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Sales Training Insight into Common Ground for Buyers and Sellers


Sales Training Article: Common Ground for Buyers and Sellers

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

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One of a sales manager’s primary responsibilities is ensuring salespeople work on qualified opportunities. After executing sales ready messaging® sellers trained in CustomerCentric Selling® should be able to answer the following call debriefing questions:

1. What title they called on?

2. What goal(s) the buyer shared?

3. For each goal, what are the reasons it can’t be achieved today (without your offering)?

4. What capabilities within your offering are needed to address the reasons?

5. What is the value (potential benefit vs. estimated cost)?

Oddly enough, if non-Key Players with or without a seller’s help evaluate offerings and request funding, financial approvers will want answers to questions 2 – 5. In the same way, sales managers want to know opportunities are grounded in value and payback, so it is financial approvers want the same assurance. Both parties recognize that without adequate payback expenditures won’t be made.

Sign-up for one the next sales training workshops to learn how to better qualify opportunities and collaborate with buyers.

You’ve heard me rail on about how many internal evaluations done without seller help focus on products and lack enterprise views of business outcomes that can be improved. Two comments regarding the CCS® approach to qualification: 

  • When champion letters address the debriefing questions, the buyer is far better positioned to explain why initiatives should be funded.
  • If Sequences of Events (SOE) are agreed upon, one of the most critical steps is the cost vs. benefit (usually a “Go/No-Go step) for buyers and vendors.

sales training workshopsThis points out the value sales professionals should bring to the table. The old view that sellers “educate” buyers should be a distant memory. Information on the Internet is in such abundance that non-Key Players self-educate and value being shielded from seller attempts to influence requirements.

Ultimately sellers and buyers share a common objective: Determine if buying offerings is a sound financial decision. Self-service, non-executive buyers are ill equipped to build business cases. For that reason funding is likely to be denied (and a great deal of time wasted).

For decades, sellers enjoyed an advantage as the keepers of product information. The pendulum swung when the mind-numbing amount of information became available via the Internet and social networking. The pendulum appears to have swung too far. Enlightened buyers armed with information about offerings could benefit from seller efforts to quantify the potential benefits and payback that can be realized.

Buyers and vendors would benefit if they found ways to collaborate when evaluating offerings. 

 sales training companyNeed some help with your sales performance? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to you and improve sales performance.

Read more sales training articles from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

Sales Training Insight into Adult Trick or Treating


Sales Training Article: Adult Trick or Treating

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

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During the 90’s rash of technology buying, tradeshows peaked as events that “buyers” flocked to. A significant portion of Marketing’s budget was allocated to renting booths, filling them with demo equipment and flying in staff from headquarters and the field to address the onslaught of visitors. Smart vendors tried to get their booth near the entrance to maximize flow and offered bags that were useful to visitors.

The bags were necessary for collecting the various trinkets emblazoned with company logos that helped attract visitors. There were T-shirts, flashlights, Nerf balls, sunglasses, etc. that could be gotten, often in exchange for filling out “bingo cards” with contact information that were ultimately distributed as leads to salespeople. It resembled adult trick or treating.

Register for the next sales training workshop coming up May 6-9 in Boston to learn how to lead with value instead of product.

For companies with hot new technologies, it was appropriate to lead with product demos in attempts to have early market buyers find them. For most vendors, booths attracted potential users whose sole interest was learning more about products. Buyers had little interest in the potential value of offerings and few had any buying authority.

bingo cardA telecommunications company I was working with came to the realization that these “bingo cards” were mostly a great drain of sellers’ time and asked me for help in upgrading the entry levels they might achieve at a show they had already committed to. I suggested printing T-shirts and offering them in exchange for visitors filling out a questionnaire that posed the following question:

The last time your telecommunications network went down, who (name and title) complained the loudest and how was their business day was interrupted?

By using this “quid pro quo” approach, they were able to enter companies at higher levels with some understanding of what value their offering could bring.
Thankfully, interest in tradeshows has waned. They cost a great deal of money and continued to cost vendors valuable seller time in trying to follow up leads. The approach suggested to my client about the questionnaire recognized visitors were lookers rather than buyers.

One of the reasons tradeshow popularity faded is they have been replaced by Websites. How many of the “leads” being generated today are nothing more than electronic bingo cards that will yield low close rates? History has a way of repeating itself even if the medium is different.

Check out our newly designed Website at:!

Sales Training Tips about Cleaning the Pipeline Closet


Sales Training Article: Clean the Pipeline Closet

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

sales training workshopsMaybe you're better about it than I, but closet clutter is a challenge for me. It was partly caused by a move from a 60-year old center entrance colonial in New England to a newer home in California with our first walk-in closet. Ultimately I've become more careful about what clothes I buy and try to throw out or donate anything that hasn't been worn in a year. Many organizations have pipelines that resemble overstuffed closets and there are two major causes.

Cause #1: Garbage in - At one time or another a seller comes to the realization that their pipeline is thin. It can be a positive development if you've closed a number of opportunities in a given month or quarter. In any event, if you are going to have a pipeline review with your manager there's a tendency to list "opportunities" that have not been qualified. The last thing you want is a manager that feels you don't have enough going on and will be monitoring your activity levels.

For experienced sellers or sellers that have new sales managers, it isn't a huge challenge to "sell" them on opportunities that really don't belong. Part of the reason is pipelines roll up. Managers want to believe so that their district or regional pipelines looks strong. In my experience if salespeople could sell as well to buyers as they can "sell" managers that their pipelines are adequate, they'd all be making their numbers.

Try one of these sales training workshops that can help you learn to better manage opportunities and your pipeline for improved results.

Cause #2: No spring cleaning - Once things get into a seller's pipeline we all know the best way to get them out is to close them. The challenge, however, is that if they weren't qualified when they were entered and they can't be qualified after that, the seller has a problem. He or she doesn't want to declare losses because:

  • The manager will start asking about rebuilding their pipelines.
  • Their win rates will be negatively impacted.

When new opportunities enter their pipelines many sellers chose that flurry of activity to quietly allow unqualified ones to drop off the radar screen.

In the same way clothes that haven't been worn in a year should be discarded or donated, how long should pipeline entries be allowed to hang with no activity indicating progress such as: 

  • A champion has been qualified and the seller is getting access to Key Players
  • Key Player visions are documented in emails
  • A Sequence of Events has been negotiated with an estimated decision date
  • A cost vs. benefit analysis has been completed
  • Contracts are being reviewed
  • A proposal has been issued

Sales managers can do everyone a good service if: 

  • Qualification criteria are applied before opportunities enter pipelines.
  • Measureable progress is required to keep them in the pipeline.
  • Outstanding proposals can only be viewed as viable if they are less than 60 days old or there are extenuating circumstances. To minimize this issue, managers may want to set criteria that needs to be met before proposals are issued.

The calendar, if not the weather, says spring has arrived. Would a little spring cleaning of your pipeline give you a more accurate picture of what revenue realistically can be expected in the coming months?

sales training companyNeed some help with your sales performance? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to you and improve sales performance.

Read more sales training articles from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

Sales Training Article: Time for a Post-Q1 Wakeup Call


Sales Training Article: 2014 - So Far, So Good? Here's Your Post-Q1 Wakeup Call

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

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As it relates to having optimistic or pessimistic outlooks, the majority of salespeople seem to lean toward the former. As sellers go through a year, it’s important that they temper optimism with a realistic view of where they stand against quota.

Miss your Q1 target? Now would be a good time to attend a sales training workshop to learn how you can save the year and make your number.

I have to confess in going through a co-op engineering school, I was a procrastinator. Semesters were 12 weeks long and after freshman year there were two semesters of classes and two of working an engineering job. It became clear that working was no day at the beach, so when returning to Boston for school, the first two weeks were just settling in and I went a bit light on studying. Prior to the wave of first exams in week six I usually would do some cramming to catch up. My grades were fine and it was just the way I navigated college.

sales training workshopA seller’s, manager’s or organization’s YTD position with 25% of the year gone can be very telling. If you are significantly below YTD, the second quarter may be critical in how the year will turn out. While you have 3 quarters to turn things around (do some cramming) I’d like you to consider a few sobering thoughts if wake-up calls aren’t heeded now:

  • For most organizations, sales activity slows during the summer months.

  • If you are behind halfway into the year, consider the length of average buying cycles and realize the runway is shorter than you might think.

Sellers and managers tend to look in the rear view mirror by focusing on YTD positions. In order to be less reactive and more proactive I suggest projecting a sales cycle ahead on an ongoing basis. Estimate your close rates (or use actual numbers from your CRM software) and apply them to your current pipeline. Project a sales cycle ahead and see if you have adequate pipeline to realistically get to at least YTD.

If sellers take a reality check on a monthly basis, it is far more likely they’ll avoid getting into situations where everything in their pipeline has to close in December in order to make their numbers.

sales training companyNeed some help with your sales performance? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to you and improve sales performance.

Read more sales training articles from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

Sales Training Insight into What "Send Me Info" Really Means


Sales Training Article: "Send Me Some Info"

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

Image courtesy of Chaiwait at FreeDigitalPhotos.netsales training workshops

Ending personal relationships is difficult. I had a friend in college that was in and out of relationships on a regular basis. One day he shared with me that when it was over he had a foolproof way to end things gracefully and abruptly. He would simply say: "You deserve better. I'm just not good enough for you."

Sign-up for one of these sales training workshops to learn how to better engage with prospects.

Years later as I started in sales, I discovered buyers had a foolproof way to end sales cycles gracefully and abruptly. At first when prospects asked me to provide information I naively thought it was a step in the right direction. In most cases, after receiving the material it allowed them to say they reviewed it, now was not the right time and they'd get back to me. Game over, but they let me down easy because they said they were interested.

Several years ago, I had an opportunity with a CEO that was considering two very different approaches to training his sales staff. My offering was many times more expensive. I was on a fairly lengthy phone conversation, feeling Rocco was trying to justify the higher expense. About 25 minutes into a phone conversation, it became clear he wanted to end the call. He did so by asking me to send him some additional information.

This request took me back to my early days and caused me to challenge him about why he needed additional information. When he gave me a vague response, I asked: "Rocco, are you actually telling me that we aren't going to do business?" The question just came to me and during a long pause I wondered if it had been too direct.

To both his and my surprise he said: "You know, you're right." At that point I suggested scheduling another call to have a hard look at the cost vs. potential benefit of implementing a sales process. As you can imagine, this had a happy ending and I got the business (blog posts aren't often about bad outcomes).

Buyer-seller relationships are fascinating and complex. If and when buyers ask for information, try to hone in on exactly what they want and try to understand why. You'll be better served not to assume that the buying cycle is moving forward.

sales training companyNeed some help with your sales performance? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to you and improve sales performance.

Read more sales training articles from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

Sales Training Article: Opportunities or Pipe(line) Dreams?


Sales Training Article: Opportunities or Pipe(line) Dreams?

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

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sales training workshopIn my first sales management job, I took over an office that had finished 27th out of 28 districts the previous year. I quickly discovered I had a fairly inexperienced team and that things would go much better when they worked on qualified opportunities. Inexperienced or inept sellers took comfort in having pipelines that consisted of lengthy lists of "opportunities." One of my primary responsibilities was helping sellers be more selective about accounts they focused on.

Try a public sales training workshop to learn the proven best practices that will produce better sales results. 

My biggest challenge was helping them understand the difference between activity and progress. They seemed to believe any prospects willing to talk with them were likely to buy. They felt each call increased the likelihood sales would close. I frequently asked two questions to do sanity checks on transactions they wanted to forecast:
  • Why would the buyer spend the money you are asking for now? - Unless or until sellers had uncovered value to show payback it was hard to believe purchase decisions were going to be made.
  • Have you had access to the person that has or would have to authorize the funding to pay for it? Unless or until sellers had access to higher levels, it was difficult to predict with any degree of certainty that sales would be made.
Verifying that sellers have established value (ideally documented and agreed to) and gained access to Key Player levels are ways that sales managers can assess whether sellers are being wise in allocating their precious and expensive time. If sellers didn't have good answers to the questions, it became clear they had work to do whether by themselves or on calls where I'd accompany them.

In today's environment, sales managers should ask similar questions when outside salespeople begin pursuing inbound leads from Website visitors. The good news is that early on sellers haven't invested a great deal of time and will be less defensive than if they've been working a lead for some time. In further qualifying nurtured leads, establishing value and gaining access to Key Players are necessary to justify pursuing and forecasting leads being followed up on. Doing quality control at the top of funnels decreases the chances of missing numbers later.

Sales Training Insight into Being "CustomerCentric"


Sales Training Article: What It Really Means to Be "CustomerCentric"

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

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Many organizations believe in having sellers become more “customer-centric” as the end game. They fail to see the bigger picture in recognizing that existing silos and practices stand in the way of getting clear views of customer requirements. Companies are slowly reaching the conclusion that being customer-centric requires an enterprise-wide approach with underpifocus on customernnings baked into their cultures rather than just bolted onto sales.  

Consider how powerful it could be to have members of your sales, service and support staff with the most direct contact with your customers serve as the “eyes and ears” of your organization. The CCS® framework can serve as a foundation to provide:  
  • A standard set of terms to improve communication by salespeople with their peers as well as to other departments.
  • A clear definition of the interface between Sales and Marketing.
  • A more structured way to provide input to Product Development for existing as well as future offerings.
The most important component of being customer-centric is aligning offerings more closely with customer needs. The silos of Product Development, Product Marketing, Marketing and Sales Silos can create internal friction that undermines initiatives and efforts to be customer- centric. If Product Development can rely upon input from people in the field to learn about new buyer requirements, the voice of the customer can serve as their guide. The focus shifts from one of trying to create offerings, to first identifying outcomes buyers want to achieve, understanding the reasons they can’t achieve them today, and creating capabilities that address those reasons.  

This approach puts customers first and can provide significant market advantages to organizations that develop offerings in this way. Traditionally, companies employ “push” approaches to launch new products. They create what they think buyers need and begin trying to sell them. Customer-centric organizations’ offerings can experience market “pulls” if they are built to address buyer needs.  

As offerings should be built around customer needs, an organization’s infrastructure should be built around optimizing the customer experience with your offerings for all staff members that have contact with customers. CustomerCentric Selling® can provide an overall framework to facilitate a common lens to view customer and market requirements.  

If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. Organizations that figure it out can make the way they interface with buyers a sustainable competitive advantage.

Interested in learning more? Sign-up for one of these public sales training workshops to discover how your organization can be customer-centric and start achieving greater success.

Sales Training Article: Trouble Closing - or Selling?


Sales Training Article: Trouble Closing or Selling?

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

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sales training workshopsUnlike other B2B selling skills, closing gets a disproportionate amount of attention. It continues to surprise me when sales executives tell me their people are poor closers. The question I resist asking is: "Is it possible that they are inept salespeople?" It's not as though a strong final scene can make an otherwise pedestrian play a hit. Successfully completing the steps leading up to closes make the likelihood of getting orders higher.  

Many problems arise because sellers ask for orders prematurely. It could be they or their managers need the business in the current month or quarter. Whatever the reasons, buyers feel pressured when they aren't ready to buy. The best outcome is getting orders, but often sellers have to give discounts to incent early decisions. The worst outcome is pressing so hard that opportunities are lost.  

Attend one of our sales training workshops to learn how to stop losing deals and win more business.  

The best way to avoid early closes is for sellers to make sure they have adequate pipelines on an ongoing basis. That doesn't mean there won't be months when seller pipelines are thin (or managers need to pull in orders), but it shouldn't be a fire drill at each quarter or month end. When pipelines are depleted by early closes, repeat performances are likely.  

Here are some milestones that should be in place so that sellers earn the right to ask for the business because buyers understand:  
  • The business goals or outcomes they want to achieve
  • The specific capabilities offerings provide so that goals the can be achieved
  • Proof that the capabilities can be provided (references; Success Stories; demos; etc.)
  • The total price to acquire and implement the capabilities
  • The potential payback (value minus cost)
Once these components are in place, sellers should try to ask buyers having the authority to make buying decisions. With committee decisions, these components should be in place for all Key Players.  

Sellers that complete all these steps may be pleasantly surprised that sometimes buyers volunteer to buy. In such cases, buying becomes the logical conclusion to buying cycles and there is no need to close.

sales training companyNeed some help with your sales performance? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to you and improve sales performance.

Read more sales training articles from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

A Closer Look into Sales Calls - Are You Lost in Transition?


Sales Training Article: Lost In Transition

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

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sales training workshopExecutive buyers appreciate sellers that “set the table” with brief introductions stating the purpose of calls. They have little time and interest in learning about offerings unless they see some potential value in their usage.
Many sellers begin calls with (hopefully) brief descriptions of their offerings and then ask what amounts to: “Are you interested? What do you think?”
Such questions are premature. Many calls come off the rails at this point. Transitions are critical to having buyers provide information about their challenges. Transitions can be easier if sellers give buyers context so that productive conversations can begin.
Register for an upcoming sales training workshop to learn how to effectively transition sales calls with buyers and achieve greater success.
Some general comments:    
  • It’s important that sellers establish credibility with industry knowledge.
  • Sellers should engage buyers in conversations early in calls.
  • Calls go better when buyers talk about their issues before sellers discuss offerings.
  • Before transitioning, better calls will result if sellers can take buyers from latent to active needs (business outcomes they would like to achieve).
CustomerCentric Selling® recommends using Success Stories to accomplish the objectives listed above. Prior to calls, research buyers and companies to choose likely business outcomes they would like to achieve. Next, choose from a library of customer Success Stories (personal or company-wide) that have the following components:

1. Industry and title that align with the prospect  
2. A goal that you believe will be relevant  
3. A reason prior to implementing your offering that the goal could not be achieved  
4. The capability that addressed the reason  
5. Results providing the baseline (where the customer was prior to implementing your offering) and the improvement that was achieved
After sharing a Success Story (60-90 seconds), the suggested transition is: “That was a CFO I worked with. Can you tell me about your situation?”
Hopefully this transition will lead into discussions about buyers’ business environments and diagnoses to be done prior to presenting relevant capabilities.

Relay races are won or lost based upon how well baton exchanges are executed. Smooth transitions from seller to buyers can positively influence the outcomes of sales calls.

sales training companyNeed some help with your sales performance? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to you and improve sales performance.

Read more sales training articles from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.

Sales Training Insight into The Toughest Job


Sales Training Article: The Toughest Job?

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

Image courtesy of AdamR at
sales training workshopListening to a competent B2B seller makes the job seem easy. People unfamiliar with sales think all that's needed to succeed are good verbal skills and the ability to get along with people. Selling requires a long list of skill and qualities. An even greater challenge is being a first line manager of a group of salespeople.

Don't miss the sales training workshop for sales management coming in April.

While working for vendors, I never had a manager that served as a mentor. I was fortunate in my first sales position to have an experienced rep take me under his wing. I'll always owe a debt of gratitude to Dick McManus for that. My manager did nothing more than scare me into doing a prescribed quantity of work. I had to make a minimum number of calls and write a minimum number of proposals each month or Jeff and I would have an unpleasant review meeting. Without Dick's help, those calls and proposals would have represented activity rather than progress. I'm not sure it would have resulted in making my numbers.

Ultimately Jeff dictated the quantity of work he expected, but failed to impact the quality of my work. Consistent with that he told me what to do (call high; stay high; don't lead with product; handle objections; etc.) but never showed me how to do it. Jeff seemed unaware there are 2 reasons sellers underperform when doing tasks:  
  1. Will not (an attitude problem) or
  2. Cannot (a skill deficiency)
Jeff motivated (frightened) me into performing the quantity of tasks. Fortunately Dick helped with the quality of my efforts, and I prospered. Once competent, Jeff and subsequent managers just left me alone. This type of sales management makes selling a "sink or swim" proposition. Is it any wonder that a high percentage of new sellers aren't with their new companies 18 months after being hired?

Those of you that have attended the CCS® Sales Process Management Workshophave seen that process can make a sales manager's job easier by providing:  
  • A common skill set and approach
  • 5 separate skills that sellers should be measured on
  • How to analyze pipeline blockages to identify skill deficiencies
  • Tactical ways to shore up deficient areas
Sales managers that have the ability to assess and develop skills can allow their people to more fully reach their potential. I believe they owe that to their staff.

sales training companyNeed some help with your sales performance? Take a look at the sales training workshops available to you and improve sales performance.

Read more sales training articles from CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company.
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About this Page: CustomerCentric Selling® is your go to source for top notch sales consulting. We have helped a variety of business, small and large, through customized sales coaching in an effort to improve their sales techniques and potentially generate them more revenue. Our strategic sales performance workshops will enable our clients to get their business going on the fast track. Call CustomerCentric Selling® today at +1-800-993-1228