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Sales Tips: 3 Ways to Handle Objections

Posted by CustomerCentric Selling® on Feb 19, 2018 1:34:04 PM

Sales Tips: 3 Ways to Minimize Objections

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

Since 2002, CustomerCentric Selling® has redefined selling as:

Asking questions to help buyers understand how to use offerings to achieve goals or solve problems.

How to Handle ObjectionsThere is a major difference in buyer experience when people are empowered rather than sold. Selling is generally perceived as convincing, persuading and overcoming objections. Some people believe handling each objection gets sellers closer to winning the business. Most would also assert that selling begins when buyers say no. These attitudes make selling seem like arm wrestling contests between buyers and sellers.

I’d like to offer some observations:

  • Not all objections can be addressed.
  • People can and do buy when they aren’t 100% happy with all aspects of offerings.
  • If and when objections arise, sellers may need to ask clarifying questions. If sellers don't fully understand objections they can go in the wrong direction and unwittingly unearth additional objections.
  • If an objection is about a feature you don’t have, consider asking: Why is this feature important to you?

I believe most objections are raised when calling on lower levels that are more product-focused than Key Players. I’d also like to share my view that product pitches where sellers do most of the talking will likely evoke objections.

It’s a matter of control.

When being subjected to pitches, sellers dominate “conversations.” Buyers may feel they need to throw out objections to slow down their bombardment of features that may be irrelevant to them. 

To minimize objections, I offer the following three (3) suggestions:

  1. Start opportunities at Key Player levels (the people sellers need to call on to sell, fund and implement offerings.
  2. Before offering any features, ask diagnostic questions to determine which are relevant to buyers.
  3. Ask a final question to empower the buyer: If you had (summarize the capabilities agreed to), could you (achieve the desired outcome)?

Objections compromise the ultimate outcomes of sales calls. By applying these suggestions, you should be able to better minimize those objections. Save the infographic below for handy reference when in doubt:

Infographic_3 Ways to Minimize Objections

Don't just win more.Win BIGGER.

Sales Tips: How to Improve Selling Experiences and Avoid Wasting Time

Posted by CustomerCentric Selling® on Feb 12, 2018 5:52:50 PM

Sales Tips: Improve Selling Experiences and Avoid Wasting Time

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

There has rightfully been great emphasis on buyer experiences over the last two decades. That said: 

Many “buying activities” waste time for both buyers and sellers.

Avoid Wasting Selling Time and ResourcesIt seems there are many product evaluations in which low to mid level staff research offerings via the Internet and social networking, establish their requirements and before inviting salespeople to get involved.

Upon being contacted, there are several things sellers should learn from the start:

  • Have desired business outcomes of executives within the organization been identified?
  • Have detailed conversations with Key Players to understand their needs taken place?
  • Has an estimated cost vs. benefit shown payback that can justify the cost of the offering?
  • Has budget been earmarked?
  • Will access be granted for calls on Key Player stakeholders?

When you take a hard look, product evaluations are ongoing in many instances. It makes little sense to spend significant amounts of time evaluating offerings unless or until the questions above have been addressed. 

I believe these “buyers” are concerned that sellers will manipulate or influence their requirements and therefore get sellers involved fairly late in their evaluations.

Rather than go along for the ride, competent sellers can do everyone involved (and some that have not yet been involved) a favor by shifting product evaluations to business decisions. 

Blindly going along with buyer-driven product evaluations will often end with “no decision” outcomes that mean buyers and vendors wasted resources without realizing any benefits, a losing proposition for everyone involved.

Don't just win more.Win BIGGER.

Sales Tips: The Keystone to Competitive Advantage

Posted by CustomerCentric Selling® on Feb 7, 2018 12:00:00 PM

Sales Tips: The Quality of CRM Data Is the Keystone to Competitive Advantage

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

Recently, The Economist published an article titled “The World’s Most Valuable Resource Is No Longer Oil, But Data.” That article focuses on the market domination of internet giants like Facebook, Amazon, and Google (among others). These profitable titans use their vast stores of data to capitalize on their size and maintain their market advantage. “Google can see what people search for, Facebook what they share, Amazon what they buy.”Their market intelligence comes from the quantity they collect, with quality being a lot less important.

Quality of CRM DataFor the hundreds of thousands of businesses that aren’t one of the internet behemoths, organizations that face a treacherous competitive landscape and possess far fewer data points to rely on, the quality of data is the key to using it to your advantage.

We think of Customer Relations Management (“CRM”) system’s primary purpose as being the facilitation of the sales process. Your sales reps need something to keep track of their deals in a manner that is superior to a spreadsheet. But, the truth is, if we just want to keep track of things, a spreadsheet would work just fine.

Another, better way to define a CRM is: “CRM aligns business processes with customer strategies to build customer loyalty and increase profits over time.” That’s a pretty inclusive definition that is clearly more than just tracking a transaction. And yet, how many sales professionals treat the CRM as a tracking tool? 

High Quality CRM Data is the Key to Competitive Advantage

The pitfall with treating the CRM as a tracking tool is that the data loses any perceived value once the lead gets closed out as a loss. Once the sales rep knows there is no deal to be made, there is no more value.

CRM data is, and should be treated as, an asset in and of itself. It should be validated, cleaned up, monitored, nurtured, and treated with every bit as much respect and deference as your customers. The revenue brought in by your sales department is not merely the dollar value of the deals they close, but the monetization of the data they collect and maintain. And if that data is treated with disregard, disrespect, and neglect, you will lose that revenue just as you would lose a customer who was treated in the same manner.

For example, marketing departments routinely run campaigns using CRM data to drum up leads for sales initiatives – new products, special deals, etc. These campaigns take time and money to put together and track. For every outreach that goes to an incorrect email address or telephone number in the CRM, the organization is wasting that time and money. In addition, because the correct contact information is missing, the company misses out on an opportunity that might have been profitable had the campaign reached the correct person.

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Sales Tips: Are You Delivering Noise or Your Message?

Posted by CustomerCentric Selling® on Feb 5, 2018 11:53:42 AM

Sales Tips: Are You Delivering Noise or Your Message?

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

A great deal of thought and effort goes into helping sellers understand what to say in different situations with prospects and buyers. That said, I thought it would be helpful to offer advice about words and phrases you may want to avoid using in selling situations.

Silence Over NoiseKick the Crutch
Most of us have what I call “crutch words” used to give us time to think about how to respond to buyers. One particularly distracting phrase is “you know” (usually pronounced as yunno). Other variations on a theme would be “ums, ahs,” etc. Silence is a far better alternative to allow sellers time to decide how to respond. 

Words can undermine a seller’s power.

Most buyers want to work with sellers that can command company resources if they are needed to address issues. Sellers using words such as: might, perhaps, possibly, probably and maybe sound indecisive.

There are words that merely serve as fillers or noise that dilute your message:

  • Obviously – If something is obvious it isn’t necessary to point it out. If a seller states something is obvious and a buyer that doesn’t know what was stated can be offended.
  • Words such as basically, candidly, clearly add volume but no content to conversations.
  • I hope it isn’t necessary to explain why trust me, honestly, and the absolutely dreadful let me be honest with you (the inference being a seller has been lying his or her socks off).
  • Ambiguous words – integrated, cutting edge, seamless, efficient, synergistic, robust, elegant, automatically, state of the art and dynamic. They add little or nothing to conversations.

“Solution”
I’d also like to suggest that sellers realize that the only person that can deem an offering a “solution” is the buyer. Beyond that, buyers must own achieving the desired business outcome. Phrases like “I/we/our system will increase your top line” disempower buyers. The fact is sellers offer capabilities to enable buyers to achieve the desired business outcomes and they should take ownership.

Buyers have and will continue to buy from sellers that use these words and phrases. That said, sellers can offer meaningful content or noise. Sellers that reduce noise can deliver more compelling messages. 

Save this handy infographic below for reference when you're not sure whether you're using "noisy" words with your buyer conversations:

Infographic: Words and Phrases to Avoid with Buyers

Don't just win more.Win BIGGER.

Sales Tips: How to Create High Level Demand

Posted by CustomerCentric Selling® on Jan 28, 2018 6:23:22 PM

Sales Tips: How to Create Demand for Your Offerings at Executive Levels

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

I was involved in a lengthy meeting this week that was primarily about creating demand in light of the fact that visitors to my client’s website are lower level staff whose primary interest is learning about products/offerings.

Presenting Value and Payback with Executive Level BuyersThe fact is these people can’t buy and they have little or no idea of what potential payback or value offerings they’re interested in can provide. 

That caused me to realize that for the vast majority of Key Players there is no demand for offerings. Marketing and Sales organizations have to back into creating demand for people that rightfully have little or no interest in their offerings.

The stark reality is that Key Players have latent needs for business outcomes they can’t achieve (goals) or for business problems (pains) they don’t know how to address.

The key to creating high level demand is to identify desired business outcomes that can be achieved through the use of offerings.

Getting away from an overarching focus on offerings is difficult to do, but companies that can target specific titles with high probability business problems or goals will enjoy several advantages: 

  • They can start buying cycles with Key Players that can fund unbudgeted initiatives.
  • They can give sellers an excellent chance to start opportunities as Column A (preferred vendor).
  • They are likely to close larger transactions because these buyers aren’t budget-constrained.
  • They should have shorter sales cycles.
  • They should have higher win rates.

KEY: Products can create demand for lower levels. Potential value creates executive level interest.

Don't just win more.Win BIGGER.

Sales Tips: 6 Best Practices to Apply to Your Win Loss Program

Posted by CustomerCentric Selling® on Jan 24, 2018 12:00:00 PM

Sales Tips: 6 Strategic Best Practices to Apply to Your Win Loss Program

By Connie Schlosberg, Primary Intelligence

Win Loss TipsWin loss programs are important at all levels of the organization because they help explain why buyers choose specific solutions and why they do not choose others. Win loss takes us beyond market research and competitive intelligence.

Win loss analysis is more than just gathering, analyzing, and interpreting information about a market. It’s more than just sizing a market and understanding the growth rate, competitors, and buying segments. Win loss research is a sales, product, and marketing enablement tool focused on improving sales, improving the product/service, and improving a company’s market presence as a result of listening to customers.

Here are six strategic recommendations you can apply to your win loss analysis. 

Six Win Loss Strategic Recommendations

1. Get Sales and C-level leadership support: Getting Sales buy-in for Win Loss is critical.

C-level support is also important and can make or break your win loss program. Once senior executives see the value of the win loss information the company is getting, however, they are usually quick to provide their full endorsement. We often see C-level executives taking their win loss programs from one company to another, as they learn to rely on win loss findings.

2. View Win Loss as a learning tool.

It’s important to put forth the right message about the win loss program, stressing that win loss feedback will be used as a learning mechanism, helping the entire organization improve. This communication is especially important to ensure sales teams are fully on-board with the program, especially since buyer feedback that is most critical tends to focus on sales behavior.

Goals3. Define program goals.

At the outset of the win loss program, it’s important to ensure there is organizational clarity about the goals for win loss analysis. Is the program in place to improve sales effectiveness? Better understand buyer behavior? Improve product features and functionality? Will the program be used strategically, tactically, or both? Make sure you have clarity on these issues because this will drive the questions you ask and the results you receive. Also make sure you have clarity around processes you’ll put in place, such as how customers will be contacted, how the information will be communicated back to internal constituents, and how deep structural changes will be made within the organization.

4. Share information broadly.

At Primary Intelligence, we feel strongly that wide distribution of win loss information is a best practice. Organizations that share buyer feedback from win loss interviews have better outcomes than those that limit the findings to a small group of executives or managers. Individuals in different parts of the organization can see the impact of their actions—even if they’re not interacting with the customer directly. Linkages can also be made between different geographic regions in terms of market conditions and competitive responses to specific offers or product initiatives. Companies that close off access to win loss information don’t get the benefits of win loss programs that organizations that share information widely experience.

5. Look at individual interviews and deal reports.

It’s important to look at individual interviews or deal reports, as well as program information in aggregate. A lot can be learned from specific buyer feedback reports, while over-arching trends can be seen from consolidated information. It’s important to do both. Now, the types of information you share may be different depending on the person or audience’s needs. For example, you may share individual deal report information with the sales team responsible for specific opportunities or product management, pricing, and support representatives when buyer feedback highlighted issues relevant to their domains. In contrast, executive summaries may be shared with C-level executives.

6. Conduct debrief/discovery sessions.

Debrief and discovery sessions are incredibly helpful to engage in because they allow key players to hear details of won and lost opportunities and strategize on next steps, both internally within their organizations and as they relate to the market, including competitive threats. While individual stakeholders can read reports and digest the information individually, discussing key wins and losses with other company executives helps to promote greater synergy and helps to “connect the dots.” We’ve seen debriefing and discovery sessions work very effectively for our clients.

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Sales Tips: 2 Overlooked Issues with Milestones

Posted by CustomerCentric Selling® on Jan 21, 2018 7:23:05 PM

Sales Tips: 2 Overlooked Issues with Milestones

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

Overstating PipelinesMost organizations have spent the time needed to define pipeline milestones. Sophisticated companies have defined multiple sets of milestones that reflect the different types of transactions that sellers must execute.

Two (2) things stand out in my mind that many companies haven’t addressed:

  1. Milestone achievements are based upon seller opinions. I hope you would agree that when grading opportunities, sellers that are less than YTD against quota will be much less stringent than those at or above quota. When forecasting, sellers with thin pipelines are far more interested in overstating where they are on opportunities than they are in attempting to predict what revenue will close.

If some milestones could be graded based upon buyer actions, then senior management could have more confidence in the pipeline.

  1. Companies hire salespeople with a wide variety of experience and skills. The challenge is there is no attempt to map and teach sellers the skills to achieve each milestone. Sellers want to succeed. When they fall short of achieving their numbers, the problems are either: 
  • Won’t - which is an attitude problem that managers must help them overcome.
  • Can’t - in that they don’t have the requisite skills.

For virtually all other positions, employers try to find new hires that have or can be taught the requisite skills to be successful. It’s a shame the same thing can’t be done when recruiting to fill sales positions.

👉 Absent a tactical sales process, sales is a sink or swim proposition.

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