CustomerCentric Selling® Sales Training Blog

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.

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

Register for one of our sales training workshops to improve sales performance through a buyer-oriented sales process, or read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

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

Sales Tips: How to Skillfully Handle Objections

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

Sales Tips: How to Skillfully Handle Objections

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

hand-fist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Register for one of our sales training workshops to improve sales performance through a buyer-oriented sales process, or read more sales training articles for helpful sales tips and techniques from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

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

Sales Tips: How to Start Your New Year Right

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

Sales Tips: How to Get Your 2015 Started Right

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sales Tips: Do You Know the Difference Between Buyers and Researchers?

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

Sales Tips: Know the Difference Between Buyers - and Researchers

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

Image courtesy of Stock Images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sales Tips: Minimize the Expensive "Four-Legged" Sales Calls

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

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

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

Image courtesy of Stock Images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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