CustomerCentric Selling® Sales Training Blog

10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Submitting Proposals

Posted by Jill Perez on Jul 22, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: 10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Submitting That Proposal

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

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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My observation is that a high percentage of proposals are provided too soon. In the random world of sales, tangible events are welcome. Many sellers view proposals as being steps toward getting orders. They can be, but I’d suggest some questions before issuing them:

  1. Has a cost vs. benefit been created that justifies the expenditure you’re asking for?
  2. Is the person you’re giving the proposal to able to fund the initiative?
  3. How many of the people that may be in the buying committee have you spoken with?
  4. Do buyers understand the outcomes they are looking to achieve with your offering?
  5. Do buyers understand the reasons they can’t achieve those outcomes without your offering?
  6. Can buyers articulate specific capabilities within your offering will that address the reasons?
  7. Have the buyers been provided with documented results other companies have achieved with your offering?
  8. Will the proposal be forwarded to any people you haven’t already spoken with?
  9. Do buyers have everything needed to make a buying decision?
  10. Why are you issuing the proposal now?

Sellers give up a great deal of control once proposals are issued. Response times to requests often go from hours to days because buyers have everything they need. Once a proposal has been out for a week or two, buyers don’t want to feel pressured because they’ve not yet made decisions.

Given a choice, my preference would be to err on the side of providing a proposal too late rather than too early. Have a look at your pipeline and circle the opportunities where proposals have been issued and there has been not activity/contact in the last 30 days. 

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: How to Respond to "How Much Is It?"

Posted by Jill Perez on Jul 16, 2014 8:30:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Respond When Asked for Pricing

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

Image courtesy of Pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Many sellers hurt their chances of winning opportunities by providing pricing too soon. Often these are self-inflicted wounds caused by mentioning products prematurely that prompts buyers to ask:  How much is it?  The underlying issue is that before establishing value, any pricing that’s shared is going to seem high.

If buyers ask about pricing before value has been established, my suggestion is to indicate that you would prefer to better understand their needs before giving an estimated price. That will usually be deemed reasonable. If buyers persist, you have a choice:

  1. Provide a range of costs
  2. Provide a “not to exceed cost”

I prefer the latter because in my experience, weeks later buyers invariably remember the lower number when given a range.

Once value has been established, sellers should consider providing estimated costs. Price is a qualifier and buyers should be aware of “ballpark” pricing relatively early in buying cycles to minimize the chance of wasting their time and the sellers’ time. 

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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, pricing

Sales Tips: How to Handle "Give Me Your Best and Final" Pricing

Posted by Jill Perez on Jul 9, 2014 9:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Handle "Give Me Your Best and Final" Pricing

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

Image courtesy of Winnond at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Non-Key Players often ask sellers for “best and final” pricing. If a number is quoted, sellers cede control as well as margins. In some cases they meet later with decision makers only to find the starting point for further negotiation is the “best and final” figure quoted. Any further discounting means it wasn’t your best price. Once you start down that road, it’s a slippery slope.

Before giving a best and final number, a question can help keep sellers from getting backed into a corner:  Am I the vendor of choice, and is price the only remaining obstacle to doing business?

Common answers and suggested responses:

  • NoIt looks as though you have more work to do in making a decision. Why don’t we leave price as an open item. If and when you decide you would like to do business, I can bring my manager to meet with (the decision maker) and you to see if we can come to terms.
  • YesCan you schedule a meeting with (the decision maker) so that we can attempt to reach an agreement?

It takes some courage not to discount if the buyer’s response is:  No. That said, if you aren’t the vendor of choice, you run the risk of putting a low-ball number on the street that probably won’t get you the business and has the potential to cause you problems in future transactions. If you are the vendor of choice, the buyer will come back to you.

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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

Sales Tips to Boost the Second Half of Your 2014

Posted by Jill Perez on Jul 2, 2014 9:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Boost the Remainder of Your 2014

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

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Early in my sales management career, I was astounded by how hopeful salespeople were that had achieved 35% of their annual quota going into the fourth quarter. Most came far short of their numbers for the year. Those that squeaked through were faced with a mountain to climb the following year as they started the New Year with little or nothing that was closeable in the first quarter.

Train wrecks happen a month at a time. With the second quarter of 2014 just ending, my advice to sellers and their managers is to start looking a sales cycle ahead every month to optimize the chance that there’s enough in the pipeline. My suggestion is to try to be realistic vs. optimistic:

  • Withdraw proposals that are over 90 days old. Sellers often assume an unrealistic percentage of these will close. Politely withdrawing them offers two benefits:

    • A more realistic view in removing unqualified opportunities from pipelines.
    • In some cases buyers may still be interested and otherwise dormant opportunities can be revived.

  • With ongoing opportunities, try to determine when buyers want to make decisions and see if a written Sequence of Events (SOE) with activities and dates can be negotiated.

  • On an ongoing basis, do the math as to how many new opportunities must be found each month to reasonably cover your monthly revenue objective.

  • If/when sellers fall below YTD, tweak activity levels to make up the shortfall.

Scrambling in the last quarter is stressful for everyone involved. Take action now while there’s still time to get YTD or better.

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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, boost sales, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique

Sales Tips: Accelerating Sales and Buying Cycles

Posted by Jill Perez on Jun 26, 2014 2:01:47 PM

Sales Tips: How to Accelerate Sales and Buying Cycles

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

Image courtesy of ddpavumba at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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As a general rule, sellers push to get orders earlier than buyers are ready to make decisions. Sellers are under monthly, quarterly and annual quota pressure. Discounts offered to get decisions made for a given month or quarter can result in three (3) outcomes: 

  •       Sellers get transactions and lower revenue
  •       Buyers don’t purchase and expect discounts weeks later
  •       Sellers push so hard buyers decide not to buy

Many sellers fail to establish value. If and when they are successful in doing so, buyers have an incentive to make earlier decisions.

Imagine you just bought an older home needing $200K in improvements but you only have $100K to spend. Most likely you would prioritize the sequence of the work to be done. Before you begin spending your money, a salesperson raises a concern about energy costs causing you to realize the 45-year old furnace in your basement is far more inefficient than current models. In reviewing the previous owner’s heating bills you conclude a new furnace would pay for itself in the first year. You re-juggle your improvement list to free up the needed $7,500 now. 

In early September you sign an agreement with ABC Energy Inc. and the seller informs you that they will deliver and install the furnace in mid-May. Your response:  Be here with the furnace next week or I’ll call the BCD Energy Company! 

Once buyers or committees recognize delays mean lost savings or revenue, they don’t want to delay. Sellers that establish and document potential buyer savings can create situations where both parties want to get decisions made without dragging things along. 

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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, sales cycles, buying cycles

Sales Tips: How to Leverage Your Unique Capabilities

Posted by Jill Perez on Jun 20, 2014 5:30:00 PM

Sales Tips: How to Leverage Your Unique Capabilities

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

Image courtesy of Boykung at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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When your buyer is contemplating which vendor best meets their needs, do you want to be lumped together with all of the other vendors that are competing for their business? Or would you like to be viewed as a provider of unique capabilities that they must have in order to: achieve a goal, solve a problem, and/or satisfy a need?

If you haven't already done so:

    1. Make a list of those features/functions that are unique to your offering. What are those things that your offering alone can provide?
    2. Determine in advance how you will introduce them into your sales conversation (by using plausible emergency questions).
    3. During your conversations determine how your buyer operates today without your unique capability(ies) and determine what the value would be to them, the organization, if they were in possession of that capability today.

Buyers are taught to position every product as a commodity; something they can obtain from any comparable vendor as a tactic to get a lower price. If you can leverage your unique capabilities, you can begin to:

    • differentiate your offering from your competitor's
    • eliminate potential competition
    • prevent yourself from being treated like a commodity, and
    • arm yourself with a legitimate business reason not to agree to a request for a discount.

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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

Sales Qualification: Don't Talk, Just Point!

Posted by Jill Perez on Jun 18, 2014 9:00:00 AM

Sales Qualification: Don't Talk, Just Point!

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

Image courtesy of Pakorn at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Qualifying opportunities can be a vexing ongoing problem for sales managers. This issue rolls up to senior executives that need top line revenue visibility to project earnings. Organizations without a tactical sales process often rely upon the opinions of salespeople under pressure to show adequate pipelines. Sellers that aren’t YTD against quota become overly optimistic.

There are four (4) pre-requisites to improving pipeline accuracy and visibility: 

  1. Defined pipeline milestones (often multiple sets of milestones are needed based upon opportunity sizes and types).
  2. A standard skill set for salespeople so they can execute the process.
  3. Consistent positioning of offerings by mapping capabilities to business outcomes.
  4. Auditable documentation that reflects buyer actions to validate that milestones have been achieved.

0-pointingA CEO of one of my clients enlarged a graphic of the CustomerCentric Selling® (CCS®) process and displayed it prominently in his office. He had tired of getting lengthy answers when sellers or managers were asked about the status of transactions that often could make or break a quarter.

After sellers and managers attended CCS® workshops, he had two (2) rules when they were asked the status of opportunities:

  1. No talking allowed.
  2. Point on the process map to indicate where things stood.

This philosophy was consistent with my experience as a sales manager and executive in that the longer the answer was to where opportunities stood, the less confident I felt about them.

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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, sales pipelines, sales qualification, qualifying opportunities

Sales Tips: How to Leverage Thunder and Lightning in Prospecting

Posted by Jill Perez on Jun 16, 2014 8:30:00 AM

Sales Tips and Techniques: How to Use "Thunder and Lightning" to Improve Prospecting and Business Development

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

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“I’ve heard about Thunder and Lightning.  What is it?”

Tell me if this, or something like this, has ever happened to you.  You’re sitting at your desk working on a project or assignment when you realize that you don’t have all of the information you need to continue. You ask yourself how you can get the information quickly, then it dawns on you that one of your coworkers has the information you need. You quickly pick up your telephone and dial his number.  It rings, rings, rings and you finally receive a voicemail greeting advising you that your coworker is not available, inviting you to leave a voicemail following the beep.  Disappointed, you leave your message: “John, it’s Gary.  I’m 0-thunder-lightningworking on a project against a deadline.  You have information that I need in order to complete it.  Please call me as soon as you get this message.”  Concerned that John may not check his voice messages or that he is out of the office, you draft a quick email:  “John, I don’t know if you’re in your office, but I just called and finished leaving you a voice message.  I’m working on a project, trying to meet a deadline, and you have critical information that I need in order to complete it.  Please call me as soon as you get this message.”  You press “Send.”   Remaining concerned, you sit back in your chair and begin thinking about how to proceed without the needed information when all of a sudden your phone rings.  It’s John: “Sorry I wasn’t available when you called; I was tied up.  However, I just saw your email message and wanted to get back to you.  What information are you looking for?”

I’m going to assume that the scenario I just described (working on a project, missing information) is not identical to what you may have experienced.  But perhaps you've needed to speak with someone, a prospect, placed a telephone call, left a voice message, and then concerned that your voice message may not be retrieved, sent off a quick email - and within seconds you received a telephone call or email from the person you were trying to reach.  Has this ever happened to you?

I call this method of using the telephone and email synchronously, “Thunder and Lightning.” You’ve heard the expression, “The whole is greater than the sum of it parts.”  This is a perfect example.  You will find that when you leave a carefully crafted, short telephone script, followed instantly and synchronously with an aligned and carefully crafted email, your ability to get your prospect to engage with you improves exponentially.  Go ahead, try it and see.

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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 from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

Topics: sales tips, sales prospecting, business development, prospecting, prospecting skills

Sales Tip: How to Avoid the Discounting Death Spiral

Posted by Jill Perez on Jun 11, 2014 3:00:00 PM

Sales Tips and Techniques: How to Avoid the Death Spiral of Discounting in  Sales Negotiations

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

Image courtesy of Ponsulak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was working with a client a few years ago. While I was onsite the CEO and CFO were huddled to discuss pricing on a transaction for a very large prospect. I soon learned they had been negotiating for over two weeks. Over that time the pricing had eroded to the point where they were actually concerned whether the transaction was going to be profitable.

Parachuting in from the outside, it seemed clear they were the vendor of choice and that they were in a death spiral of discounting. My suggestion was they had to say “NO” to any further reductions. They pushed back on those suggestions until I told them that if pricing was reduced any more they should probably withdraw.

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Within a day the transaction was finalized, but it was painful to consider how much money they left on the table. Buyers understand that the longer negotiations take, the lower the ultimate pricing will be. Once you begin to discount, it is difficult to stop the bleeding. In our negotiation module we show sellers how to withstand a maximum of 3 requests for lower pricing and then utilize a “get-give” approach so that any conditional concessions are offered only after buyers have agreed to something the seller has asked for.

This technique can prevent the discount death spiral that buyers try to orchestrate.

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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 from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

Topics: sales tips, negotiation, discounting

Sales Tips: Where to Spend Your Prospecting Time

Posted by Jill Perez on Jun 7, 2014 2:30:00 PM

Sales Tips and Techniques: Where Should You Be Spending Your Prospecting Time?

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

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Here is an important statistic to remember: 92 percent of C-level executives never respond to email blasts or cold calls, but 84 percent will engage with a salesperson when referred by a coworker, customer or peer.

The frightening thing is that despite these findings, the salespeople who actually do prospect (those that don't simply wait for marketing-generated leads or the phone to ring) continue to rely on cold calling and email blasts as their primary methods of prospecting and new business development.

One of my clients goes so far as to say that her salespeople hide behind email blasts and call it 'prospecting'; it's fast, easy, and the rejection is not personal. Some people may point to the 8 percent of C-level executives that do engage and say, "See, it works." However, in light of the above statistic, where do you think you should be spending your valuable prospecting time?

The fact is this: salespeople need to use multiple methods in parallel to constantly build and maintain their pipeline to optimum strength.

If you need some help figuring out what to use and how to use them, don't hesitate to reach out to us for some sales prospecting training. We can help.

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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 from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

Topics: sales tips, sales prospecting, business development, prospecting, prospecting skills

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