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CustomerCentric Selling® Sales Training Blog

Sales Tips: Sales Doesn't Need More Product Experts

Posted by Jill Perez on Feb 12, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Sales Doesn't Need More Product Experts

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

sales tips for business experts not productSalespeople are expected to be product experts, but senior executives have neither the time nor inclination to acquire significant amounts of product knowledge. They’re busy and simply want to understand the potential value that can be realized with a product or service. Despite this fact, companies continue to provide extensive product training to sellers. 

Old selling habits linger. But selling realities are changing. 

Having started my career with IBM, I've witnessed the shift from product to business focus in sales firsthand. A large factor in IBM’s troubles in the early '90’s was their reliance upon selling to CIOs that for decades had purchased technology with little regard for cost vs. benefit. New announcements created knee-jerk first day orders. But in the late '80’s clients started to more closely scrutinize IT expenditure, and technology buying decisions migrated to business executives.

What caused the company's sales slump? In the end, the consensus was that IBM salespeople had lost the ability to have conversations about business issues with non-IT executives. In 1993 IBM took the unprecedented step of hiring an outsider, Lou Gertsner, as CEO. He shifted the culture to focus more on business issues rather than product issues.

The Evolving Role of Sales Requires Business Experts

With this in mind, I found the results of a recent Software Advice study encouraging. The research analyzed job qualifications for sales directors, and the top three undergraduate degrees required for job applicants were as follows:

  1. Business (42%)
  2. Marketing (23%)
  3. Engineering (12%)

Sales executives with business degrees could start to steer organizations toward business issues rather than product knowledge.

From my perspective, business acumen is a requirement of the modern salesperson. Whether opportunities begin reactively with inbound inquiries from mid-level staff or proactively through prospecting, I believe competent sales professionals must:

  • Understand different vertical markets and be able to position their offerings in ways that align with them.
  • Share ideas with executives as to how to improve business results. 
  • Help clients understand how they compare with industry best practices. 
  • Understand the impact that improved results can have on a company’s financials. For example, one of our clients found that by having sellers reduce discounting by 10%, they would realize an additional $.23 earnings per share. 
  • Work with buying committees to assess early in buying cycles if there will be enough potential value to offset the cost of offerings.
  • Present business cases rather than just proposals.

The days of leading with product are a thing of the past. Reducing the emphasis on product training would allow more time to arm sellers with a better understanding of business issues for the verticals they call on. Failure to adapt to this new reality will often result in losses or no-decisions.

sales training workshopRead 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 Get Buyers and Sellers onto the Same Page

Posted by Jill Perez on Feb 10, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Get Buyers and Sellers onto the Same Page

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

There are a number of pre-conceived notions from both sides that buying/selling is a zero sum game. There is a perception that there must be a winner and a loser from negotiations through implementations. One of the vendor slides I abhor comes late in presentations. It shows smiling people shaking hands, inferring what a wonderful partnership the relationship will be.

sales tips for getting buyers and sellers on same pageAs mentioned in previous blog posts, my contention is that buyers and sellers are worse off than they were 15 years ago. My rationale for drawing this conclusion:

  • There are many “tire kicking” product evaluations that have no supporting initiatives.
  • People refuse early help from sellers due to a fear that they will somehow be manipulated.
  • Vendors are chasing low-level, entry-point visitors that can’t buy.
  • They struggle to achieve top-line revenue growth despite the ongoing inbound volume of interest that seems to indicate buyers and sellers are confusing activity with progress.
  • Buying and selling organizations are wasting tremendous amounts of time in product evaluations destined to result in “no decision” outcomes.

In having a hard look, sellers and vendors have taken liberties with buyers for decades. The worst offenses came before SaaS models when implementations were Herculean tasks. Sellers were guilty of emphasizing how good it would be while minimizing how much effort would be needed for implementations. Buyers were often low-balled and had little choice but to pay whatever else was needed. Buyer resentment and distrust of salespeople became widespread.

With the Internet and social networking, buyers leveled the playing field. Deferring seller involvement as long as humanly possible is baggage from the past. Competent B2B sellers do not want companies to buy offerings that aren’t a good fit or that won’t provide value. While continuous revenue streams can be a blessing, excessive customer churn is a nightmare for SaaS companies. Unlike B2C transactions where buyers and sellers will never interact again there is the need and desire to establish relationships and execute “land and expand” approaches over time.

There is an underlying challenge for vendors. Most have failed to take a hard look at the approaches their salespeople are employing. There likely is too much emphasis on product training. I say that because mid to low level staff self-educate via the Internet and executives won’t tolerate product pitches. The real challenge is for sellers to help organizations migrate from product evaluations to making business decisions based upon cost vs. benefit analyses. In my mind 10-15% of sellers are capable of helping in this way. Vendors should consider shifting some of the product training to better understanding customers’ business issues and the financial impact that offerings can allow them to achieve.

The buyer-seller relationship has been strained, if not broken, forever. In offering an olive branch I believe sellers/vendors should put “skin in the game” to support their assertions of how much benefit can be realized. Instead of merely touting potential improvements in reducing downtime, reducing scrap, reducing costs, etc. I’d like to see both parties identify areas where benefits are likely to accrue and set baselines of where prospects are prior to buying (i.e. % uptime; % scrap; costs; etc.).

In making purchase decisions, both parties should agree to targets and set a minimum acceptable improvement as well as a stretch goal. The customer would pay 75% of the purchase price and leave 25% in play over the next year (or whatever time frame is appropriate). Moving forward:

  • The customer pays 75% of the total price up front.
  • On a quarterly basis improvements of defined variables are measured against baselines.
  • After the specified period of time:
    • If the minimum improvement is not reached, the customer would never be invoiced the 25% that was in play.
    • If the minimum is met but the stretch goal isn’t, the customer pays the additional 25%.
    • If the stretch goal is met the client pays a 25% premium over the quoted price.

As a buyer I’d find a presentation slide implying that a partnership will be forged with a vendor far less offensive. These have and will continue to be hollow words absent an incentive for both parties to deliver value after making buying decisions. Putting money at stake eliminates the zero sum game buyers and sellers otherwise play.

sales training careerNeed 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: How to Turn a No Decision into a WIN

Posted by Jill Perez on Feb 9, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Turn a "No Decision" into a WIN

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

When a software client grew frustrated with their dismal results from efforts to improve sales, they knew they needed to find out exactly what their buyers wanted. They were confident their clients liked the software, and that it was superior to the competition, but they couldn’t figure out why their win rate was not higher.

The client’s top executives and sales manager told us that they wanted to learn how to improve sales practices. They just didn’t understand where they succeeded and where they failed. The sales teams blamed the pricing or missing features, but none of them requested feedback from their buyers.

sales tips for no decisionOnce we started discussing sales opportunities with their buyers, the sales manager realized how much more relaxed buyers are when discussing the deals and how receptive they are to offering valuable feedback. The sales manager said, “You got to the real story and shared it back with us in a language that [we] can understand…that can feed into all of our decision making.”

Because of these improvements they have been able to maintain a 100 percent annual growth rate.

You, too, can have great success in closing more sales—including pre-empting a possible “no decision”— by applying the same principles this company used to your program.

Improve Your Win Rate With Better Buyer Intelligence

This software client’s win rate significantly improved with buyer feedback. The marketing folks are now armed with the intelligence they need to craft messages, which highlight the benefits of their software. The client discovered additional features that buyers desired. Now the company offers these new features by partnering with other organizations that can help fill in the gaps.

How did they get there?

We not only analyzed their competitive wins and losses, but those opportunities where the buyer opted out of selecting any solution. Our client couldn’t understand why some buyers would go through the evaluation process, but then decide to keep their current software. We noticed that many of their buyers needed to update their current procedures before any new solution could be adopted. Basically these buyers were putting the cart before the horse, resulting in a “no decision”  that caused the buyer to postpone the decision until a later date.

Don’t think “No Decisions” are Lost Causes

Now knowing why “no decisions” typically happen with their buyers, the sales team developed specific techniques to use with these buyers that have greatly reduced the chances of the buyers postponing their purchase decision. The sales team has found that when they assist the buyer in this process, they have a better chance of closing the deal.

The company makes a conscience effort to distribute buyer feedback throughout the company. This includes the sales representatives, sales managers, marketing, product management, and customer support teams. The CEO feels they have a real understanding of what buyers are saying about them: “By staying on top of understanding this critical customer feedback, [it] has really helped us to continue to grow our organization so rapidly.”

This client is consistently responding to what they learn from their Win Loss Analysis program and making appropriate changes throughout the company.

“We’re trying to constantly improve multiple processes, so multiple things are getting changed along the way — every month, every quarter… Input that we’ve received from Primary Intelligence has allowed us to sustain our ongoing close to 100 percent growth year after year.”

What You Can Do:

We know how much effort you put into a sales opportunity. It’s frustrating to work on a sale only to find out the buyer made no decision at all. Here are some recommendations you can apply to help avoid “no decisions” in the future.

Be flexible. Check your sales approach. Are you being flexible with your offering? Are you meeting the buyer’s needs? For example, are you offering the client a solution built for a large-sized company when they have less than a 100 employees?

Make it easy to purchase from you. Sometimes, the buyer may have been ready to purchase but the sales process was too confusing. When our Director of Industry Insights, Carolyn Galvin, was a program consultant, she interviewed a “No Decision” respondent. She said, “It was apparent our client’s sales team completely missed the mark, selling a product that didn’t exist, changing pricing and licensing terms numerous times and without logic, and requesting introductions with senior executives to further the sales team’s own agenda. When asked if her company would consider evaluating our client at a later date, the respondent sighed and replied, ‘Right now, we’re just trying to get over the post-traumatic stress of it all.'”

Get the decision makers on board as quickly as possible. Having the right people involved with the discussions from the start will help decrease the sales cycle and make it easier for the buyer to make a decision.

sales tips for understanding buyer needsFind buyers’ pain points. Tapping into buyers’ pain points could prompt them to make a decision sooner. It’s key to tie your features to how they solve their specific issues. Think concrete, not abstract. “Our security system ensures 24-hour surveillance of your property. We have a security team of 20 licensed security specialists working around the clock using state-of-the-art equipment to ensure your safety.” versus “We’ll watch your building.”

Look to the bright side when your buyer decides not to purchase any solution.  You may feel there is nothing positive about a “no decision.” After all, you didn’t win. Treat this “no decision” as a possible win in the future. Here’s some advice from Program Consultant Ralph Nielsen:

“No decisions can be just as important as the losses, and in some cases, they may be even more valuable because they could turn into wins. They have just put the decision on hold, so we can discuss why and what our client can do when they open it up again in the near future. I usually call these gold nuggets, because there is immediate potential in some cases. We can provide our clients with the leverage and understanding they need to get it over the goal line and turn that no decision into a win. For the ones that don’t have immediate potential, we can still help them understand what is causing their prospects not to move forward, and see if there is anything our client could be doing differently.”

Plan a Course of Action:

One of the secrets to staying on top with your sales game is to always be in a mode of action planning. Here are few tips.

Gather detailed information. The more information you can obtain from your buyers, the more likely you’ll have the necessary repository needed to produce an effective action plan.

Leave no stone unturned. One interview with a buyer may seem futile to discover anything worthwhile. However, one opportunity may reveal something useful that may have gone unnoticed before. This one tidbit may be the keystone to the root cause of why you’re losing and may help with prioritizing your action plan.

Involve senior leadership.  Be sure to invite your senior leadership to your sales debriefs/meetings. We encourage our clients to include their C-level executives to attend our Discovery sessions. Program Consultant RoxAnne Loosle, shared “During a discussion, it was decided that there was still an opportunity to present a better product/solution to the client, who had not finalized its decision. An action plan was developed to present the product and repair the damage done. It’s important to ensure that debriefs include the product leaders and sales leaders who can commit to actions and will hold the group and themselves responsible for completing them.”

For a replay of our Webinar with Primary Intelligence, "How Sales Teams Can Win MORE Opportunities through Understanding Buyer Needs," CLICK HERE. For more information about Primary Intelligence, please visit: www.primary-intel.com 

Atlanta-_Prospecting_Workshop.pngNeed 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: 5 Ways You'll MISS Your Number This Year

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

Sales Tips: 5 Ways You Could MISS Your Number This Year

By John Holland, Chief Content Officer, CustomerCentric Selling®

sales tips for making the numberThe Office Of Financial Research recently studied companies whose stock had tripled over the last six years. It concluded that the stock increase was due to controlling costs rather than revenue growth. These companies delayed hiring new people, and limited investment in new facilities and R&D spending. They benefited from low interest rates in reducing borrowing costs and the fact that for many investors, stocks were the only instruments that offered the potential for significant returns.

The recovery that started in 2008 has been tepid. Few companies are experiencing anything close to the revenue growth of the '90s, but those that grow revenue can distance themselves from the herd.

Here are the reasons many companies will miss their revenue targets this year, from my perspective.

1) Looking in the rear view mirror.

This begins at the sales rep level but can become an enterprise-wide problem. Like major league hitters checking their batting average, so sales staff from reps up to SVPs focus on their YTD positions against quota. However, the only benefit of focusing on YTD is to realize how much of the mountain is left to be climbed.

Salespeople would be better served to look through the windshield with occasional glances at the rear view mirror. Train wrecks occur a month at a time. Projecting a sales cycle ahead of time gives sellers a much better chance of making their numbers. It’s relatively straightforward to do so -- simply take your current pipeline, multiply the gross at each milestone times your historical close rates (actual or estimated), and determine if a seller can reasonably expect to be YTD one sales cycle ahead.

Let’s say your average sales cycle is three months. Having just finished the first quarter, you’d like the projection for the coming quarter plus your YTD achievement through March 31st to equal half your annual quota. If there is shortfall, there should be ongoing efforts to find and bring new opportunities into your funnel.

Ideally, these calculations should be done every month.

2) Not arming sellers to understand business issues.

I find it ironic that companies continue to spend inordinate amounts of time and money on training sellers on products. 

Mid- to low-level buyers start evaluating offerings on their own. The plethora of search engines, websites, webinars, white papers, and other marketing collateral fully arms them to do so. The negative stereotype of sellers is alive and well with B2B buyers. These prospects believe sellers will try to manipulate them by influencing their requirements. 

Extensive product training can turn B and C players into “spray and pray” sellers. The problem is that few executives have the time or desire to go into gory details about products. A players have the innate ability to uncover executive business goals and focus on how offerings can be used to achieve them. 

Sellers that launch into product pitches are likely to suffer poor outcomes, such as:

  • Premature pricing discussions
  • Executives saying they’re not interested because they don't see any business value
  • Getting delegated to lower levels

In my mind, the most important thing competent B2B sellers bring is an understanding of enterprise-wide benefits that can be realized through the use of their offerings. When the cost vs. benefit doesn’t make sense the dog won’t hunt. If, however, sellers can articulate benefits and better yet discuss how the company’s financial picture can improve, the chances of making sales are far better. I wish vendors would look at their product training costs and reallocate some funds to make their sellers more competent business consultants.

3) Confusing activity with progress.

B and C sales players typically initiate opportunities at low levels, view everyone as a buyer, lead with product, don’t gain access to key stakeholders, fail to uncover business issues, and don’t establish value with compelling costs vs. benefit analyses. They will make numerous calls (activity) but aren’t gaining access to stakeholders (progress). They often provide quotes or proposals (activities) far sooner than they should. Sadly, many of these sellers believe opportunities are much farther along than they actually are.

4) Relying upon seller opinions when grading pipeline.

Executives that think seller pipelines lead to revenue forecasts are mistaken. Sellers below quota realize their managers are going to be “in their faces” if it appears there isn’t adequate activity going on in the territory. Some sellers might not even realize their unbridled optimism has no basis in reality as relates to the quality in their pipelines. If you add every opportunity in a C player’s pipeline, the total may exceed the GDP of many small countries! What is a sales manager to do?

Ronald Reagan gave sage advice when he said "Trust but verify." The antidote to relying upon seller opinions is to implement as many verifiable buying milestones as possible.

Within the CustomerCentric Selling® sales methodology, the first significant milestone is qualifying a champion (someone who can provide the seller access to other key players). We show the seller how to draft a champion-qualifying email and give sales managers the ability to edit it. If the seller states the buyer has agreed to the content of the email and is willing to provide stakeholder access, the manager grades the opportunity as “C” (Champion). This is the “trust” part of Regan’s advice. The “verify” is to check an email has been received indicating access has been granted.

If a month goes by without gaining access, a conversation ensues and the opportunity may be kicked back to a prior milestone. This is one of many measurable activities that we tie to milestone achievement.

5) Defining only one set of milestones.

A common mistake I see is companies defining milestones for major opportunities and expecting sellers to use them for each and every deal. Sellers working on smaller opportunities soon discover they are being asked for enter far more data and take many more steps than are warranted in the scenario.

No need to use a jackhammer when a tack hammer would suffice. In such cases, sellers rightfully complain or refuse to adhere to the milestones. Most organizations have at least five or six processes that warrant unique milestones (add-on business, renewals, services, maintenance, SMB sales, large accounts national accounts, etc.). First define your most complex sale, but then “water down” the steps needed as opportunity size and complexity decrease.

One of the foundations of CCS® is that people prefer to buy rather than being sold. The same is true of organizations. Transaction milestones should meld the prospect’s buying process with the vendor’s selling process. Failing to incorporate buying steps means forcing your sales process onto the buyer -- not a very customer-centric thing to do.

The recovery limps along. Companies that get wise to the realities of the current buying/selling environment and align with them will have a better chance of achieving their revenue targets. 

sales training careerNeed 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 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

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