they could have, it is unlikely they would fund offerings to mitigate risks. Sellers starting low and hoping to climb the ladder rung by rung can waste a great deal of time with “no decision” looming as the most likely outcome.

Grab Your Seats Now! The FIRST public workshop in Denver is coming March 3-6! Register now to save seats for you and your team.

Register for one of our sales training workshops to improve sales performance through a buyer-oriented sales process, or 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 to Skillfully Handle Objections

Posted by Jill Perez on Jan 14, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Skillfully Handle Objections

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

hand-fist

Early in my career I received training in handling objections. The primary tactic was to empathize (I understand how you feel), let the person know he or she wasn’t alone (Others have felt the same way) and then dismissing it (But they found that …..). It was ridiculous to think buyers could be so easily manipulated.

A fundamental question is: Why do sellers get objections? My belief is that there are times when sellers get into “tell mode” while making product presentations. While doing so, the buyers are forced to listen. A few things are likely to happen during product pitches:

  • Sellers mention features buyers view as being irrelevant or they don’t fully understand why they would need them.
  • Buyers feel sellers are dominating the “conversation.”

Objections allow buyers to gain some amount of control over the direction sales calls take.

Premature presentations of offerings often lead sales calls into death spirals. Once product is mentioned, buyers often ask about price before they have any sense of value. In my experience, the higher in organizations sellers call, the less tolerant buyers are for wasting time listening to lists of features.

How to Minimize Objections
Uncovering outcomes buyers want to achieve (or problems they want to address) is an important early step. After that a thorough diagnosis to uncover relevant and irrelevant capabilities by asking questions should minimize objections. It is also helpful to buyers if sellers explain how features are used vs. merely using feature names that buyers won’t fully understand. 

Remember there are valid objections you (as well as your competitors) will encounter. Unless objections are “show stoppers” buyers can and will buy because they recognize no offering is a perfect fit for their needs. Use your judgment in deciding whether to try to address objections, but accept the fact that some are valid and you’ll hurt yourself trying to talk a buyer out of them.

Register for Boston! The FIRST public workshop of 2015 is only THREE WEEKS AWAY! Register for Boston, Feb 3-6!

Register for one of our sales training workshops to improve sales performance through a buyer-oriented sales process, or 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 to Start Your New Year Right

Posted by Jill Perez on Jan 4, 2015 6:25:15 PM

Sales Tips: How to Get Your 2015 Started Right

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

lead_gen_pipelineI hope 2014 was a good year. Sellers face a new year that likely includes higher quotas. Many take comfort in having large numbers of opportunities in their pipelines. Inadvertently their focus is on quantity rather than quality.

To avoid starting 2015 with unqualified pipelines, consider taking a hard look at quotes or proposals more than 60 days old. Proposals, like radioactive material, have half-lives. Probabilities of closing fade with every passing week. Rather than continue to hope stale proposals close, consider taking more decisive steps by withdrawing them. Buyers may be drifting toward ‘no decision’ or have already awarded the business to other vendors but haven’t told you. Shouldn’t you find out?

Clean House
Consider sending return receipt requested withdrawal letters to prospects for proposals that have been out there too long. Each letter should merely state that you want to notify the buyer that you are withdrawing the proposal dated xx/xx/2014 and ask them to contact you if they have any questions. The two most likely outcomes: 

  1. The prospect doesn’t contact you. You can assume another vendor was awarded the business or no decision was made. Remove that proposal from your pipeline.
  2. The prospect contacts you and explains where things stand with your proposal. During this conversation you may be able to rekindle interest in your offering with the possibility of issuing a revised quote or proposal.

Be Realistic
One of the keys to getting off to a good start is to realistically grade your pipeline. Eliminating stale proposals in the next few weeks will allow you to realize if you have enough qualified opportunities. A Sales Benchmark Index study found 52% of sales cycles end in “no decision”. The most common reasons are:

  • No business goals were uncovered
  • No vision
  • No value
  • No access to power
  • No plan for evaluating offerings was aligned with a prospect’s buying process

Be sure you have all bases covered if and when you issue proposals. I hope this can help you make 2015 a prosperous year.

Register for Boston! Save your seat now for the FIRST public workshop of 2015 coming SOON to Boston, Feb 3-6!

Register for a sales training workshop or 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: Do You Know the Difference Between Buyers and Researchers?

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 31, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Know the Difference Between Buyers - and Researchers

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

Image courtesy of Stock Images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

0-man-at-computerRecent studies would have you believe as much as 80% of buying activities are complete before salespeople are involved. For complex B2B transactions I struggle to accept this statistic and wanted to suggest two (2) separate and distinct activities that must be completed before B2B buying decisions are made

  • Product/offering research and evaluation
  • Cost vs. benefit or ROI analyses to justify potential expenditures

For complex B2B offerings, research is done mostly by non-Key Players wanting to learn about offerings without sellers influencing their requirements. They devour information posted on vendor websites. If they get serious about offerings, they solicit feedback from people about experiences with vendors and offerings by leveraging social networking. This can provide validation because vendors control website information.

Cost vs. benefits or ROI’s are created to determine if potential expenditures are likely to provide adequate payback (reduce costs, increase revenues, increase profits, etc.) to warrant expenditures. Input from Key Players is needed to create enterprise views to quantify the potential improvement in business metrics for stakeholders.

The sequence in which these 2 activities occur goes a long way toward determining how likely it is that buying cycles end in buying decisions. I’d like to discuss how sellers initiate opportunities and then revisit inbound inquiries from researchers.

The Good
Buying cycles initiated proactively by competent sellers start at Key Player levels. Calls are focused more on business outcomes than offerings. Early on it is determined whether the potential benefits justify the time needed to evaluate offerings. If it does, sellers call on lower levels to have more detailed product discussions, understand how business is conducted without the offering, determine how it could be implemented and do a cost vs. benefit analysis. If there’s a fit proposals are presented to Key Players who decide whether or not to buy.

The Bad
Less competent sellers take bottom up approaches. Entry points at lower levels learn about products. If traction is gained, sellers try to access other levels. They talk with many people that can’t say yes (buy) but can say no. If sellers can’t reach higher levels, Key Players’ first exposure to their offerings will likely be in proposals. In these cases, sellers rely upon lower levels to do internal selling with Key Players.

Bottom-up selling makes long sell cycles and lower win rates more likely. A Sales Benchmark Index study concluded 52% of sales cycles result in “no decision” meaning that no vendor is awarded the business. This statistic causes me to wonder what percentage of “buying cycles” initiated by researchers result in no decision.

4 Qualifiers for Handling Researchers
Inbound inquiries from prospects that have done extensive research more closely resemble bottom-up vs. top-down selling approaches. Best practice selling would target higher levels as entry points. This allows early qualification (or disqualification) of opportunities.

Here are questions to consider if and when knowledgeable researchers ask sellers to get involved:

  1. Are Key Players in the organization aware research has been done?
  2. What business goals have been identified?
  3. Has budget been allocated?
  4. Has a cost vs. benefit sanity check been done?

I agree that it’s possible for product evaluations to be 80% complete before sellers are involved. However if the 4 questions above cannot be answered affirmatively, how can 80% of buying activities be complete?

Register for Boston! Save your seat now for the FIRST public workshop of 2015 in Boston, Feb 3-6!

Register for a sales training workshop or 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: Minimize the Expensive "Four-Legged" Sales Calls

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 24, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Qualify Before Requesting a "Four-Legged" Sales Call

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

Image courtesy of Stock Images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

four-legsIn my first sales management position I soon noticed that one of my salespeople seldom made calls alone. He called on mid-level IT staff and whenever possible brought our Systems Engineer (SE) with him on his calls. He was a mediocre performer and we only had one SE in our office that supported eight salespeople. As a manager I wanted to optimize the usage of this valuable resource. 

Most companies pay salespeople on top-line revenue without regard for the amount of resources required. Many CCS® clients understand this and expect competent salespeople to qualify opportunities before getting other resources involved. One of the many advantages of doing top-down selling is that calls on mid to lower levels with an SE can usually be made after making Key Player calls and qualifying the potential business outcomes they want to achieve.

Cost of sales is a concern for most organizations. “Four-legged calls” are expensive. When requesting them, sellers should be able to explain who they want the SE to call on, why it’s necessary and the objective of these calls as part of the sales cycle.

Register for Boston! Save your seat now for the FIRST public workshop of 2015 in Boston, Feb 3-6!

Register for a sales training workshop or 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 to Earn the Right to Discuss Offerings Using Diagnose and Prescribe

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 17, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Earn the Right to Discuss Offerings Using Diagnose and Prescribe Approach

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

listening_to_buyerImagine you’ve applied for a job. In the first meeting the interviewer gives you the choice of first hearing about the job or starting by providing your background and experience. I hope you’d agree the interview should go better if you first heard about the position and requirements the company felt were necessary. It would allow you to tailor or position your knowledge and experience in a way that better aligns with their requirements.

Executives seldom give you that choice in sales calls. Sadly, many sellers begin by talking about their offerings first. Without having any context of what buyers need, several bad things start to happen:

  • Few executives find product pitches interesting.
  • After product is mentioned, buyers can drag sellers into premature pricing discussions.
  • Features that aren’t relevant to buyers are likely to be presented.
  • It’s likely the call will end before the allotted 30 minutes that was scheduled.

In my recent blog post, I talked about the importance for sellers to be business experts, not product experts. Here’s how you can start down that path and earn the right to discuss offerings with buyers.

Listen, Don't Talk
Similar to the job interview scenario, it’s important for sellers to let buyers talk about their situations and challenges first. In fact, viewing sales calls as job interviews may give you a good mindset. Your ultimate objective is to have them “hire” your offering.

Do Your Best Sherlock Holmes
An initial step is uncovering a goal or problem an executive would be willing to spend money to achieve or address. This will be easier if you go into the call with a menu of title-specific high probability goals. Keep in mind most executives will want to determine that sellers are sincere and competent before sharing business issues.

Lead the Discovery
Once a goal is shared, resist the temptation to blindly dive into product. Instead ask why the goal can’t be achieved today and then be prepared with diagnostic questions designed to uncover reasons that can be addressed by specific features or capabilities of your offering. If the buyer knew how to address these barriers, they wouldn’t bother talking with a seller. Helping buyers discover how their current approach is “broken” allows sellers to establish credibility.

Patient-Doctor
Doing full diagnoses allows sellers to focus discussions on only the relevant parts of a given offering. Engaging executives in this manner makes the buyer-seller relationship more like a patient-doctor relationship. Complete diagnoses (examinations) result in recommendations (prescriptions) buyers are more ready to accept.

Key Takeaway: Once sellers understand their buyer’s environment they aren’t selling offerings, they’re empowering buyers to achieve desired business outcomes.

Register for Boston! Save your seat now for the FIRST public workshop of 2015 in Boston, Feb 3-6!

Register for a sales training workshop or 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 to Take Control of Your 2015

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 12, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Take Control of Your 2015

By Frank Visgatis, President & Chief Operating Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

0-2015-targetAs we enter the heart of the holiday season, most salespeople and sales organizations are in one of three (3) modes:

1. The Happy Camper - Through a combination of proper planning and consistency of execution, the year is already “done” from a revenue attainment perspective, and now it’s time to relax and charge the batteries so you can rocket out of the gate in 2015.

2. The Hail Mary – You’re doing everything you can possibly think of to somehow bring in every last bit of revenue in an attempt, albeit usually a futile one, to make the number for the year.

3. The Dead Man Walking - With the recognition that nothing will salvage the year at this point and worse, prospects don’t look good for 2015, resumes are being polished and LinkedIn is experiencing a spike in activity.

So, the question is: What mode are you in?

My hope is that you fall into the first category. However, as our recently published research (the CCS® Index) has documented, if this is you, you are the exception and not the rule. If that’s in fact the case, if you fall into either of the two latter categories, what is going to change next year?

Will marketing finally get their act together and start sending you decent leads?
If marketing could consistently generate high quality, well-qualified leads from prospects who are ready to buy, why do we need salespeople? Wouldn’t a website and an 800 number do the trick?

Will your product suddenly get better?
Don’t count on it. Even if it does, the days of product features being competitive differentiators are gone.

Will management finally “get it” and bring down the price point to something more “reasonable”?
Unlikely. Even if they did, all that means is that you would have to exponentially increase your volume of transactions to make the same amount of money you tried to make this year. For example, if you couldn’t close 10 deals at 100% of the price, what would lead you to believe that you can close 20 at 50%? 

I apologize if my assessment seems a bit harsh. However, I also know that you can proactively address each of the aforementioned issues.

3 Ways to Take Control
1. If you aren’t happy with the quality of leads that you’re getting from marketing, remember that the helping hand you need is probably at the end of your own arm. Instead of waiting for the phone to ring, start dialing it instead. It is only the salespeople who consistently and aggressively prospect for new business, even if their pipeline is already full, who are the ones who sleep well at night.

2. If price is an issue, then that simply means that insufficient value has been established. Prospects focus on cost when there is no value. Remember that the cost of pain always has to be greater than the cost of change. Unless and until the prospect understands that it is costing them more to do things the way they currently do them versus what you are asking them to spend, price will always be the issue.

3. Finally, if you can’t differentiate yourself using what you sell, think about differentiating yourself by the way you sell. Rather than being the stereotypical salesperson eager to do a demo as soon as possible, think about focusing on your prospect’s business goals and objectives, first and only introducing product once you understand their desired business outcomes and how you can help them get there.

Register for Boston! Save your seat now for the FIRST public workshop of 2015 in Boston, Feb 3-6!

Register for a sales training workshop or 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: Avoid the Discounting Squeeze

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 10, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Avoid the Discounting "Squeeze"

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

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

0-discount-squeezeI was working with a client a few years ago and saw the CEO and CFO in a meeting to discuss pricing on a transaction for a large prospect. I soon learned they had been negotiating for over two weeks. Over that time the pricing had eroded to the point where they were actually having a conversation about whether the transaction would be profitable!

After asking a few questions it seemed clear that they were the vendor of choice and were in a death spiral of discounting. My suggestion was they had to say “NO” to making any further reductions. They pushed back to my suggestion until I told them that if the price was reduced any more, then they should consider withdrawing.

Within a few days the transaction was finalized, but it was painful to consider how much money they likely had left on the table. A common buyer tactic is extending negotiations over several meetings. As time goes on, prices erode and as the ends of months, quarters or years draw near, sellers face time pressures to close transactions. Once discounting starts, it’s difficult to stop as you are continuously squeezed to make further concessions.

Combat the "Squeeze" with the "Get-Give"
In our negotiation module we teach sellers how to withstand a maximum of three (3) requests for lower pricing and then utilize a “get-give” approach so that any concessions are offered conditionally after buyers have agreed to give something the seller has asked for. If transactions don’t close, sellers can take what the buyer agreed to give and the concession offered in return off the table.

This technique can prevent the discount death spiral that buyers orchestrate so well. 

Register for Boston! Save your seat now for the FIRST public workshop of 2015 in Boston, Feb 3-6!

Register for a sales training workshop or 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 a Simple Gesture Can Sway the Decision in Your Favor

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 3, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How a Simple Gesture Can Sway the Buyer Decision in Your Favor

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

Image courtesy of Felixco, Inc. at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

0-tabYears ago I worked on a transaction with a client that was on an IBM mainframe. I had gotten into the account with disk drives about 6 months prior, the first non-IBM devices in their data center.

The client was experiencing performance problems and needed more memory. That meant upgrading the processor at a cost of about $6M. I had an offering that could expand the memory and defer the upgrade for about a year that cost $250K. What appeared to be an easy financial decision became political and got complicated.

The IBM salesperson enjoyed a close relationship with the CIO, a person I could not gain access to. My highest contact was the VP of IT who was responsible for the data center. He shared with me, aware that the IBM rep would likely not make his quota that year if the mainframe upgrade order wasn't placed.

The decision hung for about 3 weeks. Finally the VP suggested meeting for lunch to discuss where things stood. Over lunch the pros and cons were considered. He flip-flopped several times between making the better financial or political choice. Nothing had been decided. When the bill came, he took it saying he’d pick up lunch. Instinctively I took the check from his hand and told him as the vendor it was mine to pay.

About a week later I got the order. To this day I’m not sure exactly how it happened. What I will tell you is that the VP picking up lunch was his way of saying:  Sorry, you aren’t getting this order. I’m virtually certain I wouldn’t have gotten the order if he had paid the check.

I sometimes tell this war story during workshops to make the point that selling is a combination of science and art. CCS® tries to swing the pendulum toward being more science, but there will always be the human element. Selling is complex and situational. Experience combined with sales process is a hard combination to beat.

 

Register for Boston! Save your seat now for the FIRST public workshop of 2015 in Boston, Feb 3-6!

Register for a sales training workshop or 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: Want Better Results? Avoid "Commission Breath"

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 1, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Want Better Results? Avoid "Commission Breath"

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

Image credit to David Broberg from BizJournals.com

College-Football1A few months ago, CBS 60 Minutes did a segment on Alabama football coach Nick Saban. He's one of the best coaches in college football, having won three BCS championships with Alabama in 2009, 2011 and 2012, and another with LSU in 2003. He attributes his team’s success to following and executing what he calls a football process. He insists his players not look at the scoreboard or focus on the win, but instead to focus on executing their individual assignments, perfecting their skills, and each offensive play that allows them to move the ball systematically, yard by yard down the field, and ultimately score. They practice their process for hours on a daily basis. That is the Alabama football process.

CustomerCentric Selling® (CCS®) is a sales process that salespeople can be taught to execute, and manage to, that allows them to consistently outperform their competitors. However, what gets a salesperson into trouble is when they shortcut or abandon their sales process. For example, picture this:

You engage with a prospect that simply says, “Prepare a proposal with pricing and have it to me by Monday. We need to make a decision.”  Presented with what you think will be a quick sale rather than take the time to follow your sales process, you abandon your process, and simply acquiesce to their request. What happens? You lose. Why? You failed to execute. In football parlance, you attempted to throw a ‘hail Mary pass’, a low percentage play, and it was batted down at the line of scrimmage. 

When a salesman chooses to simply focus on the close and abandons all of the steps in the sales process that lead to the close, I’ve heard it said that they have "commission breath". Commission breath is the exact opposite of sales process execution. Salespeople who focus on what their prospect is trying to accomplish and follow their sales process outperform those that don’t. It’s that simple. Always remember, process guarantees results.

Register for Boston! Save your seat now for the FIRST public workshop of 2015 in Boston, Feb 3-6!

Register for a sales training workshop or 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

Subscribe to CCS®

Stay Connected with CCS®