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CustomerCentric Selling® Sales Training Blog

Sales Tips: How to Dissect a Lost Opportunity

Posted by Jill Perez on Feb 5, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Dissect a Lost Opportunity

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

sales tips for loss reportingWhen someone wants to end a relationship they try to make it clear it’s over so that they can minimize any discussions. When breaking up with someone a friend of mine invoked the phrase:  “I’m just not good enough. You deserve better.”

When prospects consider four vendors and ultimately make buying decisions, three will receive bad news after spending time and resources on opportunities and having forecasted them to close. While I hesitate to accuse buyers of lying, similar to my friend they want to let sellers down as easily as possible while making it clear the time for selling has come and gone. One of my partners shared the observation that in all his years in selling he had never met “Column C.” By that he meant that all losing salespeople seem to be told they came in second while being told they didn't get the business.

So Why Did We Lose?

The most commonly cited reasons on loss reports are price and product. How often are they the real reasons? My rule of thumb is that unless buyers ask for a price that the seller/vendor can’t or won’t meet, price probably wasn’t the real reason for the loss. When buyers say, “If only you were a little cheaper we could have gone with you,” sellers should be thinking: Why didn’t you ask me for better pricing?

As for blaming losses on offerings, if sellers have an adequate chance to develop buyer needs they should have disqualified opportunities where offerings weren’t a good fit.

Probably the biggest single factor in buying decisions is the salesperson. Whoever provides a superior buying experience will usually be awarded the business. That said, it's unlikely buyers (who aren’t a seller’s manager) are going to tell anyone they got outsold. Awkward interactions can be avoided by blaming losses on price or product.

In most cases, I don’t believe sellers learn exactly why they didn’t get the business. Failing to get to the root causes are missed opportunities to learn from your mistakes and make changes to address any shortcomings. In trying to uncover the truth, it’s more difficult if sellers are the people trying to uncover reasons for losses. They have baggage by virtue of their involvement.

What You Should Do After a Loss

As an alternative, consider letting a few months pass and have someone from within the company that isn’t in sales or an outside consultant contact the person that was thought to have been the decision maker.

The person you choose should start by explaining to the buyer that the company waited because they wanted to avoid the appearance of trying to change the buyer’s mind. In competing for the business, a significant amount of time and resources were spent. The company is trying to learn from losses and improve their approaches. It would be very helpful to find out:

  • Which vendor was chosen
  • The major reasons for choosing the vendor
  • The reasons you weren't the vendor of choice related to:
    • Your company
    • Your offering
    • Your support
    • Your sales approach/salesperson
    • Terms and conditions
    • Other areas the buyer wants to discuss
  • Things you could have done differently that would have improved your chances of winning the business

You may want to consider doing interviews like these for significant wins as well as painful losses. Learning from both your successes and failures should enable you to be a more formidable competitor in the future.

sales training workshopNeed some help to increase sales? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to get started and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

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, proposals

Sales Tips: How to Earn the Right to Close

Posted by Jill Perez on Feb 3, 2016 8:00:00 AM

How to Earn the Right to Close

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

sales tips for closingOne of the common complaints I’ve heard from Sales executives is that their people aren’t strong closers. To me this is a reinforcement of the fact that far too much emphasis is placed on closing. It’s as though a poor 3-act play can be salvaged by a strong ending. Many peoples’ impression about selling and closing is based upon experiences they’ve had in B2C transactions. Whether a retail store, buying insurance or buying a car, chances are the buyer and seller won’t ever do another transaction. The realization that if you leave they will likely lose the sale causes them to use high pressure closing tactics.

B2B salespeople often enjoy the benefit of multiple meetings/conversations. They reap what they sow during buying cycles. The better job they do in uncovering buyer needs and associated value, the more likely they’ll win the business.

Sellers are under constant time pressure each month, quarter and year to achieve quota. These pressures increase when pipelines are thin. My belief is that sellers issue premature quotes or proposals and close before buyers are ready to buy, therefore pressuring buyers and potentially putting opportunities in jeopardy.

Before earning the right to close, I believe buyers need to be aware of: 

  • The business outcomes they want to achieve
  • The reasons they can’t achieve the desired results
  • The capabilities needed
  • Some type of proof (i.e. references or a demonstration)
  • The price of the offering being considered
  • The cost vs. benefit to understand potential value and payback
  • How competitive offerings compare in terms of functionality and price
  • Any implementation/conversion plans /costs if needed

A seller earns the right to ask for the business if and when a buyer has all they need to make a buying decision. One of the most powerful motivators for buyers is a clear understanding of the potential benefit on a monthly basis so they understand delaying decisions means deferring benefit. If sellers do a good job, placing orders can be a logical conclusion for buyers. Some will volunteer to buy but if they don’t, the attempts to close will go much better.

sales training workshopNeed some help to increase sales? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to get started and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

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, proposals

Sales Tips: How to Ask for a Referral or Introduction

Posted by Jill Perez on Jan 29, 2016 2:55:02 PM

How to Ask for a Referral or Introduction

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

sales tips for linkedin referrals and introductionsThis week I thought I’d provide you with some tactical and practical help. The notion of asking an existing customer for a referral has been in sales books and courses forever. However, it has been my experience, and validated by the individuals who enroll in my Prospecting and Business Development Work Sessions, that most salespeople fail to ask their customers or if they do, they don’t know what to do with the referral they receive. In five (5) steps, I’d like to share with you how you can use LinkedIn to obtain Introductions and Referrals beginning immediately:

  1. Identify the person within LinkedIn you would like to be introduced or referred to.
  2. Your mutual connections will display on the right of the page.
  3. If more than one of your connections can make the introduction, choose who you want to make the introduction.
  4. Click Request an Intro. This will take you to a text box where you can explain why you're asking for an introduction.
  5. Click Ask for an Introduction.   The message you write may be forwarded to the person you want to be introduced to, so make sure it is professional, succinct, explains how you help your clients, and why you are seeking the introduction. 

If you would like to begin building your pipeline to its optimum strength and improve your prospecting skills, you should enroll in any one of the three 1-day Prospecting and Business Development Work Sessions that I’ll be conducting in Atlanta, Dallas, and Seattle this April. They are a bargain. Hope to see you there!

sales training workshopNeed some help to increase sales? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to get started and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

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, proposals

Sales Tips: How to Herd Cats in Buying Committees

Posted by Jill Perez on Jan 27, 2016 8:00:00 AM

How to Herd Cats (Buying Committees)

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

sales tips for handling buying committeesWhile knowledgeable buyers present unique challenges another trend has been the increasing number of stakeholders in making buying decisions. Selling isn’t easy but when there is just one person to work with, it is far easier than having to herd a committee of 5 people through buying cycles.

Part of the difficulty stems from the fact that everyone has different agendas. While political agendas can make frustrated sellers, they exist and have to be dealt with as best sellers can. Something sellers overlook at times is that desired business outcomes vary by buyer. In my mind there should be an attempt to uncover value for as many committee members as possible.

One-on-One
Being successful during one-on-one conversations creates building blocks that can be used to move opportunities forward. A primary reason decisions lag and ultimately wind up in “no decisions” is that sellers fail to provide an enterprise view of the potential benefits that their offering can enable buyers to achieve

Herd Together
After calling on key stakeholders sellers should consider scheduling a conference call or meeting to summarize all the areas of potential savings. With all other things being relatively equal, sellers that can get all committee members to see enterprise level benefit will likely present the most compelling cost vs. benefit. Once compelling value has been established, buyers are incented to accelerate the decision process as they realize delays mean benefits are not being realized.

sales training workshopONLY ONE SEAT LEFT in Boston next week! Grab it now or take a look at the other sales training workshops available to help improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

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, proposals

Sales Tips: The Key to Obtaining Buyer Goals

Posted by Jill Perez on Jan 22, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: The Key to Obtaining Buyer Goals

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

sales tips for obtaining buyer goalsPrior to an important meeting or discussion, many people prepare by identifying their objectives. For salespeople making calls on a regular basis this is an important step that is likely to be skipped as they become comfortable and experienced.

A core concept of CustomerCentric Selling® is: No goal means no prospect. In other words, if sellers can’t get potential buyers to share desired business outcomes (or problems) they’re willing to spend money to achieve (or address), there’s no selling to be done. This core concept was written well before B2B buyers were leveraging the Internet and social networking to better understand what offerings are available prior to contacting salespeople.

I suggest a logical objective for an initial conversation is to have a buyer share one or more business outcomes or goals they want to achieve through the use of a seller’s offering. Knowing the type of company and the title of the buyer should allow a seller to develop a menu of potential goals.

As with many things in life, a seller may want to step back and realize they have work to do before Key Players will be willing to share business goals. Steven Covey said there are two components of being deemed trustworthy in that someone must display sincerity and competence. Most executives will share their business goals or problems with salespeople that they believe are trustworthy.

Buying cycles don’t start until buyers share a goal or a problem they’re willing to spend money to achieve or address. It is a watershed event when goals are shared and once it occurs the buyer starts to realize there is potential value if a seller’s offering can address their needs. Whether or not your buyers share their goals with you depends upon how they feel about you. Would they consider you trustworthy?

sales training workshopNeed some help to increase sales? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to get started and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

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: Emphasizing Strengths

Posted by Jill Perez on Jan 20, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Emphasizing Strengths

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

sales tipsSales managers are far better at telling salespeople what to do than they are at being able to tell them or teach them how to do it. One of the benefits of a standard sales training program is to provide a common set of skills to all salespeople. In theory this should make a first level sales manager’s job easier.

With that said, a B2B seller’s job has gotten significantly more difficult in the last 15 years or so, fueled by non-executives doing research on offerings via the Internet and postponing until the latest possible moment interacting with salespeople. A few things jump out at me: 

  1. It would likely provide a better buying experience if knowledgeable buyers’ first interactions were with customer support staff vs. salespeople. Sellers know less about product usage, something many of the researchers want to learn about. Secondly, sellers are under pressure to close leads and attempts to changes buyer’s minds about requirements prematurely will validate their decisions to defer talking with sellers as long as possible.
  1. Historically, one of the strengths of sellers has been knowledge about offerings, and vendors continue to spend a great deal of time and money on product training for their sales staff. It might be helpful to reconsider this as buyers often have researched multiple vendors and it is very possible they know more about offerings than sellers. The other downside is that sellers don’t often have chances to leverage product knowledge because executives won’t tolerate product pitches and researchers fear that sellers will try to persuade them to make features sellers feel are strengths part of their requirements.
  1. As a reaction to the limited benefit of continuing to do product training as though it were still 1995, my belief is vendors could proactively change the mix of product and business training that sellers receive. One way to view a seller’s role when getting involved late in buying cycles is to change product evaluations into business decisions. With more training on business issues and results, sellers could introduce the concepts of value and payback. In doing so they could differentiate themselves from competitors. The number of “no decision” outcomes could be reduced if more compelling business cases could be built.

Most vendors readily acknowledge that buying behavior has changed, yet they continue to use selling approaches that conflict with how buyers want to be treated. A focus on making business acumen a strength and reducing the amount of product training sellers receive could make a difference.

sales training workshops 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 Training, sales tips, selling tips, sales process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique

Sales Tips: Managing Distractions in a Disruptive World

Posted by Jill Perez on Jan 13, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Managing Distractions in a Disruptive World

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

sales tips for managing distractionsWe live in an interrupt-driven world as people and companies compete for thin slices of our time and mind share. A recent study concluded we now have a shorter attention span than goldfish. I’m afraid it’s a trend with no end in sight.

In going through a year and driving toward achieving quota, competent salespeople remain focused on what’s important. In my mind there’s a major difference when reviewing pipelines. B & C Players often have high numbers of low probability opportunities while A Players will have a lower number of high probability opportunities. Another way of saying this is that mediocre sellers have high levels of activity while top performers focus on progress.

Since we launched CCS® we’ve shown ways to do sanity checks when qualifying that are based upon buyer actions vs. seller opinions. After making calls there are standard debriefing questions sellers should be able to answer:

  • What are the goal(s) (desired business outcomes) of the buyer?
  • What capabilities are needed to achieve the goal(s)?
  • What is the potential value to the buyer?
  • What other titles would be involved in making the buying decision?
  • Will/can the person the seller called on provide access to those titles?

These questions apply whether contacts are proactive or reactive. The first question above is based upon the first core concept of CCS®: No goal means no prospect. This simple wisdom applied to inbound/nurtured leads could allow B & C Players to better decide which opportunities they should pursue. Once they’ve asked for access (to qualify a champion), both the seller and manager have a measureable buyer action to determine if the Champion milestone has been achieved.

sales training workshops

Need some help to increase sales? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to get started and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

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, proposals

Sales Tips: Important Sanity Checks for Sellers

Posted by Jill Perez on Jan 6, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Important Sanity Checks for Sellers

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

sales tips for qualifying leadsEconomist Fredmund Malik said, “Results should give pleasure.” People often get distracted or confused in certain selling activities. Top performers seem to have a sixth sense about when buyers or committees aren’t going to buy and will remove them from their pipelines. B and C Players on the other hand get excited just because prospects are willing to talk or meeting with them.

In my mind, progress in determining if opportunities are qualified should be measured with buyer actions. Mediocre sellers are delighted to receive blind RFP’s inviting them to bid. Better salespeople realize RFP’s are likely to have been wired by other vendors and realize that if they are unable to influence the requirements they in all likelihood have about a 5% chance of winning the business. In this case, A Players will contact the person overseeing the RFP to request access to 2 or 3 likely titles that would be involved in making the decision. If access is refused, the best course of action may be to send a written response saying that without understanding the business issues it would be impossible to make a professional response, so the seller respectfully no-bidding the RFP.

Another example of activity is having several calls with lower level staff that cannot buy. B & C Players will expend resources, provide pricing or even submit written proposals without gaining access to higher levels. Fairly early on in the process, if a prospect requests a demo the seller can offer a quid pro quo such as: You had indicated that (higher level title) would have to approve budget. If you like what you see in the demonstration, would you be willing to schedule a meeting with him/her?

While there are many examples of activity vs. progress, I’ll leave you with what I feel is one of the most important buyer actions. This applies not only to direct contact sellers have with prospects. It’s also relevant while nurturing website visitors and is based upon the first core concept of CCS®: No goal, no prospect. The question comes in two variations based upon the level of the prospect:

  • Ask Key Players: What are you hoping to accomplish with (the offering)?
  • Ask non-Key Players: What is your organization hoping to accomplish with (the offering)?

Having prospects share a goal or problem they’re willing to spend money to achieve or address starts buying cycles and is the start of helping a buying committee see the potential value of offerings. Absent shared desired business outcomes, how likely is it that prospects will ultimately spend money?

These and other buyer actions are sanity checks for sellers and their managers to try to ensure opportunities are worth a seller’s time, effort and resources.

sales training workshops

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 Training, sales tips, selling tips, sales process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique

Sales Tips: Suggested New Years Resolutions

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 29, 2015 12:06:31 AM

Sales Tips: Suggested New Years Resolutions

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

sales tips for a happy new yearIt’s hard to believe that 2016 is here as we dive into Q1 already. I hope you agree that changes in buying behavior have outpaced changes in selling approaches by a wide margin over the last 15 years or so. In my mind the gap will continue to widen over the coming years.

With that in mind I’d like to propose a couple simple New Years resolutions for your consideration. A concern I have is that terminology used in sales offices by sellers and their management team may be used when sellers are talking with prospects and customers. For that reason I’m going to suggest that you do a “search and replace” for 2 words that are commonly used.

1. Whenever a seller uses the word deal when talking to me I harken back to negative experiences I’ve had buying cars and the high-pressure closing tactics used to prevent me from leaving dealerships. It’s bad enough to use that term in B2C sales when it’s unlikely the buyer and seller will ever meet again, but in B2B transactions it can be outright offensive. For those reasons my suggestion is to use the word transaction, a word that can be used both internally and externally when discussing opportunities.

2. While more B2B transactions then ever are being initiated by researchers/buyers, sellers/vendors cling to the term sales cycles. It would seem a better term to apply to all would be buying cycles. It’s a minor change, but at least it would have sellers/vendors looking in the right direction and hopefully can be a part of being more customer-centric. It also has sellers realize that for most inbound opportunities buyers/researchers are dictating how they want to buy.

These small changes and the realization that buyers prefer to buy rather than be sold may help you better align with today’s buyers.

Best wishes for 2016.

Download Episode 23 for FREE from iTunes

Do your sellers have the necessary "Sales DNA" to succeed? Listen to special guest, Dave Kurlan, in Episode 23 of Sales Rehab!

Need some help to increase sales? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to get started and improve sales performance. Your Roadmap to Revenue Growth® awaits!

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, proposals

Sales Tips: Opportunity-Account Management Lifecycle

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 23, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Is Opportunity-Account Management Lifecycle a Virtuous or Vicious Circle?

Co-written by Jim Naro, CustomerCentric Selling® Certified Business Partner/President of The Naro Group and Ron Snyder, President of Plan 2 Win Software

According to Gartner Group, “65% of a company’s business comes from existing customers and it costs 5 times as much to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one satisfied.”  This indicates the importance of not only doing a good job of managing opportunities during customer acquisition, but also following up with purposeful customer engagement to grow relationships and drive revenue growth on an ongoing basis.

The gap between opportunity management and account planning is not new and it’s typically driven by several misconceptions, such as:

  • Opportunity management is a “won and done” achievement
  • Account planning is just a once-a-year effort
  • Account planning and opportunity management are independent efforts that require mutually exclusive skills, processes and vernacular
  • Building your relationships and sphere of influence is part of account planning only; it’s not part of opportunity management
  • It’s ok to implement these processes in silos within the organization

Opportunity Management - Account PlanningCreate a Virtuous Cycle to Close the Gap

1. Win the deal with skillful opportunity management 

2. Identify future opportunities with effective account planning

3. Repeat

Too often, salespeople are focused on just winning the deal. They adopt  a “won and done” attitude. But if they see the deal all the way through its implementation, all the key players will be more pleased with the results. Then they can use their success story to help win the next opportunity and maintain a lasting business relationship.

Those who go beyond opportunity management into account planning are more successful because they are building a more strategic and holistic presence in their accounts, enlisting support from all the key players.

Build on Successful Opportunity Management with a Winning Account Plan

Key elements from your team’s opportunity management process will “seed” their account planning process. Further, it is important to develop a strategy with the key players in the account that they are committed to; rather than a plan that is just internal to your organization.

1. Understand the customer’s business drivers

Business drivers are important operational, financial, organizational, and/or technological characteristics and trends. They might be related to revenue and profit growth, cash flow improvements, cost decreases, keeping up with industry shifts, or adding new products/markets. Salespeople need to talk to buyers about what they need to move beyond the status quo to achieve breakthrough outcomes, and discuss how to help facilitate that change.

2. Generate a competitive strategy

As a vendor, your challenge is to prove that your team is the customer’s best resource; you will provide better solutions and more value than any other colleague or vendor. Your team’s strategy for helping accounts get results for their business objectives must be compelling enough to overcome an even bigger competitor – No Decision, Inc.

3.  Develop a sphere of influence with key players

It used to be that you needed to convince only one buyer with a budget that you were their vendor of choice. Now the average size of a B2B buying team size is 7 people, according to IDG. While your sales rep may have a good account advocate , he or she must still build relationships with the entire decision-making team to learn what their spending priorities are and ensure your offerings are approved and funded.

The buyers aren’t the only people salespeople need to rely upon for a successful implementation. They also need to develop relationships with those who execute the project and those who understand all the change management issues the account may face.

4. Establish metrics for success and follow up regularly

The most empowering question to ask a buyer is, “How would you measure success for your investment or project?” By following up with an account on how their results measured up, salespeople can ensure the implementation is on track and offer additional services as needed. They can learn about other ways your offering impacts the account and be better equipped to leverage the success in one unit to build referral relationships within other areas of the account.

Defining account success gives your team the opportunity to celebrate their champions and to provide more value to the account.

Strengthen Core Tactics to Increase Probability of Success
These strategies are equally valuable in both opportunity management and account planning:

  • Respond to key trends and industry changes with a SWOT analysis
  • Leverage contacts and share information across your  whole team, including accounts and partners
  • Utilize limited resources effectively
  • Create and implement action plans that can be easily monitored and regularly updated
  • Conduct Win/Loss reviews as a team to share best practices and learn from each other’s challenges.
  • Build opportunity management and account planning into your monthly, quarterly and annual calendars

The Bottom Line
According to CSO Insights, 25% of sales organizations have a win rate of less than 25% and quota attainment of 40%. However, the top sales organizations have a win rate of greater than 65% and 65+% quota achievement. Using effective opportunity management and account planning can help your organization be top performers.

Hear the Best of Sales Rehab Highlights in Episode 24! Catch up on ALL episodes FREE from iTunes.

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 Training, sales tips, selling tips, sales process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique

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