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Sales Tips: Surviving the Frenetic Fourth Quarter

Posted by Jill Perez on Sep 19, 2017 2:38:53 PM

Sales Tips: 5 Ways to Survive the Frenetic Fourth Quarter

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

stressed sellersA constant reality for salespeople is quota pressure. There are years when everything goes well and hardly a thought is given to whether numbers will be achieved. If 2017 has been a year like that I hope you’re enjoying it.

Remember that coming off a strong year often means starting January 1st at zero with more aggressive numbers to make. For B and C Players most years are a grind to achieve quotas. 

On average about half of salespeople meet or exceed quota.

I wanted to provide my thoughts about how to manage to your number: 

  1. Don’t be overly optimistic. Have an appropriate sense of urgency throughout the year.

As a first line manager I found salespeople overly optimistic. They always thought they could make their numbers. Unless a seller had a huge opportunity in his or her pipeline, how realistic was it to expect a person that achieved 33% of quota in the first 9 months to sprint through the 4th quarter closing 67% of their quota? Salespeople didn’t have the appropriate sense of urgency to be YTD or better until the fourth quarter. Often they realistically ran out of runway and had little chance of getting where they needed to be. 

  1. Take stock every month.

It‘s important for sellers to take stock of their YTD position against quota every month. Some sellers will need a manager’s help in doing so.

  • First take a glance in the rear view mirror to see where a seller is against quota.

  • project aheadKeep in mind that YTD position is a lagging indicator, so the next step is to look forward and project where sellers will be based upon opportunities in their pipelines.

    • If a seller’s win rate is 33% he or she should have 3X or more of what is needed to be YTD in their pipelines.

    • If a pipeline is thin it should become clear that time needs to be allocated to business development activities to bring new opportunities into the funnel. The good news is that catching deficiencies early allows them to be more readily addressed. 
  1. Be realistic about stale proposals.

In projecting forward, take a realistic look at proposals that are more than 60 days old. In my experience proposals, unlike fine red wines, don’t improve with age. At some point it becomes necessary to heavily discount the probabilities of these opportunities closing. Sellers may want to have discussions with buyers about withdrawing stale proposals so they can determine whether or not they are still viable.

👉 A potential warning sign for managers is seeing sellers push back the forecasted close dates on proposals issued two or more times.

  1. Don’t close too early – or aggressively.

There are decisions to be made when sellers need decisions made by year-end. Buyers may feel pressured and sales can be lost. A common outcome is that sellers have to discount to get the business early. It will usually be easier to ask customers to make decisions before year-end. Sellers and their manager should take care not to jeopardize future orders with prospects by closing too early and aggressively.

  1. Always look a sales cycle ahead.

stressed salespeopleLooking a sales cycle ahead throughout the year will also address a common problem for sellers going into a new year. If necessary, sellers will close anything that is closeable. Even if they are successful and make their numbers, they’ll have dreadful first quarters because there’s so little left in their pipelines. The worst of both worlds occurs when sellers drain their pipelines and miss their number.

Remember: One of CustomerCentric Selling’s core concepts is:

Bad news early is good news.

It primarily applies to disqualifying low probability opportunities early. It also applies to evaluating current and projected positions against quota. Better to evaluate pipelines on a monthly basis rather than get a wake up call in the fourth quarter when it may be too late to address.

last sales training workshop of 2017

Sales Tips: Next Salesperson Up

Posted by Jill Perez on Sep 18, 2017 3:45:52 PM

Sales Tips: Next Salesperson Up

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

NFL refereeIf you’re not a resident of The Commonwealth of Massachusetts it’s very likely that you despise the New England Patriots. You are probably sick and tired of them winning the (albeit woeful) AFL East every year, believe they cheat (the inflate-gate fiasco) and feel they obnoxiously flaunt their 5 Super Bowl Championships.

As a life-long New York Giants fan living in Boston, I’ve watched Bill Belichick assemble his team each season. Whenever the inevitable injuries occur the team takes a “next man up” attitude. Most of his players are not superstars but my observation is that to a much greater degree than other coaches, Belichick has an overall defensive and offensive system in place.

By that I mean it seems that he breaks down each position, sets clear expectations for each position and evaluates how players execute his plan every week. Last season the Patriots traded Jamie Collins who was an incredibly physically gifted linebacker for a fourth round draft pick from the Cleveland Browns. The fact is that Collins was adlibbing and grandstanding in trying to make individual plays that disrupted the overall defensive scheme. Belichick wouldn’t tolerate that type of behavior and sent a strong message to the team by trading Collins to the Cleveland Browns. I don’t think it was a coincidence that he was traded to one of the weakest teams in the league.

Next "A Player" UpSelling is one of the most difficult jobs in the business world. Many organizations have “A Players” that are “unconscious competents.” They are superior salespeople (top 10%) that sell intuitively. That leaves the other 90% to figure it out themselves. Unfortunately most believe they’re selling products and try to do so at low levels within organizations. They struggle to get to a point where they can sell business outcomes to senior executives that can be achieved through the use of their offerings.

“A Players” are in short supply. If and when they leave, most organizations can’t realistically take a “next salesperson up” approach. 

In the same way Belichick has a system, so it is that organizations that have implemented a sales process can get much more production from sellers that have a road map and defined steps to execute. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention: 

👉 Most “A Players” drive even higher revenue when they transition from adlibs to selling on purpose.

sales training workshops

Sales Tips: 4 Components Needed for Sales Process

Posted by Jill Perez on Sep 12, 2017 11:45:00 AM

Sales Tips: 4 Components Needed for Sales Process

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Selling is the business discipline most resistant to process and technology. Companies implement stringent procedures for order entry, billing, accounts receivable, accounts payable, general ledger, etc.

As relates to top-line revenue generation, few have established sales process.

No Two Are AlikeAs a result sales calls are like snowflakes. No two are the same. Sellers are given wide latitude in how to sell, how to position offerings, what opportunities they pursue and the progress they report. In these organizations a high percentage of sales calls are ad-libs. 

CRM software was created to track seller activities and improve pipeline visibility. Without question there is value in centralizing and collecting contact information and sales activities. 

The problem is that subjective seller opinions about progress on opportunities are the input to CRM systems.

The old IT adage of “garbage in-garbage out” applies because inaccurate opinions compromise the reports generated. How often have you seen sellers inflate otherwise “thin” pipelines? 

Years ago I worked with an early CRM provider. Their VP of Sales told me by using their software he was +/- 5% in his revenue forecasts, accuracy most companies can only dream of achieving. They had defined 8 pipeline milestones. From the first day they joined the company new sellers entered data. Over time the system captured and applied each seller’s historical close rates on opportunities in each of the 8 milestones. 

I asked him if his salespeople told customers their forecasts would be that accurate once the software was implemented. He said they did. I then discussed with him that his forecasts were based upon heuristic calculations. The software captured how accurate (inaccurate) sellers had been in the past and applied historical close rate to each milestone to create each month’s forecast.

New clients would need to gather sufficient data for sellers before their forecast accuracy would improve. If sellers left the company that data was gone forever. When new hires joined, there was a lag before their forecasts could be calculated. If new offerings were announced there was no historical data for a period of time.

A colleague told me years ago:

Technology without process speeds up the mess.

Forecasts can be generated with a few keystrokes but the reports are likely to be just as inaccurate as spreadsheets that were used years ago when sales managers did their “seat of the pants” forecasts which was mostly paring down over optimistic seller projections.

AI for Sales - Needles in HaystacksApplying Artificial Intelligence (AI) to sales has begun in earnest. There are benefits to be gained, but companies having an overall framework can enjoy the competitive advantage of reaping benefits of applying AI sooner.


👉 The four (4) components needed for sales process are: 

  1. Sets of defined milestones for the various types of sales that must be executed.
  2. Sales ready messaging® so that sellers position offerings to specific titles consistently.
  3. A common skill set so sellers have the requisite skills to execute messaging.
  4. Auditability to allow sales managers to grade opportunities based upon buyer actions rather than seller opinions.

Most AI applications require analyses of terabytes of historical data to identify actions that are likely to improve results. It’s the equivalent of finding needles in huge haystacks.

The structure defined above can allow best practices to be identified shortly after AI has been implemented.

sales training workshops

Sales Tips: Key Components of an Effective Sales Strategy

Posted by Jill Perez on Sep 5, 2017 1:14:13 PM

Sales Tips: Key Components of an Effective Sales Strategy

By Matt Haag, President/Owner of SimpleData

Sales StrategyIn this hyper-competitive business climate, where every organization strives to evolve into an industry or market leader, without an effective sales strategy, your organization will face a competitive disadvantage.

An effective sales strategy is the key to any successful business; no matter the size, type or objective.

Understanding your goal, and setting milestones to achieve it, will give you a distinct advantage.

Having a clear plan of action and a set of quantifiable objectives to fulfill your key goal will create this advantage and transform your lackluster sales results into metric based successes.

The main problem lies in that marketers and sales executives spend most of their valuable time and resources seeking the perfect strategy to improve their sales. As a result, they struggle to achieve the milestones that pave the way to surpassing their goal.

The truth is that no one but you, the Sales Leader, will have to take the time to build a clear, effective strategy to fill your pipeline and meet your goals. To simplify the process for you, we have listed the essential components that you must include in your sales strategy for increased sales.

Focused on the Defined Target Audience

Although sometimes it’s difficult to admit that the marketing team can add value, because many times their strategies are hard to measure quantitatively, many times it’s advantageous to work with them to identify the most accurate customer profile.

Targeting the right audience is the first step towards promoting a successful sales campaign.

Increase RevenueIt’s the key to attracting the same type of loyal customers that are currently supplying a large piece of your revenue. Current customers spend up to 10x more than the average customer. Find more companies like your current customers and you’ll find more revenue. Many sales strategies focus as a “shotgun blast” type method of outreach, which often results in mediocre results because of poor targeting.

The key is to target people that are more predisposed to display an interest in your products and services; as it’s not about the number of people you target but their interest in your business, which will decide the fate of your sales strategy. When you choose the most responsive audience, you increase the percentage (and the effectiveness of your marketing budget) of this group that migrate through the sales funnel and evolve into loyal customers.

If like most marketers, you create a sales strategy that focuses on the number of targets rather than their probability to convert, expect unmet goals and smaller commission checks.

Understand Target AudienceUnderstand who your current loyal customers are. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Are they in the same industry?
  • Are they of approximately the same size? (measured by the number of employees)
  • Where are they located? (US based only?)
  • Who are you speaking with at each company? Were they the initial contact?
  • What type of companies are they? (Product or services based?)

Set your sales effort up for success by identifying any shared characteristics within your current customer base should be used as the initial structure to finding more leads and future loyal customers.

Additionally, by collecting data from this same customer based, through simple questionnaires or surveys, you can uncover how best to communicate your product/service offering to new leads as they will often face the same challenges that current customers used to face.

Based on Realistic Goals

A sales strategy that focuses on practical goals and is appropriately directed towards the main business objective, leads to success. The importance of setting practical goals cannot be underestimated; studies suggest that the sales strategies that have targeted goals earn about 10x more than others.

When creating a sales strategy, make sure that your goals are clear and are based on meeting the needs of your target audience. Most importantly, set clear objectives -- know what’s more important and prioritize it in your strategy.

  • Is your focus about bonding with new customers, or focusing on customer retention?
  • Maybe, you want more frequent sales or simply an increase in the number of sales during off-seasons?
  • Or surviving the competitive market?

Identify the immediate demand of your business and set practical sales objective/milestones. A clear understanding of your immediate goals will help you achieve the final goal. Then create a sales strategy that focuses on fulfilling the milestones and it is sure to succeed.

As your sales process evolves, track the metrics throughout so that it can be further developed or amended, if needed.

BudgetIs Well Planned and Budgeted Appropriately

For a sales strategy to be successful, it should include careful planning and budgeting.

If you’re like most sales professionals, typically you just want to jump in and start selling, but waiting a week or two to explicitly plan an approach is extremely beneficial. Additionally, sales targets should be realistic; a doubling of sales in one quarter is likely impossible, unless there are commensurate matching outlays in sister groups like marketing and support.

Therefore, it is recommended to be cautious of overreaching strategies.

A successful sales strategy only advises expenditures that have been proven to work with smaller audiences and produce cost-effective results. So, before your sales strategy suggests spending a significant part of your budget towards an over-ambitious marketing scheme, first it should include results of a smaller sample size of this scheme in order to generate the evidence to move forward with more sizable investment. In other words, walk before you run.

Implement Complementary Marketing Tactics

Successful sales strategies go hand-in-glove with smart marketing tactics.

If you want your sales strategies to work, be sure to have tightly integrated marketing campaigns that can evolve as the results of the sales campaign(s) are analyzed. Think “fail fast”.

Although there are some marketing tactics that take time to show results (e.g., content marketing), effective PPC campaigns can be measured in near real-time. Therefore, if PPC targets aren’t being achieved, target new keywords, change the ad copy, and update the landing page. These changes can be made with relative ease and should be done until those goals are met.

Planning Effective StrategyDig deep to learn what works for your target audience, their needs, and build marketing campaigns around them.

If your prospects are attracted to special offers or limited-period discounts, a marketing plan with such incentives should be built to capture them and beat the competitive market. For instance, free gifts, limited period offers, discounts and cash-backs can be used occasionally to attract target audience as humans assign more value to things that are limited or occur rarely.

Smart and effective marketing techniques are a key component of successful sales strategies as they motivate sales and improve brand reputation and identity in the market.

Considers Marketplace Awareness

Having strong market awareness allows a marketer to avoid making poor decisions. A good sales strategy focuses and considers the marketplace on a holistic level.

For instance, you should join, participate and attend at least three professional associations and organizations to which your ideal customers belong along and attending any trade shows that they may attend. Also, purchasing the mailing list of such organizations and associations in order to send them either a letter of introduction or a postcard on a regular basis can augment your sales strategy.


Value is a major component of every successful sales strategy. After all, your customers expect one thing from you and that’s value. This is what gives you identity and puts you above your competitors.

Communicating this value in a concise and meaningful manner is very important. Whether you are marketing your company or selling a potential customer, understanding who you are talking to will help you understand how they contextualize your value proposition. Research what part of your service or solution is most valuable to a given market segment and modify email copy, call scripting, and marketing campaigns to reflect these value adds.

In summary, an effective sales strategy targets the right audience, sets quantifiable milestones to achieve company goals, and enables the marketing team to work alongside it symbiotically. Taking a couple weeks to thoroughly devise a comprehensive system to keep you and your team focused and on track cannot be undervalued or looked at as “time wasted”. Planning and understanding who you’re targeting will yield improved results, or at the very least show you where you are winning and losing the fight for MRR growth.

Matt HaagAbout the Author
Matt Haag has more than 20 years in technology roles ranging from Programmer/Analyst, Sales Engineer, Business Development and Product Management across an array of products but working with those primarily in the Internet Marketing and Technology space.

Matt acquired SimpleData from its founder in January 2017 with the intention of building on its success as a firm that specializes solely in providing targeted B2B sales leads into one that provides a comprehensive Sales and Marketing Automation and Services platform. 

Rethinking the Sales Cycle - Purchase a copy now on Amazon

Sales Tips: The Key to (Truly) Being "Customer-Centric"

Posted by Jill Perez on Aug 29, 2017 11:13:00 AM

Sales Tips: The Key to Being a "Customer-Centric" Organization

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

An August 23rd newswire summarized the findings of a survey done by Pegasystems with 250 global financial services companies. Some of the results:

  • 79% agree financial institutions will move from product-based selling to focus more on personal relationships in the next 5 years.
  • Only 31% deploy relationship-based sales models to any degree and only 1% fully leverage them.
  • 29% are mired in product-based selling.

Pull vs. Push StrategyAs with changing the direction of a battleship going full steam ahead, getting your organization to migrate to relationship and buyer outcome selling is not something that can happen overnight.

A common misconception is that becoming “customer-centric” is something to be done by Sales with support from Marketing.

Merely making someone responsible for “Sales Enablement” means paying lip service to an outcome that is difficult to achieve.

The major hurdle is overcoming the intense focus on products, a company-wide affliction that stifles attempts to put customers/buyers first.

Product sales are more about offerings, less about buyers and more likely to result in lower margins.

In coauthoring Rethinking The Sales Cycle (published by McGraw-Hill in 2010) we were unable to find a B2B vendor that could serve as a model for being customer-centric. Instead we had to use Apple as an example. It remains to be seen how the longer term will be, but the brilliance of Steve Jobs had a tremendous impact. Unlike virtually all competitors Apple has not sold computers. Other computer companies sell processing power, disk capacity, etc. that lead to commodity decisions.

Genius of JobsCEO Steve Jobs had the remarkable ability to understand what the market wanted and then create offerings that people wanted to buy.

He was maniacal about dictating the design and functionality that would resonate. As an Apple customer since 1990 I’ve continually bought their desktops and laptops without considering alternatives that likely cost 50% less. Apple offers reliability, support and has become an integral part of my life via iPhones, iPads, iPods, etc. 

Absent a genius like Jobs, it’s incumbent upon companies to learn their customers’ requirements. 

Product-focused companies create offerings they think buyers will want and then ask Sales and Marketing to use “push” strategies to sell to their markets.

I hope you see how flawed this approach is.

Shifting to a “Pull” Strategy
As an alternative, vendors that create organizations that can listen to their customers and articulate needs to Product Development enjoy the advantage of creating offerings that people are more likely to want to buy. They can enjoy higher revenue due to “pull” of market demand.

The primary takeaway from the changes in buying behavior over the last 15 years that vendors should realize is that buyers want to exert more control in making buying decisions. They don’t want to be “sold” (manipulated by salespeople). Instead they want to be empowered to buy offerings that enable them to achieve desired business outcomes. 

Organizations that want to be customer-centric can’t get away with a new coat of paint.

Gut Your Sales ApproachTeardowns are required to shift from inside-out views of markets to outside-in views where customer needs are the fuel that propels Product Development.

This requires significant organizational change, but vendors that are successful in this migration can enjoy a sustainable competitive advantage over their competitors that continue to use selling approaches that buyers have rendered obsolete.

Since the turn of the century we’ve never seen the runaway revenue growth of the 90’s that vendors enjoyed. I find it odd in light of all the DIY purported “buying activity” via the Internet and social networking. It is time to realize the difference between product evaluations done by mid to low level staff versus corporate initiatives to improve business results that will provide the necessary value to provide payback.

Vendors need to position themselves to proactively use top-down strategies to qualify opportunities. In order to do so vendors must provide sellers with business results that have been or can be achieved through the use of their offerings. When calling high, executives don’t want to learn all about a vendor’s offerings.

👉 To better align, sellers should discuss business outcomes and how offerings can be used to achieve them.

Executive would be more open to vendors that realized product pitches are relics of the past when sellers pushed products.

Prospecting and Bus Dev

Sales Tips: When and How to Provide Pricing

Posted by Jill Perez on Aug 23, 2017 11:03:00 AM

Sales Tips: When and How to Provide Pricing

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

A common misconception (maybe perpetuated by Procurement) is that price is the primary reason for making buying decisions of non-commodity items. Many salespeople are tentative or defensive when providing prices.

Either verbally or via body language sellers send messages to buyers that quotations aren’t set in concrete.

When and How to Provide PricingPrice is an important component in making decisions and I wanted to share a few thoughts on when and how to provide pricing.

  • Sellers open themselves up to pricing questions when they mention product prematurely. Once product is on the table it’s reasonable for buyers to ask: “How much?” This question often elicits slippery (“your mileage may vary”) stereotypical responses from salespeople. At some level they know providing price isn’t the right thing to do at this point.

❗ TIP: My suggestion in situations where value hasn’t been established is to tell buyers that you can’t give an accurate estimate until you better understand their requirements and ask if pricing discussions can be deferred. Most buyers will give sellers this latitude. 

  • Others will persist and want pricing now. They’ll become frustrated with sellers that don’t respond. Years ago I would give these buyers a range. The problem in doing that was they would always remember the lower number and try to hold me to it. 

❗ TIP: I found a way to prevent that from happening by offering them a “not to exceed” number. If after sharing that number I needed smelling salts to revive a buyer it was likely: 

    • This company wasn’t a prospect
    • I needed to call higher

In my experience the higher a seller calls, the lower the likelihood there will be early questions about pricing. 

This may be due to the fact that higher levels aren’t limited by budget. If a new initiative offers more value than planned acquisitions executives have the ability to re-allocate budgets. 

👉 Bonus Tips:

  • I also suggest buyers should know the pricing soon after they understand value. Ultimately price is a qualifier and should be provided fairly early in the buying process

  • I also believe an important factor in reducing negotiations is the level of the person sellers ultimately close. If you’re selling technology and ask IT or Procurement for the business, brace yourself for several hard pricing squeezes. In stark contrast if you’re closing a line VP who understands the potential value, protracted negotiating sequences are less likely.

Sellers are usually viewed as people that must push sales cycles forward. Once Key Players understand value they recognize there is a cost of delay and want to move through buying cycles to start reaping benefits.

mobile sales app

Sales Tips: Stop Clinging to Old Approaches

Posted by Jill Perez on Aug 16, 2017 11:03:00 AM

Sales Tips: Stop Clinging to Old Selling Approaches

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Over the last decade vendors began to evaluate buying experiences they were providing. The truth be told, many were motivated by a shift in power as buyers leveled playing fields with sellers by using the Internet and social networking.

Bad Buying ExperiencesSelling approaches have changed at a glacial pace. 

Most vendors deserve low grades or “incompletes” for their efforts to improve the way they treat buyers. Creating Sales Enablement functions without the needed organizational changes has been the equivalent of applying Band-Aids when surgery was needed.

It seems to me there’s a fundamental flaw in the way vendors look at buyers. 

For decades sales organizations have viewed a seller’s job as getting buyers to do what they wanted them to do (buy). 

If buyers raised objections sellers were taught how to overcome them. Some sellers welcome objections because each one that is overcome means they are a step closer to getting the business. They subscribe to the theory that selling begins when buyers say no. What a horrible way to treat people trying to make buying decisions.

The Internet and social networking allowed buyers to see an alternative to “being sold.” The problem in my mind has been that executives lack the time and most websites lack the content to engage them. 

This has some important implications:

  • Many “buyers” doing product evaluations have neither budget nor support from executives in their companies.
  • There is little if any need development to estimate the potential cost vs. benefit and assess if there is potential value

As with many things in business the pendulum of control seems to have shifted in buyers’ favor. 

Show Value to BuyersThat said, evaluating offerings before understanding whether purchases can be justified can result in wasted time, effort and resources.

Buyers doing product evaluations are fortunate if they encounter a competent seller to pull them back to identify potential desired business outcomes and re-evaluate the capabilities needed to achieve them.

The challenge to vendors is developing salespeople with the skills needed to help buyers migrate from product evaluations to building business cases.

If done properly sellers can get away from attempting to make people buy. Buying committees that define their desired business outcomes, understand why they can’t be achieved and are aware of the capabilities needed become empowered to buy. Vendors that can teach their sales staff how to execute business outcome rather than product sales will provide superior buying experiences.

Realizing people prefer to buy rather than be sold is a significant step in improving buyer experiences.

As soon as our children could talk, they resisted attempts to convince or persuade them to do things my wife and I wanted them to do. 

Why do vendors cling to an obsolete definition of selling that buyers will resist? They want to be empowered to buy.

sales training workshops

Sales Tips: 4 Benefits of CX Programs

Posted by Jill Perez on Aug 9, 2017 9:31:40 AM

Sales Tips: 4 Unexpected Benefits of Customer Experience Programs

By Primary Intelligence, a CustomerCentric Selling® Partner

buyer-meeting-customer-experience.pngWin loss analysis is not the only form of buyer analysis. Another one occurs long after the sale. Customer experience interviews focus more on the product and solution than on the buying process and provide insights on key capabilities, missing capabilities, and ideal market profiles.

Customer experience touchpoints should occur immediately after the initial implementation of your solution and again periodically throughout the life of the solution’s use. A common practice is to engage with customers every six months to measure their satisfaction and identify areas for improvement in product, support, and training.

During its research, Primary Intelligence discovered four unexpected benefits from Customer Experience programs: 

1. Quantification of Customer Feedback

While many times company executives, especially, believe they understand the desires and preferences of their customers, their beliefs may hinge on a small handful of data points or customers who are particularly vocal yet don’t represent the preferences of the organization’s larger customer base. Collecting Customer Experience information from a larger, broader set of voices helps to identify the most salient issues to the widest group of customers. It can also provide insights on how best to address the issues.

reviewing-sales.pngOne Customer Experience (CX) practitioner, in describing the quantitative benefits of his organization’s Customer Experience initiatives, highlighted the incorporation of CX data into quarterly metrics, allowing this company to track CX feedback monthly and report statistics to C-level executives.

In this way, there is transparency and accountability in terms of understanding “what’s going on, where we’re making improvements, and what we’re doing to change.” As this individual noted, “I think that’s helped us a lot to try to incorporate voice of the customer type of data and change our process and do better.

2. Benefits to a Broader Audience

Customer Experience practitioners also highlight extended benefits of their programs, such as implementing changes to a product or service that will benefit the entire customer population. In those instances, taking a pro-active approach leads to reduced customer complaints and improved customer retention over the long term.

For example, one manager for major markets in the business process outsourcing industry told Primary Intelligence during a telephone interview that, “There have been some things that have taken off really well in accounts, and we’ve been able to push it out to other accounts. That was done pro-actively before the second or third client said something.

Competitive Differentiator3. Increase Product Competitiveness

An extended benefit is the ability to increase product competitiveness. In our research, customer experience practitioners shared that they became aware of desired or missing features. This discovery led to product or service changes that will benefit their entire customer population. In those instances, taking a pro-active approach leads to reduced customer complaints and improved customer retention over the long term.

In one instance, an insurance company used areas it identified as being major drivers of customer satisfaction or loyalty and tracked these metrics on a monthly basis, managing to those areas where there were both gaps and opportunities.

4. Understanding Data Cleanliness

Understanding how clean—or dirty—organizational data is that relates to customers can also be an extended benefit of CX analysis. While most organizations have mastered the ability to accurately track customer purchases, support issues, and other interactions customers may have with them, understanding the nuances of what’s working and not working can be an added benefit from CX programs.

As one senior director working in a call center noted, “Closure on service requests … still tended to be a little bit squishy.

In this instance, even after an issue was thought to be resolved, the organization learned that there were reoccurrences of the same issue with the same customer. Through detailed analysis of customer feedback, the organization was able to identify and implement a more rigorous closure process that has reduced post-closure escalations significantly.

Outcomes 2017

Sales Tips: Do Your Buyers See Sufficient Value?

Posted by Jill Perez on Aug 8, 2017 12:07:00 PM

Sales Tips: Do Your Buyers See Sufficient Value?

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

My view is that too many “opportunities” ultimately end with buyers making no decision. This is an unfortunate outcome for all vendors that were involved but also represents a waste of time, effort and resources for companies doing evaluations.

One of the major reasons for no decisions is a lack of adequate payback/value. I believe many sellers would struggle to help create an enterprise view of potential value.

Help Buyers See Sufficient ValueBuying cycles that will become committee decisions are far more complex for sellers to execute. It is important that there be some identified benefit for each major stakeholder if a purchase is going to be made.

CCS® helps clients identify the titles that are likely to be involved if a seller is going to sell, fund and implement offerings. These stakeholders have different objectives and business outcomes they hope to achieve in making purchase decisions.

Many sellers are unable to gain access to all the stakeholders by: 

  • Starting with levels in the organization whose interest is primarily in offerings rather than business outcomes.

  • Asking lower levels for access to other titles. There are 3 ways of gaining access to stakeholders listed here in decreasing degree of probability of being successful:

    • Ask for access to higher levels (typical in bottom-up sales approaches)/
    • Ask for access laterally (to peers of the initial contact)
    • Ask for access downward to people lower in the organization.

Top-down Access and Buying CommitteesIn my experience top-down access has the quickest and highest probability of conducting successful sales/buying cycles.

I say that because decision maker levels will self-qualify. By that I mean if they don’t see adequate potential value they won’t waste their nor their subordinates’ time.

When calling on each Key Player, sellers should have menus of potential business outcomes and uncover as many as possible. 

By doing so sellers have the ability to summarize potential value for each person involved in the decision. Often it is necessary to help buyers understand their baseline metrics (where they are without the seller’s offering) and have them project the potential improvement. It is important that the Key Players quantify the results they feel they can achieve. 

At some point in the buying cycle it can be a competitive differentiator to have the committee realize the total potential value of moving forward with a seller’s recommendation. This approach can neutralize what may be a seller’s most formidable competitor: No decision.

See and Hear Frank Visgatis at Outcomes - Sep 13-15

Sales Tips: Are You The Wirerer or Wiree?

Posted by Jill Perez on Aug 1, 2017 12:44:41 PM

Sales Tips: Handling RFP's You Did NOT Wire

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

Handling Unwired RFPsIn the first months of my career I received an RFP from the US Coast Guard Academy. My initial excitement faded as realized it was for equipment totaling about $6,000. Despite the fact that they had several of these devices installed and there was no competition I had to make a detailed response that included posting a security bond (despite the fact that I was representing IBM). I spent a few hours in my response, won the business and probably netted less than minimum wage for my time and effort. I came to despise the RFP process whether it was for commercial or government entities. 

When receiving an unsolicited RFP many sellers get excited. Some even delude themselves into believing their offering is a perfect fit and they have a great chance at winning the business.

Over time sellers begin to realize the only good RFP’s are the ones that you get to wire by making the requirements align with your offering and ideally incorporating features or capabilities that are unique to your offerings.

When receiving an unsolicited RFP most sellers feel compelled to respond. After better understanding how most RFP’s unfold one of my clients reviewed their responses the previous years, removed the ones they had wired and found they had about a 2% win rate on unsolicited RFP’s where they had no influence on establishing the requirements.

Wiring RFP'sWe helped devise a strategy to avoid wasting the time of sellers and support people on RFP’s they hadn’t wired: 

  • After reviewing the documents, sellers contacted the person overseeing the RFP (almost always a non-Key Player).
  • After complimenting him/her on the thoroughness of the RFP, they would ask for access to three (3) Key Players that could likely benefit from the offerings being considered.
  • The administrator would usually say “no” in which case the seller would indicate that there were some potential unique capabilities and a conversation with Key Players would be needed to determine if they would be relevant.
  • If the administrator still refused access, sellers would state that in order to justify the time and effort of making a response they would need access to those titles.

INFOGRAPHIC: Handling RFP's You Did NOT WireAt this point the outcomes were either: 

  • Sellers gained access and attempted to introduce additional business outcomes and capabilities and would include them in their bid.

  • The administrator still refused access in which case sellers would respectfully refuse to bid. The suggestion would be to end the call by saying you hope the organization finds a good fit but if they don’t you’d be willing to bid if access was granted.

I suggest sending a letter or email to make it clear you were willing to bid if granted access. Before declining to bid the sales manager should make the ultimate decision because there may be strategic reasons for bidding even if the chances of winning are remote. 

The client I referenced realized a 24% win rate by usually non-bidding when access was not granted. 

While sellers may not like RFP’s, if they are successful in wiring bids they actually get the satisfaction of having several competitors spend time effort and resources on low probability opportunities. 

For sellers time is precious and wasting time on RFP’s is painful to watch. I find it interesting that sellers, despite being reactive, 1 of 5 will invariably assign a 50% probability to RFP’s they worked on. If they were more honest and projected a 2-10% win rate their managers would ask: 

Why are we bothering with this?

The only good RFP is one that a seller has wired.

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