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Sales Tips: Seller Opinions vs. Buyer Opinions

Posted by Jill Perez on Jul 24, 2017 2:39:28 PM

Sales Tips: "Solutions" - Your Buyer's Opinion or Yours?

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Vendors are so focused on “solutions” they overlook an important fact. 

Solutions are opinions and the only opinions that matter are the buyers’.

Consider how much credibility sellers have if at the start of a call they state:

“We’ve got the solution for you.”

I hope you agree buyers would find this to be a presumptuous and self-serving statement.

Superior sellers are patient and realize there’s work to be done to help buyers visualize solutions. 

OpinionsA mentor once told me Sales is a “hurt and rescue” exercise. 

  • First, sellers must help buyers realize they have latent needs to achieve desired business outcomes that have inherent value. Some examples: Increase revenue, increase margins, reduce downtime, etc. Within CCS®, buying cycles begin when buyers share goals (or problems). This is a watershed event as it means sellers has been deemed to be sincere and competent. 

Unfortunately B and C Players lack patience. Once goals are shared they prematurely jump to “solutions” by saying something analogous to: “Here’s what you need.” The irony is they’re often right but have limited credibility because buyers don’t understand why they can’t achieve goals or they would have already done so. It’s analogous to a swimmer 50 yards offshore refusing a lifejacket. Put that same swimmer a mile offshore and struggling and he/she would hold onto a lifejacket like it was their firstborn. 

  • Once goals are shared, A Players have the wisdom and patience to realize they must do a diagnosis to uncover barriers to achieving goals that exist in the buyer’s current process that can be addressed with specific capabilities within their offerings. Doing diagnoses at this point accomplishes several things: 
  1. Sellers further display their competence.
  2. Buyers realize the downside of not having the seller’s offering.
  3. Based upon buyer responses the seller can offer only those features/capabilities that are relevant to achieving the desired business outcomes.
  4. As with the swimmer a mile offshore the buyer has been better prepared to want/accept the suggested capabilities.
  5. Rather than being sold the buyer can be empowered to achieve the stated goal and understand the potential value of doing so. 

Asking diagnostic questions and listening to the answers allows sellers to help buyers define what their “solutions“ are.

A “solution” must be the buyer’s opinion. 

“If you had (capabilities) could you achieve (the goal)?”The only way sellers can be confident of solutions is by asking questions. The ultimate question asked is: 

If you had (capabilities) could you achieve (the goal)?”

A “yes” from the buyer validates the solution.

Buyers are confident in a seller’s recommendation if:

  • They understand how their current ways of doing business are flawed
  • Know the capabilities needed to address them
  • Have a sense of the potential value of achieving the goal.

Buyers appreciate being empowered to achieve a business outcome rather than being sold products.

Outcomes 2017 - September 13-15

Sales Tips: There's No Shortcut to Sales Improvement

Posted by Jill Perez on Jul 18, 2017 4:50:01 PM

Sales Tips: There's No Shortcut to Sales Improvement

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

If you’re a sales leader, let me start by asking a question:

Do you really want to change your sales team’s performance or just check the ‘training box’ to demonstrate to someone you’re doing something?  

Band Aid on SalesFor those of you who follow me, I’ve always tried to provide you with actionable information, not theory. My feeling is if you are taking the time to read what I write, that I want to provide you with information that will not only educate and inform, but also help. Maybe you will even decide to put it into practice immediately. In keeping with that theme, this particular piece is targeted at sales managers and executive sales leaders. It’s direct and hard-hitting. It’s real talk.

Serious about Change or Just Going through the Motions?
I’ve had some very frustrating/disappointing conversations with senior sales managers and executives since around mid-June. I have quickly concluded that they saw their second quarter revenue performance not being as strong as they promised/forecast it would be, and in an attempt to get out in front of the sh*t storm that they knew was coming following quarter-end, they contacted me in an attempt to “circle the wagons,” obtain some help, and demonstrate to their management that they were “on it.” 

Unfortunately, the requirement for any help they were seeking always came down to how long it would take and how much it would cost. Very few wanted to talk about WHY the salespeople were failing and WHAT type of help they needed to improve their performance and achieve their revenue targets. 

Everyone I spoke with was looking for a Band-Aid, some quick, inexpensive fix that was going to solve all his/her sales performance issues. Well, guess what?

There is no quick fix!

Band-Aid

I repeat: There is no quick fix!

What does REAL sales improvement look like?
Companies that are successful in improving the performance of their salespeople and raising the entire sales organization’s performance to a superior level do four (4) things: 

  1. They recognize that trying to place a Band-Aid on a gaping wound simply won’t work. Sure, it would allow them to check the “training box,” but the sales training vendor selection would be driven by price and time, not by what needed to be accomplished with the sales team. Yugo and Mercedes Benz are both automobiles. There are documented reasons and results as to why a Mercedes Benz costs more. Just look in a junkyard. Now recall all the money you have spent on sales training programs in the past with minimal and unsustainable results. How full is that junkyard? 
  1. They select and implement a defined, dynamic sales process. A sales process that the entire sales staff can be trained to execute; that sales managers can implement, monitor, inspect, and provide both skill and opportunity coaching; and that represent best sales practices. They do not select the low Proactively Manage the Sales Processcost ‘parlor tricks’ that are not applicable to today’s knowledgeable and sophisticated buyers. Nor do they accept some ‘light’ version of the necessary sales training that has been cannibalized/water-downed by the provider to fit into their timeframe and budget. 
  1. They invest in developing sales ready messaging® that is aligned with their sales process. They don’t leave it up to their individual salespeople to determine who they are going to target or how to position the product, and they don’t allow them to lead with product feature/function, followed by premature, possibly inapplicable, product demonstrations. They can’t afford the mixed messages and inaccurate positioning that could be delivered by the salespeople. With the assistance of marketing they identify the job titles, business issues, and give their salespeople the messaging tools they need to converse knowingly with buyers about what they are trying to accomplish, what is preventing them from doing that today, and what capabilities they are going to need moving forward to achieve their goals, solve their problems, or satisfy their needs. Even more, every 60 to 90 days they review that sales ready messaging® to make sure that is on target and that sales and marketing are collaborating. What a concept!
  1. On a daily basis, they proactively manage each salesperson to the sales process that they have selected and implementedThe key phrase here is “proactively manage.” They don’t just wave the training wand and poof, everything is all better! They don’t leave it up to the salesperson to decide if he/she is going to adopt and use it. They drive adoption and use. They have an implementation plan complete with tasks and completion dates; managers have implementation responsibilities; they perform individual territory reviews on a weekly basis to ensure the sales process is being applied and followed; they provide skill and opportunity coaching as needed; and more importantly, they don’t acquiesce to a salesperson’s excuses.

Is this a lot of work? It can be. But so is finding another position when you have been relieved of your responsibilities and have to begin looking for another position. 

I’m not trying to be offensive. I’ve simply taken the time to write down what you know to be true and think about. 

Sales leadership can be difficult and challenging. It can also be very satisfying and financially rewarding.

Oseco - Sales SuccessCompelling Proof
Who are these successful companies I’m referencing in this article? Take the time to visit the Customer Showcase on our website. In addition to video testimonials by our clients about what they have been able to accomplish, there are 70+ Success Stories, again by our clients, documenting what they have been able to accomplish following the implementation and use of CustomerCentric Selling®. Recently I had a competitor ask me why we publish so many Success Stories. I told him, “Because we can.”

If you conclude that this is worthy of further investigation after reviewing the information I suggested you look at, please contact me. There is no harm in talking. Maybe I can help. If you’re beyond that point and would like to evaluate CustomerCentric Selling® for yourself, why don’t you, just you, plan on attending the public CustomerCentric Selling® workshop I’m conducting in Denver, September 12-15th. Our public workshops have proven to be an excellent venue for senior sales leaders to preview the sales methodology and process prior to making a formal adoption decision and at very little expense. For more information about this workshop, or to register to attend, simply click this link. 

Sales Training Workshop

Sales Tips: Give Skilled Craftsmen Better Tools

Posted by Jill Perez on Jul 18, 2017 2:56:15 PM

Sales Tips: Give Skilled Craftsmen Better Tools

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Many sales executives that are considering training their salespeople question whether their top performers should attend. My suggestion is: 

If a sales process is chosen it’s important that all sellers use the same approach and have a common skill set to be able to execute the process.

That foundation gives first level sales managers a much better chance of successfully assessing and developing sellers that report to them.

Give Your Top Performers Better ToolsWith all due respect to “A Players” I hope you agree they sell intuitively. They are so talented they ad lib (wing) sales calls and are successful. That said, few A Players sell “on purpose.” By that I mean they have a plan, execute it and can articulate exactly where they are in a given sales cycle. If you doubt it, think about how frequently estimated close dates slip on opportunities in an A Player’s pipeline. The good news is their close rates are much higher than B/C Players but forecasting is a challenge.

My thought is many projected dates reflect the seller’s or vendor’s need to close by month, quarter or year-end without much thought to when the buyer may be ready to buy.

I’d like to cite two (2) examples of A Players that quantified significant improvement in top-line revenue after attending CCS® Workshops:

  • I happened to run into a senior salesperson for a distributor of Canon printers, copiers and faxes when I was onsite to teach another workshop. Jeff had been and continued to be a top performer year after year. I intimated that he probably didn’t need to attend the workshop and his response surprised me.

    • He said he had been “maxed out” prior to attending CCS® and said that being able to disqualify low probability opportunities sooner allowed him to increase top-line by 50%. Qualifying using CCS® milestones (selling on purpose) had a significant impact.
       
  • InContact TestimonialA seller (Rusty) from a client (InContact) that sells call center software did part of a video testimonial that is posted on our Customer Showcase on our website. After being promoted to a sales manager he looked back and realized after the CCS® workshop he was able to drive revenues higher by 40%.

    • Rusty says in the testimonial that such an increase would be likely for a relatively inexperienced salesperson, but it was “unexpected” of a top performer.

It stands to reason if you give a craftsman a better tool their final product will be better. As it turns out superior sellers have significant upside if they follow a proven process.

Sales Training Workshop

Sales Tips: Telling vs. Asking

Posted by Jill Perez on Jul 14, 2017 12:34:21 PM

Sales Tips: Telling vs. Asking

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Car BumperMy father was intelligent and well intentioned but he had an annoying habit of dispensing unsolicited advice long after I reached adulthood. His efforts to be helpful often devolved into efforts to impose his opinions upon me. Such efforts were doomed to fail if we weren’t on the same page.

At one point in time my dad reached the conclusion nobody in their right mind should buy a car unless it had bumpers that could withstand a 5-mile per hour impact without being damaged. I had shared with him that I was about to buy a sports car (that didn’t meet this spec) and he couldn’t resist trying to have me reconsider my decision. In doing so he failed to realize that a 5 mph bumper was not on my radar screen. I wanted a car that met my primary needs of acceleration, handling and braking. Once I was aware of the 5 mph spec, it was at the bottom of my list.

I resented well-intentioned (albeit misguided) paternal advice so you can imagine how unsolicited advice from salespeople sits with me. Every day in countries around the globe sellers dispense unsolicited advice about how great their offerings are. 

In having potential financial gain riding on making sales, sellers should recuse themselves from offering any opinions. 

How often have you heard a sales clerk say an outfit didn’t look good on you?

The underlying problem:
Sellers fail to realize buyers have little or no interest in their “solutions.”

I’ve come to despise using the term in sales situations because vendors and their sellers fail to realize that “solutions” are opinions. How much value do buyers place on self-serving seller opinions about their offerings?

Unsolicited Advice from SellersAfter making introductions sellers come to a fork in the road:

  • In one direction is the land of telling (selling). By taking this road sellers completely disregard Ben Franklin’s pearl of wisdom: People are best convinced by reasons they discover. Instead sellers opt for making product pitches of their solutions.

  • The other road is one of asking (empowering people to buy) when sellers recognize they must ask questions to:

    • Uncover buyers’ latent needs
    • Help buyers understand what’s broken in their current approach
    • Have buyers agree to the capabilities needed to address what’s broken
    • Empower them to achieve the desired business outcome 

Talking about offerings without asking questions is like walking into a dark room without turning on your flashlight. 

Better buying experiences will result if: 

  • Sellers first ask questions
  • Listen to the answers
  • Present features that seem relevant to meeting buyer needs.

Some people won’t want a “5 mph bumper.” 

Bonitasoft Success Story

Sales Tips: How to Calculate Your Win Rate

Posted by Jill Perez on Jul 11, 2017 12:00:00 PM

Sales Tips: How to Analyze Your Win Rate

By Primary Intelligence, a CustomerCentric Selling® Partner

Calculate Sales Win RateHow to Analyze Sales Win Rate

If you pare down to the simplest method, calculating your sales win rate is the number of pursuits you win to the number you lose. So if you are involved in 100 sales engagements and you win 40 of them, you have a 40 percent win rate.

However, where do you draw the line as to what constitutes an engaged sales deal? You could look at every lead provided to the sales team or you could choose to include only the deals that get past a certain stage in the sales process.

Some organizations only count leads that are “sales ready” as true opportunities.

“Sales Ready” is when the prospective buyer asks for an explanation of your products and services and requests a full demo or presentation from the sales team.

The leads that have some interest in your solutions but haven’t scheduled an appointment wouldn’t count for the win rate calculation. They would instead be part of a calculation that the marketing team would use to determine the success of their nurture campaigns.

Sales ReadyWhen the Buyer is “Sales Ready”

Once the sales team has a sincere conversation with the buyer, they would then be counted as a deal and be considered “sales ready.” Some losses would be sent to a nurture campaign if they choose not to purchase at that time—also known as “no decision” deals. Sales deals lost to a competitor should be placed in a win-back campaign.

Each of these losses or future wins would be nurtured with specific content to help them see the value of your solutions and what they are missing by not purchasing your product or service.

Nevertheless, a simplified calculation of your win rate doesn’t paint an accurate picture nor does it give a quantifiable measurement to understand revenue outcome metrics. Do you know how each sales representative performs by deal type and outcome? How much visibility into the sales cycle do you actually have? What is the ROI on expansions and add-ons?

TruSales for Salesforce.com Users

Primary Intelligence now offers a solution, TruSales for Salesforce.com users that provides a clear analysis of your sales win rate. You’ll immediately know where you stand with win rates, lost deals, no decisions, and revenue by deal types.

It’s completely free if you sign up now for the preview release. Our research shows 85 percent of companies do not know their actual win rate. Why not give TruSales a try? Get access here.

Outcomes 2017 - September 13-15

Sales Tips: Buyer's Bill of Rights

Posted by Jill Perez on Jul 3, 2017 12:38:24 PM

Sales Tips: The Buyer's Bill of Rights

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Buyer's Bill of RightsThe 4th of July holiday is the time of year when Americans pause to give thought to the freedoms our forefathers treasured and were willing to fight to secure. Oppression was and is a powerful motivator.

Since 1993 I’ve railed against traditional selling approaches. In the last decade buyers have leveled the playing field in starting to dictate how they want to be treated. I regret to say most vendors have failed to align with this changing landscape.

Dear SalespersonThe Buyer’s Bill of Rights

I’d like to share ten (10) things today’s buyers would appreciate and encourage you to check off those you feel you or your sellers provide on a consistent basis: 

  • Sellers should be able in 20 words or less to tell us what their offerings help buyers do.
  • We want to discuss our needs with sellers before being subjected to product pitches.
  • Sellers should offer only those parts of their offerings that match capabilities we need to improve business results.
  • We want a high level view of potential benefits before committing the resources needed to evaluate offerings.
  • We want to be empowered, not pressured to buy.
  • We want sellers to be knowledgeable about our industries and job responsibilities.
  • We want cost versus benefit analyses based upon our projections, not the seller’s.
  • We want sellers to help us monitor results.
  • We want sellers that understand and align with our buying process.
  • Sellers should withdraw if their offerings aren’t a good fit. 

Most organizations leave buyer experiences to individual salespeople. Unfortunately, only about 10% of sellers are up to the task. An organizational approach/process is necessary to consistently win by providing superior buying experiences.

Outcomes 2017 - September 13-15

Sales Tips: 3 Things Sellers Should Do Now at Mid-year

Posted by Jill Perez on Jun 29, 2017 2:32:08 PM

Sales Tips: 3 Things To Do Now at Mid-year If You Want to Make Your Number

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

Stop and Take PauseWell, the month of June is in the rearview mirror.  For some of you, you're staring down the second half of your calendar year. You're either basking in the glow of your first half performance or wondering what you are going to do to make up for any shortfall and generate the revenue you need to meet your second half revenue goal. For others, it’s the beginning of a new fiscal year.  In either case, if you are a salesperson you have sales goals that have to be attained.  If you agree with that summation, let me ask you a question:

Where is your revenue going to come from?

As salespeople we are often going so fast and juggling so many opportunities (good and bad) that we don’t stop to take pause and confirm where we are heading and what we need to do in order to get there.

So let me advocate that you STOP - and put a little plan together to get you where you determine you want and need to go.  Make sense?  Here is what I’d like to propose you do now:

1. Honestly grade your pipeline using the Call Debriefing Questions:

  • Call DebriefingName, Title & Company  (If you can’t answer this one, you have a problem.)

  • Buyer's business goals? (What are they trying to accomplish?)

  • Current situation? (How are they operating without your capabilities today and what is it costing them to operate this way?)

  • Capabilities required? (What specific capabilities of yours (not features) do they need in order to achieve their business goals?)

  • Personal/dollar value to the person/organization? (What is the potential value to the prospect of changing how they operate by purchasing or subscribing to your offering?)

  • Who else do we want involved? (It’s going to take consensus from multiple people to obtain approval and receive funding. What key players do you need to speak with to get this opportunity sold, funded and implemented/activated?)

  • Potential Key Player role? (Your contact, the person you have been dealing with - what is their real role?  Remember, you can’t sell to someone who can’t buy.)

  • Next steps? (If these are your best opportunities and you couldn’t answer these questions, maybe your next step is to setup a Refocus Meeting and get the answers to these questions and the information you need.)

2. Deal with stale proposals with the “proposal withdrawal letter” and if possible, schedule a Refocus Meeting.

  • Withdraw any proposal over ten (10) business days old. If there has been no activity after you provided them with all the information they need to make an informed selection decision, something must be wrong! (Related: Best Practices for Handling Sales Proposals)

  • If they reengage after you’ve withdrawn the proposal, schedule a Refocus Meeting.

  • Determine if you missed any requirements. If you did, address them.

  • Determine what has to happen and when for the opportunity to close.

  • Put a mutually agreed to Sequence of Events in place and manage the opportunity to closure. (Be sure to avoid these common mistakes with Sequence of Events!)

Grading Sales Opportunities3. Create a 30-day tactical calendar – don’t try to do it all at once!

  • Grade your “Top 10” current opportunities. (These are the opportunities that you plan to close to make your year.)

  • Identify your top five (5) opportunities. (Out of the ten you just identified, what are the top five?)

  • Facilitate a written Cost versus Benefit for your top five (5). (What is the value to the prospect of purchasing or subscribing to your offering?) Related: 6 Steps to Establishing Value with Buyers

  • Develop an Implementation Plan for your top five (5). (Once they say YES, what is going to happen so they will begin to obtain the benefits they believe they are going to obtain?)

  • Have your calls debriefed by a manager for the first 30 days. (Same questions I asked you above.)

  • Put a Business Development Plan together for your territory. (What are you going to do to augment the leads you receive from marketing?)

Gary WalkerIf you’re not already a CustomerCentric Selling® trained salesperson you may be wondering: "What does all of this mean?" I’d be happy to answer any questions you may have. I’m always happy to help salespeople, so just call me (+800.993.1228, ext 702).

Lastly, if:

  1. You’re looking for more and would like to obtain a complete understanding of what this all means
  2. You'd like to be trained how to execute and practice everything I’ve just outlined
  3. You would like to obtain the sales skills necessary to perform at a superior level by implementing the CustomerCentric Selling® sales process...

Then I urge you to enroll in the public CustomerCentric Selling® workshop that I’ll personally be instructing, September 12-15th. Hope to see you there!

Sales Training Workshop - Denver, September 12-15

Sales Tips: Best Practices for Handling Sales Proposals

Posted by Jill Perez on Jun 26, 2017 1:37:18 PM

Sales Tips: Best Practices for Handling Sales Proposals

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Sales ProposalsAs a sales manager one of my least favorite activities was creating forecasts every month. One of the things that made it difficult was the fact that in my mind most sellers generated proposals too early when developing opportunities. They believed it was a step toward getting orders.

In my experience, a proposal represents activity but not necessarily progress.

I’ll share with you some thoughts and best practices for handling sales proposals:

  1. Issuing proposals too early
  2. Purpose and role of proposals in the buying cycle
  3. 10 questions sellers should ask themselves before issuing proposals
  4. Stale proposals
  5. Withdrawal strategy
1. Think before you issue.

There is a problem in issuing proposals too soon. Unlike fine red wines they don't age well. My thought is that after proposals have been issued, after 45 days the probability of resulting in orders is less likely with each day that passes by.

So why do sellers issue these proposals too soon?

Quote and HopeThe underlying reason sellers propose prematurely is they view proposals as selling vehicles (a "quote and hope" strategy). I couldn't disagree with this logic more strongly.

Imagine that a decision maker whom the seller has never met receives a copy of this "selling vehicle." He or she is unlikely to read all the verbiage from cover to cover. Even if they started with the intention of doing so, most would soon lose their resolve as they realized most of the words and content have little relevance for them. At some point they would merely go to the last tab, find the price and think whatever number they saw was too high. This should not come as a shock to anyone because the buyer has no idea of the potential value of the offering being proposed.

2. What is the purpose of a proposal?

I hope you agree it is not to sell. In my opinion a proposal should serve as a decision vehicle. By that I mean it should contain the information needed for the committee to make a buying decision. This information could include pricing, implementation plans, professional services, cost versus benefit, etc. In thinking back to control, however, won't buyers appreciate learning these details during the sales cycle rather than waiting until the end? For this reason, I suggest a proposal should summarize the discussions between the seller and buyers. Rather than wait until the proposal, information (pricing, implementation, etc.) should be shared along the way. If done properly, there should be no new information in the proposal.

Unless it is a very complicated recommendation, I like to see a maximum of 10-15 pages. If you are compelled to include standard brochures and literature, please put them in a tab after the custom pages that you write. When you think about it, including information that they buyer has already seen should minimize questions and make it easier to ask for the business.

3. 10 questions you should ask yourself BEFORE issuing a proposal:

  1. Has a cost vs. benefit been created that justifies the expenditure you’re asking for?
  2. Is the person you’re giving the proposal to able to fund the initiative?
  3. How many of the people that may be in the buying committee have you spoken with?
  4. Do buyers understand the outcomes they are looking to achieve with your offering?
  5. Do buyers understand the reasons they can’t achieve those outcomeswithout your offering?
  6. Can buyersarticulate specific capabilities within your offering will that address the reasons?
  7. Have the buyers been provided with documented results other companies have achieved with your offering?
  8. Will the proposal be forwarded to any people you haven’t already spoken with?
  9. Do buyers have everything needed to make a buying decision?
  10. Why are you issuing the proposalnow?

Missed TargetsSellers give up a great deal of control once proposals are issued. Given a choice, my preference would be to err on the side of providing a proposal too late rather than too early. 

4. Stale proposals hurt forecasts.

For sellers having several stale proposals in their pipelines, forecasting amounts to pushing dates out each month. They will strongly defend leaving them in the forecast, primarily because if they are taken out it will become clear they don’t have enough activity to make their numbers.

I believe sellers delude themselves. If they add up all the revenue from each opportunity the figure may approach the GDP of a small country. Sellers conclude that if they can sell a relatively modest percentage they will achieve their quotas. 

The problem is that for most stale proposals, buyers have already gone with another vendor and didn’t want to deliver the bad news or the opportunity is going to wind up with “no decision” that will ultimately be bad news for all vendors that issued quotes. 

5. A better way to handle stale proposals using a withdrawal strategy:

  • Rethinking Sales ProposalsI suggest that after 45 days with no contact from prospects, the best course of action is to withdraw proposals rather than just remove them from the pipeline.

  • Consider sending a letter to prospects (please don’t overnight it) by sending a snail mail letter return receipt requested that would cost you about $3.00. It will be more formal than an email and you’ll be certain that the person received your letter.

  • In the letter indicate that you don’t feel you had done a good job of uncovering the prospect’s business issues and potential value and your intent is to withdraw the proposal but you would welcome a chance to have a conversation to see if it makes sense to consider issuing a revised proposal.

From here, it’s binary. The options are: 

  1. You never hear back from the prospect so you should remove the “opportunity” from your pipeline/forecast. Oddly enough this is a positive result. Once dead wood is removed the seller and manager will have a more accurate picture of the health of the pipeline and can take the needed actions.
  1. The buyer contacts you and indicates the company is still interested. This is the desired result and gives the seller a second chance potentially to gain access to other people and to either issue a more compelling proposal or realize there isn’t sufficient value to warrant a buying decision (nor another proposal).

Proposals take time to write and often compromise a seller's control of an opportunity. One way to minimize these issues is to be sure you are issuing proposals after all of the necessary selling has been done and to be sure an executive could be expected to read the custom content.

One of the core concepts I subscribe to is that bad news early is good news. Realizing a loss after a proposal has languished for months isn’t “early” but I think we can agree it’s a case of better late than never. 

sales training workshop

Sales Tips: 2 Costly Mistakes Sellers Make When Squeezed

Posted by Jill Perez on Jun 20, 2017 12:28:49 PM

Sales Tips: 2 Costly Mistakes Sellers Make When Squeezed

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

“I need your best and final price.”

This question marks the beginning of the pricing squeeze and is often asked after multiple vendors have issued quotes or proposals. Very often it’s asked by a non-Key Player that senior management designates to make this request. Sellers can waste valuable time and leave money on the table if they make the wrong responses. 

Bad Pricing ResponsesTwo (2) examples of BAD and COSTLY responses: 

  • “Where do I need to be?” This is the worst possible response a salesperson can give. It amounts to acknowledging a discount is in order. Beyond that sellers give the impression they have unlimited authority to discount. This response allows buyers to wrest control of negotiations because smart buyers will specify the price they want to pay, not the price they’re willing to pay. Final pricing is strongly influenced by how low the bar is set. I refer to “Where do I need to be?” as the 6 most expensive words salespeople can utter.
     
  • Offer a lower price. This can backfire and the buyer’s end game is usually to leverage lower pricing to pressure the vendor of choice to discount. There may also be instances where the price given becomes the starting point for negotiations if and when decision makers get involved. Once a seller makes a concession it becomes a slippery slope as buyers press for even better deals.

Try This Approach Instead
My suggestion is to respond to requests for best and final pricing as follows:

“Are we the vendor of choice and is price the last obstacle to doing business?” 

  • If the answer is yes, request a meeting with the decision maker and if necessary bring your manager.

  • If the answer is “No, not yet” or “Maybe” then sellers should respond as follows:

It appears your organization has further vendor evaluation to do so at this stage. I hope we’ll ultimately become your vendor of choice. If so, at that time I can bring my manager to meet with (the decision maker) and you to see if we can reach agreement. 

Some salespeople have trouble walking away without offering concessions.

When you think about it, most buyers have “Column A” vendors that are often granted last looks. If you are Column A, buyers will come back to you if you don’t discount. If you’re Column B, C or D it is highly unlikely you’ll get the business and you leave a discounted price on the street that may come back to haunt you in future opportunities.

In today’s business environment everyone is flat out busy. As a seller you can save time and angst if you delay negotiating until you have determined that you are the vendor of choice. Unless you sell true commodities it’s virtually impossible to discount your way into becoming Column A.

Sales Training Workshop

Sales Tips: How to Handle Stale Proposals

Posted by Jill Perez on Jun 14, 2017 12:35:00 PM

Sales Tips: A Better Way to Handle Stale Proposals

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

As a sales manager one of my least favorite activities was creating forecasts every month. One of the things that made it difficult was the fact that in my mind most sellers generated proposals too early when developing opportunities. They believed it was a step toward getting orders.

In my experience, a proposal represents activity but not necessarily progress.

Sales Tips for Handling Stale ProposalsThere is a problem in issuing proposals too soon. Unlike fine red wines they don't age well. My thought is that after proposals have been issued, after 45 days the probability of resulting in orders is less likely with each day that passes by.

For sellers having several stale proposals in their pipelines, forecasting amounts to pushing dates out each month. They will strongly defend leaving them in the forecast, primarily because if they are taken out it will become clear they don’t have enough activity to make their numbers. 

I believe sellers delude themselves. If they add up all the revenue from each opportunity the figure may approach the GDP of a small country. Sellers conclude that if they can sell a relatively modest percentage they will achieve their quotas.

The problem is that for most stale proposals, buyers have already gone with another vendor and didn’t want to deliver the bad news or the opportunity is going to wind up with “no decision” that will ultimately be bad news for all vendors that issued quotes.

MailA Better Way:

  • I suggest that after 45 days with no contact from prospects, the best course of action is to withdraw proposals rather than just remove them from the pipeline.

  • Consider sending a letter to prospects (please don’t overnight it) by sending a snail mail letter return receipt requested that would cost you about $3.00. It will be more formal than an email and you’ll be certain that the person received your letter.

  • In the letter indicate that you don’t feel you had done a good job of uncovering the prospect’s business issues and potential value and your intent is to withdraw the proposal but you would welcome a chance to have a conversation to see if it makes sense to consider issuing a revised proposal.

From here, it’s binary. The options are:

  1. You never hear back from the prospect so you should remove the “opportunity” from your pipeline/forecast. Oddly enough this is a positive result. Once dead wood is removed the seller and manager will have a more accurate picture of the health of the pipeline and can take the needed actions. 
  1. The buyer contacts you and indicates the company is still interested. This is the desired result and gives the seller a second chance potentially to gain access to other people and to either issue a more compelling proposal or realize there isn’t sufficient value to warrant a buying decision (nor another proposal).

One of the core concepts of CCS® is that bad news early is good news. Realizing a loss after a proposal has languished for months isn’t “early” but I think we can agree it’s a case of better late than never.

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