CustomerCentric Selling® Sales Training Blog

Sales Tips: Who Is REALLY the Decision Maker?

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 19, 2014 8:30:00 AM

Sales Tips: Who Is REALLY the Decision Maker?

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

0-exec-lunchShortly after launching the company we had an opportunity with a large account that ultimately narrowed their short list to CustomerCentric Selling® and another competitor. The two most influential members of the buying committee were the SVP of WW Sales and the Manager of Sales Training. Looking at the org chart, many sellers would have assumed the SVP was the decision maker.

While we had access to the SVP he, like many senior executives, left a detailed analysis of both vendors to his Manager of Training, who attended one of our public workshops to assess our offering. Our competitor consistently tried to call on the SVP whom they had met with. While at times successful this tact wound up alienating the Manager. As you’d suspect, we ultimately won the business, but later asked exactly how the decision was made.

It’s important to know that both primary contacts had been in their jobs for more than 5 years. The manager had rolled out several successful programs and enjoyed a good working relationship with the SVP. When finalizing the decision, the Training Manager presented his summary of both programs and made the recommendation to choose CCS®. Probably the biggest concern was that we had been in business for less than a year. As it turns out, the SVP had confidence in the Training Manager and effectively “rubber stamped” the decision.

There are many instances where sellers assume the highest person in the org chart will be the decision maker. As with most things related to selling, this can be a dangerous assumption. We would end up reading the situation correctly, but consider how different the decision making process would have been if some things had been different: 

  • Either person was fairly new in their position
  • Some of the programs rolled out by the Manager had not been well-received
  • The two Key Players didn’t have a good working relationship
  • We had never gotten access to the SVP

Studies show that senior executives typically like to get involved early and late in buying cycles. That said, when senior executives are involved in making vendor decisions it’s hard to predict whether they will actively participate or passively accept the recommendation of people reporting to them. In the case cited above, we had commitment in that the manager took 3-1/2 days to attend our program and we had access early access to the SVP. 

A good way to gain insights is to revisit how decisions got made after the implementation has been completed. I suspect you’ll discover that fairly often the person signing the agreement was not the decision maker. 

Deadline to register for Denver, Dec 2-5 is TODAY! Only 7 seats left, so save yours now while you can.

Register for a sales training workshop or read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

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

Sales Tips: Avoid These Six Most Expensive Words in Business

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

Sales Tips: Avoid These 6 Most Expensive Words in Business

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

shutterstock_149719160When we conduct sales training workshops, our goal is equal parts skills transfer and equal parts behavior modification. One of the behaviors we work to condition out of salespeople through a combination of education and training is the tendency to default to percentage discounts in an attempt to close business. In fact, one new client commented as part of our discovery discussions, “My salespeople think that negotiating means discounting until the prospect says ‘yes’.”

When we peel back the layers, we find that the most common reason for discounting is a lack of understanding of value, both on the part of the prospect and on the part of the salesperson. In other words, not only has the salesperson been unable to get the prospect to articulate the value through deliberate measurement of their current operating environment, in many cases the salesperson is unaware of the value themselves.

Without a clear, mutual understanding of the value being provided, salespeople typically default to price when negotiating. In fact, when squeezed on price, many salespeople default to the question:

“Where do we need to be?”

Those are the six most expensive words in business. When a salesperson asks that question in a negotiation:

  • They have effectively acknowledged that they also believe a discount will be necessary to close the business.
  • They have implied they have the power to grant that discount.
  • The prospect rarely if ever provides a reasonable response.

The prospect sets the bar far lower than what they are willing to pay and then the salesperson has to fight tooth and nail for every point of margin in between.

 

Deadline to register for Denver, Dec 2-5 is THIS WED the 19th! Only 7 seats left, so save yours now while you can.

Register for a sales training workshop or read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

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

Sales Tips: How to Get Past the First 20 Seconds

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 12, 2014 8:30:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Get Past the First 20 Seconds

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

Image courtesy of Stuat Eman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

0-stopwatch-2Statistics from an AMA study found executives answer only 4% of prospecting calls. When buyers answer, sellers should have relevant content to share in the first 15 or 20 seconds. Unless mindshare is earned, prospects want to end calls at the earliest possible time. Mentioning product provides an easy out.

Imagine answering a call at home and the seller starting by asking: Would you consider replacing your old furnace with a more fuel efficient one? I’d venture to say the overwhelming majority of prospects would say they were not interested and end the call. Leading with product is seldom a good approach and usually starts a death spiral in the first seconds of prospecting calls.

With that in mind, what if the salesperson monitored sales of used homes and did some research on zillow.com to find ones that were more than 20 years old? The call could begin as follows:

This is John Jones with ABC Energy. People buying older homes are often surprised by higher than expected energy costs. I’ve worked with homeowners for the last 14 years to help reduce energy costs. Would you be interested in learning more?

The early stages of buying cycles will be more successful if sellers create curiosity and incremental interest from prospects. Leading with issues in the first 20 seconds can earn the next 60 seconds to share results. From there, buyers may share a desired outcome that can be achieved with a seller’s offering, which starts buying cycles.

Don't miss the last public workshop of the year in Denver coming SOON on Dec 2-5!

Register for a sales training workshop or read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

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

Sales Tips: How to Begin Buying Cycles with Pain vs. Goal

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 5, 2014 8:30:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Begin Buying Cycles with Pain vs. Goals

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

0-pain-goals-exec-buyersOne of the fundamental concepts of CustomerCentric Selling® is that buying cycles begin when Key Players share goals or admit problems they’re willing to spend money to achieve or address. When they do, it is a watershed event because most executives won’t “share their dirty laundry” with sellers unless they have concluded they are sincere and competent.

It’s always been challenging for me to imagine 25 year old sellers getting 50+ year old Sales Executives to admit they’re missing revenue targets (vs. sharing they would like to drive higher revenue). That’s the major reason we chose to make our sales process goal vs. pain based. I hope you’d agree it would be easier for someone to get you to admit you could lose a few pounds rather than admitting you were overweight. During calls if buyers happen to admit pains, they are processed the same way as goals in terms of diagnosing and creating visions.

The major exception to this rule is doing business development. Research has shown people place a higher value on loss vs. gain. In the first 20 seconds or so of a prospecting call you will be more likely to gain mind share leading with problems (the inverse of goals). Once a goal has been shared (or a problem admitted) a buying cycle has begun.

Don't miss the last public workshop of the year in Denver coming up Dec 2-5!

Register for a sales training workshop or read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

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

Sales Tips: A Little Patience Can Go a Long Way

Posted by Jill Perez on Oct 30, 2014 10:50:11 AM

Sales Tips: How Patience Can Go a Long Way in Sales and Qualifying Opportunities

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

Image courtesy of Master Isolated Images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

0-spiral-staircase-with-targetOne of the major differences between top performers and average salespeople is patience. One of the most important aspects of patience is resisting the temptation (or invitation) to dive into generic product presentations when making calls. Taking this approach with executives is likely to result in being delegated to lower levels or having meetings that end before the allotted time is up. Few executives will suffer through product pitches (nor should they).

In stark contrast, inbound contacts from non-executives seek product information to supplement whatever they’ve already gathered from your website and other sources. Their objective is often to drag sellers into detailed discussions about offerings. Diving into product can be a bad approach in these situations because sellers:

  1. Have no idea of requirements that have already have been established.
  2. Are unaware if their offering is a good fit and may discuss capabilities that aren’t relevant to the prospect.
  3. Will not have established any value.
  4. Give up something buyers want (more detailed product information) that could have been used as a bargaining chip to gain access to higher levels.
  5. Haven’t uncovered any desired business outcomes that can provide context for discussing relevant capabilities.

When receiving inbound contacts from non-executives knowledgeable about offerings, a helpful question that can be used early in the conversation is: 

What is your organization hoping to accomplish with (the offering/product)?

If the contact can’t answer the question, sellers can ask who can provide the answer. If the contact can answer the question, sellers have the ability to ask questions about specific capabilities relevant to achieving business outcomes. If the buyer can’t answer some questions there is a reason to request access to higher levels.

Key Takeaway
Jumping into product discussions is a self-inflicted wound when calling at high levels. Getting dragged into product discussions by lower levels can result in poor entry points for new opportunities. In either case it’s analogous to sellers sharing their education and experience in an interview without knowing what job you’re applying for. 

A little patience can go a long way in qualifying new opportunities.

Don't miss the last public workshop of the year in Denver coming up Dec 2-5!

Register for a sales training workshop or read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

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

Sales Process: Are You an "Event" Seller or a "Process" Seller?

Posted by Jill Perez on Oct 27, 2014 8:30:00 AM

Sales Insights: Are You an "Event" Seller or a "Process" Seller?

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

Image courtesy of Sujin Jetkasettakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

0-process-chart-with-cloudsAre you a “process” seller or an “event” seller?
I have said for years that salespeople who are not following a process when they sell are relegated to being “point-to-point” salespeople. In other words, they always know what their next step is, but when you ask them, If successful, what will be five steps after that?, they are usually at a loss to tell you.

Often the pushback I will get will be from the position of, “Well, if the deal closes, why should I care?”

I’ll tell you why.

Without process, every sale is an “event”. While process is repeatable, events are anecdotal. Unless you are selling on purpose, it is very difficult to replicate success. You end up trying to reinvent the wheel with every new opportunity.

In fact, without process, you run the risk of falling prey to Einstein’s definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting the results to be different.

For managers, no process often means no accountability on the part of the salesperson. If a deal doesn’t close, they’re told it’s because “sales is an art, not a science”. Additionally, some managers are complicit in a creating a culture of obfuscation because it becomes a line of defense when sales forecasts are missed.

CustomerCentric Selling® is a sales process. We think it’s the best one out there (pride of ownership). However, the reality of the situation is this: If you and your company are not currently following a process, any process you select and manage to should help you improve results.

Whether it is sales revenue or personal sales excellence, improvement requires growth. However, in order for growth to be possible, there first must commitment to process.

Don't miss the last public workshop of the year in Boston coming up Nov 4-7!

Register for a sales training workshop or read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

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

Sales Tips: Before Closing, Refer to this Checklist FIRST

Posted by Jill Perez on Oct 22, 2014 8:30:00 AM

Sales Tips: The Checklist You Need BEFORE You Close

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

Image courtesy of StockImages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Have you ever had opportunities in which you won the business without having to close? In these cases buying is a logical conclusion and just happens. These situations are gratifying and rare. In most transactions sellers should and do ask for the business.

Many sellers close on their timeframes (end of month, quarter or year) with little regard for where buyers are in their buying processes. Buyers that aren’t ready to buy may feel pressured. Discounting may be necessary to accelerate decisions. In some cases high pressure closes can cause transactions to be lost.

0-man-writing-notepadYour Pre-Closing Checklist
Competent sellers earn the right to close. To have a realistic chance of getting the business, I believe buyers should:

  • Know the business outcomes they are trying to achieve
  • Understand in their current environment the reasons that outcomes can’t be achieved
  • Be able to articulate the capabilities they need
  • Know the price
  • Understand the cost vs. benefit
  • Be able to fund the initiative
  • Be a decision maker (it’s demeaning to be closed when they aren’t authorized)
  • Understand what will be necessary to implement (or activate) the new offering

If sellers close before these items have been addressed, they pressure buyers (ask them to buy without a clear understanding of why they should buy). Especially as year-end approaches, try to be sure buyers have the needed information and authority. If they know the potential value, they’ll also understand delaying decisions defers benefits that could be realized.

Save your seat now for next month's LAST public workshop in Boston! Learn how to be a better seller and discover new ways and best practices that will help you make your number.

Read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

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

Sales Tips: How to Setup Your 2015 for Success

Posted by Jill Perez on Oct 20, 2014 8:30:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Setup Your 2015 for Success

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

It's the fourth quarter and if you're like most salespeople, you're examining your pipeline trying to determine which opportunities have a chance of closing this quarter; what needs to be done and when in order for them to close; and, which ones will have to be carried over into 2015. After all, you're going to need something to work on come the first of the New Year. Still, other than those opportunities you bring with you, where will your 2015 business come from?sales workshops

Step 1: Timing
Almost as important as where to begin is when to begin! If you were thinking you were going to rely on 2014 carryover, then it's the end of January and nothing has closed, you are late to the party. The reality is, if you haven't closed anything in January, you're going to have to close twice as much in February just to make year-to-date quota! That's a tall order even for the most accomplished sales person. This is the final quarter of 2014. The time to begin developing your Territory Sales Plan is now!

Step 2: Analysis
I think before you begin to lay out your plan, you first need to analyze:

  • YTD Business - specifically who did you close; what did they buy; where did they come from; and what was the average dollar value of the sales/transaction?
  • WIN Rate - what is your win rate when presented with a qualified opportunity?
  • Are some months or quarters more prolific than others?
  • Discounting - what has it cost you in 2014?
  • Vertical Markets - are you having greater success in one vertical versus another?
  • Existing Pipeline - who won't close, that you will be carrying over into 2015?
  • Products Offerings - existing products and/or services, new products and/or services and planned price changes?
  • Existing Customers - what 'haven't' they purchased; why would they need it; and who do you need to speak with in order to initiate a sales cycle?
  • 2015 Compensation Plan - what will your sales revenue requirement be in 2015?
  • Personal Income Requirement - what do you want to make in 2015?

Step 3: Set Goals
Based on the analysis of your customer base, prospects and 2015 revenue requirements, you need to establish goals for what you need to accomplish. Things to consider include:

  • How many WINS do you need in order to make your revenue quota? A simple way of establishing that would be to take your 2015 annual revenue requirement divided by the average dollar value of the sales/transaction. That will provide you the number of estimated WINS you'll need to close in 2015.
  • How many of those WINS do you want to come from existing clients?
  • How many WINS from new name business?
  • How many WINS by each quarter?
  • Based on your WIN Rate, how many leads will you need to generate your new name business goal?

Step 4: Strategies
How do you intend on reaching those goals? In addition to your individual lead generation efforts and responding to inbound inquiries, do you have any particular growth strategies for your territory?

  • Identify the Top10 prospects that you will carry over into 2015.
  • Are there particular verticals/projects/situations where you have experienced greater success and you would like to build upon that success?
  • Do you want to enhance your mix of business (new name account vs. existing accounts)?
  • Are trends emerging in the marketplace that align with your offering?
  • Were there 'sales ready messages' that resonated with your prospects that you want to exploit?
  • Do you wish to increase account penetration with core products?
  • Will you build your social network database and expand the use of referrals?

Step 5: Tactics

Top Ten Prospects Carried Over From 2014:

  • Identify your top 5 opportunities.
  • Prepare a tactical plan to convert each to 'E' status.
  • Schedule refocus meetings to recap goals, reasons and the prospects' solution.
  • Attempt to measure the cost of doing business today and confirm the value to the prospects' organization.
  • Document the results via a Sales Process Control Letter.
  • Share the results with your manager.

Prospecting/New Business Development:

  • Minimum of 10-20% of your time; 4 to 8 hours a week.
  • Build your pipeline to optimum strength to meet your revenue goal.
  • Define the specific technologies that are available to you to enhance your productivity.

LinkedIn, Jigsaw, Hoovers, InsideView, ConstantContact, etc.

  • Which specific existing accounts, and which specific new name accounts will you pursue based on your strategies?
  • What specific method will you use to reach them; referrals, referrals via social networking, cold calls, emails, direct mail, Webinars, group sales calls, etc.?
  • What specific 'sales ready messages' will you use to cause them to engage?
  • In what order will you use the 'sales ready messages' and with what frequency?
  • Use multiple methodologies in parallel.

Step 6: Plan Execution

  • Create a tactical calendar complete with dates and steps to be accomplished.
  • Give yourself ample time to execute each step in your plan.
  • Establish success metrics and measure you and your plan's performance.
  • Monitor your own performance weekly!
  • Evaluate your pipeline strength on a weekly and monthly basis; adjust your prospect activity based on that strength.
  • Watch for new and unexpected opportunities; vertical markets, trends, issue, etc.
  • If something isn't working, don't be afraid to change/modify your plan!
  • Plan your work and work your plan!

Prospecting a pain? Register for the Webinar TOMORROW to learn how to better engage with buyers and reduce the pain of bus dev!

Read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

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

Sales Tips: Stop Relying on "In-Basket" Selling

Posted by Jill Perez on Oct 15, 2014 8:30:00 AM

Sales Tips: Don't Wait for Opportunities - Find Them

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

Image courtesy of StockImages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

0-lazy-happy-salesmanWebsite inquiries can be intoxicating for B2B vendors. My hope is that companies and sellers realize qualification efforts are necessary in following up on inbound leads to gain access to higher levels and establish value for offerings. Inbound activity seems to have reduced the focus on outbound reaches.

“In basket” selling occurs when started by inbound activity. Is it possible the deluge of Website visitors has caused a reduction in efforts to proactively initiate new opportunities? Consider some inherent limitations of inbound leads: 

  1. Prospect organizations may not meet a desired prospect profile. This can cause sellers to waste time and ultimately need to disqualify prospects.
  1. It’s likely visitors earning high enough activity scores are not ideal entry points from the standpoint of having the ability to secure funding for offerings being considered. If budget hasn’t been earmarked, sellers must get to higher levels. This can be a challenge with people that avoid talking with sellers for as long as possible, believe they understand their requirements and are concerned about being manipulated.
  1. Inbound visitors may be doing research driven by personal curiosity about offerings with little regard for business outcomes that can be achieved. 
  1. To understand and justify the value of B2B offerings, it is necessary for buying committees to take “enterprise” rather than personal or departmental views to develop cost vs. benefit analyses.

Sellers may get complacent in expecting that their pipelines should be filled with inbound leads. When they aren’t making their numbers, they may be unable or unwilling to take the trite but valid advice often given in high school yearbooks: Don’t wait for your boat (leads) to come in, row out (proactively generate interest) to meet it.

Takeaway: Inbound leads can and should be developed. That said, proactive reaches to targeted companies aimed at Key Player levels facilitate top down buying cycles and are likely to yield higher win rates.

Prospecting a pain? Register for the Webinar on Oct 21 to learn how to better engage with buyers and reduce the pain of bus dev!

Read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

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

Sales Tips: How to Not Lose Control in Transitions

Posted by Jill Perez on Oct 8, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Not Lose Control in Transitions

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

Image courtesy of Hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In my mind, sellers are in the business of asking relevant questions. A good measure of how well sales calls go is the percentage of time buyers are talking. Let’s assume you call on the CFO of a prospect for the first time.

1. Set the Table with Objectives
Besides the initial rapport whether it be limited to shaking hands or a few minutes of small talk, I believe it’s up to sellers to set the table with the objectives of the call. This can be as simple as:

Today I’d like to briefly introduce ABC Co., tell you about the CFO of a manufacturing company I worked with and then learn more about your organization. We should be able to mutually determine if further conversations are warranted. 

My thought is that sellers’ initial objectives are to have buyers conclude that they are sincere and competent. These decisions are critical if you expect a buyer to open up and share either business goals or problems they want to achieve/address.

2. Revisit Your Company Positioning Statement
The company positioning statement (what you help clients do) should be 15 words or less about what you help organizations do, followed by 3 or 4 facts (no hype) about your company. 

0-passing-baton3. Share a Success Story
The next step would be to share a relevant Success Story, which should usually be for the same title/industry as the prospect. At that point you would turn it over to the buyer to tell you about their situation. This transition will be critical in determining the outcome of the call. Best case, the buyer shares a business goal and you can then begin to develop his or her needs.

If the buyer doesn’t readily share a business goal or problem, the transition hasn’t gone as well as you’d like. Be prepared with 3 or 4 environmental questions (often starting with the phrase: How do you …?) that probe potential problem areas. If a business issue still hasn’t been shared you could then offer a menu of goals for that title that your offering can help address.

Key: Being prepared for transitions can make a higher percentage of your calls successful.

Prospecting a pain? Register for the Webinar on Oct 21 to learn how to better engage with buyers and reduce the pain of bus dev!

Read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

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

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