CustomerCentric Selling® Sales Training Blog

Sales Tips: Create Superior Buying Experiences

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 25, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Create Superior Buying Experiences

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

Image courtesy of Stock Images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

superior-buying-experienceOne of my clients told me within the first six months of implementing CustomerCentric Selling® (CCS®) that they had 2 clients compliment them because their buying experiences were markedly better than any other sales they had been involved in.

I think part of that is because CCS® sellers understand their first objective in a call is to uncover business outcomes that the titles they’re calling on want to achieve. Once that happens, the relationship between the buyer and seller changes. They both understand there is a reason they should continue the call.

The next step is a diagnosis to uncover reasons the outcome can’t be achieved. It establishes a level of credibility with buyers who appreciate that sellers understand their current way of doing business. The seller can then offer only those capabilities that address the reasons and validate that with them the buyer can achieve the desired outcome.

Selling doesn’t have to be manipulative. Buyers determine their vision based upon the way they answer the seller’s questions. Ultimately they are empowered to buy rather than being sold. People appreciate the control that affords them.

How important are buyer experiences? I believe they are one of the few sustainable, competitive advantages vendors can enjoy. Beyond that, I wanted to share the results of a Forrester Research and Watermark Consulting study that tracked stock results for 2007-2012. Over this period, the S&P Index increased 14.5% while laggards in customer experience suffered a 33.9% loss in stock price. Customer experience leaders realized gains of 43%. 

Takeaway: Your quality of customers' buying experiences can have a significant impact on your business.

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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 Did Your Call Go?"

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 18, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: "How Did Your Call Go?"

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

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

sales-call-debriefingAfter being promoted to sales management I got to ask rather than answer the question:  “How did your call with ABC go?” From my new perspective I quickly recognized signs that indicated that sellers had not made great calls: 

  • Pauses or stammering before answering
  • Limited or no eye contact
  • Sharing irrelevant information
  • A lot of talking

Have you ever notice debriefing good calls takes far less time?

Before forecasting opportunities I’d ask a series of qualifying questions. The same conclusions applied, but I added one. If sellers could sell as well to buyers as they were selling me on how good bad opportunities were, they’d be top performers.

Sellers with thin pipelines want managers to believe the numbers will happen. Their forecasts are roll-ups from their staff, so sales managers want to believe. Looking back it would have been better for everyone if I used the following debriefing questions:

  • What is the highest title within the organization that you’ve called on?
  • What business outcome(s) are important to this buyer?
  • Why can’t the outcome(s) be achieved today without our offering?
  • What capabilities can you provide to allow outcomes to be achieved?
  • What is the value of achieving the outcome(s)?
  • What other titles will be involved in making a buying decision?
  • Can/will this contact be a champion in providing access to other titles?

Taking it a step further, if those questions could be answered it would have been helpful for sellers to imbed them in correspondence to the potential champion. As a manager I could then measure progress by buyer actions (getting access to the titles requested), a far more accurate gauge than asking sellers their biased opinions.

Register Now for May 5-8! Sign-up now for the next open workshop in Boston, coming May 5-8. Seats are already filling fast so save yours now!

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: What NOT to Say with Executive Buyers

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 11, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: What NOT to Say in Sales

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

Image courtesy of Photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

close-mouthThe objective of product training, skill training and sales enablement is allowing sellers to make better calls. Companies hope that the information they provide and sellers’ interpretation of it result in words that resonate during calls on different titles and vertical markets.

Everyone is concerned about what sellers say. Few worry about what they shouldn’t say. Words and phrases that are noise rather than relevant content can distract or even offend buyers. I’d like to suggest some words or phrases to avoid, especially when calling on executives.

The only thing worse than failing to gain access to high levels is making calls and not relating to them. Here are words and phrases that may contribute to the problem:

1. Honestly is a dangerous word for salespeople to use. Even worse, the dreaded “let me be honest with you now”. The implication being that you had lied earlier in the call. The pervasive stereotype is that sellers take liberties with the truth. Invoking the word “honest” raises red flags from buyers. As you can imagine the phrase “trust me” is another dangerous word. Sellers must earn rather than ask for a buyer’s trust.

2. Automatically amounts to asking buyers to trust that whatever you are selling works. To imagine how vacuous the phrase is, consider how buyers would react if the term auto-magically were substituted. Rather than say server failures are automatically avoided it would be more helpful to buyers if you said: When pre-set activity thresholds for a server are exceeded, the system will transfer some of the volume to other servers that have available capacity to avoid crashes. As a side note sellers should never wink when using the word automatically.

3. Obviously is a completely unnecessary and perilous word. If something is obvious it need not be acknowledged. Saying something is obvious (that would be to lower levels) may not be to executives. If this happens you may have insulted the executive.

4. Filler words. Using verbal crutches can be difficult to self-assess. You may want to engage your spouse or a friend in helping you. During sales calls sellers need to keep conversations going. Rather than pause (which can be powerful in having buyers listen closely when you continue speaking) some sellers use “filler words.” These verbal gems generate noise without requiring thought. This allows them to formulate follow-on questions.

These words include: “like, ah, um, basically, you know, candidly, etc.” I recently had a phone conversation with someone that used the phrase “you know” so frequently it was distracting. For a while I kept count in my notes. In college I had a professor whose pet phrase was “in effect”. His record was saying it 61 times during a 50-minute class. Most people are completely unaware of this annoying habit and will be horrified to realize they’re guilty of doing this. 

5. Acronyms, especially for technology companies, have become a large part of the vernacular. Calling at lower levels, sellers can gain credibility by using and then being asked to explain what acronyms stand for. That said if sellers use acronyms executives don't understand, several bad things happen. You aren’t relating to buyers and in fact may embarrass them. They won’t ask what the letters stand for and may delegate you to lower levels that will. This means you’ve squandered an opportunity to gain traction with someone that will be involved in making the buying decision if things progress.

6. Overused/Overhyped words. Some overused words have become trite especially to executives: “integrated, cutting edge, robust, elegant, seamless, synergistic, etc.” I can only imagine how many times sellers have stressed that one of their product strengths was being “user-friendly” and needed tech support to do the demo. A string of these words late in the afternoon can cause induce drowsiness.

7. Ownership words. Sellers, vendors or offerings taking ownership of achieving a business outcome such as: “I/my company/my software will solve your forecasting accuracy problem.” Oddly enough, this statement borders on asking executive to trust (referenced above) you/your company/your software. Issues arise when this phrase is invoked: 

  • Sellers/vendors don’t have any organizational authority within clients and therefore can’t achieve business outcomes or solve business problems. Many sellers take ownership with good intent with buyers that have been let down in the past. Reliance upon sellers/vendors to achieve outcomes also increases perceived risk in making buying decisions.
  • Software won’t improve forecasting accuracy. The customer would be responsible for making sure everyone uses the software, inputs clean data into the system and that managers interpret the reports to forecast. Most offerings provide capabilities that buyers can use to achieve business outcomes. Empowered buyers take ownership of results and therefore see less risk in making buying decisions.
  • Once sellers or vendors take responsibility for achieving outcomes, buyers are within their rights to ask for guarantees. It affords a prime opportunity for watching sellers/vendors stammer and squirm. Their position sounds like a car salesperson - your mileage may vary so we can’t guarantee it.

8. Where do I/we need to be? I refer to a phrase used in negotiation as the most expensive six words sellers can utter – Where do I need to be? It compromises a seller’s/vendor’s position on several fronts:

  • The seller acknowledges discounting will be necessary
  • The seller gives the impression they have tremendous pricing flexibility
  • The buyer can take control by giving a number they want to pay rather than what they’re willing to pay. The lower their response, the lower the final price will be.

I appreciate there may be times when sellers can ask this questions of a person they’ve   done business with before and enjoy a good relationship. This often will happen at month/quarter/year end. I suggest never asking prospects this question.

I’m not saying buyers won’t buy if you use these words or phrases. In sales calls words convey either noise or a relevant message. Reducing noise should make the message more relevant and powerful to executive buyers. Key: Relevant words aren’t annoying, insulting or distracting.

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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: The Challenge with Sales Enablement

Posted by Jill Perez on Mar 4, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: The Challenge with Sales Enablement

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

0-teamworkCommonly used terms can take on lives of their own. A Google search for “sales enablement” yielded 1.17 million hits. Despite its wide acceptance or maybe because of it, the term means dramatically different things to different people. Many of the Google hits apply the adjective “evolving” because nobody seems to want to get cornered into a firm definition.

Like aspirin, sales enablement can be used to relieve almost any malady. It can be invoked by senior executives when: 

  • Old sales and marketing approaches aren’t delivering results as they once were
  • The power in making purchases has shifted to empowered buyers
  • The sales organization is on a remote island while all other major business disciplines are on the mainland
  • Traditional sales approaches make improving buyer experiences a fleeting hope

Telling a concerned board of investors that a VP of Sales Enablement position has been created is a way of limiting what might be ugly discussions and buying time.

Despite the dramatic changes in buying behavior in the last 15 years, one measure of sales has been a constant over several decades: Only about 50% of salespeople achieve quota each year. It begs the question: In what other departments would CEO’s tolerate having half their employees fail to meet expectations?

Ironically Sales is the most easily measurable profession. You can exactly calculate a seller’s, manager’s or CSO’s percentage of quota attainment. That said, Sales is different than other departments. It’s a sink or swim proposition in companies that have not meaningfully broken sales down into a repeatable process, provided a common set of skills to execute the process and consistent messaging for specific titles and desired business outcomes.

Absent sales process, sales enablement efforts are limited in empowering sellers to make better calls so a higher percentage can achieve quota. Isn’t that the ultimate measure of sales enablement?

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

Sales Tips: How "Outside-in" Leads to the Holy Grail

Posted by Jill Perez on Feb 25, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How an "Outside-in" Approach Can Lead to the Holy Grail

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

centricMost founders without sales experience don’t think about selling in the early stages of launching startups. Their focus is on developing offerings. Later they may view Sales as a necessary evil. While not feasible, those with complex B2B offerings may wish they could sell via the Internet and eliminate the need to hire sales executives to build sales forces.

Two major challenges for entrepreneurs:

1. Understanding target markets to develop

2. Providing offerings that meet the needs of potential buyers.

Some take Field of Dreams, “If I build it they will buy” approaches. Rude awakenings may arise when trying to raise money from investors or secure their initial customers. During meetings with potential investors some founders appear to be insulted when asked who would buy their offering and why.

Even Steve Jobs’ detractors recognized his genius in creating offerings people wanted to buy. He focused on delivering buyer experiences. Apple ads spend more time on usage rather than features and product details. I’m unaware of a comparable visionary in a large B2B company that drives product development in making product people want to buy.

Once a start-up begins workflows, roles and interfaces between core functions are defined. Order entry must interface with billing and fulfillment. When inventory is depleted, Procurement must re-order goods and communicate with Accounts Payable. Shipping must provide input to billing. On and on it goes. Chaos would reign if touch points and relationships between departments were left undefined.

Sales organizations are created last and seem to be on remote islands while all other departments are on the mainland. Chartered with driving top line revenue, salespeople are given wide latitude in how they go about doing it. Industry statistics for decades have been consistent: About 50% of salespeople achieve quota. A few questions:

  • What other departments have half of their staff under-performing?
  • How useful/functional is the job description for salespeople in your company?
  • How are sales managers expected to assess and develop sellers when each has their own approach to selling and positioning offerings?

If successful, most companies develop four (4) silos: 

  • Product Development
  • Product Marketing
  • Marketing
  • Sales

Ironically, executives responsible for each silo have varying tasks and responsibilities that directly contribute to the ultimate objective:  Achieving top line revenue.

Product Development creates offerings they believe buyers want, a daunting challenge if they are far removed from customers. This results in taking “inside out” approaches when creating new offerings. One of the biggest barriers to being customer-centric is having offerings buyers want to buy.

collaborativeThe Holy Grail
Shifting to “outside-in” approaches requires an understanding of industry trends, desired buyer outcomes and reasons those outcomes can’t be achieved. Being able to get to this level could provide the Holy Grail for vendors: A sustainable competitive advantage.

The silos of Product Development, Product Marketing, Marketing and Sales often generate internal friction. These organizations speak different languages and there is a palpable lack of an overarching structure that functionally defines interactions between silos. This lack of structure causes random acts of sales enablement to be performed. It’s debatable whether such changes make things better or worse because they’re done from each silo’s perspective. It’s analogous to a crew team without a coxswain: Eight rowers randomly putting their oars in the water with no cadence and nobody steering the boat toward its destination.

Most companies have paid lip service to sales enablement rather than making meaningful changes. Customer-centricity isn’t a “bolt on” module. John Chambers, Cisco’s CEO has gone on record as saying that 2 of the top 5 technology companies could become irrelevant within the next 5 years. Old approaches to markets aren’t working. The larger the company the more difficult it is to have silos collaborate productively.

In order to remain relevant, companies will need to develop frameworks and context to define roles. All four silos could taking the following steps to rally around customers:

  1. Have all silos agree on the titles that sellers must call on to sell, fund and implement each offering.
  2. For each of these titles the silos should agree on a menu of business outcomes these buyers are responsible for that can be achieved through the use of the offering. These outcomes should have monetary value to clients to allow benefits to exceed costs.
  3. Have a common vocabulary so that reasons business outcomes can’t be achieved become part of Product Development’s “to do” list.
  4. Define a “lead” as a Key Player title interested in one or more business outcomes on their menu.

Taking an “outside-in” approach creates the potential for Marketing to stop “push” campaigns. If offerings address buyer/market vendors can experience market “pull.” The biggest contributor to being customer-centric is providing offerings buyers want to buy.

Taking these steps enhances a vendor’s chances of remaining relevant to their customers and markets. It’s significantly easier to sell offerings prospects and customers want to buy. All silos have some role in achieving top line revenue. Aligning Product Development, Product Marketing and Marketing with Sales would make everyone’s job easier. 

Key Takeaway
Top line revenue is the single most significant factor in a company’s success or failure. Revenue generation should be a collaborative organizational effort rather than expecting Sales to deliver quota.

Save Your Webinar Seat Now! Exclusive Webinar featuring CCS® President/COO, Frank Visgatis is coming NEXT WEEK! Can't make it? Register to get the replay!

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: 4 Qualifications for Earning Senior Decision Maker Face Time

Posted by Jill Perez on Feb 18, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: 4 Qualifications for Earning Senior Decision Maker Face Time

By Michael Higgins, CEO of Selling at the C-level and CustomerCentric Selling® Strategic Alliance Partner

Image courtesy of Master Isolated Images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

SDMFocusing on delivering value (what matters to the customer) instead of our own products’ bells and whistles (what matters to us) is a powerful competitive advantage.

Here’s a question: Is the value proposition we want to deliver to our customer’s Senior Decision Makers (SDMs), e.g., buyers at the C-level, different than the one we would deliver to other lower-level managers? The answer, emphatically, is yes!

Senior Decision Makers think, speak and act using the language of business, which is finance. It is similar to visiting a country where the language spoken is different than our native tongue. A good way to get along and enjoy the country as an insider would be to have a great interpreter. An even better way to succeed and thrive in a different country than our own is to speak, understand and respond in the native tongue.

The country that SDM’s inhabit is no different.

CustomerCentric Selling® is the most customer and value-focused methodology in the selling world. It equips salespeople with a repeatable process and Sales Ready Messaging®. And in the process, it helps customers come to a buying decision in an organic and almost inevitable sequence.

Selling to SDM’s requires an additional embedded skillset that not all CCS®-trained salespeople naturally have or even easily relate to. Enter Financial Impact Selling, an advanced CCS® skillset.

frank-michaelRegister for the Webinar on March 3rd at 1pm EST as Michael and CCS® President/COO, Frank Visgatis, introduce you to this new “Financial Impact” concept and how it can significantly help your organization increase sales.

Please consider your own sales team: Are your salespeople confident enough in their financial acumen skills to communicate as equals, i.e., speak in the business/financial language of your customer’s senior managers?

Senior managers have different requirements for giving a salesperson their time than managers at the mid-level. Their concerns are more global and strategic. They want to know what problem you solve and the strategic, financial statement impact of your product and services.

A. The first question on the mind of an SDM meeting with your salesperson is:

“Do you really understand my problem and can you help me see it – and solve it – in a way I haven’t seen before?”

B. Only after a salesperson has satisfied that criterion will a senior manager allow them access to their second concern:

“What is your strategic financial business case and how will it impact my own financial objectives, bottom lines and crucial metrics?” 

If salespeople try to sell features, benefits and details, they will quickly be sent downstairs to the managers who worry about those. Then, the person selling your company’s proposal to your customer’s senior managers will no longer be your salesperson. Your salesperson will become the mid-level manager to whom your salesperson was delegated.

4 Qualifiers for Earning SDM Face Time
Do your salespeople have the acumen they need? If you’re not sure, consider how they rank in the following four (4) qualifications for earning senior manager face-time:

  1. What is the literacy of your salespeople with annual reports, CEO letters, financial statements (all three!) and key drivers? Do they have access to industry segment information and enough financial acumen to glean a senior manager’s likely concerns before they even have their meeting?
  2. Does your sales force go after problems in enough financial depth to be seen as consultants on the problem before posing a solution?
  3. Does your sales force have enough financial acumen to keep up with a senior-level conversation about financial impact without having to “fake it?” Can they stay with your customer’s senior managers beyond a tactical view of an issue to the strategic, financial bigger-view?
  4. Do they really understand your strategic business case and go-to-market strategy? Can they communicate those simply and clearly? And, can they quickly and credibly connect the impact of your business case, products and services to the senior manager’s strategic and financial statement concerns?

If your answer to these questions is “No” or “I’m not sure”, Financial Impact Selling will give your salespeople what they need and turn your sales force into more confident, financially strategic partners with your customer’s senior managers.

Save Your Webinar Seat Now! Webinar featuring Michael Higgins and CCS® President/COO, Frank Visgatis, coming soon in just TWO weeks! Can't make it? Register so you can get the recorded replay!

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: Why You Should Ask "Is There Anything Else?"

Posted by Jill Perez on Feb 11, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Why Sellers Need to Ask, "Is There Anything Else?"

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

Image courtesy of Pakron at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

question-markCustomerCentric Selling® focuses on having buyers share business outcomes (goals) that they’d like to achieve through the use of a seller’s offering. Having goals shared is a watershed event as executives likely must conclude the seller is sincere and competent before they’re willing to disclose them.

Once shared, there should be a discovery discussion amounting to a diagnosis to uncover specific reasons the goal can’t be achieved and then offering only those features/capabilities that are relevant to helping the buyer achieve the goal. During the solution development process the seller attempts to quantify the potential value of achieving the goal.

A mistake sellers often make is ending calls after a goal has been processed. We suggest going into the call that sellers have a menu of potential goals for the title they are calling on. It’s important that they ask buyers if there are any other issues to be discussed and can offer a menu of additional goals that can mean greater potential value and payback.

Before ending calls that have gone well, remember to ask a question that can make them go better: Are there any additional goals you’d like to achieve?

Save Your Webinar Seat Now! Don't miss our Webinar coming Tuesday, March 3rd at 1pm EST! All registrants will receive the recorded replay.

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: Earn the Right to Talk Product with "Hurt and Rescue"

Posted by Jill Perez on Feb 4, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How "Hurt and Rescue" Can Help You Earn the Right to Talk Product with Executive Buyers

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

help

The amount of interest in learning about offerings is inversely proportional to the level within an organization that sellers call. Unfortunately product training better prepares salespeople to discuss product with lower levels than making executive calls.

When making high-level calls, sellers may want to keep a few things in mind:

  • The initial effort should be to learn/uncover business goals or pains executives have that your offering can be used to achieve or address. Key Players should be willing to spend money to achieve these business outcomes. Ultimately a cost vs. benefit will be the value of realizing the outcome(s) compared to the cost of the offering being considered.

  • Once business goals have been shared, sellers should focus on helping Key Players understand why they can’t be achieved without their offerings. Some things to consider in making executive calls:

    • Most buyers are unaware of barriers that stand in the way of achieving goals. Think about it: If they knew they were aware they would try to address them. 

    • Key Players have potential latent needs for capabilities that address barriers. Selling can then be viewed as diagnosing barriers with a bias toward offerings. It will muddle issues if barriers are identified that cannot be addressed.

    • The way Key Players respond to diagnostic questions will allow sellers to determine the features/capabilities that are relevant. Any capabilities the buyer doesn't appear to need should not be presented.

    • By taking the previous steps, presentations of offerings will cover a relatively small percentage of the total feature set. Key Players appreciate this “Cliff Notes” version. Few will tolerate standard product pitches that amount to “spray and pray” sales calls.

Hurt and Rescue
Executive calls can be viewed as “hurt and rescue” exercises once business outcomes have been uncovered. Sellers “hurt” buyers by helping them realize how their current approaches are broken. Once done the “rescue” is done by uncovering only the capabilities that address barriers that buyers agreed exist. 

Calls done in this manner mean first discussing executives’ businesses (about 80% calls) and capabilities within offerings with a focus on helping buyers understand how offerings can be used (about 20% of the time). At Key Player levels it is critical that sellers earn the right to talk about their offerings. It can be a differentiator by providing better buying experiences.

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: Enterprise-wide View is the Key to Relevance

Posted by Jill Perez on Jan 28, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Enterprise-wide Views Are Key to Relevance with Senior Buyers

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

Image courtesy of Arztsamui at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

0-enterprise-wide

The role of B2B sellers is rapidly evolving. The impetus has been changes in buying behavior. Vendors have been in react mode. My view is that most are moving so slowly that the gap between how buyers want to be treated vs. how they are treated continues to widen. Ironically, the “buyers” are actually more accurately labeled “researchers” as relates to complex offerings.

Vendors continue to provide an extraordinary amount of product training despite the fact that most researchers want to learn about offerings on their own. They have been burn victims of past offenses of seller sins of omission, hype or outright lying. For that reason they don’t want sellers influencing their requirements with a bent more toward winning the business than addressing the needs of prospects. I appreciate why this view is taken, but believe most B2B sellers do try to qualify prospects to ensure their offering is a reasonable fit.

In any event, consider that after a researcher has done a fair amount of research their questions are likely to be sophisticated enough to warrant a conversation with a product specialist rather than a salesperson. Most researchers are happy to defer actually having to interact with sellers and would prefer talking to someone with in-depth knowledge. 

Product training doesn’t prepare sellers to have conversations with higher levels within prospect organizations. Few executives will tolerate “spray and pray” product discussions. They want to discuss business results that can be achieved, learn what’s broken or missing in their current approaches, understand conceptually how their organizations can use a vendor’s offerings and learn if there is sufficient value to warrant buying new offerings.

Complex B2B offerings usually touch several levels. Researchers tend to look at offerings with departmental or personal views. In my mind sellers in today’s environment need to have the ability to provide potential benefits of their offering at enterprise levels whether they proactively start buying cycles or get invited into evaluations by researchers.

For Example:
Let’s assume a maintenance manager within a manufacturing company is concerned by unscheduled downtime because maintenance is done on a recurring schedule with no regard for the age or the usage of production equipment. During unscheduled interrupts he has to pay overtime to his staff and he is over budget for doing so. His department is considering a software program that will monitor usage, factor in the age of a machine and be able to detect in advance when machines are going out of spec so that maintenance can be scheduled.

Taking a departmental view based solely upon maintenance may not provide adequate benefit to the organization to justify the expense. A competent seller brought into the account by one of the researchers within the Maintenance Department could help quantify the benefit, but could also widen the scope by getting access to other departments:

  • The Production Manager may not be meeting objectives because downtime is causing him not to meet production goals. Beyond that, excessive scrap when machines run out of spec undetected may be a problem that can cause overtime to try to get caught up.
  • Sales may be impacted because undetected quality issues mean that inferior products are being shipped. Beyond that committed delivery schedules can occur because shipments can’t be made.
  • Accounts Receivables can be impacted because customers that are unhappy with product that are shipped may delay payment or ultimately ask for credits due to issues they have.
  • Warranty expenses may escalate due to failures in the field.
  • The CFO may see escalating expenses for scraps and recalls, top line revenue targets that aren’t missed because shipments are delayed and ultimately shrinking margins.

The cost vs. benefit would look dramatically different if the impact of the core problems were spread to other departments. Researchers are ill prepared to look from the perspective of other areas of the business.

Key Takeaway
In my mind the value competent B2B sellers bring is the ability to provide senior executives an enterprise-wide view of problems and the value of addressing them so that business goals or outcomes can be achieved. Companies that reallocate money spent on product training to include making sellers aware of business impacts stand a far better chance of having sellers continue to be relevant to buyers.

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: 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.

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