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Sales Tips: The What and Why of Sales Process

Posted by Jill Perez on May 23, 2017 5:04:12 PM

Sales Tips: What IS a Sales Process and WHY Is It Important?

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

Those of you who follow me know that I’m a big proponent of process. However, I’m always surprised by the number of people I speak with who can’t define what a process IS or when asked, can’t give me an example of a simple process.

Defining a ProcessWhat is a process?
According to a definition I found online, a process is defined as: “A series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end.” 

So now having established what a process is, think of those processes we engage in on a daily basis. Some of which we execute daily without even thinking about what we are doing. For example, brushing your teeth. There is a series of steps that we perform in order to brush our teeth. We take out our toothbrush, run it under the faucet to dampen it, apply the toothpaste, brush our teeth, rinse our toothbrush under water again to clean it, and then store it away for future use. Isn’t that what most of us do? 

Now think about how effective (or ineffective) that process would be if we skipped a step, let’s say we forgot to put the toothpaste on the brush.  Or worse yet, executed it incorrectly by putting the toothpaste on it before our next to last step and stored our toothbrush away with toothpaste on it! 

The irony of what I described is: 

All the steps in the process were performed, but they were performed in the wrong order.

Do you get my point? The process, the steps in the process, and the order in which the steps are executed are ALL important. 

Sales ProcessApplying Process to Sales
Because we are all salespeople, let’s think about a “sales process” (a series of actions or steps taken by a salesperson to take a prospect from initial interest to closure). Think about the sales process you follow, if you have one, and let me just ask you a few questions: 

  • What is more important - that your prospects have a budget and a timeline, or that they have a goal, problem or need that you can help them address?
  • Would you like to understand your prospects’ goals, problems or needs before you do a demonstration or after you do the demonstration?
  • If you fail to take the time to understand your prospects’ needs and requirements, is it possible you could fail to show them what they need and be eliminated from consideration?
  • If you showed them more than what they needed, could they conclude you are too expensive and too complex, and eliminate you from consideration?
  • If you chose to speak to only one person, is it possible that you miss important requirements of the other people involved in the purchase decision?
  • If you miss the needs of other members of the buying committee, could your opportunity fail to close as forecast?
  • When you meet with prospects for the first time, whose needs are they most interested in processing, yours or theirs?
  • When you ask prospects about budget and timeline, whose needs are you processing, theirs or yours

I could go on and on, but I know you get the picture.

A sales process, the steps in that sales process, and the order in which you execute those steps in that sales process are ALL important!

Skip a step, perform them in the wrong order, and then prepare to be outsold by the salesperson whose execution is on the mark.

They will use your failure to execute as their leverage to outsell you.

Sales Growth from Using ProcessImportance of Sales Process
How important is it to have a sales process that salespeople can be taught to execute; management can be taught to monitor, inspect, and coach; and is aligned with best sales practices?  

CSO Insights conducted and published a report entitled, Optimizing Sales Performance for the High Tech Market, Three Strategies for Success. They analyzed the sales performance of technology firms based on the type of sales process they were currently using in the high technology sales sector:

  • Dynamic Process - A selling model is defined, sales rep adoption is actively managed and changes to the process are made proactively, as needed. 
  • Formal Process - A model for selling is defined and reps are expected to use it.
  • Informal Process - A process is recommended, but not enforced.
  • Random Process - Each rep is allowed to define how they sell.

The following table presents the win, loss and no decision rates for each of these four groups in technology sales: 

CSO Insights - Sales Process Comparisons

What does this finding tell us?
“In reflecting on Dynamic Process adopters, not only are they effective at competitive differentiation, they also experience significantly lower no decision rates. By defining the right way to engage prospects, getting the process and messaging into the hands of sales professionals and consistently monitoring their use, you can turn how you sell into a key performance lever.” 

Conclusion
Every time I write and publish an article, I try to provide you with what I call “actionable content” (information that you can immediately put into practice). In this article I provided you with the intellectual understanding of what a process is, what a sales process is, and why you should be following one.  If you’re a salesperson responsible for achieving your employer’s revenue goals by selling its product or services, or if you’re a senior sales executive responsible for achieving your employer’s revenue goals through the sales team that reports to you, isn’t it time you get serious about implementing a defined, “dynamic sales process?” You have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

If you would like to provide your salespeople with a dynamic sales process you’re your salespeople can be taught to execute; management can be taught to monitor, inspect, and coach; and is aligned with best sales practices, I invite you to enroll them in my next open workshop September 12-15 (my June workshop is now SOLD OUT). If you don’t want to wait until then (or cannot afford to wait until then), email me and we can talk about your sales organization, how they are doing, and what you would like to accomplish with them. 

Please share this article with a colleague who would also benefit from this insight. Good selling!

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Sales Tips: Reducing Churn with SaaS Renewals

Posted by Jill Perez on May 23, 2017 3:35:23 PM

Sales Tips: Reducing Churn with SaaS Renewals

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Customer ChurnFor people selling technology there have been a number of significant changes with buyers over the last 15 years or so. Access to the Internet and social networking has leveled the playing field and buyers are better informed than ever before. 

Buyers doing research consciously avoid talking to sellers they feel may manipulate their requirements.

Another change has been the advent of SaaS-like revenue models. Implementation of new technologies is no longer an IT mountain to climb.

Customer satisfaction is critical because the effort and expense of migrating to a competing technology has never been easier. 

Years earlier when a renewal or upgrade were options, incumbent vendors enjoyed many advantages. While competitors could offer lower pricing, the cost of converting was often prohibitive.

Customer RenewalToday when a contract is up for renewal for SaaS-priced offerings, buyers can readily make changes and choose another competitor’s offering. This is a blow to incumbents because margins on renewals are much higher than for net new customers.

I think back to a vendor I did consulting for in the 90’s. They offered tax accounting software to small to mid-size accounting firms. About two weeks after tax season they called clients and asked if they wanted to renew for another year. They were proud to have a 68% renewal rate. I was horrified to realize that they were losing 32% of their clients every year. 

I helped them modify their approach by:

  1. First informing the buyer that in the last year they had prepared X number of tax returns, had the advantage of XXXX man-hours of research on taxes, and had an error rate of Y% below the industry average.
  2. At that point they asked if the buyer would like to renew. They were pleased with a 15% increase that drove them from 68% to 83% of their customers renewing.

For SaaS renewals, vendors may want to consider monitoring activity and results of the previous year before asking for a commitment of another year.

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Sales Tips: Taking Buyers from Latent to Active

Posted by Jill Perez on May 17, 2017 11:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Creating Opportunities from Latent Needs

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Uncovering Latent NeedsResearchers say on average a human brain has seven (7) foreground slots, meaning that people can be actively thinking about 7 things concurrently. When a person’s slots are full and a more important issue arises, the least important issue is demoted to the background. 

This means there are two (2) categories or needs: 

  • Active needs have slots allocated.
  • Latent needs aren’t being considered.

It would be abnormal behavior to obsess about issues you can’t control. For instance, if you were scheduled to play golf Saturday morning you wouldn’t spend the next five days wondering whether it may rain on Saturday. The issue may “blip” across your screen, but no control quickly means there’s no sense in worrying about it and it will be demoted to a latent need.

Consider making a sales call on an executive. It’s unlikely he or she will be thinking about a business issue that could be achieved through the use of your offering when you meet. Applying the core concept I wrote about often, No goal No prospect, sellers should proactively try to take buyers from latent to active need early in sales calls. 

In our workshops, we suggest that prior to making calls sellers should research the buyer and company so they can make an intelligent guess about the business issue that is likely to be a priority.

That process allows the seller to share a title/industry specific Success Story that: 

  • Describes a desired outcome
  • A reason the outcome could not originally be achieved
  • The capability provided that addressed the reason
  • The results achieved

Using this approach is a good way to establish credibility early and ideally have buyers share goals. 

Once you’ve filled a slot with a desired business outcome, you’ve earned some time to have a discussion and begin to qualify the opportunity. 

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Sales Tips: Key to Creating Urgency with Buyers

Posted by Jill Perez on May 16, 2017 9:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Establish Urgency with Your Prospects and Accelerate Buying Decisions

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Creating Urgency with BuyersWhen trying to get to the end of sales cycles, sellers always seem to be in a hurry. In stark contrast, buyers frequently drag their feet before making decisions to spend money. Consider how often close dates slip for opportunities in the forecast.

This discrepancy in decision timeframes can cause sellers to close prematurely, offer discounts to accelerate decisions and pressure buyers. In extreme situations, deals can be lost.

It often comes down to the seller’s or vendor’s agenda of needing to book orders at month, quarter or year-end.

We recently consulted with a client that was discussing a $500,000 software opportunity in a seller’s pipeline that he hopes to close by year-end. There are four internal organizations whose senior executives comprise the buying committee along with the CEO.

The vendor offers a platform to integrate all operational aspects and allow IT to provide real-time dashboard views of the business. The platform being considered supports all the different applications being used with tested API’s that would allow the implementation and cut over to the new system in less than a month. 

The CIO is a potential adversary. He has talked about having his staff design and build a platform from the ground up to integrate their existing software. The seller and I agreed it makes no financial sense to go the “homegrown” route. The fact is that it’s an option being considered and can’t be dismissed out of hand. 

Our first question for the seller: Have you established the cost of delay? 

He didn't understand the question so I asked if he had quantified the potential savings from the perspective of each of the Key Players in the buying committee. He said the payback on his software had not been fully itemized but that it would be a “no brainer” financial decision. 

I encouraged him to drill down with each executive to:

  • identify key business metrics
  • establish baselines (where they are today)
  • have them estimate what improvement could be realized and wherever possible
  • quantify the value

Cost of DelayHe’s now in the throes of doing this with the objective of creating an enterprise-wide view of the potential value of his offerings.

Here’s an example: Let’s assume the seller can help the executives identify a savings of $250K per month and that it would take one month to migrate to the new platform. The question then becomes how long it will take IT to design, code and test an entirely new platform, understanding their staff will have to continue supporting end users and legacy systems. If IT’s estimate is more than three months (how often are new applications delivered on schedule?) it would be possible to buy the existing offering and replace it when the new software is ready. 

An interesting thing happens when buyers are aware of the “Cost of Delay” (how much potential value they’re losing each month). 

This strategy can be used to combat “no decision” outcomes when buyers decide to build things themselves or merely determine they don’t want to spend the money now. Realizing that every month of delay costs company money is a motivator for committees to make decisions sooner rather than later.  

Many sellers wrongly believe they compete only with other vendors in their space. The reality is all vendors compete for a finite pool of funding. Before spending budgeted money, people in finance will reallocate funds if another vendor offers a more compelling cost vs. benefit or ROI.

An added benefit of determining cost of delay is that buyers join sellers in wanting to reach the decision point. This perceived internal pressure for buyers to act is more effective than the external pressure of sellers desperately trying to get orders on their timeframes. It also puts sellers in a better position to negotiate if pressured on price.  

My advice is that sellers should be wary of the potential for no decision/homegrown outcomes. Helping committees create a compelling cost of delay is an effective way to proactively increase the chances of winning the business.   

soi2017report

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Sales Tips: Understand Payback Before Product

Posted by Jill Perez on May 10, 2017 12:00:00 PM

Sales Tips: Understand Payback Before Product

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Investment Options for Most ReturnBefore launching CustomerCentric Selling® in 2002, we developed 13 core concepts that serve as tenets for our sales approach. The first: 

No goal, no prospect.

By that we mean that during sales calls buying cycles do not begin unless or until buyers share goals, problems or needs they are willing to spend money to achieve or address. I believe salespeople make far better calls when buyers share desired business outcomes. Ultimately, it is one of the first steps in buyers recognizing areas of potential benefits and value.

Fast forward 15 years and consider all the “buying activity” that is ongoing as people educate themselves by making frequent visits to websites, for whitepapers, podcasts, webinars, etc. By applying our first core concept, unless they have identified business objectives, buying cycles have not begun. My thought is that in such cases these activities should more accurately be called “product evaluations.” Notable by its absence are attempts to establish potential value or payback to justify and fund expenditures. 

Product research without understanding payback means that buyers can be wasting a significant amount of time.

Ironically in an ideal world for buyers and sellers, wouldn’t it make sense to do a preliminary estimate of potential benefit vs. cost BEFORE expending the time, effort and resources to evaluate multiple vendors and their offerings?

If you felt it was time to look for a new car it would make little sense to randomly visit dealerships. Research by Neil Rackham indicates there are 3 Phases people (and committees) go through during buying cycles:

Phase 1
In Phase 1, your needs and the cost of offerings are the highest priorities. If you were thinking about a home, this would be the time for creating a budget and then (with that budget in mind) deciding on a location, type of house, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, etc. Phase 1 ends when you have an approximate cost and you know your needs (the configuration of the house or condo you’d like to buy).

Phase 2
Phase 2 is all about the match for your needs as you overlay them over each house that you look at. As you look, your requirements are fluid. You may choose to give up having a 2-car garage because you find a house with a river view that only has a 1-garage bay. After looking at several houses, you brainstorm with your significant other which is the best fit for your needs/budget.

calculator.pngPhase 3
Once you’ve selected the offering (house) you are most interested in, you’re in Phase 3 and the first priority is risk (have the house inspected, re-do the math, etc.). If risk is overcome, price is the last hurdle as you decide what price you’ll offer and try to negotiate the best possible deal.

People that self-educate actually jump into Phase 2 to determine features usually without the benefit of:

  • Understanding the potential value of the offering (business outcomes that can be improved)
  • Having budget allocated
  • Having a subject matter expert diagnose their needs

Pre-Y2K sellers and vendors had the upper hand about product information when dealing with buyers. The pendulum has swung predictably too far in trying to lock out or limit a seller’s involvement. It may be time to realize many horrible buying experiences were with Business to Consumer (B2C) salespeople. 

For example, a car salesperson will likely never see you again whether you buy or not. Many will say or do whatever they can to pressure you into buying. They know that if you leave their dealership, their chances of making a sales plummet. 

Competent B2B sellers now more than ever understand the implications of unhappy customers. It might be better for everyone involved if competent sellers (vendors have some work to do there) walked buyers through Phase 1 to establish requirements and estimate potential value. It would allow an intelligent decision as to whether or not to evaluate offerings. 

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Sales Tips: The Payback on Learning to Do It Right

Posted by Jill Perez on May 8, 2017 12:47:22 PM

Sales Tips: The Payback on Learning to Do It Right

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

Return on Purchase InvestmentPayback is just one of the factors that your prospects consider when contemplating the purchase of your offering. It’s also one of the things I would like you to consider when considering investing in yourself, or if you're a sales manager, investing in improving the performance of an underperforming sales organization. After all, someone is going to want justification for the expenditure in sales training. So let’s work out the math and put this in numbers.

Let’s consider these three (3) variables:

  1. Average transaction size expressed in dollars. For this example, let’s say $100,000.

  2. Cost for a salesperson to attend a CustomerCentric Selling® public workshop. $2,700.

  3. Probability of that salesperson closing one (1) additional piece of business in the next twelve (12) months. Rather than being overly optimistic, let’s risk adjust that probability to 50%; factor 50. Let’s assume an average salesperson may or may not get better.

Now, let's do the math based on these three (3) variables:

        $100,000 ÷ $2,700 x 50 = 1,852% return on your sales training investment.

Not being a math major, I have resorted to very simple math. The golfers looking at this return on investment would call this a short putt!

Work Out Your Own Numbers
  • What is your average transaction size?
  • What do you think the probability is that a trained salesperson could close one, just one, additional piece of business in the next twelve (12) months?
  • Better yet, what if HALF of the sales team closed just one (1) additional piece of business as a result of implementing a defined sales process and applying new skills and techniques?

What would that be worth to you and your company?

They say: "People make emotional decisions for logical reasons." I think any way you calculate it, an investment in CustomerCentric Selling® logically is an investment in your individual or sales team's success.

If you would like to see what one of our clients has accomplished using a defined sales process, check out this two (2) minute video produced by Joey Gauthier of Watch Systems.

How Watch Systems Achieved Sales Success

 Closing Thoughts
If I've caused you to take pause and reconsider if you're capable of learning to do it right, becoming the professional salesperson your employer is paying you for, or improving the performance of your sales team, I would appreciate you sharing this article with someone you feel would benefit from reading it.

In the next open workshop in Golden, Colorado June 6-9 that I'm conducting, we will cover how to:

  • determine the payback variables
  • obtain them from your prospect
  • use them to prepare a simple cost-benefit analysis to provide your prospect with the logic they need to purchase your offering

Why don't you register now and plan on joining me? It could make the difference in your performance for the entire year!

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Sales Tips: What Constitutes a Qualified Opportunity?

Posted by Jill Perez on May 3, 2017 3:55:06 PM

Sales Tips: What Constitutes a "Qualified" Opportunity?

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

This is a question that we hear all of the time from people who attend our workshops. This is a topic that is so worthy of discussion that rather than rush to answer the question, I prefer to use it to facilitate a discussion among all of the workshop attendees. It’s interesting to learn what type of qualification criteria are being imposed on the salespeople.

Qualifying an OpportunityWhat surfaces very quickly is that companies have defined what is a ‘qualified’ opportunity for their salespeople. With a few variations, it is typically defined as:

  • the prospect admits to having a budget
  • they have a project (I’m still not sure what constitutes a project)
  • and they have a timeline for making a selection decision

Does this sound familiar to you? Have you heard this before?

So now let me ask you an important question:

If the prospect has a budget and they have a timeline, but they DO NOT have a goal, problem or issue that you and your offering can help them address, are they qualified?

According to the above criteria the answer would be, yes. However, I’ve not encountered any prospect who goes out of their way to buy something they don’t want or need.

Sales Tips for Qualifying a ProspectCommon sales sense indicates that a "qualified opportunity" is where FIRST, the prospect has a goal, problem or need that your offering has the ability to help them address.

Without a goal, problem or need that your offering is capable of helping them address, budget and timeline are immaterial. Get it?

Your goal as a salesperson is to have your prospect share with you a business goal that you can help them address. Simply stated: No goal, no prospect. If you don't know WHAT would make a prospect engage with you and WHY, then he/she is not a prospect.

We will cover "qualifying an opportunity'" and practice techniques on how to get a prospect to admit a "goal, problem or need that you can help them address" extensively in the CustomerCentric Selling® public workshop I'm conducting in Golden, Colorado, June 6-9th.

Why don't you register now and plan on joining me? Attending this workshop could make the difference in your performance for the entire year!

If I've made a point with you, or if I've caused you to take pause and reconsider what you are doing, I would appreciate you sharing this article/sales tip with someone you feel would benefit from reading it. Please share it with a peer or a colleague to pay it forward. Good selling!

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Sales Tips: 5 Tips for Better Responding to "What do you sell?"

Posted by Jill Perez on May 2, 2017 4:43:22 PM

Sales Tips: What Do You Sell? 5 Tips for a Better Response

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Sales Tips for Responding to "What do you sell?"When meeting someone for the first time a common icebreaker is asking what a person does for a living. For those that respond that they are salespeople, a reasonable follow up would be to ask what he or she sells. 

Whether in a social setting or in sales calls, I’m generally underwhelmed in how sellers respond to questions about what they do. Their responses are either too cryptic or go on for too long.

I’d like to suggest some guidelines for better responses:

  • Use 20 or fewer words.
  • Start with the words: “I help …..”
  • Avoid mentioning product/offering names if possible.
  • Share benefits your clients can achieve through the use of your offering.
  • Tell enough that if interested, the person may ask a follow-up question that would allow you to give further detail.

For example, in my case, a very pedestrian response would be:

I do sales training and consulting.”

While true, it’s about me and likely to shut down further conversation. It only follows the first suggestion above and is unlikely to elicit further questions.

I hope you agree a better response would be: 

I help companies implement a process to share best selling practices and drive higher revenue.”

It’s 15 words long, uses the theme of helping, avoids mentioning product (training and consulting) and mentions a benefit clients can realize. 

While important to have a generic social positioning statement, for business calls you should be more specific with outcomes that specific titles would likely be interested in – not products and features. 

At the start of a sales call, a 20-word or less description of outcomes your customers can achieve can steer the conversation in a positive direction. 

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Sales Tips: WHY Should Buyers Buy from You?

Posted by Jill Perez on Apr 24, 2017 3:46:53 PM

Sales Tips: WHY Should Buyers Buy from You?

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Selling is a difficult profession. Most sellers earn the majority of their income from commission. Early on in my career I came to understand it was better to be concerned with meeting buyers’ needs rather than hitting quota and earning an adequate level of income. 

Value and PaybackWe’ve all heard advice that we should walk in another person’s shoes in order to understand their actions and motivations. A question that I asked myself as a salesperson and later asked sellers and managers that reported to me was:

WHY should the decision maker buy?  

Most sellers would agree executives want to be confident that they will achieve an adequate payback on their investment. Estimated costs minus estimated benefits represent the potential value that can be realized. 

A glaring problem I see is that many sellers try to impose their wills by telling buyers how much will be saved. 

Most buyers will take the “value proposition” savings and cut them in half because sellers are often guilty of hyping offerings.

Dependent upon the offering, some buyers will double costs because if any implementation effort is necessary, it always takes longer than expected. In such cases this means that sellers and buyers are off by a factor of 400%!  

To change this dynamic, it’s necessary for sellers to:

  1. Identify business metrics that are likely to improve.
  2. Help buyers establish base lines (where they are pre-purchase).
  3. Ask buyers to estimate the improvement they feel is possible. This is a place where sellers can use reference accounts that have achieved strong results, but it is important to allow the buyer to commit to a number that often will be less than what the reference account has achieved. 

The biggest go/no-go decision in buying cycles is value/payback. 

I think buyers and sellers would be better off if they worked on estimating potential payback BEFORE getting into product evaluations. Reality: The primary reason for losses due to “no decision” is inadequate value.

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Sales Tips: Outdriving Your Headlights

Posted by Jill Perez on Apr 18, 2017 3:00:46 PM

Sales Tips: Are You Outdriving Your Headlights?

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Outdriving HeadlightsMy dad was an engineer. After getting my driver’s permit, he cautioned me on driving at night by making me aware that 60 miles per hour equated to 88 feet per second. Taking into account how far away your headlights illuminated objects, reaction time to see them and braking distance it was possible to “outdrive” your headlights. In other words, by the time you saw an object there wasn’t enough time/distance to stop your car.

It has happened a day at a time but in the last 15 years a seller’s job has gotten more complex while their “headlights” haven’t appreciably improved. 

Consider the challenges:

  • Working with buyers that have already researched multiple vendors in a given space.
  • Interfacing with buyers that think they know what they need.
  • No longer being viewed as product experts.
  • Having to call higher to get budgeting as signing limits have decreased.
  • The increasing complexity of offerings as formerly “dumb devices” became/become part of a network within the Internet of Things (IoT).

In 2002, the first CCS® customer was a Canon reseller of printers, copiers and faxes. Their CEO recognized selling standalone devices in commodity price wars was an unsustainable business model. He had the wisdom to add a group of networking consultants to help sellers deliver improved workflow to executives rather than selling a device at a time to IT or Procurement.

He implemented CCS® to give his sellers the skills needed to execute business outcome vs. product sales. The CEO recognized that without sales process, his business plan was analogous to asking sellers to outdrive their selling skills.  

He transformed his business. 

Standalone product sales are becoming less common. Delivering business outcomes to executives today is likely to require selling products, software and services. If you're a CEO, ask yourself: Am I asking my sales staff to outdrive their selling skills?

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