CustomerCentric Selling® Sales Training Blog

Sales Tips: How to Earn the Right to Discuss Offerings Using Diagnose and Prescribe

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 17, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Earn the Right to Discuss Offerings Using Diagnose and Prescribe Approach

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

listening_to_buyerImagine you’ve applied for a job. In the first meeting the interviewer gives you the choice of first hearing about the job or starting by providing your background and experience. I hope you’d agree the interview should go better if you first heard about the position and requirements the company felt were necessary. It would allow you to tailor or position your knowledge and experience in a way that better aligns with their requirements.

Executives seldom give you that choice in sales calls. Sadly, many sellers begin by talking about their offerings first. Without having any context of what buyers need, several bad things start to happen:

  • Few executives find product pitches interesting.
  • After product is mentioned, buyers can drag sellers into premature pricing discussions.
  • Features that aren’t relevant to buyers are likely to be presented.
  • It’s likely the call will end before the allotted 30 minutes that was scheduled.

In my recent blog post, I talked about the importance for sellers to be business experts, not product experts. Here’s how you can start down that path and earn the right to discuss offerings with buyers.

Listen, Don't Talk
Similar to the job interview scenario, it’s important for sellers to let buyers talk about their situations and challenges first. In fact, viewing sales calls as job interviews may give you a good mindset. Your ultimate objective is to have them “hire” your offering.

Do Your Best Sherlock Holmes
An initial step is uncovering a goal or problem an executive would be willing to spend money to achieve or address. This will be easier if you go into the call with a menu of title-specific high probability goals. Keep in mind most executives will want to determine that sellers are sincere and competent before sharing business issues.

Lead the Discovery
Once a goal is shared, resist the temptation to blindly dive into product. Instead ask why the goal can’t be achieved today and then be prepared with diagnostic questions designed to uncover reasons that can be addressed by specific features or capabilities of your offering. If the buyer knew how to address these barriers, they wouldn’t bother talking with a seller. Helping buyers discover how their current approach is “broken” allows sellers to establish credibility.

Patient-Doctor
Doing full diagnoses allows sellers to focus discussions on only the relevant parts of a given offering. Engaging executives in this manner makes the buyer-seller relationship more like a patient-doctor relationship. Complete diagnoses (examinations) result in recommendations (prescriptions) buyers are more ready to accept.

Key Takeaway: Once sellers understand their buyer’s environment they aren’t selling offerings, they’re empowering buyers to achieve desired business outcomes.

Save your seat now for the FIRST public workshop of 2015 in Boston, Feb 3-6!

Register for a sales training workshop 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 Take Control of Your 2015

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 12, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Take Control of Your 2015

By Frank Visgatis, President & Chief Operating Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

0-2015-targetAs we enter the heart of the holiday season, most salespeople and sales organizations are in one of three (3) modes:

1. The Happy Camper - Through a combination of proper planning and consistency of execution, the year is already “done” from a revenue attainment perspective, and now it’s time to relax and charge the batteries so you can rocket out of the gate in 2015.

2. The Hail Mary – You’re doing everything you can possibly think of to somehow bring in every last bit of revenue in an attempt, albeit usually a futile one, to make the number for the year.

3. The Dead Man Walking - With the recognition that nothing will salvage the year at this point and worse, prospects don’t look good for 2015, resumes are being polished and LinkedIn is experiencing a spike in activity.

So, the question is: What mode are you in?

My hope is that you fall into the first category. However, as our recently published research (the CCS® Index) has documented, if this is you, you are the exception and not the rule. If that’s in fact the case, if you fall into either of the two latter categories, what is going to change next year?

Will marketing finally get their act together and start sending you decent leads?
If marketing could consistently generate high quality, well-qualified leads from prospects who are ready to buy, why do we need salespeople? Wouldn’t a website and an 800 number do the trick?

Will your product suddenly get better?
Don’t count on it. Even if it does, the days of product features being competitive differentiators are gone.

Will management finally “get it” and bring down the price point to something more “reasonable”?
Unlikely. Even if they did, all that means is that you would have to exponentially increase your volume of transactions to make the same amount of money you tried to make this year. For example, if you couldn’t close 10 deals at 100% of the price, what would lead you to believe that you can close 20 at 50%? 

I apologize if my assessment seems a bit harsh. However, I also know that you can proactively address each of the aforementioned issues.

3 Ways to Take Control
1. If you aren’t happy with the quality of leads that you’re getting from marketing, remember that the helping hand you need is probably at the end of your own arm. Instead of waiting for the phone to ring, start dialing it instead. It is only the salespeople who consistently and aggressively prospect for new business, even if their pipeline is already full, who are the ones who sleep well at night.

2. If price is an issue, then that simply means that insufficient value has been established. Prospects focus on cost when there is no value. Remember that the cost of pain always has to be greater than the cost of change. Unless and until the prospect understands that it is costing them more to do things the way they currently do them versus what you are asking them to spend, price will always be the issue.

3. Finally, if you can’t differentiate yourself using what you sell, think about differentiating yourself by the way you sell. Rather than being the stereotypical salesperson eager to do a demo as soon as possible, think about focusing on your prospect’s business goals and objectives, first and only introducing product once you understand their desired business outcomes and how you can help them get there.

Save your seat now for the FIRST public workshop of 2015 in Boston, Feb 3-6!

Register for a sales training workshop 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: Avoid the Discounting Squeeze

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 10, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Avoid the Discounting "Squeeze"

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

Image courtesy of Renjith Krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

0-discount-squeezeI was working with a client a few years ago and saw the CEO and CFO in a meeting to discuss pricing on a transaction for a 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 having a conversation about whether the transaction would be profitable!

After asking a few questions it seemed clear that they were the vendor of choice and were in a death spiral of discounting. My suggestion was they had to say “NO” to making any further reductions. They pushed back to my suggestion until I told them that if the price was reduced any more, then they should consider withdrawing.

Within a few days the transaction was finalized, but it was painful to consider how much money they likely had left on the table. A common buyer tactic is extending negotiations over several meetings. As time goes on, prices erode and as the ends of months, quarters or years draw near, sellers face time pressures to close transactions. Once discounting starts, it’s difficult to stop as you are continuously squeezed to make further concessions.

Combat the "Squeeze" with the "Get-Give"
In our negotiation module we teach sellers how to withstand a maximum of three (3) requests for lower pricing and then utilize a “get-give” approach so that any concessions are offered conditionally after buyers have agreed to give something the seller has asked for. If transactions don’t close, sellers can take what the buyer agreed to give and the concession offered in return off the table.

This technique can prevent the discount death spiral that buyers orchestrate so well. 

Save your seat now for the FIRST public workshop of 2015 in Boston, Feb 3-6!

Register for a sales training workshop 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 a Simple Gesture Can Sway the Decision in Your Favor

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 3, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: How a Simple Gesture Can Sway the Buyer Decision in Your Favor

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

Image courtesy of Felixco, Inc. at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

0-tabYears ago I worked on a transaction with a client that was on an IBM mainframe. I had gotten into the account with disk drives about 6 months prior, the first non-IBM devices in their data center.

The client was experiencing performance problems and needed more memory. That meant upgrading the processor at a cost of about $6M. I had an offering that could expand the memory and defer the upgrade for about a year that cost $250K. What appeared to be an easy financial decision became political and got complicated.

The IBM salesperson enjoyed a close relationship with the CIO, a person I could not gain access to. My highest contact was the VP of IT who was responsible for the data center. He shared with me, aware that the IBM rep would likely not make his quota that year if the mainframe upgrade order wasn't placed.

The decision hung for about 3 weeks. Finally the VP suggested meeting for lunch to discuss where things stood. Over lunch the pros and cons were considered. He flip-flopped several times between making the better financial or political choice. Nothing had been decided. When the bill came, he took it saying he’d pick up lunch. Instinctively I took the check from his hand and told him as the vendor it was mine to pay.

About a week later I got the order. To this day I’m not sure exactly how it happened. What I will tell you is that the VP picking up lunch was his way of saying:  Sorry, you aren’t getting this order. I’m virtually certain I wouldn’t have gotten the order if he had paid the check.

I sometimes tell this war story during workshops to make the point that selling is a combination of science and art. CCS® tries to swing the pendulum toward being more science, but there will always be the human element. Selling is complex and situational. Experience combined with sales process is a hard combination to beat.

 

Save your seat now for the FIRST public workshop of 2015 in Boston, Feb 3-6!

Register for a sales training workshop 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: Want Better Results? Avoid "Commission Breath"

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 1, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Want Better Results? Avoid "Commission Breath"

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

Image credit to David Broberg from BizJournals.com

College-Football1A few months ago, CBS 60 Minutes did a segment on Alabama football coach Nick Saban. He's one of the best coaches in college football, having won three BCS championships with Alabama in 2009, 2011 and 2012, and another with LSU in 2003. He attributes his team’s success to following and executing what he calls a football process. He insists his players not look at the scoreboard or focus on the win, but instead to focus on executing their individual assignments, perfecting their skills, and each offensive play that allows them to move the ball systematically, yard by yard down the field, and ultimately score. They practice their process for hours on a daily basis. That is the Alabama football process.

CustomerCentric Selling® (CCS®) is a sales process that salespeople can be taught to execute, and manage to, that allows them to consistently outperform their competitors. However, what gets a salesperson into trouble is when they shortcut or abandon their sales process. For example, picture this:

You engage with a prospect that simply says, “Prepare a proposal with pricing and have it to me by Monday. We need to make a decision.”  Presented with what you think will be a quick sale rather than take the time to follow your sales process, you abandon your process, and simply acquiesce to their request. What happens? You lose. Why? You failed to execute. In football parlance, you attempted to throw a ‘hail Mary pass’, a low percentage play, and it was batted down at the line of scrimmage. 

When a salesman chooses to simply focus on the close and abandons all of the steps in the sales process that lead to the close, I’ve heard it said that they have "commission breath". Commission breath is the exact opposite of sales process execution. Salespeople who focus on what their prospect is trying to accomplish and follow their sales process outperform those that don’t. It’s that simple. Always remember, process guarantees results.

Save your seat now for the FIRST public workshop of 2015 in Boston, Feb 3-6!

Register for a sales training workshop 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 Tip: The Evolving Role of Sales Requires Business Experts

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 25, 2014 9:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Want a Future in Sales? Become a Business Expert

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

0-smiling-salesman

 

Salespeople are expected to be product experts. Having started my career with IBM I can tell you firsthand they believed this to be true. It was unsettling to see the trouble IBM experienced in the early 90’s as clients changed their view of IT spending. These events led to Lou Gerstner becoming CEO in April of 1993. Skeptics were concerned about his limited knowledge of technology and that he was the first CEO hired from the outside. Both proved to be advantages as he changed the culture and the focus from technology to business results that could be achieved through the application of technology.

A large factor in IBM’s troubles was a reliance on selling to CIO’s. For decades IT executives bought technology with little regard for cost vs. benefit. New announcements created knee-jerk first day orders. In the 5 years before Gerstner joined, clients more closely scrutinized IT expenditures and decisions migrated to business executives. The consensus was that IBM salespeople lost the ability to have conversations about business issues with non-IT executives.

Old selling habits linger. Companies continue to provide extensive product training to sellers. In today’s environment, whom are sellers “educating?” Mid to lower levels self-educate via the Internet. They don’t want to be influenced or manipulated when determining their requirements. I hope you’d agree few senior executives would tolerate product presentations. They’re busy and just want to understand the potential value that can be realized through the usage of an offering.

The Role Shift
The role of a seller needs to align with changes in buying behavior. I found the results of a recent Software Advice™ study encouraging (Software Advice™ is a sales software reviews firm). They analyzed job qualifications for Sales Directors. They found that the top 3 undergraduate degrees required for job applicants were:

  1. Business (42%)
  2. Marketing (23%)
  3. Engineering (12%)
Sales executives with business degrees may start to steer organizations toward making sellers more comfortable discussing business issues with executives. In my mind this is a requirement. It wasn’t always that way. The 90’s provided an incredible business climate. Money flowed freely. There was a fair amount of “order taking” going on for vendors with “hot” offerings.

For the last 15 years companies have pulled the reins in on making expenditures. Whether opportunities begin reactively with inbound inquiries from mid level staff or proactively by targeting prospects, I believe competent sales professionals must have the ability to:

  1. Discuss desired business outcomes with Key Player levels.
  2. Work with buying committees to assess early in buying cycles if there will be enough potential value to offset the cost of offerings.
Reducing the emphasis on product training would allow more time to arm sellers with a better understanding of business issues for verticals they call on. Strong business cases built with the participation of committee members should increase the chances of getting buying decisions made. Failure to do so will often result in losses or "no decisions" outcomes.

 Save your seat now for the FIRST public workshop of 2015 in Boston, Feb 3-6!

Register for a sales training workshop 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 Is REALLY the Decision Maker?

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 19, 2014 8:30:00 AM

Sales Tips: Who Is REALLY the Decision Maker?

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

0-exec-lunchShortly after launching the company we had an opportunity with a large account that ultimately narrowed their short list to CustomerCentric Selling® and another competitor. The two most influential members of the buying committee were the SVP of WW Sales and the Manager of Sales Training. Looking at the org chart, many sellers would have assumed the SVP was the decision maker.

While we had access to the SVP he, like many senior executives, left a detailed analysis of both vendors to his Manager of Training, who attended one of our public workshops to assess our offering. Our competitor consistently tried to call on the SVP whom they had met with. While at times successful this tact wound up alienating the Manager. As you’d suspect, we ultimately won the business, but later asked exactly how the decision was made.

It’s important to know that both primary contacts had been in their jobs for more than 5 years. The manager had rolled out several successful programs and enjoyed a good working relationship with the SVP. When finalizing the decision, the Training Manager presented his summary of both programs and made the recommendation to choose CCS®. Probably the biggest concern was that we had been in business for less than a year. As it turns out, the SVP had confidence in the Training Manager and effectively “rubber stamped” the decision.

There are many instances where sellers assume the highest person in the org chart will be the decision maker. As with most things related to selling, this can be a dangerous assumption. We would end up reading the situation correctly, but consider how different the decision making process would have been if some things had been different: 

  • Either person was fairly new in their position
  • Some of the programs rolled out by the Manager had not been well-received
  • The two Key Players didn’t have a good working relationship
  • We had never gotten access to the SVP

Studies show that senior executives typically like to get involved early and late in buying cycles. That said, when senior executives are involved in making vendor decisions it’s hard to predict whether they will actively participate or passively accept the recommendation of people reporting to them. In the case cited above, we had commitment in that the manager took 3-1/2 days to attend our program and we had access early access to the SVP. 

A good way to gain insights is to revisit how decisions got made after the implementation has been completed. I suspect you’ll discover that fairly often the person signing the agreement was not the decision maker. 

Deadline to register for Denver, Dec 2-5 is TODAY! Only 7 seats left, so save yours now while you can.

Register for a sales training workshop 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: Avoid These Six Most Expensive Words in Business

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 17, 2014 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Avoid These 6 Most Expensive Words in Business

By Frank Visgatis, President & Chief Operating Officer, CustomerCentric Selling® - The Sales Training Company

shutterstock_149719160When we conduct sales training workshops, our goal is equal parts skills transfer and equal parts behavior modification. One of the behaviors we work to condition out of salespeople through a combination of education and training is the tendency to default to percentage discounts in an attempt to close business. In fact, one new client commented as part of our discovery discussions, “My salespeople think that negotiating means discounting until the prospect says ‘yes’.”

When we peel back the layers, we find that the most common reason for discounting is a lack of understanding of value, both on the part of the prospect and on the part of the salesperson. In other words, not only has the salesperson been unable to get the prospect to articulate the value through deliberate measurement of their current operating environment, in many cases the salesperson is unaware of the value themselves.

Without a clear, mutual understanding of the value being provided, salespeople typically default to price when negotiating. In fact, when squeezed on price, many salespeople default to the question:

“Where do we need to be?”

Those are the six most expensive words in business. When a salesperson asks that question in a negotiation:

  • They have effectively acknowledged that they also believe a discount will be necessary to close the business.
  • They have implied they have the power to grant that discount.
  • The prospect rarely if ever provides a reasonable response.

The prospect sets the bar far lower than what they are willing to pay and then the salesperson has to fight tooth and nail for every point of margin in between.

 

Deadline to register for Denver, Dec 2-5 is THIS WED the 19th! Only 7 seats left, so save yours now while you can.

Register for a sales training workshop 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 Get Past the First 20 Seconds

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 12, 2014 8:30:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Get Past the First 20 Seconds

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

Image courtesy of Stuat Eman at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

0-stopwatch-2Statistics from an AMA study found executives answer only 4% of prospecting calls. When buyers answer, sellers should have relevant content to share in the first 15 or 20 seconds. Unless mindshare is earned, prospects want to end calls at the earliest possible time. Mentioning product provides an easy out.

Imagine answering a call at home and the seller starting by asking: Would you consider replacing your old furnace with a more fuel efficient one? I’d venture to say the overwhelming majority of prospects would say they were not interested and end the call. Leading with product is seldom a good approach and usually starts a death spiral in the first seconds of prospecting calls.

With that in mind, what if the salesperson monitored sales of used homes and did some research on zillow.com to find ones that were more than 20 years old? The call could begin as follows:

This is John Jones with ABC Energy. People buying older homes are often surprised by higher than expected energy costs. I’ve worked with homeowners for the last 14 years to help reduce energy costs. Would you be interested in learning more?

The early stages of buying cycles will be more successful if sellers create curiosity and incremental interest from prospects. Leading with issues in the first 20 seconds can earn the next 60 seconds to share results. From there, buyers may share a desired outcome that can be achieved with a seller’s offering, which starts buying cycles.

Don't miss the last public workshop of the year in Denver coming SOON on Dec 2-5!

Register for a sales training workshop 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 Begin Buying Cycles with Pain vs. Goal

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 5, 2014 8:30:00 AM

Sales Tips: How to Begin Buying Cycles with Pain vs. Goals

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

0-pain-goals-exec-buyersOne of the fundamental concepts of CustomerCentric Selling® is that buying cycles begin when Key Players share goals or admit problems they’re willing to spend money to achieve or address. When they do, it is a watershed event because most executives won’t “share their dirty laundry” with sellers unless they have concluded they are sincere and competent.

It’s always been challenging for me to imagine 25 year old sellers getting 50+ year old Sales Executives to admit they’re missing revenue targets (vs. sharing they would like to drive higher revenue). That’s the major reason we chose to make our sales process goal vs. pain based. I hope you’d agree it would be easier for someone to get you to admit you could lose a few pounds rather than admitting you were overweight. During calls if buyers happen to admit pains, they are processed the same way as goals in terms of diagnosing and creating visions.

The major exception to this rule is doing business development. Research has shown people place a higher value on loss vs. gain. In the first 20 seconds or so of a prospecting call you will be more likely to gain mind share leading with problems (the inverse of goals). Once a goal has been shared (or a problem admitted) a buying cycle has begun.

Don't miss the last public workshop of the year in Denver coming up Dec 2-5!

Register for a sales training workshop 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

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