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CustomerCentric Selling® Sales Training Blog

Sales Tips: What Happens When Inmates Get the Keys?

Posted by Jill Perez on Jul 28, 2015 4:21:05 PM

Sales Tips: What Happens When Inmates Get the Keys?

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

Image courtesy of Stock Images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There is an enormous spectrum of selling approaches and skills being used in B2B sales today. It is disturbing to me that this statement applies within many companies. How odd would it be if members of a vendor’s accounting or manufacturing staff were given the latitude to get creative in how they performed their jobs? Chaos would reign. Bankruptcy would loom.

give-keysHaving owned the keys to selling approaches, most vendors should be given failing grades for improving buying experiences over the last 15 years. This has been an especially turbulent time given the changes in buying activity. Failure to meaningfully respond to these changes in my mind has caused an ever-widening chasm between how buyers are treated and how they would like to be treated.

About the turn of the millennium buyers were “given the keys” by vendors that posted everything they could about their offerings on websites. When pendulums of human behavior swing there often are over-corrections. While few sales organizations have implemented sales process, buyers haven’t distinguished themselves with their newly found empowerment.

The pervasive negative stereotype (learned early in our lives in regrettable interactions with B2C salespeople) has been applied with a broad brush to all. In fairness there have been abuses by B2B sellers over the years, but by its nature there are significant differences in selling complex offerings costing over $50,000 (SaaS transactions over $4,000/mo.):

  • There is a desire by vendors and sellers to have long-term customer relationships.
  • Sellers don’t want to sell things that customers don’t need.
  • Vendors often must provide services, support, maintenance, etc.
  • Vendors are concerned about customer satisfaction and references. The Internet and social networking have put positive or negative word of mouth on steroids.
  • Sellers and vendors are concerned about results that clients achieve with their offerings.

The empowerment of the buying community has been fueled by an availability of product information. Primarily non-executives are the members of the buying community that access this overwhelming volume of information. In doing so, they often lock out salespeople based upon the belief that they will try to convince/persuade/manipulate them into buying something that doesn’t address their needs.

Vendors have mistakenly concluded that research represents buying activity. If you step back, however, what percentage of product research (usually done on multiple vendors in a given space) is being done with: 

  • The knowledge of higher levels in organizations?
  • Budget already approved?
  • A concern or understanding of potential payback to justify expenditures?
  • An idea of required professional services and implementation issues that will arise?

By doing unauthorized research employees can waste a great deal of time. In evaluating enterprise B2B transactions, an early step should be a sanity check to determine the potential value of implementing the offering being considered.

It is a brave new world for companies considering large B2B offerings. With social networking it is no longer necessary to “take a seller’s word” for ease of use, ease of implementation or how significant the benefits realized will be. Buyers have the ability to poll communities of people they trust and get first hand “transparent” information by people that don’t have a vested interest in what vendor they choose. Long-suffering buyers no longer need to fall victim to seller hype, omissions or outright lies. 

KEY: It is incumbent upon vendors to up their games in realizing that introducing value discussions early in buying cycles with Key Players is a qualifier for both parties. Whether buying cycles are initiated proactively or reactively sellers should be able to determine early if the payback looks to be sufficient to warrant the time and effort by both sides. The buying community should scale back its paranoia about sellers taking advantage of them. The playing field has been leveled and the pendulum should move toward center. Vendors should consider reducing product training and focusing on more business training.

Buying and selling doesn’t need to be the zero sum activity it often becomes.

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

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

Sales Tips: Another Way to Engage with Senior Executives

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

Sales Tips: Another Way to Engage with Senior Executives

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

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

working-at-deskAre you having difficulty engaging with the senior executives you would like to speak with? If so, here is something you can immediately put into action to improve your engagement rates.

If you weren’t already aware, the most effective means of engaging with a senior executive with whom you want to speak to is through a referral or an introduction from someone who knows that executive. The fact is most salespeople understand the power of referrals but don’t obtain them; or of if they do obtain the referrals, they utilize them ineffectively. However, did you know that LinkedIn contains a feature that allows you to automate finding, requesting, authoring, and obtaining that referral/introduction? Well it can.  I don’t have time here to fully explain how to use it, but I’ve included a link here that will connect you directly to LinkedIn’s online help forum.

Jumping to the next step, let’s assume that you’ve used LinkedIn’s referral/introduction capability and you just obtained the referral you were seeking.  Now what? 

Most email client applications (i.e. Microsoft Outlook) provide you with the ability to Request a Meeting. As soon as you have obtained the introduction/referral, rather than picking up the telephone and attempting a ‘warm call’ or sending a ‘warm email’ (two of the least effective means of engaging with senior executives), instead send the executive you’re attempting to reach a Request for Meeting. Why?  A Request a Meeting

  • is different than email
  • warrants the recipients’ attention
  • requires immediate action by the recipient (accept, decline, or propose an alternate date and time)
  • allows you to reference the introduction
  • allows you to author and deliver a relevant message with your request (think TRIGGERING EVENT)
  • allows you to include a call to action

The tactical use of LinkedIn’s Request An Introduction and Outlook’s Request a Meeting, when used in parallel will enhance your prospecting and business development success. Don’t be afraid to try it.

Download Episode 18 Listen to PART 2 of our conversation with bestselling author and consultant, Geoffrey Moore on Sales Rehab!

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

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

Sales Tips: How to Make the Most of Your 168 Hours

Posted by Jill Perez on Jul 22, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Make the Most of Your 168 Hours Every Week

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

Image courtesy of Hin255 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

time-is-moneyTime is a precious commodity for everyone. It’s especially critical for sellers to make good use of their time. They’re under pressure to achieve revenue targets each quota year. As sellers become more competent they understand the difference between activity and progress. They start more stringently qualifying “opportunities.” At a high level, one of the primary responsibilities of first level sales managers is ensuring that sellers work on opportunities that have a high probability of closing. Statistics show about half of sales cycles end with prospects making no decision. This outcome means the buyer organization and all vendors that competed wasted valuable time.

While enticing, I question whether the torrent of activity from inbound non-Key Player researchers is helping salespeople achieve their numbers. As mentioned in several previous blog posts, nurturing programs that pass leads to sellers run the risk of confusing activity with progress. A few simple questions can save researchers and sellers from spinning their wheels.

My concern is the volume of inbound research that is being done today:

  • Without the knowledge of Key Players within prospect organizations
  • Without budget/funding approved for offerings

How to Maximize Your Time

1. If and when sellers contact or are contacted by people knowledgeable about offerings it is important to have them share the list of requirements they feel are needed and determine if a seller’s offering is a fit. A common mistake is failing to establish value early in the process. Absent strong payback, it’s unlikely sales will happen further down the road.

2. A seller may want to ask if budget has been approved. If the offering is fairly complex, understand that if buyers say they have budget, it’s likely there is a Column A vendor driving the evaluation. Gaining access to Key Players will be important in qualifying these opportunities.

3. If budget has not been allocated, honesty may be the best alternative. The seller can thank the prospect for their interest and acknowledge that both parties’ time is important. He or she can then express concern that many product evaluations have come to grinding halts when funding is requested because potential value was never established. It would be a shame to waste time in moving forward with the evaluation until potential payback had been defined.

4. At that point, the seller can ask what business outcomes can be improved through the use of the offering being considered and whether benefits had been quantified. In my mind the seller should consider a quid pro quo (give and get) at this point: 

  • I’m willing to commit my time and effort in making a recommendation (the give) if:
  • You’re willing to work with me in giving access to the people that would need to provide input so that a preliminary cost vs. benefit could be completed (the get).

5. The understanding in moving forward would be that the value would have to be adequate to justify a purchase. If not there would be no point in moving forward and spending additional time and resources. It would be a pink (if not red) flag if a prospect was unwilling to work with the seller on trying to build a business case.

In today’s environment, sellers with extensive product knowledge don’t bring much to the table for researchers that have poured over multiple vendor websites and are intimately familiar with offerings from several vendors. Introducing the concept of business issues and cost justification is a way to differentiate from other vendors.

Oddly enough, it turns out to be a potential win-win because there’s little sense for buyers and sellers to spend time and resources only to end up with a very common end to buying cycles: No decision.

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

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

Sales Tips: Buyers Are NOT Always Right?

Posted by Jill Perez on Jul 19, 2015 10:26:03 PM

Sales Tips: Buyers Are NOT Always Right

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

Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

buyer-mtgWhen I started in Sales, a common phrase was that "the customer/buyer is always right." While I’ve always believed sellers should respect buyers, nobody I know is right all of the time. I’d like to share a situation where it was appropriate to challenge a buyer’s opinion.

Several years ago a new CCS® Business Partner asked me to make a call with him on a VP of Sales that he had known a long time. He felt the VP would be a good candidate for implementing our sales process. The three of us met for lunch and after a few minutes of rapport building, we started discussing some of the challenges the prospect was experiencing.

He initially indicated things were going fairly well, but after a few more minutes said the majority of his sellers weren’t making his numbers. He went on to say that he didn't feel that there would be much benefit in doing any sales training for his staff. He then asked if CCS® did anything in helping sellers improve their presentation skills. I shared with him that we didn't, but there were some other people that I’d be happy to put him in touch with.

One option was to finish the lunch and at the end of our call share some empty words about any future needs that might arise. I was mildly upset the Business Partner hadn’t uncovered some areas for discussion prior to our meeting, but what really bothered me was his thought that improved presentation skills would allow his staff to drive higher revenue.

With little to lose, I asked: How much impact do you feel improved presentation skills will have on driving higher revenue?  He hesitated for several seconds and seemed surprised in admitting that it was unlikely that better presentation skills would address his revenue shortfall. We then went on to have a detailed discussion about the underlying reasons many of his reps weren’t achieving quota.

Earlier in my sales consulting career, I probably would have challenged him sooner and more directly. In hindsight, admitting that I couldn’t help in presentation skills and offering him others that could, allowed me a little later in the call to challenge the direction he planned to take with his sales staff.

Download Episode 18 Listen to PART 2 of our conversation with bestselling author and consultant, Geoffrey Moore on Sales Rehab!

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

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

Sales Tips: How to Avoid Slide Decks Executives Despise

Posted by Jill Perez on Jul 15, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Avoid Presentations Executives Despise

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

Image courtesy of Stock Images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

generic-presentationIt seems incredible to me, but when invited to make a presentation to a group of people, most salespeople get very excited, download the latest standard slide deck and think their presentations will go well. They fail to realize that an introductory presentation is actually a sales call that should have a brief company introduction, some potential issues the prospect is facing and a high level view of capabilities that may enable the issues to be addressed.

Quid pro quo (give and get) is a core concept within CustomerCentric Selling® (CCS®). When asked to do an introductory presentation to an organization, why not ask some questions:

  • What are the names and titles of people that will be in attendance? This can go a long way toward understanding what type of presentation will be made and you may be able to request titles that you feel should be at the session.

  • How much time will there be?

  • Can you interview one or more attendees in advance to better understand their desired outcomes and potential barriers?

When asked to do a presentation, it’s pretty difficult for prospects to push back a seller request to interview people within the organization and it is a pink (if not a red) flag if they are unwilling to allow you either phone calls or meetings with a few people. Assuming the interviews are given, the seller then has the ability to customize the slide deck to include:

  • A brief (a couple of slides) introduction of their company

  • A summary of the calls that were made that include:

    • Business goals or problems that were uncovered
    • A Success Story of a client that had a similar situation

  • A high level discussion that the seller believes could be relevant with capabilities to allow desired business outcomes to be achieved

  • Time for Q&A discussions

  • Wrap-up and agreement on next steps if appropriate

Executives don’t like one-on-one product pitches from sellers. Unless the seller knows something about a prospect standard, a generic slide deck is a shot in the dark. Most organizations would appreciate the time and effort to tailor presentations to their specific needs.

Download Episode 18 Listen to PART 2 of our conversation with bestselling author and consultant, Geoffrey Moore on Sales Rehab!

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

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

Sales Tips: Taking Stock at Mid-Year

Posted by Jill Perez on Jul 8, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Taking Stock at Mid-Year

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

apples-scaleIn a way it’s astounding how much leeway salespeople are given in how they go about making calls and making their numbers. In many companies, selling is considered more an art than a science. Sales calls are as unique as snowflakes. I find it ironic in light of the varied approaches to selling that measuring performance is so precise. Seller achievement is calculated to decimal places throughout every year by dividing YTD revenue booked by YTD quota. The journey is uncertain but the desired outcome of clients paying invoices is clearly defined.

Analogous to a baseball player’s batting average, percentage of quota is the way sellers are stack ranked, evaluated and considered for promotions. Baseball players and sellers performing poorly halfway through a season or year are convinced major improvements will take place in the second half and they will make up ground.

I often had to make up ground while attending college. I realize now I was a “just-in-time” learner. That’s a euphemistic way of saying there were many semesters that I spent early morning or late evening hours cramming. Part of my excuse is that I attended a cooperative school. After freshman year there were four additional years to earn a degree, each with 6 months of school and 6 months of work related to my major. It became clear that working full time in Poughkeepsie, New York was no day at the beach. In the first few weeks back in school in Boston I had a habit of freeing up my calendar for relaxation by deferring my studying.

To have that flexibility I tried to avoid professors that collected homework because that required staying current in their courses. I’d get where I needed to be at my own pace. That often required cramming for midterms and finals. At times it was stressful but worked for me. I received my degree in mechanical engineering just before launching my career in Sales.

The reason I raise the issue of cramming is that many sellers go through quota years in much the same way I went through college. You won’t find a more optimistic salesperson than one that enters the fourth quarter at 36% of quota YTD. He or she is convinced (and hoping their manager is convinced) they can and will make their annual number in the next 90 days. By October 31st they’re at 41% YTD. On November 30th they’ve reached 50% YTD. Somewhere in mid December at 54% of their annual quota they realize its time to push business into January to jumpstart next year.

As a sales manager, I learned a long time ago that train wrecks happen a month at a time. Looking in the rear view mirror at YTD achievement means you’re tracking a lagging rather than a leading indicator. Doing some simple math on a monthly basis can allow a sales manager and a salesperson to do some sanity checking as to the likelihood of attaining quota for the year. It amounts to a glance in the rear view mirror (YTD position) and a focus on projecting future performance. 

Let’s assume a seller has an annual quota of $3,000,000, an average sales cycle of 4 months and a 33% chance of closing opportunities in their pipeline. That means to track at quota during a single sales cycle the seller must close $1,000,000. Because there is a 33% closing rate at any given time the sales manager would like to see $3,000,000 in pipeline opportunities.

Regardless of how much a seller is above YTD, the minimum pipeline target will remain at $3,000,000. Let’s say, however, as of January 31st a seller is $50K below YTD. That shortfall must be tripled (to $150K) and added to the base so that the new target moving forward will be a to have a pipeline of $3,150,000. The target ratchets up when sellers fall below quota.

As you can imagine, sellers less than YTD should focus on finding new opportunities (whether they be prospects or add-on business). By doing this each month the seller and manager have greater visibility and hopefully ample time to take corrective action so that cramming at the end of the year can be minimized.

There are two powerful levers that can reduce the target pipeline amounts. In the example above if the length of sales cycles could be reduced to 3 months (i.e. by starting opportunities at higher levels) and the win rate could be increased to 50% (i.e. with more stringent qualification) the target assuming a seller is YTD would be $1,500,000 rather than $3,000,000! 

There are other ways to calculate pipeline targets. For example, if historic flow business from an existing territory generates $1,000,000 each year the seller and manager may want to do calculations on the seller finding $2,000,000 in new business during a given year. If your offering uses a SaaS model, the numbers have to be tweaked accordingly because revenue will be spread out over the current year (and possibly in future years).

Managers should be aware that beside the fact that quotas may vary by salesperson the win rates and length of sales cycles are often different as well. You may have to look back within your CRM system to find actual numbers, or make intelligent guesses that can be monitored and adjusted over time.

One of the advantages of having these targets in place for every seller is that you can go from an individual to an enterprise view. From first line sales managers, district managers, regional managers and up to the CSO, the target pipeline will be the total for all sellers that report up the chain of command to a given title.

Most sellers are now halfway through 2015. This may be an opportune time to have a look at where you are year to date and project a sales cycle ahead to optimize the chances that you’ll meet or exceed your number without having to cram. Oddly enough even if cramming is successful in meeting an annual quota, it often means the following year is effectively only 9 or 10 months long as you start in January with little or nothing in the pipeline.

In the interest of full disclosure, I want to share decades later that it’s likely some of my grades in college could have been higher had I not crammed.

Download Episode 18 Listen to PART 2 of our conversation with bestselling author and consultant, Geoffrey Moore on Sales Rehab!

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

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

Sales Tips: How to Put Icing the Cake

Posted by Jill Perez on Jun 29, 2015 2:42:44 PM

Sales Tips: How to Put Icing on the Cake

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

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

cupcakeA seller has done a thorough diagnosis of a Key Player’s current way of doing business in an initial call. Several areas have been uncovered where capabilities within the seller’s offering appear relevant to addressing them. The allotted 30 minutes is nearly up and the seller summarizes what she heard as she wants to make sure the buyer and she are on the same page. After the summary, she asks if it was accurate and the buyer confirms that it was.

This has been a good call. The next conversation will be a chance to present only the parts of the offering that should be relevant to the buyer. After that, the seller will seek agreement that if the buyer had those capabilities he would be able to achieve the desired business outcome. Many sellers would end the call at this point. 

Mary isn’t satisfied with just making good calls and wants to go the extra mile. The diagnostic questions were relevant and facilitated a healthy exchange with the buyer. Rather than pose several yes/no questions, many began with the word: How. However, the fact is that they were her questions.

Rather than end the call, Mary asks one more question: Is there anything else I should know? This is an easy question that doesn't have any downside. The responses will likely be either: 

  • "No, this has been a good conversation and I look forward to our next call." In this case the seller has given the buyer the chance to control part of the call and he or she has declined. Many buyers will appreciate this courtesy. 
  • "Now that you asked….." Of course this is the better response. A seller will know more at the end of a call than they otherwise would have. Many competitors don’t ask this question.

One of Jim Collins’ books has the title: Good To Great. This simple question can allow you to improve the quality of your calls.

Download Episode 17 Listen to Part 1 of our conversation with bestselling author and consultant, Geoffrey Moore on Sales Rehab!

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

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

Sales Tips: Who's Driving the Bus?

Posted by Jill Perez on Jun 25, 2015 10:20:00 PM

Sales Tips: Who's Driving the Bus?

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

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

driving-the-busIt is astounding to see how often the phrase “changes in buying behavior” is invoked in articles about selling. In my mind, vendors that for decades have clung to traditional sales and marketing approaches have made some flawed decisions in reacting to perceived buying behavior.

B2C buying has served as the canary in the coal mine for B2B buying. Many approaches apply but I believe a line has to be drawn in the sand. For complex B2B offerings costing more than $50,000 (a figure I’ve arbitrarily chosen) the landscape should be considerably different because there are many people involved in what becomes a committee decision.

The deluge of inbound website activity has left vendors little choice but to make some changes. The biggest confusion that I see is that inbound visitors have been viewed and therefore treated as though they are buyers. People have seen studies over the last 5 years that show increasingly higher percentages of buying activities are completed before salespeople are involved. While true in many cases, I don’t think this data is accurate for B2B transactions over $50K.

I can accept that up to 80% of product/offering evaluations can be completed without seller involvement, but there are many buying activities that need to be completed before enterprise purchases can be made. The questions become:

  • Who does most of the work in evaluating offerings? I believe the answer is researchers who are not buyers. When you step back, you realize that grading of website activities (#visits; duration of visits; pages views; time spend on pages; webinar sign ups/attendance; etc.) likely means that low to mid level staff are the only people that will score high enough activity levels to be considered “qualified.”

  • Why are they evaluating offerings? I think there are many instances of DIY evaluations that stem solely from curiosity about what’s available in the market more from user than buyer perspectives. Without budget and awareness by Key Players most of these evaluations will fall under their own weight. Without budget or funding, no buying will take place. It is possible sellers won’t be involved at all.

  • Why treat evaluators as though they are buyers? Don’t get me wrong, interest in offerings should be a good thing, but to my previous point, part of nurturing is making B2B researchers aware of potential value and payback that can be realized by implementing offerings. For that reason I believe the role of researchers is to serve as coaches in helping sellers gain access to higher levels so that value can be established.

  • What activities beside product evaluations are necessary if purchases will be made? Before a PO is issued the business objectives of Key Players should be defined, the reasons those objectives cannot be achieved should be uncovered and buyers should understand the capabilities they need to address those reasons. In addition potential value and payback must be documented, vendors must be evaluated in a number of areas that include financial viability, support, quality, reputation, references, expertise, terms and conditions must be negotiated, etc.

  • How have approaches been changed so that when they are contacted by knowledgeable buyers, sellers can align with them? I hope you’d agree that sellers that either treat these buyers as novices or prematurely try to change the requirements will provide negative buying experiences and run the risk of not making the short list of vendors being considered if the evaluation gets that far.

What I find most ironic is that researchers (not Key Players) are the root cause of knee-jerk changes vendors have made in processing inbound interest. This is a consequence of vendors confusing researchers with buyers.

In a strange way it has provided a common ground of sorts for vendors and executives within their prospects and clients. Vendors have always been concerned about controlling their cost of sales by trying to focus only on qualified opportunities. In a similar sense unauthorized DIY evaluations have and continue to waste valuable time researching offerings that ultimately won’t be purchased and therefore won’t provide any value (return on research efforts). 

It makes you wonder if vendors and executives they call on are better or worse off than they were 15 years ago before the rush of evaluations via the Internet. It seems to be in the best interests of both parties to ensure potential value/payback exists before resources are expended. This could allow a win-win by reducing the costs of sales as well as evaluations.

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

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

Sales Tips: Making Sense Of Vague Advice

Posted by Jill Perez on Jun 24, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Making Sense of Vague Advice

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

Image courtesy of Stock Images at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

After graduating from college, IBM spent a year teaching me about computers for the SMB market, business fundamentals and selling skills. In retrospect they provided a great amount of knowledge but it was left up to each seller to decide how to make calls on owners or executives of small businesses to have them consider migrating from manual ledger cards to automated systems. It was a mountain to climb.

light-bulbMy sales manager frightened new people into making the prescribed number of calls, but did little to impact the quality of calls that we made. When he made calls with me, little skill transfer took place. It wasn’t Jeff’s fault. Like many sellers he couldn’t describe in adequate detail HOW he sold. His approach was intuitive and differently every call.

I’ll never forget the advice he shared after assigning my quota and territory:

Call high, stay high and don’t lead with product.

It was like Curly in City Slickers telling Billy Crystal to find the one thing that was important in life. When asked what the one thing was, Curly’s reply: That’s for you to find out! 

Jeff’s advice was of absolutely no use to me. The first few months I made terrible calls on business owners in my territory. IBM taught me about hardware and software and I mistakenly thought my job was to educate buyers. They had neither the time nor inclination to be educated. I struggled to get traction or mindshare with them. 

Three months into my sales career I took a step back over a weekend and tried to figure out why a small business owner would buy a computer system. Some scotch was involved and ultimately the epiphany came. Business owners wanted reports (billing, inventory control; accounts receivables, sales analysis; accounts payable, general ledger; etc.) so they could improve bottom line results. Hardware and software were nothing more than means to an end and business owners didn’t need (nor want) to know all the esoteric details.

I had mistakenly believed I was selling computers. I should have been selling computing that could provide information. Jeff’s cryptic advice now made sense. I realized the first step in selling was getting buyers to realize their manual processes were labor intensive, but more importantly were holding the business back.

Calling on senior executives is about uncovering desired business outcomes and discussing product usage rather than product. After my weekend of reflection, things improved. Jeff recognized my pipeline was growing. As a result he dispensed his second piece of advice: Plan your work. Work your plan.

This gem was easier to decipher but far less helpful than his first, albeit cryptic advice.

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

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

Sales Tips: Patience Is a Virtue for Sellers

Posted by Jill Perez on Jun 17, 2015 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Patience Is a Virtue for Sellers

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

patienceEarly in my sales consulting and training career I encountered an irreverent, funny and deceptively intelligent person named Bob Populorum. He defined selling as a hurt and rescue mission. When sellers call on executives they must establish sufficient credibility so buyers will share goals or admit problems they are willing to spend money to achieve or address. It’s a watershed event in their relationships with buyers. The first core concept of CCS® applies: No goal, no prospect.

Mistakes sellers make stem from their impatience. Once goals or problems are shared, many sellers immediately try to rescue buyers by telling them the solution, a phenomenon I call “premature elaboration.” Sellers are well intentioned but there are two (2) problems in jumping to the rescue:

  1. Sellers are shooting blind because they have no way of knowing if their generic “solution” will address a buyer’s needs.
  2. Buyers aren’t ready to be rescued until they and the seller calling on them understand the shortcomings of how things are done without the offering being discussed.

Taking a step back, if buyers knew why desired business outcomes couldn’t be achieved they would try to address them without help from salespeople. The “hurt” amounts to asking questions to help buyers understand what’s broken in the way they currently operate. One further caveat: Sellers should uncover areas that are broken that can be addressed by capabilities within their offerings.

Having the patience to ask relevant diagnostic questions allows sellers to: 

  1. Understand the buyer’s situation before discussing their offerings.
  2. Share only those capabilities that address barriers to achieving the desired outcome so that they share specific rather than generic solutions.
  3. Help buyers quantify the potential value of achieving the goal being discussed by finding out how much problems cost buyers that are uncovered.

Being patient can be especially difficult for experienced sellers. They’ve had these conversations several times before and therefore see “solutions” long before buyers do. Understanding it’s the first time through for buyers can allow sellers to do thorough diagnoses (hurts) before earning the right to present solutions (rescues). Buyers want to know how things are broken, the specific capabilities they need to address them and the value of fixing them. 

Ben Franklin said:  People are best convinced by reasons they themselves discover. As it relates to selling I think Bob Populorum would agree to tack onto Franklin’s phrase: by answering relevant questions posed by patient salespeople.

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

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