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CustomerCentric Selling® Sales Training Blog

Sales Tips: How to Avoid a Stressful Year-end

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

Sales Tips: How to Avoid a Stressful Year-end

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

Managing Year-end Sales StressThe holidays are stressful. People that haven’t sold don’t fully understand the added stress on sellers entering December less than YTD against quota. Commission, performance clubs and careers are at stake as they strive to make their numbers. It’s drama that plays out at seller, district manager, regional manager, VP of Sales and CEO levels. 

Watching the 2016 election made me realize the similarity of presidential candidates trying to reach their “quota” of 270 electoral votes. As evening gave way to morning, TV news teams continued to focus on Mrs. Clinton’s path to victory, perhaps because they couldn’t grasp the concept of a President Trump. To win Mrs. Clinton nearly had to run the table in five states in which she was lagging. By midnight, it was clear that wouldn’t happen. Her position was analogous to a seller needing to close every opportunity in his/her pipeline to make quota. Hope remains as long as the path, regardless of how unlikely it is to play out, is possible.

As companies enter the fourth quarter, many sales managers and executives ask sellers for personal commitments of revenue numbers they’ll close. I’ve seen managers tell sellers their commitments are too low and pressure them to sign up for unrealistically higher numbers. CEO’s or VP’s of Sales need to see paths to make their numbers, even if they’re overly optimistic. High-pressure closes may yield orders (often discounted to close early), but sellers may offend buyers with high pressure and lose orders. 

Go Monthly
To avoid stressful year-end closes, consider evaluating each seller’s YTD position on a monthly basis. Do this by:

  1. Calculating each seller’s monthly quota and multiplying it by the number of months in an average sales cycle.

  2. Next, divide that figure by the decimal equivalent of a seller’s win rate. For example if a seller closes 1/3 of their transactions they should have 3 times that figure in qualified pipeline if they are YTD or better.

  3. Each month any shortfall against quota must be adjusted by close rate and added to the total target. If and when they are less than YTD salespeople and their managers have early visibility of the need to increase activity.

This is a better way to manage annual quotas to minimize wild year-end closes. Even when successful sellers enter New Years with skinny or non-existent pipelines, it increases the probability that the following December will end with another “scorched earth” closing/discounting spree.

Holiday stress is inevitable but easier to deal with when quota has been managed. 

2017 Sales Training Workshops

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!

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Sales Tips: A Critical December Tactic

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 7, 2016 2:58:06 PM

Sales Tips: A Critical December Tactic

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

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, FreeDigitalPhotos.net

December Action Plan for Year-endThe selling year is coming to an end for both you and your prospects. Are you prepared? Do you have a plan in place to maximize your use of the next fifteen (15) business days, such as:

  • Reduced selling time.
  • Limited availability to decision makers due to the Christmas holidays.
  • Pressure for excessive fourth quarter discounts by prospects, etc.? 

Here is what I’m suggesting you do immediately after you read this email. Pay attention to all of the dates I'm suggesting. They are critical.

1. First, send an email to all C (Champion) prospects, followed by a personal phone call, advising them that this is a critical three weeks and ask them if it is their intention to make a selection decision by the end of December. Explain to them that with the reduced amount of time, holidays, etc., that you would like to focus your energies and your company’s resources to provide them with the information they need to make an informed purchase decision by December 21st.

This is your opportunity to find out who is real and who is or not. Why submit what could turn out to be an embarrassing sales forecast? You want to spend this limited time working with the prospects that are real.

2. Second, if it is not their intent to purchase:

  • Document and confirm your understanding of that decision via email.
  • Let them know you will contact them after the first of the year.
  • Invite them to re-engage if anything should change between now and the first of the year.

3. Third, if it is their intention to purchase this year, ask them how they would like to complete their evaluation. Introduce an abbreviated Sequence of Events (SOE) as a way to accomplish what needs to be done before December 21st. If they want to know why you are pushing for December 21st, explain to them that it has been your experience that the people who are required to approve purchases/subscriptions like yours often leave for the holiday; you want those people to act before they leave for the holiday.

The final evaluation step in any mutually agreed-to Sequence of Events should be scheduled for the week of December 18th. After Friday the 23rd you’ll find that many decision makers are gone for the holiday. You’ll have potentially missed the opportunity to close this business by the year-end.  You’ve given yourself an additional precarious few days if something slips.

If there is any question regarding anything I’m suggesting, consult with your manager.

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Topics: Sales Training, sales tips, selling tips, sales training workshop, sales training workshops, sales process, sales methodology, sales training company, improve sales performance, sales training success, sales approach, sales training approach, selling process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique, sales performance, selling approach

Sales Tips: Best Practices for Collecting B2B Research Data

Posted by Jill Perez on Dec 5, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Best Practices for Collecting Quantitative and Qualitative B2B Research Data

By Carolyn Galvin, Primary Intelligence - CCS® Strategic Partner

DataIn an earlier article, I discussed the merits of quantitative and qualitative data. Building upon that “qual/quant” theme, this article discusses best practices for collecting qualitative and quantitative data in Business-to-Business (B2B) research.

Collecting Quantitative B2B Data
When collecting quantitative B2B information – data that’s numeric, or numbers oriented – the following techniques are recommended in B2B markets so that respondents have the best experience and researchers collect the best information: 

  • Capture quantitative data online to make the process faster and more efficient for respondents.

  • Include “Unsure” and “Other” categories in “Yes/No” answer options to give respondents more choices if they don’t fall into predetermined categories.

  • Similarly, when including a “pick-list” of answer choices, include an “Unsure” and “Other” option to allow respondents to include additional possibilities you may not have considered.

  • Always include a request to “please specify” when respondents choose “Other.”

    • If you see enough “Other” responses that are similar, you’ve spotted a new trend and can include this choice in your pre-defined pick list.

  • Ensure ratings scales are appropriate for the questions being asked. Typically, firms collect B2B information on a 0-5, 0-7, or 0-10 point scale, depending on the degree of detail required.

  • While no survey taker likes long surveys, B2B respondents are generally more willing than B2C respondents to answer a longer set of questions, due in large part to the longer timeframes, higher purchase prices and greater energy they’ve invested during the evaluation process.

  • Consider including text boxes after each survey question so respondents can include additional detail and context if desired. Make sure text box responses are optional so that respondents aren’t forced to include additional comments in order to move onto the next question.

  • Put pricing questions (or any questions that are especially sensitive) into the online survey, if possible, and allow the respondent to “refuse” or “decline” these questions. Tucking sensitive questions into an online survey, especially if the questions relate to competitors, allows the respondent to gracefully decline to provide input, especially if the individual is under a Non-disclosure Agreement.

DataCollecting Qualitative B2B Information
Qualitative data seeks to understand the nuances and context around a respondent’s input and is typically open-ended in format. To get the most from qualitative B2B data collection, researchers should follow the following guidelines:

  • Collect qualitative data in person or over the telephone to get rich information about the respondent’s experience.

  • Use probing questions that drive toward greater clarity and understanding of the issues, asking necessary follow-up questions to ensure actionable intelligence.

  • Follow the respondent’s lead when deciding the order of the questions. While it’s tempting to go in the exact numeric order as outlined in the interview guide, this can break the flow of the respondent’s input and can be jarring, especially if the individual touches upon a later question early in the conversation and the researcher doesn’t take advantage of the opportunity at the appropriate time.

  • Look for themes in the feedback. Respondents typically return to two or three key themes in their responses – high and low points of their experience that are especially noteworthy in either a positive or a negative way.

  • Identify trends in feedback between different respondents. What patterns are emerging from the data that are common across different buyers?

  • Ask individuals to comment on key findings discovered earlier in the research process. Does the current respondent agree or disagree with the input of previous respondents? What can they add to the earlier discourse to make it even more relevant and interesting?

  • Be mindful of respondents’ time and energy levels. Conversations that last 20-30 minutes are typically ideal in complex discussions of B2B markets. While technical issues may require more time to thoroughly vet, make sure to ask the respondent for permission to continue beyond the allotted time or consider scheduling a follow-on conversation.

  • Record the interviews so that the focus remains one of active listening, not mad scribbling. Ask the respondent for permission to record the discussion at the beginning of the conversation.

By adopting these tried and true practices, you’ll be on your way to collecting first-rate customer, competitor and market intelligence – whether it’s quantitative or qualitative – from B2B respondents.

2016 CCS Sales Index

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!

Topics: Sales Training, sales tips, selling tips, sales training workshop, sales training workshops, sales process, sales methodology, sales training company, improve sales performance, sales training success, sales approach, sales training approach, selling process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique, sales performance, selling approach

Sales Tips: Time for a Name Change

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 29, 2016 9:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Time for a Name Change

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

Sales Enablement vs. Buyer EmpowermentThroughout my career I’ve sold technology and helped tech companies sell their offerings. During that time I’ve witnessed a number of technology offerings that at some point in their life cycles either hadn’t caught on or had begun to fade. A tried and true approach for vendors has been to add functionality and re-launch offerings using different names. Two (2) examples leap to mind:

  • Material Requirements Planning began as MRP but had 2 re-starts. It morphed into MRP II and then became Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). Could Galactic Resource Planning be next?

  • Sales Force Automation (SFA) morphed into Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and was made more relevant when Marc Benioff offered salesforce.com in a SaaS model and changed the software business forever. 

The candidate I’d like to nominate for a name change is Sales Enablement (SE). Ask ten people to define SE and let me know if you get fewer than 47 different answers. 

Vendors have largely sat on the sidelines for the last decade and a half as spectators watching buying behavior change. To their credit, some recognized the ever-widening gap between the way people want to buy and how they were being sold to. Most made tepid responses by announcing SE initiatives to appease their investors or boards. This was analogous to rearranging the deck chairs after hitting the iceberg. Without significant organizational and philosophical changes it’s difficult to see results.

My first issue with the term “Sales Enablement” is that it fails to recognize that people would much rather buy than be sold. Choosing “Sales” as the first half of the term continues vendors’ inward look and focus on products and selling them. My suggestion is to change the first word to “Buyer.” At least vendors would be looking in the right direction: Outward.

Enablement vs. EmpowermentYou quickly see the problem with the second half of the term when you answer the question: Who are companies trying to enable? The answer is salespeople, once again putting the spotlight on selling and continuing the inward rather than outward focus. Beyond that, companies are trying to enable them to sell in the traditional sense.

The word “empowerment” seems to be a superior choice as the second word. When you think about it, today’s buyers have become empowered by using the Internet and social networking to level the playing field as relates to product knowledge and actual user experiences with offerings. The concept of empowerment allows people to have control. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs after air, water, food and shelter - people seek control. One perspective of sellers is that they exert influence without authority. Buyers have the ultimate power as they decide whether or not to spend money. 

“Buyer Empowerment” in my mind means that for websites or salespeople, the first hurdle is to uncover latent needs. These are desired business outcomes executives would like to achieve. This can be done by interacting directly with Key Players or by having lower levels share desired organizational goals. Once business goals are shared, good things start to happen:

  1. Buying cycles begin
  2. Buyers realize there is potential value
  3. Buyers are willing to give sellers time to have conversations
  4. Sellers can be perceived as consultants if they know the right questions to ask

Part of empowerment is realizing that most vendors and their offerings don’t solve problems nor improve business results. Most sellers and organizations are guilty of making claims such as: 

  • “I’ll reduce your costs.”
  • “My software will reduce your costs.”
  • “The system will reduce your costs.”
  • “My company will reduce your costs.”

Avoid Ownership StatementsIn making such statements, some bad things happen. How many times have buyers been told sellers will deliver business outcomes or make problems go away and been disappointed? A vendor’s offering could work perfectly but if not implemented properly or used, it’s likely to deliver poor results. Finally, sellers don’t and can’t manage internal buyer resources so they have no credibility or control when committing to deliver business results. In the clear light of day, sellers’ offerings provide capabilities that can empower buyers to achieve desired business results. Buyer must take ownership for achieving their business goals or solving their problems. Empowered buyers are not at the mercy of sellers to get the results they want.

As relates to SE let me be clear: BUYERS ARE SICK AND TIRED OF BEING SOLD!!! Selling is becoming old school.

Enlightened vendors can enjoy something that has become a rarity: A sustainable competitive advantage, if they can provide messaging and teach sellers to empower buyers. Continuing with SE is like a losing football team failing to make the necessary roster changes but expecting different outcomes – Do your buyers want more of the same? Buyer Empowerment could provide a welcomed change in buying experiences.  

2016 CCS Sales Index

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!

Topics: Sales Training, sales tips, selling tips, sales training workshop, sales training workshops, sales process, sales methodology, sales training company, improve sales performance, sales training success, sales approach, sales training approach, selling process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique, sales performance, selling approach

Sales Tips: Qualitative or Quantitative Data – Which is Better?

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 28, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Sales Tips: Qualitative or Quantitative Data – Which is Better?

By Carolyn Galvin, Primary Intelligence - CCS® Strategic Partner

DataThere’s an ongoing debate over which type of data is better: quantitative (“quant”) or qualitative (“qual”). For researchers who have used and benefited from both, there are distinct advantages and disadvantages from each. There are also instances in which each method is best suited to a specific application.

Quantitative Data
Quantitative data is all about numbers. When people talk about “big data,” they’re talking about quantitative data—exact, scientific, precise. Black or white, quantitative data is straightforward, although the interpretation of quantitative data can be manipulated—think statistics.

In his popular 1954 book, “How to Lie with Statistics,” Darrell Huff highlights the many creative ways statistics have been used to distort reality, such as truncating the bottom of a line or bar chart in a graph so that differences seem larger than they really are, or representing one-dimensional quantities as two- or three-dimensional objects to compare their sizes. In the latter example, readers often forget that images don’t scale in the same manner as quantities do.

Quantitative data is often used in science and medicine. It’s also common in market research studies when trying to collect ratings feedback, including the relative degree to which someone agrees or disagrees with specific statements, as well as ratings for product or vendor performance. Quantitative data is unambiguous in telling the user about a point in time, the results of a study or an opinion.

But while quantitative data explains the “what,” it doesn’t always explain the “why” or the “how.” Why are the numbers high, low or average? How can specific patterns in the results be explained? How can we interpret the overall trends? For this, we often look to interpretation. And for interpretation, we frequently call upon qualitative data.

DataQualitative Data
Qualitative data helps explain the “why” and “how” behind the numbers. It gives meaning and context to the raw data. It provides color. Examples of qualitative data are free form responses to questions asked in telephone and in-person interviews.

It’s believed that between 80 and 85 percent of all business data is unstructured, or qualitative, data. This includes emails, reports and conversations workers and managers may have with colleagues, suppliers and partners throughout any given business day.

While qualitative data can be rich in insights and can uncover new trends and ideas, it’s free-flowing form is also a key disadvantage—qualitative data is often voluminous in nature, making extraction and usage of key insights time consuming and difficult. In market research studies, for example, collecting open-ended feedback can help identify some very interesting trends—trends that quantitative data alone may not reveal. However, wading through tens or hundreds of thousands of words is not trivial. It’s a major time and resource commitment.

Thankfully, text analytics is helping to make the analysis, interpretation and reporting of qualitative data much less labor and time intensive. Text analytics that includes sentiment analysis is even better.

Text analytics is a set of statistical, linguistic, and machine learning techniques that allow textual data—such as documents, emails and speech—to be used for business intelligence, market research investigation, and outcomes analysis. As text analytics applications have become more widespread since the 1990s, this technique has found growing usage in competitive intelligence, business intelligence, sentiment analysis, listening platforms and social media monitoring, among others.

Recommendations for Quantitative and Qualitative Usage
How do you know when and whether you should collect and use quantitative data versus qualitative data? Below are general guidelines for both types of data.

Collect quantitative data when you have:

  • Straightforward binary questions (yes or no, male or female)

  • Ratings questions (scales of 0-5, 0-7, or 0-10)

  • Check boxes (lists of possible choices)Data

  • Sensitive questions (such as pricing questions)

Collect qualitative data when you:

  • Want to understand the “why” and “how” behind the numbers

  • Want to probe on certain areas of the research

  • Have a new product to test

Recommendations
While some may see quantitative and qualitative information as black and white—an either/or proposition—many successful researchers use both types of data in combination as complementary tools in their toolbox. Quantitative data will provide hard numbers against which to benchmark your product, company and/or competitors over time, while qualitative data will provide invaluable insights behind those numbers.

A study by Gallup highlights the beneficial outcomes of collecting a combination of qualitative and quantitative feedback, especially for B2B buyers, where 60 percent of customers are indifferent, 11 percent are actively disengaged and only 29 percent are actively engaged. As Gallup points out, and as Primary Intelligence consistently confirms in our Win Loss and Customer Experience interviews, capturing only quantitative information misses significant flags in customers’ experiences with their vendors. When vendors commit to capturing verbal feedback, they typically identify consistent “themes” in customer and buyer feedback, themes that may be problematic for the long-term relationship if not addressed before they grow into larger issues and the customer is in danger of defecting to a competitor.

While it’s cheaper, more convenient and more expedient to send out or post to social media a short, online survey, the use of both qualitative and quantitative information gathering techniques, especially in complex B2B markets, is essential in understanding important customers, markets,and competitors holistically. Collecting this rich data also allows trending over time to see how customer and market needs are changing, as well as how competitor strategies are evolving.

2016 CCS Sales Index

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!

Topics: Sales Training, sales tips, selling tips, sales training workshop, sales training workshops, sales process, sales methodology, sales training company, improve sales performance, sales training success, sales approach, sales training approach, selling process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique, sales performance, selling approach

Sales Tips: A Brilliant Sales Management Strategy

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 21, 2016 3:58:39 PM

Sales Tips: A Brilliant Sales Management Strategy

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

A sales manager’s dream is having “A” Players that can carry a branch, district or regional office. Salespeople that consistently exceed their numbers need minimal coaching and can allow sales managers to make their number despite the fact that many B or C Players don’t achieve quota.

I had the pleasure of working with a VP of Sales at a $75 million software company. Bob had three (3) Regional VPs reporting to him. Prior to implementing sales process, at the beginning of each year and at the end of June the sellers from the 3 regions that had produced the most revenue the previous 6 months earned the privilege and prestige of reporting directly to the VP of Sales. If and when they needed any help in opportunities they called Bob and resources were allocated. The regional managers were given quota relief for the sellers that were chosen to report directly to Bob.

It was a brilliant strategy for a number of reasons: 

  • Top performers were highly incented to be the person from their group to report directly to the VP.

  • It took little time for Bob to manage the top 3 performers.

  • Sales managers could no longer ride the coattails of their best sellers.

  • Sales managers had to focus on the sellers that needed help.

Paul Hersey’s Situational Leadership maturity curve divides people into four (4) quadrants as relates to skill mastery:

  1. Unwilling (an attitude issue) and unable (a skill issue) – Sellers that need to be told what to do.

  2. Willing but unable – Sellers that need managers to coach them step-by-step.

  3. Able but needy – Sellers that need some support and reassurance in certain situations.

  4. Self-sufficient – Sellers that have mastered a skill and can execute without manager support.

In my career as a first line salesperson I never had a manager that could assess and develop my skill deficiencies. Part of the issue was that there was no standard sales process nor the standard skill set needed to execute it.

My first manager just told me how many calls to make each week, analogous to “at bats.” He frightened me into meeting or exceeding the number of calls he assigned. The problem was that he couldn’t coach me and allow me to improve my “batting average.” Put another way, Jeff dictated the quantity without the ability to improve the quality of my selling efforts. As with many new sellers, I often confused activity with progress.

I was horribly inept when I started selling. After learning the ropes Jeff and subsequent sales managers just left me alone. I could have been better had any of them been able to assess and develop skill deficiencies. Unfortunately, many sales managers act more like administrators by looking in the rearview mirror at YTD positions against quota that are lagging indicators. Too few provide hands-on coaching as opportunities progress and teach the requisite skills to become more adept and hopefully develop more A Players.

2016 CCS Sales Index

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!

Topics: Sales Training, sales tips, selling tips, sales training workshop, sales training workshops, sales process, sales methodology, sales training company, improve sales performance, sales training success, sales approach, sales training approach, selling process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique, sales performance, selling approach

Sales Tips: Tread Carefully with ROI Calculators

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 15, 2016 4:01:10 PM

Sales Tips: Tread Carefully with ROI Calculators

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

I’m a big proponent of discovering the potential value to your prospect of acquiring and utilizing your products and services. One of our core concepts is: People make emotional decisions for logical reasons.

ROI Calculators vs. Cost-Benefit AnalysisThe potential value to a company of changing how they operate can often be the logic they need in order to help them make a purchase or subscription decision. However, I have some concerns about existing "ROI tools" and how they are used by salespeople in the sales process.

Here are a few things to consider about ROI tools and calculators:

  • They typically represent what someone in your company thinks is important to your prospect - not what the prospect organization has told you is important.
  • Your prospect has probably equipped its sales team with a similar tool.  They are familiar with its intent.
  • They know what you are trying to do - convince them to purchase your product or service.
  • The potential savings variables contained in the ROI model are typically pre-determined before even knowing what is important to the prospect and what they are trying to accomplish - resulting in you misdiagnosing and being viewed as manipulative.
  • Potential revenue improvements that the prospect thinks are possible are often overlooked and can be very compelling.
  • They almost always include variables that most prospects and salespeople don’t understand - net present value of money, hurdle rates, etc.
  • Salespeople themselves typically don’t understand the potential value of their offering.  They leave it up to the prospect to figure it out.
  • Salespeople hand the ROI tools to their prospects and ask them to fill it out.
  • Salespeople view them as ‘proof’ when in fact they are purely a projection of what might be accomplished.

Instead, we advocate facilitating the development of a relatively a simple cost/benefit analysis - the price of your products and services and the potential benefits the prospect has told you they believe they will receive over some period of time. Why?

  • It is easier to understand - you don’t need an MBA!
  • You, as the seller, own your costs
  • The prospect owns their potential benefit - what they have told you they believe is possible after implementing and using your offering to address their goals, problems or needs. NOT what you have told them or projected. 
  • You don’t own or have to defend the prospect's potential benefit - the prospect does. 
  • They can revise the potential benefits up or risk adjust them down.
  • It gives them the information they need to compete with other projects for funding internally.
  • It has the ability to differentiate you from your competitors. 

Want to learn more about determining business value and how to use it effectively? Sign-up to attend one of our 2017 public sales training workshops that are available for registration now.

2016 CCS Sales Index

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!

Topics: Sales Training, sales tips, selling tips, sales training workshop, sales training workshops, sales process, sales methodology, sales training company, improve sales performance, sales training success, sales approach, sales training approach, selling process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique, sales performance, selling approach

Sales Tips: How to Better Handle Buyer Objections

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 7, 2016 4:16:22 PM

Sales Tips: How to Better Handle Buyer Objections

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

handling-objections.pngIn our workshops we don’t spend a great deal of time on objection handling. A high percentage of objections result from “spray and pray” approaches when sellers bombard prospects with features without first asking questions to uncover which are likely to be relevant. Sellers dominate calls when doing product pitches. Buyers sometimes raise objections to slow down speeding trains.

Product objections are more likely to occur at lower levels because they’re closer to users and may be interested in getting granular about features. In stark contrast, Key Players want high-level views focusing on features that help them improve business outcomes. Identifying areas of potential value and payback will be the priority.

There will be times when prospects ask: Do you have the X feature? If a seller’s offering doesn’t, many get defensive. Some invoke the dreaded and manipulative “feel, felt, found” tactic.

My suggestion when that happens is to respond to the buyer: We don’t. I’m curious, why is that feature important and how would it be used? If the buyer doesn’t have a meaningful response, the importance of that feature is minimized.

I’ve just described a way to reactively handle an objection. When proactively establishing features that are differentiators, it will be more effective if you can:

  • Arm buyers to articulate how differentiating features will be used. You can do so by providing an event (what could happen in a business day to create a need for the feature), a player (who or what will respond to the event) and an action (how the feature would be used to address the event).

  • Whenever possible try to have buyers quantify the benefits your differentiator provides.

Let’s assume a differentiating feature of your software is dynamic load balancing. If/when a competitor asks your buyer how it would be used, you could prepare them to respond:

Event: When activity on any server exceeds pre-set thresholds

Player: the system

Action: would transfer some of the load to servers with available capacity so outages could be prevented without operator intervention.

This response makes it clear what the features allows the buyer to do and that outages can be avoided.

Another benefit of focusing on usage is that the event, player and action format make sense to Key Players than the term dynamic load balancing. Executives prefer to understand usage and business outcomes. Few will tolerate feature pitches.

Sales Podcast

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!

Topics: Sales Training, sales tips, selling tips, sales training workshop, sales training workshops, sales process, sales methodology, sales training company, improve sales performance, sales training success, sales approach, sales training approach, selling process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique, sales performance, selling approach

Sales Tips: Are You Doing More Selling Than Managing?

Posted by Jill Perez on Nov 5, 2016 12:12:22 PM

Sales Tips: Are You Doing More Selling Than Managing?

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

sales managementMany years ago, after an 18-month stint as an application engineer (i.e. techie), I was given my first sales position with Compugraphic Corporation, selling production automation equipment to newspapers in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina. After another 18-months of consistently overachieving my quota, I was told I was being promoted into sales management and instructed by my VP of Sales to take the six reps assigned to me and “teach them to sell like you do.” That is when the problems started.

Years later I realized that the reason I had been successful as a salesperson was that I had an in-depth knowledge of our products, and more importantly, how they were used by our customers to improve their day-to-day production. By combining this understanding of the customer and how our products helped them, I developed my own internal system that was my “sales GPS.” However, it was my internal system. It’s what the psychologists call an “unconscious competent.” While it worked perfectly for me, I wasn’t able to clearly articulate it and as a result, was unable to transfer it to anyone else.

This was an extremely frustrating time for me – I didn’t understand why my reps didn’t just “get it” – and it was frustrating for my reps because I ended up taking over opportunities and selling for them rather than developing them as salespeople.

Unfortunately, in the many years since, as I climbed the corporate ladder and eventually transitioned into the development, documentation and delivery of CustomerCentric Selling®, I’ve seen the exact same scenario replayed time after time. Successful salespeople who are promoted into sales management are rarely trained how to manage salespeople so they end up being 98% sales and 2% manager.

Recognizing that the first line sales manager is the linchpin to the successful implementation of a sales process that is designed to improve the consistency of revenue achievement, we recognize that managers require different knowledge and skills than salespeople. For instance:

  • Do you know how to calculate an “ideal pipeline?” (i.e. how much business should be working at each individual stage in the pipeline to ensure consistent revenue production?)

  • Do you know to calculate “pipeline velocity?” (i.e. how quickly should deals move through each separate stage in the pipeline?)

  • Do you know how to do “pipeline analysis?” (i.e. how to identify opportunities that are “stuck” and, based on where they’re stuck, how to interpret the skill deficiency of the salesperson?)

  • Do you know how to do “opportunity analysis?” (i.e. how to objectively assess the quality of an opportunity in the pipeline?)

  • Do you know how to take the information gathered through the pipeline and opportunity analysis and provide feedback and coaching to develop your salespeople?

Sales management shouldn't be an oxymoron. What about you - are you truly managing your salespeople, or are you still selling? Contact me if you'd like some help learning how to make the transition.

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Sales Tips: Is Your Organization Customer-Centric?

Posted by Jill Perez on Oct 31, 2016 12:53:28 PM

Sales Tips: Is Your Organization Truly Customer-Centric?

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

MasqueradingIt’s that time when adults don costumes for Halloween parties. Some go out of their way to be different from their personas. A question for companies during this season:

Are you masquerading as a customer-centric organization?

That phrase has become amorphous, so let’s make the criteria that company offerings reflect customer/market needs and sellers provide superior buying experiences.

Here are telltale symptoms you may have further to go in your journey to become customer-centric:

  • The person driving Sales Enablement* does not report directly to a CEO, COO or CFO

  • Approaches to selling new offerings are created after they’ve been developed

  • CRM milestones reflect selling steps without regard for how your buyers buy

  • Marketing promotes new offerings using “push” rather than “pull” strategies

  • Sellers treat educated buyers like clean sheets of paper as relates to their needs

  • There are few known instances of winning by providing better buyer experiences

  • Product training for sellers is noun-based (describes what offerings are)

  • Product training is not verb-based (how offerings can be used to achieve business outcomes)

  • Sellers lack business acumen to relate potential value to executives

  • Nurtured leads provide low entry points and low close rates

  • Sellers refer to sales cycles rather than buying cycles

Traditional approaches are hard to change. It takes more than lip service. Are your sellers offering buyers tricks or treats?

 *I prefer the term “Buyer Empowerment” to shift the focus from selling to buying.

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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!

Topics: Sales Training, sales tips, selling tips, sales training workshop, sales training workshops, sales process, sales methodology, sales training company, improve sales performance, sales training success, sales approach, sales training approach, selling process, sales technique, sales tip, selling technique, sales performance, selling approach